Saturday, August 17, 2013

Warm Fuzzies in Umsang

It doesn't get much better than yesterday. I started off with maths with my class twos - a competition to see who could make their homemade rocket fly the fastest. It was a blast!

Jigme showed great initiative and made his rocket propelled by 2 straws ( instead of 1) and blew his competition out of the water!

We then farewelled Bob on his mammoth bike-riding adventure headed for a party in Punakha last night (its a 7 hour drive away!).

Safe travels, Bob!

Off course we'll miss him, and I'd love to be going too, but we also had an important task - to deliver books that we purchased in Thimphu to the little library up in Umsang. (Previously I wrote about Umsang here, and spelled it 'Aungsang' as a student told me to - it's hard to be sure as there is no sign and its not on any map I've seen).

I asked for Mr Tandin's help as he is the Y-Via (Youth Volunteers in Action) group leader at school and they work with Umsang on a number of projects. The student members gathered at the school gate and it was a lovely opportunity to go for a walk with these older students.

They are so responsible and mature - and I've no doubt the future of Bhutan is in good hands when I interact with these teenagers who have impeccable manners and help in any way they can.

Remy was carried on a boy's shoulders, and our umbrellas (the intense heat was an ominous sign of a likely downpour on the way home), my handbag, and the big box of books were all carried without complaint and off we went!

As soon as we came to a wild raspberry bush loaded with huge juicy berries we had to stop and eat. Two of my class two students picked handfuls of berries for me to enjoy.

Dechen picking the wild raspberries.

Half way up the hill we came to the spot where our newly built bookshelf was hiding in the bushes!

Bob and Mr Tandin and some boys spent Friday afternoon building the bookshelf out of scrap wood they found in the forest and when they were finished, they just covered it in leaves so it would be ready to collect on the way up Saturday! Made from rough wood, it is very rustic, but will do the job nicely.

In no time at all when we arrived, the bookshelf was installed and nailed to the wall to keep it safe from falling on children. The Y-Via students got to work displaying the books on the shelves as some shy local kids started coming in to see what was happening. The big 'brothers and sisters' sat down and read them stories as many photos were taken to commemorate the event. A few mums came in to look too.

I was happy to see one of my brightest students, Dechen, who lives in Umsang sit down with a lovely new Barbie book (yes, Barbie is a big hit over here with little girls), and read it beautifully. One of the older students commented on how good the year 2s are at reading and I agree, they are progressing to becoming fluent independent readers.

Remy found a book he liked and went off to hide behind the door and read it!

This little boy found one of the special books that makes music and sounds.

When all the fuss died down, the local kids came in to explore alone.

While most of the Y-Via students left to go back to school, Mr Tandin and Mr Chimmi and I were invited to a local home for tea and ara. It was our third visit to Umsang and our third invitation for tea - this time a different home to the previous times. Following the tea we were served a very special lunch of rice, dal, kewa-datsi and two types of meat curry and papadums and fresh milk. It was a lovely way to thank us, and it feels like we've been guests in every family home now in the village!

Remy remembered this home from our last visit and started climbing the stairs!

We checked out a green-house that Y-Via installed here so villagers can have vegetables year round.


I wish the children of Umsang all the very best in learning to read and hope that in time their library can be expanded, but at least we've made a start!

Tenzin helped with the boys all morning in the most kind and cheerful way.

Xavier strikes a pose out the front of the library.

Xavier and Mr Tandin cross the bridge back to Chumey.

A special thank you to our friends at home and in Canada who donated generously and made this all possible.



  1. I'm still fond of wild raspberries and we used to go collecting it during weekends and after school as kids.
    Its so nice to know what you, Bob and friends are doing to help cultivate the habit of reading in our small community.
    I'm sure it will go a long way. Thank you so much for that!

    1. Thank you Rekha, it is a pleasure really, there is nothing like sharing the joy of books and reading and hopefully giving these kids knowledge and skills to help for the rest of their lives. And we get the opportunity to see many beautiful out-of-the-way places most tourists to Bhutan never get to see.