Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Action! Part #1

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect and amazing way to top off our year in Bhutan than having the opportunity travel across Bhutan to make a TV show!

The producers of an American reality show were on the lookout for a new and exotic location to film and contacted Bhutan Canada Foundation to see if any teachers would be interested to participate. I said 'yes!' straight away and since then much planning has gone into preparing for the shoot.

On Saturday we flew to Paro from Jakar on a 25 minute flight (saving 12 hours of driving!) to meet the crew at Paro. In itself this experience was an absolute highlight of the year. We were all glued to our windows and enthusiastically yelling out familiar landmarks to each other and other amused passengers! Seeing the country that is now so well known to us and the distant snow covered mountains from the sky was a really precious gift.

Druk Air flight Bumthang to Paro.

Overlooking Tharpa-ling Monastery.

Snow-capped mountains were mesmerising.

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Just enough time for a quick ema-datsi pastry (!) and juice before descending.

Overlooking Thimphu.

Coming in to land in Paro over dry harvested fields.

We met the crew in Paro and travelled with them to Thimphu and enjoyed the first of many delicious buffet meals in a fancy restaurant - feeling like country bumpkins in the big smoke!

With a day and a half free before official filming began, I planned to catch up with friends and also visit the Early Learning Centre school in Thimphu to offer a professional development session to the teachers. The principal there, Deki Choden has become a friend through numerous online chats about education. She found me through my blog and was eager for me to share my passion for teaching to her staff.

Finally meeting Deki in person!

I was welcomed so beautifully into the school which is worlds away from my school in Chumey. Colourful posters demonstrate the school's commitment to environmental awareness and developing critical, creative thinkers. It was a pleasure to speak to the staff who listened attentively and asked questions afterwards to gain a greater understanding. I could tell they are all passionate about teaching and I regret I didn't have the opportunity to see them in action in the classroom (as just like at my school it is now exam time there). Deki and the staff presented me with special gifts including a gorgeous chocolate cake (for my birthday earlier in the week), a book written by a local teacher about the life of a typical Bhutanese village child in the east, and a cushion that is being made at the school, stuffed with used plastic snack packaging. This school has a vision to be a leader in education in Bhutan and is the country representative for Design For Change - a global education movement that empowers children to be the change in this world. It is something I look forward to finding out more about.

We also snuck in a quick visit to VAST - Voluntary Artists Studio Thimphu -  a place I'd been keen to visit since I read about it on my friend Matt's blog. Here Thimphu artists have studio space to work and show their art, and art lessons are put on for local students on weekends and holidays. It is so lovely to see this opportunity available for children and I'm sure will lead to a vibrant art scene in Thimphu in years to come.

Large sculpture by the riverside near VAST

What an interesting way to recycle tyres!

An artist busy working on a commissioned painting.

Matt is organising for an artist to visit his school (half an hour from Thimphu) weekly to give lessons to the students, which is very forward thinking as generally Bhutanese schools focus mainly on academics. For the budding artists in Class 2, I wish Thimphu and opportunities like this weren't so far away.

I'm going to keep you hanging on the TV show developments until the next installment of this blog, but some photos as teasers of the boys having fun with the crew...

Xavier has a turn at being the cameraman - with his mate Julian.

Remy and Martin working the boom!

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