Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1790: Bhutan - Land of the Dragon
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2009
Page 4 of 24: The Bhutanese
Small boy with calf
The Bhutanese love having their pictures taken, especially the older women. Possibly this is because it is one of the few chances they have to see what they look like. Mirrors are not common.
People wear traditional dress for work, although they may change into western clothes at night. The men wear a Gho, which looks a bit like a big baggy dressing gown. Socks are usually knee length and the diamond pattern argyle socks are very popular.
The women wear a Kira. This is a long strip of material. Traditionally it was worn over a tee shirt and pinned at the shoulders using big broaches. School children still do this and many of the older women in the villages. Most of the younger women wear the kira wrapped around the waist as a skirt. A beautiful jacket is always worn with it. The kira was traditionally woven using hand looms, sitting on the floor, but now many people buy cheap lengths of cloth imported from India.
The children were delightful. All learn English at school and were desperate to practice. Everywhere we went they greeted us with, "Hello. How are you? What is your name? How old are you?"
We saw a poster in one of the hotels asking guests to volunteer to join in “Advanced English Conversation classes” to give students a chance to practice their conversation skills. What we hadn't realised was that this was at a Buddhist monastery 10km up a narrow valley road. I had a group of 60 monks of various ages who sat on the floor with their exercise books open waiting for me to speak. It was a long time before one was brave enough to answer a question. Michael had a younger group who were less fluent.
We also visited a small rural school in Phobjikha valley, which was an eye opener. I think it was even more old fashioned in its methods than when I started school. The children sat at tables and there was a blackboard. Apart from a string with the different letters hung up on the wall there were no other resources. They have one lesson of science a week, taught in the classroom and presumably learnt from books as there didn’t seem to be any scope for practical work. Learning was by listening to the teacher. They read a book and then answered questions or filled in the missing word in a sentence.
Michael was left with a class of 7 year olds. He realised the children loved to spell out words as he wrote them on the blackboard. Animal names were the best as the children could make the noises. He and the children had great fun but it was probably bad for discipline....
I was struck by how quiet it was. No-one spoke. The children are very keen to learn. School hours are long and many children have to walk a long way to school. There is no school run in Bhutan. Even the littlest children take themselves to school. You see them from 7am walking across the fields with their satchel and container of rice for the midday meal. Often it will be 5pm before they get back home.
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