Saturday, August 25, 2018

Resurrection of the Wangdue Dzong

Picture: Wangduephodrang Dzong

December of 2004 was the first time that I saw the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong in my life. Indeed, that winter was my first ever travel to the western Bhutan from Bumthang with my school friend, Thochu. 

As we entered Wangdue valley, my eyes so automatically, naturally feasted on the giant Dzong, as if my eyes and the fortress were like a piece of metal and magnet. And so to say, I was completely awestricken; my heart skipped a few beats. 

Then, I craned my neck from the window of bus to look attentively, carefully at the majestic Dzong built in 1638 by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel. The fortress sat on the commanding view of the valleys below, on top of a high ridge and between two rivers - one small fast flowing river and another big gentle river.

Surrounded by green trees and mud walls, it was a massive stunning structure with impressive elaborated paintings. The Dzong had illuminated the entire valley of Wangdue Phodrang with its position, power, symbolism and glory. It was like the moon in the sky.

How could the people of the fifteenth century build such structure? I wondered, as the bus ran down the hill from the Wangdue town and then on the bridge over Punatshangchhu. It was so majestic; it was so beautiful.

Then, unfortunately, in June 2012, a disaster rocked the Dzong. A deadly fire virtually razed it to the ground. My heart broke watching the news on the television; in fact, the entire nation grieved.

After that, every time I travelled to Wangdue or other places via Wangdue, I felt hollowness deep inside me. On a few occasions, I just took its pictures and looked at them feeling more aggrieved, agony. It seemed like, to me, something was missing, something was not right. The valley looked bruised, feeble. It just shed darkness in my heart…like a moonless night.

And last weekend, I visited Wangduephodrang. I was surprised - a pleasant surprise though. The Dzong has been rebuilt, substantially. I could see most of structure its being erected. And the good news is that it is targeted to be complete by 2021.

Out there, on the hill, I saw a handful of birds flying. It could be the ravens. And it could be perhaps sent by Zhabdrung to again bless the valley. Camera in my hand, as I looked at the Dzong, I could see its treasure being reinstated, its former glory being restored and its history being lived on.

Ah, my heart again was filled with joy and I could feel something auspicious about everything. Because there is the moon again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

We Talk About Blogging at Motithang School

It was a couple of weeks ago. It was at my home. And it was late night. Jambay Dorji, my next-door neighbor and also my fellow-village-folk, and I were talking about social media and how the Bhutanese behaved online. Indeed, online etiquette was a worrying, growing concern.

“The moment I log in on my Facebook account and scroll through the newsfeed, I see only negative stuff,” Jambay stated matter-of-factly.

I agreed with him.

Many of us spent hours on social media everyday but quite unfortunately we often misused social networking sites like Facebook and WeChat causing harms and disharmony in our society. Then we went on talking about how we can make use of social media and also make a living out of it.

“That’s what. Why can’t we focus our energy into making good use of social media rather than posting foul things?” I said.

The clock struck one in the morning and both of were feeling woozy, heavy sleep surfacing in our eyes. Then Jambay, a mathematic teacher at Motithang Higher Secondary School (MHSS), suddenly asked me, “Let’s do a programme at my school. I want you talk to the students and teachers on good use of social media.”

I didn't hesitate.

In a week’s time, Jambay arranged the programme at his school. Sherab Tenzin, a popular Bhutanese blogger, and Tshering Denkar, a solo travel blogger, have joined us. It was a successful programme. Over 400 students attended it and their response was awesome. We felt satisfied, happy. 
Picture: Bloggers with the students
Less than a week later, last Saturday, Jambay again arranged another session. This time, a group of thirty four students wanted to learn about blogging and content writing, specifically. We couldn't deny.

Sherab Tenzin presented on blogging practices around the world and in Bhutan and how to start a blog and factors to consider in starting a blog. His was a very humble, honest and very insightful presentation. But what caught the attention of the young learners was when he said that they could earn blogging and make a living out of it. In fact, Sherab himself earns quite a good amount of money from his blog. His blogging experience is hugely inspiring, as the students kept on nodding and taking notes.
Pic: Sherab Tenzin
His final message was, “It is better to monetize your blog and earn money rather than doing a job that pays you hardly anything.”

After that Tshering Denkar spoke on her experience as a full-time Bhutanese female solo travel blogger. Denkar blogs about her travel experience, local foods, hotels and photography. It was a lively presentation with amazing travel pictures, videos and intriguing personal stories.

Denkar said that travelling has helped her when she was going through difficult times in the past. “I love road and travelling to different places within Bhutan and meeting new people. That’s why the name of my blog is Denkars Getaway,” she stated.  
Picture: Tshering Denkar
“I am a solo traveller. I travel by passenger bus and also encourage budget travelling. I use my phone to take pictures and my tripod is my boyfriend,” Denkar said, her face brimming with enthusiasm.

And lastly I talked about my own blogging experience and photography. Most specifically, I taught the students how to write content on their blogs and also talked about the Community of Bhutanese Bloggers (CBB).
Pic: Me talking on CBB
Today, it’s heartening to see some of our students have created their own blogs and they are here: 1) Tashi's Photography 2) Unfold Bhutan and 3) Druk Writer. Similarly, I have received messages from some other students who are in the process of creating their own blogs.

That being said, our special acknowledgement to Mr. Jambay Dorji for going the extra mile by initiating this first of its kind programme at MHSS and creating a platform for us to impart our skills and knowledge to his students.

He stated, feeling delighted, “I only hope that we are preparing our children for opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. I advocate our children to participate in the digital-driven economy. Textbooks and classroom learning are not enough to address the real world problems.”

Pic: Jambay Dorji, the man behind the initiative

Indeed, undeniably, we should have more teachers like you, Sir!

We would also like to thank Madam Principal of MHSS for supporting this kind of initiative at the school and for her kind words for us.

And finally, we thank the enthusiastic students for your time and willingness to learn blogging. Best of luck in your future endeavours!