May 3, 2011, 9:00 AM By GREGORY KRISTOF
Gregory Kristof, who took a gap year in China before starting college.
I’ve periodically recommended that high school students take a “gap year” after graduation, by deferring college entrance for one year. Most colleges encourage students to take a gap year, partly because students then arrive a little more mature, a little more ready to study, a little more worldly. It’s becoming a bit more common, and Princeton now pays for some kids to travel during their gap year, but most people are still wary of the idea. In fact, almost every kid I’ve talked to who has taken a gap year raves about the idea, so I thought I’d commission a guest column from my eldest son, Gregory, who is currently taking a gap year in China. He spent most of the year studying Chinese at Tsinghua University and then at a language school in Dalian, and soon he’s going to finish up the year studying Spanish in Peru. On the side, he worked and volunteered. Here’s his take:
It took place on a frosty peak tucked away in the Tibetan highlands: my friend Rick and I walked in on a group of monks as they were on their knees, groaning.
They were performing secret rituals involving yak butter.
Peeking out from behind animal fur curtains, Rick and I hoped that they hadn’t noticed us yet. They hummed and sat in rows facing a stage of yak butter candles that threw images against the walls like kicked hacky sacks. Back in the shadows, I worried: What would happen if they saw two white dudes chillin’ behind the furs? Continue reading On the Ground with a ‘Gap Year’
By 2013, Bhutan’s school system should be GNH [Gross National Happiness]-engendered
Educating for GNH 11 December, 2009 – Around 541 school principals and representatives of the two teacher colleges in Bhutan will meet on January 20 to ensure that GNH values and principles are brought into the school system starting from the 2010 academic year.
The prime minister, Lyonchhoen Jigmi Y Thinley, the education minister, the education secretary and director of the royal education council made this proposal yesterday. They would also be participating in the seven-day workshop with the principals next month.
This particular action plan is based on what was discussed in “educating for GNH workshop” this week, according to the executive director of GPI Atlantic, Ronald Colman, who is assisting the education ministry to host the workshop. Continue reading On a fast track to fulfilment
5 December, 2009 – A class XI student in Thimphu, Dorji Tshomo Tshering, has been through this week reading up on gross national happiness (GNH) and the Bhutanese education system.
The 16-year-old science student is among the 28 Bhutanese participants and 25 international educators, who will take part in the six-day “Educating for GNH workshop” in Thimphu starting December 7.
Bhutanese and international participants will sit together to discuss very practically how GNH values can be brought into science, math, history, language and extra-curricular activities from pre-primary through post secondary education, according to education officials. Continue reading Bringing GNH to schools
… that showcases the possibilities however challenged persons may be
|SPECIAL PEOPLE, SIMPLE NEEDS: Ugyen Wangdi, a hearing impaired student of Drugyel LSS spells it out.
International Disability Day 4 December, 2009 – In response to a question on what is the most important help he needed from the government, Ugyen Wangdi, a hearing impaired student of Drugyel lower secondary school wrote: “Books, pencil, paper, pen,” on a small green-board, pinned with a banner that read ‘Communicate through Reading and Writing’.
Ugyen Wangdi was part of an exhibition held yesterday to showcase the abilities of the mentally and physically challenged, as Bhutan observed International Day for Persons with Disabilities with the theme: Realising the millennium development goals for all.
The exhibition, held in the courtyard of the Druk Tashi Taj hotel, the only venue in the capital city with basic accessibility for the physically challenged, also had on display knitted weaves, woodcarvings, embroidery, artwork and a host of other items made by people with special needs. Continue reading An exhibition of abilities…
The International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women is celebrated globally on the November 25 every year. In Bhutan, Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women (RENEW) along with students and community of Babesa and the UN family in Bhutan observed the Day.
It was graced by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the president of RENEW and the Goodwill ambassador of UNFPA. Continue reading International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women observed
The Non-Formal Education (NFE) Programme has changed the lives of countless number of illiterate adults in rural areas. For its success, this year it was awarded the Honourable Mention of the UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.
Ran Maya Subba, 12 came to Begana three years ago as a domestic helper to her aunt. She is from Patala village under Tsirang Dzongkhag. Shortly after her arrival, her aunt enrolled Ran Maya in the NFE centre at Begana.
Back in her village, she could not go to school as the nearest school is about three hours’ walk from her house.
She completed her post literacy course this year and is now attending the Khushuchen community primary school in class one. Continue reading Non Formal Education (NFE): A boon for the illiterates
Not just a helping hand but also a bridge back to mainstream society
The National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), with support from Save The Children fund (SCF) will set up Bhutan’s first transitional shelter for children, who are homeless, abused, neglected, emotionally disturbed or face other difficult circumstances.
Called ‘Project Hope – putting children first’, the need for such a shelter, NCWC officials said, was felt after seeing increasing numbers of children begging in different parts of Thimphu and boys and girls being exploited as cheap labour.
For instance, about 15 boys, some as young as five years, at the Thimphu crematorium, beg daily or dive into the river to pick up money thrown with cremation ashes. Some of these boys live in the neighbourhood, while others are orphans, who seek refuge with their relatives at night.
There is also an increasing number of children begging at the vegetable market on weekends, say Thimphu residents.
Children as young as 10, to survive, also work at motor vehicle workshops and restaurants in Thimphu. Continue reading Shelter for homeless kids
Without boarding or teacher’s quarter facilities, it’s a 10 km hike back and forth
Going to school in remote Bhutan involves hours of walking. In Samcholing, Trongsa, it is not just some students either.
The 121 students and 10 teachers of the recently upgraded lower secondary school walk uphill for hours to their school without boarding or teacher’s quarter facilities. Located above the main Samcholing village, there is no settlement around for teachers to rent houses and all the 16 teaching and non-teaching staff walk five and half km every day to reach the school. Some students walk about 10 km.
The only female teacher in the school, Shoba G, stays in Kuengarabten. “I wake up at 5 am every morning and walk for an hour and a half to reach school,” she said.
The 2.7 km farm road that connects the school from the Trongsa-Zhemgang highway is not pliable.
Farmers of Samcholing, who live on a sharecropping system and own little land of their own, are not happy too. “We’re the least developed people and our children have no bordering facilities,” said a 52-year-old father. “If the school wasn’t in our village, our children would avail hostel facilities in Taktse middle secondary school,” said another villager. Continue reading Long haul to Samcholing school
Inspired by BHUTAN’S overarching development policy called “Gross National Happiness” (GNH), Michael J Fox was in Bhutan recently for his new documentary. GNH is a concept coined by the fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970’s. GNH is a more holistic approach to development than Gross National Product (GNP). GNH is based on the Buddhist philosophy of the “Middle path.” While conventional development models stress production and economic growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.
Source:www.abc.go.com “Michael J Fox travels across the globe to explore the enduring strength of hope. He talks to both famous and everyday people, venturing everywhere from the Far East to President Barack Obama’s inspiring inauguration — all for a one-hour special, Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, airing THURSDAY, MAY 7 (10:02-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
The whole world, shaken by economic woes, is taking a closer look at optimism. Imagine a country which measures its success with a figure for “Gross National Happiness” instead of Gross National Product. Fox visits the secluded Himalayan nation of Bhutan, a modern day Shangri La that stresses the importance of joy in everything it does. Can happiness actually be legislated? Fox is fascinated by this nation’s commitment to the positive well-being of its citizens.”
Michael J Fox in BHUTAN: Canadian-American actor, Michael J Fox, is currently in the country shooting a documentary entitled, ‘Michael J Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist’. The documentary follows Fox as he travels the world in search of happiness and the reasons that make people happy. Continue reading Michael J. Fox- Adventures of an Incurable Optimist airs on ABC-7th May,Thu. 10pm EST
The Divine Madman–
By Samuel Jay Keyser: The “Takin” is Bhutan’s national animal. The mythology around its origin involves the “Divine Madman,” Lama Drukpa Kuenley. In the 15th century when he visited Bhutan, the people wanted to see him perform a miracle. He called for a cow and a goat for lunch. When he was finished, he placed the goat’s head on the cow’s body and commanded the amalgam to rise up and graze.
From an evolutionary point of view this makes the takin the newest creature on the face of the earth. Apparently, taxonomists are unable to relate the takin to any other creature and have given it its own classification, budorus taxicolor.
I think the Bhutanese have made the takin its national animal instead of, say, the yak or the barking deer, for the same reason that the New Zealanders made the kiwi its national bird. Both species are absolutely unique. These nations are saying, we are sui generis. Continue reading What is the story? Divine Madman, Takin (national animal) & Phallus symbols!