The Educational Exchange Programme was coordinated by the school management for the students from grade vii to x who scored 79% and above in the mid-term Examination, 2018. So, 22 of us, 11 boys and 11 girls qualified for this tour which we will hold close to our hearts throughout the journey of learning. We began our journey from 19th of September, last week and returned home on 22nd of this month.
Day 1 was all about travelling and sight-seeing as our old school bus rumbled through the winding roads zigzagging up and across the mountainous terrains. The actual journey started at around 7:20 am in the morning from our home school. As we passed by gushing rivers, majestic mountains and terrifying cliffs, our escorts enriched us with background information and history behind some of these treasures of our motherland. We were so engrossed chatting and absorbing the comfort of the enchanting scenery surrounding us that by the time we reached Tshangkha Central School, it was already 2:30 pm in the afternoon. The Principal and staff of Tshangkha Central School had hosted a decent lunch for us in spite of the usual office rush hour. We were truly touched by the warm hospitality extended towards us by the family of Tshangkha Central School.
With our bellies filled and hearts happy, we resumed our journey towards Punakha Central School. As the landscape changed and temperatures rose, we could feel the humidity teasing our skin which for once made us to miss the cool weather of Ura. But we couldn’t have bothered much as we got carried away by the other exciting things to watch around. The stories of Ngala Duem and Garp Lungi Khorlo made the hairs rise on our skin but the elegant Chendepji stupa reassured us that god is constantly watching over us. We were glad to see that the historical Wangduephodrang dzong which got consumed and destroyed in disastrous flames in the year 2012 was in the process of being brought back to its original grandeur.
The twilight was creeping in as we entered the periphery of Punakha district and we could still see the magnificent sight of Punakha Dzong proudly standing, guarded by Phochu in the right and Mochu in the left. As our bus halted at the entrance of Punakha Central School, we could see some teachers and students standing in line for our reception which made us all the more excited and nervous at the same time. Right from the moment we crossed the threshold of their school gate, we were made to feel at home by the Principal, warden, matron and captains of Punakha Central School. We were then ushered to a beautiful reading shade where the captains had organized a welcome tea and a short presentation on their school’s best practices. Then we were taken on a campus tour by the captains where we got to see meaningfully decorated classrooms, offices and surroundings filled with beautiful flowers and plants of all kinds. One of the many exemplary sights that we have observed was their prayer hall which looked even more magnificent than some of the temples. Well, what could we have expected? It is the Punakha Central School after all. One of the model schools in our country!
Next thing we knew, we were escorted towards their dining hall where all the boarder students of PCS were waiting for us to have dinner together. So we shared their meal and their home. We could already feel a sense of being in a home away from home. After dinner, we were guided by the captains towards the respective hostels to retire for the day. Even in the hostel, the captains never made us feel less at home. They tended us like their younger siblings.
Day 2 turned out even more fruitful. After a sumptuous breakfast, we visited Punakha Dzong. Since all of us were new to the place, four boys’ captains of PCS escorted us to visit various religious sites. We visited Machen Lhakhang and Kuenroe inside the dzong where we were given a knowledgeable insight into the brief background on the dzong by an incharge. We were fortunate enough to receive blessing from the sacred relics of the dzong from the Lam Neten himself. It was mysteriously amazing to witness the 17th century fortress still standing tall, flourishing in its own richness.
Our next visit was to Khamsum Yuelay Namgyel chorten which was built by Her Majesty the Queen Mother, Ashi Tshering Yangdon Wangchuck in Nyizergang, about 30 minutes walk uphill from the footbridge in Yepaisa village. The four storied stupa was built with the intention of bringing peace in the world in general and to clear obstacles for the country of Bhutan in particular. We also visited the astonishing religious site of Dupthop Ngagay Rinchen on our way back. We couldn’t help getting mystified looking at a huge block of cube shaped rock being sliced into half. As we passed by the village of Changyul, more than 700 years old home of Galem vividly reminded us of the heart breaking ancient love story of the legendary Gasa Lamai Singye and Changyul Bum Galem, the two people who put love above everything else.
By the time we reached back to Punakha Central School, it was already lunch time and the captains were waiting patiently to serve lunch for us. We had our last meal at PCS and it was time for us to move to another destination. The captains dropped us till the bus parking and it was evident that partings were always painful irrespective of the time and moments shared together. Each one of us was aware that we had so much to learn from PCS and the visit to their school was an inspiring and enriching experience.
After bidding goodbye to each other, we began yet another journey towards Genekha Central School, our next host. On the way, we also took the chance to visit the renowned Chimi Lhakhang, “the temple of fertily”, as it is famously known to the westerners. The legends of the two brothers, Lam Ngawang Chogyal and Choejay Drukpa Kuenley amused us like no other. If one was from earth, the other could definitely have been from mars.
It was already dark by the time we reached our next stop. There, we were greeted by two cooks and some students with warm tea and dinner. Since all of us were tired from the day’s visits, we retired for the night early. We gratefully checked into the rooms allotted for us.
Day 3 took us to Thimphu, the capital hub of Bhutan. Our first visit was to Kuenselphodrang, the famous Buddha point. The gigantic Great Buddha Dordenma statue was built to celebrate the 60th birth anniversary of fourth king Jigme Singye Wangchuck. We were immensely overwhelmed by the splendor and luxury of it. We also visited Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial Chorten which was built in 1974 under the patronage of the 3rd Druk Gyalpo’s mother, Ashi Puntsho Choden.
Then we had our lunch in one of the restaurants of Thimphu, for a change. After lunch, we headed towards our next stop, Dechentsemo Central School. As we left Thimphu City behind, we were content, reflecting on the journey and visits we had made so far. We reached Dechentsemo towards the evening and we were ushered into the school’s conference hall where they had prepared a welcome tea for us. After tea, we were taken on a campus tour by one of the teachers. As we went around, we acquired yet another bunch of new ideas and knowledge from this school. After the campus tour, the host school shared about the history and good practices of their school. Some of the good practices which we really thought would be applicable in our school are
- “The practice of co-parenting” where teachers are attached to a hostel room to ensure proper care and sanitation.
- The practice called Circle Time where class teachers sit once a week with his/her students and give a forum for the students to share their inner thoughts and grievances.
After the presentation, we were served with dinner and then we retired for bed.
On the 4th and the final day of our tour, we woke with the crack of dawn and we started our return journey at 5:40 am. We had a light breakfast in one of the restaurants in Nobdhing and extravagant lunch at Sephu. We reached Chamkhar at around 4:30 pm. We did some shopping for about an hour and resumed our journey home. We safely reached Ura at around 7:30 pm.
This program was one of a kind in the history of Ura Central School and we are genuinely grateful that we got to be the first persons on board. It was the best gift we could have ever wished for. We pledge to perform even better in academics in the days to come and we hope that this culture will be continued in the coming years as well. My dear friends, this time it was us who got lucky and we never know, next time, it might you. Therefore, give your best and study hard.
At the end of the tour, all we can say is “thank you” to the school management for planning this tour and school staffs for supporting this initiative. Thank you teachers of the past and present for your tireless effort on grooming us to what we are today. Had it not been for your sweat and exertion, we wouldn’t belong to these group students who scored 79% and above. Thank you escort teachers for chaperoning us and most importantly, our sincere gratitude towards our Ata Driver Sonam Wangdi for carrying the risks of 26 lives and driving us safely to and fro. Last but not the least, “thank you” would be too small a word but we will always remain grateful to the family of Punakha Central School, Genekha Central School, Dechentsemo Central School and Tshangkha Central School for their warmest hospitality.
Thank you one and all!
Report was presented by Chimi Yangden – XA