Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Bhutan-based program on Traditional Economies and Sustainable Development - a pioneering partnership between A&M-Kingsville and Royal Thimphu College (RTC), Bhutan.
The Bhutan Program (BP) is being directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, A&M-Kingsville. The BP includes graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in Bhutan in May 2013, attending classes at RTC, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in Northwestern Bhutan. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both Bhutan and South Asia.
You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of Bhutan and the Eastern Himalayan Region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Farewell, Bhutan

As we pack our bags the memories of the days spent across Bhutan come back to life. This country has left an impression and a mark in all of our lives. We were all challenged to step outside of our comfort zone and accept a whole new life style for the past two and a half weeks. Words cannot explain the impact this trip has on our lives. From the first warm greeting at the airport from Tshering to the goodbyes around the campfire. The first day we arrived at sat by the fire speaking with the Bhutanese students trying to find a common topic and learn from them to now while we are still sitting fire blazing and now saying goodbye to people who have impacted our lives. The staff and students at RTC were the most hospitable and caring people we could have hoped for. Arriving in a new country is never easy and always makes you unsure. Our perceptions were completely altered from the first day until now after all the experiences we bonded through.

The Bhutanese were so welcoming and always made us feel comfortable. We have hiked monasteries, visited temples, spoke with a lama, held discussion with monks, played soccer with children monks, visited a nunnery, learned about Buddhism and worshipped Buddha at various temples and much more. Not only did we visit sites but we were able to speak to experts in politics and sustainability all over Bhutan. We never simply visited a site to take pictures but rather attended interactive lectures across the country.
Our experience alone at Royal Thimphu College gave us the chance to listen to lectures from the local college. Interacting with the students allowed us to see that even halfway across the world their lives are very similar to ours. They enjoy the same activities as us music, dancing, sports, and movies. They are facing the same problems we have in US like unstable job market, relationships, and trying to find our next step after university.
We will all go back the US still processing all that we have experienced and been through. But we are already changed, enlightened, and grateful to be in such a beautiful country with beautiful people. We are forever thankful for everyone who made this experience possible; Dr. Goswami, Royal Thimphu College staff, Tshring, guest lecturers, the RTC students, and Texas A & M Kingsville.
Words will never express the experience we have had in Bhutan.
Brianna B.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Saying Farewell With Dances!

Monday night the students, faculty, and staff gathered for our farewell dinner. We were entertained, first, by 12 traditional Bhutanese performances.  The program dancers were both men and women.  The most entertaining was Drametse Nga Cham, a religious dance that incorporated masks.  This dance was performed only by men and has roots in eastern Bhutan.  The masks added a dramatic dimension.  Both male and female dancers performed Deki ki Nyem, a traditional Bhutanese folk dance that symbolizes happiness, to end the show.  To our surprise, there was a final dance after what we thought was the end.  The Tashi Tashi is a farewell and good luck dance, all guests were invited to attend the performance circle. It took most of us some time to catch on, but we all really enjoyed how it lightened the mood and brought everyone together.  
After the performances, we all enjoyed dinner and conversations with people we have grown to love and learn from.  As we were enjoying our time, some realized the bitter-sweetness of the moment. Most of us will never come back to RTC or Bhutan, however, what we learned while we were here I believe was a life changing experience for us all. 
We will always cherish Bhutan!
Cassandra W. 

Got Milk?

As our bus pushed over another steep mountain range, I saw the sign: National Dairy Development Center. My eyes immediately widened. I was filled with excitement and ready to learn about a part of Bhutan’s livestock industry. I was very interested in how this particular industry was developing in a country that is advancing in such a fast rate.
As we entered the building we were greeted with huge, warm smiles. They escorted us to a conference room where they served us tea and then presented a PowerPoint about the center. We learned that the main breeds they use are Jersey, Brown Swiss and some of their native breed cattle. One of the main things this center does is provide farmers with the equipment to be  sustainable dairy farmers. Any farmer who wants to participate in this project has to fill out an application and turn it in to the dairy center. The applicant has to meet specific requirements. Once the farmer has established its dairy farm the center will pick up the milk and process it. I like this project because it helps rural farmers have a steady income source. At the moment they don’t export much of their products. They do export some to India but much is kept and sold in Bhutan. Another thing the center does is artificial insemination. They took us to the lab where they do this procedure. The lead lab expert demonstrated how the whole process is done; he   explained each step and described what each machine did.
At the dairy research lab
I had a great time at the center and learned about the sustainability - based dairy industry in Bhutan. I also got to meet with four veterinarians and ask them about their schooling. I might even be able to do an internship here!
Brisa H.

The Parinirvana, the Throngdrel, and the King

We visited Tashichhodzong, the dzong in Thimphu, for the celebration of Lord Buddha's Parinirvana. This holiday, the holiest and most auspicious day in the Bhutanese Buddhist calendar, marks the point where Siddhartha Guatama, the Buddha, attained Nirvana through physical death (something slightly similar to the Christian Easter, for context). The dzong was full of people - mainly Bhutanese Buddhists but also foreign tourists - who came to participate and witness the holiday.

 Especially significant was the unfurling of the Throngdrel, a three-story-tall tapestry displayed only on important occasions. So revered is the tapestry that simply viewing it is believed to absolve a person's sins. A huge line of people processed around the tower from which it was hung - clockwise, as is the custom - to see the Throngdrel and gain karma.

Of course, my account of the experience would be incomplete without mentioning one other aspect of the celebration. Among the Buddhist practitioners attending the celebration was His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. As monks played horns and drums, he and Her Majesty the Queen walked into the temple, and we stood maybe thirty feet away from them!

Coming from a Western, Christian background, I was fascinated by this Buddhist holiday. This is because on the surface, there is little in common between the two religions, but beneath all the differences, common threads such as community, celebration, and ceremony connect the two traditions to each other. For me, this was the most important part of the celebration of the Parinirvana.

Nick B.

A Very Special School

On  a Thursday, we were at Thimphu’s Jigme Losel Primary School.This school has flourished thanks to its headmistress, Ms. Choki Dukpa, who has attempted to integrate environmental awareness into its curriculum since she started in the School in 2005. Evidence of her green techniques can be seen through the multitude of potted plants in old plastic jugs or green-painted tires converted into flower pots. Besides the in-class instructions emphasizing sustainable practices, students learn through experience by working together, by classes, to tend to their garden as well as their own hand washing stations. 

Each classroom has numerous old plastic jugs filled with water and  fitted with hand-made spouts so that children can easily wash their hands together before and after lunch. It's really quite a heartwarming sight to see. In 2011, Jigme Losel  received international recognition when it won an award for Educational Innovation from UNESCO for their feeding program. During our visit the principal explained that students whose parents could not afford to provide an adequate supply of meals often performed poorly in school due to hunger. To solve this, faculty and parents sought to ensure that all students had access to proper nutrition. They were able to do this with the help of community volunteers who provide the food for students who cannot afford to bring lunches.

We all loved our visit to this primary school. In fact, we had to be herded out to get to our next event! 

Daniela D.

Zorig Chusum

Today we visited the Institute of Traditional Arts (Zorig Chusum) in Timphu. Bhutanese customs  believe that there are 13 different types of art one must master; in this institute 6 of the 13 traditional arts are taught. These arts include woodcarving, sculpture, tailoring, embroidery, and painting. We visited several classrooms and saw the students hard at work, from the less advanced courses to the more advanced. The first classrooms we entered were Woodcarving I and II, there we saw the process of woodcarving from the simple to the intricate carvings of dragons displayed on the walls. We then visited a Sculpture V classroom which featured a class of mostly girls, and the number of students was larger than all the other classes we visited. We found it interesting to learn that students in the tailoring class worked on both traditional and western wear. The classroom we entered next was the Embroidery IV, this was the most colorful classroom of all, as it was beautifully decorated with the students’ work which consisted of traditional Bhutanese arrangements hanging from the ceiling. The next class was a painting classroom of mostly males; it was quite large. The students demonstrated  incredible skill and talent  as they sketched their work. There were also amazing sculptures and paintings of prominent Bhutanese religious figures such as the Buddha of Compassion. The last place we went to within the Institute was the Show Room, where some of the impressive work done by the students were for sale. 

The Zorig Chusum truly gave us a glimpse of the uniqueness of Bhutanese culture as depicted through art.   

Marita J. 

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