Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bhutan Taktse Winter Camp 2009

We are heading out today in 1.5 hours for Bhutan. We will reach the border tonight where we will be staying. Tomorrow we will reach Thimpu which is the capital city. Bhutan is a tiny country- only half the size of Illinois. Our group consists of Pintso, Ghenla Ezra, Acharya Pradan, Lopen Ani Chanda, and myself. It is a great group of people to go with. We have been practicing the learning sessions the past few nights over some honey bee brandy. The theme of the winter camp is "Folk Tales, Myths, and Creation Stories From Around the World", and I am in charge of the story-telling component. At the end of the camp we will have 8-10 performances prepared for a Soiree, which the kids will be putting on for their parents and local government agents. We have chosen 3 songs to do with the kids - All the Critters, Blowing in the Wind, and Teach Your Children. The parents of our students are doing an amazing job coordinating this on the other side for us to be able to function over there. Our food and lodging is taken care of completely. It will be an amazing trip I am certain. I will post photos and stories when I return.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dec 21

Forgive my laziness, it is hard for me to sit and write in this Blog because so much happens every day it is hard to focus and think of what is the most important to write about. I have decided to write only on the progression of TFI in this blog, and if you want to know personal things, well just get in touch through whatever social networking device it it that you prefer. Otherwise, mail in the form of letters, care packages, goods and services, notwithstanding will be accepted. Just contact me if you want my address.
I have been making some headway in the development of my project. I have broken it into 2 components: Educational, and Production. The educational aspect will include the erection of a greenhouse, (hopefully) in the form of a free one from the Dept of Agriculture of Sikkim. Everything is politics here, so I am leaving that aspect up to Taktse Board. Ideally, the greenhouse will have a diversity of crops in it, for educational purposes. An end of the greenhouse will have a concrete floor in it for tool storage/ transplanting and potting activities. I would also include a vermicompost component, which has gained a lot of support here in Sikkim. I have designed a propagation house which is roughly 8' x 20'. The design is for a south facing structure, with a solid back wall made from rocks on-site, and mortar. A knee-wall of the same sort will surround the base of the structure. I would like to have a frame made for the window part made from welded steel. The "clear part" will be composed of polycarbonate sheeting and will cover the main south facing wall, along with appx. 75% of each end wall. This structure will be used for seeding trays and mixing potting mix. Compost box may or may not be adjacent to it.
The Production aspect of TFI will be strictly for the production of crops in high demand in the Kitchen at the school. These include cabbage, carrots, radishes, Mustard greens, cilantro, and mint. The site for this is pending, and I need it to be approved by the board. It is on the opposite side of the school, where the support and kitchen staff live.
Things have been moving slowly, but it is because I came at the end of school. I feel like I will have some more focus now in the winter. I am very pleased I arrived when I did because I got a chance to know all of the teachers and some of the kids on a personal level. When next year starts I will ready to jump right in without acclimation.
This brings me to my next point which is about Winter Camp. This is a program which is compulsory for 7 and 8th graders, and optional for other students. This starts Jan 27 for the kids. However, the Bhutanese kids will not be able to attend since they live so far away. I have been asked to go to Bhutan on Dec 28th to help facilitate a Winter Camp for the students there. I am extremely excited because as a "tourist", foreigners have to pay min. 200$/day for a visa in Bhutan! I will be going as an educator, and subsequently have to pay nothing.
That's all for now. I miss everyone, but I am loving every minute of being here.


Thursday, December 4, 2008


I arrived in Bagdogra on the 2nd after a harrowing night in Kolkata trying to find a place to stay at 11 at night. The room was roughly the size of 2x a jail cell, with no windows. Oh I forgot to mention that I did not recover any of my bags (2 duffel bags and a guitar) at the Kolkata airport, it turns out that no ones bags were transfered to the new plane in Delhi. Luckily my support network here is really making it easy to recover the bags, and they are being delivered today.
After arriving in Bagdogra, I Met the driver, Mintu, and he took me through the Sikkim border through ridiculous winding roads for about 4.5 hours. When I arrived in Gangtok, I was brought to Chandmari, which is Pintso's house. I am staying in the shrine room with the altar. the first night I woke at 3 from a throbbing headache from altitude pressure. Yesterday Tenzingla brought me to a local agriculture fair down the road at a park. I was amazed at the level of progressive agricultural engineering activities are going on here in Sikkim. The government has declared it an "organic state" whatever that means, but it seems as though there is a real respect for these kind of agricultural practices. The exhibition contained booths about vermiculture, mushroom growing, animal husbandry, aquaculture, and terracing demonstrations. Also withing a hall there was a huge produce show. none of it was for sale, rather it was all the work of local farmers vying for the 1st and 2nd prize produce. Every kind of fruit and veg was exhibited, it is amazing the richness of variety that is produced here. That night I went to Taktse International School for the first time, and met some of the teachers and students. Tenzingla showed me around the school, and mr Arvind Gupta around the grounds, including some lands that I could consider to use. Last night I went with some of the teachers to see The Dark Night in a theatre in Gangtok, pretty good movie i guess.
Today I came straight up to the school and have been here all day. I hiked up to the retreat up the mountain by myself, I almost got lost, and when I reached a lake I met a guy herding cows, and one of his cows got stuck in the muck it reminded me of artex from the never ending story. this dude was rugged and was like what the fuck is this tourist doing up here? A couple of the teachers and I will be performing a song on saturday for a soiree. Im playing bass. it was surreal yesterday to go back to Gangtok on the bus with all the kids, listening to guns and roses blasting out of the speakers. it still makes me laugh. time to go drink some tea. more to come.