Our new volunteer, Lakshmi, who went to Ladakh to teach IT and English, shares her reflections and experience at the school.
Reflection: Expectations reconciled with reality
My initial expectations of coming here were based on: A PBS special (narrated by Brad Pitt) focusing on the school’s sustainablearchitecture, a small brochure on the school and the school’s website. As a result, my impressions thus far have changed from what I expected prior to my arrival of Druk White Lotus School, or Druk Padma Karpo Institute, as I have come to know it in Ladakh.
The PBS documentary showed absolutely stunning views of lush green mountains and barren dirt valleys. It also showed a school, at times devoid of students, and clean simple buildings which looked nearly brand-new. The mountains of Ladakh are breathtaking, and not just because the acclimatization process was difficult at first. But the mountains I now see covered with snow and it is hard to believe they ever turn green in the summer time. The school I have been seeing six-days a week for almost the past month is never without at least a handful of students running about, and though the buildings are indeed clean, they are also lived in.
The students in the brochure are shown with their uniforms. Light blue shirt, black trousers, and grey hat, but on the first glance I failed to notice the winter uniform, complete with a traditional Buddhist dress which looks like a full-length coat which is worn over numerous pairs of trousers, shirts and sweaters to keep children warm in with the winter chill still in the air.
Finally, the existence of a website would imply to some that internet access is readily available. While the Principal’s office at one point in time had an (irascible/mercurial) connection that occasionally took 2-3 hours to ‘dial-up,’ the school does not, at the moment have an internet connection, and the computers (all 14 of them) are shared among the 400 and some odd students. Though there is internet in Leh, perhaps what surprised me most is the lack of connection I felt to the outside world, especially through my personal favorite form of news: the newspaper. I was so baffled by the fact that the closest newspaper, The Hindustan Times comes 2-3 days late (if you are lucky), that I wondered momentarily how people knew to strike, after violence in Tibet. I had, of course, momentarily forgotten about TV and radio media, as well as the ever-increasing usage of mobile phones.
Overall, the school and my life here is both none of what I expected and all of what I had wanted.
March 29, 2008
Lakshmi would like to share some very nice winter stories, written by Druk White Lotus children. Here she explains how this came about:
“During my time at The Druk White Lotus School I taught Computer Science to students from Junior 1-Middle 6. After school, while waiting for the bus, I would talk to students about school, home, sports and whatever else came to mind. Occasionally I would ask them about their homework and what they were learning in various classes.
One day, a few students in the Middle 6 class didn’t have any English homework, so I asked “would you like some homework?” Though not all students were enthusiastic about the idea of having extra homework, some agreed.
My first assignment was partially to satisfy my own curiosity. I asked “What did you do on your Winter Holiday?” After they turned in the first draft I edited their work for grammar and spelling and returned it to them. They then wrote a second draft. Though I wanted them to type their work, I had to go back to the U.S. so I took their work with me and typed it up. After reading the students reflections to my mother, I thought there was a need for a wider audience”.
Tsering Dolma, Class 4A
About Winter Holiday
During winter holiday we celebrated new year and many more things. We also went to the monastery. During the holiday I played many games with my friends. I also helped my grandparents and friends. We call 1st of December the first day of the new year. In holiday I did my homework and studied hard. I woke up at 7:30 and washed my face and hands then ate my breakfast and I went to bring water. Then I studied more. In winter the weather was very cold. There was so much snow that we could not do any more work. I went to tuition to read some difficult subjects like Hindi, Bodhi and I went to tuition from 9:30-3:00 and then I did revision on my difficult subjects, on what they taught me. From 3:30-4:30 I played with my friend. After, I went home and washed my hands and drank some tea. 6-7 I watched TV and my sister made dinner for us. Then we ate dinner. We went to bed at 9 oâ€™clock.
Tashi Lamo, Class M6
Our winter holiday started from 8 December to 3 March. We all enjoyed our winter holiday. Firstly, we celebrated our Losar. Losar is a festival that all Buddhists celebrate. We celebrated our Losar from 10-17 December. We enjoyed it very much. We sang and danced with joy. We went to our friends’ and relatives’ houses to wish them a happy Losar. We wore new clothes on our Losar. Every home was decorated with beautiful flowers and dishes. We ate lost of different kinds of delicious foods during our Losar.
On 1st January we celebrated new year at my home. My friends and relatives came and we all enjoyed very much. We sang, danced and ate lots of things. We watched different movies. My mother cooked delicious food for dinner. After eating dinner we continued dancing. We danced up to 6am. After 6am we slept. In the morning I went for tuition. Then again I met my friends. On 3rd March we came to school again and met our teachers and other students. Now we are continuing our studies.
Chesmith Dolker, Class M6
Firstly, our winter vacation started from 8 December. On 9th and 10th we cleaned inside and outside of our house. On 10th of December at night we wore new clothes and new shoes. On 10th-14th we celebrated Losar. Our relatives and friends came to our house and prayed for a long life. They bought us biscuits and cake. They gave money for the children to buy sweets. From 20th of December I started going to tuition in Leh. After I came back from tuition I wrote my schoolwork. On 6th and 7th of January I went to Spituk Gustor at Spituk. I saw lots of monks wearing colourful masks. After that I continued to go to tuition. In winter we wore woolen clothes. It was so cold in winter, thatâ€™s why. On 26th January it was Republic Day. India got democracy on this day. On this day we have a holiday for tuition. I went to see the Republic Day at the polo ground. During that time many school students participated in the celebration and many sing songs and do dances about our country. On 4th and 5th of February there was a festival at Leh Palace and we visited the palace and saw masks with colourful clothes. At that time the market was full of lotteries and I gave a lottery. I got a pen, finger ring, and earrings. After that I continuously went for tuition. 17th February was a happy day for me, it was my brother’s birthday. A gave him a gift, a toy car. Then he thanked me. Now he is eleven years old. For his birthday we danced the whole day, night and the party ended at 2am. Next morning we unwrapped all the gifts. There were lots of toys. During winter holiday sometimes I went to the monastery to pray. Our tuition ended 20th of February. After 20th I played with my younger brother the whole day. We played hide & seek. Sometimes I washed clothes and my uniform to prepare myself and be ready to come to school. THE END
The Ven. Lama Rigzin (Chairman) leads the students and staff each morning to practice their chanting, explain the basics of Buddhism, and so create spiritual awareness amongst the children.
It is with great regret we announce the passing of Spalchen Wangyal, a school bus driver, who drowned in the Indus River on 14th June 2008. His sincere contribution to the school will always be remembered by children and staff alike. Mr. Dawa Dechen from Shey was appointed as the new bus driver with effect from 1st July 2008 - he has 8 years of driving experience and previously drove the school tipper truck.
Mr. Tundup Chosphel from Tarchit (Changthang) was appointed as the new School Watchman with effect from 1st July 2008. He is a retired army man and was chosen from 20 close contenders.
Annie Smith, a volunteer from UK, organised an outdoor art activity for the Junior classes on 11th July 2008. Annie explained that they had to use their imagination and creativity in drawing something on the school campus. The children loved doing the task very much.
Nicola Perandin (Resident Engineer from Arup Associates) taught English-language songs to the children. The students learned two songs in one day and they want to sing them on the School Annual Day. They enjoyed singing with Nicola very much.
We have a new volunteer at the school, Tania Garbe. Tania is helping to set up a heritage programme at the Shey campus and sent us this piece to introduce herself.
“My name is Tania Garbe and I began volunteering at Druk White Lotus School at the beginning of June. I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture from University of California, Berkeley, and I’m currently working on getting my Master’s at University of Texas at Austin, USA.
I’ve been helping to set up a Heritage Program, which aims to preserve Ladakhi culture and its rich cultural traditions within the school, while using them as an educational tool for students and visitors.
The program is two-fold. The first part is to create a modest Heritage Centre composed of three small rooms around the central courtyard. The first room will house displays on Drukpa history and lineage as well as the school’s cultural and architectural ties to Alchi and Hemis monasteries. The second room will be dedicated to the architecture of the Druk White Lotus School, specifically as an educational device to explain the environmental components and unique design features that have won the school several international awards. It will also explain the spiritual significance of the master plan, including documentation of the original sketches made by His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa. The third room will be dedicated to the educational ethos of the school and will house a rotating display of student work.
In addition, we have plans to move an old traditional Ladakhi home to the site, repair it, and then use it to display a collection of artefacts such as traditional costumes, tools, etc, as well as documentation and recordings of traditional stories, songs and dances. The hope is that this Cultural Archive will serve as an educational tool for our students and also as a resource for other schools locally and internationally.
The second part of the Heritage Program is to set up a guided tour for the increasing number of visitors that come to Naropa Palace and the school. The walk will inform visitors about the Drukpa Lineage and history, the efforts of the school, take visitors through the heritage rooms and Naropa Palace, and then offer them tea and a chance to help the school through donations or sponsorships if they wish.
As for my personal experience here, the fact that I am still here, and will be for several weeks after I originally intended on leaving, speaks for the tremendous kindness of everyone here at the school and the incredible beauty of Leh valley. If I wasn’t due back at university in August, it would be hard to make me leave”.
Angdus has built the whole school, assisted by his trusty caretaker Lobsang, and many skilled masons, carpenters and labourers. Angdus is from the local village of Shey, and is married with two daughters.
Pictured below are Angdus with Rachel Glynn (Drukpa Trust Secretary from the UK), and Angdus with his second daughter, Tseskit.
Volunteers Rigzin Namgyal from Ladakh, Kristin Brudevold from the US and Martha Egger from Austria took class M6 to Khespang for a 5-day Environmental Education & Leadership Camp in August 2008. The children learned many things about freedom, interdependence and teamwork, and also about themselves.
You can read Kristin’s account.
Mr Deep Kumar took up the post of Head Master in August 2008. Deep is a Kashmiri Pandit from Jammu. He is 42 years old and holds Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees, as well as a postgraduate diploma in computer science. His wife and two daughters will be joining him in Shey after the winter break. Deep intends to place a strong emphasis on academic performance at the school, in line with parents’ wishes.
Karma Dhargyal is in charge of the Nursery & Infant section at Druk White Lotus School. He is the first staff member to come to UK for training and will be gaining professional experience in several schools and colleges over a three week period. Asked about his impresssions after the first few days, Karma said:
“It was really a very special feeling for me as soon as I was greeted and picked up at Heathrow Airport. The feeling was amazing and I was totally startled for having reached London for the very first time in my life. Anyway, it was all wonderful.
The people seem very much involved and busy, fixed-up in their own schedules. Oh! The double-decker bus, the tube and train rides were very enjoyable and I felt myself placed in a totally different world with a whole lot of nice experiences. In a nut-shell, my first few impressions were very good and overwhelming. Looking forward to experience much much more sweet experiences.”