i often wonder what it is that draws me toward children. many people might say it's because i want a child of my own, or it's because i had a bad childhood and i want to make up for it, or because i don't like being an adult...some will even say it's because i prefer to live somewhere other than a place where my years would normally take me. i would say the first is nuts...much to do before that adventure will begin. i would say the second of these is definitely wrong. i had a beautiful childhood! it wasn't necessarily "comfortable" in terms of monetary wealth, but of course my parents did a wonderful job teaching me that comfort was what you made it. i had no concept of where my family fell in the social ladder and so i loved everything. i was taught to look for the right things to look for in life. the third of the possible reasons i would say might be half true. adults are boring...and they forget about the simplicity that exists all around us and especially in the "mysteries". as for the fourth reason, i like to live everywhere. all at once. (this would probably explain a lot about why xoch is xoch) and so my conclusion is that the reason is quite simple. children are the best. to say it in a way that is not so "child like" i could also conclude that i'm drawn to children because i look back at my life all the time, examine the causes and effects and i know that if i hadn't had the childhood that i did, i would not be where i am now. surely, the years between "childhood" and "now" also mattered..but when i look at it, the stuff my parents put in me from a very young age are truly what have made up this big process that is "becoming xoch". so perhaps...when i spend time with youth, teach youth, work with youth...in some ways i see my years in them...and in many ways, i see their years in me.
and so...i'm happy to be able to be here. it's given me so many opportunities to meet young people and do what i can for them. VAST is an incredible organization in terms of its outreach to youth. AND! i am happy to say that the kiddos and i have begun our next chunk of goodness! we have been and we will be hosting a radio show together every friday on centennial radio--one of Thimphu's local radio stations! the show is ALL ABOUT THEM. obviously, it's very informal and centered around things they want to talk about. i find that adults tend to worry about young people getting on the radio...i guess they think they may say something wrong, or may say too much...or or or or (adults are full of reasons why not...sometimes). i, on the other hand, love the idea of young people on the radio! the potential and excitement of what could happen is FANTASTIC.
there's a humbleness that exists in the Bhutanese...it's a very beautiful thing. the youngsters i have worked with have shown me the most beautiful side of that humility. tiny gestures, like not giving a direct nod when the answer to a question is 'yes' are so cool. it's a funny thing. normally, i'm used to people giving the nice firm up and down yes...but here, i'm often given the round about or the twist and (no) shout. it's very funny....and truly fantastic to watch! it could be compared to the motion of a bobble head doll...no up and down about it...and physically its incredible. i've tried to master it and can't. there's a certain level of detachment that has to occur between the neck and head. to get a good example of what i'm talking about you can watch slumdog millionaire...the "yes" makes an appearance quite a few times. when i first arrived here i remember being so very confused. i thought nod meant 'no' so i found myself exiting rooms and ending conversations when there was no need for it. (embarrassing to say the least!) the youngsters also approach things with lots of hesitation...i've attributed it to their very respectful nature as well as their humble nature. it's a beautiful thing. however, on account of my "openness" and "frankness" as they refer to it, it's been very funny to see them come out of their shells. it's especially funny when we are in a formal setting and we all have to "behave".
in my first couple of months, my interaction with kiddos was very formal. i tried everything i could to break their shyness, not realizing it was not a matter of shyness at all. these children are so so so far from shy! it was a matter of respect. so when questions were asked it was difficult to get answers, it was difficult to get them to ask me questions and it was difficult to put them in a situation where they knew more about something i might have been talking about. (Bhutan). But now, there's a wonderful change beginning to take seed. they're not afraid to ask me questions, they're not afraid to challenge me if they think i'm wrong and they absolutely love to give me their suggestions. opinions are still kept to a minimum, but at least we've found a starting point...i'd say we're already headed toward the middle of the journey point.
and so, this radio show that we're doing is only broadening their opportunities to speak...the show is appropriately named "keep talking". obviously, the art making we've done together helps build their creative communication tools and their courage to express themselves unconventionally; and now, this radio show will help them gain their voices and be brave about offering their opinions. the first show we had was two weeks ago. we talked about school and learning, and the best ways they felt they could learn. last week, rebecca was my guest and we talked about what it is to be a good teacher, a bad teacher, a mentor etc. etc. tonight, two children will join me and we'll talk about what it is to exchange things with other people. in our case, we'll be talking about the things we've exchanged between ourselves, the american madame and the Bhutanese youth. specifically, we're planning a (very hilarious, i'm sure) dzongkha, english, spanish exchange session. should be funny....especially me trying to learn dzongkha! there's a certain word..."nga"...the xoch mouth can't do it.
and so...hooray fun times shall be had tonight.
as always...i await all that is to come and send you all my warmest greetings from the Kingdom of Bhutan!