As a Bhutanese lecturer for the language and culture course, a couple of questions always on my mind are, “Why do students choose Bhutan?” and “Can Bhutan fulfill the dreams and expectations of our students in terms of culture?” To explore and answer my questions, I planned to take our students to a Bhutanese cultural festival in Chumey Valley, called Buli Tshechu (festival) as a part of a field exercise.
With the day break on March 14th, all of our students and staff were ready in their intriguing and beautiful Bhutanese national dress–ghos for men and kiras for women—and in a festive mood to be part of the festival. When I saw curiosity and happiness on our students’ faces, and their interest in witnessing and learning more of Bhutanese culture, I could only hope their excitement would remain forever.
After we entered the courtyard, our students settled down into smaller groups waiting for mask dances to start, which our students were seeing for the first time. As the first mask dance appeared with different masks and religious artifacts, followed by cultural dances, I was very excited to see our students’ first reaction with their eyes focused on the mask dances.
For me, it was not the mask dances and cultural dances performed by monks and radiant local women that made me happy and joyful, but our SFS students who participated and danced with the locals. We could feel that even the crowds and monks were very happy to see our students dancing without awkwardness and full of curiosity, though it was their first time making the Bhutanese dancing moves.
After being there in the festival for about four hours, we finally went inside the temples and prayed for our successful spring program. Along with the blessing, we also reviewed our Buddhist iconography class which I felt was good for students to learn and refresh once again.
At the end of the day, nothing was more satisfying than when our students came to me and said, “Kencho, thank you for bringing us here, we really enjoyed and it was awesome!” I then felt that visit to the Buli festival has answered my questions: Yes, Bhutan is living up to their experiences and yes, they made the right choice.
Tashi delek–blessings and good luck!