Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Away Game in Bhutan

       Most of us grew up knowing that if the school team had an away game it meant they hopped on the bus in the afternoon, played the game, and got back on the bus to come back to school that evening. However, in Bhutan things are a bit different. The roads make for slow travel and the transportation available is about one small bus per school. So, the sports meet for Wangdue was hosted by Gaselo HSS, the school I call home. This meant we began preparations after lunch on Wednesday and worked all day Thursday to get ready. Ready means all the class rooms were emptied of their furniture which was stacked around the outside of the buildings under very wide and useful eaves. Ready also means all the flags are in place, everything is cleaned and all the grounds tidy along with several new cooking pits dug alongside the kitchen to help feed a few hundred more. It also means the football pitch is ready for track and field events as well as football, but most importantly that the grounds are ready for they final ceremony, guest tent, etc etc.
Thursday afternoon the teams began to arrive, something in the range of 50-70 in each group. They came in busloads, “camping” mattresses tied to the top, ready to move in for 2 nights. Each school brought along an allotment of rice and some other basics to contribute to the school kitchen. So, the school kitchen was now feeding 800+, mind boggling. Dinner followed an orientation program and then the students had put together a welcome cultural show which means 16 or so dance performances ranging from traditional to some actual modern dance. Each piece is organized by a student which means they choreograph and set up practices. The show is MC’d by a student, as mentioned in the last entry students perform a huge variety of minor administrative tasks in all aspects of the school which is how this fairly sizeable institution operates with a relatively small staff.
      Friday morning comes after a lot of rain during the night. Most of our student body is up around 3:30am to clear the road, get the field ready, and generally set things up for a morning of track and field events. Six in the morning and we are all watching the track and field events, some muddy spots on the track but most of the kids run barefoot. Eight o’clock is breakfast time and then a full day of events with football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, and chess all going on all day.
       The students wear uniforms for basketball which are purchased locally. They are cheap copies of NBA uniforms with a school name stenciled across the back. Bhutanese wear many clothes, t-shirts, jackets and such with all sorts of logos and messages. They do not care in the least what the message or logo might be. Some are knockoffs of American brands, some are completely random and make no sense at all. The Gaselo girls were wearing Utah Jazz uniforms while their big rival, the Bajo girls, wear wearing Denver Nugget uniforms. I live in Colorado so these are the two NBA teams closest to where I am from. What are the chances?
Dinner is followed by a quiz competition, teams of two from each school take turns trying to answer surprisingly difficult questions, the scores are not too high!
      No rain Friday night, Saturday’s dawn promises a fine day. Following breakfast there is a full on ceremony with chief guest to watch the football final, the premier event. The game is followed by speeches, awards, and finally, lunch. After lunch the students, supervised by faculty and captains, take everything down and by late afternoon the school is back to normal and ready for a new week. The visiting schools have returned home and a huge event has been accomplished by the entire community if Gaselo HSS.

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