This morning we had our graduation ceremony, and it went tremendously! First off, the four advanced students ran the technical aspects of the show completely on their own… I was there to supervise (a role I took quite a liking to this week) while they handled the sound board, microphone and video volume, the projector, video playback, and stage and house lights. Like I said, they handled everything and they were amazing!
During the graduation ceremony, we had a pretty full schedule and the whole event took more than two hours from start to finish. We had speeches from the faculty, speeches from the Secretary of Education and the Director of the Bhutan Aga Khan Foundation as well as all of the students, but the speech that stole the show was from one of Arthur’s students, a boy named Tshechup. Normally very quiet and reserved , he stole the show with his wit and humor, his candor and timing.
After the ceremony, we all hung around and drank tea, sang songs, and signed photos for nearly two hours. Then we gathered in the parking lot like students after a football game. With some final responsibilities looming and needing to pack for our early morning departure, we finally had to move on and say our first goodbye to the students.
Everyone went their ways, to meetings shopping or hanging out. When the sun went down though, we had our last hurrah with the students. Even some of last week’s advanced class were able to meet us in the yard of the student’s hostel and we had a wonderful bonfire. We sang and danced, had tea, and just loved each others’ company one last time before we had to leave. Wendy and Sarah led a couple of rounds and then they each sang a song. Then Arthur and even Mike sang a tune each.
The kids, though, they were unstoppable. Going back and forth between western and Bhutanese songs, they would sing a traditional song first and then One Thing by One Direction next. And not a kid would abstain! Then again, toward the end of the evening, we had another surprise at the campfire. Tshechup, that same quiet young man from earlier, approached Wendy and said, “ma’am, if you wish, I’ll sing one song.” He then stood in the circle and began a traditional Bhutanese song. The other kids cheered for him, then nearly all of them joined in to sing with all they had in them! To try to describe the moment fully would be a disservice, but you’ll have to take me at my word when I say it was a wonderful night.
The next morning, we all woke entirely too early, packed and then piled into the van for the long drive to Paro and the airport. I’m writing now with Mt. Everest out the eastern window, halfway to our quick stopover in Calcutta. Like most adventures, this one seems simultaneously too brief, and also as though it’s been going on for an age. Wendy and Sarah are sitting in front of me, sharing stories from the week, Fred and Arthur relaxing across the isle, and I’m pecking at my computer and watching the ground pass beneath us. As Bhutan retreats into our past, we all realize just how special these experiences are for us, how much hope we have in the future of our amazing students and how privileged we are to have had the opportunity to spend this short time with them.
Until next time, Bhutan.