Tshering’s Visit to Ura: Bhutan’s First READ Library Site.

March 4th, 2010 by
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TsheringTenzin is the new field coordinator for READ Bhutan. He wrote an incrediblycharming piece about his first visit to Ura, the site of the first READ libraryin Bhutan.Do take a minute and read it – just wonderful.

~ Toni

The nippy winter evanesces tardily delivering another spring; a season of great white hopes, aspiration and Love. Spring welcomes another year and it unfurls new set of dreams and hopes in every soul; it was a perfect hour to drive through the core of the peaceful dragon country in the Himalayas.

It was my first trip to Ura, Bumthang. It rained down the night out before my trip and I was apprehensive about the snowfall on the high snowcapped triplet peaks of Dochula, Pelala and Yotongla en route to Bumthang. It was a beautiful drive all through to Bumthang amidst the barren boisterous mountains, snowcapped peaks, meandering crystal rivers and smoking chimneys from an old house on a distant hill, an overloaded truck ferrying consumable and an old man clinging to his dear life to the crisscrossed ropes at the back of the truck. The ice clad road didn’t facilitate speedy drive. Just as well, I wanted to savor the feast, feast for my soul I feel the cold biting breeze on my face as I hum to ‘Island in the stream’ by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton whilst I tap my fingers on the wheel.

Ura is located at 2800-5000 meters above sea level and is south-eastern part district. Total area coverage is approximately 267 square kilometers. Its altitude ranges from with a total population of 195. I have also found from reliable sources that there are 10 villages with 10 Committees, about 229 households, 4 schools, one BHU (Basic Health Unit), 3 ORCs (Out Reach Clinics) and 6 VHW (Village Health Worker). There are 3 Gomdays (where Gomchens study and reside). The main livelihood of the people living in Ura is Agriculture. The cash crops available in Ura are potatoes and mushroom (Sangay Shamu/ Masutaki). And the food crops produced are Wheat, Barley and Sweet Buckwheat. Retailing and packaging of buckwheat is the proposed sustainability project for Ura.

The building community donated an age old two storied building to be refurbished as a READ CLRC. The structure would have been best alternate to film’ Texas Chainsaw massacre’ and it almost looked the same before READ Bhutan revamped the face of the structure. It is approximately 100-200 meters below the east-west national highway that links the western part of the country with eastern Districts which passes through Ura Gewog. It is a two storied typical Bhutanese design building with ample surrounding with bamboo mat fences. The ground floor is being used as a Day Care Center. M/s Pema Lhaden didn’t look like grade 10 literate to me. She flawlessly fits into a perfect description of a pretty Bhutanese highlander with rosy red cheeks. She takes care of the Day Care at free of cost for the children in the locality. She timidly answered few questions, hiding behind her friends. There were 19 students last year within the age group of 3-6 years old. After thorough inspection and cross checking of the report to the groundwork, I proceeded towards Ura School for a meeting with librarian and teaching faculties. Ura school is 5-10 minutes walk from our library.

Ura LMC Secretary, Mr. Karma Jurmin is an interesting character who deserves a mention. I was awed to find such an interesting man filled with witty sense of humour, zest for life, thirst for knowledge and entrepreneurship. As we strolled through the dry dusty feeder road towards Ura School, he crackled me up recalling his mothers words on his failure on every business attempt, ” you are enterprising, but you have a big mouth, shut your mouth and you will go far”, she said. I looked at him unbelievably and he reassured me with a childish grin, ”See I told you I have big mouth”.

The teacher and staffs of the Ura School were in a meeting since they had just gotten back from two month paid winter vacation, all thanks to Education System in Bhutan. There is nothing in line that could possibly shutout so called ‘paid Holiday’. Without disrupting the momentum of the annual meeting, I requested the librarian and vice principal out of the meeting to discuss on booklist in consultation with the school to assess suitable books for the community. The library had more than 5000-6000 books approximately, of which most are in tatters and taped. Few books might soon find its way to Museum.

After discussions on what kind of the book would be suitable for the READ library, due to time constraint from their end, because they were in the annual teachers meeting, they assured to fax the stock list in a day or two. My odyssey was still futile without getting a complete set of booklist which we can fill the first READ Library with. I spoke to the Vice -Principal and requested him to bring this up in his meeting with the different subject teachers and ask their suggestions and feedback on what kind of books would have been most suited in our library. We are still waiting for him to fax us the booklist. I also came to a realization that it is sheer waste of time and resource if the teachers make a random list if the books they think are suitable but are not readily available in market. I proposed that I will take a list of the available books of all kinds in the local book shops at the cheapest of the price and follow up with them. We can simultaneously supply books that are best for our READ Library and also available in town. Visiting various book shops helped me to compile catalogue of the books available in the town.

READ Bhutan has requested couple of times to READ Global, India and Kathmandu on a guideline for book selection and procurement. However we were unable to get anything concrete. A guide on book selection and procurement would be most appreciated and helpful for us to help the committee and community select books with ease.

With a smile of contentment on my face, I drove back home the next day through the same mesmerizing vale and iced peaks. My first trip to the First upcoming READ Library was generative, educational, informative and fertile. The impact is profound. The drive was tiring, but the experience eternal.

– Tshering Tenzin

For More Information Please Visit: READGlobal

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