Time Is Not Plentiful

A Cultural Exchange at Gongzim Ugyen Dorji School

I stand at ease in the warm Himalayan sun, overlooking perfectly straight lines of students squinting as they listen to the words of the school Principal.  A million thoughts rush through my head about the past 24 hours: the sights I’ve seen, the emotions I’ve felt, the conversations I’ve had.  As I remind myself of the Buddhist mentality to remain present and mindful, the Principal’s voice resonates through the outdoor grounds of the school campus,

"Time is not plentiful."

The cultural exchange between SMLS, RSGC, and the Gongzim Ugyen Dorji School has surpassed any expectations I could have placed on the experience.  Each student interaction, conversation with faculty, and tea break has made me question what I thought I knew about the realm of education.  Painted on the building to my left are the ten core life skills that are ingrained into daily life at Gongzim Ugyen Dorji School: Self-awareness, critical thinking, creative thinking, decision making, empathy, interpersonal relationships, coping with stress, and coping with emotions.  These values serve as a constant reminder that education is about so much more than grades, classes, and academic achievement; they are at the core of what makes us human.  As my attention wanders back to the departure ceremony for our group, the Principal repeats a message to the students three times for emphasis,

“You can be really healthy, and not very fit. You can be really fit, and not very healthy.”

These words make me reflect upon the roller coaster of our journey so far.  Up and down switchback roads through mountain passes, the myriad of emotions associated with the beauty of experiencing a new culture, and the awe-inspiring hospitality of the Bhutanese people.  We have been treated to numerous tea ceremonies, special recognition, and a Buddhist purification ceremony conducted by a local monk.  I find myself wondering what, if any, North American traditions compare to the generosity, authenticity, and gratitude displayed to our entire group by the incredible group of faculty and students by whom I am surrounded.  The Principal’s voice rings through the outdoors speaker system once again,

“We cultivate wisdom by our own actions.”

This phrase needs to percolate in my mind for a while before I am able to fully grasp its depth and meaning.  I am reminded of the beauty of a flock of pigeons undulating in time to the chorus of 500 people singing the Bhutan National Anthem some two hours ago.  The expressions of joy on sun kissed faces.  The clear cultural belief of honouring the past while simultaneously remaining grounded in the present moment.  One thing remains clear as the departure ceremony draws to a close and tears of joy express a catharsis of emotion from the students; Time is not plentiful.

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