I’ve realized that many of you who are following this blog don’t even know what an average day is like here at the UWICE campus in Bumthang! So here it goes –
Every day we wake up for breakfast at 7:30am. Some people wake up early to stretch, meditate, shower, and even play basketball. One thing that I was really curious about before I came here was what a Bhutanese breakfast is like. Really – what was it like? Well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reality. Almost every morning we have a delicious rice and vegetable combination that we’ve named “breakfast rice,” obviously to differentiate it from all the other rice we eat. We also have a combination of puri bread, potato curry, fried eggs, regular or buckwheat pancakes, granola, French toast, regular toast, and fruit (either apples, pears, or plantains). At every meal we have tea, hot chocolate, and coffee, and an assortment of condiments – pickled chilies, Bumthang jam and honey, crunchy peanut butter, and a chili sauce from Thailand that the group is obsessed with. Also, every meal is served buffet style in the dining hall. We often get to eat with our professors and the SFS staff, which is lots of fun and makes for interesting conversation.
Another thing I was very curious about before I came was the water situation. Chillups can’t drink the tap water here, so I had horrific images of endless plastic bottles of water in my head. Pretty bad, for an Environmental Studies major. But luckily we have several jugs around campus that have “water for chillups” where we can refill our reusable water bottles. The students are split into groups to do chores on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and one of these chores is to refill all the water jugs – located in the dining hall, classroom building (UNESCO Madanjeet Singh Center for South Asia Forestry Studies), and the upper and lower floors of the dorm.
Anyway – getting back to the schedule. Every morning, except for Sunday when we get to sleep in, we do something called SRAP (Silence, Reflection, Announcements, Physical Activity – except it usually goes ASRP). This is a time for the whole group of students and faculty to come together and share any news about the day or upcoming trips and events, have a moment of silence together, reflect on a question posed by someone (people usually answer “popcorn style”), and play a game or do some physical activity. The “Yak of the Day,” which is basically the student point-person for that day, leads SRAP and gets to be creative with their reflection and physical activity portions.
At 9:15 we start classes, and we always have two in the morning, separated by a 15 minute tea break. Yes – a tea break with milk tea, South Asian candies, cookies, and popcorn. The classes alternate each day, between: Political and Socioeconomic Dimensions of the Environment; Mountain Ecology; Land Use, Natural Resources, and Conservation; and Language and Culture of Bhutan.
At noon we break for lunch, which is served the same way as breakfast. There’s always red or white rice, and the rest varies between various vegetable dishes, some kind of datshi, and usually lots of potatoes. Sometimes we get papadam, which is delicious and everyone’s favorite.
Each afternoon is different, depending on the day. Sometimes we have one or two classes, and other days we have a field exercise (FEX), which is basically a field trip around campus, to Chamkar town, or somewhere else in Bumthang (like a community forest). Wednesday afternoons are usually time off, partly because Wednesdays and Saturdays are the most popular going-out-on-the-town days here. Go figure.
We often have a few hours between the end of class or FEX, and because it’s a super active group, people usually organize a volleyball or basketball game, go for a run or hike along the forest trail, or do Pilates and abs in the dorm. Some people also use this time to do homework, read, or catch up on Wi-Fi, write to parents and friends, and update their blogs. I even know a guy here who’s using his blog kind of like a journal – trying to talk about every day here. That is way too hard, given our busy schedules, the limited Wi-Fi, and how often the power goes out completely (way more than I was anticipating).
At 6:30 we have dinner. Not much to say about that. It’s pretty similar to breakfast and lunch, at least in format! Each of us washes our own dishes. The kitchen staff are shy but so nice, and accommodate dietary restrictions and will sometimes cook something special if we’re craving something particularly American, like pizza or spaghetti.
We usually have nothing scheduled after dinner, except for Tuesday nights when we have a Town Hall in the dorm just with the interns and students. This is a time to air any concerns, talk about communal living, plan holidays and birthdays, etc. We also have optional movie and game nights on Mondays and Thursdays. We watched Despicable Me a few days ago, which was a very funny experience in Bhutan!
Now you’ve experienced a day in the life of an SFS Bhutan student. Tashi Delek!