Friday, May 7, 2010

The Dog "Problem" in Bhutan

Our apartment is on the 4th floor which diminishes the constant barking of the thousands of nomadic dogs that inhabit the city.  Culling dogs is not OK in a Buddhist society, the last attempt to cull was thwarted when all the residents hid the stray dogs in their houses on the night of the announced dog cull.  The new “catch, sterilise, and release” program will take some years to control the dog population.  We have to learn the “bad dog” streets where they attack people in packs – but this seems manageable.  although a 4 year old was attacked inside an apartment building last week by a rabid dog and our 13 year old had to receive rabies post exposure prophylaxis after being bitten by a fiesty stray puppy that was terrorising his school - luckily he received pre-exposure vaccination in Australian and only needed two shots.

A Bhutanese lama was asked what can be done about the dog problem - the questioner suggesting it was all very good to respect buddhist principles regarding not killing, however, this was practical matter and a real problem. The lama answered - "how wonderful to live in a country that manifests problems such as this out of compassion, we should rejoice at this wonderful problem."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Teachers Day in Bhutan

The public health students exhibit an incredible motivation and sense of responsibility to give back to their country for the education they are provided by the government.  On “National Teacher’s Day” the students dedicated songs, dances and speeches to the teaching faculty of the Institute which gave me some cultural insight into the Himalayan concept of devotion to the teacher.   Even on the mundane level of teaching public health, students professed that “the teacher is everything to us – as important as our mother or father”.  Another warned her fellow students, “just an instant of disrespect for the teacher can lead to rebirth as a dog 500 times!” 
Hmm, no pressure, but I better deliver here, I thought. Followers of Buddhist lamas follow with great devotion as a personal discipline and to inspire their lama to teach them - so too the students inspire their public health teachers.

It's a little different teaching in Thimphu compared to Australia.  The students stand up when you enter the classroom with a "good morning sir!", make coffee for you during the break, and almost die of embarrassment if they forget to turn their mobile phone off - not that this is necessary or anything...