Friday, October 21, 2016

Medicinal Herbs - losing its importance

Manchhhilu (Aconitum patulam)
As a child I lived in a remote place called Bhangtar under Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag. In those days when we had a cut on our body parts, our parents and elders would collect plants called lanyiru (a term in tshangla, a widely spoken dialect in East Bhutan) (botanical name: Rubia cordifolia.) The plant leaves were rubbed and squeezed to stop the bleeding. It would heal the wound. A plant named Juung in tshangla (botanical name: Curcuma longa) heals stomach ache and diarrhoea. People in the villages make use of these herbs to cure illnesses before the advent of modern medical service (though some people still have confidence in local medicine).  Today some elder people continue to use herbal medicine and cure others as well; one of them is meme Karchung, resident of Bangtsho village in Dewathang. He is known as a local doctor and the people of Dewathang go to him to treat certain illness such as stomach pain, fracture, wound, etc. There are few such people left and it has become very crucial for us to preserve this knowledge. LME students study about local herbal medicines with the help of meme Karchung. They have made field trips in the forest to study and recognize local herbs and also collect them.  
The following are some herbs collected by the students:

Botanical name
Local name
Adhatoda Vasica
 Leaves are mixed and boiled together with Artemisia to cure wounds.
Rubia cordifolia
Leaves are beaten and used to cure wounds.
Aconitum patulam
Leaves to be boiled to wash the body to heal the wounds.
Enteda gigantea
Kolokpo Ru

Cures wound.
Phytolacca acinoso
Cures stomach-ache. We soak the tip of the creeper in the hot water and drink it.
Curcuma longa
 Cures diarrhoea and stomach ache.
Leaves are squeezed to stop the blood oozing and also to cure wounds.
 Kiling sey
Cures the cracks of the heel. Used as soap in the past and  also anti-leech.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Richness of nine traditional grains: Lebi (soya bean) to tofu

Ms. Pema Lhadon with students 
Students washing soya bean 
As a part of learning lesson under the topic, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge” the students learned about the nine traditional grains, domestically known as drunagu. One of the nine grains is soya bean or lebi in Sharchop (eastern dialect). This grain had appeared in the traditional folk tale of four greedy friends narrated by Meme Karchung, one of the older men in the Bangtsho community, Dewathang. The folk tale was about four friends who were very poor, had nothing to eat and had weakness in their body parts such as tiny neck, fragile leg, thin cheek and delicate chest. One day, when they went out looking for food, they found soya bean seeds. They were very greedy and wanted to eat all the soya bean seeds.

The story of soya bean continues with Ms. Pema Lhadon, an entrepreneur who visited Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) to train its monks in tofu making in an effort to provide more nutritious food. It was opportune for our students to actively participate in seeing the relationship between classroom learning and application of that knowledge in our daily lives.
Pema said, “Soya bean has higher protein than meat (40% and 20% in meat), and carbohydrate with less fat. It contains small amount of all vitamins except potassium. Besides, soya bean is locally grown and it is free of chemicals, thus avoiding all health risks due to consumption of chemicals. It also contributes to local economy and prevents cash outflow”.
Students enjoying TOFU
We could understand the nutritional value of the traditional grain and its impact on our health. While few students seriously took down notes of what the expert was sharing and the process that was unfolding, rest of the students actively and joyfully engaged in the entire process of making tofu by cleaning dishes, rinsing the soaked soya bean, extracting milk out of ground soya bean, straining water from the warmed soya bean milk and of course relishing the final product (TOFU) with a great sense of pride, knowing well that it is good for their health. It helped broaden their outlook towards traditional grains as being important for food and nutrition sufficiency of our community.
Soya bean milk 
The process also involved learning the value of not wasting any part of the food. Distributing the soya bean paste that remained after the extraction of its milk, students were asked to concoct their own recipes from it.
Later in the evening fifteen different kinds of dishes were made by students, in groups and as individuals. Most of dishes were made using common daily Bhutanese ingredients, viz. chilli, salt, oil, onion and tomato. Bhutanese chilli pickle (eazay) was the most common dishes. One of the students had made porridge; another fried the paste with sugar. Adding different flavours like sweet, salt and spicy, students had tried their best to make their food delicious.

Learning was indeed a great joy for the students. CGI plans to give tofu twice a week. Monks will make it from our own soya bean! 

Dishes made out of soya bean paste 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mindfulness follow-up with teacher participants

Principal and teachers of Karmaling Higher Secondary School
It has been three months, since a successful 2nd mindfulness camp conducted for 40 teachers of Samdrup Jongkhar district.
The camp was dedicated to help Bhutanese educators express mindfulness in their everyday roles as influential teachers and explore the inner working of their minds so that they may benefit their students through their examples.

Students of Martshala School
As envisioned by Lho Mon Education, a project under Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, teachers who participated in the camp are playing a key role in imparting the practices of looking inward. 
Following are some of the activities carried out in the schools by the participants:

Mr. Tshering Dorji a teacher from Garpawoong Middle Secondary School started a new club called ‘‘Mindfulness Club’’ with 30 students. He said ‘‘this club is convened to teach the students to be mindful of their deeds.’’ As a part of club activity he also organized a daylong nature mindfulness walk in collaboration with Chokyi Gyatso Institute to encourage students to develop an understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.

Sonam Dema, a student of Garpawoong School
A vice principal of Phuntshothang Middle Secondary School, Madam Ambikka Homagai and Miss Sherab Zangmo formed a club with 60 students and 6 teachers. They are going to conduct a School Based In-service Program (SBIP) about mindfulness to other teachers in the school soon. Zangmo wrote ‘‘we have divided the club members into three groups of 20 members for meaningful practice.’’

Phuntshothang School: Health and physical class
Madam Tshering Yangzom and Miss Sangay Wangmo from Karmaling Higher Secondary School did School Based In-service Program (SBIP) with other teachers including the principal and started practicing meditation and karma yoga. Yangzom wrote ‘‘I am doing meditation as well as prayer. I too became a vegetarian after I have completed reading a valuable book ‘‘What Makes You Not a Buddhist’’. I have introduced karma yoga and meditation in my School Agriculture Program (SAP) club.’’

Wangmo also integrated the practice in her teaching classes. She wrote, ‘‘I did a trial meditation session in class 9 and 11. Students are very eager to learn about meditation.’’

Karmaling School: Democracy club members
Pelden Drukpa Dorji a principal of Dechen Primary School wrote, “We have started training teachers in mindfulness practice to be able to help children with the practice.”Dechen Choden from the same school wrote, ‘‘we started implementing karma Yoga in our school. Teachers including our principal are busy with Karma Yoga.’’
Sonam Tshering a teacher from Rinchen Kuenphen Higher Secondary School wrote, ‘‘I am practicing daily in the morning about 15 minutes and I am going to integrate the practice in my Dharma club.’’
Phuntshothang School: Mindfulness club members and teachers
Madam Jampa Choden wrote, ‘‘Mindfulness practices has always been practiced in the school, but I am teaching them more on meditation with all the knowledge gained from the mindfulness camp.’’ She added, “I am taking life skill session in four classes and I am integrating the practice in the class.”

Garpawoong Middle Secondary School: Mindfulness club members

Garpawoong School: Karma Yoga practice


Friday, March 25, 2016

‘‘Nature Mindful Walk’’- Connecting the world around us and our inner world

“It is my hope that we can help children develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related.”
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

To help the students develop a broader understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related, a day-long ‘‘Nature-Mindful Walk’’ program was organized by Lho Mon Education (LME) and Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) in collaboration with Garpawoong Middle Secondary School, Dewathang on 20th of March, 2016. The program was participated by more than 70 students, monks, lopons and teachers.
The program was organized to provide opportunity for students to experience and learn from their immediate natural environment and to take this experience to another level by integrating mindfulness practices. It was also to promote positive attitudes, sustainable mindful actions and to recognize the nature as learning laboratory in achieving greater goals of environmental conservation.
The students were assigned with different activities in smaller groups such as bird watching, exploring the ecosystem of plants, trees and flowers to develop appreciation for the variety and creativity found in the natural world and moreover to cultivate curiosity and acute observation skills.
The sitting mindfulness practice, walking meditation and still- life drawing were other group tasks assigned to connect the external experience with internal world and to develop sense of positive attitudes broaden their outlooks toward nature and bring in behavioral changes in dealing with the nature.
The karma yoga practice was integrated in the program to inculcate and maintain a sense of responsibility and dignity in performing any kind of work from manual labor involvement to paper and pen work. It was stressed that when working, motivation is so important and if one approaches an offering of service with basic good intention, then one accumulates merit.

The collaboration of students and integration of mindfulness in nature exploration program was first of its kind and we hope to organize such a program from time to time in collaboration with local schools to provide a platform for students to broaden their understanding of the world around them as well as their internal world and how the two are so closely related. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Kolokpa Play in Decline

Kolokpa, a traditional game, has been played for entertainment by the people of Dewathang for as long as anyone can remember. “In the 1950s it was a very popular game.  Many young people, adults, and elder people of both genders would play and show keen interest in it.” said 77 year-old meme Khotsha. He added, “Back then the losar of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, was celebrated for more than ten days and they would engross in playing Kolokpa and archery during the day and at night would go for Changshay (drinking alcohol and local beverages) around the community.”
The game is played using a kolokpa seeds. These seeds are found inside a case which grows from the kolokpa plant. The kolokpa seeds are deep red and circular in shape (some are irregular). The few numbers of seeds are arranged in one line at three to five meters away. A seed, usually best of all seeds is used by player to spin throw and hit the targeted seeds on row. The throw will continue between players taking turn until all the seeds are finished.
Kolokpa is a team game and also an individual game. There are two ways of playing the game: “the gyelpo” (king) and “the gyelmo” (queen). Before starting, the players have to decide which one to play. The “gyelm means if a person hits one of the piled targeted kolokpas, he/she will win two kolokpas and subsequently if it hits on two kolokpas one would take four and so on. This is a quick game. On the other hand, the Gyelpo” meaning if a person hit one on the targeted kolokpas, he/she wins only one kolokpa. As a result the Gyelpo game lasts longer as compared to the Gyelmo. The winner and the loser are decided based on the number of the kolokpa possessed in hand after the play. 
Photo: Brodie Lewiss
As per Khotsha’s view, nowadays we don’t see as many youth playing kolokpa. He hypothesizes this is because they go to school from an early age and spend most of their time in the school and urban areas. "In our days in the 1950s and 60s we didn’t have to go to school and we spent all day playing this game. We played this game with a lot of energy and with complete fun in it. Today, because of modern entertainment facilities and other activities like football, volleyball and television, the traditional games like Kolokpa are paid less attention. Many young people do not want to come back to their community now and as a result that traditional wisdom remains isolated and vanishes along with the elder people."
Khotsha observed that the skill of spin throw, the charm of the kolokpa game to topple down all the piled kolokpa at one go if executed well, is not very visible in the youth. The skill, as passed down from parents and grandparents, should produce a high-pitched whizzing sound. It appears elegant to make the sound on every throw. However, the skill remained stagnant with only few elders of the community because of less interest shown by the present youth.
 Kolokpa is a fun game and can be an effective tool to teach simple arithmetic. Besides this student can also learn the skills like spin throw, game discipline, and keep up the tradition of game.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Rediscovering the Lost Soap

As a part of a unit on community in our class we were exploring local indigenous knowledge with students through discussion and group work. The next day a student came up with a nut and handed it to me. He said, this is called kiling se. "In my village, it is used by women to apply to their nipples to stop breast feeding for their children," he added. I took the nut to class and we had a class discussion around the nut.
I made a short post on wechat moments about this nut. Later one of my friends after viewing my post told me that his father collects these nuts. I was curious to see him and that evening I approached his dad. He was ex army and has spent a lot of time outdoors and has a lot of other local knowledge besides the nut.
I learned from him that the nut was used by elders in the community as a natural soap to wash their clothes. Their parents use to soak this nut in water along with clothes. I tried with a piece to clean my hands and it was very effective in removing the dirt. If we keep on rubbing the nut shell, we can see white foam starts to appear. It is very much like modern soap.
The round, black seed inside can be cracked, he said, to extract nut for consumption. We tried together to crack one and it tastes like a less-greasy walnut.
The nut in large quantity can be sold in neighbouring Indian. They use the nut to clean gold and silver. He said the nut polish will give a shiny appearance to the materials.
‘’Kiling se’’ is a term in the Sharchop language (the most widely spoken language in East Bhutan). It is a rough round dark-red kernel with a black seed inside it. Besides traditionally being used by the women in the village to ween their children from breast feeding, it was also used by villager as an anti-leech, medicine to heal the cracks on our heels and can be used as natural whistle for many children.
Another friend of mine recounted that, when she was a kid, she visits her aunt in a neighbouring community. They used to make use of the nut to wash their hair as a natural shampoo. She said it gives a shiny appearance to hair.
A monk from Martang said the nut is beaten into small pieces, mixed with a few pinches of salt; it is wrapped in a cloth piece then tied onto the end of a stick. It is ready for use to remove leeches and sometime the mixture is applied on the skin directly.
Later I learned the English name of the nut from Brodie, a visiting English teacher. It is called ''Soap Nut''. He told me that the nut is used in the west as a natural soap. He said now China is planting this nut to export to the west.

Personally I feel there is potential for SJI to take up this as a project for small-scale production after doing some research on it. LME students can take this as a community project to collect seeds and plant it around Shedra.