BHUTAN, Land of the Thunder Dragon
“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”
– His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan
Very few places that I have traveled have surpassed my expectations to the level that Bhutan did. Bhutan is one of the very few places on this Earth with people living the same way that they have been for centuries. Upon leaving, I was quick to say “Name Same Kadinchey La,” which translates into “Thank you beyond the Earth and Sky.” In a country with the towering peeks of the Himalayas and low lying valleys I felt this was a fitting way to thank the people who worked so hard to show us the true beauty of their country and their people.
This trip was incredible for a few reasons. Firstly, it was exciting for our Bhutanese students to show their teacher and classmates where they come from. All of their families were involved in our expedition through the country and they all contributed to making it an incredible few weeks. Secondly, we set the expeditions curricular goals based on Bhutan’s policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). We split the school into four vans based upon the four pillars of GNH and ensured that each van had an expert guide based on their pillar.
Based on my own area of specialty, my van focused on Cultural Preservation and our guide was an ex-monk named Geonpo Dorji. The other vans focused on Good Governance, Sustainable Economics, and Environmental Sustainability. Each van was tasked with filming a video that explained the pillar of GNH that they were assigned.
We visited the many dzongs, or fortified monasteries, that Bhutan has to offer. We sang traditional songs, met yak-herders, and learned about the unique international flight of the black-necked crane. The students collectively reveled in this journey back in time as we kept our own wood burning stoves going through the night for warmth and watched the stars for entertainment.
The last day of the night of the trip we had the chance to meet with one of Bhutan’s leading glaciologists who lectured to us about the effects of climate change on Bhutan’s glacial lakes. His lecture was thought-provoking and terrifying to some us who had never personally been affected by global warming. The next morning we awoke to a surprise opportunity. The glaciologist and our founder had worked to get our school on an airplane to do a flyover of these glacial lakes with the glaciologist in the cockpit explaining what exactly we were looking at. What an experience! For more on our Intersession on Bhutan, check out this page on THINK Global School’s website.