MAIN STORY: It’s winter – cold, grey and bare, as if the land has been robbed of its very soul.
But the season doesn’t stop a group of young boys in Thimphu. They are busy hip-hopping away.
Music shoots from their mobile phones – an English song. They take their position, and try out some random moves. And they find the rhythm and move effortlessly like a wave.
This group of boys has been practicing almost everyday since the schools closed. They don’t need choreographer. They are the pros – professionals – in their own way. There is perfect synchrony.
This is how some students use their time, honing their skills during vacation.
Wearing a beanie, sweatshirt, ripped jeans and sneakers is Jigme Tshering, 15, who is the leader of the group. He is studying in Bjishong in Gasa. Jigme rushed to Thimphu right after school broke for vacation. His friends were waiting for him.
Jigme’s group – Street Kingdom Breakers – is an eight-member dance group with members between 14 and 16. They found each other last year. It was the common passion that brought them together.
The team gathers around this time and participates in dance competition and youth events in Thimphu.
“We are like brothers. We come up with new moves everyday. And that is exciting,” says Jigme Tshering.
The group meets early in the morning, almost always at 6am, to practice their moves. And a youth event is coming up next week. They need to perfect their steps. Practice sessions go late into the evening.
“Our parents encourage us to take up dancing because they know we are at least engaged in some meaningful activity,” said another member of the group. When the group is not practicing their dance moves, they are either playing football or spending their time with their families.
For many youngsters like the boys of Street Kingdom Breakers, holiday is a time to have some fun, to lose themselves in their newfound freedom from the academic requirements in school. Most while away their time watching television programmes, catching up with latest Hollywood, Bollywood, Korean and Japanese flicks and series. A few go for holidaying in places like Bangkok and India with their families.
For Kezang Dema, 18, a high school student, winter vacation is a time for her to prepare for the next academic sessions with piles of books. She goes for tuition with her elder brother who is a government employee.
Kezang gets up early in the morning and starts studying. Whenever she has free time she goes outside and plays with her pets. This gives her the some break from the books and lessons.
Selden Tshomo Rinchen, 13, who goes to a private school in Thimphu, said she has two more years to spend her holidays as she has been so far. She has just completed Class VII. Selden tries to make the best use of her free time by playing tennis, badminton and meeting with her friends.
Her favourite sport is tennis. Her classmates show up to play regularly, which keep her physically and mentally active.
“It’s a safe place for kids like us to be and we learn a lot,” said Selden Tshomo Rinchen. For a child to enroll into tennis lessons and coaching, a monthly fee of Nu 300 is charged.
There are options galore. If parents have enough cash to spend, then one can also enroll their children into musical lessons organised by the Himalayan School of Music (HSM). The lessons come with a nominal fee ranging between Nu 1,500 and Nu 1,800 a month. Children can take guitar, keyboard, drumming, vocal and violin lessons in the school.
Proprietor of HSM, Yogen Chhetri, said the school gets a lot of younger children interested in music who are encouraged by their parents to pursue their interest. The children, at the end of their lessons, also gets a chance to participate and perform live musical concert held annually in the capital.
| Here are some ideas to get you and your young ones going when it’s cold
Take your child to see how the flow of rivers, creeks and streams changes after rain
Gather leaves, sticks and stones from outside. You can take them inside and use them for sorting, painting or building
On a windy day, you can try flying kites or chasing leaves
Inside, you can also play on trampolines or table tennis
Line up some empty bottles inside and use a soft ball or old pair of socks to play indoor ‘bowling’
Set up an indoor treasure hunt
Build a fort together out of chairs and blankets
Teach your child how to maintain a winter journal
Go on a short winter hikes with your kids
Teach your child how to knit a scarf
Make origami ornaments
Teach your child how to organize winter closet
Plan a holiday party
HSM also teaches music in a few schools such as Motithang Higher Secondary School and Early Learning Centre.
If one is not interested in music, he or she could take beginners dance lessons with the Druk Dream Team dance crew, which is held for three days a week for a monthly fee of Nu 1,000.
While many children spend their holidays engaged in various outdoor activities, others are pushed by parents to volunteer to work during holidays. While there are some who spend their time at home doing household chores and helping their parents.
Chimi Dema, 21, a college student, who is currently home for vacation, takes care of the house while her mother and her sister works at the restaurant. She wakes up early and remains busy throughout the day.
Despite chores at home, Chimi is also engaged in learning how to weave. Her cousins teach her how to do it.
“I think spending one’s time wisely doesn’t have to be going out visiting places. One can also learn different types of arts and skills that will come useful later,” she said. “I want to learn how to paint.”
Chimi likes playing basketball and to go walking with friends.
While there are many winter activities for children in the capital, the same can’t be applied to those living in the far-flung villages. For them, holidays are a time when they must earn so that they can support themselves and their family.
Kinzang Dorji, a parent, said he is sending his son to the village so that he can help his cousins and grandparents in the farm.
“I will be glad if he spend some meaningful time there, because city life can be tempting and destructive for young people,” said Kinzang Dorji.
By Thinley Zangmo