Off to the Himalayan nation of Bhutan!

Off to the Himalayan nation of Bhutan! The last month has been a whirlwind of activity: packing my life down into 23.0 kg and two carry-ons; desperately applying for visas; getting to know the other interns I will be working with; and, learning about the nation of Bhutan. The small Bhuddist kingdom and the world’s youngest democracy, is perched on top of the world between India and China. While relatively unknown, I’ve learnt that Bhutan has a high-value and low-impact approach to tourism, champions Gross National Happiness as an alternative to traditional economic development, and is a center of Vajrayana Buddhist thought. Even now, it’s hard to believe that soon I will be travelling to a country charting a holistic path towards development that combines sustainable economic expansion with cultural values, environmental conservation, and good governance.

But before departing for Bhutan I travelled to Halifax to meet with the Canadian side of the partnership, managed by Genuine Progress Index (GPI) Atlantic. This Canadian civil society organization has been working with Bhutan for ten years on Gross National Happiness, education, and youth empowerment. For the last three weeks I have been working with two other interns, Joy Wahba and Lucian Mustain. All three of us will be working together for six months with GPI Atlantic and the Bhutanese Youth Development Fund, which works to ensure that all Bhutanese youth have access to education, meaningful employment, and opportunities to develop their potential.

Each intern has our own specialty, intended to mutually enrich the others, while also contributing to the Youth Development Fund’s overall mission. For example, Lucian’s specialty is forestry management, while Joy will focus on research facilitation. My contribution will be towards monitoring, evaluation and learning. Each of us has our own formal title, but part of our job is to be open to needs and possibilities raised by our Bhutanese partners. This means we may work outside our job descriptions, providing an opportunity to step outside our specializations and comfort zones. Whatever happens, it won’t be boring!

Gwen and Nora, our amiable and excellent bosses at GPI Atlantic, have provided us with opportunities for teambuilding, meeting Bhutanese nationals, and previous GPI interns. This has provided valuable context for our internships by helping us understand Bhutanese culture, cuisine, and workplace approach. Our teambuilding activities, while intense, will help us navigate our relationships productively and a new country in what may be stressful but rewarding times ahead. 

Soon Joy, Lucian, and I will be flying to Bhutan. In the meantime, we will be undergoing training provided by GPI Atlantic, meeting other ACIC interns at Tatamagouche, and browsing online videos of driving across Bhutan.