Bowled Over by Bhutan - 2007

students to leave primary school and for graduation from senior high studies.

Tertiary education is available in the country, but the government does not provide

financial support for students to attend college. Most families with sufficient wealth send

their sons to India for college or university education.


The Bhutanese who live in the northern Himalayan valleys where we visited do not

have family names. Many children are given names corresponding to their position in the

family— like 2 nd child, or 3 rd child. Most names are applicable to both male and female

children. Monks choose the names to be given to newborns, usually by the 7 th day of life. We were both amused and surprised to learn that our guide and his fiancée are called

Kelzang (meaning 3rd child). We wondered how the teachers handled classes filled with

many 3rd children, but Kelzang said it was easy because the teachers just add 1, 2, 3,

etc. to the name and each child knows which one he/she is. In legal situations, the people

are distinguished from each other by their birth dates. In the southern part of the

country (where we did not visit), the people of Nepalese origin usually have two names,

with a family name in the Indian fashion.


Bhutanese women have equal status with men, unlike the status of women in most

Asian countries. Women are the inheritors of property and wealth. They head the families

and make the work assignments in the rural setting. However, that does not mean they

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