Very excited to see the German version of Married to Bhutan, called LAUGHTER IN THE LAND OF THE THUNDER DRAGON: My Life in Bhutan. Nice cover! Namgay says this is his favorite of all the covers so far.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
You’d miss the unassuming entrance to Zilukha Nunnery, on the side of a hill just north of Thimphu unless you were looking for it. But if you do pass through its stone gates, you’ll see red robed, Buddhist nuns of all shapes and ages moving about the complex of buildings of Drubthob Goemba. You’ll also immediately feel calm and serene. You might even hear their energetic, harmonious singing as they chant prayers, blow ceremonial horns and beat drums. Spare and neat, the nunnery is home to over 100 Buddhist nuns who pray daily for the health and well being of all sentient beings. Their prayers are for you.
For a time, we lived in a house just below the nunnery. I used to walk there and sometimes I’d sit and listen to the nun's chanting or talk with them as they went about their day. Several years ago, a Canadian woman was consulting with the World Bank in Thimphu for a few weeks. She'd walk to the nunnery every morning from her hotel, and sit in the temple and meditate for an hour or so. She always appeared with an old dog, who followed her. She said that she didn't know the dog, that he was always waiting outside her hotel in the mornings and was her silent companion on her walk to the nunnery.
One morning as the dog waited by the steps of the temple for her to finish her quiet time and walk back to the hotel, he suddenly stood up and started howling. He kept it up for a good 5 minutes. Finally, the head abbess came out of the temple and stood beside him. “Listen to me,” she said in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, “your friend is not coming just now. She will come when she is finished. You must be patient and wait. Now sit down.” He did quit howling and he did sit down. He waited patiently for his friend to reappear, and when she did, he trotted behind her as she set off down the road.
Namgay and I were lucky enough to spend time in another nunnery in Zhemgang. We were greeted at the road by the abbess, who escorted us up a steep hill to a beautiful reception room in her nunnery, with a large window that gave a breathtaking view of a lush, green valley, pictured above. We’d only been there a moment when the tea and biscuits arrived. About 30 minutes later, lovely young nuns in red robes began yet another procession of food. It was an amazing spectacle as platter after platter of beautiful, fresh rice and bowls of vegetable were carried in by the smiling nuns. There were so many different containers, filled with food, picked from the nunnery’s garden and made into delicious curries. There was absolutely no correlation between the amount of food, which looked like it would easily feed 30 people, and our own party of two.
And then the most amazing thing happened: the wooden table leg suddenly buckled from the sheer weight of all of the food. One deft nun and Namgay both jumped up and caught the edge of the table just in time. They saved all but one of the dishes filled with food.
Before or since, I’ve never enjoyed a meal more, and I still can’t get my head around it. Nuns in Bhutan are the poorest of the poor. They have so little, yet how gracious and generous it was of them to offer so much food that it broke the table! I wonder if I could ever learn to be that generous.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
We had a party for the UK launch of MARRIED TO BHUTAN at Babylon Roof Gardens in London. Mature trees, streams, flamingos, gorgeous scenery, all on the roof of a building in Kensington. Great food. I took this picture of the aquarium in the Ladies Room, but my friend Pete Scholefield said there's an aquarium in every Ladies bathroom in every Indian restaurant in London. He thinks it might be a law. Anyway, many thanks to the wonderful people at Hay House UK for making it all happen.