This past week has been a blur of goodbye luncheons and dinners.
Muko invited me to have a last pizza dinner at her “Pizza Hut” this evening. Instead of eating downstairs in the restaurant, I was invited upstairs to her home. Muko already had guests –three lamas and a monk. Two of the lamas spoke some English, but one was too shy to say much. The lama from Autsho, who is 30 years old, was happy to answer my questions about his life.
He had become a monk at the age of three. His choice, he said. He went to school in Thimphu with other monks, and that is when he became friends with the lama from Tashiyangtse, who is now twenty-nine. They continued through school together, eight years of elementary school, and nine years of college doing Buddhist studies, also in Thimphu. Then they did three years of meditation in silence and seclusion, at a retreat near Dochula. During the three years, they have a servant who goes to buy vegetables, and deals with the outside world. Communication with even their servant is by writing only, because they must maintain silence. I asked if they were ever lonely, or scared, or wanted to give up. He said they didn’t have time for those thoughts. They were too busy meditating. They were awoken at 2:00 a.m. to start meditation, and meditated until 9:00 p.m., with breaks for preparing and eating meals. He said they were very tired by the end of the day and slept well.
The lamas were all facing the television, and were watching a changing array of programs from wrestling to Bollywood films. The Autsho lama was in charge of the remote control, while the lama from Tashiyangtse was listening to something on his mobile phone, while the third lama drank large quantities of ara. Muko’s little niece and nephew were cruising through, doing cute things. At one point, the little boy was chanting “Lama, lama, ???” which caused lots of laughter from Muko and the lamas. Apparently he was spelling the word for penis.
Muko served an enormous meal of pizza and all the traditional basics: red rice, ema datse, kewa datse, dahl and ezay. There was also chicken curry, dried beef and plain dumplings. The lamas ate huge quantities of food, including meat, which surprised me.
After dinner, I was offered a ride home by the lamas. I hesitated when I was being escorted to the vehicle of the lama who had drunk lots of ara, and instead went with the other guys. I do not want to end my days going over a cliff with a drunk lama at the wheel.