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Friday, October 5, 2012

Blessed Rainy Day

Some of Sonam's family members
Blessed Rainy Day was on Saturday, September 22.  At first, I had no idea what blessed rainy day was, but it sounded like a special day.  So I wanted to spend it with some people I had come to love dearly in Bhutan:  Sonam’s family.  

Since all the schools got the day off to celebrate it, my friend Norbu the monk, Dawa and I headed to Gangtey Village on a Friday evening.  Dawa and Norbu are from Gangtey village as well as Sonam’s family.  Hence, I was going to be reunited with little Jimmy, which we hadn’t seen each other since he moved to Gangtey in July after Sonam moved to Canada. 

I was so excited to see little Jimmy that Norbu and I sang the whole way and it seemed as though nothing could burst my bubble.  However, when we were almost there, Sonam called me from Canada to deliver the bad news: she found out that Jimmy was sick with a high fever.  I was bummed!  Nevertheless, we continued our journey.

Grandma, me and little Jimmy
Due to the thick night fog, we reached Gangtey around 1:00 a.m. to find Sonam’s mother, who I call angay or grandma, waiting up for me.  She ran outside to hug me and held my hands as she led me into the house.  Even though grandma only speaks Dzongkha, I have a weird “heart connection” with her that makes me feel like we can communicate without speaking the same language.  For instance, when I went inside, I knew that grandma was insisting in Dzongkha on waking little Jimmy up to see me and at the same time she knew that I was begging her in English to let him sleep.  Although we were talking to each other in different languages, we somehow knew what the other was saying due to this loving connection we have.  Needless to say, grandma won the argument. 

As she woke Jimmy up in his bed, I was shocked to discover that his little face was as red as a tomato and his lips were dark purple.  At first, I thought that he got a severe sunburn, but then I realized it was from the fever.  Although his scary fever should had repelled me to run away, surprisingly it had the opposite effect on me.  I immediately rushed to his bedside and put my hand on his forehead to gauge his temperature.  He was burning up and I quickly removed some of the blankets from him.  I was overcome with worry because he looked worse than I had imagined.  He was so sick, he could barely give me a smile and he was whispering for water. 

Little Jimmy
He wanted to talk to me so badly, but all I could hear were little muffled Dzongkha whispers.  His mom, Pasang, told me that he was whispering that I came to see him because Sonam must had informed me that he was really sick and I must had been worried.  So I said, “Oh, yes, yes, I came to see you because you’re sick” and I gave everyone a wink.  I wanted to hug and kiss him, but I refrained myself so I wouldn’t get his germs.  Instead, I sat next to him for some time placing a cold rag on his head and he seemed to perk up a bit trying to tell me all about his new school.  Then my eyes filled with tears when Pasang pointed out how happy he looked to see me and that sometimes when he comes home from school he says, “Mom, lets talk!  Lets talk about Miss Sabrina…” and he often says “That’s not how Miss Sabrina does it…” for any little thing like baking cakes.  A part of me was worried that he was going to forget about little old me, so it was nice to hear that he hadn’t.   

Then after an hour or so of chatting, I went to sleep for a few hours only to be woken up by a loud speaker of Buddhist prayers being poured over the valley from the monastery nearby.  I tiptoed out of the bed and Pasang instructed me to go outside to scoop some water over my head from an open barrel that had some beautiful, colorful flowers floating inside.  She explained that pouring water over my head under the open sky while praying at dawn on Blessed Rainy Day would clear my sins (we would do this several times throughout the day) because Buddha was also taking a bath in the sky and would bless the top of my head from above.  She also said that all water was considered holy on this day.  Additionally, I learned that the day marked the end of the monsoon season.

So I eagerly crept outside onto the balcony in the cold towards the barrel of water.  Although the sun hadn’t quite pierced the sky, the tinge of the blue was just light enough for me to get a peek of the million dollar views I had remembered seeing in the winter.  However, this time everything was greener and I thought the summer monsoons had upgraded it to billion dollar views.  It was that spectacular!

For several minutes, I stood outside on the ten-foot high balcony by myself pouring cold water over my head listening to the stream of Buddhist prayers mixed with the splashing of the cold water running off my forehead and I liked watching how the water tumbled off my head hitting the ground like a waterfall.  That’s when I suddenly got a flashback of the first time I went to Gangtey with Sonam and we were washing our faces out on that very same balcony with cold water.  I remembered the way it was trailing off my face pouring off the side of the balcony similar to that moment.  Then I could no longer deny the undercurrent of sadness I felt being back in Gangtey amongst Sonam’s family, but without Sonam.  For the first time in a long time, it felt like she was so far away and a strong wave of sadness came over me.  It seemed like our days together were such a distant memory and I started to miss her all over again as though she had just left.  So of course, a special prayer started to naturally flow out of my heart for Sonam, Jimmy and her family as I poured the last of the cold water over my head.  Then I went back to bed still carrying the heavy sadness in my chest. 

Front Row:  Grandma, Jimmy, me and Pasang
But when I woke up a few hours later, it seemed as though I had slept away the sadness because the first thing I did was head straight to Jimmy’s room with excitement and zest hoping that he was better, but I should had known that he wasn’t because he didn’t wake me up at 6:00 a.m.  Sure enough I found him still moaning in bed.  Again I felt his forehead with the back of my hand and he was on fire.  I was a little scared because I had never seen him so quiet and still before.  I took a wet cloth and told him that I was going to make his fever go down.  For about 15 minutes, I sat close to him dipping the cloth in a bowl of cold water every few seconds and placing it on his forehead, eyes, cheeks, head and neck.  The rag would instantly become hot from his burning fever and I had to keep re-dipping it in the cold water to keep it cool.  Sometimes we would laugh when I covered his eyes with the wet cloth and other times he would groan, “No more, last time, errr.”  All a while, all I could think was how much I missed him and loved him dearly.  I also laughed from time to time because he looked exactly the same from three months ago and he hadn’t grown a bit; he was still tiny and cute.  

Jimmy washing
his face on
the balcony
He felt better
While Jimmy dozed in and out of sleep, Pasang and I went back outside to wash our hair on the balcony to induce more blessings.  I squatted near the edge of the balcony while she poured water over my head and I lathered it with shampoo and conditioner.  Next we took turns helping each other rinse our long hair while we said, “Thri, Thri, Thri” (Blessed Rainy Day).  Then Pasang and grandma took Jimmy outside in his underwear and tried to give him a bath on the balcony in a tub of cold water.  He cried and cried begging to go back inside while I pleaded with him to get in the tub so the cold water could bring down his fever and grandma begged him to have a proper bath on blessed rainy day.  After a few minutes of grandma pouring cold water over him and him crying out loud, she let him go back inside.  Fortunately, the bath seemed to relieve his fever a bit because he started to walk around and he unwrapped the present I brought him.  However, I knew that he was still sick because Pasang and I played with the present more than he did and he didn’t eat any of the chocolate I brought him.   

Norbu, me and Uncle Dorji Lopen
Gangtey Monastery
Finally, after a breakfast of Thup (porridge), we all went to the Gangtey Monastery to circumambulate the monastery and pray.  Jimmy insisted on going because he was determined to get a toy gun at the shops that were propped up everywhere to sell goods on the special day.  Although he looked better, he still wasn’t his rambunctious self. 

At the monastery, all of Sonam’s relatives came up to me with warm smiles to say hello as well as all of Norbu’s and Dawa’s relatives.  The monastery was full of locals and dozens of tourists.  It was nice to see so many familiar faces within a large crowd of strangers. 

Moreover, we stayed at the monastery until the late evening to watch a mask dance.  During the mask dance, Norbu took me under his wing and explained the ceremony to me.  It was beautiful the way the monks in the masks spun around and whipped their masks from side to side and up and down subduing evil spirits.  I also forgot how fun it was to watch Norbu in his home environment; everyone greets Norbu with handshakes and nods.  He is the most popular monk I have ever seen.

Some friends
Later, when we got home, Pasang, Jimmy, grandma and I all huddled on the bed lying around, laughing and sipping Thup.  It was such a great feeling to be there and I couldn’t help but recognize how it felt like we had lounged around together a thousand times as if I had known them all my life.  At that moment, I thought that I must be the luckiest foreigner to be adopted into this loving Bhutanese family and I wondered how it was that I felt so comfortable in their presence.  Then Sonam called us from Canada and for a few moments it felt like she was physically in the room with us.  And although I didn’t tell her, I think that she knew that I felt grateful to her for welcoming me into her family.

Finally, the next day, I knew that Jimmy was better when he woke me up at 6:00 a.m.; he climbed in bed with me with his cold feet while blasting his toy gun in my ear.  I was happy that I got to see him healthy and happy before I had to go home. 

Uncle, Jimmy, me and Dawa
In fact, when it was time for me to leave, I had to remind myself over and over again that I would see little Jimmy and Sonam’s family again so not to cry.  I could feel the tears trying to bubble up within my throat and pour out of me while little Jimmy looked at me with big, sad eyes anxiously awaiting his hug goodbye.  Fortunately, I managed to swallow the tears away as I hugged everyone farewell on the side of the dirt road and I knew that a little nu could make any child grin.  However, I didn’t know that little Jimmy had also given me a present that would stay with me for a week: HIS FEVER! 

Although I was deathly sick, I couldn’t help but realize that there are two places in Bhutan that feel really special to me: Chumey and Gangtey.  Chumey, Bumthang is my home in Bhutan so it will always have a special place in my heart.  However, Gangtey resonates with me in a similar way.  I think that I love Gangtey so much not only because it is so dreamy, but also some of the people I have come to care about the most in Bhutan all come from Gangtey: Sonam, little Jimmy, Grandma, Passang, Norbu, Dawa, etc.  Also when I walk through Gangtey, I don’t feel like a foreigner because all of Sonam’s family, Norbu’s family and Dawa’s family greet me like I am an old friend and they make me feel like I am coming home to something very special.  Thus, I can’t wait for my next trip to Gangtey to see little Jimmy and all the sweet people of Gangtey.  


  1. Nice going through your stories, Sabrina. I hope you carry all these memories back to your home and still think about our small place.
    By the way, did you inform sonam about the update?
    She might want to read it:)

  2. Aww I am so glad you were there to help Jimmy get better.It sounds scary when a child has such a high fever. I am glad he is over his fever. I know you were really sick the last few times we called. You were out of it and now you are back to yourself. I can't wait to see and hug you soon. love you with all my heart MOM(*-*)

    1. Thanks, children bounce back faster than adults, so he's was fine within a few days. On the other hand, I need a week to recover lol. I can't wait to see you too. Love ya!