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Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Parent's Visit to Bhutan

As Dawa and I rushed up the steps to my parent’s hotel room, I could hear my dad on the balcony say, “Cindy, they’re here!”  When I reached the top of the steps, my mom came running out of the room and threw her arms around me with tears of joy streaming down her face.  Her tears were contagious and even dad got a little teary eyed too.  The three of us hugged for a few minutes.  It had been nine months since I had seen them and although we skpe about three times a week, it was nice to hug them without a computer screen in the way. 

Buddha Point
After we said our hellos, they immediately fell in love with Dawa (Sonam’s niece who lives with me).  My mom said that she is the sweetest young lady and she giggled when Dawa said things like, “I want to take a picture with Mom.”  Likewise, Dawa loved them too.  The four of us explored the capital where Dawa tried her first hamburger.

After roaming around the noisy capital for a day, we embarked on the 12-hour drive to my home in Chumey, Bumthang.  The drive was beautiful and we saw lots of wildlife: yaks, monkeys, exotic birds, etc.  During their week at my home, we made a routine of drinking tea out in the sun while listening to the river and watching the cows graze by.  They also enjoyed going on long walks to the Yathra Factory to watch the ladies weave items from yak hair.  My parent’s said that our long walks along Chumey’s countryside were something they would never forget, especially since it made my dad a little nostalgic for his village in the azure islands.   
Jakar Tsetchu

While in Bumthang, I took them to the Jakar Tshetchu and they admired a colorful mask dance.  After the tshetchu, we went to the burning lake and then we had dinner with some of my friends from BCF (Bhutan Canada Foundation).  The hours flew by as we laughed and laughed.  My mom and dad are extremely friendly, so they loved striking up conversations with everyone.  They said that every single person they met whether he or she was a tourist or Bhutanese person was extremely friendly and happy.
Tea Party
When the tshetchu holidays ended, I took my parent’s with me to school.  We invited two Switzerland tourists who we befriended in Thimphu to attend my fifth grade class for a tea party.  So all of us enjoyed the most elaborate tea party while my parent’s read an animal book they brought for the school library, which had the most captivating hologram pictures.  My class had been eagerly awaiting their arrival for months and they surprised us by reading the sweetest welcome letters.  Also my parent’s couldn’t believe how the students were so independent and respectful.

Boarding the bus
The next day, my parents, my fifth graders and I boarded the school bus to the gorgeous Tharpaling monastery for a special class picnic.  The school bus climbed a curvy, bumpy, narrow, dirt road high up in the mountains.  Since it was most of my students first time to Tharpaling, everyone was excited despite many little heads that were vomiting out of the window due to motion sickness.  
On the bus

Once we reached Tharpaling, it brought a whole new learning experience for my parent’s.  My students taught my parent’s about  the six realms people may be reborn into.  They also taught them how to mediate; in the monastery, we sat under detailed paintings of mandalas where we did our favorite mediation exercise picturing white light.  
The girls

Later, my parent’s were a little shocked to discover that the students were picking up random, discarded bottles off the ground and from underneath the monastery to fill the bottles up with water that was pouring out of a rock and then drinking the water.  I explained to my parent’s that it was considered holy water, which was very significant to their culture; my students believed it could cure illnesses or keep them healthy, so they wanted to use the plastic bottles to take back the holy water to their families.  My mom was also confused at why I allowed them to take lit incense on the bus as she thought it was dangerous, but she understood when I told her that my students believed it would clear out illnesses on the bus and make our journey home safe.  Overall, my parent’s experienced a culture that was very unique and different from our own. 

After a week in Chumey, Norbu, my monk friend, took us to one of my favorite places, Gangtey.  Of course my parent’s also adored Norbu as he often dropped in and out of the house saying, “Hey dad, where’s mom?”  Norbu is impossible not to like partly because he is hilarious.  My mom said that he had a cute, spunky personality and it was obvious my dad liked him too as Norbu taught him about Buddhism and they talked for hours.  So by the time the four of us traveled to Gangtey, it was like my parent’s had a new friend.  On the long drive, Norbu and I showed them how we liked to travel:  singing, joking, laughing, enjoying, etc.  In fact, we had so much fun that later my mom told me that was one of the most special moments she had in Bhutan.

Making a cake
Before we reached Gangey, we stopped at a vegetable market and I also showed them how Sonam taught me the Bhutanese costume of taking lots of vegetables and fruits when you are going to visit someone.  So I gathered loads of goods for Norbu’s family, Sonam’s family and chome (sweets) for little Jimmy.  As soon as we reached Gangtey, Norbu took us to his mom’s house for an amazing lunch.  Then we went to Sonam’s family’s house where my parent’s met little Jimmy and some of Sonam’s relatives.  It was fun exchanging gifts and we visited for hours.  My parent’s thought that they were the nicest people! 

That night, our hotel was a traditional farmhouse where we met lots of happy foreigners from all over the world.  We also were incredibly lucky because the day before we got there, six black-necked cranes flew in for the winter and we got to observe them in their natural habitat. 

Before we left Gangtey, Sonam’s mother cooked us an enormous lunch and Jimmy and I backed a strawberry cake together.  Indeed, Sonam’s family has been like my extended family and my parent’s thanked them for taking such great care of me.  Then Sonam’s uncle and her cousin drove us back to our hotel in Paro where my parent’s landed, as it was almost time for them to return to America. 

Tiger's Nest
But the day before they left, Sonam’s uncle, her cousin, my dad and I all hiked up to Tiger’s Nest (mom didn’t go because she has weak knees).   I was so happy to be able to experience it with my father.  It was a great way to end their two-week visit. 

When I said goodbye to them, my mom cried and my dad looked really sad.  I appeared strong until my dad said, “Please come home soon…don’t stay gone too long” and then tears also ran down my cheeks because I didn’t know when I would come home again; I’m on a journey that doesn’t seem to be taking me back to California anytime soon.

At the Burning Lake
My parent’s reached their home in America safely and they are missing the beauty of Bhutan.  It is one thing to see Bhutan in pictures or read about it, however, it is a whole other thing to experience it in person; to look like an ant against the sides of majestic mountains, to feel the vibrations of Buddhist chants run through your body, to taste the air of incense in monasteries…Thus, I’m so happy that they were able to experience what I will be talking about for years to come.  


  1. Love it! Loved my souvenir from your dad too. All good stuff!

  2. Firstly, it is very good to know that you met with your parents and had experienced things the Bhutanese Way. Very Interesting narration. Loved it.
    It just saddens me to say that I am not coming to Bhutan this Nov due to some reasons. And that I will not be able to meet you up. I hope you stay in Bhutan for another year, then I am sure, I will definitely meet you.

    Take care.

    1. Ohhhh I am so sad to hear that. Looks like I will have to stay or come to Australia then lol. Study hard and take care. I have a good feeling that we definitely meet some day and when we do I am going to give you a big hug lol. xoxo

    2. I don't mind seeing you coming here in Australia as my visit to Bhutan is not coming any sooner :)
      Thank you for the Wishes. I hope to meet you someday :x

  3. Sabrina, Words can't explain how good it felt to see and hug you again we miss you so much.We had a very long journey to Bhutan.We met Dawa first she is so tiny and cute.Everyone we met I just keep saying how nice and kind the Bhutanese people are.I especially loved all of your students they are so respectful and kind the tea party felt so special.The picnic was something I'll never forget.The kids were so caring towards me.I almost cried on the bus I had to compose myself because I saw how much the children love you.Sonams family so nice and JIMMY is as cute in person.While making the 12 hour drive I was sleepy but my eyes would not close i couldn't stop looking at the mountains,trees,curvey roads,waterfalls I didn't want to miss the views.It was cool on our way back to Paro we had to pull to the side and we saw the Queens black cars pass us I didn't see her but our driver did.Yes We fell in love with Bhutan just as you did!!!!! take care and take care of Dawa too tell everyone we said hello.

    1. Hello Aunt,
      A blogger friend of Sabrina here. It is indeed very nice to know that you came all the way from the US to visit your daughter in Bhutan. After many months for longing to hug and share some time with her, I know how special those few days and nights have been to you. In getting to hug her, it's looks obvious that you got to embrace so many experiences, most of them beautiful and loving, of Bhutan and the Bhutanese. As a Bhutanese, I feel proud, as anyone would, when others talk nice things about us. :P Most of the students are like those of Sabrina's. It's the Bhutanese way of respecting teachers and elders. Thank you for visiting Bhutan and hope you do it again.

    2. MOM!!! Dawa and I miss you. After you left, Dawa was looking at your photos from the trip and she said, "I"m really missing mom and dad." LOL It was sweet! All the students were asking if you made it home safely and they laughed when I told them how the two of you were on Bhutan time for several days once you reached America. Also don't forget to make my cousins my tasty tea with cardamom and cinnamon. I love you all and miss you tons. Thanks for visiting me in Bhutan. I knew the two of you would just love Bhutan.

      Say hello to my friend Langa!!!

  4. A wonderful narration and it's heart warming to know that not only you but your parents are also in love with Bhutan. They seemed to have had a great time. I enjoyed reading your post all the same. Thanks for sharing here. You have taken your parents to many important places the other tourists usually visit. I especially like the last line in the second last paragraph of your post, Sabrina. Winter Bumthang must be another experience. I am in Thimphu too. Take care and keep posting. Happy weekend! :)

    1. Hey Langa, I feel like it's been forever since we chatted. I've been busy with the parents, preparing the students for finals and then I had no internet for a while lol so it's good to see a comment from you. My mom and dad loved Bhutan and it's easy to say great things about your country.

      Bumthang just started to get freezing and I really want summer back lol. So Thimphu must be getting cold too??? I will be in Thimphu in mid December, we should meet for tea and we can chat as well as wish that "Yeesi7" was there. I'll let you know the dates when I figure them out. Take care!

    2. Hello Sabrina, I will miss the Tea Time with you and Langa (oh, I call him Prince, his pet name) hahaha
      Don't forget to miss me in between.
      Take Care!

      p,s You can call me Yeshi. :D

    3. Sabrina, yeah, it's been a real long time. Thimphu is damn cold. I don't like too much cold. :P Oh, is it? Please give me your gmail ID. I would like to meet you and share some time with you. I will be here in mid December. Please don't forget to give me your email ID.

  5. Hi Sabrina,

    How happy and thrilled i'm to hear that your parents had come to Bhutan and been to many places with you. In Tibetan as well as Bhutanese, there is saying that goes like this, "We can never repay the debt owe to our parents, even if we trod(walk) three times round the globe carrying them at(on) our back". This shows how wonderful of all human-kinship they are in this world. Parents are indeed wonderful human-being:--first; our mothers they carry us in their womb for 9 months until birth, bracing all physical hardships and emotional pains. Second, they raise us as a child, with all their love and care, then when we are able to stand and walk our own, they still look after us, providing us all the necessary care and supports. As a young, adolescent child,we tend to make many mistakes, create problems;rendering them all sorts of problems and worries, yet they show us all the love, care and warmth while still trying to correct us, and raise us up to become a good human-being--least expecting anything in return. They remain self-negating:--only concern about our welfare and education. That is why, we can never be able to repay the debt owed to our parents,never in this life time or in the next.But,there is only one with which reply our debt: "By practicing the Dharma wholeheartedly--showing care, love and compassion to all the sentient beings". This is the words of Lord Buddha.
    No matter what the distance, your lovely parents have come to Bhutan to meet you--their loving daughter. This shows how strong the family bond you share--all the love, care,and warmth between and among the parents and children.I' m sure, they really enjoyed their trip here in Bhutan. And, infact, your wonderful blog describes how happy and thrilled they were and you to meet each other in this part of the world(the Lost Horizon).

    Wishing you all happiness and good health.


    1. Pema,

      You never fail to speak so beautifully and to share the most perfect wisdom. I love this saying because it rings truth. I always say that any kindness or good I may show is the direct product of my loving parents. They are truly amazing people and I am so grateful that I was able to share my Bhutan experience with them in person.

      When I first told my parent's that I was moving to Bhutan, they were naturally worried and didn't want me to move so far away. The funny thing was that I also told them not to worry because they would surely be coming to visit me. Although I was serious, they looked at me like I was crazy and said no way. Then as time went on, they fell in love with Bhutan through my blogs and skpe calls. Once they reached Bhutan, I teased them about my previous intuition by saying, "Awe I knew all along that you would come and fall in love with Bhutan, you just didn't know it at the time." Now we all laugh about how they worried and they didn't want me to come, yet they also came for 2 weeks. It's truly one thing to read about Bhutan and a whole other thing to experience it. So it was my dream come true to have them come.

      Thank you again for your deep wisdom,


  6. Hey Sabrina,
    Haven't seen you update your blog for a long time. How are you? You don't have internet? Looking forward to you next post. Hope you are fine.

    1. Hey Langa,

      I'm doing great besides freezing in Bumthang lol. How are you? I was really busy with the end of school year duties-exams, report cards, etc. I also had Internet off and on and my line was broken for a while. But I just finished my report cards today and I think that I will get back to some blogging.

      What's new with you? I'll let you know via FB when I head to Thimphu.

      Thanks for checking in on me!

      Take Care

  7. Hey Brina, Wow so you took your parents on some adventure in Bhutan. It looked amazing and beautiful. I loved the gifts they brought back. I picked the yellow scarf, it will look great this winter on me!!! :) ..Your mother describe the wonderful hikes you guys went said its like going to half dome.that must have been the buildings your dad showed me looked amazing, I especially enjoyed how some were hand painted in detail...The monastery was something out of a that the "Tiger's Nest"..I was intrigued by the monastery so I goggled and read up on them ...I also liked the Punakha Dzong, the one between the "mother" and "father" rivers, thats my favorite....the culture is very interesting and seems to me that the people carry out their culture and traditions in their everyday life..which brings out the gracefulness that your parents describe by the locals. ....I notice the colorful flags that appeared in all of their pictures..prayer flags, right???....I loved them..their beautiful.... Its interesting that each one symbolizes the reality of the pervasiveness of their beliefs... Well Iam doing well and Nathen too.. Hes so big and sick.... He has a cold and he is teething... I just went on an interview and got a job at a private school.. I will work their mon, tue, wed, for 5 hrs a day,,, then I will work on sat... at a pediatric unit... Its great experience for me... I hope you come home soon,, we miss you so much... it wont be the same this Christmas without you..I guess it will be just me and Sonia in our holiday picture this year...We will crop you in some how... We just got our tree, we all went together... me, your mom and dad, sonia, and my mom... Yes your parents are getting a real one this year.... You should see my moms house it looks like a christmas shes going crazy this year... Well I have to go .. Love you, come home soon.... Vanessa.

    1. Nessa,

      WOW! You know more than me about Bhutan lol. You really did your homework and I'm not going to lie, you taught me a few things in your comment like the father and mother rivers lol. I love this! Ya so my parent's really enjoyed their trip and the hike to Tiger's Nest is a little challenging, but it's not as bad as the Half Dome hike lol. I'm so happy that you liked the yellow scarf, it was hand woven in the Chumey village and I thought that you would like it. So I have to admit that I liked it so much that I thought about keeping it and I even took some pics in it lol. Did you see me wearing your scarf in my mom's pictures haha. Don't you just love me, your bratty cousin.

      I'm so sad to hear the Nathan is sick. I can't believe that when I get back, I will be meeting him for the first time and that he will be huge lol. My mom showed me pics of him when she was here in Bhutan and he is sooooo cute just like you ha (I don't see Edgar in him at all haha). Also congrads on the job and being a first time mommy.

      I'm really going to miss you and everyone this Christmas. Please do photoshop me into some photos and make sure it's a good photo with some air brushing technique because I knew how you gals like to be the prettiest lol. I love you all and have fun on Nathan's first christmas.

      Of course the one year that I'm not home for Christmas someone has influenced them to get a real tree lol. I love my parent's big fake tree, it looks real and cutting down trees is bad:-( This would not be happening if I was home for the holidays ha. Actually, I really don't know what is worse: the production of fake trees or cutting down a real tree, as so much research has good points on both sides which brings me to the point that we should all just decorate our house plants lol, but seriously the fact that they already have a fake tree means they should not buy a real tree. OMG. Just wait till I talk to them, they are going to be mad at you for telling me haha. Anyways, it's a good thing that the Bhutanese are mostly Buddhist and don't celebrate christmas because Bhutan has a lot of pretty trees.

      Well have fun decorating and celebrating Christmas with your very own little family. I'm happy for you and I love you so much. Skpe me soon because my Internet will be finished in a few weeks:-(.

  8. This is one of your best and heart felt stories I had tears and joy for you and your parents it was an amazing trip for them. Your dad is so proud of his trip he couldnt stop showing his pictures and telling us about each one. And I couldnt get enough. We missed you at thanksgiving and we will miss you at christmas but we know you are on a journey we will see you soon.Love you!

    1. Yes, my mom and dad loved Bhutan so much and I knew all along that they would love it; you would also love Bhutan too. November flew by and I didn't even realize it was Thanksgiving while my fifth grade girls had a slumber party at my house. It wasn't until the next day when my mom told me that you all had a nice holiday that I realized Thanksgiving had passed and I missed out, but I know that we will have many more holidays together. So until then I will hold close to my heart and I look forward to my welcome home party lol. Lots of love from Bhutan. xoxo.

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