|Pema Choling Nunnery|
|A great view|
Last year, I went to tour Pema Choling Nunnery in order to make a decision on whether or not I would teach there the following year. As I traveled through the busy town of Chamkar to get to the nunnery, I felt eager to head towards a more remote, quiet place. Leaving behind the noise, the car turned off the main paved road that led across the country, onto a narrow dirt road obscured with jagged rocks, which made a terribly slow bumpy descend. However, every nauseous jerk was worth it when I finally reached the beautiful two-story white nunnery with its traditional motif framework. The nunnery sat on a flat mountaintop with panoramic views of hillsides covered in Bumthang’s famous blue pine trees that opened up to scattered villages and not to mention a view on the west of a modern palace dedicated to the fifth King as well as a gorgeous view on the east of a perched ancient temple built by angels.
Walking through the entrance of the nunnery, I became breathless at the sight of a slab-stoned courtyard that led my eyes across its way to an astonishing focal point: a glorious temple on the second floor, which sparkled with butter lamps through panel windows. I walked in the middle of the courtyard doing a slow 360-degree turn taking in the neighboring mountaintops peeking into the courtyard. I tried to count the surrounding 25 plus doors on each level that housed over a hundred Buddhist nuns. However, all the nuns were away doing a puja, so it was a quiet day and the only thing that I could hear was a little voice within saying YES to the idea of teaching in the nunnery. I didn’t have to sleep on the decision or even meet the nuns; I instantly knew that this would be a place that I had to come back to.
Nearly a year later, I returned to the nunnery and discovered that it’s more beautiful than I had remembered. The summer rains continued into fall keeping the wild grasses green, roses budding and two lush vegetable gardens filled with carrots, spinach, pumpkin, green beans, etc. This time when I entered the nunnery, two large hibiscus plants were in full bloom with exotic white flowers, one on each side of the entrance welcoming all into the courtyard. The enclosed stoned courtyard with its open sky was edged with potted plants displaying in array of colors and there was a new wooden display in front of the temple lit with hundreds and hundreds of burning lamps.
From the second floor verandas, dozens of Buddhist nuns in their maroon robes and shaved heads leaned over to get a better look at their new English teacher. Everyone smiled at me giving a pleasant feeling in the air and they wisped me off for a new chapter in my life.
In the short time that I have taught them, I have quickly fallen in love with them and I have already seen tremendous improvement. The first few days of class, most of the nuns were painfully shy to speak to me in English, although those in my class have studied English before (the range of their previous study is up to fourth grade to twelfth grade). When I would talk to them, instead of looking at me or talking with me, most would bury their faces in their robes while turning away to blush and giggle. In the beginning, my class looked more like a laughing mediation class than an English class.
It took a few weeks of providing many opportunities in class to practice speaking English with partners, for their shyness to subside and to feel more comfortable. Some explained that they felt funny speaking English since they rarely used it with one another and they also felt a little self-conscious. But day-by-day, I watched the nuns become more confident trying to speak English and after weeks of practicing, each nun in my class gave her first solo presentation about her life. It was wonderful watching them stand tall and proud, speaking in loud clear voices. It made me feel so happy and blessed to be teaching in Bhutan once more.