We met Tshewang Norbu one night after dinner when us and a few other students gathered around the fire with the UWICER nature guides. He came to life talking about Bhutanese culture, clearly in his element, and encouraged us to share our ideas as well. We were inquisitive about Buddhist philosophy, so he graciously explained teachings about the 6 perfections, the 8-fold path, and having an optimistic and relative perspective on life. This last point emphasized greatly as he pointed out that despite Bhutan’s lack of Western considered wealth and development (compared to US), the Bhutanese have a strong sense of community and gratitude. Finding happiness not in materialism and excessive money is something we have come to witness first hand through Tshewang.
The next day, he surprised us with handmade cards with the following quote written on it:
“If you want to be happy, don’t look at what you don’t have, but look at what you have.”
He apologized for not having fancier paper and pens but hoped we’d keep his message and remember him. (We have since taped the cards in our journals!)
Katrina: I’d never met and interacted with a foreigner so excited about cross-cultural dialogue. Tschewang shared his knowledge with us and asked many questions in return about the American value system and our experiences back home. He was so open to hearing different perspectives.
I was touched by the thought and effort Tschewang put into hand writing cards having just met us. Upon thanking him, he even said to me:
“You pay $250 to be in Bhutan everyday. I hope to repay what you’ve given with happiness.”
Tschewang really embodies the Buddhist ideals he lives by (or as Michael stated in our lesson the other day, treating everyone like they’re your mom!). I enjoyed learning from and connecting with someone outside my Dragons circle and am grateful our good karma brought us together that night. We’ve since agreed to be Facebook pen pals, and I’m looking forward to hearing more of his inspiration!
Cory: It’s important when traveling, and in life, to not view cultures one dimensionally, and as the wise Trissy says, “the people make the culture.” Getting to know Tshewang naturally (aka not working for dragons), not only allowed me to obtain a more multivalent perspective on Bhutanese culture but also gain a genuine friend (and when you’re traveling with the same group of 15 people 24/7 new friends are VERY highly valued). We struggled together (language barrier), we laughed together (also language barrier), and perhaps most importantly we took cute pictures together*. I’m grateful that now when I reflect on Bhutan I don’t just think of Ted Talks on environmentalism or beautiful monasteries I’ll probably forget the names of, I also think of my friend Tshewang.
P.S. Hi Mom! Hi Jiffy’s mom too!