Thursday – After breakfast we visited the Bhutan Nuns Foundation, a charity Kutira supports. Dr. Tashi Zangmo, the executive director, gave us a tour of the center now under construction. The complex is on a hillside next to an ancient temple. Donations were received to build the new nunnery, using traditional rammed earth building techniques Kutira had insistently encouraged. It is very labor intensive; workers must bring and pack down the material by hand.
Next, we visited the small original temple, greeted by the resident monk. This building is set into the hillside with Buddha statues carved from earth. It had a great sense of authenticity.
After leaving, we took the bus around and uphill to the new Buddha Dordenma, a large statue/temple now in the final stages of construction with donations from the Singapore government. Its gold columns and vibrant artwork take in a view overlooking the entire Thimpu valley. It was interesting to see newly created art in the traditional style – craftsmanship is clearly still a very much alive in Bhutan.
Following lunch we were driven to the Tara temple north of town. Two monks gave most of the group astrology readings, which were a bit different than the familiar version of astrology. They used birth time, but not place information. It took a while to go through everyone who was interested in a reading and stroll through the temple grounds. Next was a visit with Rinzing Wangmo, the sister of the noted monk Yangsti Kalu Rimpoche. We had a very interesting conversation about Gross National Happiness, as she was preparing for an upcoming conference. We also visited her mother Dolkar Dorji, husband Sonam (who is in the construction business), and their son.
At this point most of the group left, while a few of us viewed the family temple behind the house. Another very unique experience – our hosts gave us a ride back to town to a restaurant called Cloud 9. Great hamburgers! Then it was back to the hotel. Meeting such welcoming and positive people was really the best part of this trip for me.