Gabriel García Márquez used to say that all human beings have three lives: a public one, a private one and a secret one.
My secret life, so private that I keep it just to myself, has always been quite ample.
Yesterday, without expecting it at all, I met a very nice part of it right here at I-House when resident Wangpo Jigme Tsheltrim came to the Front Desk to ask me for information.
Jigme comes from the kingdom of Bhutan, an area of the world I have been reading about a lot during my University years. It was not an official subject of my studies but I somehow fell in love with this very small country at the eastern end of the Himalayas, to the point that I even studied Dzongkha, the official language, for a little while.
Of course, the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index, introduced by Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuck was intriguing to me.
However, it was the incredible Bhutanese environment, the people and the history that really got to me. I remember I once even dreamed of wearing a kira, the female equivalent of the Bhutanese national dress, the gho.
I could spend hours reading about Bhutan and fantasizing about my trip there. Then that dream was replaced little by little by other dreams and got locked in one of the drawers of my secret life. Until yesterday, when Jigme came to the Front Desk.
I was so excited to talk about Bhutan that I forgot about the different pace Bhutanese people use in their everyday life. Jigme was receiving my questions with the calmest attitude and the sweetest smile, probably surprised by all this interest for his tiny country.
He has arrived here with the help of a Buddhist organization scholarship and he chose to study Neuroscience, Conflict Management and Art. His greatest wish is to get in touch with different people and cultures, as his country is so isolated and remote, and he feels International House perfectly responds to this desire.
He has already met many residents from different countries by attending the I-House retreat right after he arrived. Some of them know where Bhutan is and ask him if everyone there is really happy (given that they have invented the GNH Index.) He smiles and explains that life in Bhutan is so different and so much more focused on helping each other as opposed to achieving individual goals.
He misses his home already, especially his family and the spicy, delicious Bhutanese food but he’s here to learn as much as he can to be able to help his home country. Food can wait for a little bit.
Jigme wakes up at 5 am to meditate (yes, he has a single room) and then loves to go to campus (soooo big), to attend classes and to enjoy the incredibly beautiful California weather.
After a tiring day on campus he hikes back to I-Home, as he calls it, and he says he feels at home under the Dome.
I have so many questions for Jigme and a deep desire to finally fulfill my dream of meeting a Bhutanese and traveling to Bhutan. But now that we have been talking for a while I have adjusted to Jigme charming pace. I’m going to leave more questions to our next meeting but I am looking forward to it. It’s the secret, not so secret anymore, life calling.
Right here, at I-House Front Desk.