Over the past two weeks I’ve learned that I need very little to be happy. I have three changes of clothes. I have three pairs of socks. I have ten rubber bands, two pens, and a pretty little notebook to keep my thoughts. I have soap to keep myself clean and lotion to keep myself protected from the sun which shines down so strong here on the roof of the world.
I most look forward to the sound of my little boys waking up in the morning; drinking hot milk tea in the kitchen with them while jostling for a place in the standing-room-only radius of the fire underneath our 20-gallon pot of breakfast; and reading my Bible on the patio in the warm sun with the neighboring snowy peaks in view.
I feel a sense of accomplishment when I see my hand-washed laundry hung up on the line and blowing in the wind; when I hear my Sherpa boys using English words in conversations with each other; when I sprint up the side of a mountain which I used to climb slowly and laboriously; and when I succeed in communicating a new or more complex thought in Nepali.
I find myself smiling at the sight of water flowing out of the faucet in the yard; grinning hugely when I see that it’s clean and clear; and practically jumping up and down with joy when the pipes are in tact and a hot shower is available thanks to the solar panel coils mounted on the roof. I find myself marveling at the multi-functional nature of pine needles: their ability to keep weeds to a minimum when spread between the plants in a vegetable garden; their ultra-comfortability as a cushion for yaks, cows, and horses to sleep on when the soil around is hard and rocky; and their convenient use as a moisture and odor absorber in our wooden hole-in-the-ground outhouse.
My rent at Pema Choling is $150 per week. This is exorbitant for the region and most of this money is a donation to the monastic school. A room for a tourist in the region costs no more than $2 per night; a hot shower – if available – no more than $3; and each meal between $2-$5. Not to mention that I am here as a teacher, an occupation which – at the school in the next village over – earns 8000 rupees ($93) per month. I could live here as a king on $3000 a year.
Life at Pema Choling is so simple, but meaningful because in the simplicity no change of circumstance goes unnoticed and every small joy is magnified.