How Bhutan changed my life: Evelyn Ong

Email

"There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end." – Scott Adams

I became an orphan in the year 2011. My father expired in October 2010, and mum joined him in June, one year later. My father passed away from lung cancer; we felt relieved for him as he was suffering in pain, albeit with no complaint at all. Mum’s passing, though, was unexpected, and this made it harder to accept.

Losing both parents within a year was heartbreaking. But it gave me immense joy knowing that they had lived to a ripe old age of 94 and 87 in this beautiful world.

In March 2012, I flew to Bhutan for a two-week volunteer cum leisure trip organised by Mr Koh Boon Long of Singapore Bhutan Foundation. The group consists of 15 individuals of various personalities and vocations, including surgeons, lawyers, social workers, retired teachers etc. 

It was the beginning of spring, and when the Drukair's pilots made their super smooth landing on the short runway of Paro Airport, we could see the stunning snow-capped mountains! 

The trip took us to five dzongkhags (districts): Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Haa Valley. We visited many amazing ancient monasteries and museums, as well as walked in the wilderness. In addition, we engaged with the students from a private primary school and a special-needs school in Thimphu, a community school in Gangtey and a remote school in Haa Valley. I loved all the experiences because they gave me a better understanding of the country, culture and how traditions evolve over the years.

During our last school visit in Haa valley, it snowed unexpectedly! What a lovely sight and wonderful feeling within. 

The school reminded me so much of my kindergarten days when we lived in Upper Changi kampong (village) in the mid 60’s. Back then, the school was built with wood, and the floor was hardened ground. Something about Gyensa Primary School in this remote place called Haa Valley made me want to return.

We spent the last day of our trip leisurely trekking up Bhutan's most iconic landmark — Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Those who were not too fit to trek up rode on the mules up to the halfway point where the cafe is situated. There are a few different temples at Tiger's Nest where the Bhutanese or Buddhists make their offerings and prayers.

There was an incident near the closing time that I vividly remember to this day. I walked into a small temple, took out a photograph of my parents and lift it up at the window, and in a quiet manner, I muttered, “Father, Mother… I made it up here, and I pray that both of you are resting in peace.”

Next to me, there was an elderly lama who gave me a very kind look. And then, he looked at my hand. I showed him the photograph and gestured to him that they are my parents who have expired.

Without any request, he took the photo, walked towards the Buddha, held up the photograph and started chanting. At that moment, I went on my knees, and tears just flow down my cheeks. I felt my heart was bursting with joy and hurt at the same time. I was so touched by this elderly lama for his unspoken love and compassion towards me. Namey samey kadrinchey la. Thank you very much in the Bhutanese language, Dzongkha.

When I returned home from the trip, I met up with my son, Graham, to discuss about my interest in going back to Haa Valley to volunteer. He was all for it. With support from my siblings, friends, and many others, they gave me the courage to resign from Club Rainbow and flew over to Bhutan in June 2012.

The seven months of stay and volunteering stint in Haa Valley as an Allied Educator was one of the best experiences — besides giving birth to Graham — in my life.

For more inspiring Bhutan travel stories, check out www.bhutantravelog.com.



Related Posts

How Bhutan Changed My Life: Tamiki Nakashima

Tamiki Nakashima, who is from Japan, speaks about how life is like for him while living in Bhutan.

Apr 25, 2019 11:11

How Bhutan Has Changed Me: Dr Adrian Chan

Dr Adrian Chan has served the Kingdom of Bhutan since 2013. He moved here in 2015 to be the resident faculty in RIGSS.

Jul 06, 2018 14:26

Bhutan is home to one of the most expensive mushrooms in the...

There is even a festival for it, known as the Matsutake Mushroom Festival. There, you’ll get to sample various dishes...

Sep 24, 2021 16:10

Guru Rinpoche, the legendary saint who spread Buddhism in Bhutan

He was born from a lotus, fully enlightened. He went on to become the patron saint of Bhutan and established the Nyingma...

Sep 17, 2021 13:28

Atsara: the Bhutanese clowns who are not just clowns

On top of being clowns, they are also storytellers, spiritual teachers, and the master of ceremony. The bright red mask...

Aug 25, 2021 14:09

In Bhutan, artists use natural pigments to make paint for their...

Painters use natural sources to make paint. For example, brown paint is made from walnut cover, yellow from marijuana,...

Aug 23, 2021 15:12

Latest

News

Bhutan to pilot a central bank digital currency (CBDC) project with Ripple

In a recent press release by the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMA), Bhutan will be collaborating with Ripple Labs, Inc. to pilot a...

Sep 23, 2021 15:45

70-year-old sound healer promotes sound healing in Bhutan through gong therapy

The journey of a passionate sound healer infusing the kingdom with sound healing through the love for gongs.

Sep 10, 2021 12:51

Features

Bhutan is home to one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world

There is even a festival for it, known as the Matsutake Mushroom Festival. There, you’ll get to sample various dishes prepared with this...

Sep 24, 2021 16:10

Guru Rinpoche, the legendary saint who spread Buddhism in Bhutan

He was born from a lotus, fully enlightened. He went on to become the patron saint of Bhutan and established the Nyingma sect of Buddhism.

Sep 17, 2021 13:28

Business

Yathra weaving, the uniquely Bumthang culture

Unlike other places in Bhutan, the people of Bumthang don’t do agricultural work. Instead, they weave yathra products. Traditionally, every...

Sep 13, 2021 17:06

What are the entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives available in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese government has introduced all kinds of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship. Even school kids are groomed to innovate,...

Jun 22, 2021 16:37

Sports

Bhutan makes its debut appearance at the Paralympic Games

There is much to celebrate in the sporting history of Bhutan.

Aug 16, 2021 11:50

Bhutan competed in the Olympics through historic qualification

Since 1984, Bhutan has been competing in the Olympics via universality invitation, but not the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Jul 29, 2021 17:06

Travel

Travel to Bhutan: experience the beauty of Punakha

Punakha district is easily one of the tourists' favourite valleys.

Sep 07, 2021 15:44

How should I dress in Bhutan?

About to head to Bhutan for the adventure of your lifetime but don’t know what to pack? Fret not. Here’s a guide of useful clothing items to...

Sep 06, 2021 11:49

Lifestyle

The significance of offering seven bowls of water

The 7 bowls signify respectively: water for drinking, water for washing, flowers, incense, light, perfume, and food.

Sep 27, 2021 11:32

The different types of prayer wheels in Bhutan

You'll find prayer wheels all over Bhutan. Inside each prayer wheel is a tightly rolled-up scroll of mantras. Spinning the wheel is...

Sep 02, 2021 11:22

COVID-19

Bhutan is leading in the vaccination race

“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated families." - Dr Will...

Jul 28, 2021 12:01

Bhutan, with a leading vaccination rate in the region, commenced its second vaccination drive

Bhutan's second nationwide vaccination campaign will be held from July 20 - July 26, 2021.

Jul 21, 2021 11:05

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!