After leaving the Monastery in Nepal at the end of 2012, Khenpo Dhondup and I kept in touch and became great friends over the years. We always talked about how great it would be for him to come visit the United States. He is very committed to improving his English and said a trip to the United States would be “indispensable”.
Many years later I am happy to say that Khenpo has arrived and will be spending a few months with me as well as visiting some other friends. He is a very popular monk. Getting a Visa for a monk living in Nepal, of Indian Nationality, was a bit of an obstacle but with hard work and devotion our goal was accomplished.
I had no experience with applying for a U.S. Visa but offered to help Khenpo along the way. This was no small thing – it almost felt like a part time job. The amount of questions, having to speak with Khenpo every night to help ensure we were submitting the correct information, helping him prepare for his interview at the embassy; it was a lot of work. The Visa Application is no joke and the website is confusing even if you have conquered the English language. However, everyone in the U.S. should feel incredibly safe because with questions on the Visa Application like “Are you part of a terrorist organization?” and “Are you planning to engage in terrorist activities while in the U.S.?”; clearly only the best people are admitted!
Once he got accepted it was a huge weight off my shoulders and the next step was preparing for my favorite monk friend to visit. I was very excited but I was also a bit nervous. Did Khenpo know how to cook or would I be preparing every meal for him? I hardly can take care of myself but now I needed to prepare three wholesome vegetarian meals a day. At the Monastery he was brought thermoses of tea several times a day, often ‘butter tea’ made with yak butter. Where would I find yak butter?! I also thought I wanted to take him to my family’s house by the beach at some point. Would he be traumatized by people in bikinis? What about when we went crabbing – I could only imagine the horror in his eyes as we caught crabs in our nets only to lower them into boiling pots of water. Would I be condemned for a glass of wine every now and then? Rose season is just around the corner…
I consulted with another of Khenpo’s friends in the U.S., Jim, who has been my partner in operation ‘Khenpo visits the U.S.’. He reminded me that Khenpo is going to have to be exposed to things here and that’s ok. If he wants to learn about our culture he is going to see some new things. Jim is right and I have decided these next few months to create a balance. I would like more Buddhist ways in my life so my husband and I have happily embraced cooking vegetarian foods but told Khenpo from time to time we will eat meat. He was more than okay and understanding. I found a delightful thermos on Amazon for tea that I purchased but told Khenpo that butter tea is just not happening. It turns out he has his own green tea and wants a break from butter tea. So we are finding a balance for these next few months… I even made a masala chai that was quite tasty!
Me and Jim meet Khenpo at JFK and are offered white scarves and smiles!