1. Patience is the mother of all virtues
It is a lesson I keep on learning. In Zanskar, things happen on their own time, at their own pace. Need to send an important email? Well first you have to wait a few weeks for tourist season to actually begin. When it finally begins, then you have to wait full weeks at a time before getting to use twenty expensive minutes of slow WiFi. Then you have to wait in Padum all day for the jeep-taxi at 4 o'clock
. Theeeeen you have to wait an hour and half to get back to Zangla as you bump jarringly along the stone littered road. At meal times and tea times you have to wait patiently through two hour long conversations in Ladakhi. Need to buy something from the one shop in Zangla? You'll just have to do a bit more waiting because it's only open from 5 PM to 6 PM
, and some days not at all because the shopkeeper is tired. If a nun says we're milking the cow at 3 o'clock
, she was just kidding. She actually meant 7 o'clock
. And if you really need to get to the closest city center? It's a nineteen hour off-roading expedition with ten other people and no leg room. You learn to become okay with the waiting because it's the only thing you can
do. Being upset would make the waiting unbearable, so instead you just transform into this extremely patient, highly observant superhuman.
2. Happiness is best when shared.
The Ladakhi culture is one of sharing and total generosity. They say you can live in Zanskar forever without any money or a place to stay because you can just walk into any home and you'll be greeted with tea, biscuits, rice, and a place to sleep. Even if you're a complete stranger, "what's mine is yours
" applies to all. If you have food in your hand, the first thing you do is offer it to those around you. One day in class, the girls were given sweets, and my little Datsal offered her chocolates to everyone and was only left a single one for herself. The generosity that exists here is utter instinct -- no one thinks twice before offering what they have to others. You simply do not keep things to yourself; if it's yours, it's everyone's. I have long recognized that one of my biggest inner projects is to work on the selfish parts of my character. I strive to be so giving that I'd give away my last piece of bread if I was starving on the street. In the spirit of Ladakhi generosity, every week when I'd go to Padum, I would buy eggs and cookies for the nunnery, some treats for the kids, and caramels to pass out in the jeep-taxi for my car-mates traveling back to Zangla. I have come to realize that you only deserve what you are willing to give. We may exist in autonomous bodies, but we live in a global community. As members of this community, it is our duty to think not only ourselves, but more importantly, to be concerned with the well-being of our brothers, sisters, aunties, and uncles. And how do we do this? By giving.