I step into a dark wood kitchen. A huge hearth is centered on the wall, fire burning, and the place feels like an inviting cavern. Sunlight filters in through a small window. My eyes adjust and bring out the details: a wide bench covered with a blue floral Tibetan carpet creates the kitchen seating with a few low red painted tables in front of it. Three nuns in the kitchen beckon me to sit.
One nun pulls out a tall wooden cylinder with brass girders and an even taller pestle. She begins to churn Tibetan tea. Unlike the majority of Nepal, Tibetans aren’t partial to sweet tea. Instead, they make a buttery salt tea more like soup broth than a chai latte and churned by hand just like butter. It’s an acquired taste—but I enjoy it when the weather is cold and it’s served up with a smile.
We sit and chat. I sip my tea. The conversation is light and goes nowhere. I wait patiently, sip my second cup of tea. When I’m finished, a nun speaks to the monk who says to me…
“There IS something they would like from Kathmandu.”
“Lay it on me.” (I mean.. “Yes, what would they like?”)
“An electric shaver.”
“An electric shaver, like the Hindu barbers use.”
“Okay, sure. (pause, pause) So…….why do they want an electric shaver?”
I went outside and the monk proceded to demonstrate why he was here at the nunnery: he had brought the razor down from the monastery to shave the nuns’ heads.
This painful monthly ritual had gotten worse recently. Shaving cream is an unknown luxury—they use only soap and icy cold water. The razor is not a disposable—rather, it’s the kind with a refillable straight blade (like you use to scrape paint off windows). Good sharp blades were once available, but now only the cheap knock-off brand of blades is available so it hurts even more than it used to.
See you in a few months.