This morning, Wendy gave a presentation on her photo essay on eye surgeons in Nepal, and then we had a guest speaker come in to tell us about the programs put on by the Bhutan Nun’s Foundation. She and Sarah also gave a lesson on using lighting effectively in photography. And then by mid-morning we were off, with one group heading to the Zhiluka Nunnery in Thimphu and the other group heading out to the Cecina Nunnery on the way to Paro.
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Some of you may recall my earlier post on our visit to the Zhiluka Nunnery (when we met the older nun who blessed our group when we first arrived a few weeks ago). It’s a beautiful, traditional old nunnery up on a hill overlooking the capital city, and hosts tourists throughout the year. The nuns here play an integral role not only in the religious life of the people surrounding the sanctuary, but are also are being trained as social servants, educators and comforters. Here in Thimphu, the nuns are also learning to play a more specific part in social welfare in Bhutan. Along with their normal ceremonial duties, these women live and work around the grounds doing everything for themselves: cooking, cleaning and household maintenance. Two of our groups spent the morning photographing all of the activities of the Zhilukha Nunnery and captured some fantastic images of a nun’s daily life.
Meanwhile, the other group traveled 30 km out of town and arrived at an entirely different scene. At the Cecina Nunnery, the nuns had just finished their exams and class was over for the term. So today, they partied! There was food and cake, singing and dancing…American Idol style! All on the side of a mountain overlooking a peaceful river valley on a beautiful sunny day. Just picture it!
Needless to say, the students had no shortage of stuff to shoot. In all honesty though, they were nearly as much a part of the celebration as the young women were. By the time the 3rd and 4th groups showed up around 3:30PM, all of the students and all of the nuns were seated in a semi-circle while people one at a time (sometimes nuns, sometimes our students) would volunteer to sing or dance or rap for the crowd. As soon as one performer would finish, another would volunteer or else the crowd would pick one and start chanting their name. No one was safe either! My name was called out a couple times and I had to refuse while Wendy and Sarah sang AND danced for the collective. Thomas even sang a traditional Nepali song.
The sun settled behind the mountain and the afternoon turned into chilly evening. Our groups had to return home to download and edit and get ready for our last assignment day…but this was such a great day for the middle of the week!