On the first day of our epic adventure, one of our leaders, Susannah, enthusiastically described “Bhutanese magic.” She said that tiny miracles can happen in everyday life while in Bhutan, so we should make an effort to notice them. Originally, I was very skeptical, but after meeting the reincarnated spirit of a leader of Bhutan just because of a crooked kira—which is a traditional dress for women in Bhutan—I began to believe.
A young lady wearing a colorful kira approached me as I walked toward the temple where the festival was happening. She glanced quickly at my newly bought kira and promptly began to fix the various folds of my skirt. A faint smile adorned her lips while her nimble fingers worked. Normally this blog post would end here, but that’s not quite how the magic of Bhutan works.
As I was entering the temple, a soft hand touched my arm and the same young lady was peering at me through dark framed glasses. “Hello, friend!” After some small talk, we entered through the gates, side-by-side, and she asked me if I would like to visit the Rimpoche. I wasn’t sure if the Rimpoche was a person, place, or thing—so of course I said yes.
We walked through a courtyard filled with masked dancers, toward a staircase off to the side of the festival musicians. I received a white scarf from my new friend who said, “What I do, you follow.” At that moment, I realized I could be in over my head. I watched as my friend made small fan folds from the scarf, and I attempted to follow suit. We removed our shoes and bags and walked up another set of stairs into a dark room lit by a single window overlooking the courtyard dancers.
We entered a room that was more ornate than any I had seen before. Fabrics, flowers, and hand-painted pillars created an atmosphere of reverence—I felt the sweat collecting on my hands and face. I followed my new friend toward the man seated near the window. When my friend told me the Rimpoche was a leader of the temple, I was expecting an old, bearded fellow with few words of English. Rather, I was greeted by a man in his 30s in a billowing white robe and a dark red sash, who quickly told me in perfect English “It’s ok” when I clumsily bumped a table. His glasses shone with the reflection from outside, and a tablet streaming the festival below rested in his lap. My friend bowed and knelt before the seated Rimpoche. She unfolded the white scarf and watched it unfurl in white waves. Then she presented him the scarf, and he put it over her head. I copied her careful movements in an awkward, American way and received a red chord of string from a monk standing near the Rimpoche. My friend then took the red chord and carefully tied it around my sweaty neck. With white scarf and red chord, my friend and I proceeded to take photos with the Rimpoche—an experience almost as unexpected as seeing the tablet sitting in his lap.
I didn’t realize the significance of my encounter with the Rimpoche until I told my trip leader, who was wide-eyed with surprise. Everything happened extremely fast, and while many members of my group attribute this amazing experience to my eager engagement, I believe it was pure fortune—luck, good timing, and just a pinch of Bhutanese magic.