Today I had breakfast at a Tibetan restaurant (OK I had an apple pancake; which is not really Tibetan but still), then gathered my things and took a cab to Kopan Monastery on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Kopan is a monastery in the Tibetan tradition and they seem to have a good following of European lay practitioners. The daily morning dharma talks were given in English, by a resident monk originally from Israel and a Swedish nun from the nearby nunnery. It is a comfortable place for lay practitioners, with three meals a day plus afternoon tea, a shop that sells cookies, chocolates, toothpaste and the like, and even an onsite cafe! There is also a bookstore and above it a small, pleasant wood-paneled library, with windows that channel the gentle mountain air currents into a refreshing cross-breeze.
I had emailed the monastery a week ago to book a private stay, but when I arrived in the early afternoon the reception office was closed. I called them several times in the morning but nobody answered, and as their website said that the reception office was open every afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., I arrived just after one o’clock. I later learned that the reception office was closed on Saturday afternoons and furthermore that today was some sort of holiday.
A young monk who could not have been more than 10 years old tried to help me by suggesting I call the office from my cell phone (no answer) and send an email (no response). Eventually I found an elderly monk who called another monk responsible for the reception office. The older monk advised me to wait and said that the other monk would come to meet me where I was waiting outside the dining hall. After an hour of waiting I asked for help from another monk and he finally was able to get yet another monk to register me and show me to my room (there are many monks here — shocking!).
As I unlocked the door a cat slipped by me and proceeded to curl up on a small bench in my room. I let it hang out there for a while as I settled in, but when it was time to leave for 5:00 tea in the dining hall I gently nudged the sleeping feline with little response. I eventually picked it up and deposited it outside of my room but it clearly was not happy being removed from its comfortable spot of repose.
The rest of the day passed fairly uneventfully. I had tea and later dinner in the dining hall with the other lay practitioners staying at the monastery, but despite greeting several people I was unable to strike up a conversation with anyone until after dinner.
At dinner I noticed a young woman dining alone at a nearby table. I would describe her as having Mediterranean features, which would suggest she could have been from any of a number of different countries, but for some reason I guessed Mexico. I was correct.
After dinner I introduced myself and learned that she was from Guadalajara. She spoke English but said she was a bit rusty so we ended up speaking in Spanish for the next few days.