The Problem with being a woman

Trip Start Jan 11, 2006
Trip End Jan 10, 2007

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Where I stayed
Drepung Loseling guest House

Flag of India  ,
Monday, December 4, 2006

During my trip around the south of India, Tenzin Wangmo, the Swiss nun
I lived next door to at the Drepung Loseling Guest House, called to
inform me that we were facing a major problem. The monastery changed
its rules regarding women.

When I first arrived, Namgi had
planned for me to live in his house for free, while he would go to live
in a friend's room. This, of course, wasn't allowed by the
administrators, but it was probably a bit too lofty to assume that a
young woman could live in a monk's room in the middle of a monastery.
So, we decided that I would stay at the monastery's guest house, on the
outskirts of the monastery, for 1500 rupees a month. It wasn't long,
however, before they changed the rules saying that a Tibetan high
school girl could not stay in the guest house longer than a week. The
rule didn't apply to me, so I wasn't worried.

But after a few
more weeks, the rule changed again. This time to: NO SCHOOL GIRLS
ALLOWED. By the time I received the phone call in the middle of Mysore,
a new rule had come: NO WOMEN. period.

This was a problem.

Wangmo searched for one week for a new house/ room. The best she could
find was in the guest house of another monastery. A room that is nearly
the same as the last, but four times the price. Since I had originally
budgeted for a free/really cheap room, paying four times the price was
out of the question. We decided to each pay twice the price and live
together. What's ironic is that this new guest house is in a more
central location, actually putting us right in the middle of the
monastery. We both have many more personal interactions with monks
living here than we ever did in the guest house on the outskirts of the

But I suppose I should be grateful for being here at
all, an experience most women would never see. But I feel the ever
watchful eye of the administrators and gossipy monks upon me. I've
learned to use fewer hand gestures, and not to talk with a monk for a
long time in the street. Students have commented on my lack of eye
contact when I walk down the road- a very good thing for a woman to do.
I've even learned to change the way I walk, and the volume of my
laughter. And of course, the short hair helps, I don't wear anything
that reveals my ankles or shoulders, and I wear a flattening sports
bra. All this, for worry of being kicked out completely.

So I'm
sorry that I haven't been keeping up with the blogs like I should.
Sharing a small space with a stranger has been difficult, but
thankfully, turning myself into a man has been easy. Really, some
students have told me that they sometimes forget I am a girl! I guess
that's a good thing.

In any case, here are some pictures of where I live.
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