I had just finished my trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest and I was back in Kathmandu, Nepal sharing a room at the Hilton for a few days with a friend I made on the trek. One morning while having coffee at the hotel, I met Robina Courtin, a well known Buddhist nun. She was struggling to get her laptop connected to the Internet and I was able to assist. A couple of days later she offered me a complimentary visit to hear her speak at the Kopan Monastery where she was teaching a group of students of vast ages from all over the world. They were on a journey to trace the steps of Buddha called Chasing Buddha Pilgrimage, to raise money for the Liberation Prison Project designed by Robina. I gladly accepted the invitation and spent three days at the monastery with her group.
Upon checking in at the monastery, all visitors must promise not to kill any living creature, and that includes any and all insects. It's up to individuals to look at the ground before sitting and make sure it's not already occupied by what I call tiny life.
One early morning, I was by myself having banana pancakes and coffee when a bee began circling my plate. She was quite insistent at wanting some food so I broke a tiny piece of my pancake off and offered it to her. She loved it. I'm guessing it was the syrup she loved the most. I then poured a tiny bit of coffee into a spoon (I had no water to share) and offered it to her thinking she surely had a mouthful of sticky to dissolve. To my surprise, the bee landed on the edge of the spoon and began to sip the coffee! How amazing, I thought. There I was having breakfast with a Nepali bee. I had banana pancakes with this bee two more times before I continued my travels. I think this was where my love for bees was born. (I discovered later that wasps, not bees, like human food, so my bee story was probably, in fact, a wasp story, but it will remain in my heart, the story of when I first fell in love with bees.)
It was about a month after staying at the Kopan Monastery and I was in Thamel, the town center of Kathmandu, Nepal. I was at a cafe with a young Nepali boy of 13 who was living on the streets. I'd befriended him the second day after landing in the capital city.
I was trying to get my teen friend enrolled in school and had arranged to meet with his mother that afternoon. I bought lunch for both of them while we waited for our interpreter who never came. We three sat in awkward silence using nervous smiles, and some pointing and nodding to communicate. A few minutes later, I noticed a bee circling our table. It looked a lot like the one at the Kopan Monastery.
The mother quickly shooed the bee away with a violent wave. This had the effect of firing up the bee to buzz more and fly toward the food all the more determined. Her son joined in and just as the bee was about to get a deadly smack by my young friend, I blurted out, "Nooo!" I blocked the attack with my own hand and employed a rudimentary form of traveler's sign language that got them to relax and watch. As the hungry warrior made another pass at our table, I gave her some crumbs. Both mother and son looked at me quite puzzled. As they calmed down, the bee calmed down, and soon got busy tasting my offering. She then flew from my plate to the boy's and on to his mother's looking for more.
My young friend joined in first. He broke off a piece from his sandwich and offered it to the bee. He placed it on the table and tapped like I had done. The bee readily settled in to eat. We all smiled at one another. The bee was most interested in what the mother was eating. Her fingers were sticky and the bee was hovering all over her. She sort of giggled and after watching her son feed the bee she offered some of her own crumbs. Toward the end of our meal, she even let the bee land on her sticky fingers!
It was one of those unexpected and memorable experiences that makes traveling so intoxicating. We were all breaking through the communication barrier with the help of this bee! Or as I pointed out, it was probably a wasp, but I think my point is no less sweet.
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I visited the Tiger Temple in Thailand & later found out it is under investigation for tiger trafficking and animal abuse. Read full story. In 2015 it was raided. More than 100 tigers and protected bird species in Wat Pa Luang Ta Bua, popularly known as the Tiger Temple in Kanchanaburi province were impounded by authorities following complaints that the temple was alleged to engage in illegal wildlife trading.
"The moment one gives close attention to anything,
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