On May 22 I arrive in Leh where I am picked up at the airport by Sonam and Aniek. Sonam is one of the younger nuns in the LNA (Ladakh Nuns Association) lives, it is also driver of the LNA. Aniek is a Dutch volunteer who spends summer in Leh.

It's still early, 07.00 hours, the usual landing time in Ladakh. The LNA is around in the shadow of the airport. They heard the plane coming over, as they are steps in the jeep they in time to pick you up. We first went to the LNA where a nice cup of tea waiting for me and what I do know Ani Palmo.

Ani Palmo is the great stimulus and founder of the Ladakh Nuns Association.


Check out the photos

Go to Nyerma can go yet. The plasterer, painter and Glassier, Garage door are working on the last "hand" to impose the new building, so we should just wait.

The first weeks I have been helping small jobs, such as with the young nuns in the garden at the LNA works, salads, whitewash on the walls of the new rooms lubricate and help in the preparation of a fire puja (twigs bucking and each branch with a lotus flower notch).

The contact with the nuns very important to me. We are therefore often simply enjoy chatting in the kitchen is a great place for our spontaneous encounters.

I also had ample time to get to know the area.

So I went to the monastery of Spituk been to thik, and Sheh few days to Nubra Valley. I just went there with the owner of Singay Guest House where I stayed in Disk her job.

We visited beautiful places like the village Hundar, beautifully green and fresh, the beautiful monastery of floppy, also a dusty town and the holy Loman Tso lake just outside beautiful Disk is and where you can walk. They say the Potala monastery in the lake is reflected.

The real aim

After returning from Nubra valley, I went to Nyerma where I started developing my main com cooking show, the nuns and information about Western eetgewoontes.Ik weekly travel by bus from Leh to thik, about 45 minutes and stay a few days Nyerma.

I have created a program with a few important points for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I want to tell them about Western eating habits and "kitchen", for instance, that Westerners do not always make sugar in the tea, so serve separately. I also want to try some dishes together. The great combination with the Ladakh kitchen very important to me because they make really great food.

I want them certainly do not feel that their food is not good enough or good enough because that is absolutely not. I am therefore been very careful in my actions.

The first day I used to know each other and to inform me and see how they cook what materials are used. Then I made a few breakfasts with them. Toast, jam and butter, scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, egg, cereal with milk and all variations. (Various combinations of fruits and honey)

Lunch / dinner

There is little distinction between lunch and dinner. Dinner is usually lighter and lunch.

I have spaghetti with tomato / vegetable sauce cooked (oregano found) baked potato dish with vegetables and onion. (Use of garlic is a problem for Buddhists) and noodle soups and stews made.

A not inconsiderable value of cooking is the joint for dinner.

With the help of a neighbor Nyerma and cooperation of one of the nuns who speaks some English words I manage to explain to the other nuns that we shared a day at 13.00 hours lunch, Holland in room 2 where they are invited . In the room where I usually cook Tashi Dolma Tashi and Lobsang Dolkar. Dolkar always helps me. I watch as she makes a meal Ladakh and vice versa. It's so nice to look at each other's kitchen. At the appointed time they all came with her to the agreed specifications and maaltijdkom room.

Usually modest scooped the western cost saw some strange but usually follows from there is a second or third bowl.

This together and eating together feels to me more important as the cooking class itself. It feels like one big family. The nuns do not have to cook once and they are pampered and served. Attention is paid to them and each other.

The essence and purpose of my ideas and cooking activities are difficult to explain .. There really is a language problem. Yet we can with hands and feet, a language guide, many smiles and lots of 'julleys' (hello) and' thoek Djet "(thank you) a lot of contact with each other.

Small things

Besides cooking, I felt very happy with the little things I could do for the nuns.

I took the older nuns water from the pump and brought it to everyone's room. This circadian activity was for the elderly sometimes really heavy. I have a number of initiatives to the site again waste free. This encouraged the younger nuns to go and do this clean up later acquired by others.

One day I asked her whether Lobsang Chem Zong wanted to clean windows because they were filled with cement daubs of the building. I did this. When I was doing this, the demand for the interior to do and when they see the dirty room, I offered her the room to clean. She had not the strength for it, so she was very happy to help. Everything was just dipped and removed from its place. With its linen tablecloth and I went for water to wash. She was very happy with it. I felt that my care was much appreciated and it was very pleasant.

Sometimes I had too much "to do" with the older nuns in Nyerma. The facilities are very limited and most nuns no longer have the strength to do everything ourselves. The new rooms and some younger nuns in the community will be very welcome.

Besides the cooking activities Nyerma I also helped in the LNA in Leh. Here I had no permanent job but I helped at the request of Ani Palmo.

So we have some volunteers with the Saturday workshops designed for tourists. Every Saturday morning there was a meeting at which one was introduced to Buddhist nuns and their way of life.

I also helped in making tsa-tsa's. Tsa-tsa are small stupas with special rituals of clay and painted yellow gold. They are intended for the new great stupas at the residence of the Dalai Lama in Choglamsar filling.

This was real drudgery. It was always fun. Often women also came from the surrounding villages of Leh help. It was a joyful activity.

High visit

I also attended the LNA on the day of the matho Rinpoche came to visit. In the morning we would go with making tsa-tsa's Palmo was told that there was much work that day because a major Rinpoche came to visit the LNA and the whole building was ritual blessing

The temple had this completely cleaned and there were beautiful paintings hung. The porch was filled with plants and even put on the driveway was a kind of flour powder him 'WELCOME' called. Everyone, including us as volunteers, helping where we could. It was very special to see how much deference the Rinpoche received.

That same afternoon there was a group of Swiss tourists arrived who were visiting the LNA to the project of Ani Palmo support. Everything came together. Together with another volunteer, we received the Swiss and so we had a new task.


My period of 10 weeks in Ladakh was very interesting. The landscape, the people and the extraordinary monasteries, it was fantastic. I got through to deal with the nuns, including one impression of life in the Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and Sangha. (The community), the puja and chanting made a big impression on me.

Apart from what I have seen, heard, felt and experienced it also leaves a lot to discover.

I hope another opportunity to take back.

Joan Moonen
In Ladakh from May 22 to July 26, 2006

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