A Baby in a Backpack to Bhutan by Bunty Avieson

By Bunty Avieson

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I wish they were here now. After a few weeks I find the squatting becomes less painful and I reckon I could crack walnuts between these thighs. Then, housework done, it’s time to start the day, so Kathryn and I join Mal across the corridor in our ‘office’, which has a view over the gold-painted rooftops of a monastery and out to Mal’s current project, a new labrang for Rinpoche. The old one (where we stayed on my first visit to Bir) is straining at the seams with monks and westerners visiting Bir on Siddhartha’s Intent business.

I asked. ’ ‘Then tell him to come home and visit,’ he replied. If I hadn’t been still weak from labour I would have decked him. 25 A BABY IN A BACKPACK TO BHUTAN ‘It’s not that I don’t agree with parents taking children travelling,’ he added helpfully. ‘I took my son to Aspen when he was fourteen. But India has germs. ’ Time for a new doctor – one who spent less time skiing in Aspen and more time in the real world, or third world, dealing with germs. It took some searching but I finally found a wonderful kindly paediatrician who had worked in South America.

The other monks come down from the institute and all day and late into the evening they work away on old Singer sewing machines, stitching together an enormous marquee. When Kathryn gets a bit bored and wants some action I walk her up the corridor to say hello . . and to see for myself what’s going on. Having a baby is a wonderful foil for nosiness, particularly here where her pale skin and red hair make her such a novelty. Wherever we happen to wander I’m treated to life stories and all the local gossip.

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