A beautiful tale of finding a home
by Ralf Strehle
It was kind of strange that the taxi driver, on the way here, looked several times in disbelief at the display of his navigation APP, then had to consult other taxi drivers and after extensive discussions, which obviously give the people living here great pleasure, finally found the place I had given him as my destination. So now I was standing in this huge, brightly lit and completely empty hall. It was 5:30 in the early morning and I was just about to touch the huge columns, an exercise that Michael Katz once showed us to introduce us to the feeling in the state of dream yoga and then, somewhat inappropriate for my current state, folksy music sounded from loudspeakers, probably hidden in the gigantic hall, from dark corridors, feather-light-looking, light-filled figures in magnificent robes floated into the hall, to circle myself, the only one present in magical dance, I was almost sure that, after years of practice, I had finally managed to be in the state of dream yoga.
But somehow it was all too real. I breathed the smile of the light figures that were still hovering around me and thought: “No, these are not dakas and dakinis, they are quite enchanting but very real people.” As if to confirm these thoughts, a journalist rammed his microphone into my face, cameras were pointed at me: “You are the first visitor to the newly opened Terminal B of Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, what is your impression?” Oops, shock, and now also in Spanish, but I didn’t have time to think. So I dutifully answered all the questions posed to me as best I could and then let the airport staff, who were also present in the meantime, accompany me to the gates.
There I sat and waited for the plane that would take me to the country I least wanted to visit of all Latin American countries. I had heard too many horrible things about this country. From friends, from media reports, from the website of the Foreign Office, everyone is of the opinion that it is too dangerous to travel to this country. I was told about crushing poverty, robberies, murders that were the order of the day and a gloomy picture of this country was imprinted in my mind.
Why was I still drawn there?
There were still the pictures, which faded slightly over time but were still impressive, which I had taken with me in my mind from the Venezuelan pavilion at the EXPO 2000 in Hanover. What an abundance of natural beauty, the flora and fauna of such diversity that it has not yet been fully explored. Alpine mountain regions, primeval forests, savannahs, deserts, Caribbean islands, everything I had ever dreamed of seeing can be found in this country. But my professional situation at that time did not leave me the time for extended voyages of discovery. So I had to bury this dream for a long time.
Now in search of a new place to live in Central America that is affordable even for average pensioners, I discover an advertisement by Tashigar Norte in Norbunet, in which very nice houses were offered for sale.
Since 2016 I am a member of Dzamling Gar in Tenerife. I have always felt very comfortable in the community with my Vajra siblings. I was happy to have met the Master I had been looking for all my life, at my age. So I soaked up the Dzogchen teachings like a dry sponge absorbed the water, participated in almost all the retreats that Rinpoche has given in Dzamling Gar since that time. Even my little dog Inti felt very comfortable in Dzamling Gar and I think she behaved very respectfully towards everyone.
Unfortunately, the cost of living in Tenerife has risen dramatically in recent years by my standards. I lived on my small sailing yacht in the port of San Miguel and later in the camper just outside the gates of Dzamling Gar. The dream of a permanent place to live, of living in community, preferably with other practitioners, was always in the back of my mind.
So, in April 2022, I set off for new shores, and when I saw Tashigar’s ad, my dream seemed to be within reach. So on 22.06.2022 I left the new airport terminal in Panama to make a first contact with Tashigar Norte. Maybe my experiences at the airport were a sign that I was on the right track. I had heard so much from other practitioners about their experiences in this special place. Now I was on the verge of discovering it myself.
I was actually a bit afraid of being mugged when leaving the airport in Caracas, had thought about putting on worn clothes so as not to be immediately identified as a wealthy gringo. But I quickly discarded this idea because with my 1.84m height I tower over all other fellow travelers here by at least 15cm anyway, my skin has become darker due to the southern sun, but still not in such a way that I would not differ significantly from the majority of Venezuelans. So I trusted Tara’s help and threw myself into the adventure. Upon arrival in Caracas, I was tested for the virus free of charge, the entry formalities went a bit sluggishly but smoothly.
The way to the other airport for the onward journey to Margarita was a short walk and went completely smoothly.
When checking in for the flight to Margarita, the security guard discovered the dollars I had hidden in the secret compartment of my belt, he just laughed about it and said that I don’t have to be afraid of being robbed here.
The 50-minute flight from Caracas to Margarita was a pure pleasure. The dream beaches on Venezuela’s coasts I saw with tingling longing pass under me, yes, I still want to explore everything. Isolated Caribbean islands surrounded by turquoise blue water lured my joy of discovery and there we were already approaching Margarita.
The reception was exceptionally warm. Douglas and Valentina from Tashigar Norte welcomed me at the exit and off we went on our adventurous journey through a world that was completely foreign to me. The roads do not allow high speeds and so one can look at the passing world in a relaxed way.
It goes past ultramodern shopping malls, long queues in front of the gas stations, somewhat desolate-looking housing development in the city belt and simple to poor dwellings in the rural areas.
In Tashigar Norte a nice house is prepared for me and I am already very excited about visiting the Gar the next day. Marina, Rolo, Douglas and Valentina first show me the house I have chosen. I am thrilled, it is exactly as shown in the pictures and it corresponds perfectly to my ideas.Of course there is still some work to be done, but with the expert helpers on site this should not be a problem and so it was with the energetic support of the residents and staff of Tashigar Norte the installation and some minor structural changes were a pure pleasure.
The grounds are beautiful. I am impressed by the architecture of the houses and especially the Gönpa is a very special place.
In some places you can see that maintenance work has not been done due to lack of funds, but ads Gakyil of Tashigar Norte is very committed to do the best possible for the preservation of this wonderful place.
I was able to experience this first hand during the three months I spent here. I am now convinced that this is the right place for me. The move of my household goods from Tenerife to Tashigar Norte went smoothly and so I am now in October 2023 to make myself permanently comfortable here.
I can only encourage all those who are thinking about coming to the events here, from December 2023 to March 2024, to do so. Tashigar Norte is a very special place, filled with the warmth of its people, the Caribbean joy of life and, of course, the spirit of Rinpoche.