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Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan Paperback – May 1, 2000


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Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan + Married to Bhutan: How One Woman Got Lost, Said "I Do," and Found Bliss + Buttertea at Sunrise: A Year in the Bhutan Himalaya
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Trade; Reissue edition (May 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 157322815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573228152
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (119 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As a teacher of English literature, Jamie Zeppa would understand how the story of her journey into Bhutan could be fit into the convenient box of "coming-of-age romance," a romance with a landscape, a people, a religion, and a dark, irresistible student. An innocent, young Catholic woman from a Canadian mining town who had "never been anywhere," Zeppa signed up for a two-year stint teaching in a remote corner of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Despite the initial shock of material privation and such minor inconveniences as giardia, boils, and leeches, Zeppa felt herself growing into the vast spaces of simplicity that opened up beyond the clutter of modern life. Alongside her burgeoning enchantment, a parallel realization that all was not right in Shangri-La arose, especially after her transfer to a college campus charged with the politics of ethnic division. Still she maintained her center by devouring the library's Buddhist tracts and persevering in an increasingly fruitful meditation practice. When the time came for her to leave, she had undergone a personal transformation and found herself caught between two worlds that were incompatible and mutually incomprehensible. Zeppa's candid, witty account is a spiritual memoir, a travel diary, and, more than anything, a romance that retraces the vicissitudes of ineluctable passion. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Zeppa's story is nearly an inversion of the ancient Buddhist tale of Siddhartha (in which a prince ventures from the paradise of his father's palace only to find the suffering and decay that he never knew existed) in that the author, at the age of 22, abruptly leaves a stale life in Canada to become a volunteer teacher in the remote and largely undisturbed Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Cloaked in the airy mountains between India and China, Bhutan initially frustrates but eventually captivates Zeppa with its rudimentary lifestyle that forces her to question former values and plans for the future. Though the story line would seem to open itself to cloying romanticization, Zeppa's telling of her clumsy attempts to adapt rings with sincerity and inspires sympathy. She thinks to herself upon visiting a local house: "In one shadowy corner, there is a skinny chicken. I blink several times but it does not vanish. Is it a pet? Is it dinner?" Zeppa's lucid descriptions of the craggy terrain and honest respect for the daily struggles of the natives bring the tiny land to life in a way that is reverent but real. Though she tries to avoid what a friend terms "that Shangri-La-Di-Da business" and grapples with the poverty, sexism and political squabbles in Bhutan that bother her, there is little doubt that she sees the place in a largely positive light and is tempted to remain. In the end, Zeppa's is a lively tale of her earnest efforts to reconcile what she has learned with what she has known. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Fundamentally, "Beyond the Sky and the Earth" is a love story.
Pinger
I would also recommend it to people who are going to be living in a new country to give them an idea of what culture shock can be like.
Dancing Jackaroo
The way that Zeppa wrote this book it is both a love story with the country and a coming of age.
Kelly Ennis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Green on December 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Jamie writes a beautiful account of Bhutan & it's people. And although she would like to believe that it is an ideal existence - a shangri la, she soon realises that every country has it's own unique problems. This however does not prevent Jamie from falling in love with Bhutan & the way of life. After adjusting to living with no electricity, no running water, a drastic change in diet, language problems & the local bus aptly named the 'vomit comet', Jamie's mind finally arives in Bhutan. Gradually, through letters to her boyfriend she finds a widening gap between her new life & life in Canada. So much so that on returning home for a visit, she finds her former life to be a complete culture shock & shortens her stay.
Her tales of the school children in the village of Pema Gatshel are both amusing & heartwarming. This is a society where children revere their teachers. Jamies acknoledges that that these children have taught her a lot more than she was able to teach them.
A must for anyone with an interest in Bhutan, the Himalayan region, Buddhism & teaching in a foreign country.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. Marren VINE VOICE on March 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. A wonderful example of personal travel writing--a very personal memoir. In addition to beautifully describing the countryside, some of her insights were quite interesting--the lack of privacy in the culture, the obedience to authority. Her appreciation of and eventual conversion to Buddhism helped me really understand in a very different way the nature of this most un-western form of spirituality. I too was a little disappointed in the second half of the book where her falling in love interferes with the very compelling story of ethnic tensions, and I did think the ending was a bit of a cop out. Still, having been to Nepal and seeing just a glimpse of the things she writes about, I think it's a must read for people visiting that part of the world.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Cable on April 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
I purchased this book without knowing what it was going to be about, and it turned out to be one of the best books I've read. Since I know nothing about Bhutan, I found the author's descriptions fascinating and imaginative. Without knowing anything about the culture or the area, I found that I could picture both the landscape and the people of Bhutan. It is more of a personal story about a young woman's travel into an unfamiliar area and the challenges she faces along the way, in terms of her own cultural background, values, and beliefs, than a story about the Bhutan itself.
A friend of mine was in the Peace Corp and until about a year ago lived on a remote island in Micronesia. While I wrote to her often, it was hard for me to really understand what it would be like to live in a culture so different from one's own. Her correspondence revealed changing attitudes about the culture she was now a part of, her own cultural background, and the way she viewed herself. While reading this book, I felt I could better understand the feelings and attitudes my friend wrote to me about from Micronesia. I think this book would be very helpful for anyone with friends or family living or working in similar situations. I would think it would also interest people who are living overseas submersed in another culture.
As someone who has never lived or spent a great deal of time outside the United States, I felt that I could identify with the author. I appreciated her honesty and ability to convey her feelings and emotions, as well as effectively describe a place totally unfamiliar to me. I would suggest it to anyone!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I can say that this book is utterly honest because I was Jamie's student for two years in Bhutan (in the college). She brings out the facts without fabrication and when I read her, I can relive my experience and my adolescence even though I cannot go back.
Th Situation that Jamie talks about, for em, forms the cornerstone of the book because the situation has transformed the lives of so many Jamie knew. It was somewhat disappointing that she did not talk about it in detail but it was impossible to do so. If she had, we would not have had this book, probably. May be Jamie should come out with another book that tells the story of the people she knew while this book has told of her own experience.
Jamie, wherever you are, thanks for being honest and not taking sides while painting life as it was in Bhutan and letting so many special people and special cultural aspects live in your book. You have preserved the Bhutan that was in your book...unfortunately it no longer exists even though the government and western visitors pretend that it does. Please Keep writing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dancing Jackaroo on October 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading this book, and thought it was wonderful! It was especially good to read because I just recently moved to Romania and am going through some of the same experiences that the author discribed. Culture shock, language, trying to teach students without the words to communicate with them (I haven't had anyone tell me that their birthday is "It is rice and pork," yet [p. 43], but I could definitely relate to that story!), all of these are common struggles in a new land.
One of the best parts of the book for me was the way the author managed to combine a description of the history of Bhutan and her own personal experiences. I love reading history and culture books, but reading about history by experiencing it through someone else's eyes made it all come alive again. I loved how Zeppa brings the reader slowly through ever-spiraling circles deeper and deeper into the culture. The way she carefully described her arrival in the country, her original culture shock and despair, and the gradual love she gained for her new people are very well-crafted. It gives the reader the chance to experience the same gradual love of Bhutan, its culture, people, and landscape. She also managed to do so with a good sense of humor, laughing about things such as rats having a Rat Olympics while she was trying to sleep, or the reverse culture shock of having sliced bread after so many months in what originally seemed to her to be extremely spartan living conditions. I've read many travel books and memoirs, but I have to say that this is one of my all-time favorites.
I also appreciated the author's honesty, both about the good and the bad decisions she made and things she experienced. Here I have to take issue with some of the other reviewers.
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