‘Irene actually has a two-year-old daughter’, Madam Chen, one of the older nuns at the monastery told Ted. They were sitting in the garden in the end of the day, soaking in the last bits of sun before it would disappear behind the beautiful mountains and in the horizon. Birds were singing, and Ted felt at peace.
‘Does she, really?‘ Ted was surprised. He had bonded well with Irene, as she was one of the youngest nuns at the monastery and had been very keen to get to know Ted better. They had spent many hours after dinner talking in the garden, getting to know each other’s backgrounds and reasons for why they were both at the same monastery now. Irene had told Ted that she had only been at the monastery for about five months, before then she had been married, but she did not get along with her husband and had divorced him. After that, she had found peace of mind and herself in the Buddhist teachings and then decided to become a nun. She had never mention a child.
‘Yes, she was married, but the man turned out to be too macho and arrogant, which is why she left him. The man was of high class and pretty wealthy. He was posted to work in Europe and they lived in Spain where she gave birth. After the divorce, she came back here with her baby’, Madam Chen explained.
‘But who is looking after the child when she is here at the monastery?‘ Ted was even more surprised. Why would you not want to be with your young daughter?
‘The baby is staying with her parents and they also have hired a nanny. Irene goes to visit them over the weekends, usually. That’s why she is not seen on Saturdays or Sundays.’ Madam Chen closed her eyes.
‘The divorce and everything took a toll on her. Here in Taiwan, people are very careful about their image and saving their face. They want to come across as perfect and as if everything is well with them. And there is a general consensus that divorce and things not working out with the person that you have married is a failure. This is why most divorced people feel very ashamed. Like Irene is feeling now.’
‘I see’, Ted said. The last bits of sun were warming his legs. ‘I am still surprised that she never mentioned the baby to me. Especially since the baby is here nearby. She spoke about the divorce before. And she did seem very embarrassed about it.’
‘Yes, she would be’, Madam Chen nodded. She was circling a piece of grass around her finger. ‘Anyone here would. I assume that, since she was already embarrassed telling you that she was divorced, she would be doubly embarrassed to tell you that she has a baby, in particular since she is now here at this monastery. I think that she will tell you when she is ready.’