Radio Shangri-La

Radio Shangri-La

What I Learned in the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

Book - 2010
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Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan--said to be one of the happiest places on earth.
 
Long isolated from industrialization and just beginning to open its doors to the modern world, Bhutan is a deeply spiritual place, devoted to environmental conservation and committed to the happiness of its people--in fact, Bhutan measures its success in Gross National Happiness rather than in GNP. In a country without a single traffic light, its citizens are believed to be among the most content in the world. To Lisa, it seemed to be a place that offered the opposite of her fast-paced life in the United States, where the noisy din of sound-bite news and cell phones dominate our days, and meaningful conversation is a rare commodity; where everyone is plugged in digitally, yet rarely connects with the people around them.
 
Thousands of miles away from everything and everyone she knows, Lisa creates a new community for herself. As she helps to start Bhutan's first youth-oriented radio station, Kuzoo FM, she must come to terms with her conflicting feelings about the impact of the medium on a country that had been shielded from its effects. Immersing herself in Bhutan's rapidly changing culture, Lisa realizes that her own perspective on life is changing as well--and that she is discovering the sense of purpose and joy that she has been yearning for.
 
In this smart, heartfelt, and beautifully written book, sure to please fans of transporting travel narratives and personal memoirs alike, Lisa Napoli discovers that the world is a beautiful and complicated place--and comes to appreciate her life for the adventure it is.
Published: New York : Crown Publishers, c2010.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780307453020
0307453022
Branch Call Number: 954.98 NAP
Characteristics: xx, 277 p. ;,25 cm.

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KevanOfSimi
Dec 15, 2015

One of the worst books I've read. Having early on in the book identified the serious flaws of Western society, she has no problem helping bring them to Bhutan. Obviously, for her own ego. This book reads like some of the pulp novels of the late 1800s that told of "civilizing" various tribes.

QueenBoadicea Jun 10, 2015

A cat walking by notices a kitten frantically chasing its tail. The cat mildly inquires, “What are you doing?” The kitten gasps, “I heard my tail was my happiness and I’m trying to catch it.” The cat nods. “I tried that when I was your age. Then I stopped when I realized all I had to do was keep walking and my happiness would follow along behind me without all that work.”

Lisa’s travels to Bhutan, a remote country that few Americans can pinpoint on a map, reads more like a loving memoir than a travelogue. Don’t mistake; she goes into detail about the politics, geography, social customs and people of this world. But her reactions to it are what lifts this from being a barren, dry catalog of the best places to dine (there aren’t any; Bhutan is a notoriously poverty-stricken country) or the most exquisite sites to visit (they do have glorious vistas but traveling to them was difficult since there were few main roads).

It’s a newcomer’s view of what it was like to visit a place rightfully boasted of as the happiest place on earth. This is a world of poverty but no homelessness, where people would drop in to see their relatives without calling at a moment’s notice, a place where there were no orphanages or rampant crime, a world of happy, healthy people because health care is free. (This means that people check in the moment they have a sniffle or a bruise. Contrast that to a place where health care is so expensive people put off going until they are seriously ill or even beyond help.)

The book has some of the wide-eyed wonder of the tourist but mercifully avoids that awkward tone for the most part. Ms. Napoli’s role wasn’t that of a gawking passerby but of someone who’d been summoned to expose Bhutanese youth to the wonders of radio—a medium that would connect them to each other on a grander scale than anything so far attempted. She writes, without censorship, about the various changes that exposure to the outer world has wrought in Bhutan, both the good and the bad. She neither extols nor denigrates Bhutanese values; her writing is too clear sighted for that. But, without tipping herself too far in either direction, her memoir about Bhutan and its people, its value systems and its beauty, draw you in and seduces you little by little.

In the end, her inner search for happiness arrives without her striving, without trying to grasp anything or submerge herself in another person, idle possessions or the classes that some people attend to learn how to be happy. She found happiness—or rather happiness followed her. No mere review can convey the subtle power of this novel or the strength of this writer who overcame some shocking difficulties of her own. You simply have to read it—and then you’ll know.

FindingJane Jun 04, 2015

A cat walking by notices a kitten frantically chasing its tail. The cat mildly inquires, “What are you doing?” The kitten frantically gasps, “I heard my tail was my happiness and I’m trying to catch it.” The cat nods. “I tried that when I was your age. Then I stopped when I realized all I had to do was keep walking and my happiness would follow along behind me without all that work.” Lisa’s travels to Bhutan, a remote country that few Americans can pinpoint on a map, reads more like a loving memoir than a travelogue. Don’t mistake; she goes into detail about the politics, geography, social customs and people of this world. But her reactions to it are what lifts this from being a barren, dry catalog of the best places to dine (there aren’t any; Bhutan is a notoriously poverty-stricken country) or the most exquisite sites to visit (they do have glorious vistas but traveling to them was difficult since there were few main roads). It’s a newcomer’s view of what it was like to visit a place rightfully boasted of as the happiest place on earth. This is a world of poverty but no homelessness, where people would drop in to see their relatives without calling at a moment’s notice, a place where there were no orphanages or rampant crime, a world of happy, healthy people because health care is free. (This means that people check in the moment they have a sniffle or a bruise. Contrast that to a place where health care is so expensive people put off going until they are seriously ill or even beyond help.) The book has some of the wide-eyed wonder of the tourist but mercifully avoids that awkward tone for the most part. Ms. Napoli’s role wasn’t that of a gawking passerby but of someone who’d been summoned to expose Bhutanese youth to the wonders of radio—a medium that would connect them to each other on a grander scale than anything so far attempted. She writes, without censorship, about the various changes that exposure to the outer world has wrought in Bhutan, both the good and the bad. She neither extols nor denigrates Bhutanese values; her writing is too clear sighted for that. But, without tipping herself too far in either direction, her memoir about Bhutan and its people, its value systems and its beauty, draw you in and seduces you little by little. In the end, her inner search for happiness arrives without her striving, without trying to grasp anything or submerge herself in another person, idle possessions or the classes that some people attend to learn how to be happy. She found happiness—or rather happiness followed her. No mere review can convey the subtle power of this novel or the strength of this writer who overcame some shocking difficulties of her own. You simply have to read it—and then you’ll know.

Cdnbookworm Apr 04, 2013

This memoir tells of Napoli's experience consulting with a small radio station in Bhutan, how she got there, the experiences she had in Bhutan, and the relationships she developed as a result. She developed an ongoing love for the small country, and has returned there several times since her initial consulting trip. This is a story of her life, and what led her to this experience, but it is more than that. It is also a story of Bhutan as it tackles change, much of it radical, as a country. Measuring its success with Gross National Happiness instead of the more common GDP, Bhutan sets itself apart even as it accepts technology, media, and tourism into the country. It is interesting to see the effect of change on its inhabitants and their experience with culture shock as they travel beyond its borders. The experience changed Napoli's outlook on life, and she talks about this change in attitude as well.
A very interesting memoir, and I learned a lot about Bhutan as well.

p
Pisinga
Oct 02, 2012

From the point of view of journalism - the book is written intelligently and competently.
Not quite agree with the opinion that the arrival of so-called civilization to distant places, always brings with it the destruction of its uniqueness.
This is life and such is the history of mankind. It's nice to advocating of the poetic beauty of the wilderness, but when you live in it, without ordinary household amenities - you wouldn't so admire it. No wonder, many Bhutanese dream to go to America. And concerning a search of meaning of the life (in this case - author's life) - it's a little bit late for her age to coming finally to the conclusion that there is no corner in this earth where everything is all well, an utopian place where the soul knows what it wants, and
to coming to the conclusion that happiness is not in the accumulation of wealth, nor in the conventional view of things, nor in the realization of a woman as a mother and wife, who creates a happy family with children and a husband, who gather around the table during the holidays to consume festive meals with healthy happy smiles (as food commercials).
It has long been clear that the happiness and satisfaction is in the present moment of life
and in that what was given to you by God and destiny. And to understand this you don't have to go to Bhutan or to some where else, far from home.

debwalker Apr 05, 2011

"Restless professionally and disappointed romantically, Lisa Napoli, a journalist in her mid-40s, takes a temporary leave from her job as a public radio reporter in Los Angeles and relocates to Bhutan, a secluded and peaceful Himalayan kingdom that is just opening its doors to the outside world. “I was tired of sleep-deprived, stressed-out, too-busy people who shirked downtime in the service of making money,” she writes in RADIO SHANGRI-LA: What I Learned in the Happiest Kingdom on Earth, her affectionate portrait of life in a slower-paced, high-altitude society.

Napoli settles into an apartment in Thimphu, the sleepy capital, where she has signed on as an unpaid consultant to Kazoo FM, an English-language radio station established by the Bhutanese monarch as part of a drive to modernize his kingdom. There she encounters a tiny band of West-infatuated D.J.’s who organize Larry King-style call-in shows and Valentine’s Day singing contests. She copes with the less-than-welcome attentions of a spoiled and materialistic Buddhist monk, has a near romance with a charismatic expat and tries, without success, to develop a liking for emadatse, the “yak-cheesy, fiery-hot chili stew” that locals consume three times a day.

Napoli inevitably falls under the spell of a country “guided by intense spirituality” yet seduced by the ­accouterments of the modern world: A.T.M.’s, fast-food restaurants, nightclubs, the Internet. “The most exciting experiences I had were with start-up ventures, companies where we made it all up as we went along,” she observes in this absorbing, often touching memoir that unfolds on the eve of Bhutan’s first democratic elections. “In many ways, Bhutan was a start-up too — an ancient, once-­secluded kingdom transitioning now at warp speed.”

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