musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

A Novice Monk’s Day

Back in Shan State, I spent a considerable amount of time in Tat Ein village this trip, specifically visiting the primary school, the monastery, and U San Di Mar, the maverick monk who has planned activities and organized donations that have revitalized this once desolate village. I promised to write more about him, and I still plan to, but this post is devoted to one of the novice monks that I got to know quite well this time.


Pyin Na Thiri, if you remember from one of my posts last month, is the little nine-year old (oops, I forgot: nine and a HALF!) who was our first guest photographer last month. Pyin Na Thiri is in fourth grade at the school and appears to be a very clever and diligent student. He doesn’t horse around like many of the other boys, including his fellow novice monks, but listens carefully and obeys the teachers. He was also my guide on the first trip that I made to the monastery last month. Even though it’s only “up the hill” (about a three-minute walk) from the school, I had never previously visited the monastery. Exactly 20 novice monks stay there, along with about a half-dozen older monks and an abbot (saya daw).


Here are some photos that I took of a “day in the life” of Pyin Na Thiri. Some are at his school, with classmates and his teacher; and others were taken at the monastery. In one of the monastery photos he can be seen standing over a group of other novices, almost as if he’s supervising the crew who are cleaning up and weeding around one of the buildings. I can just hear him diplomatically pointing out to Zar Na Ga: “Uh, I think you missed a blade of grass over there.” This shot perfectly captures a side of the young monk’s personality; diligently watching over his fellow monks and making sure the task is done properly. And, in case you are wondering, he wasn’t content to stay a bystander; he did pitch and help after this photo was taken. But if he ever leaves the monkhood, my guess is that Pyin Na Thiri is destined for a career in management or as a supervisor!




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