When I visited the novice monks at Shwe Yan Pyay Kyaung in Nyaungshwe last month, I not only brought them photos I had taken on my previous trip in June (during which I took groups of them to both the Pindaya Caves and to Taunggyi), but newspapers from Bangkok, specifically the sections with photos showing the ongoing flooding in Thailand. I’ve learned enough Burmese over the years that I felt capable of describing what had happened in Thailand, but using the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” axiom, I figured the photos would do a much better job of conveying how catastrophic the flooding in the Bangkok area had been than if I had tried to explain.
I brought about two weeks’ worth of full-page photo spreads from the Bangkok Post, and the monks seemed fascinated as they perused them. They were also quite eager to look at the photos of themselves from earlier in the year. And this, of course, led to some brand new photo sessions both inside and outside the monastery; posing in front of Buddha images, standing in front of the building’s distinctive windows, and more.
The monastery was also crawling with tour groups this time around, more tourists than I’ve ever seen in town. But the young monks happily took time during their early afternoon break (after lunch and before studies resumed at 1 pm) to pose for more photos. I think it may be time to get them their own camera so that they can start taking photos of all the tourists!