My guest photographer today is Sanda Tika, a 12-year-old novice monk from the monastery in Shan State’s Tat Ein village. His self portrait photo is posted above. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kid without a huge grin on his face. He’s just one of those playful, perpetually happy kids who seem unfazed but the occasional chaos surrounding them.
It seemed like wherever I wandered around the village and the monastery (and at the primary school, although Sanda Tika doesn’t attend classes there; he studies separately at the monastery) this time — and especially on our road trip to Taunggyi and Kakku, Sanda Tika was always there, shadowing me every step of the way. Okay, there were times that I saw him studying with the other novices, but it SEEMED like he was always around. Because of his almost constant presence, I asked him his name (he gave me his “monastery name” — his birth name is different) one day, and promptly appointed him to be my assistant photographer for the rest of my stay. After a quick crash course in the basics, he was more than ready to use the camera. The photos you see today are all ones that he took.
At the park in Taunggyi, they have a bizarre new addition: huge plaster replicas of the characters from The Flintstones! Yes, there were Fred and Wilma, along Barney and Betty (alas, Bam Bam was nowhere to be found), ready and waiting to pose for photos. And the students and teachers got really excited about doing just that, running up and hugging the goofy characters. I don’t think any of these kids have ever seen a Flintstones cartoon in their lives, but they just couldn’t resist the silliness of the idea. And neither could Sanda Tika!