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


While I was visiting Tat Ein village in Shan State last month, an u-zin (a senior monk, or teacher for the novice monks) at the monastery by the name of Nandawun That asked me to help him with his English lessons. He’s such a nice guy that I was only happy to oblige. I usually spent the better part of an hour each day helping him with his pronunciation or explaining various words and phrases to him.


I was very impressed with the number of vocabulary words that he has committed to memory in less than two months of study. He has been studying in nearby Nyaungshwe with a Burmese teacher and he seems to have digested a lot of material in this short period of time. But I was a bit taken back by some of the words that his teacher had given him; “shit”, “feces” and “excrement” being a few of the more graphic examples. Well, I guess monks need to know a wide gamut of words and phrases, even the crappy ones!  Some of the sentences in his lessons were either awkwardly phrased or didn’t make much sense at all, so I tried to smooth those out for him too.


Nandawun That has really embraced his English language studies and shows signs of being a quick learner. When not studying or keeping tabs on the sometimes mischievous young novice monks in residence at the monastery, he enjoys meditation and watching “Rambo” movies. I kid you not. He told me that he loves watching action films, especially those with car chases and blazing guns; Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and all that sort of crap. Contrast that with his Buddhism studies and meditation and it doesn’t quite add up. But hey, such is life, right?



Some of the novice monks at Tat Ein took turns taking photos of us during some of our language lessons. During one session, the novices got the idea of putting themselves in the frame too. I can just hear them giggling and discussing their plan: “Hey, let’s pose us in the background too!” … “Yeah, great idea, dude!” Okay, it’s doubtful that they used the word “dude” or any remotely similar Burmese or Shan words, but I do think they got a kick of out carrying out their silly photo shoot.



And these photos are just a small sample of what they took. Whenever I let the monks borrow my camera the results were always fun and sometimes pretty darn creative. I’ll make a separate post in the near future of photos that I took of the novice monks, along with ones that they took by themselves. These kids don’t lack for imagination!




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