Nyaungshwe in Shan State is known as the gateway to Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s most famous tourist attractions. But I’ve toured the lake more times than I can remember, so when I’m in town nowadays I bypass the boat trips and ride my bike around town. And my favorite destination of all is nearby Tat Ein village, a place I visit on almost a daily basis.
In the past, I’ve taught English language lessons at the primary school in the village, donated medicine to the school and monastery, and taken the kids on field trips in the area. I know the people well. School had just shut down for the multi-month “summer break” and I had no plans to take the kids on any trips this time, but I did spend many afternoons at the monastery, just chatting with the monks and taking photos. I time my arrival around midday, after the monks have eaten, or late in the afternoon, after they’ve finished their studies, in order to avoid interrupting their routine. I enjoy their company but I don’t want to be more of a distraction than I’ve become already!
As you can see from these photos, the novice monks at Tat Ein are a playful and lively bunch. Camera shy they are not! It’s gotten to the point where they will demand that I take their photo … but in that cute, polite manner that they have that makes it all so charming. They never cease to amaze me with their ideas for photos, and yes, all of these shots occurred with no prompting or suggestions from me. The monks thought of them all! One kid managed to paint his face with some bizarre red marks; another novice fashioned an outfit out of a feed bag; the boys took turns playing “teacher” in the classroom; one of the village dogs became an unwilling photo prop; the monks took turns sitting in a fountain.
As usual, it was great fun and the minutes/hours flew by while I was at the monastery taking photos. The thought of returning to my hotel didn’t occur to me until I saw that the sun about to set and I’d scamper off and make plans to return the next day, eagerly to see what new photo ideas the novice monks would think of for the next session.