While I was in Nyaungshwe earlier this month, I got up early one morning and cycled over to the Shwe Yan Pyay monastery to take pictures of the novice monks as they made their alms rounds. The monks line up every morning at about 6:45, preparing for the walk around the neighborhood, where villagers dish out offerings of rice and other food. There are about thirty novice monks at the monastery, but not all of them make the walk every morning. Some of them stay behind, from what I can ascertain, to clean the grounds or study. Nobody sleeps in!
These young monks are a very polite and respectful bunch, but that doesn’t preclude them from having fun and acting a little goofy while they are waiting for the alms walk to commence. Prior to lining up, I noticed one novice kicking around a small rock (no doubt thinking he was the next coming of Lionel Messi; most of these guys are big football fans), while another one poked his friend in the ribs with a stick. Two others diligently inspected a younger monk’s head to make sure that no unwanted insects had taken up residence there. Once a senior monk appeared (hmm, maybe THEY get to sleep in), they were all ready to make the march through the village on the other side of the road.
I tagged behind for the first half-mile, and then jogged ahead to take some photos as the villagers made their offerings. Even at eight in the morning the sun rays were intense. “It’s hot, isn’t it?” one of the less shy little monks commented as we trotted down the dirt road. “It’s VERY hot,” I agreed, wiping sweat from my brow. Quite a change from when I was last there in December and the weather was chilly.
By the time we returned to the monastery about forty minutes later, the “perfect line” of monks had broken into a disorderly mess. It was obvious that some of the smaller ones couldn’t keep up with the others. Plus, that’s a pretty long walk in your bare feet, even if you do get to kick some rocks around.