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

Posts tagged ‘novice monks’

Wild in the Monastery!

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Back again for another quick visit with the novice monks who reside at the monastery in Shan State’s Tat Ein village. They are a lively, personable bunch of kid and certainly not shy in front of the camera. Today, we present the unabashed, wilder side of these young monks.

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Saturday in the Park with Monks & Monkeys

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Today is part two of the “Monks in the Park” series, once again from the Eastern Amusement Park in Taunggyi. One very nice thing about going to the park this time; the park management waived the admission charge for all of the novice monks! I suppose this is standard policy, but it was nevertheless a nice surprise and a treat to my travel budget. I only had to pay for my ticket, plus admission for the six teachers. Not that was a bargain!

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With nearly 50 kids in tow, keeping them all together turned out to be nearly an impossible task. The park is actually pretty big in size, with lots of rides, weird statues and silly objects, flowers and gardens, fountains and pools, a variety of caged animals, and a swinging bridge; all of which serve as distractions and points of interest.

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At the monkey cage we had a bit of a scare. One of the tiniest novice monks wandered too close to the bars, and a very nasty monkey grabbed the kid’s robe and yanked it off him! The money hopped around, baring his teeth, and waving the red robe around, looking more agitated than triumphant. Meanwhile, the poor little monk looked totally petrified. Luckily, a zookeeper promptly arrived, entered the cage, threatened the monkey with a stick, and retrieved the robe. Nevertheless, many of the monks remained gathered around the cage, fascinated by the antics of the monkeys.

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As usual, not only did the kids have a great time running around and acting silly, not to mention insisting that I take LOTS of photos, they took the opportunity to eat as much as they could too. Monks, even young novice monks, cannot eat any meals after midday (12:00), but that rule doesn’t stop them from snacking when the chance arises. Packaged snacks, fresh fruits, nuts, candy; they consumed it all! And also, as usual, on the trip back to the village, most of the monks, exhausted from a day of sightseeing and play, slept soundly on the floor of the truck!

 

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Stumbling Around Old Ruins with Young Monks

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As I mentioned in my previous post, last month I took the novice monks from Tat Ein’s monastery to see the ancient Pa-O ruins in Kakku. To handle this group — 41 monks — I rented two large “light trucks” for the trip. Accompanying us were six teachers from the primary school and two parents from the village, plus the two drivers.

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Because I am a foreign tourist, I was required to pay an entrance fee and also hire a Pa-O guide to tour the ruins. Both charges are very reasonable, but I told the staff at the Golden Island Cottages office in Taunggyi (they oversee the whole operation in Kakku) that I had been to Kakku several times already and didn’t need a guide, plus I had 41 young monks in tow! Nevertheless, they stuck to company policy and assigned a guide to me, a young Pa-O woman named Khin Twe. She turned out to be a very charming young lady, eager to practice her English with a foreigner, so it was a pleasure having her along.

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The site of the ruins is less than 30 kilometers from Taunggyi, but the journey takes about an hour by car due to the rough roads. Factor in the trip from the village to Taunggyi, and it’s the better part of two hours. But hey, it’s a very scenic drive! Due to the fact that many of these kids aren’t accustomed to riding in vehicles, going up and down big hills, inevitably a few of them get car sick. To help prevent that from happening this time, or at least prepare for any bouts of projectile vomiting, I passed out car sickness pills before breakfast at the monastery, and then equipped each truck with packages of plastic barf bags (thanks to Mar Mar Aye for buying them!). With that important preparation accomplished we were ready to roll!

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As usual, the group split up upon arriving at the ruins. I tell you, it’s hard to keep track of forty young monks once they start wandering around several thousand old stupas! It’s a good thing I had the teachers and parents along to watch over them, but frankly they didn’t seem all that concerned if any of the monks wandered off or not! Despite my best efforts, I could never get everyone in one place at the same time until the very end, when we finally took group photos outside the entrance.

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For the most part the novice monks remained well-behaved, if not stoic, as they walked around the site. Perhaps their lack of exuberance was due to the fact the Kakku is considered such a sacred place for the Pa-O tribe, and many of the boys at this monastery come from nearby Pa-O villages in Shan State. But the monks certainly let loose and started running around later in the afternoon when we went to the park and zoo in Taunggyi. I will post some photos from that delightful excursion in the near future.

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Fifth Grade Frenzy!

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My day of teaching in Tat Ein village ended with an afternoon fifth grade class. This was the first time I’d ever taught the fifth graders, seeing as how in previous years there was no such class in the village, the school only offering grades one through four. Following the villagers’ expansion plans for the school (they are in the process of constructing a new classroom and study hall), the fifth graders now meet in a separate building.

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The good news is that in this building they are separated from the lower four grades and the classroom is less noisy. But the downside is that it’s a temporary situation and they don’t have any desks or chairs in the room yet. And no, there is no air-conditioning and not any fans either. Open window air circulation, baby! For now the students sit on the floor and write in notebooks that are either propped on their lap or on the floor itself. No, it’s not an ideal setup, but at least the kids can take their classes in the village instead of having to make the long walk or bike ride to nearby Nyaungshwe.

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Unlike the relatively small fourth grade class I taught that morning (12 students) the fifth group class was huge by comparison; over 30 students. But it was a nice mixture of boys and girls, and of course those ubiquitous — and often mischievous — novice monks, including two of my favorites in the bunch, the irrepressible duo of Saing Aung and Soe Nyaunt.

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As with the fourth graders, I stuck to my usual arsenal of activities and lessons. In these classes I’ve learned that it’s easier, and more fun, to get the students out of their chairs (or in this case, off the floor) and involved in the lesson. For this group, however, the sheer numbers of students made it more difficult to get them to focus on what I was teaching and what we were doing. There were even a couple of monks who used the time to take naps. Ha! So much for my exciting lesson!

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Eventually, I let a few students come up to the board and write some words in English — or Burmese — and that helped to revive their sagging attention spans. The girls especially got a kick out of playing teacher. But even that excitement was short-lived and we spent the last 30 minutes of class just taking photographs!

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Novice at Sunglasses

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As usual, it was their idea and not my own! One of the novice monks at the monastery — I’ll place the blame solely on Naing Aung — in Shan State’s Tat Ein village asked to borrow my sunglasses. No doubt wanting to look cool, he put on the sunglasses and I prepared myself for the inevitable puzzled reaction. I’m very near-sighted and those are prescription glasses, so whenever some kid puts them on the result is pretty funny. They usually will exclaim something along the lines of: “Oh, I feel dizzy!” Sure you do!

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And of course once one monk tries them on, then the rest of the crew has to do the same, and the sunglasses get passed around from monk to monk. “Dude, check this out!” I always warn them about the dizziness factor but that never squelches their desire to sport the glasses … and of course get their photo taken!

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Kung-Fu Monks!

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Back at the monastery, everyone was kung-fu fighting! Sorry, apologies to Carl Douglas and Casey Kasem for that one, but I couldn’t resist!

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As it turns out, though, the novice monks at Tat Ein’s small monastery are indeed martial arts fans — having watched a few Jet Li films in their young lives — and a little spirited kung-fu poses, thankfully free from any real fighting, were the order of the day when I stopped by one afternoon in early March. Man, these kids constantly crack me up. Hey, Saing Aung, watch that arm!

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Meet the Monks!

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It was time, way past time. I’d been hanging out with these novice monks at the monastery in Tat Ein village for several days, but I hadn’t learned any of their names. And some of these boys weren’t new faces; several of them had been at the monastery the previous year, and a few were around the year before that. This time there were only nineteen novice monks in residence, about half the number as last time, so I decided to do an exercise one afternoon and learn the name of each monk.

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I had them all line up and write their name in my notebook. Next to their name, which they all wrote in Burmese, I wrote down what sounded like their name so I could remember it. To make sure that I could match the names with the faces, I took a photo of each monk. So, here they are; the novice monks of Tat Ein monastery!

 

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Htun Phyu

 

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Pa Kyay

 

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Soe Nyaunt

 

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Own Maung

 

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Hla Kham

 

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Htet Lu

 

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Tun Wei

 

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Zaw Oo

 

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Saing Bwee

 

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Nay Win Tun

 

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Aung Thaung

 

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Myaung Myat

 

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Kun Tun Han

 

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Kyaw Kham

 

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Saing Aung

 

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Saing Ko

 

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Ye Naing

 

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Maung Bauk

 

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Ba Phyu

While the teacher is away …

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Back in Shan State’s Tat Ein village, the summer break had just started by the time I arrived, thus there were no classes being held at the primary school. But that didn’t stop all classroom activity! While the teachers were away, some of the kids decided to take over the classroom and have some fun of their own one afternoon.

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In case you were expecting tales of wanton mischief, a graffiti party or vandalism, nothing of the sort occurred. Basically, the kids — mostly novice monks and other male students — were well behaved; goofy as could be, but never out of control. About the wildest thing I witnessed was one novice monk playfully threatening another monk with a long measuring stick.

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And yes, those novice monks — known as ko yin in these parts — were clearly having a great time playing teacher and hamming it up. The younger monks also take classes here when school is in session, so the room was a familiar place for them. Some of the more restrained boys stayed in their seats and watched the action, while the more mischievous ones ran around and dreamed up more silly photo ideas.

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Meanwhile, a group of girls was gathered in the back of the classroom, distancing themselves from the notorious ko yin and waiting for a lull in the action, hoping the monks would cease their nutty ways long enough for them to get their picture taken too. Happily, that’s just what happened!

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When in doubt, rely on the Monks

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I’m feeling bored and depressed this week, listless and uninspired. But I felt like I needed to post something, anything, before the week wound down to a close, so I came up with an answer: monks!

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Yes, when in doubt, rely on the monks. And on that note, here are more monk photos from my last trip Myanmar. And believe me; I have several hundred more that I haven’t even finished editing yet, so this won’t be the last by any means. So, without further delay, here are some pictures of those delightful novice monks from Tat Ein monastery in Shan State.

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Tat Ein Football Club

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Go to any neighborhood in any town or city around Myanmar and you will find a group of boys — including young monks — playing football, or soccer as it’s known in some parts. It’s rare that kids have access to a proper football pitch, so most games are held on an empty field or even on the street.

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Whenever I visit Tat Ein village in Shan State, just down the bumpy dirt road from Nyaungshwe, I bring a football with me. Believe me, the gift of a good quality football (I usually buy them in Mandalay or Yangon where the selection is better) is much appreciated by these boys. This time I brought two balls, and there was such a demand that had to go out and bought a third football in Nyaungshwe after the novice monks requested one of their own too.

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There’s no doubt that these boys love to play football, yet almost every time I would take any photographs of the action, the game would come to a complete halt and the players would ask to have their photo taken. What a bunch of hams!

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