After setting out to explore wats and city today, I spent an hour talking to 7 young monks/novices today at Wat Ong Teu in Vientiane, the capital of Laos!
Learning English and studying it there at the table, they invited me to sit and chat when I asked from a distance if any of them spoke English (as I had read somewhere some do and you can talk to them). They shouted back they all did, and were doing their homework so invited me over to help them!
I met Novice Souk, Soukkhy, Somkit, Boun, Jo, Apple and monk Somsaiy (between 15 and 19). Some of them shy to try to speak English, or to a woman, but they are very good! Certainly better than my Thai or Laos!
Novice Somkit spoke the most confidently – he wants to teach, visit the USA and studies chemistry at college. they go to school too, or college or uni.
We asked and answered each other’s questions, but I remembered so much more I want to know later on! They have invited me back to pray with them at 5.45 for 6.00 pm, or 3.30 am which I heard this morning at the wat across from me – the gong call to prayers and the drum beat.
I went back but found it was later than planned, but I just hung around the temple, watching life go by – local people coming and going then collecting for the service and doing their own thing. One was going around the temple and appearing again – I found out later they go around three times as part of this ritual!
I now also know how to pray at a stupa – kneel, feet to back (never pointing at Buddha statues!), hands together at face and forehead to say the prayers, and then lean forward, bending to the floor. (I found this nigh impossible with my weight and lack of fitness, whilst old woman nearby had no problem at all! So fit, they must do this all the time – and not overweight either…).
The monks chant in learned Balinese (it seems!) or Buddha language too, and the people chant their responses too. It was so interesting, and good for them. I did what I could and the locals people invited me in to sit with them, helped me learn what I did although curious and watching me, tried to include and welcome me which I found quite touching!
I showed the monks pictures of my daughters, who brought oohs and gasps and one comment in English ‘they are very beautiful’! (They are! and Monks don’t have any contact with women once ordained or before!)
They have added me on Facebook too, on their iPhones! To practice English with me so I will send them notes and get them back. It seems they do this a lot and some foreign teachers help them along as well as the monks who teach in the temples schools. So if anyone else wants to visit as well, they are happy to link up and work with anyone who is interested!
The young men I met had invited me to the international school picnic at 4-6pm where various denominations meet annually. What fun! My day sorted and how plans are made!
Too early but now hot and ordered meatball for lunch and got raw spring rolls with dip instead!?!?! But my mango shake was yummy!
However, the school picnic was not what I expected – although I didn’t really know what to expect! It was interesting seeing the school, a large ex-pat school that my taxi driver was clearly unhappy with – so much money when he struggled to send his two boys to their school, a long daily trip and little money spent for them! He was proud of them, could speak good English and he impressed me with his beliefs, values and hopes and efforts too!
This was a religious sect type meeting, not me at all! People were friendly enough, nice and interesting/interested in my trip and me, but I got the impression it was a regular meeting to sign up people too! I ate, drank water and coffee, chatted to people and found out lots, but wasn’t going to go back even if I was staying in the area.