"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." E. B. White

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Smart Monks and Smart Phones

A funny thing happened several days ago at the monastery. Anna and I were sitting outside talking to Kunga when we suddenly heard bells ringing. A bell rings whenever classes are beginning or ending, but this was in the middle of tea break and we looked at each other curiously trying to determine what was happening. The next thing I know, Kunga reaches into his robe and pulls out a ringing iPhone!

Imagine our surprise as Kunga, the lovely, soft-spoken monk, pulled an iPhone in a red case out from the chest of his red robe (the matching wasn’t lost on us) and began chatting away. It took all of our self control not to burst out laughing. It was unexpected, to say the least.

Based on the iPhone incident, we decided to ask one of monks about the use of technology today at lunch. He told us that the monks use e-mail, have the ability to Skype, etc. but looked puzzled when we asked if they each have computers or if all the monks share one. “We are monks. We don’t have computers,” he replied. Silly us for asking.

So, how do they e-mail? They all have smart phones. He said it in such a nice way, but the look on his face told me that we had asked a totally obvious and ridiculous question. Again, Silly us...

Anna and I generally leave the monastery right after class so that we can start the long journey back to our house, as we normally only have 30 minutes at home before leaving again for the orphanage. But today was one of those days when the monks were just too sweet, so we couldn’t turn down their offers for us to stay and eat with them. Several young children and men approached and asked us to stay and then found the special plates and bowls that have been set aside specifically for Anna and me. They belong to us until we leave for good.

I enjoyed sitting and chatting with a few of the older monks, many of whom are originally from Tibet. They seem to enjoy our company and asking us questions in English.

Our friend, Ngawang
Speaking of enjoying English, we have three classes a day divided generally by age and ability. Today we created a crossword puzzle using English words that the monks may not know and asked them to define the word before filling it into the puzzle. There is an adult monk is our advanced class, Ngawang (pronounced Na-wang), and he speaks limited, polite English. After class this morning, Ngawang approached us and told us that he very much enjoyed the lesson and was very happy to be in our class.  It took a lot of effort for him to work out the words to express his gratitude, and it really meant a lot to me. I makes me feel like we are actually accomplishing what we set out to do.

Did I mention that there are two boys in  the advanced class (we think they’re best friends) named Karma and Buddha? Seriously. They are really nice boys who work hard in class and smile constantly. Karma and Buddha. Perfect.

Considering how utterly adorable the little monks are, I’m surprised that I have most enjoyed working with the older students. I expected to prefer the little kids because they are so cute, but the teen and adult students have really won me over because they seem so eager to learn and excited to see each us every day. I wish we had more time - a month suddenly doesn’t seem like enough, because I know they are all so smart and could learn so quickly given the right attention and resources.

Well, busy day today! Off to the orphanage.

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