“One?” she asks while lifting her index finger up to the sky. Except for her 5 o’clock shadow, she is completely bald and dressed in a maroon colored robe. Just like everyone else here. If it wasn’t for her full lips and high cheekbones, she could’ve passed off for one of the monks, with her square jaw. “One?” she asks again now pushing her finger towards me in disbelief. “ Yes, just me” I nod. Her face softens. “Oh so brave!!!” She says in admiration. Her smile making the corners of her eyes crinkle. “So brave!” she claims again….
Should I be scared now?? I don’t understand why she finds it brave of me to just come here alone. When I ask her why, she just smiles. “Only little English” she giggles. I’m glad someone here speaks a bit English at least. At the same time I love that no one really does. I came here to learn and to integrate into their lifestyle. From what I’ve read, that means; no talking, no reading, no writing, hardly eating (twice a day plain rice and no food after 12 o’clock in the afternoon), hardly sleeping, meditating, meditating, meditating and…meditating. So, body language will suffice.
The monk, that dragged me from place to place for no apparent reason, spoke English pretty well. He’s completely out of sight, now that he’s handed me over to the nuns. Little do I know in that moment, that the next time I see his face, it’ll be ‘cause he’s kicking me off of the premises….
For the longest time it was unclear if I could actually stay. This English speaking ‘head’ monk, let’s call him Jim, dragged me from location to location and seemed to be discussing who knows what, with who knows who. He kept on flipping through my passport. Looking at the same pages, as if he was seeing them for the first time. I did not understand the purpose of that, but whatever. Maybe he liked the sensation? I looked at him expectantly. He kept up the suspense by not saying a word. An eerie feeling snuck up on me. I averted my gaze, and yup! All the monks were gawking at me. Enter, the females!
Thankfully. the nuns were way more hands on than Jim and faster in their decision making process. Once they got on board, it only took ten more minutes or so before I got to where I am right now. Sitting here, on this red concrete bench, with a very sweet electrolyte enhancing soft drink in hand, ‘talking’ with the nice bald nun.
I count at least five, possibly six nuns. All frantically cleaning a cabin. Is that for me??? Looks like it’s for me! I guess I’m staying then : ) An elderly nun approaches me. She looks like someone’s really sweet grandma, shriveled with her shoulders bent forward, holding another one of those incredibly sweet drinks. Shakily she lifts up her meager arm to offer me the tin can, and starts talking in Burmese. Sheepishly, I smile at her, accepting the drink and pull up my shoulders. I do not understand a word of what you’re saying! She either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care ‘cause she keeps at it.
It’s after 12. Wasn’t I supposed to be rationing at this point? I think to myself while taking a sip. The sugary drink is not something I would usually drink. However, I did not eat lunch before I got here (Clever me). So I’m welcoming any intake of fluids to keep me going until the next morning.
Various nuns around me talk at the same time over one another. Looking up at them babble like that, I zone out. Their heads merge, and only a little ray of sun shines through. Observing their behavior makes me giggle, as it reminds me of my dad’s aunt and uncle. For some reason, they also assume that people are capable of understanding them separately and simultaneously. I’m not that person!
Oeh, the nice bald nun is back! She approaches me fast paced, grabs me by the arm, and pulls me up, away from my bags. Another one joins me to my right. Worried, I look over my shoulder, but the nun pulls me back and keeps on walking with a firm tread. Well alrighty then, I guess I just have to trust. We walk along the solid grey colored path. The surrounding quarters are one story concrete buildings. Rows on end. Hardly any colors. There’s no frills, no big golden bells, no wealth being flaunted in your face. Simplistic. I like it!
The two nuns guide me inside a room with a hardwood floor, and indicate that I should sit. Soon thereafter, a young looking monk walks in. He’s quite handsome actually. Monique! Behave- he’s a monk for crying out loud!! He is though…. He smiles at me as if he knows what I’m thinking and starts asking me questions. I look back at him quizzically. The round faced, square jawed nun comes to the rescue once more and translates in her best English. “Where are you from?” Instantly, I think back to the response of most Burmese guys, when I reply “The Netherlands.” I will die laughing, if he also says he loves Van Persie! He doesn’t. Allowing me to keep a straight face.
Oeh, enough small talk apparently. The older nun pulls on my sleeve and points at that tiny area in between her nose and lips. She clearly breathes in and out to show me what I should focus on, and closes her eyes. All four of us sit there in silence for I’m not sure how long. It’s nice. Then all of a sudden the ladies jump up, grab me again and we’re outta there!
In between I have to fill out some paperwork and then it’s back to the cabin. My bags are safely placed in the corners and a thin mat, made of straw, is sprawled out on the hard wooden floor. Plus a pillow! No way! I get to use a pillow?! Several nuns are still flocking around like happy little butterflies, not sure what they’re doing really but ah well. Another nun comes in with her hands full of semi junk food. Hmmm, interesting…. First the drinks, and now the food and no one has asked me to give up my electronic devices either?! It’s alright though. I turned them off anyway and will not touch them. I want the full experience. Two seconds later, I cheat on myself by taking a bite of one of the cookies. I’m just really, really hungry….tomorrow I’ll suffer, I promise.
*****Click here to read more about my moment of fame as a nun******