Monday and Tuesday this week we taught at Rongkileek school, ages 6-15. It is summer time here, so the kids are in school camps. The children are absolutely adorable. They’re full of spunk, extremely creative and enthusiastic. There are a few older boys who want to listen to music and talk on cell phones, but for the most part they’re extremely attentive.
Their levels of English range widely. Some understand a lot and some, only a few words. Everyone, of course, walks away with favorites, either the kids that are so cute you want to take them home or the older kids who you really jive with. For me, a 6th grader, Tong, was my absolute fave. You could tell he is one of the cool kids. He was a huge help and very smart. Plus, he told me I was beautiful, which doesn’t hurt, haha.
Tuesday night, the girls (Emma, Cyra, Meena, Kara, Marisha) and I went to a temple to learn about meditation. They have a thing here called “monk talks”, which is literally just time to sit down and talk to a monk. We arrived around 7 to a beautiful temple, sparkling with red and gold. It looked especially cool against the black night. We met Tam, a 32 year old monk from Southern Vietnam who joined the temple when he was 16. Though he was somwhat difficult to understand, we managed to have very interesting conversation. Some of the more interesting things we touched on were whether or not the buddah is now alive and who is he. His response was “of course Buddah is alive. It’s like your President. Have you seen your President? No, but you have seen pictures. You know he exists.” Also discussing whether or not monks look down on the men who do not chose to become monks, he said no. He explained that in Buddhism, they know that you cannot control the human mind 100%, at least for most people, and every day is a new day. You cannot know what you will want tomorrow. So today, a man may not want to be a monk, but maybe tomorrow he will, and tomorrow perhaps a monk will not want to be a monk. It’s a very interesting way of looking at time.
Then, after our short meeting, we went into the temple to practice meditation. We did 5 minutes standing and about 15-20 sitting. There were several other travelers there. It was a group of 20 or so, and we all sat together in silence, attempting to concentrate on our breath and block out everything else. It was quite a challenge. I could hear the monks outside working on metal-works, banging away, and the cars outside the temple walls and I found my mind drifting to what I had to do when I got home or that my back was starting to hurt. afterwards Tam explained that part of meditation is pain and overcoming the pain, ignoring it. It is the difference between hearing the cars and involving the cars or feeling the pain and involving the pain. It was really cool. Really, really cool.