05.10.2008 26 °C
Here I am in a Buddhist monastery teaching English to some nuns. The monastery is located in Showambhu - home of the "monkey temple". For the first week another volunteer was with me - which was wonderful. Ruth came from Australia and had been at the monastery for about 3 weeks. Before she returns home she is on a 2 week trek - Everest Base Camp - not bad for a 56 year old - I was impressed.
This past week has been very odd and a little confusing - I think I was thinking Buddhist Monastery - quiet, peaceful and a time to reflect - well that would not be it. I was thinking the nuns themselves would follow the 3 Ds - discipline, dedication and devotion - again this is not it. Everything I thought this experience would be has turned out to be the opposite.
The nuns range in age from 16 up to 30 something. You would never guess this as they act like a bunch of pre-teens - really !! Ruth and I spent time talking about this and really trying to understand why these women are here. The stories of how they ended up here are interesting - one of them ended up here because her brother told her she was to ugly to get married so she should become a nun - so she did. She really would like to become a nurse - however she has no money nor a place to live so she will stay at the nunnery. I should also say this nun likes to drink whiskey (not what I think of when I think of nuns) Several of the nuns come from Tibet - one of them walked for 4 months to escape China's control (I have gained a lot of knowledge about Tibetan people - it is very interesting) - so she is at the nunnery as it is safe and her basic needs are met. And it goes on - there are many reasons why these women are here - but as far as I can figure out none of them are here for religious reasons - very odd. They can also leave the nunnery at anytime however this would bring shame to their families.
The day starts at 4:30 a.m. with the gonging of the gong. Puja starts at 5 a.m. - if a nun does not show up she is fined 25R. Some do not show up and are fined. I should explain Puja - the meaning behind Puja is a collective bond among individuals - it brings people together as a collective as the belief is people are bond together as they belong to the same cycle of life so they have the same experiences which forms a sense of connectivity of brother/sisterhood and inspires everyone to love and respect each other - I did not get this meaning here luckily I had this def'n prior to leaving. As part of Puja they chant, sing, gong, blow trumpets, throw rice, etc. It makes a lot of noise - however the monks next door - I think there are about 150 of them - those boys make a lot of noise - and it certainly gets you up.
Puja is about an hour and a half - breakfast is at 7:00 a.m. and English class goes from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. Lunch is at 11:30 a.m. and then at 3:00 p.m. is afternoon Puja - about 2 nuns attend this session. After the hour long Puja - the nuns sit on the lawn and chat. Supper is at 7:00 p.m. and that would be the day. Some days the nuns go to Puja to private homes or other temples - they seem to go in full force - one nun told us that they get paid to attend - as well as get fed and have the opportunity to gossip with other nuns from different monasteries. If this was not odd enough - I think all the nuns have mobiles. When we asked one nun - who does she talk to - family maybe. She said no she has many monks that are friends - so she talks to them.
I should also talk about the cook - for the first few days I was here the full time cook (she is not a nun) cooked all the meals. The food is the worse however it went downhill after the cook ran away. One day the cook was gone - the story is that she ran away as she did not wish to have an arranged marriage - she wished to have a love marriage. So she married the guy that was the driver at the nunnery 3 years prior. She is a Buddhist and her husband is Hindu. So it was all very interesting. So now the nuns cook - on the first night we had white pasta in a white flour sauce (it wasn't really a sauce it just kind of stuck in globs to the pasta). So I wasn't sure what was worse - "buff" which means water buffalo or the pasta meal. I should also tell you I have become a complete vegetarian - no meat, chicken nor fish - this is good as the big festival starts and the major food for the next few weeks is "buff" and goat.
The nuns are not involved in good works - working in the community - helping the poor, etc. etc. They basiclly do nothing all day. For sure they do not clean - it is really pretty dirty here. The orphanage looks super clean compared to this place.
It is to bad Ruth and I were not together for 3 weeks as we would have gotten these nuns in shape and this place clean - but that is not to be. Anyway I have found ways to work around the many things that drive me crazy so it is all good.
I am hoping to get pictures up this week - it has been a very painfully slow process with little success. So I will sign off now and get back to my downloading.