Friday, March 5, 2010

Morning alms

A few of us have given alms to the monks in our neighborhood. I enjoy it so much I go pretty much every day. The monks from 7 temples collect alms in our area between 5:30 and 6:00 AM.

There are as many as 130 monks in these 7 temples, but we usually see between 100 and 110 each day. Not all monks collect alms every day. The come in groups, by temple. For example, the monks and novices from Wat Aphay (pronounced a-pie) usually come by first, followed by the monks and novices from Wat Aham and then Wat Visoun.

The monks get up at 4:00 or 4:30 and pray before the collect alms. They eat breakfast when they get back to their temples, which can be as late as 6:30 or 7:00 AM. They walk at least a few kilometers in their bare feet. The locals who give alms get up a good 40 minutes before alms are collected to cook the sticky rice. The woman who runs the guest house where we are staying gets up between 4:30 and 4:50 everyday.

The second photo shows Emma, Zoe and I preparing to give alms. Notice that we are sitting on low stools, because women have to be lower than the monks.

The third photo shows Patrick about to give alms. Notice that he is standing. Men do not need to be lower than the monks. We are all wearing a sash over one shoulder and using silver bowls. If we were giving sticky rice, we would use the covered baskets used to hold sticky rice.

The last photo shows me about to give alms. You can see Patrick standing at the beginning of the line.

We work with many novices every day. A novice I was working with at the Mekong English Centre today mentioned that he is from Wat Visoun and sees me every morning giving alms. It was interested trying to explain that yes I did like giving alms - I like the way it binds the community together. The symbiotic relationship really appeals to me (the locals give alms for good luck and take it very seriously and the monks collect alms because that is where they get their food). My English-Lao dictionary does not have an entry for "symbiotic", but after much discussion maybe they (we had an audience) understood. They were certainly amused.