My life in the monastery
I have been living in Myanmar for more than 2 months, where I work as a volunteer English teacher. I am not a native speaker and I have never studied English teaching. I’m just a little extraordinary boy from Slovakia who decided to step out of his comfort zone and do something for himself and for others.
I work at the Phayathaung Monastery in Shanstate in the Inle area of Phayataung village. I am living directly in this monastery. This monastery is mainly used as a boarding school. I am sleeping on the ground floor of the library in a small room with dimensions of about 2.5×2 meters . The only equipment I got in the room is a mattress, blanket and mosquito net. Plus, as a pet they have packed me with bugs :D. The room is small and dark, but at least I have a little privacy in it, which is rare in this monastery.
As I wrote in the previous article, there are 1,300 people living in the monastery, most of them students. I teach 2 groups of students in the monastery . The first group are teenagers who have come to an intensive English course. These are students who have already finished highschool and are waiting to be admitted to universities and to increase their chances come here to improve their english. Their average age is 18 years. They are students from Shanstate and most of them come from nearby villages. The second group of students are 9th grade students attending government school. These students around 15 years old. With the first group I have 3 hours and 15 minutes a day with the second group only 45 minutes a day. About what I will write at another time.
My ordinary day at the monastery starts at 4:20 am when I get up. And I’m still a sleeper, most people get up in the monastery before 4:00, because meditation is starting at 4:00. Morning prayers start at 4:30 am After morning meditation, I spend a few minutes reading my books. Around 5:30 am I start with the morning exercise as I call myself movement enthusiast :D. I practice right in front of the library where I hung my gymnastic circles under the roof. Of course I exercise only with my own body weight… where I could get some dumbbells here.
Exercise is followed by a shower by bucket. Imagine this as follows. You will come to the open air showers right next to the toilets where there are only water taps, fill the bucket with water and pour it on yourself. Only cold water flows here. But be careful not to be naked while showering. Guys must have longyi or shorts (underwear is also not allowed) and girls must have longyi as a dress. Btw. the showers also serve as laundry and your washing machine is your bucket. European toilets are the ultimate luxury. Everywhere there are only holes in the ground and instead of toilet paper have a ubiquitous bucket. I will never get used to this kind of toilet as a comfortable European. Throughout the monastery they have only 1 normal shower and 2 normal ceramic toilets at the clinic. Once a week I get used to a normal shower and poop I go only to the clinic.
Breakfast is served at 7:00. Breakfast is usually the most varied food because monks are returning from villages with bowls full of food they received from villagers as a donation. We, as volunteers, eat what is left after the monks (there is always a lot of it and always left a lot of food even after us). Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served,let’s say, in the form of a buffet.And for every meal there is rice, a lot of rice 😀
At 7:30 I am starting my class. I have these morning hours with the second group in the room I call ‘the tv room’ because there is a big 60 inch TV that someone donated the monastery.
Between 8:15 and 9:00 is the time when I struggle with the printer and try to print the worksheets and reading materials I have prepared for students. Sometimes this match ends with my loss and I have to improvise in class.
From 9:00 to 11:15 I have classes with the first group. The classroom is constantly changing, with spaces such as pagoda, dining area open classroom, library and stage. This group is our priority. I teach a group of students at lower intermediate level. My main goal is to teach them not to be afraid to communicate and to give them a different view of the world and life. And teach them to use their brain.
At 12:00 is lunch. For lunch it is usually something form breakfast. That’s mean rich buffet. After lunch I usually take a 20-minute power nap.
From 14:00 to 15:00 I have the last hour with the second group. This is the end of my teaching. But it doesn’t end my work.
After 3:00 pm I usually spend 1 to 2 hours preparing for further lessons. Subsequently, I practice to train young monk(eys). After the exercise, I take a good dose of stretching and a bucket shower. During time witch rests me before dinner I try to write on a blog or read books.
At 19:00 we have dinner, which is usually what’s left over from the whole day. After dinner we usually have a meeting where we talk about what and how what are the next plans, where the problems are and how to solve them.
Finally, in the evening I close myself into my small room and enjoy a moment of privacy and peace. There is still something going on in the monastery, and since I am a stranger, I attract a lot of attention. Students always want to ask me something. The most common question is how I am today and whether I have eaten. Monks and students in the monastery do not know English very well and therefore they cannot answer many questions and often do not understand my answers. In the evening in the room on the ground under the mosquito net I use to watch a few videos on youtube, check social networks and then going to sleep. I go to bed around 21:30. After 21:30 nothing is happening in the monastery anymore and it is calm.
On weekends at least one day we go on a trip and every third weekend we also take our university students. The second weekend day I usually spend the mornings at a nearby hotel where I get used to sit down for coffee and writing blogs, listening to music. This hotel is as my escape from the busy life in the monastery. There is peace and wonderful views on the mountains. As a bonus, there are beautiful toilets. Afternoon I use to play volleyball. Although the rules of volleyball are different here than in Europe, I do not agree with them very much and also don’t understand them but I have adapted. On weekends, I also often help in the monastery, whether I go to the farm to collect vegetables or help to chop some veggies in the kitchen or assist in building a new dormitory for students.
I must add that every day I experience new adventures,because the plans change here quickly as the weather (it’s the rainy season :D).