Story: Walking and Talking with Monks

“We are walking and talking,”he says abruptly from the crowd. A short monk, dressed in a dark red robe and carrying a wooden collection bowl. Thick tufts of grey hair grow directly from his ears.

“We are walking and talking, ” he repeats.

“OK.” I say.

So we begin to walk and talk, circling the giant golden pagoda tower, our bare feet moving over the morning marble floor. We move through crowds of people who watch us, some greeting the monk.

“My students,” he says.

He talks about UK politics, wonders about Tony Blair’s career after politics. He discusses the role of the USA in South Asian politics.

“Someone told me a story of a Scotsman who got a fly in his whiskey. He picked out the fly and continued to drink. They say the Scots are very miser,” he laughs, “is this true?” Quickly, he looks right.

“Chinese tourists” he says with a wink, rushing forward with his alms bowl for donations. The Chinese tourists give generously. He smiles at me, shutting the lid on his bowl.

He talks about his life in a monastery north of Yangon, and the bus he will take to return there later on in the day. We continue to walk around the pagoda tower.

“We find teashop, go for tea” he suggests.

A young monk is offers noodles by one of the grand entrances to the pagoda. The monk rushes forward again.

“Noodles, good with tea” he grins accepting a large spoonful of noodles into the bottom of his bowl.

We start to walk down stairs to look for the teashop. At the exit, people offer drinks to people for the festival day.

“Cold drink” he says, “very nice cold drink.” He takes a cup, swallowing it quickly.

“Teashop not this exit, back up.” he says, so we take an elevator back up to the pagoda, now hot and bright with day. We circle again looking for the teashop.

“What time is it?”

“I have a clock that talks” he says. “A talking clock.” He presses the talking clock, which says in American:

“It is eight o two o’clock.”

We circle the pagoda a few more times.

We do not find the teashop, it is already day. The monk starts walking towards the exit. “Eight o’clock. Free lunch near Phay Road in one hour for monk. Monk not eat afternoon.” He smiles, beckoning me to follow.

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