Thursday, July 21, 2005

the pagoda

I am smiling on the inside. I just got back from hanging out at the Pagoda.
N.B. A pagoda is where monks live, as opposed to a temple, where monks don't live.
I arrived at the Pagoda at 5 to hear them chant. The room was very much like a cathedral, with a high ceiling and pillars. There was an 15 foot tall Buddha at one end, and a drum the size of a barrel at the other. The monks sat on the floor and prayed silently. I wasn't sure I was supposed to be there, but my guide assured me I could stay on the outside (there was an area in the center that was for the monks only). I could even take pictures, but I was too shy. tho' I did take a few. They sat silently all facing the image, and then at precisely 5:30, they started to chant in Balinese. They sang very low, except the boys, who sang an alto line. The monk sitting directly in front of me had a six pack of beer and the little boys sitting next to him were quite figgity. I drew the backs of their heads. Seeing how their their neck muscles married to the bottoms of their skulls and the juxtoposition of the saffron robes with the brown skin made me happy. I drew them over and over again, until they were done singing.
Aferwords, my guide showed me around, he took me to the stupas (funeral monuments), and then to his room. I took a bunch of photos, I hope they turn out. He shared a room with five other monks, they all had their own little bunk and there were saffron robes used as hammocks, blankets and rags (and as canvases). Then he showed me the painting studio, where five identical canvases, all of the Ankor Wat, were in various stages of completion. One of the monks who joined us painted one. They were tickled to learn that I was an art teacher. As we talked, about a dozen other monks joined us. When each one came, they all asked me the same question, "where are you from?" They wanted to practice english and so I was happy to oblige. Dusk was falling, and the light on their faces was so enchanting. One of them ran to his room, he had a question he told me. He came back with a worn copy of Tom Sawyer.

"What is this story about?" he asked.

How does one explain Tom Sawyer in simple, monosyllables? I tried my best, and I told him that it was written in dialect, and it might be very difficult to read. How does one explain mark twain, and the antibellum South and the Mississippi? I told them it was about mischevious boys, like themselves. They laughed while Samate lit a cigarette.

My ego was very stoked. They were hanging on my every word, wanting to know things. They were so young, most are in their early 20's. They wanted to know if I was married. They wanted to see my sketch book. I brought the one with the cafe drawings from the early 00's. They were fascinated by the drawings I did of Dax, a vietnamese model. They fought over it, and declared that the pictures were "supremely beautiful."
(oooh, watch out, head is expanding!!). They all wanted to know when I was coming back. At what time? Tomorrow?

Saturday, I'll be back on Saturday.

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.