8am, Saturday the 23rd of November:
We got to Luang Prabang last night, managed to find a guest house and walked around. It was the perfect sunset over the Mekong. We bought a grilled chicken, had it chopped into pieces, some vegetables and sticky rice, and bought a beer from the shop. We sat down along the river and enjoyed our meal.
This morning, Ethan (Singaporean backpacker) and I left Martina in bed while she caught up on sleep (she shared the room with me last night, which meant she suffered from my waking up half a dozen times over night), and went for a walk.
It was 6am when we were on the road, but we only caught sight of the last of alms walks. We took a walk away from the old town towards where I vaguely remembered the temple where I last visited and photographed the ceremony to make a monk (and hence lost contact with him), and after turning right at roundabout, I knew I was on the right path to that temple again. And it was there, right in front of me, up ahead at the end of the straight road.
My breathing was faster as walked past the gate, and I found some monks near the small building where a senior monk was giving prayer for some local people who came with offering. I spoke to one of the young monks nearby. He looked like the young guy who I photographed in the middle of the stairs. He told me to pray to Buddha. Not quite sure how much he understood of what I’d said.
Some more old women in formal attire, about 6 of them, lined up just inside the temple’s gate and waited for the return of the monks and novices of the temple. Ethan and I stood nearby and watched them enter the temple and go into their dormitory room or the building earlier where the breakfast plates and cutlery were being prepared on the table. I did not see the guy I remembered in the picture.
I asked another young monk, also been there 4 years so the timing is about right, but he did not quite respond to my question. I need the picture.
I asked Ethan if we can come back to the guesthouse, to write up this thought before it fades, and also catch Martina for breakfast. We ended up finding a place nearby where they make the old-school filtered coffee for 5000 kip, and also had the fresh rice pancake roll (minced pork and pickled veges) and were quite satisfied.
As I was getting online and transferring files via DropBox and started writing this at the same time, the power was cut off. I just managed to transfer the photos of the guys at the temple from April 2009 (only few photos I had in Flickr) so I am ready to show the photos and talk about them later.
Martina is up and ready, and she has not eaten a thing this morning. Let’s go eat…
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
In the mid-afternoon, I split from Martina and Ethan, who went into a museum, and decided to go back to the temple. This time, I have the photos viewable in the iPhone. I walked back to the Wat Manolom. I found a group of young monks and novices. As I approached them, I pulled out my iPhone from the bag. There was a clear response of recognition when they saw the photos, especially the last image of the young novice on the stairs. Novice Tom, one of thise who came around and had the photos shown to them, knew that the young former monk Lede (pronounced like ‘lit’) lives in the near-by Nasangwi Village and studying. According to Monk Onsee and Novice Noy, my guy ‘Eva’ left the temple 2 years ago and is working now. I even heard that he now has a wife and a child, and is working as an English-speaking tour guide.
It was nice to have come this close to taking his hand for a shake.
The corridor where I shot an image of the young man as the monk for the first time. He was standing right there, assisted by two fellow boys changing from the old robe to the new orange one as a monk.
I do not know what to do next. I could try to print photos and leave them at the temple. Or, should I go there every evening and see whether he shows up? In the meantime, I make new friends… Or I could leave a contact detail. Maybe just my email address? Or should I send the photos later? With the German visitor Stephanie we sat in the back during the short evening prayer at Wat Manolom. Almost dosing off in that relaxing chorus of words and melody. Honestly, if I recorded that chanting, that is perfect lullaby to put me to sleep at night…
So the boys have left the temple. That is not unexpected. But they are still around. They still communicate with temple all the time.
As Novice Tom said at the beginning, pray to Buddha. Buddha knows what to do with the rest. We just accept life as it comes. What more can you do, really?