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Alms …

Just like every other morning I wake up 3.55 am, wash, put my clothes on and then I step outside to wait for the procession to the pagoda. Today it is really cold. I wear long sleeves, longyi and my shawl. The bell rings and precession starts moving.

Morning prayer is 30 minutes of sitting still and chanting. I still don’t know the words but I recognise the melody. Yesterday evening I decided to hum the melody. Mouth closed, sound coming out through the nose. Humming. So I do hum the melody. It is nice. I don’t think anyone would mind. After prayer I stay in the pagoda and meditate. That has become my morning ritual. I feel a bit silly for not helping out with breakfast but I would probably mostly be in their way. So I stay and meditate. When I’m done it time to go back and stand in line. Bell rings, the first in line starts moving, second follows and in a few seconds the line is in motion. Flop flops off and parked in symmetrical formation, up to the dining room, I sit by my table. The food is as always delicious. Three small bowls with different dishes, rise, tea and they treat me with additional coffee and roasted sweet bread.

Vipula, the English speaking teacher that has helped me comes and tells me that today most of the nuns are going out to collect alms. One group is staying in Sagaing and the other one is going to Mandalay. Can I go, i ask. She looks surprised. But then you will have to walk. I can walk. But they walk a long way. I can do that. Are you sure. Yes, I would really want to.

So Vipula has to talk to Grandma, there is a discussion at the grand table between the three superiors. Vipula makes me go and talk to them. Yes, I assure them I will be ok, yes I am used to walking. We worry about you. And I think, this is compassion. Finally I get the ok and I leave the room before they can change their mind. Back to my room, put the trousers on, camera, power bank, cord, I’m ready.

It is 6 am and we gather close to the gate. The nuns carry a tin jar and an umbrella. And we start moving. Worthy, with dignity, very humble. We stop, they receive alms, they start singing, we move on. 10 kilometres in 4 hours with two stops for water and rest. At 10 am we are back at the nunnery. They ask me if I want to come along this afternoon. Yes, I would but have to talk to Vipula and superior nuns.

A well needed bath and for me it is time for lunch. The nuns don’t get lunch since they have their alms. But I get to have a delicious lunch. I get the ok on going this afternoon. Vipula is arguing with me, says she worries, it is going to be hot today. Yes, but it they are ok going then I am, I say. She can’t argue with that and says she will make sure I get an umbrella. Yey, it’s my lucky day. Those umbrellas are soooo beautiful. Every time I’ve seen one I wished I could buy one. Now I get to carry one. Therefore I decide to wear a longyi. That turns out to be a sensation in the village. Everybody pointed and looked at me with a smile. A nice smile. I even received alms. And a present. One woman even told me I was very beautiful. To me it was an honour wearing the longyi and the umbrella.

Today was an amazing day. What better way to see the surroundings than walking the streets with the nuns. People took photos of me, I took photos of them and we laughed. I received tons of friendly smiles. Nuns starting to feel more comfortable with me around. Keeping close, holding my arm, giving me things to eat, making sure I have water, constantly asking me if I am ok. Are you happy they say. How can I not be when surrounded with these beautiful human beings. One said, I will miss you and your camera.

I will miss you more.