Monks Unchained

You know, I actually had an idea for this post. I was going to catch everyone up on a few things that happened around here, and finally get around to those introductions I promised last time. But, it turns out that my blogging is heavily influenced by what pictures I have available, in turn influenced by how much I’ve had the camera in my hands recently. I figured I had enough material to scrape something together. Something passable, or at least more passable than that monstrosity from last winter.

But fate had something else in store.  First of all, a special occasion:

IMG_5639The ceremonial offering of birthday pie. And let me tell you it was strictly ceremonial. After the picture was taken ManTrung put the pie right back down where Phap Nhiep had grabbed it from.  Man Trung, who is the one on the right by the way, turned something like 28. We celebrated in style. I got back to my room after dinner and found Phap Nhiep seated alone, surrounded by candles and contemplating the orchid on the table. Who says there’s no room for romance in the monastery?

Man Trung was rumoredly fluttering around the temple office, checking his facebook page for birthday wishes every fifteen seconds. I took a seat across from Phap Nhiep and we played the waiting game, which got boring quickly. We grabbed the camera off the shelf and tried to put together entrees for the “Looks Most Like a Monk” photo contest we’re planning to put together soon. We had a good laugh as we reviewed some of the more ridiculous shots on the camera’s screen, and then I was horrified to discover that Phap Nhiep went through and deleted the most incriminating and therefore most hilarious photos. After scouring the memory card, I was able to salvage a couple:


IMG_5632The real winner was an epic shot of Phap Nhiep gesturing to the flower, staring into the camera with a look that said, “I challenge you to contemplate the interdependent nature of this orchid,” but future generations will not be able to benefit from that image. Finally Man Trung arrived, and Phap Nhiep hit play on his iPod, which was queued up to play six variants of “Happy Birthday to You” on repeat. One switched back and forth between Vietnamese and English. One had a techno beat. All were hilarious. That soundtrack played on for the next couple hours as brothers flowed in and out of the room to pass on their birthday wishes (and occasionally cookies.) Here’s a shot of the three roommates, being awesome:

IMG_5642I look a little manic in the picture, I think, but I’m attributing it to the fact that I had to set the timer, run across the room, plop myself down, and then look natural. Otherwise I’d say we’re approaching dangerous levels of awesomeness. Oh, and to return a little bit to the photo contest: there is no photo contest, except for the one that is on constantly, all year round, beginning from the day that you become a monk as evidenced most spectacularly by Thay Phap Cau. Every autumn, every snowfall, every cluster of cherry blossoms is punctuated by a photo shoot that involves monks and nuns taking turns in full-lotus, looking peacefully into the camera.

And it’s not just beautiful natural phenomena that can provide such opportunities, as I discovered combing through the files on our camera:

Untitled-1Now, to his credit, Phap Tiep (center) actually plays the guitar. Heh. I hope the boys never find out about this post.

As you can see we’re busy little bees here in Upper Hamlet. Lots of changes taking place, if I get it together I may share a little about that. Until then take care out there.

3 thoughts on “Monks Unchained

  1. In the time since this blog post was published, I have been informed by Phap Tiep, in a conversation that definitely required an electronic dictionary, that I have committed some kind of copyright infringement. Also, Man Trung protests the claim that he can’t play guitar, and I have to admit that he does have one song and three or four chords under his belt.

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