If there is something that typifies Burma it is the commonplace, everyday siting of maroon-robed monks. When you first arrive it seems like a novelty – “hey look there’s some monks walking down the street, hey look there’s some monks catching the bus”. But after probably just 24 hours you realise that monks are everywhere.
There are monks on bikes, monks in teahouses, monk smoking cheroots, monks with tattoos, monks with mobile phones. Monks doing all sorts of “un-monkish” things.
Not many people speak English in Burma but quite often a monk will surprise us with his conversational skills. One time when visiting a tiny two-monk monastery in a village near Inle Lake, the head monk said a few words in Spanish and talked to Roberto about the miners in Chile before requesting for a photo to be taken of them both.
But not all monks are sweet old men. At another monastery – the Jumping Cat Monastery (now that’s a whole other story) a young monk fired questions at us like an interrogator. He then showed me a sentence he had written in his book he wanted to know the meaning of. The sentence was… “he still haunts me.” I did my best to explain. He kept saying “haunt, haunt” over and over in a very peculiar way. Apparently he got the line from a DVD he had been watching. We made a polite but fast exit.
Yes there are many monks in Burma – of all types.