Good Morning Viet Nam

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Leaving Las Vegas

I hate good byes! Yes, I am back to reality, and in Pai, and am leaving my Las Vegas tomorrow for Laos. Parting is such sweet sorrow. But I'm getting ahead of myself, on to more pressing issues as to my last 10 days in the woods.

I couldn't have been guided to a more perfect temple for me. Wat Tam Wua is an hour north of Pai, on the way to Mae Hong Son, and is in the midst of some beautiful cliff rock mountains. The monastery has a very campy feel. It is a very small temple and there were only 20 people, if that, there, 2 monks, 1 monk in-training from LA, 7 nuns, and 4 men. There were a couple of Falang (Westerners) that stayed for a few days and then headed on. I was the last of the Mohicans to go.

On the drive up, when the cab driver warned me not to wander too far off as there are the occasional Burmese opium farmers that pass through the monastery in the evening and kill anyone who crosses their path, I began to wonder what had I gotten myself into. But after meeting Jason, the Falang monk in-training, I was instantly put at ease. When after evening chanting all 3 of the Falang headed to the kitchen and loaded our plates for a little coffee hour, I realized that this was not as intense as other temples I had been told about, nor was it as dangerous as the cab driver had warned. And when Jason started conversation about how hilarious South Park, the movie, was, especially when the viewer is stoned, I knew the no talking rule was clearly not in effect at this temple.

So as to my actual experience there, I am still processing it. No, I was not forced to meditate some insane amount of time per day. I think I averaged an intermittent 4 hours per day, on a good day. And the longest time I ever made it sitting was 1 hour, after which I was positive my legs really had fallen off. We had a pretty unstructured schedule, which required me to be even more disciplined in our meditation. There were loads of unique places to sit, my favorite being in a cave.

Back to the most pressing issue, the food. It was strictly a vegan diet and the nuns grew all of the food in their garden. I never knew homegrown veges to taste so good! But no worries, I haven't converted and as I type I am craving a fully loaded Houston's cheeseburger.

There were quite a few characters dressed in white, the most entertaining one being Jason. Talk about intense! But I guess that is a necessary thing seeing how he is taking the road less travelled. After the first day I chose to employ the no-talking rule. I wish him the best in his new life, as he is getting his robes on the 23rd and will have to make some major adjustments from there on out.

So that's my experience in a nutshell. Loads of good memories and stories, perhaps better told in person. Hope you all are well! Ciao.

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