As I explored Bagan by bike, I was going to a particular temple next to the river. On my way I saw a beautiful temple and decided to stop for a minute to see it. I didn’t go inside but the sign said it was from the year 1215. Wow.
At the entrance there were two Burmese monks. They were taking pictures and had a video camera as well. I don’t know why but it seems like the monks here all have some serious technology gear. I thought it was just the young ones, but I saw it a bit among older monks as well. I don’t know what it’s all about.
As they took pictures I patiently waited for them to finish so I could take my turn at the ideal spot to photograph the temple. Then, one of the monks called me over to get a picture together. It caught me by surprise, but it was nice. I got a picture with each monk and quickly discovered that neither one speaks English.
After the pictures, we bid each other adieu in the respectful way of clasping our hands in prayer and bowing toward each other.
I found the temple I was looking for and it was really nice. I decided to rest a bit as the sun was blaring down and I had been riding a bike all day after hardly any sleep on the bus the night before. While resting, the same monks came.
I’d say that in general, this might have motivated me to move on. We said our nice goodbye, I was done with the temple, and a subsequent interaction may be awkward.
But I didn’t move on.
I don’t know. Maybe it was my tiredness. Maybe it was because they were monks and embody calmness. Maybe I just felt that they were cool guys I wanted to spend more time with.
I don’t know.
After a little bit they saw me. It was all smiles. Once again, the monk motioned for me to come and join them. Who am I to refuse?
I sat down with them on a ledge overlooking the Irrawaddy River and we talked. When I say walk what I mean is that they knew about 50 words in English and I knew 0 words in Burmese. They told me their names, which I have since forgotten, regrettably, and that they were from Yangon.
The conversation died pretty quickly. But I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I don’t think they did either. We just kind of sat there for what must have been 20-30 minutes. At times they’d talk to each other in Burmese, but knowing I didn’t understand what they were saying one monk would always tap me or grab my arm and smile to show they hadn’t forgotten me and they appreciated my company.
In my previous life, I never would have stuck around after seeing these two monks again. I would have avoided the slightest hint of social awkwardness. I might not have even stopped to rest as time would unproductively tick away.
That’s why I share this story.
As a nomad my relationship with time and life is not the same. Viewing time as a gift instead of a finite resources has given me the opportunity to have experiences like these. I respect time, but don’t obsess over it. It has freed me up to actually live life instead of being a slave to it.
In my inward quest to be a better human being and more at peace with myself, this experience was like a mile marker showing I am on the right track. As I mentioned in Vietnam, love is the only universal language. I don’t know if I’d describe this situation as love, but in a way it was – just some human beings enjoying life together in a positive way.
I don’t know what the future holds for my life, but I do know that I won’t really feel alive if it doesn’t have moments like this.