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A story of monks and cougars

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It had already been a strange morning. My passport was still missing (see: https://gijsbos.com/bad-news-at-a-bad-moment ). I was at Lak Lake and had some time to kill while waiting/praying for it to arrive. I saw many boats on the lake and decided to rent one. As usual I didn’t want to take a tour and got a boat on my own. It was a freaking disaster. I thought that during my year in Oxford I had amassed some punting skills, but the opposite proved to be the case. I got stuck in somebody’s fishing nets, gave up on the poling and used the pole as a paddle. In the end, the owner, hugely upset, pulled me off the water as I had gone for a nap on the boat in the middle of the lake. Embarrassed, I left the village.

I was driving the motorbike along some paddy fields when I saw a little pagoda on a small hill. I decided to walk up there and was greeted by an elderly lady. She showed me around as an important looking monk was talking with a couple. Later we were joined by a younger monk. None of us spoke a word of each other’s language and still we had a great time. After an hour I hardly dares to look anywhere as everywhere I laid my eyes on was immediately offered to me.

I had to leave for a couple of hours to solve the passport issue and when I returned the pagoda was completely deserted. Except for one young Vietnamese girl who was chanting in the pagoda and regularly hitted a massive bell like there was no tomorrow (ear damage guaranteed). When the other monks returned and we had finished a delicious dinner, they indicated that I should wash my face. When I returned a group of about 30 elderly people had gathered, all dressed in grey monk-like-habit clothes. They were delighted to see me. I got a habit dress as well (fortunately no pictures) and we all went for chanting in the pagoda. Obviously I didn’t know any of the lyrics and the book I was given didn’t help much either. My contribution there was limited to reducing the average age by 4 years and increasing the average hight by 4 centimeter. When the cross-legged sitting had been giving me cramps for longer than I wish to remember, the impressive ceremony came to close.

At least, that’s what I thought. The ceremony was over, but the spectacle for the elderly people had just begun. I was seated at a long table, given some fresh fruit and the second ceremony had could begun. Every movement, part of my body or uttering from my mouth was discussed at length in Vietnamese by the whole group of oldtimers. Especially my nose, received the warm attention of everybody. After a marriage proposal (at least that’s how I interpreted them) or two by ladies twice my age, the pleasant torture came to an end. 

Even the early hour (20.30) and the cold floor as a bed couldn’t prevent me from falling asleep quickly and happily. The End.


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