Saturday, 29 August 2009

Buddhist monk at Wat Opot

The Wat Opot childrens community were I volunteered is part of the Buddhist pagoda and living quarters of the Buddhist monks.
Most mornings when it was still cool before seven o'clock I liked to walk around the village and often came back through the Wat and past the pagoda.
The scent of frangipangi and other trees lingered in the morning air and it was just such a great feeling being part of the surroundings and listening to the chanting of the monks.
But mostly the chanting started earlier in the morning after the sound of the gong at five o'clock.
One morning I took my sketch book along and water colour paints and decided to sit under a tree at one of the tables and do a bit of painting.
I was there for about half an hour and very quietly a monk came over and sat with me at the table.
He was around twenty years old and tried to talk to me in broken English.
Not long after a second monk walked over and decided to sit with me at the table as well and talk to me. He told me he was twenty nine years old and had been a monk since he was eighteen.
Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch a woman or look a woman straight in the eye,because in Buddhist teachings a monk should look down all the time.
A woman can't give a monk anything directly or touch a monk.
These two monks were a bit different!
They tried to practice their English and had no problem looking me directly in the eyes and asked many questions like "Are you married? What is your name? How old are you?"
I was really amused because this was an interesting conversation and both monks wanted to look at my sketches and how I was using my brushes and paints.
I don't know what they were thinking of this tall white woman sitting at their table,but they were not shy!
We parted after an hour with I see you tomorrow in the Pagoda,because the next day a group of Singaporian business people were coming to visit the community and we were going to have a meal with the monks and indeed I saw the same monk again.
This time he didn't smile or talk to me,because maybe he was on 'duty' ,but I really treasure the encounter and talk with the Wat Opot monk.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Art with the children

During my stay at Wat Opot Community one of my favourite activities was to do painting and drawing with the children and especially with the younger ones.
Hoeut Rint is the art teacher and he teaches art to the older children on Sundays and he is an amazing artist.
Some of his work is displayed in the art gallery at Wat Opot and looking at his abilities he would be a famous artist in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, but Hoeut is happy to teach and in that way help to develop the talent in the young people living at Wat Opot.
I had only a little time to work and play with the younger children and was so inspired by their joy to express themselves with pencils and paint.
One Sunday morning I was sketching the rice planters nearby and had my paints, brushes and pencils spread on the ground.
Tai Meng was sitting next to me and just observing what I was doing.
I gave her paper and a brush, but she wasn't sure what to do, so I continued my sketching.
I felt her watching me closely and then she started to draw and with every stroke her confidence
grew and her little face expressed joy. Other little ones came over and watched what we were doing and one by one joined in and suddenly there was 'my art class', sitting on the dirt road and painting and drawing with the limited art supplies I had with me.
I had many more opportunities with the children to paint and draw and wish I had more time to develop regular art activities.
Art in any form is a great way to express your feelings, sometimes even more then using words, because it comes from deep within. Not only does it give joy, but it also helps with healing. Then language doesn't need to be a barrier, because visual language says more then words.