It was Lǎo Zǐ who said, I think, that one can explore the whole of the universe from the backyard of one’s house. Or it was Confucius. At least I’ve met a person in Serbia who replied exactly the same on my wanderlust babbling – and he’s following this philosophy in words and in actions.
Chinese people are slow and ceremonious. It’s no wonder to me now that the Mongols once conquered their country: imagine a gracious Chinese soldier who leans forward to pick up his beautiful sword (all in slow motion) when a swift Mongol arrow flies right into his butt.
Alright, in case you don’t know yet: I’m living in a Chinese Buddhist temple in the Philippines, in Bacolod City. Yes, we have sun and ocean here but the first I try to avoid in order not to melt, and the latter is not visible to us because we’re locked in. Strict regime colony for young enlightenment convicts.
How did I end up here and what the hell am I doing here?
You know, I always felt attracted by the word ‘free’. If something is for free – my eyes just get stuck to the screen. About a year ago I found out about this program on the Philippines, including 3 month accommodation in a Buddhist temple with all accompanying things as meditation, Chinese lessons, veggie food and buddhist philosophy – you see, all those things that people pay for separately and I got for free all in one package! I’ve never been to the Philippines before and the tickets from Istanbul were not that expensive, and I missed Asia – so I hopped on this 20hr flight to Manila.
My grandma had 3 (only) main fears as soon as my mum spilt the beans about Philippines.
1. Tsunami. All Asia and Oceania is the same for my grandma, and the tsunami will be the same.
2. Sharks. Egypt is, in fact, the same hell as Asia and Oceania.
3. That I will shave my hair and will be the only girl in a monastery full of buddhist men. Because, you know, she saw buddhist monks on TV and with their hair shaved you can’t really tell men from women, so the impression is that all buddhists are in fact – MEN! (Like dwarves!) Honestly, last year a friend of mine asked if there’s any women in Tibet because she thought that it’s kind of a monastery country for shaved buddhist men.
Ok, so now I’m sitting here online, 7 hours ahead of Greenwich, stick my chopsticks into the rice and chatter Chinese characters in my notebook. I need Chinese language for my mission to invade Tibet, learn Tibetan and work for the prosperous life of Tibetan people.
I must admit at once: the first day were no easy. And I’ve only been here a week! It all started with the heat: it suffocates me. I will tell ya about it in December 🙂 Moreover, we got this uniform for young padavans, that we must wear all the time. The uniform consists of black synthetic pants that make legs cry, orange t-shirt with a collar and6 of course, a robe! The robe has its special secret allowing you to keep an insane amount of stuff inside… the sleeves! In my sleeve I can hide: a brochure with morning chanting texts, pens, water bottle, snacks, teddybear Alberto, Chinese books and dictionaries, a change of socks, tissues etc.
The young padavan pack includes also a tai-chi fan and a fancy clasp sword. I was told recently though that I’m too sexy for martial arts. I think the teacher was going to say some other word beginning with ‘s’ (stupid, smart, scary…) but changed her mind.
The Buddhist tradition of silent meal is something that would illustrate the Russian ‘Когда я ем, я глух и нем’ (When I’m eating I’m dumb and deaf) – if it was true of course. I wonder what happens if an Italian becomes Buddhist… Anyway, there’s a special system of signs that you use at the table if you want to ask the meal service person to bring it on or if you’re willing to tell the guy/gal next to you that (s)he’s driving his chopsticks right into your eye.
We can sit hours in the library in order to practice our calligraphy and sniff the Chinese books. We can touch them as well but for me they still don’t make much sense.
We meditate in the meditation room. I mean, sleep. The first couple of days we tried to float but the scorching air is pressing our heads and glues our butts to the meditation rug. I think the weather will change – and then we’ll float! Meanwhile, we enjoy there extra minutes of sleep in cool cross-legged positions.
It is very important by the way, because we wake up at 6 am for the morning chanting at 6:20. To enter the shrine and bow to the Buddha we must stay focused (at 6am!)count the right squares on the floor (for correct movement), characters in the brochure (for chanting) and beats of the drums (to crackle your knees and fall on the bowing pouffe).
Have I told you already how I love it that in one lifetime I can actually live several different lives? No need for reincarnation!