A Day in the Life of a Buddhist Immersion Volunteer

My life at the Wat has become a day-to-day routine. I wake up around 5:30-6:00am and by 6:30-7:00am, I walk to the shelter of my host family where I eat breakfast, watch the dogs and the kids play around the shelter.

The Nuns, shaved heads, wearing white, arrive first to lunch around 10:30 a.m. to chant, followed up by the Monks, who walk in single-file, wearing their orange robes. They sit higher than the Nuns and chant. Nuns serve the Monks, and it is the last meal of the day for the Monks.

Khmer monks, single-file.

They continue throughout the day with their study and routines. Before breakfast and lunch, monks can be seen walking to other neighborhoods with their bowls to receive food from the villagers, as the Monks do not purchase food; it is always given to them. It is considered an honor to be someone who offers food to the Monks on their walk.

The kitchen helpers bring bowls of food into the center room and dispense it around the tables when it’s time for the Nuns to eat. Prior to that, Nuns pick up the food and take it to the seated Monks.

After lunch there is more chanting with a leader at a microphone. Then, the monks go back to their houses.

The kitchen crew cleans up, taking the dishes in the big tubs back to the cooking area.

I read for a while in my room, or out on the veranda at a table that has been set up for me. I sit close to exotic plants of all kinds and a pool of small fish.

The pond in front of my bedroom.

I usually take a walk down a choice of two roads. One road leads to a farm and the other leads to small houses on stilts, and sit among newer houses. Large pots stand on each side of a house, catching rainwater.

I cannot possibly explain in detail the many images I see in the course of one day – but some here are some:

A woman squeezes sugar out of sugar cane to sell.

A frog sits on my front step but when I try to move him, he protests in frog noise. A nun walking by sees it and chases it away with a stick, all the time, the frog protesting loudly.

Nearly everyone owns a cell phone, which people are often seen using.

Children on tricycles play games and look at me with quizzical faces, until I smile and they smile back.

Huge white cows and their colorful cousin cows roam among the greenery and call out to one another, as they slop through the water. Other cows search for treasures among the dump.

I’m given a variety of fruits, which have been delicious, and items I have never seen before.

Teenagers walk to their jobs, carrying their boots and water bottles. They help by loading greenery on top of trucks.

After a walk I read a bit more and then I go to lunch, after which I take another walk, or talk to a Monk. I have spoken to seven different Monks, and one of them twice. They are gracious, kind, friendly, and make me feel welcome. They are also attentive to my questions and answer to the best of their English abilities. I am in admiration of their dedication to the discipline and learning.

At 5:20 p.m., I hop on a tuk tuk and head to school to teach English. The school is simply a joy. The students are lively, funny, some noisy and some shy, but all with a desire to learn English. They come to the school after they have attended a public school, so for that much schooling, I’m impressed with their tenacity to learn.

I usually have something planned that will make them think a bit, and then I offer a game or a song of some sort. Two teachers help interpret. The students all seem to have a good time. I’m hoping they are learning something from me.

I find that since they are mainly learning from non-English speaking teachers, while they learn from their textbooks, their pronunciation is not well understood. I sometimes have a difficult time understanding the teachers, myself.

Teaching here is a challenge, but has its rewards, especially when I’m greeted as I get off the tuk tuk in front of the school, with a prayer-pose and bow, and the words, “Hello Teacher.” How can you not love that?

By 7:30 p.m. I am drenched, and my clothing sticks to me, but it’s time to board the tuk tuk and head back to the Wat. Dinner awaits me and I sit and eat and then take my flashlight to head back to my room.

– Laureen D., Cambodia Buddhist Immersion Program

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