Nepal #5: Misadventures of Simon Says

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We woke up around 5:30 this morning and it was already really loud outside because there were a ton of dogs barking in the fields outside our house, and we could also hear this kind chant or hymn being played on a speaker a while away. Sam asked what I thought it was and I said “probably a mosque” which was a very intellectual comment considering Nepal is a predominantly Hindu/Buddhist country and our house is literally surrounded by monasteries.

We got changed and brushed our teeth before heading up to Swayambhu Stupa, which is this massive famous temple a few blocks away from the monastery. When we got to the bottom of the steps of the Stupa there were sooo many monkeys lying around. They’re really cute but we avoid eye contact with them because honestly they’re a little confrontational looking. It was about 350 steps up to the Stupa, which turned out to be this kind of park on top of the hill with a ton of different monuments and decorations. The stupa was already full of people either praying, setting up their stalls for the day or doing push-ups because I guess a lot of people run up here in the mornings for exercise. Might be a tomorrow plan except we’re worried that fast movement could aggravate the monkeys. 

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At the top of the Stupa we stopped in this little shop for tea, then headed down and back home for breakfast which was mango!! Our first fiber so far this trip, bowels are thrilled. After breakfast we read for a bit and did some lesson planning now that we kind of know the level of English they’re at. We decided today we would cover parts of the body and going to the doctor. We headed over to the monastery and went to our classroom. The baby monks had SO much energy today they were literally hanging off the walls, but they calmed down a bit once we started to teach. We started by going over some basic vocab and having them write it down in their books. Its so funny to watch them work because they all try to write the words as fast as they can and as soon as they’re done they shoot up their hands and yell “MISS FEENISH”, and they all want us to go over to them individually to check their work. We taught them how to fist bump which has been an absolute hit, so now every time we go and check their work they wait for a fist bump and then start giggling. After vocab we sang Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes which also went quite well, but we ran into some trouble with our next activity, Simon Says, when I accidentally instructed a classroom of 18 baby monks to stroke their hair. My mistake was validated by the 18 confused faces looking back at me, just so unsure about how they were going to be able to complete Simon’s impossible task.

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At the end of class we took them down to the courtyard to trace each other with chalk and label the body parts they had learned. Then the gong went off signalling it was time for them to go to their evening prayer, so Sam and I said goodbye and headed home.  We couldn’t stop laughing about the Simon Says incident, but it actually got us thinking a lot where the line for cultural sensitivity is when we’re teaching. We’ve been trying to read a bit about Buddhism and the traditional Monk lifestyle to try and understand it all a bit better, but its confusing because there are so many different variations of Monk practices, and some are a lot stricter than others. For example we read online that in some monasteries, the Monks aren’t allowed to ask for anything or have any belongings other than a bowl and a razor. Our monastery seems a lot more relaxed, like all of the older monks have cell phones and one of them even asked to add us on Facebook today (no DM’s yet but we will keep you posted.) We figure that as long as the baby monks don’t seem bothered by anything we say that we’re probably fine, but we are going to try steer clear of hair-related activities from now on. 

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Once we were home we rinsed off, had dinner (Dal Bhat!) and then headed to bed early because we’re planning on getting up at 4:45 tomorrow to join the monks for their morning worship!! I’ve added some more monk shots below because we just can’t stand how cute they are.

-Sarah

Sarah Clark