How it all started for us

November 2017 … we are cycling through Myanmar and we meet with many beautyful and especially nice people.

We get to Sakar Lake, about 80 km’s south of the very busy tourist-town of Naungshwe on Inle Lake. On a small peninsula at the southern end of Sakar Lake we find a small village with a Buddhist Monastery. In the Phaya Taung Monastery live 140 monks who take care of 1,100 orpanhed children and those of poor or single parents, aged 4 – 17. These children find a home here and also get their education. We are staying nearby and are shown the surrondings, get a tour of the monastery and the school, the whole ‘village’ of the children. We are very impressed.

Imagine … a temple/pagoda in the middle. Early in the morning you’ll see hundreds of flip-flops outside. Their owners are inside, meditating. Silence that is tangible. Then: gym-classes. The biology- and gymnastics teacher takes the lead. There is no need to shout, everyone listens, is quiet and does the excercices for half an hour. The youngest do their utmost, just like the older children. Girls to the left, boys to the right. While a second group is meditating, the first one is having breakfast. Over 500 plates filled with rice and vegetables are eaten in silence. All you hear is spoons ticking. Relaxed silence. Rinse your plate, clean your sleeping-quarter, get your books and of to your classroom. Groups of 30 to 140 students, classical, chanting and learning by heart. Repeating to each other, outdoors as well, while walking, sitting down, in groups or chanting on your own. Only lunch breaks the schoolprogram that lasts until 10 o’clock at night. Learning, repeating, chanting. Vigour combined with joy. Weekends are for play and for watching television. Some older girls run the school’s small shop with sweets. Phongyi (the abbot) invites us to diner. Very special. A table richly filled with small local dishes. Simple, but very tasty ! He doesn’t eat, he fasts from lunch until breakfast. The physics-teacher and the owner of the small hotel that cooperates with the monastery join us. Mouths full and a lively conversation. We exchange everything about school, community-based tourism, sustainable energy and more.

Phongyi is the personification of Buddha. A tall man with a beautiful, soft radiance. Humor in his eyes and wisdom. great wisdom. He tells about the moral standards that guide his actions and about how he conveys those to everyone. Buddhism in practice, in a very natural way. Beautiful to see and to experience. We are given a tour and see the mini-factory where they purify and bottle mineral water from the hills. Every bottle sold means a meal for one of the children. We see the holy place surrounding Buddha’s Footprint and a hotspring in the middle of a ricefield. And of course the living quarters of the children. A mat and a blanket, a chest with personal belongings and clothlines with clothing. Bathing is done in the lake, girls on one side of the hill, boys on the other.

Alan en Anneke met Moe Nwe die ons rondleidde op de kostschool.

After three days we continue our cycling tour. With aching hearts we say goodbye to these beautiful new friends. And we take with us our homework. We have talked about so many things and heard so many questions, had such great brainstorms … we want to contribute to this. In a sensible way. Not ‘just like that’, donating money, but smarter than that. It is of some help we have traveled so much and even have a little experience in supporting local communities.