“Where you from?” asked a Monk. I jumped. I was attempting sneak into the Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang and avoid the entrance fee. “Um… um… Colorado. Sorry, I mean… the United States.”
“I want learn English. Can I talk with you?” My stomach was still a bit fluttery but now the butterflies were dancing with excitement. I’d heard about these “monk chats,” where visitors speak with monks to help them learn English. I’d been searching for one. I had so many questions!
“Did you choose to become a monk?” I asked.
“Yes but I not a monk. I novice. Come with me. I want to show you Buddha’s Foot.” “Buddha’s Foot” was a small cave with an imprint of a giant foot. I followed him despite having already viewed it. I didn’t want to reveal to him that I’d dodged the entrance fee. And perhaps it was meaningful to the novice. He took a seat beside the cave and gestured for me to do the same.
“I very tired. We building boats.”
“What are the boats for?” I asked. They weren’t actual boats . They were floats in the shape of boats. I’d seen monks building them all over town that day and I’d wanted to join in. I love art!
“They are rice boats. We need to finish them tomorrow.”
Ok. That didn’t exactly answer my question.,
“Are they for a parade?”
“When you leave?” Asked the novice boy.
“I think in 2 days.”
“You should leave Monday. Because Sunday there will be boats walk through city.”
So it was a parade? Was it a holiday? I struggled to communicate with the novice but to no avail.
“So what’s the difference between a monk and a novice?”
Interesting. This monk chat was more difficult then I had anticipated.
“I think you very beautiful. I would like kiss you.”
What?! But… Just earlier that day I had been talking about how difficult it must be to a monk- to be celibate. I didn’t see this coming!
“Are you allowed to kiss?” Was he even allowed to speak? What was going on?
“Yes. Are you married?”
“No. How old are people here when they get married?” I asked, diverting the subject.
“21, 22, 26, 27…”
“Oh ok, so not crazy young.”
“Are you single?”
“Yes. So are your siblings monks?”
“My siblings live in country with parents. We kiss in Buddha’s foot?”
Da fuck? Wasn’t that like sacred or something?
“No, thank you. I like to get to know people before I kiss them.”
I asked him a few more questions but he couldn’t seem to get off the subject of kissing so I told him that I was leaving.
“Can we meet tomorrow?” He asked.
“Sure.” I just wanted to get away. He was walking closely behind me and I thought that if I agreed, he might stop.
“I friend you Facebook,” he said whipping out his iPhone 6s. His phone was nicer than mine!
“If you want to sneak into the temple in Luang Prabang you can get a nice view of the sunset. Just walk around to the side of the market that stays open late and night and walk through the Jingland hotel