Alas, I am finally at my last post of the 5 part series =D Of all 3 sites, this was my favorite. Chùa Lá (or aka Leaf Temple) has a special place in my (our) hearts and where we spent the most time at. This post will probably be the longest..and no matter how much I write..it’ll never be able to sum up our experience =)
Entrance to Chua La
Best photo ever, and this isn’t even everyone =) (this was the day I lost my camera and all the group photos ahh..Janeemebes photos got accidentally deleted this day too. ack!)
Us with Minh, Rao, Tra, and Binh
Phu Duc, Binh, Hiem, and another boy I don’t know his name to because he was rarely in class.
Oh my goodness they’re cute!
Tâm and I
This is Tâm, one of the kids I hung around with most. On one of the last days we came, he gave me a letter and told me not to read it until I got home. When I read it, it was a suppperr polite saying how appreciative he was and how he would continue to study hard for me =)
This is Nhả; he’s one of the cutest kids alive! Although he’s really quiet he’d always play with us and have a glowing smile. When we printed photos and gave them out, unlike all the other boys who raced for them, he patiently waited. Oh, and when we sang group songs, he was jumping up and down with the happiest smile I have ever seen =]
Nhàn (on the left) was always hanging out with us and asking politely for our electronics. Tuấn (on the right) was always using my cell phone and playing games… and he actually figured out how to use it better than I ever could…
This is Tra, he’s one of the sweetest kids you’ll ever meet. Although this picture doesn’t truly express it, his smile is just as charming as his personality. He was always polite and generous to us, plus he probably doesn’t have a single mean bone in his body. One of the days we gave out a bunch of paper and colored pencils, and he drew 2 photos for me and folded me a fan and a boat =)
Little Duy is this cute guys name. He is a hard worker that tries his best and is anxious for class. It’s hard not to smile whenever I think about him and and all the questions he asked during class when he didn’t understand. Sometimes when he got tired of writing, he would even ask me to do it lol
If we’re talking about the younger ones, it’s hard to miss this boy Minh. Minh is one gentle boy with one gentle voice. He was probably one of the first boys we recognized because of how much he enjoyed taking pictures of flowers =P I won’t forget that on the last day at Chua La, Minh held my hand as we walked into the classroom.
Behind Tâm and Nhàn is Big Duy. This kid always had a big smile on his face and making people laugh. The thing I remember most about Duy was how much he liked learning songs and also changing the lyrics and singing them so that they sounded really silly.
This boy here with the “Chinese Language” book is Phúc Đúc. He was the first boy to welcome us to the temple and give us a little tour around. He shocked us by telling us he was only 16 because of how mature he acts and talks. Compared to the other boys he seems to work the hardest and always has his hands dirty. A famous line that he has been saying for years is “If you beat me, I will kill myself” – Oh Phúc Đúc, you are one silly boy =)
Meet (fat) Bình! He is one of the older kids (16) and he’s just a charming and funny guy. When I first met him I thought he was just quiet and studious because he always came to class ready and sat quietly. But on one of the last days, he and Phuc Duc, asked me to come sit with them in the shade and we chatted; that’s when I first realized how great of a guy he was and we all started talking more.
Here is (skinny) Bình and his crazy cat. He might be one of the silliest boys in the temple, and yet very brotherly with the younger monks. He was always hanging out with us and having fun =) He was only at the temple for 20 or so days when we first arrived, and yet he got along with everyone like he had been there for years.
Hiềm (on the left) was another silly boy with a handsome smile who was always making us laugh since day 1. As for Thắng, I didn’t get to talk to him as much, but he always had a big smile and joked around with us. Currently, I am e-mailing Thắng back and forth =D
Ok, those are most of the boys we hung out with regularly. This is probably overdoing it..but o well! apparently someones reading! hehe
Chùa Lá is a Buddhist temple that takes in boys who are in unfortunate situations such as orphans or those with families that are too poor to support their children. The great part about the monks situation is that they can go back and visit their families back in the countryside for a few days every now and then. Along with that, these monks are given the opportunity to go to school as well as have international volunteers such as us and dozens of others attend the temple and teach or just play with everyone =]
From the Peace House, Chua La was 2 bus rides away and the commute took around 1hour and 30minutes on 1 trip. The temple is further out from the city and surrounded by a swampy-tree area, which was dangerous for foreigners like us because we were basically live bate for the mosquitoes…Those mosquitoes ate Janeemebe and I completely alive! Even with that though, all of it was worth it just to spend time with these sweet boys.
By the 2nd day of teaching, I was determined to memorize their names since I realized that each 1 of them had a special place in my heart ( I got up to 18 names I think =D) . I’ll say it right now….the monks were all WONDERFUL and BRILLIANT students, but as for us teachers..we weren’t so good lol. I wish I could go back and have a better lesson plan, but even so, they were all so grateful to us. Each boy had a beautiful personality and everyone of them was polite and sweet to us.
We would usually arrive around 10am, eat at 11 (all vegetarian meal), and then it was nap time from 11-1pm. During that time we would just sit and hang out with the monks and get to know them better. They absolutely loved playing with our MP3 players, cameras and phone; so usually the second we arrived, they would ask for our things all politely and then we would get them back by the time we left. I could go into detail about each kid but this would take forever! The kids all had an amazing sense of humor, kind heart and were all very hard workers. Besides the time they spent with us, they were constantly busy, whether it was building another section to the temple, cleaning, praying, and what not, they were constantly busy.
Whenever we would arrive, one of the monks would see us and then their faces would glow with a big smile =) and then they’d run off and tell everyone else. Even though our days were limited, so much happened, even little crushes that the monks had! When our volunteer time was over, they kept asking if we would visit, and all we could say was maybe because we weren’t sure how busy we’d be. Since we loved it so much though, after we returned from Thailand, we went back to Chua La 2x on our own accord. Saying good bye to these boys had to be one of the toughest things I’ve done in a long time.
Here is a special treat! I recognize the voice of who is recording..but I can’t be sure.. it’s either Tuấn or Tâm though, but the star dancing is Duy =)
When I got back to the states and went through the photos, light tears went down my face. As of right now, we are working on putting a little package together to send to them. We’re each writing letters, and Jane and I are even translating ours to Vietnamese (which is taking an insane amount of time..but oddly fun =)). Once we get done with the letters, print photos and such, off the package goes! Also, we are thinking of returning to Vietnam and visiting Chua La in December. Let’s hope things go well =D
(Not all the pictures of the monks are mine. Some are Em’s, Martins, Sandy’s, or Trangs =] )