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Daniel's China Adventure

Day in the life of a monk?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I guess you could say today's hours were used to the fullest. We woke up at four thirty in the morning to pray with the shaolin monks. It was very hard on the legs to stan for a long period of time, but once we were finished, it was like no other feeling in the world. The monks sang and prayed in an ancient language called sanskrit. No one understood what they were saying, but the music that they made was very peaceful. The singer had a unique voice that I have never heard before. What amazed me about these monk rituals is that they do this every day of their lives. What astounded me even more was that there were boys in the temple reading and trying to learn this ancient language. They had the drive to do this every day and maintain this urge to be peaceful on this earth. I look up to these boys for their determination in their faith. As we closed the ceremony, a great feeling of peace and harmony overwhelmed me. I thought about it and I wonder how these monks feel doing it every single morning. Their bodies must be pure because after one hour of this monk ritual I felt very calm.

The next thing with the monks was breakfeast in the dining hall. This was no ordinary orange chicken amd sprite. Monks can not eat meat so it was a vegetarian breakfeast. The food was surprisingly good and my favorite was the unique drink they gave us. A handful of sugar was poured into a bowl and then they poured soy milk on top of it. It was a sweet warm fulfilling beverage that I really enjoyed. It was much like a warm sweet milkshake. After the breakfeast, we helped sweep the courtyard. We got brooms and cleaned the floor. I thought this was a nice gesture that showed respect on our behalf. It was such an honor to be in that room with the monks and the memory will stay with me forever. The praising of the buddha figure made me think a lot about religion. If you think about it, we are all really connected through our faith. No matter what religion we believe in, there is some sort of god figure we look up to that inspires us to do good in the world. That is of course except for athiests. But it really made me think of the interconnectedness between monks and people half way around the world. Of course there are very big differences, but that is imminent. The important thing is that in some way we have things in common.

Our next event on the agenda was a much appreciated hour of rest at the hotel. It was a perfect time for a nap. Following out brief nap, we were off to kung fu school once again. We practiced our routine that we will be performing in front of hundreds of students tomorrow. With a little more practice, we will be perfect. After practice, we got the deadly weapons out. The instructors brought the swords and sticks. We were broken up into two groups and I ended up in the swords group. The art of kung fu is intricate enough without weapons, but when you add swords into the picture, it gets pretty hectic. At first, I couldn't get the motion of what my instructor was doing but as the lesson went on, I got the hang of it. It amazed me how good the instructors were at all the different weapons.. Our group is really bonding with ther instructors. We were informed that they will join us for dinner our last night in Shaolin. That really pleased us.

Once we were done we went to lunch and rested our quads. The food at lunch was actually better than most meals. We had a lot of meat that was spicy. After lunch, we went back to the hotel again for some rest. I had another enjoyable nap. Its amazibg how much a little power nap can contribute to your energy level. Once the nap was over, we again went back to the little dragon kung fu school. We practiced our routine even more for the upcoming performance.

Can you say best shopportunity ever? After our last practice session of the day, we had one more chance to go shopping. As we saw the students at the kung fu school, I admired their shoes. We all bought the uniforms but we never had a chance to get the shoes. When we got off the bus I saw them in the window and flipped out. I went straight into the store and asked how much they were. They were actually really expensive........NOT. They were four dollars for one pair of shoes! I bought three pairs on the spot! It was the sprinkle on the cake. The cake was far more spiritual than the sprinkles. It was just a nice topping off of the day.

Dinner was another cultural experience that enlightens my knowledge of China. Conversations about schools, tradition, morals, ethics and symbolism are so fascinating. I would really like to keep in touch with the tour guides in case I return to this amazing country. I am so honored to be on this trip and I have learned so much. I'm looking forward to another experience with the monks tomorrow and I will be extremely devastated when I leave.

Sai jain

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Changing Connections said...

Your opening observations impress me with your ability to synthesize the heart of the monks' worship: to maintain peace, harmony, and a spirit of calm. The duality you mention in earlier posts connecting the metaphysical to the physical you clearly recognize in the monks' morning ritual. Peace, harmony, and calm: will you be able to take what you have learned on this trip and apply some of your philosophical understanding to your life? Of all the bloggers, you most of all seem to have absorbed the spirit, the essence of Chinese culture.

When I look for ways to teach my students about global citizenship, I will turn to your posts for sharing. You bring a unique ability to synthesize, to extract the core essence, the interconnectedness of culture through a religious belief that promotes the goodness of mankind. You also have a sense of returning value through respect, a simple sweeping becomes a massive gesture of honor.

I am very interested in how the bonding process occurs; is it practice, respect, repetition, trust in using weapons, or (fill in the blank). I think in some ways it will be difficult to leave your host culture behind, physically.

You can definitely say the best shopportunity ever. Love that coinage. Nice analogies.

Consider returning. Possibilities abound. Get in touch with China tourism; consider study abroad. Join DEN as soon as you graduate. I would love to see a junior DEN for students--have been hoping for that for years. Your group of students could just lead that way. You certainly are fine ambassadors for America, for Discovery, for your family, friends, and school.

I hope that you continue to reflect after China, continue to blog, which is a thinking aloud, a conversation with self and others.

RJ Stangherlin
PA DEN LC Blog Coordinator

Karen Wells said...

Real learning and maturity occurs when a person can recognize the similiarities they share with others. Good job on accomplishing that. I stand in awe of your ability to communicate so well with your in-country guides. I see travel opportunities in your future. Karen Wells DSA South Africa

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 15 days
When August 4th - 18th, 2009
Focus History/Culture
Martial Arts
Modern/Ancient Architecture