Shaolin Temple — 3 November 2012 — Yesterday when I got back to my hostel, a young monk came over and gave me a pair of Kung Fu pants. News travels fast in a small village and he had heard that the American staying there (actually, I was the only guest for all but one night of my entire stay) had been taken on by a Kung Fu master, and needed monk clothes.
Then he took me to a village store where I bought a pair of Kung Fu shoes. At another store, I got a pair of Kung Fu socks, just like the ones in the movies!
How to wear Kung Fu pants:
1. Fold them like origami over your calves.
2. Put an elastic band around your leg to hold the fold in place.
3. Pull on your Kung Fu socks.
4. Put on your Kung Fu shoes.
This isn’t the best view of my new attire, but it’s the best I could do (I had on my winter coat and scarf):Here’s a better view of the outfit on some of the boys in the courtyard today:Yeah, I kinda looked like that 🙂 — except without the sword.
My shifu was so impressed that the first thing he did this morning was throw me on a mat and step all over my back and legs. I screamed in pain. Tourists gasped in horror.
But when I got up, I was all better.
It was a Shaolin massage obviously, and it loosened me up for another day of Kung Fu.
But I don’t want to talk about Kung Fu today. It’s too much pain and suffering. And I’m not good at pain and suffering. But I am good at eating, so I shall like to tell you about a wonderful experience I had this morning having lunch with all the monks.
At 11 o’clock sharp, I was given a bowl and a pair of chopsticks and invited by my shifu to follow him out the door and across the temple grounds. He was in quite a hurry, his gray robes flying behind him. I trotted along as best as I could on my new (and wobbly tired) Kung Fu legs. Many other monks were also hurrying in the same direction with their bowls and chopsticks in hand, and robes flapping against the cold air. We all ended up here:It’s the monks’ dining hall. I had missed it completely as a tourist — it’s only open to the monks — and only one skinny door at that! Imagine a bunch of hungry Kung Fu dudes (and dudette) trying to get in all at once!
Here’s another view of it: Inside, long wooden tables and wooden benches are arranged so that you face the center of the building where a small statue of a smiling Buddha sits among candles. The monks sang before their meal and my shifu led a ritual that looked like the offering of the first noodle to the Buddha. The hot mantou (bread) basket passed around first. Then the youngest boys came out carrying heavy metal buckets of food which they ladled into the bowls of the older boys who were seated at the tables. I was seated, so I guess that made me an older … something. I took rice, a cauliflower mixture (delicious!) and a scoop of green stuff which I mistook for okra. Everyone ate in silence and so did I — until I hungrily stuffed my mouth full of the green okra and my head exploded — aaaaaaack! — hak! hak! — they were extremely hot chile peppers! Green juice shot out of my nose. Tears gushed down my face. I quickly stuffed my face with mantou to ease the pain and to keep myself from sobbing out loud.
When you eat with monks, there’s no time to choke or cry. You have to eat fast or there’ll be nothing left when you go for seconds. My shifu had instructed me to “get up and help yourself to more,” and “eat until you are full” — but all I managed for seconds was a bowl of red bean zhou. Everything else was gone.
Rules for Eating with the Monks
1. Hurry to the dining hall.
2. Eat fast.
3. Eat faster.
4. Just eat.