I called my old man last night and he happened to be doing some work at the temple he helped built when I was five. He handed the phone over to chi My Chau, the youngest monk who treated me like her little brother when I lived in the temple. We chatted and she brought back some of the fondest memories of my life. I ran from the school back to the temple without my books and bag because I was afraid of getting flu shot. She remembered the times she walked me to school and picked me up at the end of the day. She reminded me our favorite dish: “gasoline” fried rice. I once asked Su Co (the second highest monk) how she made such delicious fried rice and she told me she used gasoline. The joke stuck.
One of the biggest reasons I loved to stay at the temple was chi My Chau. We played together and she made me all kind of fun toys like kites, coconut-leaf animals, paper airplane and plastic lanterns. We lived a simple life. We woke up in the morning. We prayed with Su Co and Su Ba (the highest monk). We had meatless breakfast and I headed to school. After school we had lunch, we prayed and then I got to take a nap. After that I got up, played and watered the flowers. We had some time to study before dinner was served.
Chi My Chau, who is at least five years older than me, is one of the sweetest ladies I have met in my life. I don’t know exactly how she ended up at the temple and I don’t know much about her background. Unlike me she was either born to be a monk or she didn’t have a choice. She was sent to the temple and that is how she lives for the rest of her life. She got to go to school, but never got to experience the life outside the temple. Sometimes I think about her and keep wonder how she does it.
I still recall my last day at the temple. Chi My Chau was sad and mad at me for leaving. I could see the disappointment written all over her face. She seemed lonely. Until this day, I could never forget that expression. From that moment on, my life had changed forever.
I went back home and started first grade. At the time, I was obsessed with video games (Contra, Natra and Mario Brothers), billiards and Chinese TV series (Natra, Te Thien, Vo Tat Thien). I even stole money from my mom to feed my addiction. I can’t even imagine how messed up my life would have been if I didn’t come to America.
Migrated to the States was another life-changing experience for me. I was lonely and felt as if I was deaf and muted. I couldn’t make any friends and I couldn’t hang out with American kids. I got picked on and laughed at. At that point, I really missed the time I was living in the temple. I loved the calmness atmosphere and the times I spent with chi My Chau. I had thought of going back, but it was impossible at that time and my mind was already corrupted. There is no turning back, but I still hope one day I could go back to the temple and relive some of that peaceful experience.