December 24, 2016
Please read this story first, if you have not: A Dear Friend
I have returned to the nunnery of My Dear Friend, the headmaster who passed away on January 4th, 2016. I was concerned and hesitant to visit, as I did not know who the new headmaster would be and if I would be accepted by her. I knew my long relationship with My Dear Friend was very special and could not be replaced. And of course, I understood it would be very different.
Much to my surprise, the new headmaster is My Dear Friend’s elder sister, Ma Thila Wadi. She had heard all about me as her sister spoke of me often.
We had a wonderful first conversation, (through my translator) full of memories of My Dear Friend. Ma Thila Wadi expressed her happiness of my return and offered an open invitation to visit the nunnery at any time and as often I like. They were concerned that I would not return to see them after she passed away.
In the past, I would only really visit with the headmaster, and the young nuns would study or pray and shyly hide as children do so well. Almost no communication between myself and the young ones, except for innocent looks and smiles.
Something has changed in my visits to this nunnery. Having a familiar person visit from the past, I believe, has brought them some comfort after such a tragedy. They do know me very well, as a person that would visit often and spend hours talking to the headmaster. There seems to be a new sense of familiarity in my visits, as the young nuns are much more open and playful when I visit now.
Another change is I have now visited several times on my own, without a translator, which is making us all try harder to connect. Most attempt simple greetings, even trying a few english words, and they are certainly more playful and a lot less shy.
I brought them 3 framed prints of My Dear Friend to the nunnery which represent some of the fondest moments in our conversations.
I have had this idea of doing simple formal portraits of my nun friends for a while now. As the young ones are so very shy, I hesitated to even ask and really thought they would not agree.
I asked Ma Thila Wadi if her young nuns would be interested and would allow me to do portraits of them. She asked them and they all said yes and were excited to participate. We scheduled the session for that afternoon. Here are the portraits of the young nuns My Dear Friend left behind, the survivors of the accident and the new headmaster.
This morning I brought the finished, framed portraits to them, as well as some basic english books. It was an entertaining morning, sharing the portraits and attempting to teach each other simple language skills.
Next week they will have prayers and memories on the anniversary of her passing. I have been invited, fortunately I will still be here and will attend.
Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar
Images ©Albert Normandin, All rights reserved