Recently, I had a serious medical problem that had the potential to be extremely serious. Please don’t ask. In any case, I arranged permission to go outside and then arranged for someone to help me get to a clinic in Mandalay which had the proper technology to properly assess my problem. This article is not about going out. Instead this article is about coming back and staying in quarantine.
Because we do not have monastery-wide vaccines yet, Pa-Auk is quite strict about letting people go outside because when you come back, you will need to be on a 3 week quarantine before testing for your release. It used to be 4 weeks, but recently changed this past month. Because the number of monks on quarantine was going out of control, 15-20 monks, a new protocol was arranged for incoming monks to stay in the empty quad kutis. In this way the quarantine monks can be kept in a single area, and food can be arranged more easily. It was not easy to deliver so many meals to all of the scattered individual kutis in the monastery. Below is picture of the entire male side of Pa-Auk. Remember there is a female side too with additional quarantine people. At the very bottom of the photo are some of the quad kutis. Some got cut off from the photo including the one I am living in.
The kuti above has 4 single rooms with outdoor entrances. There is a small 4ft divider wall between each entrance (not shown). When we go outside on our entrance area to collect our food, or throw away garbage, we must wear masks to prevent spreading to others in case we are positive or they are positive. So far, nobody has been positive. They have a special testing procedure as well that they take very seriously.
Breakfast and lunch are brought to us daily. We also have 20L water jugs delivered to us as well, upon request. The first picture you see below is a typical meal packet. We always get two Styrofoam containers and some other stuff that does not fit inside. What you see is usually what we get for both breakfast and lunch. Monks do not eat dinner. The next pictures show what is in side the breakfast and lunch packets (the one with rice is lunch). Although I don’t need to eat with my bowl. I like to do so in just about any situation except when flying in a plane (and I have used my bowl in a plane too). It is a lot of food, and I end up dumping half of the breakfast away. Because we are on quarantine, there is nothing we can do about that. I hope the birds enjoy what comes their way.
The kuti is not so bad, except for the trees rubbing against the metal roof. I hope they fix that soon. I have named the sound Chubacca. Unlike my previous home, this kuti seems to be larger or at least definitely has a longer dimension for walking. This is good if you are stuck in one place for 3 weeks. I’m able to do a lot of walking meditation and I’m usually getting enough steps each day. Ironically, the day I went outside to Mandalay for a second doctor’s visit, I had less steps! There are two separate rooms for the shower and toilet. Pictures are below:
The kuti was pretty much empty so I decided to bring a desk and chair along with a small altar I made for my Buddha and Relics. I usually cover this with an old robe which makes it look nicer, but this is easier to keep clean.
Because I went outside to do another test and then went back to see the doctor one week later, my total quarantine will be 4 weeks. I hope to be let out before the next full moon of the rainy season so that I can take my 3 month residential determination with my fellow monastic brothers.
Update: During the writing of this article, I was informed that Sinopharm is now being offered to those residents who sign up. If enough people sign up, official vaccine doctors will come on site to administer the jabs. I will be remotely signing up via an authorized helper. Wikipedia and WHO seem to say good things and I think the bad Chinese vaccine reputation is confused with the other previous Chinese vaccines. In any case, this might be all we get, and I’m looking for hospital protection from acute cases more so than overall protection which is rated as 78%+ (better than Johnson and Johnson). Hopefully all will be OK and I can receive the first jab while in quarantine or get out before that happens. The Sinopharm vaccine is privately sponsored.