Po Htein looks ahead to his life after living as a novice monk
In Myanmar, nearly all boys from Buddhist families will become novice monks once or twice as they are growing up. This usually involves a large ceremony in their village or town, having their heads shaved, and then living in the monastery for a few days or a week, where they learn about the teachings of Buddhism. Rarely do they stick around afterward, though.
As a child, Po Htein visited the monastery near the famous Ananda Temple in Old Bagan several times. At 11 years old, he decided to move there, leaving behind his friends and family in his village more than three hours away. Now aged 17, he sometimes wonders how much longer he'll stay.
His day begins early at 4am, when he and the other monks walk around collecting offerings, known as alms, from the homes around. At 6am, they head to the village of New Bagan and continue collecting there until 10am, with a one hour break in between. Nearly four hours are spent collecting alms every morning.
However, after that’s finished, much of his day is free to do as he likes. Only from 1pm - 2pm, when an older monk teaches, and from 6pm - 7pm, when they all gather to pray and chant, is mandatory. With the early start the following morning, he's in bed by 8pm.
Despite this routine, his life is a lively one. He had two sisters at home growing up, so what he enjoys most about being here, is spending time with the other younger monks. They're like his little brothers, and he's the eldest of the bunch now.
As adulthood beckons, he says he wants to be a farmer back in his village, growing onions on the family land. Maybe he’ll decide after living here for one more year. Or maybe not.