(Electricity came back on again, this is a daily occurrence anywhere in Myanmar.)
Bhikkhus line up for alms in order of seniority, that is, how long since ordination, with bhikkhus before samaneras (novices). This would generally put me way down the line. However at Pa Auk Tawya they conventionally put foreigners ahead of Burmese. They also put Mahayana monks after foreign samaneras.
The monks have a choice of where to sit for lunch. Many eat in their kutis. There is a room downstairs in Pindapata Hall reserved for foreigners where I generally ate. A spoon is the only instrument used for eating. I think most Burmese monks just eat with their fingers, as in the Buddha's time.
There are a lot of rules for monks around eating. Foods must be offered by had. Most foods must be consumed by noon the day they are offered, so cannot be saved for a snack or for the next day's meal, except to return them to a layperson. Filtered fruit juices may be offered and consumed after noon, until dawn the next day. "Tonics" (sugar/molasses, honey, butter and a couple of other things) may be consumed any time and save seven days after being offered Medicines can be kept forever.
Sitagu handles meals quite a bit differently. Here there is no formal alms round. The staff here simply places food in dishes on the table, family style), then offers the whole table to the monks, by means of members of both lay and monk groups holding the edges of the table and lifting it.
The food at Pa Auk Tawya is nutritious. It is also vegetarian; Sitagu is definitely not vegetarian. I had some difficulty with the food at Pa Auk Tawya: After I arrived I did not seem to have much appetite, which is rare for me, without feeling at all sick or feeling the food was inadequate. Then after about a week and a half I got sick (both ends) for about a day, after which my appetite returned completely. Then about a week and a half before leaving Pa Auk Tawya, I got even sicker for about two days, after which my appetite never recovered until I left Pa Auk Tawya. Go figure.
Coming Soon: Practice at Pa Auk Tawya, Wildlife of Pa Auk Tawya, Wearing the Robes.