Born in Kan Noug, a small town in the state of Mandalay, Tun Lin Aung (nicknamed Tony) moved to attend the monastic school in the city of Mandalay two years ago. He is currently a Buddhist novice and next year, on June 1st (his 20th birthday), he will reach the age where he will have to decide whether to become a monk or not.
The reason he is a novice now is that, in that way, he can attain an education and live inside the boy’s dormitory (which is reserved for novices) at the school grounds. Otherwise, his family would not be able to afford to send him to school. His mother is a teacher at a rural school in his village. His father passed away years ago during the times of military control in Myanmar, leaving behind a family of six children to be cared for and supported by the mother. Two of Tony’s younger sisters also reside in the school, while his older brother moved to Japan after finishing his education.
Tony stands out from the crowd, he is taller than the average Burmese and his face hardly goes unnoticed. His elf-like ears, almond-shaped eyes, and protruded cheekbones are hard to bypass. I cannot tell if it’s the language barrier or else, but Tony’s quirkiness is otherworldly. For example, whenever he is faced with a slight danger (i.e. a car passing by), Tony will keep a neutral face while loudly exclaiming “WAWA!”.
I first met him one night, when Mary and I were walking out of the school grounds and he approached us saying “hello”. We found it hard to converse with him in the beginning, as he only started studying English a few months ago.
The Nickname Tony: No matter how many times he repeated his name (Tun Lin Aung), we simply couldn’t pronounce it. Burmese language is very nasal and Mary and I, as native Romantic-language speakers, find it incredibly hard to imitate. Mary and I concluded that the name “Tony” was a close bet and it became his new nickname.