The woodpile at Naung Taung monastery
In March, I had the great fortune to be invited to give a technical training in Stove Building at the Naung Taung monastery, near Hopong, southern Shan State. This area is very picturesque and the local Pa'O people are a delight to work with. The Sayadaw (abbot), of the monstery is very forward thinking and he is always searching for new ways to benefit his community.
The monastery itself houses about 400 novice monks and another 500 children who have traveled from outlying areas to attend the school there. This is a heavy burden for the cooks who have to prepare the meals for such a throng! Curries are prepared in huge woks, measuring 37" across and rice is steamed in enomous trays. When the young monks are cooking, the large kitchen is completely filled with acrid smoke - a real vision from Dante's inferno! The Sayadaw asked me if I could design a better stove for the kitchen as part of our training, and I got my thinking cap on.
Our group of participants was about twenty strong - a mixture of monks, teachers in monastic schools, (both male and female), and environmental activists. Outstanding among this merry band were Ko So, Myat Toun and the irrepressible monk, U Pin Ya. We started trying to improve the fire belching stoves already in use, then we set about designing large scale Rocket stoves, based on the ubiquitous 55 gallon oil drum, to replace the old ones. Unfortunately, we were restricted to less durabable materials than we would have wished - red building bricks and galvanized sheet metal. However, the two new stoves that we built were very successful as prototypes - very economical and completely smoke free. My next project is to build more large scale stoves, but using durable materials such as stainless steel. I have since heard from Ko So that he built such a stove for his sister and she is delighted.
After 10 days of brain storming and invention, our group split up, each to return to his or her community, fired up,(pun intended), with ethusiasm to build ever cleaner burning and more efficient Rocker stoves.
Novice monks prepare rice
The existing stoves that belch fire and smoke
The irrepressible U Pin Ya cooks up a mean curry!
U Pin Ya at the center of things yet again!
U Panditta beside our homemade kiln