As we were leaving the pagoda, this old woman carrying two heavy bags of food from the market was walking up a long flight of stairs. She does this every day and cooks for the entire pagoda. She has seen some rough days.
Update: When I returned to Vietnam in July I met this woman again. We chatted for a while and she told me a little about her life. She has lived in this Pagoda since she was 5. For most of her life she has been almost entirely blind. She jokingly said she resigned herself to living here. She is a very happy person, she's always joking, slapping hands with me or teasing me about my vietnamese.
She introduced me to her new apprentice, a perfectly healthy 11 year-old boy who has lived there since he was 5. He plans on living there his entire life. He loves the pagoda, he said, it makes him happy.