In conclusion of my first week at site, my partner and host mother invited me on a Monastery tour with the local women’s group. The monasteries were beautiful and after walking around the grounds and entering the church with the reddened cheeks of a sinner, I walked over to a bench to observe and scribble my thoughts into a pink paisley notebook (thanks Hillary!).
I have never really understood religion and I suppose that’s the point. There is no reason to understand when you are to just believe. For me, that is asking a lot. I have been taught to ask for proof or evidence, to ask “why,” and so on and so forth.
The orthodox religion is no different and remains a mystery to me. The people pour money into an establishment that does what? Allows them to come pray freely? Can’t this act be done in the privacy of their own homes? I understand the draw. This place is beautiful. Overflowing with sunny yellow marigolds, perfect pink petunias, and a menagerie of annuals and perennials. The people come in droves (rutieras really) and wearing their finest. Women in headscarves, dresses or skirts and men wearing whatever they want (double standard?). Stupidly, I wore shorts today and my host mom did not think she needed to inform me of the dress code before we left the house. I even contemplated a dress but I didn’t think my longer shorts would be a problem. I ended up “borrowing” a skirt from a pile of them hanging next to a sign indicating that shorts were not allowed. There are many children working here, mostly young girls running around with buckets of produce and following the older women with brooms and dustpans. I assume that they help the nuns/monks? With a background as colorful as a rainbow (flowers, sky, clouds, forest, etc.) the people of this establishment wear black. Why?
Also there are three church shoppes on the premises, selling icons and basically the same plastic or beaded knick-knacks you might find in Mexico. Everyone is buying. They are buying the plastic beaded rosaries, the pictures of saints, the candles to light in the church (made from the bees on the premises), and may I ask, what are all of these material things supposed to do? Protect them? I bet if I checked the bottom there is most likely a gold sticker with writing in black that says: “Made in China.” Since when did religion become a business for tourism?
Everyone is also wearing flip-flops. I get it. I LOVE flip-flops, but this shoe apparel is truly awful for supporting your arches and protecting your feet. Even the children wear them.
I saw a greenhouse and a garden as well as several horses and carts. This monastery is large and seems to be self-sustaining. Interesting… I wonder what their financial books look like. I wonder who pays for all of the plants they have to cultivate every year.
While sitting, observing and writing I spotted:
A dress exactly like one my mom had in the 80’s. It was black with grey/gold/brown roses all over it. It also had a lace collar.
Louis Vuitton headscarf.
Girls in skirts shorter than my shorts. One was white and see-through, I also do not think that she was wearing any undergarments. Why were my shorts a problem again? Ah, yes. Religious tradition.
A little ginger baby with freckles. Am I in Scotland, Ireland, England? Oh no, that’s right I’m in Moldova.
Women with more facial hair than my brothers could grow in a year.
Enjoy my photos…