Black Boots and Autumn's Walkway - By Anika Mikkelson

Life on a Romanian Monastery: Figuring it all Out

Note: This is Post 2 in a series. Be sure to read the introduction “Life on a Romanian Monastery: One Unforgettable Month” as well!

For several days, I kept a scratchpad journal, writing down random thoughts and happenings from the day. The first three days were filled with emotions and explorations. It was a time of adjustment, of questions and a time in which I realized this was going to be a better experience than I imagined it would be. Here’s a glimpse of those first three days:


Arrived in skinny jeans, flowered blouse and pink cardigan, wearing minimal makeup of powdered coverup, a sweep of blush and mascara. Oh, and Bath and Bodyworks’ most tasty tinted peppermint lip juice.

Was picked up at the bus stop by a woman dressed entirely in black including black head cover, and driving a silver mini van while chatting on her cell phone during our 20 minute drive through the brick and gravel roads to her home.

Stopped at a hardware store with my driver and was shocked when she paused to pet two stray dogs on the side of the road.

Took a tour of the grounds and met many other shy women, along with four previously abandoned dogs wandering and woofing around the property. One has a blue eye and a brown eye and jumps higher than my waist. Another has three legs and jumps nearly as high.

Waited for the other volunteers to arrive from their weekend away. They all went on a whirlwind tour of Romania, led by the head nun. While waiting, I unpacked my belongings into a strawboard cabinet and examined the clothes laid out. Several sweaters, long dresses and skirts, and a few men’s button ups and t-shirts make up most of the available selections. I wonder who these belong to.

Unpacked a small desk calendar I picked up in Prague and wrote down on each date where I’ve been for the past few months. Mostly, trying to keep myself from focusing on how nervous I am. Was this a good choice? It’s so dark and quiet here.

The volunteers came back, and I ate dinner with three of them in a small building from steel plates and plastic cups. Fish soup, fresh bread, fried eggs, cucumbers, honey, and a four layer blueberry cake.

Stood in darkness with my head tipped back, staring into a sea of stars more full than I’ve ever seen before.

Went to sleep at 9pm. No internet, one light for three of us. And a Pippi Longstocking figurine I found at a second hand shop in Stockholm laying beside my pillow. I felt the need for a bit of her strength.


Click on an image to scroll through the gallery:



Woke up at 8:30. Breakfast at nine.

Found out the clothes I’d been sifting through yesterday are for us to wear while we’re here.

Took to the clothing pile and dressed in a long army green skirt, black corduroys, and an orange woolen turtleneck sweater of various sizes and fits.

Wore no makeup except for clear lip moisturizer.

Did not look in a mirror. For obvious reasons (a) – I imagine I don’t look to lovely and (b) – Even if I’d wanted to look in a mirror, it would be impossible. There are no mirrors on the entire grounds.

Met Father, who’d spent the past 48 hours in bed fighting off illness.

Met Father’s mother who became a nun just last year, shortly before having a severe stroke which nearly left her paralyzed. However, today she went on not one, not two, but three walks.

Learned about the healing powers of bee products such as royal jelly, bee pollen, and bee propolis. Also, learned that a queen bee can be worth anywhere between 30 and 500 euros, depending on her success in commanding a hive during the first year of her life.

Found a snake over 3 feet long trying to squeeze between a metal cap and cement bricks into the deep dark hole of a water well. Laughed as a nun grabbed a stick and tried to persuade it to find an alternate route so we could get a better look.

Went on a walk through the forest, 40 minutes out and 40 min in. Made it back just in time for the 1pm lunch bell.

Practiced yoga in full skirt, corduroy, sweater combination with a Californian and a Japanese volunteer on the lawn, near our house (one of the structures nearer to the road than to the main buildings)

The 6pm bell rang, signaling dinnertime. Ate the same thing for lunch and dinner: pickled tomatoes, bean soup, potatoes with a homemade tomato sauce, fresh bread and honey. And grapes which tasted just like wine. For dessert, an entire package of cookies for each of us after lunch, a croissant stuffed with plum jam after dinner.

Enjoyed the croissant with turkish coffee and a two hour long conversation about babies, death, health, marriages, and everything in between. My nerves have begun to subside. The other volunteers are so friendly and the nuns are much different than I expected. Much more vivacious!

Found some internet, wrote a post and stayed up until 10:15. Time for sleep. Taking Pippi with me again.

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Woke up thinking how badly I needed to pee. The walk from our house to the toilet is a few minutes down a dark road. Not scary, but not conducive to a warm-bodied dreamer. Slipped on a skirt and sandals and flip-flopped to the main house to find a warm bathroom.

Went for a walk down the road and found a river with yellow and purple flowers blooming on its banks. Felt a bit of pride that the Minnesota Vikings had found their way to Romanian countryside.

Had muesli, warm milk, cucumbers and cheese for breakfast. After a full cup of milk I realized this was it: straight from the cow’s udders. No skim milk in these parts.

Stayed inside one of the girls’ rooms who is located closer to the monastery. She read, I redesigned my site. We were soon joined by another volunteer who made origami flowers for one of the nuns. Then another joined with her book. We sat mainly in silence enjoying each others’ company and appreciating the time we had to catch up on what we wanted to do.

Ate a lunch of soup, mashed potatoes, and a Japanese dish which one of the nuns cooked especially for the Japanese volunteer. The nun continued throughout the day to make up words in Japanese to jokingly make the volunteer feel ‘more at home.’

Peeled eggplants after lunch. Peeled eggplants after lunch. Peeled eggplants after lunch. For nearly 5 hours. Peeled eggplants.

Took a break to step into the warm kitchen and have a treat made just for us: cacao and warm milk. So delicious. I had three cups.

Chased a dog out of the kitchen.

Chased a cow out of the kitchen.

Watched as one of the nuns melted bees wax over a wood burning stove, allowing the wax to drip into a circular pan about 1/2 meter in diameter. Homemade bee’s wax candles.

Ate a dinner of soup, mashed potatoes, and the Japanese dish. Accompanied with pickled peppers, cucumbers and cabbage. Dessert was cheese and yogurt swirled with forest honey.

Packed the eggplant into double-bags to be frozen during winter. While everyone finished, I grabbed some heirloom tomatoes and a few extra eggplants, some salt and olive oil, and whipped up a salad. We each took a few bites and agreed it was going to be good for breakfast tomorrow.

One of the nuns was more convinced it was good as an after dinner snack. She still had a few hours of work ahead as there were more cows to be milked. Retired to my room while she went to milk the cows.

Realized tomorrow is a vegan day, and became very happy that I will not be eating or drinking any cow product. Cheese, yogurts, and milk is far beyond the norm for me and a day’s cleanse will be welcomed.

Said goodnight to my roommates after another yoga session, this time indoors. There are five volunteers total, three of us in a large room together with handmade beds in each corner of the room, one sitting empty. The other two volunteers stay in separate rooms near the main building. From Oregon, California, Costa Rica and Japan, it’s obvious we’re going to make a good team together.

Don’t need Pippi beside me tonight. Feeling like it’s all going to be a-ok.

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7 thoughts on “Life on a Romanian Monastery: Figuring it all Out

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