I was the only volunteer at the monastery for the week (though apparently there had been another American volunteer weeks before who insisted on doing nothing but scything the grass). But a group of Romanian students, most in their early 20s, was also there for a week-long workshop of sorts.
The weekend was a sometimes confusing mixture of English, French and my own attempts at Romanian. Alina, the niece of the Prior, was a French teacher and she acted as my translator in the kitchen, but most of the students spoke impeccable English and were very patient in teaching me Romanian grammar.
On the Sunday before Saint Mary’s Day, I joined them on “field trip” to a couple local monasteries. Thirteen of us crammed into two tiny cars — five students were (literally) piled into the back for a roller coaster ride through local villages.
I sat in the front with the priest, who zipped and dodged past horse carts and fedora-wearing old men on bicycles. “How old are you?” he asked me. I told him. “And yet you are not married?” I told him it wasn’t really necessary for me at this point, and he asked me about my salary in America (this was actually a very common question for me; it wasn’t rude), comparing it to the $150 most people he knew took home in a month.
South China – Painting
He told me about local hero and legend Ștefan the Great, who built a monastery for every battle he won. The monasteries of Bucovina in Moldavia are well-known and oft-visited, especially those that still have their exquisite painted exteriors.
I walked around and took photos while the students prayed and took their own photos, but we all spent a lot of time sitting by the rose bushes eating Romanian pretzels.
Thurston Moore – Benediction