St. Agnes Monastery

St. Agnes Monastery
Benedictine Sisters of St. Agnes | photo found at

A few of my favorite things

[6:00 p.m.]
Maggie and I have gotten into a routine of watering our “bit of earth” every day around 6:00 p.m. It is a surreal time of the day because the liveliness that normally distinguishes Chipole during the daytime slows. I definitely enjoy walking around Chipole with all of the activity—interacting with anyone and everyone I meet—but the stillness and solitude of 6:00 p.m. are what I need to refresh my spirit. It feels almost deserted so Mag and I act like we have the whole place to ourselves. We pull up our skirts, play with the goats, and sometimes peak into the places we aren’t really supposed to be. But the biggest refresher of them all comes around 6:28 p.m. these days. From any high spot we have front row seats to the African sunset each night. Sometimes contemplative Maggie asks solid “life questions” and we watch it set while we try to untangle our thoughts. But more often we just watch it set in silence. I think it’s because it takes our breath away.

For the past three weeks St. Agnes has had a visitor, Benedict, from Dar es Salaam here helping the sisters revitalize their choir. His main focus? Drums. Throughout the day (and night actually), Benedictdrills the sisters on different beats and doesn’t rest until they are mastered. The “meeting room”, which is just across the courtyard from my bedroom, now doubles as the “music room”. So I am sitting here at my desk while listening to the newest beats which seem to be getting more and more advanced. Have I mentioned the constant singing? My room is conveniently positioned between the chapel and, thanks to Benedict’s arrival, new courtyard band. The combination of the two means there is either a constant hum in the background or a good sized concert outside my window throughout the day and night. Sometimes they are still going at 11:00 p.m. It is one of my favorite things that I now find it strange when there is NO music playing. Today Benedict has some extra time. After lunch, I am going to get my first lesson in drumming!

[Mandatory Tea Time]
Sister Thawabu is the new guesthouse keeper. As Mag and I are the only “guests” staying here now days, we get a lot of Thawabu time and have become comfortable and friendly with her. It’s the best feeling when we can let our true personalities and colors shine and is a clear indicator that we are all becoming closer in our relationships with each other. Of course, there is a flip side to this new level of comfort. Because we are not so “new” anymore, we don’t get cut as much slack. So if my feet are too dirty, Sister Jackie will scold me. If I sleep through morning prayer, Sister Lightness will make sure I am there at noon. If my nails aren’t short, Sister Diana will call me to remind me to cut them. Each is a stickler about her own thing but I appreciate that they care enough and are comfortable enough to tell me. The BEST stickler, though, is Sister Thawabu. And what bothers/worries her the most is when Mag and I skip morning or afternoon tea. She will not hear that we are not hungry, that we are too busy, that it is too hot, or that we are just not accustomed to so much tea. These are illegitimate excuses in her book and we better start thinking of new ones… maybe over a cup of tea. There have been a few times that she has sought us out half way across Chipole in order to escort us back for tea time. So Mag and I have slowly adapted to tea at 10 a.m. and tea again at 4 p.m. and will most likely be sad when we return home to find that it’s not the standard (and definitely not mandatory) to stop everything we are doing in order to enjoy a cup of tea.

[Our Students]
The semester at St. Agnes Secondary School for Girls where Mag and I do most of our work is quickly coming to a close. We have a little less than a month left before our students begin their final exams and then head home for Christmas break. So we decided to put all of our effort plus more into our classes and into the time we spend with the girls until then. Unfortunately, computer class has been on pause for the past week due to heavy rain and power supply but we have found new and fun ways to teach them when things don’t go according to plan. Last Saturday we went out with a bag full of surprises—Mary Poppins style. Mag brought Bananagrams, Memory, and a few storybooks. I brought Crazy Eights, Left Right Center, and a jump rope. It was a hit. I really enjoy being around the students whether I am teaching, playing games, or just having conversations with them. I think it makes all the difference in my experience here and I would like to think it is making a difference in their experience at school this year.

Layer by layer the best parts of Chipole are being peeled back as our time here rolls on. I have a feeling that some of the greatest parts won’t even be revealed to me until I am home—with the perspective of time and distance. But the fact that even the day to day things have become some of my favorites is really important for me to realize while I am still here.

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