Thursday, October 13, 2016

"You Are My Sunshine" in Bristow, Va.

It wasn’t until I sat around the table with the elder sisters while they sang “You Are My Sunshine” that I realized I was homesick. Granted, the tears were tears of joy, but in that moment I knew that I did miss home. I missed my mom and the way that she used to sing this song to me when I was young. As I began to cry, I was quickly consoled by all the sisters; many left what they were doing to come hug me or bring me a tissue. However, I wasn’t crying because I wanted to go home or that I was sad. I was crying because I was happy. I was so over taken by joy that this place and these sisters could replicate such a fond memory of my mom. In just a short month, these sisters here, in this community, have become family to me.  

Just like any family, each individual here has their own unique personality, idiosyncrasies and habits. They have their own ways of doing things and sometimes that might just make you a little crazy! It’s like living in a college dorm again. Only this time, I am coming into someone else’s home and there is no room for compromise: habits are already formed, processes established and ways of doing something are already known.

For a while, I simply observed the sisters and how they did things. I watched as they talked to others, the habits that they have, how they wash dishes and tried to fall into place as best as I could. I didn’t exactly expect to be given a handbook on how to best fit into the monastic lifestyle, but a little more guidance might have been helpful! (Maybe someone would like to write a book about this: The Unspoken Rules of Monastic Life in Bristow, Va.!) However, the sisters have been more than kind when filling me in on how things are done. And if I think that the request is a little bit ridiculous, I have learned that the best answer is always “Yes, sister.” with a smile and nod.

Beyond the typical adjustment period and bouts of homesickness, the monastery has been great and many new things have transpired since I last posted a blog here. I’m no longer just site managing for classes at Beacon or facilitating technology in various classrooms, but I have my very own class! I’m teaching grammar to seven adult students who are learning to better their English. I couldn’t be more excited or nervous. The students are incredible and advanced in their ability to read, write and understand English. Their enthusiasm and passion to continue learning amazes me every time we have class. They ask questions and crave knowledge. I never knew teaching would be so fulfilling for me, but I leave class after session feeling accomplished and proud--proud of my students, their desire to learn and their interest in everything! I’m only on my fifth day of teaching, but I’ll keep you posted on how the classroom experience continues to go.

I have also gotten to explore the area around the monastery. A few weeks back, Mo and I went rock climbing at an indoor facility and did some exploring around Virginia. On Monday, we returned from our weekend excursion to Bethany Beach, Del., where we spent the weekend at a beach house with a few of the sisters. It was so beautiful and gave me just the piece of home that I was craving.

Blessings and love to all,

Bethany Purkapile

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