I went up to Holy Protection with no plans. Whatever I was asked to do, I would do.
The first day I was there I mostly rested since the day before had been so long and tiring. Among other things my spiritual father took me along with one of his young granddaughters to see the baby goats. (: They were adorable. They were playing the "how many of us can we fit on top of this boulder before one of us falls off" game. We went into the church and I was blessed with two reliquary's worth of relics and holy oil and venerated the icon of the Theotokos that had renewed itself a couple years ago. We detoured through the bookstore and I was handed "Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: The Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica" and told it was my "homework". [I will say right now that it is excellent - I highly recommend it.] I spent the rest of the day reading, taking walks, eating communal meals with the other pilgrims and attending Vespers.
I attended Liturgy at 3:30 the next morning. Afterward I went back to bed for a few hours. After breakfast I was asked to help in the workshop jarring honey. I had worried a little about whether I would be fitted for tasks I was asked to do and figured out that I was able to (1) wash dishes, (2) sweep, (3) strip and make beds and (4) clean bathrooms. Fortunately, the first thing I was asked to do upon arriving at the workshop was start washing jars! The process involved washing/rinsing/oven-drying and heating the jars, heating the honey, pouring it into the jars, boiling the lids, perfectly drying them (even one drop of water will crystallize all the honey...who knew?), putting on the lids and packing the jars into labeled boxes. I worked with one nun from Greece who spoke good English, one nun from Romania who spoke good English and the nun's mother from Romania who spoke neither Greek nor English (and I speak neither Greek nor Romanian). Sign language is much more useful than you would think. So much of the time it was work that while it required attention (lest you make a mess, burn yourself, etc.) it did not require reasoning skills so you could say the Jesus prayer to yourself while working. It was very peaceful. We made about 300 jars that morning and about 350 that afternoon. I attended Vespers in the afternoon. After that I had dinner, took a walk and got ready for bed. I went to bed early just about every night and there was Liturgy almost every weekday morning at 3:30. Saturday Liturgy was at 7:30 and Sunday at 9:00 (with Matins beforehand).
The third day I was asked to help in the workshop where they work on all the baptismal favors, candles, etc. The work was again, semi-mindless - I hot-glued pink cardstock into the bottom of gift boxes. The fourth day I worked in the icon workshop where I worked on the small "favor" icons. I used a surgical blade to trim the laminate from around the icon face before it was heat-sealed. The fifth day I cut out printed labels from massive sheets for use on lotion bottles. Not having to make large decisions was wonderful. I was shown what to do and I sat down and did it until either it was done or time to stop for a meal or Vespers. I didn't work all day. There was time to take walks, I was able to talk to my spiritual father several times and I was able to speak at length with Gerontissa Olympiada. I visited the bookstore and got some things to take home to Father and the children. Plus, there were the many church services. I saw some old friends as well.
On Sunday, immediately after Liturgy a few of us drove up to Taylor, PA to venerate the two myrrh-streaming icons of the Theotokos there. The next post will be about that experience.