The Week I Lived with Nuns


My closest friends know that I love to start off a good story with the phrase, “What had happened was.” This story will be no different. You’re probably wondering what led me to live with nuns for a week.

What had happened was...

I graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC  (The Real HU) this May with a B.A. in Communications. Now, if you are a child of immigrants like myself and bold enough to choose a career path outside the allotted few deemed worthy by your family and family friends then one question you are sure to receive is, “So, what are you going to do with that?” Of course as a Communications student I was asked that question often.

I was always confident (maybe overly so given the job market) that I would graduate with some job offer or opportunity. To quote Michelle Obama, “There is no magic to achivement. It’s really about hard work, choices, and persistence.” All I had to do was follow Michelle’s formula and then I would be golden, right? Right!

I’ve been an East Coast girl my whole life. I’ve never been to anywhere in the United States outside the North, Mid-Atlantic and the South. I am happy to announce that I was offered a post-grad position with a fantastic company. But, here’s the catch: This East Coast girl has to move to the Midwest. Chicago to be exact.

The idea of packing my things and moving half-way across the country is both scary and exhilarating. If life begins outside your comfort zone then I guess I’ll really be living now.

One question I get when I tell people that I am moving to Chicago is, “Do you have family there?” No, I do not have any family or kin in Chicago. In fact, the only person my family knows in Chicago happens to be a nun. Which leads me to my story.

The week after graduation I boarded a flight to Chicago in order to go apartment hunting. As a HGTV fanatic the idea of living out some of my favorite shows like “For Rent” and “My First Place” was super exciting. And, don’t even get me started on interior decorating! But I digress...

So, there I was on a flight to Chicago to stay with our family friend who I will refer to as “The Nun.” Once I got off the plane I took a cab to The Nun’s house in the South Side of Chicago. The cab dropped me off in front of an unmarked building. As soon as I stepped out of the cab the driver sped off so fast I’m surprised I was even able to close the door. Did he know something that I didn’t? I felt like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in reverse. At first, I thought I was in the wrong neighborhood, but I looked across the street and saw a church so I knew I was in the right area.

Turns out, The Nun lives with eight other nuns (or, Sisters) in a building (not a convent, or house) across the street from their church home. That week I lived with Nine Nigerian Nuns. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up.

The Nun and the other Sisters were very nice to me during that week. They set me up with my own bedroom and bathroom and welcomed me to all the food in the kitchen. Every day The Nun cooked me more food than I could ever desire to eat. One Sister enjoyed making apple cider from scratch, so I learned how to make some too. Apple Cider is actually easy to make.

My room for the week.
My room for the week.

The Sisters were excited to have some youth in the house. I was easily the youngest person in the house by at least twenty years. They were quick to ask me to help them set up their DVD and TV Antenna. Yes, a full-on rabbit eared antenna, the epitome of technology.

Every morning The Nun woke me up at the crack of dawn to attend Morning Mass. Mass started at 7:30am. Now, let me tell you Nigerian nuns are not your usual nuns. They all go to school and/or work, plus they are quite stylish when they want to be. I attended my first Mass with one of the other Sisters. We hopped in her new Toyota Corolla, put on our sunglasses, and drove off to Mass like Real G’s.

Of course I was the youngest person at Mass each day. Monday’s sermon was especially memorable. It was all about living with purpose.

The Priest suggested everyone ask themselves the following three questions everyday:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Why are you doing it?
  3. For whom are you doing it for?

On my last night with The Nun she asked me to do her hair. Never in my life would I have imagined a nun asking me to do her hair, but it happened. Nuns keep their hair covered, so I did not know what would be under her veil once she removed it.

The Nun removed her veil and revealed a head full of the softest hair I ever felt in my whole entire life. I am not exaggerating when I say that The Nun had hair softer than the rarest chinchilla, as if God himself anointed each follicle with Moroccan argan oil before resting on the seventh day. In case you’re wondering The Nun’s hair is all natural, no chemicals at all. Too bad no one will ever get to see the fantastic twists I gave her.

When I told my mom about this she replied, “Maybe when you become a nun your hair will be that soft.” If only mom, if only.

Every sister has her own room. This was on one of the Sisters’ door.
Every sister has her own room. This was on one of the Sisters’ door.

Before I left The Nun sat me down and gave me three pieces of advice which she referred to as, “The Keys of Success.”

The Keys of Success:

  1. Rely on Yourself: Do not wait for a handout. Learn as much as you can and make things happen for yourself.
  2. Pray:  If you pray about everything you won’t worry about anything.
  3. Be Generous: Always find ways to help others. For example, it is tradition for Nigerian children to give their first paycheck or at least a portion of it to their family. It’s like saying, “Thank you for dealing with my issues."

She also insisted on baking three loaves of bread and a dozen biscuits for me to take home along with three apples and two bananas. Needless to say, my carry-on bag became heavier as if I wasn't already a card-holding member of “Overpackers Not-so Anonymous.”

The purpose of me staying with The Nuns was to go apartment hunting. I bet you’re probably interested in how that went for me. You’ll have to wait until my next post for that story.

All photos courtesy of my smartphone.