I’m familiar with the concept of (Christian) nuns and monks making things for sale: pastries, beer (isn’t that how all those Belgian beers got started?), etc. I think there’s even a place in California where you can buy artisanal items made by monks, even before ‘artisanal’ was a trendy word.
Likewise, I’d heard about some Christian sects of monks and nuns who have to maintain vows of silence.
In Quito, I’d read about a nun’s convent called Santa Catalina, where they make all sorts of things for sale: lotion, candles, shampoo, etc. AND they have to maintain seclusion and silence (apparently they’re only allowed an hour each day in which to talk . . . . or watch TV. I wonder if spending time online counts towards that hour.) Anyways, I couldn’t resist the idea of buying something from secluded nuns, AND it just so happened that I’d run out of shampoo.
So we headed into a side room of the Santa Catalina Monastery in the historical centro of Quito where there was a big list posted of the items. I got in line, with a bunch of people who seemed to be local. There was a wooden lazy susan with cubby holes that completed filled up the hole in the wall, to maintain the nuns’ privacy (It’s a bit like the plexiglass lazy susan for handing packages to the clerks in the US Post Office on Franklin between 14th and 15th Streets in downtown Oakland.)
You can’t see the nun manning the shop on the other side of the wall; so you just tell her what you want loudly past the wooden lazy susan, put your money on a shelf, and spin it. Lo and behold she places your item on a shelf and spins it back to you with the applicable change.
The shampoo came in different scents, but I didn’t recognize any of them on the list (i.e. there didn’t seem to be any fruit flavours: my Spanish vocab is still rather limited.) I simply picked the first one on the list, hoping it was the most popular (taking a cue from Darlene’s playbook, she usually likes to ask “What is the most popular flavor here?”)
Manzanilla, it turns out, smells exactly like Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. This caused a powerful trip down memory lane for me, along the lines of crayons, Play-Do and Band-Aids, which are scents I associate with my childhood. I haven’t used Johnson’s Baby Shampoo since grade school.
I have not tried washing my eyes with this nuns’ shampoo, so I cannot tell you if it causes tears or not. It was yellow, but opaque, rather than clear. Also it only came in family size (quite reasonable for $4), but it was more than I was hoping to carry around. So we’ve been using it for laundry as well. It came in a plain plastic bottle, so I have no idea exactly what ingredients go into it. Is it all industrial ingredients with unpronounceable chemical names? Were any animals harmed in the testing? Is the mazanilla harvested by the nuns under a full moon? Is it organic? Is it biodegradable? Do the nuns use it themselves? Do they have curls in their hair under their wimples? – in Thailand the nuns are clean-shaven) I have no idea.
The nuns seem to do OK without an elaborate marketing plan. So far, my hair, and our clothes seem to get clean enough with the shampoo.
The holy sisters did not make conditioner (I didn’t know what ‘rinse’ was), so I guess I’ll have to rely on the piety of the shampoo to maintain the condition of my hair as well. Or find some mayonnaise, which I understand is very nourishing for hair.