This Is Awkward, Lancaster

Just at Starbucks lowkey chillin’ with my friend Bob, who drives a bright blue Porsche. Jk we’re totally not friends, but is he here like every day or what? Because I’ve seriously been. BEEN HERE. At Starbucks. Every day. Because: no internet. I mean, who even lives without internet? (Apparently me, until Thursday.)

My dear readers: I’ve moved to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. If you don’t already know how I feel about this place, read my archives.

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Besides going to Starbucks every day, I’ve also gone to Walmart every day. Guys, there seriously must be some kind of convention in town because I went to Walmart and only ALL THE MENNONITES OF ALL CREATION WERE THERE. And then I realized: …oh wait, no convention… just… L a n c a s t e r.

“Mom, I can’t do this. I can’t live here.”

“Well, we’re not packing up all your stuff and taking it back home!” she huffs.

Moving has been a cheerful combination of the following:

  1. Weeklong flu-bug from hell
  2. My laptop (only my WHOLE LIFE) going kaput
  3. Finding out my bank doesn’t exist in this state
  4. Finding out all my money is frozen for several days at my new bank (welcome to Pennsylvania!)
  5. Finding out my health insurance isn’t accepted in this state
  6. Worst of all, finding out Pennsylvania libraries don’t have educator cards (Seriously? Who has only a REGULAR library card?)

A bit of an emotional rollercoaster, it’s been. Basically, my only wish is: can I eat food again? I’m feeling rapturous! (Er, I mean, ravenous.)

We here at Shastas’s Fog also like to look on the bright side:

  1. My brother-in-law’s parents and a church family DONATED the use of a nice truck and trailer to move me.
  2. While my laptop is being fixed, my sister lent me her laptop for three weeks because let’s face it: she’s pretty selfless.
  3. While moving, I found $$$ in an old Bible as I was putting it on its new shelf. (Let this be a lesson: first, you should always read books. Second, because no one else reads books, it is a safe place to stuff your cash. #threeyearslater)
  4. I now live next to a cupcake shop.
  5. Let’s have a moment of silence for #4.

More posts and updates coming this summer! Thanks for reading!

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Pardon Me, Lancaster

Have you ever wondered what happens when your most average Mennonite visits Lancaster, the hippest “Mennonite” city on the planet? THIS. A series of apologies for showing up in public. And some pretty lame Instagrams.

I offer my apologies to all the truly trendy Lancaster city-dwellers. You must know that I’m not actually trying to fit in. (I’m one beanie and one pair of ankle booties short.)

Also, I showed up in public at one of your meeting houses with, of all things, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

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In this case, I should actually apologize to Russia.
Dostoevsky: Lancaster can’t even take you seriously. In fact, Lancaster, I have a question for you:

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Anyway, City of Lancaster! I visited! Apparently, it was kind of a big deal for you.

So pardon me.
*disgruntled huff
*situates skirt

One thing: it’s really not fair dropping me off and leaving me to figure you out for myself because I can’t tell your fake “English” from your real ones. I can’t tell who’s a “J.O.” (that’s northern Indiana dialect for “Jumped Over,” meaning those Amish who have “jumped over” the fence to the other side: being non-Amish.)

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You see, Lancaster, I’m an expert at picking out the “J.O’s” in Indiana. When my family (who does not live among the Amish) comes to visit me, they are surprised when I point at modern-looking teens walking around town and point out that they’re actually Amish youths, dressed up in their rumspringa clothes. My family sees a hipster, a prep, and a jock, but I see “Sadie Miller,” “Ida Hoffstettder,” and “Ray’s Johnny.” …Also, I can pick out  Mennonite and Amish J.O.’s on social media.

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No really, I’m pretty good. In this line, you see two people: an Amish lady plus a schlepped-up high school kid. But I know for a fact: it’s mother and daughter.

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#fact
#J.O.
#rumspringa

But in Lancaster, I can’t tell! Is that tattooed barista a closet Mennonite? Is that homeless guy actually an Amish hipster? Is the immaculately tailored businessman actually a wealthy Mennonite in disguise? How does one tell? It’s very unfair not to let me in on all your secrets.

I’ll tell you, Lancaster, that I started exploring at the Main Street Exchange, that Mennonite mecca of modest clothing goods. Off of 322 in Blue Ball, PA, Main Street Exchange is every Mennonite girl’s dream. Racks and racks of gorgeous, modest skirts. A-line, denim, maxi, and pencil. Tube, pleated, and midi. It’s all there. And artfully arranged, differentiated by style, texture, and material.

And so Lancaster, to try to fit in, I Instagrammed. (Don’t laugh.)

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Next, I headed off to Rachel’s Crepery, where I’ve made pilgrimages in the past.

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I was seated next to a light-colored brick fireplace and a curiously large palm. I hugged my mug of coffee, anticipating my Greek Omelette crepe. The blue skies and sunshine streaming in the window, my crepe, and my cheerful waitress did not disappoint. (You know, some businesses know how to hire workers who are unequivocally delighted to serve everyone who enters, no matter how dour and dawdy they are. Rachel’s Crepery in Lancaster and Jeni’s Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio are two companies who do this.) My waitress smiled at me,  even though I was wearing a shirt from last season! Good job, Lancaster.

I would have photographed my crepe, but:

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Next, I scouted out a runing shoe store to look for new trainers. (NEW BALANCE FRIENDZ: HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW 1080s?!!!) The shoes are turning out to be rather elusive, however, and I didn’t even find them.) Soon, I had the abrupt realization that I was shopping for athletic wear in LANCASTER.

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I’m pretty sure no one in Lancaster even wears athletic shoes.That, for you, would be so… basic. So much for trying. (See, even when I try to be Lancaster-y, I can’t even.)

Wow. Also. Sorry, Lancaster! You guys have a LOT of rules about using credit cards! Several times people gave me the evil eye for whipping out my plastic. I’m sorry. In the rest of the world, we use credit cards for the tiniest of purchases, and no one charges our businesses exorbitant fees for processing. I mean, I can deal with your policies, but I’ll have to get used to it?

By this time, I was ready for more caffeine. Now, there were like a hundred hip coffee shops to choose from in Lancaster city.

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Obviously, I chose Prince Street Café because it’s so… central. Even though it’s kind of… basic. So I paid $3 to in Prince Street Café next to three “Chinese” men, a chemistry “student,” and a “guy” with a meticulously groomed mustache. (Not buying it. They were probably all just Amish.) I spent the rest of my afternoon in Lancaster reading Dostoevsky, but, in an attempt to fit in with the locals, I religiously kept checking Instagram. I didn’t TAKE that many Instagrams because I mean, I know that my photography isn’t that well composed, I know that it’s not white enough, and I know that you, Lancaster, would be embarrassed if I tagged you in pictures of my embarrassingly Midwestern self.

So, you’re welcome.

Soon, I left the city, heading south on 81, excited for my next stop, several states away. Later, I ended up stranded for over an hour in a traffic jam behind a car in which a man was stuck in the trunk and was trying to get out. I decided that it was highly metaphorical of my day in Lancaster city.

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Just kidding. (But thanks for reading.)
Peace, love, and authenticity to all.

Flour Town: Inquire Within

How I came to the ruler-straight, dry pavement of Flour Town
is beyond

me.

My wheels bump along the wide
patches of dry
manure clods
on Tomahawk road, a road
named by white European settlers,
a road
that takes Yutzys to buy some
Troyer’s cheese

and wide-brimmed hats.

At least I think they’re supposed to be wide-brimmed, but I’m just guessing here.

A road
that Pablo takes to get to work
at Cielito Lindo.

A road
with an unreasonably large Amish hotel
(Yes, Flour Town’s hotels go to church)

and a theater that runs poorly-researched musicals
(Hey Mel:
[and Glee, for that matter]
they don’t use musical instruments)

A road
that a Midwestern, Middle-class family of four runs on
to get physically fit.

A road
wearily driven by first shift factory workers
streaming in
in gray pick-up trucks.

A road
perused by a
curious, attentive,
young, visiting,
hard-working, judgmental,
hopeful, excited,
educated,
Mennonite,
first-year
English teacher.

Amish in the City

Well, I’ve properly welcomed myself to Nappanee. Rather, I’ve been properly welcomed by my roommate, who has graciously treated me to a driving tour of Nappanee and even introduced me the local frozen delicacy of Rocket Science Ice Cream (ice cream made using liquid nitrogen).

Here are the new digs:

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…brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “great room.”
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A little place I like to call home.
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La cocina.

 The apartment is one of the bright spots in my move to Middle-Of-Nowhere, Indiana.

Nappanee is iconic small-town America. Smiling white people serve grandpas and lil kids their soda floats. It’s real. However, the uniqueness of the town lies in its heavy Amish and Mennonite population. (Wait, I mean: … Nappanee is heavily-populated with Amish and Mennonites.)

Many locals businesses and business owners have common (and recognizably Amish) German surnames. (Interesting culture factoid: a fixation with last names is not peculiar to Amish and Mennonites. One of my classmates at OSU mentioned the importance of last names in her own Jewish community. She described how her mother is always on the lookout for young men with Jewish-sounding last names (Goldberg, Levy, Silverstein), and when she finds one, she’ll say, “Oh look! You could marry him! HE’S Jewish!”)

I’m trying to get a feel for the place. Amish grandmas in crocs and covering strings march across Main Street. Amish grandpas coast their bicycles past the hardware store. Amish teenage girls slap the reins of a rig at a railroad crossing. And Amish boys in baggy gray pants and beanies race their bikes down the sidewalk. (I saw one earlier today, and I’m like, “What a POSER.” Then I realized he was Amish, not part of some gang. LOL!)

I’m sure I’ll get used to this community, but at this point, I’m very touristy.

Today, I also got a library card and picked up some books about Miami Indians. (Apparently, they used to live here. Betchya didn’t know THAT, did ya?!)

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Much of the printed “history” about Nappanee “begins” with the Amish settling around mid-nineteenth century. However, Nappanee was obviously populated long before that era, but unfortunately, that history is not recorded in our history books. (Don’t you love how “history” doesn’t begin until white people settle in an area?) Anyway, I thought I would do the culturally appropriate thing by reading up on the Miami Indians, from whom we get all these wonderful local place names: “Nappanee,” “Wakarusa,” “Shipshewana,” and “Wanee.” I’ll let you know if I come across anything shocking in my research. (AND I’ll let you know if I meet an Indian.)

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Wait. Where is his headdress? He can’t be an Indian. He’s not wearing a headdress!

Until then, mainly… and basically… I spend my time sneaking donuts from my own pantry.

This out-of-state move is also requiring me to learn a new skill: cooking.

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Today’s crowning achievement.

This photograph, of course, doesn’t quite express the the chaos of pots boiling over, large flames, crunchy rice, and a broken jar of beans. But. I ate it. Just like I downed the “Explorer’s Temptation” sandwich at the famous local “Rise and Roll Bakery” the other day. (You can’t move to a new place and NOT try a sandwich with a name like that. It was ham and swiss on cinnamon raisin bread with raspberry jam. Believe it.)

What an adventure! And it’s only Day 2! 🙂