Tag Archives: USA

Mea culpa

It has come to my notice that I haven’t written on this blog for some considerable time. I haven’t even reported on our Great American Trip. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. My only excuse is that the exhausting nature of that trip, especially the two day journey home, means that I have really only just recovered over a month later.

I have so many things to say that I don’t know where to start. So let’s start with my two most memorable US moments, which are both connected with dogs.

First, while in Goshen, Indiana, I visited the largest charity shop I have ever seen, inside a Mennonite enclave. They even had a pets’ corner. While looking at this I noticed a pack with the words ‘Sanitary Pads’ on it. ‘Well’, I thought, ‘it’s an unusual product to find in a charity shop, but at least they’re not used’. Only then did I realize these were actually sanitary supplies for female dogs in heat! Apparently these are available in the UK now as well – but probably not in charity shops.

Secondly, in Elkhart (which is next door to Goshen) we went to the renowned Prairie Street Mennonite Church, until recently pastored by the son of friends of ours, and now pastored by his cousin’s husband (who used to be the director of the London Mennonite Centre – are you still with me here? it’s like this with Mennos). During the ‘sharing time’, a Mennonite speciality, a woman got up and announced that her dog had been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder, but that since going on Prozac he was much better. Only in America…

What to say about the rest of our trip? Well, destination by destination:

Chicago: very hot, very many skyscrapers, nice parks, lovely to see my former mentee and her hubby.

Goshen: very Mennonite, lovely house, lovely hosts, great dinner party at which we also saw Canadian friends who happened to be in Goshen/Elkhart at the same time as us – how’s that for synchronicity?

Elkhart: even lovelier house, more lovely hosts, great church, delightful trip to New Buffalo to walk by the lakeside (Lake Michigan, just like the sea but with no salt or tides).

Other highlights of mid-West: Das Dutchman Essenhaus where one of our friends works – biggest restaurant I’ve ever seen (and only Amish restaurant I have ever visited) ; MennoHof in Shipshewana, very interesting museum of Anabaptist history.

Akron, PA: pleasant accommodation in an Mennonite Central Committee guesthouse (where missionaries on leave live), great to catch up with v. old friends, lots of Amish experiences including dinner with an Amish family (very hot as no electricity means no aircon). Shame kid got ill so he missed Hershey Park theme park – well I got there without him and spent most of time minding a cute four year old who was a runner. It was also extremely hot, with very little shade, and hour-long queues at all the good rides, so maybe son wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway.

Biggest mistake of trip: planning sleeper train back from Pennsylvania the night before we did overnight plane from Chicago. Got very little sleep on train and none at all on flight. Hence long recovery time. In taxi from Heathrow I was so tired I couldn’t sit still but fidgeted the whole way, and went straight to bed on arriving home, which is not what you are supposed to do when flying back from the US. Will plan better next time…

Overall, a very skewed view of the US as mostly geared to places where Mennonites live. But very interesting and I loved everything except the difficulty of getting any healthy food except when eating at friends’s houses. It’s true, everything is bigger in the US… other than the house prices which are incredibly cheap. Maybe we should buy a holiday home there?

Atlantic adventure

I’ve been and gone and done it! (actually i haven’t been and gone yet, but as a result of doing it I will be and go this summer). Yes folks, I have booked three flights with a well known carrier to the good old U S of A, and am in process of working out a complicated itinerary which enables me and my hardworking family to stay in four different places and visit (or, in USspeak, ‘visit with’) seven different pairs of friends who have in the past been on the staff of the London Mennonite Centre and part of our congregation. Indeed, we will be ‘Mennoniting our way’.

Not only that, but I have done the whole process (well, most of it, of which more later) online, grappling yesterday and today with multiple websites and dates and prices which sent my head into a total spin. I am still not out of the woods, since I need to book two ‘roomettes’ on an overnight train from Chicago to Pennsylvania, but can’t do that until I hear from the Pennsylvania friends as to whether the dates we have chosen suit them. By which time, the ‘roomettes’ may very probably be booked up. Incidentally, the Amtrak website assured me that the standard bedroom could accommodate three people at a push, but when I tried to book one, it kept telling me the room was too small for the number of travellers. Make your minds up, Amtrak!

Somehow, (she says, crossing everything crossable and uttering a silent prayer), in a couple of months’ time we will be literally winging (and I mean literally literally) our way across the Pond that divides us by a common language. Whoopee! Well actually I am too exhausted to shout Whoopee, having been awake half the night worrying about the trip, but I promise I’ll shout Whoopee when I’ve had some sleep.