Monday, August 15, 2011

Part 16 - The Amish way of life

Going with the aid of a map and also with Google maps on my friend’s iPhone, we reached the Amish Village. We had received mixed reviews about this place - one person highly recommending it while another said there isn’t much out here. The place was empty and the main gate locked. I was quite sure of seeing the opening time as 9am while researching online. There was a phone number on the main gate board and an automated voice informed us that the opening time was 10am! My friend found a few tulips near one home during the drive and he stopped the car beside the pavement.

“We might be trespassing.”
“No one around.”
He clicked plenty of snaps from different angles. We had 40 minutes to 10am and so we went on our covered bridge tour. On the way we saw horse-driven carriages passing by with people in them.
It was a quiet and pleasant country-side with lots and lots of greenery. On either side of the main road we found a number of shops - some are famous names that you hear in the city. But behind the main road it was all greenery. The covered bridges were small ones - hardly a couple of car lengths in distance. There was only one that was a little longer but that was closed for traffic since the bridge was fragile. There was no sign of us encountering any heroine on these bridges (the pic above is what you call a covered bridge). We headed back to Amish village at 10am.

The Amish tour

We were among the first set of people to arrive and were grouped for the tour. We had a discount of a dollar - found it somewhere online; bring the cutting and get a discount. The first part of the tour was a small lecture about Amish culture - I found it quite interesting.

The Amish learnt three languages - English for communicating with the outside world, Dutch for home and German for church. Amish is actually a division of the church - the Mennonite church. They have a simple set of rules that many would consider very conservative. They don’t use the regular electricity we use and they don’t use the regular automobiles - only horse driven carriages that are called buggies (see pic to the left). The Amish give their children the option to baptize; anytime before 25 years or so. If the child wants to continue the Amish way, they get baptized otherwise they can venture into the world like any other person (the non-Amish way). The Amish believe in a strong community relationship - in case any Amish family suffers a tragedy then all the other families contribute to help them out. They believe in simplicity and being humble - that explains the restrictions they have on clothing; nothing bright or flashy to be worn. The Amish pay taxes but not the Social Security tax because they don’t expect to be supported by the Government. It is against their culture.

Choice of partner

Children are given a choice whether they want to continue in Amish tradition or not - they are allowed to chose their own life partner but they are expected to stay with the one they pick till the end; there is no concept of divorce. They aren’t required to pick a partner from the Amish community; they could pick from outside as well - till the child is baptized they can decide which way they want to continue - the Amish or non-Amish way. (Pic on the right is their dining room)

“I wish we also had the same custom for marriage!”
"Yeah, instead of worrying about caste and all."

We were guided through a Amish style home with the guide explaining in each room about how they lived - the kitchen, bedroom, drawing room and dining room. This wasn’t a home where a family lived - it was setup the Amish way for the purpose of explanation.
When they explained about the clothes that children, women and men wear I realized that the group of girls we saw yesterday in the restaurant were Amish girls. Before marriage, men are clean shaven while after marriage they let their beard grow. The women don’t cut their hair and they don’t wear jewelry. The reason behind avoiding technology is that they don’t want to get involved with anything that might weaken the community bond; and so things like television, telephones etc. are avoided by them. Telephones can be used but they are not kept inside the home - they'd use a public booth. They can take a ride on automobiles but they shouldn’t own them. (pic on left is their classroom)

After the tour you are allowed to walk around the place - there is a gift shop, a barn, a farm and an Amish classroom. There is also a buggy in which you can sit. We enjoyed the hour we spent here; it’s nice to learn and see other cultures.

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