Archive for September, 2012

Finding an Amish penpal is about as hard as it sounds

Monday, September 24th, 2012

It started with a simple idea: to learn the way the Amish live, get an Amish penpal (the kind that use actual pens…). However, the method for acquiring one is proving rather tricky – in a fantastically interesting way!

Finding an Amish person

I asked all my friends: “How do I meet an Amish person?” Answers like “huh?” and “I saw one on a train once. They’re always riding the trains” abounded. “The internet” was a decent suggestion, non-use of computers notwithstanding. Then, by chance, a colleague mentioned he would be leaving for Pennsylvania that weekend. Not only that – he would be delivering a talk to farmers. (Note: In my head, this was very exciting, as I presupposed Amish people tend to farm.)

Leader and the Circle of Elders

Amish people: found! Many attended the talk, and approached my colleague after. During discussion, my desire to have an Amish penpal came up. Rather than with abhorrence or glee, the request was met with serious thoughtfulness. “Leader” (the leader of the local Amish community) requested that my colleague speak to the women of the group. Why women? Men aren’t supposed to talk to non-wife women, not even through letters. Since the request was made on my behalf – and I am female – the request had to go straight to the women-folk. The fact that my colleague was male and asked to speak to the women was… rather strange. 

One woman was visibly excited by the idea of having a penpal, or “outside communication.” Her husband, however, was very against the idea, though it was difficult to separate his reaction to the penpal idea from his reaction to his wife speaking to another man. Hard to believe he would literally turn red in the face over a penpal, but what do I know… Which is, of course, the main reason behind the desire to have an Amish penpal!

Next steps: Leader must now receive a long-hand letter explaining the request. He will then bring it to the Circle of Elders, who will decide if the outside communication will be allowed. Now, we wait.

Just for fun. Four tips from the Amish sent before visiting them

Four Handy Bits of Info about Amish & Mennonite farmers: 
#1:  In general, unless otherwise directed, please direct any business questions to the husband, or to Partner Relationship Manager (PRM). 
#2:  Out of respect for the farmers, please do not photograph or videotape them directly. If you are interested in taking photos, please ask PRM to approach the farmer for permission. Amish/Mennonite farmers appearing in the background of photos is ok. 
#3:  Please refrain from using your blackberries, cell phones, PDAs, etc. while at the dinner, unless required to do so. 
#4: Grace will be said before the meal begins as a courtesy to our farmers.
11:39 AM