Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Week 4, Part 1: Indiana Amish Country

Our next planned stop after Chicago was Clarkston, Michigan, to visit Larry's sister who lives there and to visit some of my family who live in Detroit. We decided to break up the driving and to take a down day and night somewhere along the route, so I turned to Google, typing in, "Towns between Chicago and Detroit." One of the options was a question and answer website with the topic, "Cool places to stop between Chicago and Detroit." There were many options, including a stop in Indiana Amish Country so we decided that would be a nice between-city reprieve.

Indiana is beautiful country. We stayed the night in Middlebury, eating at the Amish-style buffet restaurant, Essenhaus. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw our first evidence that we were in Amish country, a house and wagon, although this wagon was for tourists and the wagons we later saw around town and on the highway were more simple with black buggies.

While we were eating, we saw plenty of Amish people in the traditional garb eating at the restaurant. During our less than twenty-four hours in Middlebury and Shipshewana, I grew increasingly uncomfortable with my own urge to gawk and ended up hurrying us out of the area before we'd done much browsing of local shops. We drove back to the hotel behind a horse and wagon with blinking red lights on the back, a newish safety measure. The horse-drawn wagons have license plates labeled "Non-motorized Vehicle," and they were parked everywhere--several at a working farm, around town, at the local Subway sandwich shop.

I wondered, out loud, how often the traditionally dressed Amish get asked for photographs and Larry, who'd just flipped through a book that was sort of a primer to Amish culture said they don't do photographs. However, when we stopped at the CVS drugstore to pick up some items we needed, we saw an Amish couple printing photos with the instant-print computer, so we laughed at ourselves. I had a San Francisco dress with high red boots on a small girl stared and stared at me with a big smile on her face (these are the same boots I wear when I perform my Sweetie Pie character for children).

The next day, we drove down the Main Street of Middlebury, stopping at a fabric and clothing shop, buying some bandanas, some of the most unusual buttons I've seen (cake and cupcake buttons for my Sweetie Pie outfits, dog and baseball buttons to replace Larry's missing shirt buttons with).

I didn't want to take too many photos of the houses and carts because I wanted to honor the privacy of the people. But I took some photos of the town. As we drove from Middlebury to Shipshewana, another small town, I noticed most of the houses doubled with some kind of entrepreneurial initiative either in their garage or within the home itself. Woodworkers, hairstylists, web designers. It looked like all the people of these small towns were trying their hardest to work hard doing whatever they did best. The towns were fairly mixed between what appeared to be Amish and non-Amish citizens, all friendly and helpful as we maneuvered our way through the towns. Shipshewana has a  performance venue called the Blue Gate Theater, and as we turned out of town, we saw a billboard with an advertisement for a theatrical production, "The Confession," with a photo of a young Amish woman loosening her head garb, and with the tag line, "The Hit Musical" underneath. I needed to get out of there--I hated I'd been caught up in the Amish tourism and been a sucker for it just like the next person.

Town Park, Middlebury

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