Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nappanee, Indiana

So much has happened since my last posting, so this will probably be a long journal entry. We love Nappanee! It was great coming back to the small town we explored 2 weeks ago. The best part was spending time with so many new friends, some of whom we met on our last visit. We returned to this area to have work done on our motor coach at Newmar (air conditioner, fix and paint 3 bin doors, satellite TV, and a few minor repairs).

Marlene and Larry Burkholder invited us to dinner, along with John and Sara’s family. These are Amish friends we met on our last visit. What a treat for our entire family! The Burkholder’s have two children, Michael (14) and Kari Jo (10). John and Sara came with two of their children, Jonathon (13), and Carry (19). We all sat at two long tables where Larry and Marlene served us a delicious home-cooked meal. Sara and I brought salads, and the food never ended! Everyone enjoyed the meal and conversation, followed by three freshly baked pies of Marlene’s including pecan, rhubarb custard, and peanut butter.

The kids harnessed up Princess, the white pony, to a small carriage and wagon, and went for rides all around the farm. The adults talked inside as the sun went down, sharing our very different lifestyles, but also finding out how much we have in common. Thom and I learned so much about the Amish religion, family upbringing, and daily lives. It was memorable. Before departing, John and Sara invited us to visit a farm where a wedding would soon take place. We jumped at the chance!

For five days straight, we visited the Nappanee library where we made good progress in school. The boys quickly learned that if they worked hard, they could take recess on the library’s computers! It poured rain on two of the days, so it was nice to be inside watching the Amish horses and buggies go by outside.

It was sheer coincidence that we met the Wahl Family, and we are so thankful we did! Tom and Mary Claire have 3 children, Joe (12), Anna (10), and Sam (7), and they are on a journey exactly like ours!! It’s unbelievable. Mary Claire retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Air Force last August, and they decided to buy a Newmar motor coach and travel North America for a year with their children! They are home schooling, and trying to decide where they’ll settle down, just like us! They met our friend, Chris Miller, in Florida. Chris gave them our email address, since he figured we’d enjoy connecting. So we had emailed back and forth a few times over the last few months. We didn’t know they owned a Newmar or were in this area. They came to Nappanee to have work done on their Newmar also. God brought us together, and we had a fabulous time.

The kids enjoyed every minute playing together. Ben and Sam had a sleepover in their RV, while Joe slept at our place. The next night, their Sam slept at our place, while the 3 oldest boys pitched a tent and camped outside! All the adults had great conversations about our travels, lessons learned, military life, tips about driving a motor coach, home schooling, and settling down. Mary Claire’s last 4-year assignment was in German near Ramstein where we flew last Nov. We spent five days with the Wahl Family, using our home base of “Camp Newmar.”

Sara invited the Wahl’s along for our trip to see the wedding set-up. We went on a Wed evening, and the wedding was set for Friday. This is truly a community event, where everyone helps. The men set up all the benches, chairs, and tables for the wedding and reception, while the women prepared all the food. No catering needed here! The wedding was taking place at the bride’s neighbor’s home, while the reception was at the bride’s home. We enjoyed meeting everyone involved, and they welcomed us to see everything. The sense of community is wonderful. All weddings take place on weekdays, because no work is allowed on Sundays. That day is reserved for church, which takes place in people’s homes. We met Wanda and Steve, the bride and groom. They, along with many people toured through our motor coach.

Oh, I forgot to mention that since Sara had been so kind to give us a ride in her buggy, we gave Sara and her family a ride in our motor coach! Many Amish people work or have worked in the RV business, but rarely get a chance to see the inside of an RV. They know more about our motor coach than we do! The kids, including Joe, Anna, and Sam Wahl, played together with the Amish children and had a ball.

We drove Sara, John, and their two boys back home and once again, they showered us with kindness by giving us 3 dozen eggs and frozen ground beef. After a beautiful prayer, we said our good-byes. They have been one of the most special families of our entire trip this year, and we will keep in touch!

Newmar finished working on our coach, but we didn’t want to leave. So we stayed an extra three days! It’s great having full hook-ups and being with other Newmar owners. We met people from all over the US, Canada, and even Germany who brought their Newmars in for work.

One afternoon, I drove over to meet my high school friend, Sheryl Walsh (Garlit), and her two sisters Lori and Sue. We all went to high school together back in Lakeport, CA, and their family returned to Indiana in 1979 which is where they originally were from. Sheryl and I got together 2 weeks ago for pizza with both our families. It was great seeing her for a second visit, and wonderful to catch up with Lori and Sue. We talked about our families, parenting, work, travel, and how important God is in our lives. Sue and her husband Pat have a beautiful home, and we all sat on the back deck overlooking a huge pond. It was a lovely visit!

Marlene suggested we attend an Amish horse auction on Saturday, so we went along with the Wahl’s. As we pulled up, we saw signs for Buggy Parking with at least 100 buggies! There were just as many bikes, since many Amish use that mode of transportation. I’d say 300 people were gathered to view the sale of at least 50 horses. The excitement was under a huge tent, where the auctioneer loudly called out the bids. The kids asked what he was saying, since it was hard to make out the fast, musical words. One man walked or ran each horse as it was auctioned, while at least 4 or 5 other men orchestrated the bidding process. They’d watch the crowds for bids, which was extremely subtle. No paddles were used. Only the blink of an eye or tip of a hat were the gestures used to place a bid. Hundreds of men, women, and children sat on hay bales to watch the auction. Most horses sold between $1500 and $2500. On our way out, Thom placed Sam high on a post to take a picture of all the horses and buggies in the parking area…what a unique sight!

More fun followed when we took all the kids to the theater to see Planet Earth, the new movie by Disney. What a great film. They must have shot thousands of hours of footage to capture these incredible moments in nature. We’ve seen much of it on the collection of Planet Earth DVD’s given to us by Leanna, and now it’s great to see “the best of the best” in one movie.
Following that, the Besch and Wahl Families rejoined our friends Marlene and Larry for a fish fry at a local auction building. It was a fund raiser for an Amish school, and hundreds of people attended. I truly felt privileged to sit amongst so many Amish families, sharing delicious food and good company. People stopped by to say Hello to Marlene and Larry, and we were then introduced. What fun!

Marlene invited both our families over for one last visit. The Wahl’s had the chance to shop in their store, and found the perfect pair of croc’s for Anna (shoes). The kids played outside for hours as the sun set, while the adults visited inside. We met Larry’s mother, Anna May, who is 76 years old and walks a mile a day to keep in shape! She visited Alaska 14 years ago. Marlene gave us asparagus from her garden, and sausage. The generosity is overflowing! It was hard to say goodbye, but we were all leaving the next morning. Again, this is a special family who we will miss, and definitely keep in touch with.

The Wahl and Besch kids enjoyed their last night of sleepovers, and then it too was time to say goodbye. They’ve spent most of their last 8 months in the west and south, and are now heading to Washington D.C. and the northeast. They hope to catch a Space A flight to Ramstein, Germany just as we did! We’re heading north to Michigan for a couple days, and then back to Chicago.

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