Category Archives: Travel

Endings and Beginnings

Well, there you have it. My year-long adventure is over, and I am back in Oregon.

I anticipated having a few weeks to relax, get some writing done, and enjoy the Oregon summer before harvest starts. But life just bellows full steam ahead, doesn’t it? So many friends to catch up with. So many events to attend.

Amy graduated from Linn Benton Community College on Thursday. Exactly six years, to the day, after I graduated from LBCC.


“It’s a funny thing, having my big sister follow in my footsteps,” I joked.

Jenny is also finished at Linn Benton, but chose not to walk. Both of them are going on to Oregon State University. Amy will have her Bachelor’s in another year, and Jenny will have her Bachelor’s in two years. With Ben finishing up his PHD around the same time, and Steven completing his second Associate’s degree this fall, hopefully my geeky family will be finished with schooling and ready to settle down and start families already, heehee.

Well, not Jenny, I guess. She’s planning to get her Mastor’s yet. But she has plenty of time.

Anyway, I don’t know where Ben was, but the rest of us went to Amy’s graduation. Of course it was rather long and boring, as graduations are in general. Someone’s name would be announced, and a small group of their friends and family would cheer from one corner of the room, and then another name would be announced, and another cheer would erupt from another corner of the room.

I cheered for Amy, and also our friend Rachel Nissen. But Steven cheered for some random person I didn’t know.

“Do you know her?” I asked.

“No, but nobody else was cheering for her,” said Steven.

I thought that was the sweetest thing.

As the line got shorter and shorter, Steven started cheering for more and more people. I wasn’t listening too closely most of the time, but my ears perked up when I heard the announcer lady say “Waldo French.” I’d seen Waldo’s name in the program, and it had stood out to me as being very odd. People, I was sure, must constantly make jokes about it.

So, “Waldo French!” said the announcer.

Steven, only half-listening at this point, cheered. “Woo hoo! Yeah Rhonda.”

“It’s Waldo,” I corrected him.

“Heh heh. Oops.”

“Where’s Waldo?” Dad asked, looking around.

Steven and I lost it. I mean, such a Dad joke, but funny.

I’m sure Waldo wouldn’t find it funny, though. I’m sure he hears this joke approximately twice a day, 730 times a year.

We all went to Dairy Queen for ice cream afterwords.


This has been a weird week for me, as I’m sure it’s been a weird week for every Mennonite everywhere. I’d sit down to write and get so distracted reading every new article about Jeriah Mast’s sexual abuse of Hatian boys and the CAM cover-up. And then reading all the comments. And then getting angry. I mean, this shouldn’t be news to you…I’m sure that’s how at least 80% of my readers spent this week.

I finally got to the place where I didn’t let myself read any updates, comments, anything for 24 hours. I was just so worked up and not in a good head space.

I did write a draft of a blog post for my Patreon blog, all about how to grapple with your Mennonite identity when you come face-to-face with evil in your culture. But I didn’t post it because I was so worked up and needed to get some distance from the topic for a bit.

I do plan to return and finish it, though. Hopefully this week. At least by the end of the month.

Also, I will add that the first Patreon post I wrote Is actually rather applicable to the Jeriah Mast case. In it I explored the term “toxic masculinity,” a term that is thrown around in greater American culture today. I argued that Mennonites are actually a feminine culture, more likely to suffer from what could be called “toxic femininity.” Which people tend to be skeptical of, because we’re also a patriarchal culture. But I think people see it a little clearer now. People from greater American culture would want to punch the living daylights out of a pedophile. People from Mennonite culture want forgiveness, compassion, remember-that-we’re-all-sinners. It’s a feminine cultural trait that seems so good at first, but was absolutely toxic in the case of Jeriah Mast.

So yes, that’s where my brain was at this week, as I caught up with friends, and tried to get some writing done, and unpacked my belongings.

Of course, now you’re probably wondering what my life plan is now. Have I moved moved back to Oregon? Wasn’t the whole point of this year of travel to try to find a place where I could move permanently?

Well, that was one of my points, though not the whole point necessarily.

The biggest roadblocks I ran into this year were health issues and financial issues. With my health, I’ve decided that moving around every month is not something I should really ever do again, as fun as it was. Moving anywhere seems beyond me at this point. So I’m planning to stay in Oregon now at least through the summer and most likely through the fall as well.

I had fun in every place I went this whole year. Besides Oregon, Lancaster was the best place as far as people go, since I was near my cousin Annette and some of my close friends, including Esta and Janessa.

I really really loved Philadelphia. I was only there for a week in March and another week in May, but I would love to move there if something opened up. It would also have the advantage of being close to Lancaster, and also close to DC, where Matt lives.

I might have recency bias with Kansas, but I could also seem myself moving there. It has the advantage of cheap rent, and I love the way the community is involved in outreach right there in the town of Hutchinson. It’s also somewhat close to my Uncle Fred, and it’s the only place on the whole trip where I felt healthy the entire time I was there.

As far as money goes, I find myself in an odd financial situation. This year I lived off of freelance writing and editing jobs and some of my own savings. But I found that, while freelance writing and editing pays the bills, my heart is in writing books and plays. It’s also financially smarter, especially for someone with dubious health, to write things I can continue selling. That way if I’m, say, too sick for a month to do any freelance jobs, I can still earn money by selling books and plays that I’ve already finished.

Still, it’s tough to make that transition. Freelance writing pays right away, whereas these longer projects require a lot of work with no immediate payout. But since I am trying to slowly make that transition, it means that I have a hard time predicting what my monthly income will be six months or a year from now. Which makes it hard to plan a move.

Right now I’m planning to stay in Oregon until I get my book about this year finished and self-published, hopefully this fall.

Beyond that, I’m not sure. I do dearly love Oregon. Maybe I’ll live here part of the year, and jaunt over to other places for random three-month trips now and then? Just to keep life interesting? I don’t know. I honestly don’t feel very settled anywhere. Someday I really do want to buy a house and settle down. But I’m not financially there yet.

So for now, I guess I’ll live like I’m 19 instead of almost 29, just bipping hither and yon like I’m young and carefree. And then I’ll sleep on a hard mattress somewhere and get back pain and remember my age again, LOL.

Anyway, whatever the future holds for me, I’ll be sure to keep you all updated here on the blog.


Driving from Kansas to Oregon to Surprise my Family


I hatched a wild plan to drive to Oregon with my brother Ben, hide in the cupboard while my family was at church, and surprise them all. Would I succeed? Watch to find out!

So yes, this means that just like that, my year of travel is over! Hopefully in the next few blog posts I’ll process how the trip as a whole went for me and meant to me.


Notes on Kansas

lightning during nighttime

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

It was 1:30 am, and I was eating donuts and pretending I was still a teenager. It was a funny little donut shop. With its outdated wallpaper, random mugs hanging on the wall, and old paneling, it reminded me of somebody’s basement, mostly finished back in the ’70s, and then forgotten.

Apparently the place doesn’t even open until 11 pm.

I was hanging out with my roommate Kim’s youth group, and when they suggested a donut run, I couldn’t resist the enchanting allure of midnight donuts. But then, after those midnight donuts were ingested, there were storm warnings and we all got worried and scuttled off towards home.

Thankfully I wasn’t driving, because there were warnings of hail and severe winds and all sorts of frightening things. We drove straight into the storm, and I sat in the back seat, mesmerized by the purple. It was everywhere, in bursts of lighting that lit the entire sky.

I’m remembering, now. If you want to be awed by mountains or oceans you go to Oregon, but if you want to be awed by the weather, you to to the Midwest.

One Oregon night a few years ago there was intense, sky-splitting lightening, and no one in my family could sleep. We all ended up on the front porch in the middle of the night, watching it together. And yet that lightning was perhaps only half as intense as this stuff.

For some reason I ended up in either the East or the South this entire year, so I’m glad I decided to get a small taste of the Midwest before heading home.

Wait…what all states are considered to be “Midwest?” I just googled. Ohio is part of the Midwest? How?

In my brain, the Midwest ends with Illinois. In my brain, the Midwest is where land is flat and roads are straight and everyone waves at everyone and you say “hi” to every Mennonite you see and folks are chill and the weather in the spring is absolutely crazy. Where Mennonite communities are not so isolated as they are in the West, but they’re not piled up on top of each other either.

If you are from Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, etc, do you think of Ohio as part of your Midwestern culture? I’m just an ignorant Oregonian who knows nothing about this.

I’ve been here for two weeks, and it’s been absolutely magical. Not because of the weather or the people or the midnight donuts, but because I’ve felt so healthy. 

Health is such a funny thing. All of the things I dislike about life–all my feelings of incompetence, or loneliness, or the burden of having a to-do list that I can never possibly finish–seem to quietly become not-big-deals if I’m feeling healthy.

Maybe Kansas has a magical climate that is perfectly suited to my health.

Although, after experimenting with so many climates and houses this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that my health woes are probably not related to climates and mold and things external to me.

I think–sad as this sounds–I think that my body is just not suited to the nomadic life I crave.

Stress makes me sick. It has, ever since my West Nile days.

My last week in Lancaster I got horribly sick–the worst of this whole trip–but I felt a strong conviction that after I recovered I was going to have a time of wellness.

That’s what I’ve had, so far, in Kansas. The sort of wellness that allows me to eat donuts with teenagers at 1:30 am.

Why Do So Many People Hate Lancaster? My Top Three Ideas



Meme credit: @memesbymennos

I’ve been in Pennsylvania for a long time now. There was that month-and-a-half in Myerstown, a week in Philadelphia, a month in Lancaster City, and now another week in Philadelphia. This Friday I’ll bip back to Lancaster for the weekend before driving to Kansas.

There’s a large difference, I’ve noticed, between being in the middle of an Anabaptist culture and being on the edge of an Anabaptist culture.

I first noticed this in Florida. I didn’t think living a short distance from Pinecraft would be much different than living in Pinecraft, but it was. I always felt on the outskirts. I’d heard all these stories. “What happens in Pinecraft stays in Pinecraft!”

And then I’d go to a pie-baking contest or whatever, and look around trying to find someone doing something scandalous, but it was just a bunch of ordinary Anabaptists who liked pie.

Pennsylvania has been the same way. It turns out that living in Myerstown isn’t considered living in “Lancaster County,” and Lancaster City honestly isn’t really either. In much the same way that I never saw anything scandalous in Pinecraft, I never was able to see what was so terrible about Lancaster County.

I mean, I’ve heard so many people say they would never live in Lancaster County, and honestly I still don’t feel like I’ve exactly figured out why it has such a negative reputation.

However, I do have some ideas. These are the top three contenders.

Idea #1: The “Uncool Mennonite” Hypothesis

I feel like in a lot of Mennonite circles, embracing your heritage is considered “uncool.” It feels very on-trend right now (among Mennonites) to try to distance yourself from the “Mennonite” label, even if you are essentially still Mennonite.

Lancaster County, as the epicenter of Mennoniteness, is thus “uncool” simply because it’s so Mennonite.

(The irony of course is that in the secular world, being Mennonite is what makes you unique and interesting.)

Idea # 2: The “Unfriendly Mennonites” Hypothesis

This is a critique of Lancaster County that I’ve heard often. Personally, I never felt like anyone here snubbed me or was unfriendly to me. But I think I’ve figured out where this stereotype comes from.

To unpack this, though, I’m going to take a memory-lane trip back to Florida for a bit.

In Florida, I wrote that people were unfriendly to me. I received some backlash for this. First, because I insinuated that everyone was unfriendly, which wasn’t true. Some people were extremely kind. 

But the second reason for the backlash was something I’ve heard over and over again: In big Mennonite communities, you don’t just say “hi” to every Mennonite you see in the grocery store. There are just way too many.

And I get that. I really do. I promise I didn’t come to Pennsylvania thinking that every Mennonite would say “hi” to me. But my expectations in Florida were a little different. I thought that since everyone was on vacation, everyone would be strangers to everyone, and thus eager to make friends with the other Mennonites who happened to be on the beach. Clearly, I was wrong.

So after that little lesson, I was fine with not being acknowledged by, say, the random Mennonites who passed in and out of Starbucks as I sat writing.

But I still firmly stand by my statement that the Florida Mennonites were not as friendly as they should have been, and I’m basing this on the two times that I actually went to Pinecraft for an event. First it was a pie baking contest, and second it was a concert in the park. At both events, I sat or stood completely alone, and no one around me talked to me. When I tried to talk to them, they looked extremely uncomfortable.

Two people were friendly to me: A woman who was friends with my mom that I sought out and talked to, and a woman who knew who I was from my mom’s writings and sought me to talk to me. I’m sure that Florida contains more gems like them.

But the truth still stands. If someone is next to you at an event, standing alone, you should be friendly to them. This has nothing to do with the “I literally have no time to talk to every Mennonite in the grocery store” excuse. This isn’t a grocery store, and this isn’t an endless list of people. This is one lonely person.

Now as I said before, I really was not on the cusp of Lancaster County culture, so I can neither accuse nor acquit them of this charge. Personally, I only ever encountered friendliness here. But after hearing that Lancaster County is accused of unfriendliness, and experiencing Florida, I can’t help but wonder if the same thing happens here.

Idea #3: The “Clique-ish Mennonites” Hypothesis

The most unique phenomenon I’ve discovered in Lancaster County is that most people have a “group” that has nothing to do with what church they go to. It’s more about who is exactly like you. Like, if you’re a single school teacher in your upper-20s, you hang out with other single school teachers in their upper-20s.

It’s really fascinating, and I feel like I just barely understand it. However, my hypothesis is that if you have a group disconnected from a particular church, someone is going to feel left out.

If a group is based on a church, that provides natural boundaries. A lady who attends Riverside won’t be offended if she doesn’t get invited to the Brownsville ladies retreat. But if the group is just a group of single Mennonites in their upper 20s, there are still so many single Mennonites in their upper 20s in Lancaster County that you can’t possibly invite them all.

So some people feel left out.

Conversely, some people might have a group but wish they were part of an even cooler group, and, out of envy, dub the cooler group “clique-ish.”

Or maybe the cooler group is “clique-ish.”

This is, of course, just a hypothesis, as I still don’t remotely understand the social hierarchy of Lancaster County. I know that some people are cooler than other people, but I’m just not on the social pulse at all, and have no clue which ones are cool and what makes them cool.

Part of me wishes I could spend another month here, in…I don’t know, like Ephrata or something. Some place that’s much more central to the culture.

But no. It’s time for me to move on, it really is.

But please, if you have opinions on Lancaster County, let me know what you think of my hypotheses.

Note: I now have a Patreon, where you can get bonus blog posts by subscribing for $1 or more a month. My latest post is about the concept of “toxic masculinity.” Later this week I’ll be posting about how I think Mennonites set women up to eventually reject the head covering. 

Lancaster Pennsylvania

For the month of April I am in Lancaster Pennsylvania, in a little house behind a hot dog factory. Sometimes I get a good whiff of hot dogs as I walk up the street on a warm day, or when I open the bathroom window to get some air circulation while I shower.

The windows at the front of the house are so close to the street that it feels like if you don’t pull your blinds down, anyone on the street can watch your every move. But the side windows face the brick wall of the house next door, and especially on the second floor, it feels like no one could look into them unless they squeezed between the houses and set up a periscope.

I’ve felt quite busy ever since I arrived here on Monday, with errands and friends and keeping up with writing projects.

When I left Philadelphia on Monday, Rosalyn sent me off with a bag of donuts. I arrived to find that Bettina, my new roommate, had furnished my shelf of the fridge with some yogurt, eggs, and fruit, anticipating that I might need to eat before I had time to grocery shop.

Indeed, I lived off of donuts, eggs, and yogurt for half the week before I finally found time to go grocery shopping yesterday.

I went to Aldi. I had heard that Aldi is a good place to shop, though I’d only visited once, with a friend in Ohio. We don’t have Aldi in Oregon, and lets just say my ignorance showed.

Mostly with the grocery cart setup.

I wasn’t completely ignorant. I knew that you had to have a quarter to get a grocery cart, and that when you returned your cart you’d get your quarter back. Now, I didn’t have a quarter but I didn’t let that stress me out. I only needed a few things. I’d just use a basket.

I couldn’t find a basket. I walked around the store trying to find one, and presently realized that the store was set up to funnel people through in one direction, and I was walking the opposite direction and bumping into people.


I thought about putting everything in my backpack, but didn’t want to look like I was stealing. So I got produce bags and used those to carry my stuff.

It didn’t take long for my hands to get full, and my produce bags to get uncomfortable to hold, and my cell phone (which had my grocery list) to get dropped from my full hands multiple times. Fine. This would be enough. I could buy more groceries another day.

When I went to check out, I realized that there was a very specific system to the checking out process, and it required everyone to have a grocery cart. Here I was, messing up the system and holding up the line while I shoved all my now-purchased groceries into my backpack, since I didn’t have a cart to wheel them to the self-bagging station.

Oh well. You live and learn, I guess. Bettina said that most people who shop at Aldi just keep a quarter in their car.

Today I walked to Central Market to buy some bread and jam. It was very nice. I went to Central Market once, years ago, and I remember it being crowded and overwhelming. But today it wasn’t. Maybe because it was raining? Or maybe because I went in the afternoon? Not sure.

The reason for the bread and jam purchase is that I was invited to “The Cabin” for the weekend, and was asked to bring the bread for one of the meals.

When I was in Philadelphia I overheard Theresa, Rosalyn’s roommate, and Ted, a friend from their church, talking about their love of hoagies. They both agreed that the corner store had the best hoagies, and they’d often buy hoagies for lunch from the corner store.

Well I knew that Theresa had worked at a school, and I knew that Ted worked at a school, so this conversation made me assume that they’d worked at the same school. But when I told Rosalyn this she quickly corrected me. No, they’d worked at different schools.

“But are their schools close to each other?” I asked. “I mean, if they both go to the same corner store for lunch?”

Rosalyn laughed. “They go to different corner stores. It’s just a Pennsylvania thing to refer to all corner stores as ‘the corner store.'”

Then, “It’s the same with ‘the cabin,'” she said. “All these Mennonites in Pennsylvania talk about going to ‘the cabin,’ and for a long time I couldn’t figure out what cabin all these people were going to. I though they were all going to the same cabin. But no, they all have their own cabins, but no one says ‘I’m going to my cabin,’ or ‘my family’s cabin,’ they just say ‘the cabin.'”

I thought this was really funny.

All of Rosalyn’s friends were going to go on a trip to “the cabin,” and I got invited along, which was really cool. That’s where I’m going this weekend, which is why I bought bread.

Like I mentioned earlier, I returned from Philly and moved into my Lancaster City house this last Monday, April 1. On Tuesday I drove back up to Myerstown to return some sheets I’d accidentally stolen, and was able to chat a bit with my Myerstown roommate, Rochelle.

“I needed these sheets back because I’m going to the cabin this weekend,” Rochelle told me.

For a few seconds I forgot Rosalyn’s teachings on PA vernacular, and I thought Rochelle was going to THE SAME cabin that I was. “Me too!” I said.

But of course she was going to an entirely different cabin, with an entirely different set of people.

Since Rochelle, unlike Rosalyn and I, is a PA native, I asked her for more clarification on “the cabin.” She told me that PA people use it the same way you’d say you were going to “the beach,” even though it’s not all the same beach.

In fact, according to Rochelle, lots of Mennonites built cabins in the woodsy/rural parts of PA in order to try to keep their young people from going to the beach for vacations. So now they go to “the cabin” instead, where there’s almost zero chance of seeing a stranger in a bikini.

For some reason I found that really funny. I guess that’s one advantage of Oregon beaches–or “the coast,” as we’re more likely to call it–it’s too cold to show much skin, even in summer.

In closing this blog post, let me make a few remarks about spring:

Is spring in Pennsylvania always like this? Is spring in places that are not Oregon like this? If so, then I have been woefully ignorant my whole life on what spring is actually like.

The first week of March was decidedly still winter. There was snow on the ground and everything.

The last week of March was decidedly spring. With things blooming, and sunshine on over half of the days.

That means there were only two weeks of dubious between-winter-and-spring days.


In Oregon, it feels like there are at least two MONTHS where it feels like spring is just around the corner, but it never quite arrives.

It begins in the middle of February, when the daffodils and camellias bloom. From then on, there’s always something new blooming. Trees blossom and sprinkle the sidewalks with pink petals. Enormous walls of rhododendrons burst into bloom at once.

So you think you’re on the edge of spring. You get one sunny day, and you think, yes! The long winter is over! And then you get two more weeks where the sun doesn’t peep out once.

Ever since that first morning in Philadelphia where the world dripped with sunlight, I’ve been waiting for it to disappear in a week and a half of solid rain. But so far, it hasn’t happened. Rainy days come, but never more than one or two days of solid rain in a row.

Pennsylvania spring feels like suddenly getting a surprise gift, while Oregon spring feels like sitting in a room full of presents but not being allowed to open them yet.

Adventures in Philadelphia

Rosalyn is an old friend from SMBI days. We got along swimmingly 9 1/2 years ago, but 9 1/2 years is a long time, and we hadn’t really kept up. But when she heard about my travels she invited me to come stay with her in Philadelphia. I decided to visit her for a week.

I showed up on her doorstep at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning because I’d gotten up early to take Ben to the Philly airport. She met me at the door, groggy, in pajamas. We had a groggy pajama-clad greeting and then she helped me haul my stuff inside and we went back to bed.

When I woke up it was late morning. Sunshine was pouring in the windows and pooling on the floor. I made a mug of tea and sat on the window seat and read Jane of Lantern Hill.


Something about the quiet morning sunshine filled my soul. Subsequently I’ve spent every morning in Philly this way, just chilling at home before venturing out around noon.

I’d usually visit a coffee shop or tea house and get some writing done. While I have a thing for Starbucks, I also really loved a little place I found called The Random Tea Room.


The tea is expensive, with a pot of it costing between $7 and $9. The pot, though, was huge. It filled my bladder twice, with enough left over to fill my insulated mug to the brim.


It was too expensive for me to go more than once, but the tea was marvelous. They didn’t leave the grounds in the pot and expect the customer to know when to remove them, but rather made me wait five minutes until they’d brewed it to perfection.

I’d like to go again sometime, though, with a group I could split the pot with. Maybe 3 or 4 people. I’m pretty sure even people who dislike tea would have no problem drinking that stuff straight with no sugar. It was that good. Although I would perhaps have wished it a bit stronger.

After spending my afternoons writing, I’d usually meet up with Rosalyn and we’d hang out with friends or go sightseeing. Or both. I saw all sorts of places. Like the Fairmount Water Works.


We didn’t go inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but there was cool stuff outside as well. Some lovely cherry trees had just burst into bloom. Hello, Spring!



We walked around Old City one afternoon, which is just bursting with colonial/revolutionary history. Everywhere you looked there was Benjamin Franklin’s grave, or Independence Hall, or the spot where George Washington’s house/later John Adam’s house stood, or the church that was attended by fifteen of the Declaration of Independence signers.

Then there was the Betsy Ross house. Now, the tale of Betsy Ross sewing the first flag cannot be proved by any written documents, but she was a real person who made flags and probably lived in that house. If not there, then right next to it in a house of the same era.


Rosalyn and I both fully appreciate charming old houses and charming old stories. We were utterly enchanted. As we walked through, I was imagining just how I would set up the house if it were my house, and Rosalyn was imagining being magically pulled back in time and meeting Betsy Ross on the stairs.

But as much fun as Rosalyn and I had wandering around the city, seeing the sights, and having good conversations with old and new friends, we also had our share of strange and stressful moments.

The first Dramatic Incident happened on Thursday. We’d just spent the latter half of the afternoon in Old City, and I turned off my data and my wifi because my phone was running out of battery. Then we got on the subway to go visit our old friend Eugene and go to a hole-in-the-wall Indonesian restaurant near his house.

We had a great time with Eugene, and the food was delicious. We discussed all sorts of interesting ideas. But it was getting late and Rosalyn had to get up early, so we cut the party short and Eugene walked us back to the subway station. Rosalyn carried my backpack because I was having some back pain.

As I was headed through the turnstile, there was a rumble beneath us. “That’s our train!” exclaimed Rosalyn. So I hurried towards the stairs, but she was not beside me. There was a bit of a frustrated commotion behind me, and I turned around just in time to see Rosalyn vault over the turnstile.


An alarm went off. We ran down the stairs. The train doors had just closed, and it was pulling away from the station.


The alarm was still alarming.

“Why did you jump over the turnstile?” I asked, glancing up the stairs to see if someone was marching down to arrest us.

“I swiped my card and it took my money but the turnstile didn’t turn!” she said.

So we just stood there calmly waiting for the next train, and after awhile the alarm shut off. We got on the next train, and that was that.

Our calm didn’t last for long. After a bit our train made another stop at a station, but something seemed off. No one seemed to be getting on. Then engine shut off.

“Oh, I think we got an express train. It stops here, and we have to get off and get onto a different train,” she said.

So we got off, and then, oh! The train rumbled to life again! Rosalyn leaped back onto the train, and the doors began closing. Oh no! I panicked. I have bad dreams about getting caught in subway doors. Rosalyn grabbed the doors and frantically tried to pry them back open, but it didn’t work. They stubbornly shut anyway, and the train began to pull out of the station, leaving me behind. Rosalyn pressed her face up against the window.

“I’ll come back for you!” she mouthed.

My backpack, with all my money and stuff, was on the train with Rosalyn. But I glanced down at my hand and saw that I was holding my cell phone. At least I had this, even if it was dying.

I figured there would be no signal in the subway. My data never works in the DC tunnels. But maybe the Philly subway isn’t as far underground, because when I turned on my data I had a bunch of messages from Rosalyn.

“Hey i got off at city hall. Catch the next train and i will get on with u. Eitjer train on either side of the track ur on. Local to fern rock or to city hall.”

She told me later she was typing this frantically, wanting to relay the message before my phone died.

Everything was fine, though. I got on the next train, and messaged her that I was in the front car, and when we got to city hall Rosalyn got on with me.

Although it had been a bit startling at first, being left along with no money and a dying phone, and the dramatic “I’ll come back for you!” as the train pulled away without me, I wasn’t too worried. Even if my phone had died completely, she would have come back for me, right? And it’s not like I’d never ridden a subway before.

But Rosalyn was pretty shaken up, having managed to lose the one person she was trying to shepherd safely around the city.

We had many good laughs about it, though. And we had more good laughs Saturday night, when we decided to walk to Chinatown late in the evening and get bubble tea. It was too nice of a night to stay indoors. Weirdly warm still, despite the darkness.

I didn’t pay any attention to where we were going. I just followed Rosalyn. But after we’d gotten turned around a few times, I pulled out my own phone.

I had my data turned off again, because after the subway incident I forgot to turn my wifi back on and went home and watched a few youtube videos. Oops. There goes my allotment of data for the month, LOL.

But despite not being able to look up the place we were going, I was able to see the little blue dot on the map that indicated where we were.

“Isn’t Chinatown south of us?” I asked.


“Then why are we heading north?”

“We’re not heading north, we’re heading south.”

“Really?” I watched the blue dot intently. As we walked forward, it inched up the map. “No, I’m pretty sure we’re heading north. See? We were just at Spring Garden, and now we’re at Green St.”

“What?” She looked up at the street sign. “How did I get this turned around? I hate Ridge Avenue! It always confuses me!”

We turned around and headed the other direction.

A couple of Rosalyn’s friends met us at the bubble tea shop, and they were endlessly amused by the “going north and thinking it’s south” story.

“South. You know, towards the skyscrapers,” joked Ted.

“We couldn’t see the skyscrapers,” said Rosalyn indignantly. And to be fair, we really couldn’t.

All Rosalyn’s friends left eventually, and it was just her and I, talking about how the music and atmosphere made us feel like we were living in a Korean drama. Presently we left too, and as we were walking towards the door we saw that the tall windows at the front of the building were wide open, welcoming the warm night. There weren’t even screens in them.

“We could jump out the windows!” said Rosalyn.

Somehow I was very enchanted by the idea of exiting via window instead of door, so without really thinking it through I climbed up on the bench and jumped out the window.

“Plop!” I landed right in front of a startled Chinese grandmother.

“Ta da!” I said.

I mean, what do you say under such circumstances?

Rosalyn sensibly exited through the door and we walked away together very fast.

The Chinese woman called after us. I don’t know what she said, but I was too embarrassed to fully inquire so we just waved politely and walked on.

Several blocks later, we realized that Rosalyn had left her cell phone at the bubble tea place. Oh dear. We hurried back. Thankfully, someone had turned it in. Rosalyn had left it right there on the bench in front of the window.

“I’ll bet that’s what the lady was telling us,” said Rosalyn.

Poor lady. First she has a strange girl leaping out a window in front of her, and then when she tries to let us know we’ve left a cell phone behind, we wave her off and hurry on.

That was the end of the very dramatic incidents in Philadelphia, but there were loads of fun times I didn’t have time to mention. I feel very much like a week was too short, and I need to return someday.

I’ll see if I can figure out how to put that in my schedule.

That is the end of this little serious about these very eventful last few weeks. If you would like to catch up, here are all of them, in order.

Part 1: Living with Uncertainty

Part 2: The Great Health Crash

Part 3: REACH 2019

Part 4: A Moldy House and a Dying Car

And then this one, Adventures in Philadelphia, is Part 5. The final.

I should also add, since today is April 1, that I guess my sisters and mom and I are not doing the April Blogging Challenge this year. It’s a bit sad, I guess. We’ve done it for so many years. But oh well. I do feel like I could use a bit of a blogging break after this series.





A Moldy House and a Dying Car


I hate being overwhelmed. It’s why I pack like a minimalist, and why I don’t bother with face creams, and why I don’t make to-do lists longer than five items at a time.

Needless to say, the REACH week was full of overwhelming situations, from uncertainty about my living situation, to ill health, to the masses and masses of Mennonites at REACH. But through it all I managed to not panic, by focusing on one thing at a time.

Get my oil changed.

Clear out of the Myerstown house.

Text Bettina about moving into her Lancaster city house after Philly. Answer the phone when she calls back. Work out logistics.

And, not to sound like a special-snowflake-helicopter-parented-millennial, but having my parents around was very comforting. I felt like they’d get me out of any jam I happened to fall into.

But when I left REACH Friday evening and tried to drive my car to our new Airbnb, I was officially completely overwhelmed. Because this car was not acting normal, at all. I mashed on the accelerator as hard as I could, but going up hills I could barely do 35 mph.

“Just make it to the Airbnb,” I told myself. “Just make it there, and then Dad will know what to do.”

And I made it, albeit slowly. I made it to a rutted lane that ran past junky outbuildings until it ended beside dingy trailer house sitting in an unkempt yard.

Um, this is…interesting…I thought as I made my way up the sagging porch steps.

Mom opened the door for me, and I stepped inside. Mismatched, over-crowded furniture. Awkward family photos all over the walls. Dusty knick-knacks everywhere.

“Did you notice the smell?” Dad asked.

“I smelled mold as soon as I walked in,” Mom added. And when I sniffed, yes, there was a definite mold odor in the air.

“Is Phoebe going to be okay?” I asked. Phoebe, my brother Matt’s girlfriend, has sensitivities to some molds and perfumes. She and Matt were planning to come spend the weekend with us.

“I don’t know,” said Mom. “I’m worried about both of you. Maybe we should get a hotel room or something.”

We held off on that decision until Matt and Phoebe arrived, and instead the discussion turned to the matter of my car. I told Dad my acceleration issues, and he looked worried.

“You can’t drive to Philadelphia until you get it looked at,” he said.

Sigh. I had feared that would be the case.

Oh one hand, it was nice to have Dad around to help me solve my car troubles. But on the other hand, it was awfully inconvenient timing. Car troubles two days after I took it to the mechanic? Really? And with that oil change, I’d had to schedule it a week in advance. It was currently Friday evening. How the bunnsylipper was I supposed to get my car fixed by Sunday morning?

If I couldn’t get it in to a mechanic on Saturday, where was I supposed to spend Sunday night? Crash randomly on a friend’s couch, I guess? Would it be okay to drive to a friend’s house?

How much was this thing going to cost me, anyway?

It was just a big mess.

But Matt and Phoebe arrived, and I put it out of my mind for a while. First, because we switched back to the discussion of whether or not the house mold was a deal breaker. Then, after both Phoebe and I insisted that we’d probably be fine, we had to argue a bit about who got the room with the air purifier. “You take it!” “No, you take it!”

Then, finally, we put unpleasant topics behind us and drank tea and ate donuts and had good family time.

And good-naturedly mocked our poor sketchy Airbnb.

Saturday morning, Dad valiantly called around trying to find a place that would look at my car. With very little luck. Mechanics generally aren’t even open Saturdays, it turns out.

Finally, late in the morning, he found a quick oil change place that was willing to look at it. He got in my car and backed it down the lane, headed to the mechanic.

Then, a few minutes later, he called me.

“So Emily, when you were having trouble with your accelerator, did it feel like it was really hard to push in?”

“Yes!” I said. “I didn’t know how to explain it, but now you know what it feels like, since you’ve driven it.”

“And did you feel like it wouldn’t go into second gear when you were going uphill?”

“Um, I’m not sure,” I said. “It would hardly make it up the hills.”

“Well, I think I know what your problem is,” laughed Dad. “Your floor mat is shoved up under the accelerator, so you can’t really push it down.”

Simultaneously, I felt intense relief and also like an idiot.

It turned out that when Ben had borrowed my car Thursday afternoon to drive it back to the Airbnb we had at the time, the non-sketchy one, he decided not to bother putting the seat back. It was just a quick drive. But his long legs shoved the floor mat forward, wedging it so firmly under the accelerator that it was difficult to press. Going uphill, the accelerator wasn’t getting pushed far enough down to kick into a lower gear.

After my car issue was sufficiently resolved, I had a fantastic day. In the morning, with the brilliant sunlight flooding everything, the sketchy Airbnb didn’t look so terrible. I slept in and ate donuts and drank tea. I had good satisfying conversations with my family.

And now, I had plans that were a bit more stable. I would get up early Sunday morning and drive Ben to the Philadelphia airport, and then zip over to Rosalyn’s house. I’d stay in Philadelphia for a week, and then drive back to Lancaster and move in with Bettina.

Actually, interesting note, I was able to meet Bettina at REACH. Briefly. But it was nice, and again made my life feel a bit more stable, being able to chat a bit with my future roommate.

Furthermore, I was able to solidify plans to move to Kansas after Lancaster. Which will probably be the last stop on my year of travel, since I’ve always planned to go back to Oregon for the summer. Oregon has the nicest summers of anywhere I’ve ever been.

After that, everything went according to plan. At this very moment I’m at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, feeling the subway rumble beneath me. I’ve been LOVING the city so far. And goodness, I have so many Philly stories, I can’t possibly end this blog series yet.

So. Stay tuned for a city blog post.

In keeping with tradition, let me see if I can come up with a juicy teaser:

In my Philly post I will tell the story of how someone I was exploring the city with panicked, impulsively did something illegal, and set off an alarm. Shortly afterwards I found myself alone in the city late at night with no money and a dying cell phone.