Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Trip to Amish Country

Last weekend we drove to Pennsylvania to visit Lancaster county, home of one of the largest Amish communities in the US.  I was very excited to make the trip as I didn't know much about the Amish way of life and was keen to find out more.

It took three hours to drive from NYC and was obvious when we had reached our destination as there were an abundance Amish shops and attractions.  Also, I didn't realise that in the Amish culture people are not allowed to own or drive cars, instead they use a horse a buggy.  It was very surreal seeing so many of these on the road and to see horses parked outside banks and shops.  

The area was very busy and the local restaurants serving 'Smorgsboard' (a type of buffet served family style) were all full, so we settled for soft dough pretzels and a slice of shoo fly pie in a nearby store. The area is known for these foods, and they were both delicious, especially the pie.  

With our bellies full, we headed to 'The Amish Village', a local tourist attraction. The village includes a traditional Amish house, one-room school house, a small farm with animals and shops.  

The house at the Amish Village
The Amish Village
We signed up for the full experience which included a guided tour of the house and a bus tour of the local area.  The house tour was led by a lovely Mennonite lady, who was Amish until she was 25.  She explained how the Amish live without electricity, the clothes they wear, education, customs and how they live their daily life.  

As a teacher, I was particularly interested in their education system.  The Amish only attend school until the 8th grade when they are then considered old enough to work. School takes place in a one-room school house with children of all ages learning together.  



Amish School House

Traditional Amish Classroom
The Amish village was very interesting. I learnt a lot and gave me a sense of what Amish life might be like, it was almost like going back in time.  

Next, we went on a bus tour of the local area.  Lancaster county is beautiful, lots of rolling hills and countryside.  It reminded me very much of England and other parts of Europe, which is apparently why the Amish settled there in the first place.  The tour was quite basic, the guide pretty much just pointed out Amish people, farms and homes, but we enjoyed it.  You could probably drive around the area yourself with a decent map if you didn't want to pay the $20 per person.  We did stop of a small Amish farm with miniature horses which was worth a visit, especially if you have young children.  

Adorable miniature horses! 
After the tour we headed for our accommodation for the night, we were staying in a Caboose at the 'Red Caboose Hotel'.  Unfortunately, we didn't stay long because the rooms were awful!  I only put this in here so you don't make the same $150 mistake we did.  We ended up staying in a Clarion hotel down the road which was much nicer and cheaper!  For dinner we went to the Iron Horse Restaurant and had a lovely meal where the food and service were both excellent.  Check out http://www.ironhorsepa.com for more information.

I very much enjoyed my visit to Amish country and learnt a lot about their way of life.  I know there is much more to it that I saw in a day, but I very much admired certain aspects of their culture, especially their work ethic and the notion of leaving everything better than you found it.

For more information on the Amish Village and bus tour please visit http://theamishvillage.net.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding my rhythm with the cast of STOMP!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with some of the cast from the hit show STOMP.  I volunteer at an after-school program in Hells Kitchen and they came to visit the children for a very special workshop.

The show is very unique in its concept as the performers use everyday objects to make music.  Anything goes, from brooms to basketballs, bin lids to match boxes, the creativity of the show is amazing.  Dance and theatrical performance are incorporated to make this a one of a kind experience.

Our STOMP experience started with a performance from the cast using only match boxes, followed by a clapping and stamping routine, throughout which the children could barely contain themselves.  It was brilliant!  We were then given an opportunity to ask questions and find out about the physical aspects of being a performer.  It was interesting to learn how grueling the show can be and what its like getting on stage every night.

Next, we were taught the opening sequence of the show and got a chance to do some stomping of our own!  It is as hard as it looks, and took us a good about of time to learn the first 6 bars.  The children loved it, they were so engaged and worked hard to master the steps.  We then split into two groups, each with our own STOMP performers, and learnt some rhythmic clapping.  We put the two sections together and practiced our routine.  It was so much fun with everyone cheering and clapping when we managed to get it right!

I was surprised at how physical it was, and by the end of the session we were all a bit sweaty and our hands hurt from clapping.  The cast must be extremely fit and talented to do that for nearly two hours per show, multiple times a week!

The afternoon concluded with the kids performing their new routine with the cast.  They were great, and you could see how excited and proud they were to be up the stage.  It was a wonderful afternoon, the cast were so friendly and made everyone felt like a STOMP performer for the day!

The children were clearly inspired by the experience as they spent the rest of the afternoon banging bins, tapping on tables and making up their own STOMP routines.  I think we may see a few of them on stage in the future…...

For more information on the show and to get tickets, go to http://www.stomponline.com/index.html.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Living in a Snow Globe

This has been the worst winter I have seen in NYC since moving here over 3 years ago, and I think most people would agree that it's like living in a snow globe!  I have never seen so much snow and it seems that as soon as we get rid of one lot, another storm soon follows.  As we come into March I am hoping that we have seen the last of this arctic weather, but with snow showers forecast for next week it might be a while before I unpack my spring wardrobe.

Living in a freezing cold and snowy city can be annoying at times.  It takes forever to put on endless layers of winter clothes and very few people look glamorous in snow boots and giant coats that resemble sleeping bags!  Restaurants seem even smaller, as most places don't have cloakrooms, you end up sitting surrounded by piles of coats feeling even more squashed than usual.  It is also a nightmare trying to get anywhere as the snow makes travel much harder.  Add that to walking through endless piles of black mush and giant puddles, around huge piles of rubbish on the streets, and you can understand why New Yorkers hibernate for the winter.

That said, there is nothing quite like New York in the snow.  When it first falls everything looks magical, it's like living in a Christmas movie.  Even the ugliest aspects of NYC look better, the rubbish piled high on the road sides look like giant snowmen, and the city looks clean and white.  Over the past few months I have taken some snap shots of NYC in the snow and here are some of my favourite photographs.

Walking down Columbus Avenue from 81st Street

Entrance to the park behind The Natural History Museum
I also love walking through Central Park after it has snowed.  It is fun to watch people flying down hills on sleds and I always find it amusing to see people cross-country skiing in the city!

Central Park at dusk

Snow-covered trees in Central Park
Although I think New York looks great just after it snows, I am ready for the winter to be over and spring to arrive.  I just hope that it's not too far away!