As some of you know, the Mandarines are here visiting the Bartons, which means we've been doing a lot of walking and eating, which is what you do when you come to the Bartons. So, if you think Mandarine is wise, charming, and funny, you should meet the rest of his family (well, we haven't met Son #1, but we are sure he follows suit). May I suggest that everyone who loves chocolate invite Ms. Mandarine for a visit? Not only does she not complain when her hosts try to steal her tea, lend her a hair dryer that attacks her, and desert her for two hours to attend a church meeting, but while they are away, she bakes the most decadently delicious chocolate cake imaginable. And Baby Mandarine? Well, he's just a wonderful little house guest, very amenable to everything.
Anyway, while he is here, Mandarine and I have decided to do an interview. I'm going to ask him some questions, and he's going to answer them. Then he will ask me some questions, and I will answer them. So without further ado....
Emily Asks Mandarine
1. You were last in New York City (they were in NY for 4 days before coming here) 22 years ago. What has changed the most since you last visited?
The twin towers have gone. That's the most obvious. But what I find most disturbing is that they seem to have been erased out of memory. The only pictures of the twin towers we came across had a big column of flames and smoke about them. No tee-shirts with the former downtown skyline, no postcards, no posters. Maybe it's because it still too emotional right now, time will tell.
But apart from that and the fact that some yellow cabs are now hybrids, not much has changed. I believe I am the one who changed most. People generally think of themselves as being a single person all along their life. I often feel like I have been different people successively blending into this life for a short while and then blending out of it. I am certainly a different person I was back in 1987 when my parents took my brothers and me on a two-month trip across the US. For one thing, I am now totally immune to the so-called "American Dream" myth, and have therefore dispelled all the childish esteem I had for Americans at that time. Now they are just people to me, with the same proportion of great and not-so-great people as in any other place.
2. What do you think you will remember most (besides your lovely hosts, of course) about Lancaster County, PA when you think back on this trip 22 years from now?
Obviously, what I will remember most is your and Bob's hospitality. Other than this, I believe that a quick glance at the Amish farms and buggies gave me at lot of food for thought. On the one hand, I see them as religious extremists with backward ways and views. On the other hand I believe they are an example and a hope for everyone who wonders what we might become in a world with scarce energy. We often hear people dismissing any energy descent scenarios as a return to stone age and caves. I am pretty sure that the per-capita energy use of Amish people is much lower than the average US citizen's, and probably much lower than the average European too. Yet they do not live in miserable huts or rotting shacks, and the only things that tell apart their houses from the surrounding houses of the "English" is the clothesline, the absence of powerline, and the buggy parked in the front.
So I guess they show us that living with little energy (and almost no fossil fuel energy) is possible, even in a rural environment, even in the western world, even for farming. Obviously, I would not want to adopt everything in their lifestyle nor in their farming practices, but they do set an example that we should consider thoroughly.
3. If you could spend one year living anywhere in the U.S. and then return to your same home, where would you choose to live?
I am not sure I know enough of the US to be in a position to choose. As a total stranger, I believe it would be easier to be living in one of the big cities in the North. San Francisco, Seattle, or maybe Boston as it's closer to home and my brothers already live there. However, if I was to contemplate a more rural lifestyle better suited to my gardening project, I would love to be in a place with more appealing landscape features. Maybe not Montana, but joining an ecovillage somewhere in the Ozarks would probably be my choice, although I have never been there (but who knows - now that I have a sister-in-law from Arkansas, I might one day).
To be continued tomorrow, when Emily answers Mandarine's questions.