One cold January day in 2006, at in the afternoon, Emma took off her bonnet and walked out the door of her family’s small farmhouse. Now living in a suburb of Dallas, Emma blends in well. A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows. I didn't know how to use it but I figured it out when the time came. I was in shock for days after I found that on the Internet.She left a note for her parents: The life she found could not be more different. Accustomed to making supper for her family of 16, she learned to cook for one. She wears brightly colored blouses and a full face of makeup. Olga Khazan: What technology were you already using when you left? Another person that had been Amish and had left gave me the cellphone. Khazan: How did you figure out how to use it when the time came? Gingerich: I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to hear anybody because I had never talked to somebody on the phone. That encouraged me to look more and more and more, to see if there was more stuff out there about my family that I don’t know about. Gingerich: He was accused of sleeping with his daughters.They can make whatever choice they want, but still they're complaining that they don't have enough, not enough options. For example, the Amish have more than one church, but if you join a different church than the rest of your family, you get shunned. Khazan: Like, maybe reality TV, or i Phone games, or ... Because it feels like I’m naked or something without being constantly updated on what’s going on.
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Gingerich: I really enjoy having the ability to share my faith, or my happiness, or share whatever to others, and not feel like I can’t do that because then I'm considered worldly.
Because in the Amish, they don’t really share anything about themselves, how they feel, how mad they are. For the Amish, they just keep it inside and move on.
Gingerich: I just dialed a number and figured out what button to push to make it call out. [I thought], “ All kinds of things were going through my head. Khazan: How did that affect you, seeing information about your granddad on the Internet? Some of them do have a phone outside the house in a little shack. The thing is, if people do split off to a more a liberal church, the ones that stay, family members are divided, even. Gingerich: The family that I stayed with in Missouri for a few days, they knew the people in Harlingen, so they got me in touch.
Khazan: The concept of phones, you were familiar with that? But after it was done, I felt pretty good about it, that I had accomplished it. I enjoy looking at different hashtags on Instagram and looking at pictures from all around the world. Gingerich: What got me the most was that my parents never talked to us about stuff like that. And that causes problems when there is a wedding, for example, because then some of the family members are not included as much in the wedding party as they would have been if they had stayed. Khazan: So you didn’t know English when you left, really?
I don’t think he wanted to, but I also don’t know why I didn’t make the effort to talk to him on the phone.