Harmony Man Enjoys Guiding Au Pairs Through Amish Country

Harmony Man Enjoys Guiding Au Pairs Through Amish Country

By Melissa Vander Plas of Bluff Country News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mike Peters of Harmony, Minnesota, had a special surprise on Sunday, March 30, when a group of visitors approached him to get information about the Amish community. As the owner of Budget Ride, a local travel agency providing tickets to Amish using public transportation, Peters was thrilled to play host to the visitors, who were all part of an international au pair program.

The seven young women and one young man came from the countries of Guatemala, France, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Poland and Spain. Each one of the young people belongs to an international au pair program that matches American families needing assistance in their homes to foreign young adults who wish to visit the United States. In exchange for their service, the young people receive a small salary, room and board.

Peters explained that the program is a one-year commitment by both parties, consisting of a 45-hour workweek for the international visitors. This can include housekeeping, cooking and caring for pre-school and school-aged children.

On their time off, the au pairs can pursue studies as well as travel outside of the area, studying various cultures of their interest, such as the trip to the Harmony area.

Peters described the March day as an "unusually sunny afternoon where everyone's spirit was uplifted."

Because of his association with Old Order Amish for over 65 years, Peters was well qualified to take the visitors around the countryside surrounding Harmony and Canton. He has lived in Iowa and Minnesota, near Amish communities, and has maintained his business office in Harmony and a second location in Jesup, Iowa, located in Buchanan County, near another substantial Amish settlement.

Before taking the au pairs for a tour, Peters invited them into his home to review his own collection of books, publications and other memorabilia relating to the Amish. He answered many questions on the subject, helping the visitors understand the Amish and what they might see on their tour.

Because it was Sunday and no formal Amish tours are allowed, Peters drove them to locations where he knew they could view the Amish, but still be respectful of their Sabbath.

He took them to a local shop that produces custom furniture and cabinets and Peters explained how these craftsmen can create such beautiful pieces without electricity. He also made two discreet stops at homes where church services were being conducted.

Peters said, "This allowed the visitors to see the contrast of the brick and mortar houses of worship that we and the visitors are accustomed" to the gatherings at the Amish homes.

Following their visit to Harmony, Peters received several emails from the group members, thanking him for their tour and the information he provided them.

The following is just a sample of the notes he received, sent by Jackie, a 19-year-old from Argentina. "I was two weeks early with friends in your city! Was so beautiful! (Excuse me, my English is so bad!) This is my third month here, in this beutifull country and I'm so amazing, to find people like you! And I need to say: THANK YOU! This was my best Sunday here! You really deserve my thank! This is the beginning of my trip, and when I meet people like you, I want to keep traveling of my life! My best dreams for you and for Amish people!"

Peters encouraged the young people to return to Harmony in the summer and fall so the group could observe the agricultural practices of the Amish and sample the produce and other items offered for sale to the public.

During their visit to the United States, the Minnesota au pair group said they are also hoping to visit South Dakota, Native American settlements, Washington, D.C., and New York City.

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