Before coming to Vermont in 2007, I looked forward to a nice vacation in a beautiful mountainous place. I have always loved mountains. Even in my dreams, it never occurred to me that the Green Mountain State would one day become my second home.
Summer that year was wonderful. The picturesque valley in which I found myself was lined with a wreath of gorgeous woods, glittering lakes and vast green meadows. The scenery was charming, almost like a fairy tale!
I was amazed and surprised by the friendly, smiling people. Their willingness to help and lend a hand is anchored in a simple but magical sentence, “Can I help you?” Vermonters mean it, honestly. During conversations, they are respectful and considerate, whether in a store, at work or on the street. Drivers I encounter are decent and attentive, respectful of vulnerable road users who may be walking or biking. Vermonters seem to live joyfully and comfortably.
Cars are an integral part of Vermonters’ lives. They use them frequently even if to achieve something just a few meters away. It is admirable how they take care of people who experience disabilities and remember to honor war veterans. Every time I visit the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Sharon,I am deeply touched. I remember the unforgettable history!
One Sunday of that memorable summer, I decided to visit “the area” near the city of Rutland. My desire was to get to know tourist attractions. What was I to do without a car or a bus connection? All I had was the courage to try hitchhiking. Now, I’m more aware that it was crazy courage: A foreigner, with poor English, goes to an unknown city! However, strengthened by the fact that I live among good people, I armed myself with a few necessary things. I held in one hand a self-study book; English is Easy, my daily companion. I carried in the other hand a little insurance –one apple—my “first aid” in case I got hungry. Finally, I took a little money, which I prudently hid in my pocket. Well, I had everything and with the thought of “Help me, God” I set off.
After about one hundred meters of walking, I decided to raise my hand, shyly. To my pleasant surprise, the oncoming car stopped immediately! The handsome driver responded sympathetically to my question “Can you help me?” He answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!”
I was excited and I introduced myself with the following sentences: “I am a teacher.” “I am from Slovakia.” “I am working here and my brothers are here too!” It should have sounded confident, indicating that I was not defenseless. The driver, my current husband, noticed this, and often reminds me of my original presentation with a smile.
He took me safely to Rutland, then on a hike to Deer Leap Trail, then another hike, to the cinema and on a romantic trip to Pennsylvania. Very soon, he introduced me to his family, whom I immediately liked. It was fantastic!
Surely, you can imagine how hard it was for me to go back to Slovakia when my heart stayed in Vermont. Then I came back after a while and my almost Cinderella’s story culminated in a wedding! Vermont has become my second home, but that is another story!
*Jolana received editing help from VT Adult Learning