Missionary Musings: A few things I’ve learned since moving to West Virginia

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I’ve been in the Mountain State for about four months now, and it’s been one crazy ride.  In that short time I went from being clueless and unprepared for my work to wondering what on earth I was doing with my life before I came.  I decided today to take a break from the serious, reflective stuff I usually post to do something a bit more light-hearted and fun:  a list of things I’ve learned since moving to West Virginia.  Some of the lessons come from my work, some from my leisure.  And by the looks of my list, I’ve learned a lot.

  • People can tell where you’re from (or not from) based on how you pronounce things.  Example:  One time, at work, I said the word “Huntington” (a town in the Western part of the state, home of Marshall University) and one of the girls I was talking to said that she could tell I’m not from West Virginia based on how I said “Huntington.”  I annunciated that first “t.”  A lot of West Virginians pronounce it more like “Hunnington.”
  • “Holler” has a different meaning out here. The dip between two mountain peaks is called a “hollow,” but a lot of people say “holler.”
  • “Mountain” also has a different meaning out here. The Allegheny Mountains slice through the eastern part of the state, where I live, and I’ve learned that West Virginians use different terminology than what I’m used to when it comes to mountains.  A “mountain” is more of a ridge.  The two major “mountains” near me are Cheat Mountain and Rich Mountain, both of which are several miles long.  Prominent points on the mountain are called “knobs.”  I’ve spent many a vacation in Colorado and if you want to identify a mountain there, you point to an individual peak.  Here, you point to an entire ridge.
  • It’s easy to take something like shopping for granted. In late September I went shopping (like, “girls day out” shopping, not “running to Walmart for groceries and shampoo” shopping) for the first time in months and was probably one of the most exciting things that had happened to me in awhile.  Shopping wasn’t really a treat back home, since it was a normal part of city life.  But when you live in a rural place and don’t have much time to shop, a day of shopping is something to look forward to.
  • I’m definitely a city girl. I may have been hesitant to apply that label to myself before I got out here because of some of the negative connotations I feel it has, but it’s totally true.  I’m not about tiny towns and country life.  I like cities.
  • You have to travel a ways to get a taste of city life. The nearest big-ish (by West Virginia standards) city is about 2.5 hours from me.  I don’t care.  I’m going there when my parents visit because I just want to hang out in a city.
  • West Virginia is basically a big forest. It’s become strange to see stretches of land that aren’t covered in trees.
  • West Virginians are friendly. For real.  Almost everyone I’ve met who is from here is super lovely.
  • West Virginia doesn’t really know how to define itself geographically. Too far south to be a northern state, too far north to be a southern state.  WHAT IS IT?  I still don’t know.  Culturally, it’s still kind of a blur to me, too.
  • West Virginia University is EVERYTHING. You cannot walk into a store in West Virginia without seeing WVU gear.  I think it’s a big point of pride for the state.
  • You will learn very quickly that Yuengling brand beer is a thing. IT’S EVERYWHERE.  I had never heard of it before coming out here.  But every place that sells beer sells at least one Yuengling brew.
  • You can’t order alcohol before 1 p.m. on Sundays in restaurants. SOMETIMES I JUST WANT A BEER WITH MY POST-CHURCH LUNCH, DANG IT.
  • Snowshoe is THE place to go for both skiing and warm weather activities. Haven’t been there yet myself—even though it’s only about an hour away—but maybe I’ll venture up there this winter to try my hand at skiing.
  • Driving distances are entirely different here than they are in the Midwest. Your destination is only 30 miles away?  Guess what?  It’s going to take you maybe an hour to get there.  There are miles.  And then there are West Virginia miles.  Those twisty mountain roads will slow you down.
  • Folk/bluegrass/old-time music is very much alive here. Old-time music was and continues to be a big part of Appalachian culture.  You’ll probably even find a radio station or two that plays it.
  • Two words: pepperoni rolls.  Supposedly a West Virginia original.  You can find them just about anywhere that sells baked goods, even the Walmart bakery.
  • Where in the state you’re from determines whether you have that country accent. Folks from urban areas tend not to have it as much as folks from the tiny towns and isolated areas.
  • Bear sausage? Canned venison?  Why not?  In a state of hunters, people aren’t afraid to prepare and eat whatever roams the woods.
  • West Virginia is freaking beautiful. It’s no wonder its top industry is tourism.
  • You will learn to love the song “Country Roads.”  Even if you never really listened to it before spending time here.  It’ll get to ya.

And because I just HAD to include some reflective/personal stuff in this post…

  • Introvert ≠ office job-type person. Before I came here I was hesitant to search for positions that weren’t office jobs because I wasn’t sure if my introverted personality would fit well with any other kind of job.  I didn’t love office work, but I didn’t think I was capable of anything else.  Now I’m not sure if I can imagine going back to it.  I’m definitely still an introvert.  But a job that’s active and crazy seems to fit me much better than sitting at a desk entering data and answering phones.
  • Sometimes God has to lead you to unexpected places in order to show you how extraordinary you can be. I was getting too comfortable with the work I was doing before I came to West Virginia.  I didn’t love what I was doing before, but I felt like I had to settle for it.  I like to think God called me out here to shake me up and to help me see that I was capable of so much more than an office 9-to-5.  God doesn’t want me to settle.  He wants me to be happy and to do good and meaningful and mighty things.  I’m overwhelmed and humbled that He called me to such an incredible opportunity.

 

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