We have been in the city of Anqing for only 11 days and it already feels like home to me. Anqing is a “small” city of 700,000 people and even though I come from a town in Ohio with only 1,670 people, I still feel comfortable here. The fact that my host sister’s middle school alone has over 3,000 students is a little daunting, but the amount of people does not lessen their generosity and hospitality. This is our second home stay and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are more comfortable this time around simply because we have dealt with this before.
For me, Anqing has been an enormous blessing. Unlike in Nanchong, we have personal Tutors to help is with our less-than perfect Mandarin. Our tutors are all students at Anqing University who are majoring in teaching Mandarin as a second language. Having this time every day with students as our tutors has been a great opportunity to make new friends and to really connect with Chinese people in the same stage of life as us.
The university has a drama/music department, which houses their very own Huangmei Opera troupe, put on a show for us last Friday. The local news station caught wind of this and thought that a bunch of foreigners watching traditional Chinese opera was news-worthy. Thus, we were interviewed and caught on camera. Here is a link to the news cast, our part starts at 11:40
My tutor’s name is He Yu and her English name is Halinda. Every day, I get off of the bus and she is waiting for me with a hug and a smile. Brittany, her tutor (Jojo), He Yu, and I have become a small group of friends who just sit and chat every day. While we maybe learn a little less Mandarin than some of the other students, I am not upset because, in my book, a new friendship is just as valuable as knowledge. I am actually dreading leaving Anqing (in 2 days) simply because I don’t want to leave these new friends behind, but I can at least look forward to coming home to my friends and family at EMU.
November 2-9, 2013
This week we were in Lijiang, which is located in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. Much of our group chose to go their separate ways for this week of independent travel. Two groups tackled the hike of Tiger Leaping Gorge while another group decided to stay behind in Lijiang to explore the city and the surrounding areas. One of the hiking groups then went on to the city of Shangri-a while the other rejoined the group in Lijiang and traveled to Dali. I was in the group that stayed in Lijiang Old Town.
The Old Town was a wonderful place; very scenic and full of things to do. For the most part, there were a lot of shopping areas and food stalls selling local specialties. Outside of the ancient city were some beautiful sites to visit. One such site was the Black Dragon Pool park. The park offered a great walk around the pond and a gorgeous view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. The only downside to the park was the entrance fee to get in, which was 80¥.
Next to the park was a place called the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture. According to a website I had read, this museum was a great place to go if you were at all interested in the local culture. Our group was very interested in the Naxi culture, but unfortunately we didn’t get to the museum in time because I made the mistake of thinking that the museum was inside the park. Thus, we never found the museum and ended up wandering around for a while. This was my one regret of the week because I was very curious about the Naxi culture.
The next destination on our list was Dali. It was about 3 or 4 hours from Lijiang by bus. The bus ride was good until the last half hour or so, when the driver decided that it was time for a lunch break. We were literally a half hour away and he pulled into a restaurant in the middle of nowhere for a 30 minute lunch. We were all forced to get off the bus for that time, much to the annoyance of those who were napping.
Once we arrived in Dali, we settled in at our hostel named the Jade Emu (coincidence? I think not). The old city of Dali was similar to Lijiang’s but there was more to do. We went to see the famous Three Pagodas and it was beautiful with the misty mountains in the background. Afterwards, the group took a bike ride to the big lake surrounding the town. Carissa and Malika decided to go on a horseback ride up the mountain and then watch the local fisherman who have trained birds to catch fish for them.
We all met back in Lijiang Old City on Friday, where we shared stories of our travels and took some time to rest up for the following day of travel to our next adventure in the Anhui Province.
From the desk of the Chairman,
Mattie, Mandy, Roberto, Holly
Mandy, Mattie Roberto and I spent our week of independent travel in Germany and the Czech Republic. Although collectively our German and Czech skills were zero, we learned a lot of life skills. For example, nefe in German means yeast (not butter), “classic” water is carbonated and the Czech Koruna is 18 koruna to 1 US dollar. We spent the majority of our time in an apartment we rented in Dresden, Germany where Becca Martin, an EMU student who is studying near Frankfurt, Germany this semester, met up with us to explore the city, and also to take us to Berlin. We also spent one night at the end of our trip in Prague. Highlights of the trip include colorful leaves at the peak of fall in Germany, (there was little of that in Spain) the picturesque beauty of Dresden, a museum on the history of the Nazis’ rise to power and secret police force (right beside the Berlin wall) a semi-spontaneous trip to Saxony Switzerland National Park, an excellent free tour of Prague that was based on tips, and seeing the turn of the hour on the clock in old town Prague. We had a great time eating German and Czech cuisine while trying to take in the reality of very intense stories of the past that took place where we walked. All in all it was a very rewarding trip, and a nice change of pace before heading to Morocco.
Lucas and Matt
Our trip started out with overnight flying to Beaouvois, followed by a morning bus ride to Paris. Upon arriving in a rainy Paris, we looked for food and a place to stay then spent some time walking around and resting. The next two days involved a lot of walking around the city to see landmarks such as the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, a lit up Eiffel Tower at night and a short trip to Versailles to see the famous Chateau. Friday night we boarded an overnight bus (not our greatest idea in retrospect) and arrived in Strasbourg at 4:30 a.m., walked to the train station, and waited for the next train to Soultz Sous Foret, a small village situated in northeast France close to the German border. We were welcomed by a Mennonite family that Lucas’ mom had lived with 30 years ago. The weekend consisted of some hiking, rock climbing, castle ruins, great food, hospitality, rest and relaxation, learning some French and even a Sunday service at the local Mennonite church. This was by far our favorite part of a very eventful trip. On Monday morning we took a bus to Munich, where we would spend the next few days. While in Munich, we were able to see some beautiful buildings, the site of Octoberfest being taken down, the wonderfully preserved park from the 1980(?) summer Olympics, and even the picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. After a lot of time spent flying, waiting and on buses throughout Thursday, we arrived back in Granada, ready for a short break before leaving for another new country.
Kara and Phil
Yo soy un Pelegrino. We, Kara and I, walked over 220 kilometers (about 150 miles) in eight days on the Camino de Santiago from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. So why be a pilgrim and walk the Camino de Santiago? To think, ask questions, to discover friendship, to experience nature, to feel pain, suffer and keep going, to listen, to share, to laugh and maybe to rekindle faith in humanity. Our pilgrimage was nothing short of incredible–how could I ever put it into words? Our first overnight stay in a pilgrim hostel (called an albergue) we met Fred and Roy, two pretty cool dudes. Fred, retired and still going strong, and Roy our tall friendly Dutchman, journeyed with us and became like family. Sometimes we walked together, sometimes solo, but now we are forever kindred spirits. Fred had a saying he would say each morning–rain or shine– as soon as we stumbled sleepily onto the path, “it’s another fine Camino morning.” Now we’ve been thrown into the next chapter of our adventure (into the wonderful world of Morocco) but I know that the lessons we learned–about ourselves, others and the world around us, will stay with us for the rest of our journey.
Alex, Angelina, Josh, Amanda, James and Sarah
For free travel some of us wanted a more laid back break from studies. It worked out that there were three couples in the group who all had this idea, and we found a cheap beach front apartment in a very nice town called Port de Pollensa, on Mallorca which is a Spanish Island in the Mediterranean.
On the Island we found exactly what we were looking for–a laid back week at the beach. Our typical day consisted of sleeping in, a late breakfast and then going to the beach at about 12 or 1 for a couple of hours. We would normally have lunch at about three or four, which we prepared ourselves, and then relax or go shopping until dinner. We only ate out one time for dinner. We did breakfast and lunch as a couple and then took turns cooking dinner for the group.
Some of the other activities we did included a hike to another nearby beach, (Mallorca has beautiful mountains) renting bikes for a day and a two hour snorkeling trip. We also had movie nights and game nights as a group. Overall Port de Pollensa made for a very fun and relaxing independent travel and although we didn’t leave Spain, we were able to see a very different part of the country from Granada.
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and Becka
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and I spent a week in the sleepy town of Reggio Emilia, Italy for independent travel. We spent one night in Malaga prior to leaving Spain which consisted of a makeshift lunch of chocolate, nuts, crackers and sliced cheese (because we were too cheap and hungry to go buy lunch), downtime by the pool with a beautiful view of the beach, and colorful conversation with an Irish man we befriended during our stay. After a taxi, plane, bus and train (every form of transportation except a boat) we arrived in Reggio around ten, starving and ready for some motherly love from Michelle’s aunt Sharon who we were staying with!
Some highlights of our trip include an exclusive tour of the pamagiano reggiano cheese factory (with free samples) a gondola ride in Venice, quality time with Sharon’s crazy cat, Maurice, and FOOD! We had the most amazing pasta including ravioli filled with squash which was specific to Reggio and we learned how to make gnocchi. But that’s not all, the pizza and gelato were out of this world! Best food ever! Also while in a town called Parma, we ran into a couple from Baltimore who saw my EMU shirt and immediately thought Harrisonburg! Such a small world. Overall, it was a relaxing week spent with some great friends, and I have many memories that will last a lifetime.
Annika and Taylor
Our independent travel was all about relaxation so we headed to a small town in Portugal called Albufeira which is located along the Atlantic Ocean. We rented a small studio apartment just big enough to be comfortable. The first three days were warm and sunny, so we gladly lounged around the pool to soak in the sun. We also wandered around our little town finding groceries, touristy shops and restaurants.
The beach was just a five minute walk away from our place, so while it was a bit too chilly to go swimming, we enjoyed the sand and shells. A highlight of our time in Portugal was our day trip to Lagos. We explored the city finding the location of an old slave market, a fortress and a museum of Lagos history. We returned to Granada and the rest of the group rejuvenated and ready for the next chapter of our cross-cultural in Morocco.
This was another whirlwind week for us as we travelled roughly 3,000 miles. On Monday we said goodbye to Xiahe, which had gotten some snow on the mountain tops during the night. During the day we made a stop in Binglingi where we took a boat ride on the Yellow River to visit grottoes with Buddhist wall paintings and sculptures. We then got back on the bus to go to Lanzhou for one night before catching a train in the morning.
Our next stop was Jiayuguan, a small desert town famous for being at the end of the Great Wall. It was quite different from our first visit to the Great Wall near Beijing, since the Wall (more like a mound in some parts) was made of dirt and the terrain was flat. First we went to the fortress that guarded the end of the Wall, and the museum there. We even took the time to banish Jonathan, since this was the official place to do so in dynasties past. We also went to Jiayuguan Pass where the Wall actually ends by meeting a cliff and a beacon tower stands. Myrrl told us back in the U.S. that it was a goal of his to see the end of the Wall, since he had never done so before. As we all touched the end, I may or may not have seen Myrrl cry a single tear.
The next day we traveled to Dunhuang and saw the Mogao Grottoes. There were over 400 caves of various sizes that hold Buddhist sculptures and wall paintings centuries old. There was also one library cave that used to hold thousands of scrolls until they were discovered and sold in the late 1800′s. Among the many Buddhist scrolls were some Christian documents from the Tang Dynasty when there were Nestorian missionaries in China. These scrolls and the Christian pagoda we saw earlier show how the Nestorians took a syncretic approach to introducing their religion just like the first Buddhists in China before them.
After spending the night in the fanciest hotel we’ve been in yet, we spent the majority of the next day at the sand dunes. It was amazing to see such high land forms made out of a constantly shifting material. We got to ride camels, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of China’s great biodiversity. We also tubed down a sand dune, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of the awfulness of sand in your mouth. After eating a lunch of instant noodles, many of us decided to take on a gigantic mountain of a sand dune. While most were smart enough to take the stairs, Carissa convinced Jia, Malinda, Malika, Hattie, and I to climb up the steepest part stairless. It was an exhausting task, took us a very long time (some of our guys made it to the top, ran down, and made it to the top again by the time we got up), and we ended up “channeling camels” most of the way. Finally, the day of the dunes ended with the finding of the most adorable puppy ever, which almost licked Emma to death.
The next day (Saturday), our westward travel officially ended and we took two planes and a train back to Nanchong. We will be here with our host families again for a little less than 2 weeks before moving on to new places. But first we have another adventure: Loren Swartzendruber.
Passionately penned by Nicole Yoder
These past two weeks in Spain seemed to have gone quickly. Our group just completed another two weeks of intensive Spanish. Our culture and civilization class also ended with a busy week of papers, presentations, and an exam. Many students have enjoyed the remainder of our time here through hikes, a trip to the beach, Spanish cuisine, and even los Baños Arabes (Arab baths). The following is the recipe for Spanish tortilla, and a reflection on a personal highlight of this experience.
Una Tortilla Española
Patatas, uno para cada persona
Pimientos Verde y Rojo, sobre 2-3 de cada
Cebollas, 2 pequeños
Aceite de oliva virgen extra
Huevos, sobre 4-5
Direcciones: Se lava, se pela, y se corta las patatas. Se lava y se corta los pimientos y las cebollas. Se pone el aceite en la sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone las cebollas en el aceite y se cocina hasta las son marron. Despues se pone las patatas, los pimientos, y el sal con el aceite y las cebollas y se cocina por sobre media hora. Se mezcla sobre cada diez minutos. Se pone la mezcla en un tazón. Se mezcla los huevos junto y se echa en el tazón. Otra vez, se pone aceite en una sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone la mezcla en la sartén. Se permite los huevos cocinar. Cuando puedes, se da un capirotazo a la sartén en un plato. Se vuelve la tortilla a la sartén. Se repite hasta los huevos estan todo cocido y la tortilla esta doren. Se disfruta!
Disclaimer: I am not in a very high level of Spanish, and I apologize for any mistakes that are made in the recipe.
During our time in Spain I have had the pleasure of enjoying many dishes that are typical of this area, but one of my favorites has been the Spanish tortilla. Luckily, it is also a dish that my host mom loves to make, and makes often. After an evening of talking with my host mom and sister for three hours about many topics including fruit, differences in universities, and what a Mennonite is, I finally asked the question I have wanted to ask this entire time: Can you teach me how to cook a Spanish dish? Naturally my host mom loved this idea. She was thrilled that I wanted to learn and have her as my teacher. We decided that Saturday would be perfect since the group excursions were finished.
I was excited to actually be able to help and get hands-on experience, but rather she had me sit and watch everything she was doing. So I sat and watched, listened to everything she was saying, tried to write it down as best as I could, and took pictures of the time spent together. Even though I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to help, simply sharing this time with her is easily one of the special moments I will take from our time in Spain.
It is not the experience of learning to make a Spanish tortilla that is so special. I could find a recipe somewhere I’m sure. But a cookbook lacks the human connection that was made stronger that afternoon. I had crossed over the language barrier, not without mistakes, and was making connections with people of a different culture. My host mom and I have had very different lives. We come from different cultures and each grew up in very different times. Nevertheless, we have things in common, as all human beings do. One of those things happens to be the enjoyment of cooking.
Connections are made, and strengthened through common experiences despite the differences that exist between the people. Spending time with my host mom learning more about something we both love was an excellent way to strengthen such a human connection. It crossed the barriers of culture and language that are so often difficult to break through. It strengthened the relationship that was built during our short stay in Spain. And it is something that I will never forget.
Such a wonderful experience is going to make leaving even more difficult. As I am writing this our group is enjoying our last day in Spain, getting ready to leave on free travel. Groups of students are preparing to leave throughout this evening and tomorrow, heading out on different paths. Destinations for free travel include Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Holland, and even the Island of Mallorca off the east coast of Spain. Prayers for safe travels and a rejuvenating time before we gather and travel to Morocco are welcomed and appreciated.
This week was a wonderful week for this EMU cross-cultural group! On Monday we traveled to Qingchengshan to climb a Daoist mountain. The scenery and energy there was spectacular. We climbed to the top, or at least, a top, where we ate lunch at a Daoist temple. On the way down exhaustion set in for many of us, but we had a relaxing boat ride and trip back to rest.
That next day we left Chengdu for the ancient capital city, Xi’an. Other than having a wonderfully comfortable hotel, we enjoyed biking around the city wall and exploring the city center. Xi’an was certainly built like a fortress with old watch towers and traditional Chinese buildings. We were very touristy in Xi’an, and there were many neat little shops for souvenirs. One favorite was a shop selling biblical passages in Chinese on scrolls. I think the owner was happy to sell to a group of Mennonites with lots of spending money.
The Terracotta Warriors museum was also a great attraction. The amount of time and effort put into making all of those warriors is staggering, though I don’t know the exact statistics. Let’s just say that many, many pictures were taken there. After a few more visits to Christian pagodas and mosques we left Xi’an for Lanzhou by overnight train.
We arrived in Lanzhou a bit tired and disheveled. After a few long bus rides we arrived in Xiahe where we still reside. Situated in Gansu province at about 9800ft of elevation, this Tibetan town is the most peaceful I have ever experienced. Combined with the mountainous scenery, fresh air (that one breathes slower due to the altitude), a large reason for the peace is the Labrang Monastery, home of about a thousand Tibetan monks.
Yesterday we visited the Monastery and it is certainly a powerful place. One of the Monks honored us by his presence, and we were briefly educated about the ways of Buddhism through a translator. The simple lifestyle and complete spiritual discipline was intriguing and impressive.
The grasslands of Ganjia called our name today. It was really cold and the bus ride was extremely rocky but the lunch and the atmosphere was tranquil and gigantic. We also went to a nomad village and a Black Hat Monastery (different from the Yellow Hat of Labrang). The spiritual worship and brutal, yet wonderful, lifestyle seen there was quite humbling.
Most of us are loving it here, but it’s time to leave! Tomorrow we head out for more adventure.