EMU Cross-Cultural

Cross Cultural: Extreme Follow the Leader

Kim and Seth in Vienna, Austria

As a child, I played follow the leader. I mimicked the actions of others for fun.

As a college student, I find myself in a very similar situation. This cross cultural is an extreme game of follow the leader.

Our leaders, Kim and Seth, model how to function in contemporary Europe. They guide us through cities and on public transportation. They gladly share their wisdom and calm our nerves. We follow. We learn by example.

These times of mimicking prepare us for times of independence. Almost daily we are given opportunities to explore or assignments to find specific locations. This is when the roles reverse. My peers and I will take turns directing, learning through practice.

Although this ever changing game of follow the leader is fun and challenging, it has a specific focus. We are tracing the paths of our Anabaptist roots. We are walking streets where they were beheaded or burned for refusing to recant their faith. We are crossing rivers where some were drowned and where some fled by boat. We are visiting towns where their communities thrived for a short amount of time and towns where they were forced to leave. We are following the steps of our Anabaptist leaders, imagining what life and faith meant to them.

A new perspective on Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria

Looking back over the last three weeks, I have learned a lot in this game of follow the leader. Navigating a new European city is no longer daunting. Ordering food, when the menu is only in German, is exciting. Boarding trains has become a normality. Walking tours are necessary. Overall, I have become more confident, learning the tools I need to navigate within a new culture.

I have also realized how comfortable my faith experience has been. My choice to follow Christ does not have life or death consequences. My life as an Anabaptist is so much easier than my fellow Anabaptists during the Radical Reformation. This shift in perspective has given me an avenue to reevaluate my faith and relationship with God.

Playing follow the leader is much more challenging than it sounds.

🙂 Madalynn Payne

Reflections on Life in Europe

I started off this cross cultural thinking that I had a leg up because I had traveled out of the country to Europe before, but I was sadly mistaken. Last time I was with my group of 20 something people carrying huge suitcases and matching backpacks, moving like a herd through towns with a tour guide on a big bus. This time around, we are a group of 11 students, and are encouraged to try to live like the locals. This way is definitely more scary for a 19 year old who is used to having my parents be a call and a 30 minute car ride away.

European culture in general is very different than American culture. The population as a whole is generally more reserved, in anything from clothing to personal expression. Personally I have received mixed receptions. Sometimes there are people that would love to talk to you and hear your story, and patiently wait for you to figure out what the heck you’re trying to get in the Billa when you can’t read a lick of German and have to rely on pictures. Then there are some that give you the, “I can totally tell you’re American by the way you enter a room” look and aren’t having it. Luckily there have been far less of the latter looks.

Something else a small town southern girl such as myself had to get used to is living in the city. There are people talking and laughing, car horns, street cleaners, and more at all hours of the night and very early in the morning. But then there are the advantages; like being able to walk to everything, having regular access to public transportation, and having things to do at 9pm when you’re bored and can’t journal any longer. Other things I’ve had to get used to are having to pay for water (you learn to just bring your water bottle and not ask for drinks), different foods, people trying to speak to you in different languages, pesky tour groups that are like 40 strong, and apparently they don’t like ketchup as much as we do. Also can I just mention that while I was well aware that they don’t drink sweet tea over here, that’s on my top 10 most missed list.

So far I have talked about a lot of disadvantages, but there are some pretty great aspects to this trip as well. I have redefined my definition of “lost”. Before I used to rely on my cell phone GPS or call my dad (a human atlas) when I didn’t instantly recognize my surroundings. Now if I don’t it’s not a big deal, we’ll figure it out eventually. Another HUGE plus is the scenery. There are so many places that look like they’re straight off a postcard, except I get to see them in real life. There are plenty of photo opportunities over here. Also, this trip has been great for whipping some of us into shape. There has been a lot of walking, which obviously there are some downsides. If your body isn’t ready, the first two weeks will be quite an adjustment. The plus side is that you’ll come back looking better than ever. Plus all that exercise means you can eat an apple strudel after dinner a few nights a week.

This week has been kind of travel heavy with going from Vienna to Salzburg to InnsbrĂĽck with a couple day trips to different towns thrown in the mix, so we have gotten well acquainted with the OBB (train station). Time is passing quite quickly, but the memories we’re making will be unforgettable.

-Madison Streett

Week Two: Vienna

Group photo after tea, coffee, and snacks at Ilse’s apartment.

Ilse Friesen has been a great connection for us here in Vienna. Because of her, I feel like we have been able to immerse ourselves more into the culture than we would have otherwise. On Sunday, she invited us to her apartment for a proper cup of Viennese coffee and tea. It was great for us to be able to interact with her inside her home. On Tuesday, Ilse came to our little classroom and gave a lecture on female crucifixes. Ilse is extremely intelligent and has written numerous works of females and saints in the church. On Thursday, we were invited by her and her brother to a private piano concert. This was an amazing opportunity to her professional piano players that we wouldn’t have gotten without her.

Inside the Wiener Riesenrad

On Friday we visited the Prater and had the chance to ride the Wiener Riesenrad. The Wiener Riesenrad is one of the largest and oldest Ferris wheels in Vienna. It was fun to be able to take an afternoon to relax and bond even more as a group. Although it’s sometimes stressful to be in a group all day everyday, we are mixing and working very well together. Exploring a new country and culture is a great experience on its own, but even better when you’re surrounded by wonderful people.

-Miriam Beck

View from the top

from our visit to the STAR (Service To All Relations) charter school (starschool.org)

Today was a wonderful experience at the STAR school. My favorite part was playing basketball with all of the kids. I was blown away by how well they got along with one another in the game. Joe, Kyle, Griffin, and I talked about how all the kids were extremely close and have an inseparable bond. They put a smile on my face when I saw how much excitement those kids had. I was also happy to have a nice conversation with an 8th graders named Stephen. He made me realize that the Navajo people are just like me because he told me how he was nervous for the 9th grade. It allowed me to think back when I was in his shoes and had the same thoughts. These kids allowed me to escape my thoughts about missing family and to just be a kid. I am thankful for this experience today.

-Brendon Salladay

Photo credit is Jack Hummel. Featured in the photo are STAR students and Joe Hall, Brendon Salladay, Kyle Salladay, and Griffin Stanley.

 

 

First explorations in Vienna

13 May 2017

Overall the past six days have been crazy and fun. I chose to go on this trip to experience traveling across the world for the first time. My second trip via plan e was a lot better than my first, less motion sickness and more sleep than I thought. Going through customs for the first time was easy too. Overall everything was good until we had to travel from our host family’s house to the classroom.  We have gotten lost almost every day this week on the Ubahn. Our daily commute takes an hour. We walk to a bus stop then get on the bus to the station then get on the S -train until we reach the U-trains until we get into actual Vienna. As of Friday we have officially figured it out. This week we have walked all around the inner ring of the city, also known as the old city. We have done a scavenger hunt, two walking tours and spent most of our free time in here. This city is nothing like New York or D.C. The buildings are all different shapes. Each building looks as if it is from another time period. Most are covered in a mural or decorative statues to show the history of the city. So far I have been able to visit a lot of historical places for music. I found the statue s or graves of Johann Strauss, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. We also got to find the school where Beethoven and Haydn met and one of the houses Beethoven lived in on our tour. I am very excited for next week and the rest of our cross-cultural.

-Hannah Menefee

 

Prior to leaving for the cross-cultural, I was incredibly excited to visit Germany and Switzerland. I’ve often learned about Germany in history classes and knew of personal Mennonite connections to Switzerland. I knew little of Austria and, therefore, was unsure about the visit here. My hesitancy, however, was completely unfounded. The past few days in Vienna have been a great experience that I hope to never forget for several reasons.

Since being in Vienna, we have visited some amazing sights. I’m a history major, and love visiting old buildings and museums. We have visited St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral dating back to the twelfth century, along with others. On Thursday, we went to the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum. 

While I have loved the classic sights, the unexpected experiences have been some of the best. As a woman from a small town, I was unsure about public transportation and city navigation, but it has been a great experience to travel the city and learn how to navigate on our own. Also, a street near the Donaukanal (a canal), offers some fantastic graffiti. Overall, Vienna has been an incredible visit so far, and I know it will be difficult to leave.

-Emma Yoder


The Journey is Home

It’s really difficult to sit down and only write about one or two things that we’ve been doing on this cross-cultural. I feel like there is so much that I want to share, and so many incredible, spectacular sights and landmarks that have been so meaningful to everyone on the group, and I wish I could tell you about all of that. However, I also feel that so many times those at home or on EMU campus hear about how our trip is going and only take away the flashy names of places and things, but don’t realize that the people they care about are changing and growing so much while at these places. So, I wanted to have a blog dedicated to showing a small example of how we’re changing and growing.

We are currently staying at Ecce Homo in the Old City of Jerusalem, and spent the day contemplating Jesus’ final days here in the places mentioned in the Bible. To finish off the day, we all met in the chapel of Ecce Homo and took communion and read scripture together, which was very cool to be able to do as a big group. After we finished our last song, the group was sensing that our service was coming to a conclusion. However, at that moment, one of our group members came forward and began to speak about her experience of losing a loved one a few days ago. This took the group by surprise, because she had not previously opened up about this, and the group was captivated by her sharing and stories. When she was finished, I looked around and could see that most of us were pretty emotional.

This segued into a call for prayer requests, and then something remarkable started with our group. Slowly, one by one, members of the group began to share about family members that were ill or not doing well, and soon it became apparent to me that half the group had offered a prayer request for a loved one. Everyone seemed to be opening up and sharing deep, personal things about themselves that no one had really known or thought about before. We prayed, and then at this point, Janet stood and shared how much the sharing time meant for her, and then she left us with an idea to live by while missing family or feeling unsure about the future: “The journey is home”.

Janet explained how it can feel so alienating being halfway across the world from your family as things might not be going well there, and you can start to feel lost and disoriented. However, she offered that while we may be on the other side of the Atlantic, we have each other, and that’s enough to feel a little bit at home. At this point, it really struck me how much of a home our group was, together. Everyone had opened up and felt so comfortable with one another, and I realized how close we had become as a group. We had truly become a family, and our home was found in one another. And that, my friends, is something that makes a cross-cultural experience irreplaceable. That is what this trip is all about, and what I’ll hold onto much longer than plane tickets or pictures or souvenirs. This trip is teaching us about who we are, and who we will become. And I love that.

Blessings from Jerusalem,

-Adam Harnish


Prayers for Coach O. from Jerusalem

Whether you’re at home with your loved ones or across the world engrossed in other cultures, no one can remain untouched by news of friends and family experiencing deep suffering. Our cross-cultural group was saddened and upset by the news about former coach Britten Olinger and the extent of the injury he sustained in the accident. Two of the students in the group had been coached by Britten during his time at EMU. Many others had not personally known him but had known of him and the impact he made on others while he coached at our university.
Concern for Britten and his recovery is falling on ears across the world, and prayers are being lifted up all over. Our group wanted to share both our prayers for Britten’s health battles, as well as a deeply touching experience we were privileged to have in praying for him.
The morning we heard the news, our itinerary had already been planned weeks/months in advance. In the midst of hearing about the incredible suffering of those at home, God granted us the small blessing of being able to pray for Britten in some of the most sacred, meaningful places. The first stop on our itinerary brought us to a location known as “the high place,” which is a place thought to be the location of the last supper, as well as the location of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was first delivered to the world. Here we held a time of devotion and prayer for Britten and all the loved ones affected by the accident. We prayed that in the midst of their pain and fear, Britten and his family would feel God’s presence and peace holding them in His arms. We prayed that their loved ones would be blessed to be able to bring them much needed love and comfort. We prayed God would hold Britten in his hands, watching over his life and healing his body.
A scripture had been chosen to be shared during this time, from John 5. This scripture tells the story of Jesus healing a lame man at the pools of Bethesda. For us, this was a testament to the miracles of healing that we know He is capable of, and a prayer for Britten both for a miracle as such, and for patience and strength. The pools of Bethesda and the location of this miracle, unknown to those who chose the scripture, was one of the locations we were to visit that day. Britten and his family were on all of our minds while we stood in a place that had witnessed God’s healing hands.
This family continues to be on our minds and hearts as we travel, eagerly awaiting the news of progress that is beginning to happen. We are continuing to lift up prayers for healing, comfort, and peace for Britton, his friends and family, and his doctors and health specialists.
-Sierra Martin

Unexpected Greatness

It’s crazy to think that just 3 months ago I was back in the states getting ready for a trip I never thought I would have done. While packing up my suitcase and backpack I was thinking about all that might come out of an experience like this.  The new Spanish I would learn, the new family I would hopefully grow close to and the new city I would need to call home for the next few months of my life. I also couldn’t stop thinking about the people I was going with. I would ask myself “Will I grow closer to the friends I already knew or would I end up branching off and growing closer to others while possibly growing farther away from my current friends?” I remember the morning we left, the butterflies all of a sudden showing up in my stomach as I looked through the slightly frosty windows at the friends wishing me off as the bus drove away.

As we arrive in Guatemala I remember noticing the graffiti everywhere in the city, almost as if it was something the city decided to do to give it some character. I also remember noticing all the barbed wire, the men carrying shotguns on every block, the worn down road, and the customized school buses to help give it some personality, and the insane amount of cars. It wasn’t long until I noticed how crazy the drivers are here. But I can’t help but notice that the locals here in Guatemala are some of the best drivers I have ever seen on the road. In the USA we have awful drivers who follow the rules (or attempt to), whereas here in Guatemala we have amazing drivers who think of the rules as a suggestion. And then we have the people. Oh man, the people. Americans could really learn a thing or two from the people who live here. Most people will genuinely say “Buenos dias” as you walk by them in the street on your way to wherever you are headed. People will go out of their way to help you if they think you might be having trouble, and if you ever have a question you can ask just about anyone and they will be willing to help you out.

As for my EMU group, I feel blessed. Going on this trip I don’t think I could have expected to have such a fantastic group of people. Before we left I could say I was friends with maybe 5-6 people. But if you were to ask me now who my friends are on this trip I would have to say there isn’t a person here I wouldn’t consider a close friend. These people are some of the most caring, open-minded, intelligent, fun-loving people I have met and it has really made this trip enjoyable. We have had super deep conversations, insanely hard laughs, and great reflections. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to go to a foreign place with. Thank you all for being so great!

Going on this trip, I would have never guessed that I would learn so much and be pushed so hard. I couldn’t be happier with what I have achieved while being here for 3 seemingly short months. This place is beautiful and full of experiences. I would encourage anyone planning on doing a cross-cultural to pick this one.

-Kieran O’Leary


International Women’s Day

8 March 2017

In honor of international women’s day, we did the only logical thing to celebrate: and that was eating cake. With much glee, we sang and celebrated the birthdays of those from February and March, in addition to celebrating women and the women in our lives. After our cake break, the guys so kindly offered to wash our dishes. Considering there are only 5 guys in our group plus Jim, we women had some time to kill until the guys were ready to return to Spanish class.

As we climbed the stairs to our classrooms our teachers (the majority of whom are women) decided to start an impromptu dance party with all the ladies. The boom box was brought out and we laughed and danced and sang. As I looked around at all the women around me, I couldn’t help but be incredibly grateful for the smiles, laughter and being of each woman. I am grateful for each woman for being who she is. As I have struggled with the machismo culture that is very much a part of everyday life in Guatemala, it was so healing to see women laughing and enjoying time in fellowship. I am so grateful for our teachers who have so graciously adopted us gringos as their students and patiently helped us to increase our Spanish speaking abilities in addition to teaching us much about life in Guatemala. This joyful event gave me hope. Hope because even in the midst of injustice there is hope, there is joy.

I will forever be grateful to Guatemala and for the people in Guatemala such as my beloved host family and teachers for showing me a different world, for showing me how much joy there is in learning new things, in diversity. Sometimes this makes one question their own culture, or question the ideas from a new culture, but that’s okay. It is okay to ask questions. Keep asking and exploring. There is so much to be learned from people different than you. To all the women, thank you. You are valued, loved, and important. Keep being you.

– Mariah Denlinger


Frequently used phrases

1 March 2017

Frequently Used Phrases

When I first thought about learning a new language, I thought the most difficult thing would be the grammar. While grammar is tricky, I’ve found the hardest thing to be the vocabulary. You can understand how the grammar works all you want, but it is meaningless when you don’t know the words. Considering I am quite new to learning Spanish, my vocabulary is limited, which provides a space for repetitive phrases. I wanted to provide a list of some of those phrases with an example to go along with it.

  1. Estoy lleno (I am full): After a giant plate of beans, several tortillas, a couple pieces of bread for my first serving, and maybe some pineapple, my mom will ask, “Âżalgo más?” In which I usually respond with, “estoy lleno,” because if I eat another bite, I’d probably explode.
  2. Si (yes): The word I usually use when asked a question.
  3. ÂżQue? (What?): The thing I ask when I realize it wasn’t a yes or no question.
  4. Otra vez (another time): When I need to hear a question or answer another time.
  5. Buen provecho: a phrase you use before a meal, during the meal, when you pass people eating, and to dismiss yourself from the table. It is similar to “bon appetite” or “enjoy your meal.”
  6. PerdĂłn (excuse me/sorry): Used when you have to shove your way off the seemingly impossible packed buses. Also used when you don’t understand a word or phrase even though you desperately want to communicate.
  7. Entonces (Then/So): The Spanish equivalent to “like” or “um.” Used often when you’re trying to think of the next word to say.
  8. Mi estĂłmago me duele (my stomach hurts me): Usually used when someone is infected with giardia or amoebas and needs to tell their family that you’re vomiting or having diarrhea but can’t communicate that properly to them.
  9. Buenos dĂ­as/tardes/noches (good morning/afternoon/night): When you pass someone on the street you say one of these things… but it’s always a mystery what the proper times are to say which one.
  10. Muchas Gracias (Thank you so much): Any time someone does something good for me, which is a lot. Like everyday when my family puts a delicious meal in front of me or when my host mom helps we get through my sickness. When the man in front of me at the panaderĂ­a purchased me a pan de agua without ever speaking to me. Or when my host dad in the K’ekchi village showed me awesome photo locations and when he presented me with a hand woven book cover. And those don’t even count for the times it hasn’t been said, but am incredibly thankful for. Like all the times I laugh with my family, whether it is laughing at a mistake I made in Spanish (like saying I cut up a horse when I meant to say onion) or playing a high-tension card game. Or the fact that I feel like I have a real relationship with my teacher here and can talk to her about anything. Even the old woman that smiles at the five gringos walking past her every morning, saying buenos dĂ­as, I am grateful for.

Despite the language barrier, I have seen, time and time again, the love and compassion of the people here. It has truly been an eye-opening and awe-inspiring experience.

-Riley Swartzendruber