EMU Cross-Cultural

Reflections after visiting the Apartheid Museum

South Africa 4Learning about South Africa’s devastating history while living in Soweto, a township where blacks were forced to move into during the apartheid, has been an enriching and powerful experience. A few days ago, we visited the apartheid museum in Johannesburg. While the museum experience was a painful one, it was necessary in order to understand what the blacks, coloureds, and the Indians went through just a few decades ago. My heart aches for the innocent people that were robbed of their humanity, respect, and dignity. I cannot begin to understand how a group of human beings could impose such intense brutality, hatred, and oppression on another group of human beings. We are all the same in our flesh and blood. I found myself purely hating the Afrikaners, who after the negotiations between the black and white parties began, tear gassed and shot down hundreds of school children. How can people do such harsh things? Why on earth did the oppressive and inhumane apartheid laws last 46 years without the rest of the world stepping in?

As horrible as apartheid was, only a small handful of white South Africans actually stood up against it, with the vast majority of whites in full support of it. Thinking about this, I have to wonder what side I would have taken had I been a white South African during the apartheid years. I would like to believe that I would have been among the handful who stood up against the injustice and oppression, but I cannot be sure. Going against the grain is always a difficult thing to do. Chances are, if I would have been present at Jesus’ trial, I would have shouted along with the crowd to crucify him. So who am I, really, to point fingers? At the apartheid museum, I realized that evil lives in all of us, including me, and therefore, I am capable of all the brutal crimes the whites committed against the non-whites in South Africa. By acknowledging the evil inside me, I am able to choose good over evil, justice over injustice, and peace over violence. This does not make me in any way less angry at the Afrikaners, but it does help me to see the plank in my own eye and remove it before taking out the specks from my sisters’ and brothers’ eyes. We all need God’s mercy and forgiveness.

-Heidi Hershberger

Heritage celebration at Progress High School - Elizabeth Barge, Dieo, Bia Stoltzfus, Ouma, Dimekatso On Tuesday we had an interesting experience at the local high school. South Africa is celebrating Heritage Day this week, so the students put on a bit of a show for us, complete with traditional costumes and dancing. When our turn came to share parts of our heritage, we sang a few songs for them. Everyone was clapping and trying to sing along. It impresses me how proud they seem to be of their own culture, and how much appreciation they show for our culture as well. The most memorable part of the day, however, was the taste testing that followed. The teachers had prepared a feast, which consisted of a number of traditional dishes that made their mouths water and our stomachs churn. I tasted chicken feet, mopani (fried worms), mohodu (cow intestines), and a few other things that I found barely tolerable.  I can only remember a few times in my life that I have actually gagged on something I was eating, but the worms definitely increased that tally by one more. Most of the time, though, we eat pretty well. My host mom Ester is a wonderful cook. She feeds us lots of meat and papa, a thick carbohydrate paste made of white maize meal that we eat with our hands. Sometimes we get beans, beets, potato salad, or mashed pumpkin on the side, and every once in a long while, she cooks a little spinach or some mixed vegetables. I have been missing my veggies, so by the time I get home, I might be willing to eat only greens for an entire week straight. We do get enough fruit, though, almost every “tuck shop” and roadside stand sells apples and oranges. Several times in the past two weeks, I have wished we had a little more variety, but after tasting some of their strange South African delicacies on Tuesday, I am no longer taking for granted their simple staple foods that I have come to enjoy.

-Briana Eshleman

The morning of the marimba

South Africa 3Wednesday morning our group took a relaxing trip to a local community center and was given marimba lessons. For some of the group, like myself, this was the first time we had ever seen a marimba. The marimba is a musical instrument made of smooth wooden pieces and pipes. The wood is struck with drumstick-type mallets, and sound is produced. All of us got a chance to display our skill, and some caught on quicker than others. Every one of us had a terrific time trying our hand at this traditional South African instrument and making beautiful music together. We also loved the break from our usually busy morning schedule to sit in the sun and listen to a professional marimba band as they played for us.

It is wonderful to see how well our group is getting along with one another and becoming a family. You can really tell that people are really comfortable with one another when they are willing to display their marimba talents, or lack thereof, as well as their “unique” dance moves. By the end of the morning, we were able to walk away with another piece of traditional South African culture, as well as many smiles and fantastic memories.

-Allison Byler

Our feeling of preparedness at the debate...-Rachel Yoder and Rochelle Fisher Two weeks into our adventure and I still cannot believe we are in South Africa. Being thrown into a completely different place and culture was not as difficult as I had originally anticipated. I had envisioned myself feeling unsettled and alone…I could not have been more wrong. I have never felt so welcomed in my whole life.

My host mom looks after me, and has made me a part of her family. She has taught me how to bake and how to hand wash my clothes properly. Doing such simple things in a different environment was an experience.

It is easy to feel lost when everything surrounding you is new and very different, but the amazing people you encounter along the way make any adjustments or transitions that much easier. I have fallen in love with the people of South Africa, they have a pride and sense of being that is unshakable. I feel honored to live with these people and to be able to learn from them.

-Rochelle Fisher

Soweto – wonderful hosts and hospitality

South Africa 2

On Tuesday, September 8, I finally arrived in Soweto, South Africa, just outside the capital city of Johannesburg. I entered Soweto filled with apprehension as well as excitement. It was time to meet my new seSotho host family. Many different thoughts were shooting through my head. Would we get along? Would my new family like me? How would they react when I accidentally broke their social rules?

Once I actually met my family, I was so relieved. They were absolutely wonderful. We live in a small four room house and my roommate, Justin Reesor, and I are sharing one room together. Our family showed us around the small, but nicely maintained house and tried to make us feel comfortable. ‘Me Pinkie, our host mom and the ruler of the house, had met us last week and took it upon herself to introduce us to everyone else. There was Pinkie’s forty-year-old daughter, Mawo, and her children, Bahloli and Lesedi. They are one year and eight months, and seven years old, respectively. Bahloli is the cutest toddler imaginable. I think that these living arrangements are going to work out wonderfully, and I am now more excited than ever.

- Nils Martin

Teboho Primary School - Rochelle Fisher Everywhere we go here in Soweto we are bombarded by many greetings and questions, the most popular question being, “What do you like best about South Africa?” Every time my answer is the same: the people. Every day the people of Soweto continue to bless us all as a group with their overwhelming love and hospitality. The primary school children all want to give you hugs, hold your hands, and buy you sweets, the high schoolers greet you warmly and ask many, many questions about our families, school, and what’s popular in the United States. Women on the street are constantly stopping us to invite us into their homes for a cold drink or tea and to “tutor” us in seSotho. Wherever we go, we are greeted with love. That is what I love most about South Africa. The people.

- Rachel Yoder

South Africa – first impressions

South Africa 1

As our plane taxied down the runway at the Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, my first thoughts on South Africa were “This is really…brown.” Although our first impressions might have been a little off considering our 18 hour flight, the last few days in South Africa have been eye-opening, inspiring, and filled with wonderful people and amazing sights.

South Africa, from what I have seen, is a land of fences. A land of walls and gates, guard dogs and barbed wire. Security is a top priority, largely stemming from the remnants of apartheid thinking, which demands that the whites maintain absolute authority to manage the much larger black population. Although this thinking is beginning to recede, the fences still remain.

We will go into Soweto this week for our homestays, and I am excited knowing that through those relationships, we might be able to tear down even just a little bit of the wall that divides black from white, maybe evening learning what it means to be a person instead of just a color. Living in Soweto will (hopefully) open my eyes to see the similarities between Americans and South Africans, between my culture and this new exciting place halfway around the globe.

-Michael Spory

Allison Byler, Rachel Mast, Denay Fuglie, Elizabeth Barge, Kelsey Yoder, Briana Eshlemen, Mike Erb, and Phil TiezsenThe novelties had worn off by hour two. We discovered every little gadget there was to find on the airplane. And lo and behold, there were no lions running through the fields when we landed in Africa.

We’re currently staying at Jacaranda Lodge–learning Sesotho, participating in daily group discussions, and bonding over Dutch Blitz and kicking around a flat soccer ball. On Tuesday we’ll head out to Soweto to live with our host families for 3 weeks.

We were able to experience a true South African welcoming as we visited Soweto this morning. There was singing, drumming, story-telling, stepping, eating, and oh… there was dancing. One hour of full out Mennonite/African dancing. It was quite a hoot. It’s unreal to think we’ve only been here for three days with everything we’ve seen, heard, eaten, and processed already.

-Katie Rodriguez

Report from Reichelsheim

Germany 6Over the past week in Reichelsheim we have done less work and more group activities. On Wednesday my work group continued to dig our drainage ditch around the chapel at the castle.  We finished the digging process and were ready to start putting in the drainage pipe and fill it back in. On Thursday of last week it was a German holiday so we didn’t work; instead we played different group games.  Ute, who belongs to the community, lead us during the games. We played a game where we had to keep multiple balloons up in the air and move from one side of the room to the other as a group. We also played a memory game with small items that represented us. This activity was good to try to bring us closer as a group. Thursday night we went to eat with different families in the community. Heather and I went to eat at the Wolf’s house; we had lasagna, salad, and ice cream. We had some really good conversations about the differences between German universities and American universities, about the towns we lived in, and the things that were most different here from the United States. They were a very nice family and I really enjoyed spending the evening with them.  Friday morning we did not do our normal jobs but labeled 16,000 OJC magazines ready to be mailed out to friends and families of the community. We finished the task during the morning shift so we had free time in the afternoon.

Friday night a large group of us went to a Disco Tech in Darmstadt; this was a lot of fun! The club had three different dance floors in it that all played different music. The majority of us chose to stay on the dance floor that played Hip Hop music. This was a really good experience for all of us because we got to let loose and really have fun with each other. We were teaching the German students how to dance like Americans and they taught of how to dance like Germans! It was really interesting to see how different we danced.

On Saturday we got to sleep till 10 am and then went to Heidelberg for a group tour. We went to the castle that overlooked the city and then got free time to go into the city and go shopping and walk around. The castle was very beautiful and the views from there were amazing. The world’s largest wine barrel was inside the castle. It was about 25 feet tall and you could walk up steps and stand on top of it. We all split into groups and went walking around the city. The group I went with found a Pizza Hut and ate lunch! It was great to have “American” food again! After lunch we walked around the city and went into a lot of different shops. After we returned from Heidelberg we watched “Into the Wild” in the courtyard. 

Sunday we had a late brunch and then a service up at the castle. The service was very different; instead of sitting and listening to someone preach we went to different places around the castle that had different tasks to do or psalms to read. It was very interesting to have a service this way and be interactive rather than just listening to someone the whole time.

Monday we were back to work in our groups. Charles and Kyle digging the foundation of the Old Chapel My group re-cemented the foundation of the chapel. We did not have to work in the afternoon because it started to rain. After dinner we had a presentation from Dr. John from Peru. He came to talk to us about his mission hospital he had built and the journey he went on to build it. He has traveled all around the world to try and get money for the hospital and has made some very important friends and business partners such as:  the First Lady of Peru, the First Lady of Germany, and many top businesses around Germany, the United States, and Peru. His journey was very interesting and showed how God played a major role in making everything work out. Tuesday we worked a full day and started to lay the pipe and fill the hole back in. We got about 1/4th of the hole finished. Our goal is to finish it up on Wednesday.

Our roommates have come closer over the past week. We have been with each other a week now and everyone seems to be a little more open and willing to talk. We don’t really hang out in the rooms much; mainly the rooms are just used to sleep.  The service on Sunday was very interesting. It was the first time I have ever experienced such a hands-on service. We were able to go around at our own pace and think of the things we were thankful for and look at things from our own point of view. I think this experience had a bigger impact on us than sitting for a regular service would have.  After looking back at this week I realize that we all had a lot of fun and experienced far more than we expected too. Most of the group was ready to go home after Greece but I think most of us are happy that we did come to Reichelsheim.

-Charles Metz

 

Leslie working on her journal We have finished our free travel and this week our cross-cultural brings us to a Christian community, the OJC, that is putting us to work. They have split us up into groups, all of which are working on refurbishing a castle. Some are scaffolding, others are working so that they can rebuild exteriors of the castle and the youth center, and others are painting an apartment for new tenants in the community or sanding doors to protect them from the elements. And I am trying to make myself useful by doing secretary work. 

The OJC was created in 1968 as an experiment whose objective was to create a place where youth could interact with others while “living Christ centered lives and developing inspired ideas through dialogue and actions that impact society.” There are three objectives an individual strives for in this community. The first is that they aspire to find a home in Christ by making their life part of Christ’s life. Second, that they find fellowship in Christ by participating and being a contributing and productive member of the community. Finally, the most important thing for the individual participant is following Christ’s direction in order to have faith guide one through life.  And all of this is done by giving one’s service to preserve history.  

I’ve talked to a few of our people about what they are doing here and what they think of their experience.  It is a consensus that the work is hard and people have made every effort to make us feel at home. A typical day is breakfast followed by morning worship,work starting at nine, a break for lunch, and afternoon prayer from twelve to two. Then work continues until four o’clock.  We usually will have some kind of evening activity before or after dinner at six to build our community relationships. Regardless of what we are working on our experience here has been full of new things. A lot of us never thought we’d be able to do this kind of work or ever do it again.  There are people here that have never held a shovel. It has also been a change for our bodies. Coming from relaxation to work is difficult.  However, in this community they use God in worship as a tool of relaxation and nourishment to refuel their energy to work. 

For me, my very new and different experience has to do with the element of faith here.  Growing up in my youth group was an experience of exclusion so I did not get the same opportunity to grow in my faith. So the specific faith aspects of being here is a change for me, a nice one, but still I feel a little out of place. This atmosphere, really shows me how religiously involved Eastern Mennonite University really is. We are working hard, taking comfort in our Christian faith and experiencing good fellowship. 

On the way to the castle in Heidelberg Just recently, we all took a trip to Heidelberg for the day. It was a nice day of relaxation, tourism, and shopping.  My favorite, of course, was Heidelberg Castle. After we got back we all watched a film outside in our nice courtyard. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. This is all very well and good, but it is the end of our fifth week and some of us are getting prepared to go home and some of us are ready now. 

-Leslie Singleton 

Travel to Greek island of Rodos

Germany 5Free travel on the beautiful Island of Rodos! We spent our days relaxing, swimming, and enjoying the beauty, the friendly Greek people and their fantastic food. While on the island, we went on three tours.

The first one was to the island of Symi, which, according to our guide, has the most beautiful harbor in Greece. On either side of a steep-sided fjord rise tier upon tier of houses, some white, some pastel yellow, but virtually all in Neo-Classical style- a reminder that 100 years ago this was one of Greece’s most prosperous islands. We learned that they have to import all of their water from Rhodos and that they have lived off the sea sponge industry for centuries.

Julie about to go on her carpet ride Our second tour was to Marmaris, Turkey. There we found out that the magic carpets associated with orient are not just a myth: Julie got the privilege of going on a carpet ride. We enjoyed the hospitality of the shop owners who served us some traditional tea and visited a Turkish delight factory -a true delight.

The best of all three was the tour to old Rodos and Lindos, where we got a feeling of being in the true original Greek culture. At Lindos we enjoyed fabulous views from the Acropolis. We also drove north of the Island where the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas meet, a breathtaking sight.

Although originally we were disappointed to have our original free travel plans cancelled, we were so glad to have this opportunity to visit Greece. It was all what I had imagined it to be. I was particularly impressed at how they make every effort to preserve their culture and traditions. I am very grateful for the friendliness of the people. It will surely be an unforgettable experience.

 -Laira Alba

The Turkish community near Marburg

Germany 4We recently arrived in Marburg, Germany. It is a beautiful city, home to a castle where the Grimm brothers based many of their fairy tales on. The university town has 80,000 people of which about 20,000 are university students. The atmosphere at Marburg is very friendly and we were greeted by our host families with open arms.

On our second day in Marburg, we visited Stadtallendorf, the home of a small Turkish community just a short train ride away. Stadtallendorf office for IntegrationThere we learned about the integration of Turkish families into the German community. We were invited into the homes of three different Turkish families where we were able to witness how the program works. We also visited the Suni-Mosque where we learned more about the Muslim Religion and the place where they worship. 

Overall we admired the program and how it helps the Turkish people integrate into the German culture without losing their own traditions. Hearing about the Muslim faith was interesting because we were able to see things from their perspective but at the same time, it intensified our own beliefs. 

- Heather Wilkins and Katherine Taylor

Seminar in Sustainable Urban Development

Germany 3On Wednesday, May 20th, we had a seminar on alternative energy sources and sustainable city planning. We met our guide in a classroom under a solar tower in the city of Freiburg. We began with a powerpoint that had many facts about energy usage in Germany as well as the rest of the world. We saw, as we expected, that America was using far more energy per person than the rest of the world. We then spoke about transportation in Germany versus America. Our guide stated that in Freiburg almost a quarter of the people ride a bike while even more use public transportation. This cuts down on energy costs, pollution and the depletion of natural resources.

After the powerpoint presentation, we went on a tour of two special communities in Freiburg. Each of these communities was unique in that the people opt to live in smaller apartments without their own yard or garden. Many also forgo a parking space as they don’t have a car. Instead, there are many public areas such as playgrounds, parks and public indoor living rooms where people can gather to spend time together. There was also a market in each community which had venders selling local goods. Each community has schools for the children, stores for most things you would need as well as access to public transportation. They all work together to cut down on energy expenditure and are cooperating to further a more sustainable city. I found these ideas intriguing and challenging.

Although many of these ideas would be difficult to begin implementing in America, I believe we should work to incorporate these more conservative and Earth-aware lifestyles and mind frames into our day. One example of a way we could cut down on pollution is the idea of carpooling. Another idea would be to encourage the use of separating waste into plastic, glass, paper, aluminum and biodegradable items. This way we could recycle more things and cut down on the amount of useful things we dispose of. America could also work harder to make better use of the space that we have. We could build our towns and cities in a more earth-friendly way by incorporating solar energy and less paved and cemented areas. This is important to us as Christians, as it is being a good steward of what we have been given. Overall, we as Americans have much to learn from the rest of the world on what things in life are truly necessary and what luxuries we should spare.

-Julie Davis

Week 2 in Nigeria

Our second week in Nigeria started with a tour of Vom Hospital and a relaxing swim at HBC resort.  We’re beginning to submerge ourselves deeper within the culture as we learned about the conflicts within Nigeria and the peace building efforts of Gopar Tapkida.  We also volunteered the morning at Faith Alive Clinic where nursing and accounting students stayed within the hospital to work while others went to the village school that Faith Alive started.  We have also been creating relationships and connections with the students at UniJos and learning about ministries such as Ayuba’s wheelchair shop for those with polio.  We are now relaxing for the weekend in Miango, catching up on sleep and getting a taste of American food before beginning our last week here with trips to Otukpo, more interaction with UniJos and saying our goodbyes before heading back to the states!  We are continuing to learn so much and can’t wait to share all of our lessons and stories once we get home.

 -Becca Snyder and Ashleigh Tolliver

Germany group worships in Basel, Switzerland

Germany 2On Sunday, May 10 we went to Basel, Switzerland. After walking along the Rhine River we went to church at the Mitenand Fellowship. They were very welcoming and excited to have us there. The service was unique from many other services I’ve been to. They included many languages besides German and English. Also, they put together a drama of the scripture they performed during the service. Following the service, we were invited to join then for dinner. Much of the food was new and different to us, but we were thankful for their generosity.

 We were invited back the following weekend for their Friday night meeting. A few of us decided to go. We met in a house the fellowship owns. The group was made up of all ages and many different backgrounds. We
joined in their singing and bible study. Many of their songs were familiar tunes and we would sing four verses, each one in a different language. We read the scripture passage in both Spanish and German, but people contributed to the discussion afterwards in their own language.

It was an awesome experience to be with this group of people from all different backgrounds who did not let their language get in the way. Many of us on the trip are struggling with the language and feel lost not being
able to communicate with our host families. It was great being able to worship the same God each using our own language.

Gott ist gut, die ganze Zeit.
Die ganze Ziet, Gott ist gut.

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good

-Maria Zehr