EMU Cross-Cultural

Reports from Chefchaouen, Morocco

Spain/Morocco 6Our introduction to Morocco, while fascinating in itself, unfortunately felt very tailored to Western tastes. The ferry ride at sunset across the strait of Gibraltar was beautiful though–the shadow of Europe fading into an ever-darker distance, etc., but probably everyone in the group would agree it felt like we were only viewing a tourist-approved part of the country. However, since we arrived in Chefchaouen here in the mountains there has been a big change.

After a harrowing bus ride up and down and around the Rif mountains (During which we had to stop so the driver could descend into the depths of the bus and wrestle with some recurrently recalcitrant aspect of the drivetrain–we were told that some kids had stolen parts off the bus during the night…), we disembarked in the small city of Chefchaouen (“Look at the horns,” a Berber name referring to the surrounding mountains). Chefchaouen is blue. Predominantly, in color, I mean. Many of the buildings are painted blue for differing reasons depending on who you ask; the short answer is no one really knows why, and they continue to paint with this blue color because they always have. The city seems like it has physically grown out of the mountains–the buildings are odd, natural shapes, the streets are extremely narrow and have no pattern  or  logic other than to follow the shape of the mountain, there may be stairs at any point or a tunnel or a dead end… it’s not like any place I’ve ever been before. Added to the tranquil beauty of the surroundings, apart from a few disturbing exceptions, the people here are awesome. The prevailing attitude is refreshingly different; everyone is more relaxed, more friendly, more willing to talk about anything or nothing, than in many places I’ve been in the US. As I was leaving the shop of the Hat Man, promising to come back and buy a hat, the eponymous owner said in patient, sagacious tones, “You do, you don’t, it does not matter. This is your life–” (here he gestured at me) “–and this is mine (gesture at hats).”

Meeting the local students was a big surprise–in Spain we hardly met any Spaniards. It’s funny how impressed they are with us, just because we’re from the U.S., when in actuality we look like lazy slobs in comparison to these high school students who know three languages and study more in their spare time. It seems like their circumstances here impart a sense of urgency and drive to the youth towards education. Of course this may just be my skewed view based on the students who were selected for this exchange program, but still. I could write a lot more but it takes too long.

-Ben Nelson

Jon learning woodcarving This has been one of the craziest and most unusual weeks of cross cultural so far, our crossing into Morocco. We finished our week in Sevilla, which was a good time, and then it was off to Morocco! I was excited and nervous to go, but we had all been looking forward to this. The travel was fun, and the ferry across from Gibraltar was the best. We got to spend most of the time out on the deck, even though the signs said not to, and played in the heavy wind and watched Africa get closer and closer. We landed in Ceuta, Spain’s city in Africa, and then crossed over to Morocco, where a beret wearing police officer got on the bus and checked our passports.

The next two nights we stayed in hotels in Tetouen and Tangier, and took tours of an old Medina marketplace and the coastlines, and saw some Moroccan entertainment. The morning we were leaving for Chefchaouen, where we would stay the week, we got on the bus and it wouldn’t shift. Apparently some boys had stolen some transmission cable, which must have some value here when resold. After another breakdown, we made it to Chefchaouen, a beautiful town in the mountains known for its houses with blue paint. We were all glad to finally get to the awesome house we stayed at all week, Dar Mesiana. Everyone was surprised to find that the week was mostly full of activities and that night we were going to meet some Moroccan students. They turned out to be around 15 or 16 years old, and they had been counting down the days to our arrival. This was somewhat awkward, because they had only just told us that we were even meeting them at all. The next day we went to their houses for lunch, and the food was good. We had a lot of activities this week, the most crazy being a hike to another village with a crazy SUV ride back. We also visited many non profit organizations. Some of us went to play basketball with the students, which turned out to be a full on match with their girls team, complete with jerseys.

Just everyday life here is so different from what we are used to. The way people dress is of course different, as well as the way they act, speak, do business, interact, and many other things. If you go near a shop, you never know what you might end up buying or whether the shopkeeper is a drug dealer or a medicine man from a Berber tribe in the desert. It is nice that everything is a little cheaper, which is helped by the exchange rate.

Probably one of the stranger shopkeepers is the hat man, who almost all of us have bought hats from. I sat with him as he modified some hats for me, and I learned many unusual things from him.

It is interesting to see the pros and cons of this society that is based heavily on the traditions of ancient tribes as well as the teachings of a religion that is relatively new to the land. This causes the people to seem hypocritical at times, which can be very frustrating. Hopefully our next weeks in Fez will be exciting learning experiences, and hopefully no one else gets sick.

-Jon Nagy

European travel reports

Spain & Morocco 5This past week, we all had an incredible opportunity to travel wherever we wanted! I went with a group of three other people to Paris, Athens, and Rome. It was a crazy trip with a time limit of only nine days. We had one full day in Paris, so we hit all the major sights possible.  We saw the Arc de Triomph, the Eiffel Tour, Los Pyramids du Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Moulin Rouge. Jon, an engineering major in our group, was even able to go to the Paris car show, which had the newest designs and some of the most expensive cars in the world. Paris also felt really nice with its cooler temperatures and the leaves beginning to change. I was able to meet up with my good friend from Czech Republic and she spent the day with us enjoying the sights.

The very next day, we got on another plane headed to Athens, Greece. We found out right away that it would be a little harder to communicate in Greece, but luckily the second language there was English. After a little bit of difficulty finding our hostel, we were able to rest and meet different people in the building. We also had only one day in Athens, so we filled it up visiting the Acropolis, enjoying the many parks, and hiking a mountain which gave us a wonderful view of the Acropolis at night. While we were there, we were able to see some women in a café doing the traditional Greek circle dance.

The very next day, we were off for Rome. It was very strange having three full days there instead of just one like the other cities. While there, we visited La Fontana de Trevi, Piazza de Popolo, Vatican City, the colosseum, and many other touristy destinations. My favorite part of the trip to Rome was touring the colosseum and eating wonderful Italian food. We found out that the Italian food in the United States is pretty authentic, athough the pronunciations are very different. For example, bruchetta is actually pronounced brusketta.

After our trip we relaxed for a whole day in Sevilla before we met our host families. Although our trip was rater exhausting, we had an amazing time and got extremely lucky with hostel stays and conditions. If anyone wants to visit any of these places, I could recommend a few places to stay, just do yourself a favor and give yourself more than nine days!

-Jon Nagy, Alyssa Weaver, Becca Stoesz, and Ana Jimenez

The inside of the Colosseum After our time in Granada, we all went our separate ways for ten days of free travel. I went with Selah and Malea to visit Italy. We planned to visit the three main cities in Italy: Venice, Florence, and Rome. We began our free travel in Barcelona, Spain, where we stayed one night and a day. It was not nearly enough time needed to see all the beauty of Barcelona, but we enjoyed seeing what we could of the city. We even got a chance to see the beach and walk along the shore.

We then flew to Venice, Italy. We arrived in Venice pretty late at night and we ended up walking around for about another hour looking for our hostel due to the fact we did not have a map of the island when we arrived. However, after trying to find our way on our own, we eventually asked for help and managed to find our hostel. Despite the rough start to our time in Venice, we decided that it was our favorite city of the three we visited in Italy. Venice seems so quaint and picturesque with its narrow, winding streets, antique styled buildings with flowers hanging from the windows and balconies, and of course, with the many bridges crossing over the various water canals. I personally enjoyed the lack of motor traffic since there are no motorized vehicles on the island, save for boats, which are considerably more quiet than buses, cars, and motorcycles.

After spending two nights in Venice we took a train to Florence. Florence is also a very beautiful Italian city. We enjoyed walking along the canal and taking pictures of the Ponte Vecchio. Also, visiting the Duomo and going up to the top of the dome was an incredible experience. The journey up was along a narrow passage with pretty steep steps, but the view from the top was breathtaking. It was interesting to walk along the balcony along the interior of the dome and see the paintings so close up.

Our last stop was in Rome where we stayed the remainder of our free travel. Rome has many incredible sights and monuments to see, but it is also very crowded with tourists. The number of people and tourists became slightly overwhelming, especially when we visited the Spanish Steps and the Fontana di Trevi. However, we did really enjoy the opportunity to see all the famous sights in Rome, such as the Colosseum, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. I found it fascinating to see the monuments and paintings that have been around for centuries. If buildings could talk, think of all the stories they could tell of history. I enjoy visiting places that have such a rich and ancient history. It often humbles me to think of all that has happened before my time and all that will happen after my time as well. My life is merely a speck in history.

Our free travel ended well until we missed the bus that was to take us back with our group to Granada. Because our flight was delayed and we had trouble obtaining our checked baggage, we just missed our bus by fifteen minutes. We managed to contact Samuel and get a train straight to Sevilla where we met up with our group the next day. Needless to say, we were all rather exhausted when we finally arrived in Sevilla. However, we could not have been happier to be reunited with our group once again and we learned from the experience and are now stronger people for it.

-Leah Risser, Selah Shenk, Malea Gascho

Amsterdam First we traveled to Barcelona to the Yellow Nest Hostel. This was a fascinating place to stay in a very interesting city, but more on the hostel later. The highlight of our visit there was getting to see their La Liga team play against Mallorca F.C. Barça is arguably the best club soccer team in the world right now. We had to spend a pretty hefty sum of €´s to get to the game, but it was worth it. Lionel Messi, voted the #1 player in the world numerous times, was playing his first game after skipping a few due to injury, and when he scored a goal the stadium exploded. It was quite an experience, just being there at Camp Nou amongst all the rabid Catalan fans. In Barcelona we also met some very interesting people, one being a Dutch tango dancer whose first name we never learned (his last name was Van Dyk) who loved to wax eloquent on topics as wide ranging as European politics, the nature of consciousness, language, etc. He would get into long debates with an Italian named Rudy who worked at the hostel, and they conversed like fiends. It was hardly possible to get a word in edgewise.

The second part of our trip was to Amsterdam, a city which I have to say did not make a great impression on any of us. It’s a beautiful place but it did not seem very warm–in any sense of the word. If you’re looking for a truly cross-cultural experience, go there, though. Our hostel was across the street from two sex shops and a porn cinema, and faced on one side the red-light district. This painted a pretty hellish picture of the city for us. The culture seemed built solely on the permission of everything condemned by most societies–and not much else. It wasn’t all bad, of course–we went to a graffiti/street art exhibition at a DIY gallery which was fascinating.

It’s hard to put any sort of meaning or conclusion to the experience we had on free travel, but it was undoubtedly unforgettable. To see at least a few parts of Europe, away from organized activities and traveling with a group of 20 other Americans, was really important to me. At one point I thought that EMU over-emphasized “cross-cultural learning” but really, we should be learning all the time. Even if it makes us uncomfortable–it’s much more valuable to be uncomfortable than comfortable.

-Ben Nelson, Jesse Weaver, Jordan Shetler, and Pat Fox

Report from Sara Derstine

Spain/Morocco 2010 - 4Over the past four weeks I have been so blessed to be submerged once again in the Spanish language. Unlike many of my fellow travelers, I am quite fluent in Spanish, and have been looking forward to once again using my diminishing vocabulary on a daily basis. I have not been let down. It seems that every day I learn a new word that we did not use in Mexico-Spanish, and it never fails to amuse me when vendors are caught off guard by the American speaking fluently. Yet language is not the only thing that makes up a culture. My host mom makes us delicious meals night and day, and the Spaniards never fail to be dressed to a tee when they are out on the streets. The siesta is something that I have not been able to take advantage of due to my afternoon classes, but I have enjoyed some slow and lazy mornings, sipping Spanish coffee and reading up on the news.

Our group has also had many fun experiences, especially in this last week as we took a few tours. Saturday evening we all hiked up to the The Alhambra Alhambra, the castle/fort that was left by the moors when they were conquered by the Christian kings in 1492. It would be impossible to convey the beauty of this palace through words or pictures, as everything from the architecture to the perfectly manicured gardens are breathtaking. A few of us even had the privilege of taking a guided tour with a focus on the role of women from that time period living in the palace. It was fun to get to go into certain places of the palace reserved for these visits, and watching the guard fend off curious tourists who wanted to come with us. It was also a great insight to how they treated women in the time, and the roles and locations that were reserved for women and servants.

Sunday we ventured into the Sierra Nevada to visit the Alpujarras, a series of towns esconded in the ridges and valleys of the beautiful mountains. Fortunately we were equipped with Dramamine as the road consisted of back and forth turns, sometimes along the edge of a cliff, with little or no guardrail, and lasted at least two hours. As we rose, the air became cooler, and although our restaurant had a pool that we were free to use, it was way too cold to dip in. Well, that is for most of us, there were a few brave ones… It was nice to relax by the pool after our big lunch of ham, eggs, potatoes, and bread. It was also sort of the calm before the storm. This week we have all be studying hard for our finals that took place both yesterday and today. We are all in good spirits again though as we are about to head off to free travel. Monday we had a farewell dinner in a ‘Carmen’ overlooking the Alhambra. The view was breathtaking, the food was delicious, and the company was, of course, excellent. Tomorrow we will all part ways as we embark on free travel. We will be going as near as different cities in Spain, and as far as Portugal, France, Netherlands, and Italy. Please pray for our safety in travel until we are all reunited again in Sevilla next Saturday.

-Sara Derstine

Life in Granada

Spain/Morocco 2010 - 3After almost 3 weeks in Granada, this city is starting to feel like home (at least as “homey” as a foreign city can feel…). I’m not used to (though don’t necessarily always enjoy) being woken up at 8 a.m by children arriving at the school across the street, yelling things in Spanish that my brain cannot begin to comprehend at that early hour. I’m used to using serious caution to cross streets (or for that matter, just walking down sidewalks) as cars speed by and don’t seem to obey the law about stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks. The other day Sara and I were out for a run and almost got run over by a guy on a moped that crossed the street right after we’d gotten out of the way and went up onto the sidewalk. Speaking of which, everyone and their mother rides mopeds here (and I mean that quite literally. I’ve seen countless overweight, old women sitting upright and proper on their mopeds. It’s pretty hilarious). Also, Spain is a very fashionable country. I feel so unstylish walking around in my cheap-o flip flops when everyone else, namely women, is in heels and short skirts. One thing that has been sad though is that among all the high-heeled, dressed up people, it is not uncommon to see homeless people haunting storefronts, asking passerby for money. Mostly they are ignored, and it’s difficult for me, someone who was taught compassion for the poor, to know how to appropriately respond. There is one woman who must have a mental disability that I seem to see everywhere. Every time I pass her I’m not sure if I should give her money, not knowing where the money is going, or if I should simply ignore her, as everyone else does.

This past weekend, we had a Spanish-Muslim man come and conduct a seminar on Islamophobia. It was very eye-opening to hear him compare current day prejudices against and persecutions of Muslims, to the anti-Semitism of the early 20th century. Europe has shamelessly instituted some very harsh laws against immigrants, many of them being Muslim and/or Arab. Since this is a very relevant issue in both the U.S and Spain, this seminar was a great reminder that this is an issue that needs to be confronted and dealt with in a peaceful way.

On a separate note, a bunch of us went to a town called Salobreña on the Mediterranean coast on Sunday. It was such a wonderful escape from the city; from the loud cars and constant streams of people. The water was freezing, but beautifully blue and clear. The picturesque town is up on a hill, so you can see the sparkling white houses and shops from miles away. All the towns on the Mediterranean coast are like this: polished and white with brightly-colored trim and palm trees everywhere. I must admit though that it was nice to return to Granada in the evening, with its elegant buildings and streets that have become too comfortable and familiar.

-Alli Eanes

Ana, Alli, Sara, and Becca at the Alhambra We have a great cross-cultural group! Meeting together is always a thought-provoking experience- and sometimes a delicious experience too, when we have dinner together. I also feel like the group members are really willing to spend time together even when we’re not required to. I personally have been a part of two day trips to the beach, multiple excursions in search of the best heladería in Granada (my own opinion: Los Italianos is still winning) and an afternoon at a local park where a bunch of us acted like little kids (you see, there was this amazing spinning seesaw…) In addition, I know that other people in the group have shopped and gone to restaurants together, and even to a concert.

Now anyone back home who’s read this far is possibly wondering ¨are you all just having fun, or are you actually learning something?¨ Well of course we’re learning lots of things! Like the nuances of how Spanish culture is different from American culture, despite many surface similarities. When and how much do people usually eat and sleep? When and where do you socialize with your friends? Do you thank waiters and store clerks? When do you speak diplomatically and when do you just ¨tell it like it is?¨ All these questions and more have different answers in Spain than in the US, and in our day-to-day school and home life we’ve explored them all.

It could get overwhelming, if it weren’t for the Spanish people’s laid-back attitude. “No pasa nada” is many a professor’s or host mom’s mantra for reassuring a well-intentioned American who over-apologizes for their small cultural missteps. The phrase literally translates along the lines of “nothing happens,” but its general spirit reminds me of the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” I think this is my favorite way that Spain is different from the US!

We’re also learning a great deal in the academic sense. Moira’s classes challenge us to examine past and present Muslim-Christian interactions, and to seek ways to be a blessing to our host culture and learn from them. Also, most are taking at least one class at Centro de Lenguas Modernas, which is part of the University of Granada. They have month-long intensive Spanish language classes for non-native speakers, all the way from the elementary level to beyond-advanced classes for functionally fluent students looking to fine-tune their language skills. Some of us are in various levels of that program, while others are taking courses in Spanish on history and culture.

Even though the entire CLM program is huge (Wikipedia says 10,000 international students per year) our CLM profs know our names and teach us in classes of one to two dozen students. The building where I have my intensive Spanish is maybe about the size of EMU’s Campus Center, with beautiful Spanish architecture, and an elegant center courtyard that invites after-class discussion between classmates. It’s a very relaxed, friendly setting.

And I’ll spend more time there than most of my EMU group mates. I’m one of only two students in our group who took the option (open only to Spanish majors) of staying in Granada in the CLM program for the whole semester. From October to December I’ll have a 5-class weekly schedule that resembles college in the US- but with the added bonus of no class on Fridays!

José and I (he’s the other student staying in Granada) will reunite with the group mere days before we return in December. It’s a trade-off: while my EMU group mates will have adventures

-Nicole Ruser


Spain/Morocco 2010-2This past week in Granada has been helpful for me to kind of ease into a routine. Having to get up at 8 in the morning will never be easy though. That has been probably the hardest thing to get used to, which says a lot about how westernized this culture is. The walk to school is also a new experience; having to walk thirty to forty minutes every morning  to get to school instead of being able to get up 10 minutes before class like at EMU. The trip this far has not been extraordinarily challenging in a “cross-cultural” sense, but more as a “cross-communication” experience.

We have however gone on a few tours with an amazing tour guide named Maria Carmen, I think. She has taken us to a monastery that overlooks the whole city of Granada and the famous mosque/cathedral in Cordoba. Both places have some real significantPat with the tour guide Maria Carmen historical value in convivencia here in southern Spain. The place of worship in New York City that is causing this huge argument is actually going to be named the Cordoba House. This is a pretty cool fact because we literally just visited the mosque/cathedral which shows the harmonious existence between Muslims and Christians during the Moorish empire. This mosque/cathedral is the most elegant place I have ever seen, saying elegant does not even come close to justifying its synergy. No words can.

My host family has adequately taken care of me so far. The food is absolutely amazing. If I take a second to let the food go down throat my mom immediately asks if I don’t like it, which has led me to finishing everything on my plate before chilling out and watching TV.

This brings me to my next point of the Spaniards living a more relaxed life than Americans. People here in Spain work, usually, from 8 or 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon, then take one of the most ingenious cultural stress relievers-SIESTA. Yes all caps are necessary because if there is one thing that needs to be brought back to America it is nap time. The Spaniards definitely are living my dream. They get to go home for lunch and a nap until fiveish then go back to work for another 3 or 4 hours. This does make people stay up later and make more energy to go out at night, but is that a bad thing?

Adios Amigos!

-Patrick Fox


Spain/Morocco2010-1Our very first week in Granada has been quite an adventure. It starts from meeting our host parents to getting lost. As far as the first week goes my experience in Granada has been great! At the beginning it was foreign to me. In a sense, however, it reminds me of Mexico. In my opinion it is the European version of Mexico. We have to walk from point A to point B if we want to get there sooner. I guess I could ride the bike but I don’t own one. The bike and motorcycle are a very popular method of transportation here in Granada. We have visited the Alhambra and walked its pathways, which are gorgeous. I can’t put into words the beauty of the palaces.  I feel as if I would ruin the beauty of it by even trying to attempt a description. The tour bus that took us around the city and being able to see the different sites that there are to visit is incredible. We have walked down a former Jewish neighborhood and up and down Recogidas, which I walk at least six times a day. The Medina shops and the souvenirs that there are to buy. We have also found thrift stores and that was so much fun. My favorite part is the walking that we all do which decreases our dependability on cars, I wonder how fast I will adjust to using my car once I am back in the US? I will worry about that later. For now I am going to enjoy every moment of this experience that is awaiting all of us.

The group on the beach! Our very first weekend was spent at La Herradura beach where we encountered rocky sand instead of dusty sand to which we are used to. The meals are exceptional, and the ice cream at Los Italianos is the best here in Granada. It’s quite shocking to see how Burger King has a security guard at the entrance door and how the dollar menu here is the Euro menu. There are countless differences that I have come across in Granada and many of them stand out more than others but the one that I have seen the most of is the different languages that are spoken on the street. Today as I was walking on my way to class I came across another tourist who didn’t speak English and she asked me for directions. I tried my best since the road to where she was going is the one close to where I live, however, I wonder if she made it to her destination?

The one thing that I believe I have mastered is getting from one place to another. I just walk up the streets as if I know where I am heading to and when I am completely lost I can just go into a store and ask for directions. By doing so it sort of gives the idea that I am not a stranger to the city. I have enjoyed every single activity we have done as a group and have made friendships with people from our group that I might have never come into communication with, but thanks to this experience we are all creating a bonding among each others. So, it’s time for a siesta here and I must take one and be ready for this Sunday since we are heading to Cordoba. I am loving my cross cultural. Thank you EMU!

-Ana Jimenez

Ireland 2

Derry: The Walled City

To give you the low-down, we’re staying in an off campus residence area called Dungreegan Student Village, which is very nice and well kept. We each have our own rooms and bathrooms with showers that allow us much needed personal time (naptime). However, without computers or television it is also very boring. It’s about a 20-25 minute walk to get to the center of the city where all of the shopping and food venues are so we’ve all been getting quite the workout during our tours and cultural studies.

So far we’ve experienced a variety of activities. Walking and bus tours of the city where we learned about the formation of the city and its city wall in the early 1600’s and its struggles between Catholic and Protestant since the very beginning. The city is divided into two main parts, the “Waterside” where the Protestant population lives and the “Bogside” where the Catholic population resides. It seems very blunt to describe it in those terms, but that’s literally the culture of Derry. The people you meet on the street, in pubs, or even our taxi drivers will tell you that Derry is divided. Even 10+ years into the cease-fire and peace agreement, Derry has very clear divisions between the two sides. While the divide is slowly closing and people interact much more in daily life than they used to, we have learned that problems in Northern Ireland are far from over. We’ve encountered many people who are thankful for the peace and want to move on with their lives, but there are still many groups who are dissatisfied and continue to fight and perpetuate the violence.

The turmoil of the 1970’s is still very alive in the minds of some people who live here. It’s been nearly 40 years since Bloody Sunday took place, but we met a man last week whose brother was shot that day and he has yet to find closure. That concept was hard for me to comprehend as I’m sure it was for others in the group. That man has spent most of his adult life seeking justice for his brother, and never really lived a life of his own. It’s painful to listen to the stories of the people who live here and know that their troubles are not religious; they’re extremely political and the system is failing them on both sides. Politics in Northern Ireland is not a matter of choosing a candidate who will meet the needs of the people – it’s choosing the member of your political party so that the other side won’t gain control.

In addition to studying the Troubles, we’ve learned about Irish culture, heard traditional music, watched live bands, learned/attempted to dance traditional Irish dance and began a brief study of the Irish language. The food is good, and cheap which is an automatic plus.

Derry has been a great place to slow down unpack and relax, but Monday we leave for Belfast and I’m ready to roll.

-Brooke Fansler

New Zealand 3

June 6, 2010

In less than two weeks our journey through New Zealand will come to an end. As time seems to work against us, I can only ask myself, “What have I accomplished in the last four weeks?” and “What do I want to achieve in the next two?”

1.  Maori culture: We have been placed within their culture and have learned so much about them. Unfortunately I feel there is much more to discover about these tribes. The lack of Maori in the South Island restricts our current learning so my knowledge will be enhanced through literature.
Objective 1:  read a book on Maori.

2.  Sustainability: This trip focuses on sustainability but I feel we have only done enough environmentally to get a small taste. This South Island experience should get us involved with the “nitty gritty.” This is our chance to physically experience the real thing on a whole new level.
Objective 2:  place myself in every environmental opportunity and experience as much as I can.

3.  Friendships:  The ability for relationships to begin and grow in four weeks time is remarkable. The people in our group ranged from good friends to complete strangers at the beginning of this trip. I am now developing quality relationships with all of them. What happens next?
Objective 3:  retain relationships even after New Zealand.

There is so much more I could touch base on but these three are the biggest.

-Isaac Wyse

One day you’re with fifteen other students and two leaders staying in a cozy warm hostel.  Then WHAM! You have to go for almost three days without guidance, hardly knowledge of where you’re going, and what you’re doing. So basically you just have to wing it, which is exactly what I did. This will be the second time I’ve gone on free travel. This time I will be spending some lovely quality time with Isaac, Emily, Rachel, and Kelby. We’re headed off to a small town called Picton on the South Island. The only way to get there is by plane or ferry. We chose the ferry. I’ll get to fly home again so I thought it would be a good way to see more of the land and water up close that you wouldn’t get to experience on a plane. Every time I looked out the window I couldn’t help but think it looked like Jurassic Park out there. I expected this huge water dinosaur to pop out of the water and eat the ferry.

Anyways, we got to Picton and found out that our hostel was only five minutes away. That was really convenient. Come to find out this place really had false advertising. They promised a lovely nice heated pool and a free breakfast. We were so excited to get in that pool after a long rainy day. All of us got on our bathing suits and were ready to hop in and relax. I’m so glad I didn’t hop in. I would have frozen to death or gotten hypothermia. I was the only smart one out of the group. I didn’t give into peer pressure when they were trying to lure me into the pool. I stood my ground and stayed warm. Even when they taunted me with chocolate, which is something I can’t resist. I’m pretty proud of myself for standing my ground. Another thing they promised us was free breakfast. I then understood why it was free. All they had was a loaf of bread, butter and sketchy jelly. And let me just say the staff at Atlantis backpackers was so hospitable……Just kidding. They were probably some of the rudest people I’ve ever met. Breakfast with them was so enjoyable. I can guarantee I will probably never go back there, unless they heat their pool. Maybe, just maybe.

Over the free travel we got to celebrate Isaac and Emily’s birthdays. I felt pretty privileged. We let them pick where they wanted to eat for breakfast. They chose out of all the places a restaurant called Drexel’s, which is an all American breakfast place. I was so excited because they had………STRIPPED BACON! My favorite thing ever! That really made my day. I think they had great birthdays. They got free Starbucks coffee, which was awesome. While walking around and looking at shops I found a hat worth ten New Zealand dollars because before my trip my mom packed away all our winter stuff. But that’s ok. I had a reason to get a nice little New Zealand hat. I really had a great time on free travel this time. I made some new friendships that I wouldn’t have gotten to make a EMU.

This past week I’ve been really thinking about my sister Morgan because she’s graduating and I’ll miss it. I feel really guilty about missing it because she always comes to my things so to be the good big sister I want to come to hers. I wish I could have been there for her because it was a big moment for her. I’m so proud of her. She’s accomplished so much. I’m disappointed though that she’s going to Bridgewater because we’re going to be rivals now. Just kidding. Maybe she’ll do a mock graduation for me when I get home. I miss my family occasionally but I know they want me to have fun and get the most out of my experience. I can’t wait to tell them all my great stories and adventures. I love them so much. It will be bitter sweet leaving New Zealand and going back home. I hope I can make it back here one day. It’s a place I’ll never forget.

-Susan Alexander

Ireland 1

Hello everybody!

I just wanted to write a quick journal to let everyone know that we made it safely to Shannon, Ireland. We arrived at 9:30 AM and were all very exhausted from the long layovers in JFK, and overnight flight into Shannon. After arriving, we were greeted by a gentleman with an EMU sign. He had us rolling in style with a charter bus, however, the bus loaded from the left side. This was so strange to get used to. I wondered if this was different, then what else would be different as well! Oh, how could I forget? Our driver apparently had a few brews with his breakfast because we could smell it on him. So that made our first bus ride interesting. It all ended fine, and we arrived at our first hostel. We stayed at a hostel called Rowan. This place was voted best in Ireland in 2009, which made it very soothing knowing we had “the best.” These hostels were very interesting…The guys room specifically had 10 beds, which was obviously good for us because we had only 9 guys. So, naturally we bought out the 10th bed and had the room to ourselves for 2 nights.

To wrap our first 2 nights of stay in Ennis, Ireland, in a nut shell, the city reminded me of a small New York City, but, with a twist. All of the shops lined up next door to each other and every other appeared to be a pub. This was hilarious. But, what was better is that these shops/restaurants all closed at roughly 5-6pm. Why? Because this is when everyone goes home and rests up after a long day at work. Then…you guessed it, everyone heads to the pubs. Oh geesh! This country is clearly based around Guinness. We saw numerous empty Guinness kegs just hanging out on the sides of these buildings. Not to mention, every sign in town had something to do with Guinness. While in Ennis we were able to go to a place called Bunratty Castle. This was an incredible place. We observed the castle up and down and were all amazed with the structure and how they could possibly do this type of thing back in the day. We then later went back to Bunratty castle for a dinner/show type thing. They served us a four course meal that consisted of a thick soup that reminded us of gravy, ribs as the second course, and then for the main dish we had chicken and veggies! The final dish was a fruit filled hard yogurt type thing. It is so hard to explain, but it was delicious. The show part consisted of these people being dressed in the types of clothing that they wore in those days, followed by plenty of singing and cheering. It was such a great experience.

Lots has happened already within the first few days. Lots of pictures, plenty of meals, and TONS of walking. We’ll all update soon. I hope this finds you well as you all read through our travels during this six week stay all over Ireland.

-Chris Miller

Spain/Morocco 4

Spain/Morocco 3Our little host-cousin placed her hand on my elbow as we fought our way through the narrow, crowded street. She pointed up, over the shops full of shoes and shiny teapots, to call my attention to the mosque tower overhead. “Zwina!” I exclaimed, and she agreed; beautiful. It was the first time I had taken my eyes off my own feet and the garbage, stray kittens, and jagged bricks for what felt like hours; watching your step in the beehive of Fes Medina is a must. This city is a place of constant tension, a push and pull phenomenon between religion and commerce, tradition and modernity, art and aggression.

Today we had a much needed break from the city’s taxis and street vendors. We explored the Roman ruins of Volubilis, a sure hour and a half away, but thousands of years in the past. Romping from the bathhouse to the brother to the vomitorium, we breathe the cool mountain air beneath triumphant arches and between cypress trees. Next step was Meknes, another imperial cite like Fez. More exploring, in a giant greenery, a pirate’s corridors, and gates covered in breath-taking mosaic detail.

-Sam Cole