EMU Cross-Cultural

Una Marcha de Paz - A March for Peace


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“Juntos como hermanos,
miembros de la iglesia
vamos caminando
al encuentro del Senor.”

Together as brothers and sisters,
members of the church
we gather together
to meet with God.

Words of a Catholic gathering song. Words of peace. But this time it’s not just words, it’s action as well. Today, our group had the opportunity to witness and be a part of an unprecedented stand against the rising violence in Guatemala City. Una Marcha de Paz – A March for Peace. Four groups marched from four different Catholic locations in the city to the plaza at the center at 4pm.

2009 LA 1Before long the plaza was filled with 10,000 people singing and declaring in solidarity that they desire peace. Cardinal Quezada spoke and gave the mass. Our group was unable to stay for the entire thing but we were impacted by what we were a part of. There were people from all parts of the city – young and old, indigenous, mestizos and ladinos – all wearing white, carrying banners, waving flags and singing songs of peace.

So often back home I hear talk of peace and justice and its importance today, but it feels disconnected from the daily reality of our world. Many times in my Spanish classes with Don Clymer we talked about the desperation, injustices and violence in Latin America. We read articles and discussed the problems and our desires for peace. But it is disheartening when it doesn’t feel like there is anything we can do besides hope and pray. And often times that has to be enough.

To actually witness a stand for peace and be a part of it today was an incredible experience. Several times I was moved to tears. I know that God heard his people today and that gives me hope for Guatemala City and for peace.

Reflections on returning to Spain

Spain/Morocco6For the past three weeks our group has been living in the vibrant country of Spain once again after spending five weeks in Morocco. The minute I stepped onto Spanish soil only a few kilometers from the African continent I instantly felt more relaxed, and as we drove up to the small town of Montoro that same day I noticed many stark differences between the two countries. I thought since we already lived in Spain for four weeks in September that going back would be non-eventful, but I seriously felt as if I was experiencing a cross-cultural all in itself by just going back to Spain. I saw more modern technology such as windmills, organized traffic patterns, and modern cars, and I watched the lush green landscape fly by in our spacious extended bus that we never had in Morocco. Some of these observations may not seem very different to an American reader, but after living five weeks in a third-world country such as Morocco they are.

The arches of the Mezquita Catedral in Cordoba. In Montoro we’ve been taking two classes with one dealing with the Muslim influence in Spain and the other about discussion between Muslims and Christians in today’s world. Along with these two classes we’ve taken field trips to Córdoba, Medinat az-Zahra, an oil museum, and most recently, Granada to reinforce and enhance what we’re learning in class. The Islamic empire’s history in Spain is rich and fascinating, and I’ve enjoyed learning about it in both the classroom and through my own eyes. Sometimes I’ve actually put myself in the story and imagined what life would have been like in that time.

The group enjoys a Thanksgiving feast. Back at home our group has been living all under the same roof making meals for each other, cleaning up after each other, and just having fun. Even though we’ve spent the past three months together, living together in the same house has been a different experience with its own joys and challenges, but we’ve settled in rather nicely. In the next week, we have some final presentations and essays to complete, a workshop on Islamophobia, and a trip to Sevilla before packing and heading home on December 8.

Morocco

Spain/Morocco5After rewriting this journal numerous times, and each time throwing out the draft, I have finally come to the conclusion that there is no way of capturing every moment and every detail of our five weeks in Morocco in a one page entry; however, I will do my best to capture the essence of Morocco as I have experienced it.

Morocco has been a true cross cultural experience in every sense of the word. When I say this, I do not mean that Morocco has been an easy experience at all times, or that I have loved every minute of it. I mean instead that my time here has been an incredibly valuable opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth. Even our share of challenges as a group-severe food illnesses, theft, border crossing issues, a lack of independence, and a constant need for flexibility-have been stepping stones for better self-understanding and stronger group unity.

Although we have had many difficulties over the last five weeks, there have been moments so full of beauty and incredible joy that they have more than made up for the harder times. There was our first night at a roadside restaurant where we had the most succulent lamb I have ever tasted. There was the trip to Volubilis, where we explored ancient Roman ruins among the hills. There was the hike we took through a landscape that could have passed for the Shenandoah valley, if it weren’t for the monkeys surrounding us in the trees, waiting for the peanuts we had stashed in our pockets for them. There was the trip to the blue city of Chefchaouen nestled high in the mountains, where even the rain didn’t stop the group from going on a three hour hike.

The sun rises behind the group as they take their return camel ride. Most recently, there was the trip to the Sahara desert, where a nine hour car ride past snow covered mountains and sheer rock cliffs brought us into a wasteland of sand. In the Sahara, we rode camels as the sun set over the desert, had tea in an oasis, laid under the stars and counted the meteorites falling to earth against the background of the milky way galaxy. To me, if I had to describe what God looks like, I would describe the sky I saw that night, crystal clear, endless, and filled with an ancient beauty and unfathomable mystery. We woke before the dawn with the wind howling through the tents and the stars still over our heads, and spent forty minutes climbing the high dune behind our campsite to watch the sunrise from what felt like the end of the world.

My time in Morocco has not always been easy. My time in Morocco has not always been fun. But my time in Morocco has changed my life in ways that I do not even fully comprehend yet, and for that, I will be forever grateful

Free-Travel Journals

Spain/Morocco4My free travel – a week of Greek salads, rock beaches, and relaxation. This week included many bus rides over Santorini Island, an invigorating donkey ride through the tourist filled town of Fira, and a delicious dinner overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the thirty seven hours spent waiting in various airports and on the ferry, we enjoyed our stay immensely. We did lots of shopping, eating, and played cards at every opportunity.

Our countryside hostel was a geographical oddity, being a fifteen minute bus ride away from any town, but it was beautiful, and the owners were extremely friendly and helpful. Fira and Oia offered us a variety of wonderful experiences, shopping, sampling local tasties, and many photo shoots. Even though Santorini wasn’t what I expected, I was constantly impressed by the food, scenery, and the welcoming people of Greece.

–Written by Kelly Baker who traveled to Athens and Santorini, Greece with Rachael King, Nicole Yoder, and Lauren Derstine.

Jasmine Brubaker looks out of the Astronomical Clock Tower over the city of Prague. I chose to visit Prague for free travel because Wikipedia claims it is the most beautiful city in the world. Although I wouldn’t entirely agree with this assessment, I couldn’t be disappointed after having visited Prague Castle, one of the biggest castles in the world with its acres of vineyards, gardens, and beautiful view of the city. We visited the famous Astronomical Clock, the picturesque Charles Bridge, the Communist Museum, as well as the house of the writer Franz Kafka. Much of our time, however, we spent in the Old Town Square where we witnessed a range of events from the International Bartending Awards to a confrontation between 200 drunken football fans and three hundred police officers.

My favorite part of the trip was getting the opportunity to meet people from all over the world in our hostel. We hung out with people from Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, France, and Finland. It was fascinating learning about the differences in our cultures and finding out how similar we all really are.

–written by Jasmine Brubaker who traveled to Prague with Nichole Dinges and Abigail Spurrier

Erica Yoder, Michelle Lehman, Steven Rittenhouse, Sarah Harder, and Sarah Gant sit by a canal in Venice. Rome, Florence, Venice. Three Italian cities in one week were kind of intense but the 5 of us had a lot of fun. We started in Rome where we hit the historical stuff pretty hard; Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, Coliseum, etc. In Florence and Venice we took more of a break, relaxing and spending our time not only in art galleries but also exploring the city streets (canals in the case of Venice), taking in the local color and flavor of Italy from impromptu street dances, clowns, and shops to chalk artists to desserts! It was an experience we will never forget.

– written by Sarah Harder who traveled to Italy with Sarah Gant, Erica Yoder, Steven Rittenhouse, and Michelle Lehman

My group and I decided that we wanted to explore Spain, so we made a list of all the things we wanted to do in our week of free travel. Since Barcelona, our first destination, had so much to offer, we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to have time to do all of the things on our list. We began with La Segrada Familia. Words can not explain the way we felt when we got there. Taking a tour of the magnificent church was like taking a tour through the stories of the Bible. The architecture was breathtaking despite the incomplete construction of the building. Next, we went to Gaudi Park which was another beautiful experience. On our way to each of these places, we met with many wonderful people. One couple whom we met gave us advice for the best things to see in the city, and told us that if we ever returned to Spain, we were welcome to stay with them at their houses.

Throughout this entire cross cultural, God has been appearing in unexpected situations. This couple did not have to take the time to give us advice or be so welcoming, but through their kindness, I was able to see God working in Spain. Our group was extremely grateful for the experiences we had on free travel.

–Written by Angelica Lorisme who traveled around Spain with Katie Brubaker and Angelica Robles.

Steven Stauffer, Colten New, Greyson Dructor, and Robert Alderfer sit in front of the Amsterdam sign. The city of Berlin is massive. To get a feel for the country in a limited time is simply not feasible. However it is rich with distinct culture and exhibits passion for the ambiance of pre-war Germany. An example of such can be found in the avoidance of sky scrapers and
adherence to height restrictions to best emulate architecture modeling a time prior to the decimation a great war inevitably brings.

The air smells pure, the streets are clean, and unity and pride can both be found throughout Germany. On the whole the Germans treated my small group with respect and were open to conversations and discussions of political and lifestyle perceptions alike.

–Written by Greyson Dructor who traveled to Germany with Robert Alderfer, Steven Stauffer, and Colten New

Our last week in Cadiz

Spain/Morocco 3Of course I would be approached to share publicly my thoughts from our final week here in Cadiz, which is also the first truly trying, testing week. For us it’s almost time for our final exam, and if you’re in the upper-level Spanish class as I am, time for a twenty minute exposition of your speaking abilities. Up until this point the pace of University study seemed comfortable, but now there’s a palpable sense of apprehension and anxiety.

In the cross-cultural setting my emotions have been heightened and tonight they are precariously perched at the top of the roller coaster. For me this unfamiliar and challenging experience has led to new exploration. During one of our weekly meetings at Moira’s, she shared a devotional that resonated deeply with me. The devotion came from the book ¡Gracias! and comes back to me in a striking way tonight.

“We can come to experience our basic vulnerability, our need for others, our deep-seated feelings of ignorance and inadequacy, and our fundamental dependency. Instead of running away from these scary feelings, we can live through them together and learn that our true value as human beings has its seat far beyond our competence and accomplishments.”

I could not articulate more accurately the feelings that are revealing themselves here in Spain. Through sharing our feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure we give each other strength to face these challenges, and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

Life in Cádiz

Spain/Morocco 2 Once I met my host family, it didn’t take very long to get settled into a daily routine here. Spain is not all that different from the U.S., although there are some noticeable differences in what Spanish society deems important. Continue reading

Arriving in Spain

Spain/Morocco 1 I’m sure that by now you have heard of our safe arrival.  It is indeed true that we have arrived safely and happily in Cadiz.  The long trip included nine hours in two planes, ten and a half hours in two buses, and an overnight stay at a hostel in Spain.  Our first plane ride was hardly “roughing it”.  Each seat was equipped with its own movie screen with a various movie and TV options, as well as an up to the minute map of our progress.  We arrived jet-lagged in Madrid on Saturday afternoon.  The flight was incredibly smooth and, although it was a bit long, the group was generally positive as we boarded the bus headed to Cordoba. Continue reading