Three airports, two complementary beverages, and a quick sprint to catch a connecting flight later, we were in Arizona ready to take on the semester. Our first stop was the Florence Detention Center where our host showed off what could be described as the poster-child governmental institution for detention. He made sure to show us the nice soccer field that was there and how the place goes above and beyond the standards that the government sets. It is important to state that these are not inmates because they did not commit a criminal act. We then made our way to the Florence Refugee Project where the director filled us in on the legal details of our nation’s immigration system and told us about the free legal services they offer to those who are fighting their case for asylum. While the detention center said that the FDC and FRP had good relations, it was easy to see that they did not see eye to eye on a lot of things.
Friday started early as we headed to Nogales. We were led by the director of the organization HEPAC. Before going to HEPAC we stopped on the US side where we saw the fence for the first time. It is hard to describe such a structure to anyone who hasn’t stood next to it or have seen it stretch into the distance only to never end. We made our way into Mexico and stopped at Groupo Beta, an organization that helps the most recently deported migrants. We listened to stories from some men and then shared a prayer with them at the end which was really nice. We then went up to HEPAC where we ate with some of the children. After a short presentation about the organization which aids the financially disenfranchised, we made a stop at the local dump where we talked to some families that were living in the trash and have children or have been themselves involved with HEPAC. For supper, we were invited to some houses that were about the size of most of our living rooms. The food was great and the conversations or playing with children was even greater. We ended the night at a vigil for a young man, Jose Antonio, who was shot through the fence after allegedly throwing rocks over the wall. We all had rather heavy hearts on our way out of Mexico.
Saturday we made our way to Douglas/Agua Prieta where we were to spend the week with Frontera de Cristo. We arrived at the office where we were introduced to Mark Adams (pastor/Frontera de Cristo leader), Josias Casanova (group leader for the week), and Jack Knox (one of the drivers for the week). We talked about our hopes fears and expectations individually and were given a quick overview of what we would be experiencing throughout the week. We drove up to the fence and stopped at a set of flood gates to talk a little bit about what these migrants were facing. We then took a quick hike up a hill where we could see the sun set behind the mountains. It was absolutely breath taking; from the light purples where the sun was disappearing behind the hills, to the deep blues of the sky behind our backs, to the almost bright colors that the desert emitted in this magical time. We then went and settled into the community center in Agua Prieta. Little did we know the cold we were about to experience that night.
Sunday started out with breakfast in the morning at the Community Center in Agua Prieta where we were staying. Mark Adams then came and led us in a Bible study over a passage in the Gospel of Mark. After the Bible study we were given a short break to clean up and get ready for church. We attended Mark’s church, Lily of the Valley or in Spanish El Lirio de los Valles. This is a Spanish speaking Presbyterian church. We were welcomed in with open arms as if we were already family. It was hard to understand and gain meaning from the Spanish service but the songs were pretty. We sang two songs in front of the congregation and they loved it. It was really interesting and different to here Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow sung in Spanish. The church ladies made us a delicious lunch of enchiladas with mole sauce. After relaxing in the warm sunshine in La Plaza (a park), we returned to church in the afternoon to attend another Bible study. After a mix up over dinner plans we ate out together at a Mexican restaurant and got the experience of reading the menu in Spanish.
Monday I learned just how privileged I am financially in the United States. People in Mexico move closer to the border to try to make more money. One of the better paying jobs is working in factories, or maquilas. Maquila workers make anywhere from 65-91 pesos a day ($5-$6) which barely gives them enough to spend on the essentials. We were given a set amount of money and told that we had to go buy enough food for dinner that night, as well as breakfast and lunch the following day. This was an eye opening project just to realize how much certain items cost. Buying food for a family of nine on a maquila salary has to be done strategically but we ended up have money to spare at the end to spend on snacks.
Welcome to what was possibly one of the longest days of our trip so far. This was also a day filled with fluctuating emotions. It started out with an early breakfast that we cooked for ourselves from the food we bought the previous day. After cleaning up the kitchen we departed for a day in the desert. We drove into the desert through thorns and over bumps on the most uneven dirt road I have ever been on. We were all bouncing around in the van. Once the van parked we got out and walked a short ways to where CRREDA had their water barrels. CRREDA refilled the water barrels for the migrants that pass through there. We had our maquila salary packed lunches in that spot around a low sprawled out tree. After our bellies were satisfied we started our walking journey through the desert towards the border. It was hot, rocky and thorns surrounded us. There were gullies that we climbed in and out of and shrubs that we jumped over.
Once we were at the wall we had an amazing encounter with two border patrol agents on the US side. These agents were friendly and willing to answer our questions. It was very encouraging to see that they had feelings and cared about people despite their reputation and their job. While sitting at the wall we also had a Bible reflection over mark 5: 1-14. In this passage it mentions the desert more than once and so we talked about all of our new meanings of the desert now that we were in the middle of one.
After hiking back to the vans through the desert we crossed into the US and visited the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Here we watched a presentation of the organizations they support as well as receiving instructions on how the vigil would work. We then left the Sisters and went to a public walking path along the border and participated in a vigil. The vigil consisted of many white crosses with names of people who died in the desert crossing the border. We made a procession along the sidewalk and each announced a name on the crosses we were holding. We were right along the street that leads into Mexico so there were many cars passing us. After announcing and setting every cross along the street we formed a prayer circle and meditated over the lives that have been lost. This was a painful realization for me to see how many lives just in that small area of Agua Prieta had been lost.
Wednesday was a day full of emotions. Our day started off visiting Café Justo. This organization works to keep the profit of coffee sales in the hands of the farmers who grow the coffee beans. It was such a great experience to walk into a business and just sit down with the staff and share the word of the Lord. This rarely happens in companies in the US. Not only are the farmers benefiting from this company but they are also working to solve the root problem of migration which is a poor economy. Before lunch we made a quick stop at the Migrant Resource Center. This is a place which gives clothes and a meal to migrants who have just been deported to Mexico. They also help them make connections on where they are going next. In the afternoon we went to visit the Border Patrol Station in Douglas AZ. While we were there, they showed us a couple of videos in which they called the migrants “aliens, clutter, and undocumented.” They also talked a lot about their way of approaching the issue. In the early 2000’s they had more money available and were spending a lot on new technology and man power when they could have used that money elsewhere. Recently as the excess money has diminished, they are in a risk based approach. Now they focus on surveillance and information and the increase in man power has stabilized.
As we neared the end of the week, most everyone was mentally exhausted, but we had not had a physically demanding week up to this point. This all changed Thursday morning when we went to DouglaPrieta Trabaja, which is a community garden as well as educates people about gardening. While we were there we had the opportunity to help out with two projects. Half of the group worked on digging a swell (aka a ditch) while the rest of the group moved 35 lbs. adobe bricks. After eating lunch we worked a little while longer before we headed across the border to talk with Tommy Bassett. Tommy has been all over the place and had a lot of advice for us. The main point of his talk was about who is receiving the profit from our spending. Café Justo is just one example of a company where the money is actually going to the ones who do most of the work. In the evening we spent our time at CAME Migrant Shelter. Here we were challenged to only speak in Spanish while we talked with the migrants staying there who had been deported. Part of our group had a rough time there with stories and things that had been spoken but in the end Love prevailed and the whole group worked to comfort each other.
Friday was supposed to be a less stressful day but while we were at a house in the community we had a brief encounter with the local authority. This was more intense for the group but again in the end God was with us. Despite the craziness we still were able to enjoy our time listening to the family’s story. After that we made our way across the border and said goodbye and had our closing reflections. We safely made it back to Tucson AZ at 8 p.m. We are heading to CASAS in Guatemala City where we will spend nine week in host families and studying Spanish. Mail can be sent to the address below up until March 6.
Apdo.11, Periferico, Zona 11
Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
-Stephan Goertzen, Isaac Driver, Katherine Graber
After bidding our Anqing host families farewell, we hopped a bus to the foot of Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain. The following morning, we rode out to the mountain, where we experienced a wealth of people queuing up to take the cable car up the mountain. For me, at least, this was a time where the number of people packed into one place (and particularly the pushing while in line) became almost overwhelming. However, the view in the cable car was spectacular: trees dotted the mountain all over, and the beauty was unmistakable. We then took a somewhat arduous hike to a hotel (not ours, mind you), where we ate a simple lunch of vegetarian dishes and a single meat dish of bone-ridden fish. We hiked around to different scenic spots before finally reaching our hotel. Rooms were a bit tight, with many bunks crammed into the room, though it wasn’t uncomfortable for most of us. We spent the night on the mountain, and we even saw a bit of snow, amidst chilling winds. We spent a wonderful time reminiscing as we began to plan for our last week back at EMU. The sound of our laughter could be heard several rooms away.
After descending the mountain the following day, we visited a small, ancient village, which was more of a tourist attraction than we thought, but still intriguing. Unfortunately, it rained, so we didn’t stay long. From there, we took our bus to Nanjing.
Nanjing in Chinese means “southern capital” (Beijing would mean “northern capital”), and the history we saw in the city made that apparent. We visited many museums and historical sites, such as the Nanjing Massacre Museum, the John Rabe House, a collection of Ming Dynasty tombs, Sun Yatsen‘s tomb, and the Taiping Museum. They were all very interesting, and reinforced things we’ve learned from Myrrle in our study of Chinese history, both ancient and modern.
Each morning we met for a couple of hours with Dr. Wang, a good friend of Myrrl’s and a professional psychological counselor, who is a pioneer in mental and emotional counseling for Chinese people through the idea of “zhi mian“, which he has adapted from Chinese writer Lu Xun. “Zhi mian” translates to “facing life directly”, a sometimes contradictory idea in a culture where keeping harmony and peace often trumps confronting an issue and resolving it. We were able to talk very openly with Dr. Wang about some of our more sensitive questions about Chinese culture (like the one-child policy or the continued veneration of Mao Zedong by many). Our dialogues with him were both refreshing and eye-opening, and it was a unique opportunity that I am thankful we had.
Of course, as our journey in China is winding down, some of people’s extraneous money went toward Nanjing’s excellent shopping. I think many of us found many cool gifts and keepsakes in Nanjing; I know I did!
We ended the week in Nanjing by visiting Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, the largest in China. We had a jiaozi (dumpling) party, in which we joined many seminary students in making what I’m sure were hundreds of dumplings, which the students then cooked. While I’m terrible at making things like this, the experience was fun, and it was nice to connect with the seminary students over our delicious dinner of both meat and veggie jiaozi. We ate SO MANY, I thought I was going to explode.
Nanjing was an incredible place, and definitely one of the highlights of our cross-cultural for me. If ever you are in China, Nanjing should be on your “must-visit” list!
Written by Alex Bender
We have been in the city of Anqing for only 11 days and it already feels like home to me. Anqing is a “small” city of 700,000 people and even though I come from a town in Ohio with only 1,670 people, I still feel comfortable here. The fact that my host sister’s middle school alone has over 3,000 students is a little daunting, but the amount of people does not lessen their generosity and hospitality. This is our second home stay and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are more comfortable this time around simply because we have dealt with this before.
For me, Anqing has been an enormous blessing. Unlike in Nanchong, we have personal Tutors to help is with our less-than perfect Mandarin. Our tutors are all students at Anqing University who are majoring in teaching Mandarin as a second language. Having this time every day with students as our tutors has been a great opportunity to make new friends and to really connect with Chinese people in the same stage of life as us.
The university has a drama/music department, which houses their very own Huangmei Opera troupe, put on a show for us last Friday. The local news station caught wind of this and thought that a bunch of foreigners watching traditional Chinese opera was news-worthy. Thus, we were interviewed and caught on camera. Here is a link to the news cast, our part starts at 11:40
My tutor’s name is He Yu and her English name is Halinda. Every day, I get off of the bus and she is waiting for me with a hug and a smile. Brittany, her tutor (Jojo), He Yu, and I have become a small group of friends who just sit and chat every day. While we maybe learn a little less Mandarin than some of the other students, I am not upset because, in my book, a new friendship is just as valuable as knowledge. I am actually dreading leaving Anqing (in 2 days) simply because I don’t want to leave these new friends behind, but I can at least look forward to coming home to my friends and family at EMU.
November 2-9, 2013
This week we were in Lijiang, which is located in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. Much of our group chose to go their separate ways for this week of independent travel. Two groups tackled the hike of Tiger Leaping Gorge while another group decided to stay behind in Lijiang to explore the city and the surrounding areas. One of the hiking groups then went on to the city of Shangri-a while the other rejoined the group in Lijiang and traveled to Dali. I was in the group that stayed in Lijiang Old Town.
The Old Town was a wonderful place; very scenic and full of things to do. For the most part, there were a lot of shopping areas and food stalls selling local specialties. Outside of the ancient city were some beautiful sites to visit. One such site was the Black Dragon Pool park. The park offered a great walk around the pond and a gorgeous view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. The only downside to the park was the entrance fee to get in, which was 80¥.
Next to the park was a place called the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture. According to a website I had read, this museum was a great place to go if you were at all interested in the local culture. Our group was very interested in the Naxi culture, but unfortunately we didn’t get to the museum in time because I made the mistake of thinking that the museum was inside the park. Thus, we never found the museum and ended up wandering around for a while. This was my one regret of the week because I was very curious about the Naxi culture.
The next destination on our list was Dali. It was about 3 or 4 hours from Lijiang by bus. The bus ride was good until the last half hour or so, when the driver decided that it was time for a lunch break. We were literally a half hour away and he pulled into a restaurant in the middle of nowhere for a 30 minute lunch. We were all forced to get off the bus for that time, much to the annoyance of those who were napping.
Once we arrived in Dali, we settled in at our hostel named the Jade Emu (coincidence? I think not). The old city of Dali was similar to Lijiang’s but there was more to do. We went to see the famous Three Pagodas and it was beautiful with the misty mountains in the background. Afterwards, the group took a bike ride to the big lake surrounding the town. Carissa and Malika decided to go on a horseback ride up the mountain and then watch the local fisherman who have trained birds to catch fish for them.
We all met back in Lijiang Old City on Friday, where we shared stories of our travels and took some time to rest up for the following day of travel to our next adventure in the Anhui Province.
From the desk of the Chairman,
Mattie, Mandy, Roberto, Holly
Mandy, Mattie Roberto and I spent our week of independent travel in Germany and the Czech Republic. Although collectively our German and Czech skills were zero, we learned a lot of life skills. For example, nefe in German means yeast (not butter), “classic” water is carbonated and the Czech Koruna is 18 koruna to 1 US dollar. We spent the majority of our time in an apartment we rented in Dresden, Germany where Becca Martin, an EMU student who is studying near Frankfurt, Germany this semester, met up with us to explore the city, and also to take us to Berlin. We also spent one night at the end of our trip in Prague. Highlights of the trip include colorful leaves at the peak of fall in Germany, (there was little of that in Spain) the picturesque beauty of Dresden, a museum on the history of the Nazis’ rise to power and secret police force (right beside the Berlin wall) a semi-spontaneous trip to Saxony Switzerland National Park, an excellent free tour of Prague that was based on tips, and seeing the turn of the hour on the clock in old town Prague. We had a great time eating German and Czech cuisine while trying to take in the reality of very intense stories of the past that took place where we walked. All in all it was a very rewarding trip, and a nice change of pace before heading to Morocco.
Lucas and Matt
Our trip started out with overnight flying to Beaouvois, followed by a morning bus ride to Paris. Upon arriving in a rainy Paris, we looked for food and a place to stay then spent some time walking around and resting. The next two days involved a lot of walking around the city to see landmarks such as the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, a lit up Eiffel Tower at night and a short trip to Versailles to see the famous Chateau. Friday night we boarded an overnight bus (not our greatest idea in retrospect) and arrived in Strasbourg at 4:30 a.m., walked to the train station, and waited for the next train to Soultz Sous Foret, a small village situated in northeast France close to the German border. We were welcomed by a Mennonite family that Lucas’ mom had lived with 30 years ago. The weekend consisted of some hiking, rock climbing, castle ruins, great food, hospitality, rest and relaxation, learning some French and even a Sunday service at the local Mennonite church. This was by far our favorite part of a very eventful trip. On Monday morning we took a bus to Munich, where we would spend the next few days. While in Munich, we were able to see some beautiful buildings, the site of Octoberfest being taken down, the wonderfully preserved park from the 1980(?) summer Olympics, and even the picturesque Austrian city of Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. After a lot of time spent flying, waiting and on buses throughout Thursday, we arrived back in Granada, ready for a short break before leaving for another new country.
Kara and Phil
Yo soy un Pelegrino. We, Kara and I, walked over 220 kilometers (about 150 miles) in eight days on the Camino de Santiago from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia. So why be a pilgrim and walk the Camino de Santiago? To think, ask questions, to discover friendship, to experience nature, to feel pain, suffer and keep going, to listen, to share, to laugh and maybe to rekindle faith in humanity. Our pilgrimage was nothing short of incredible–how could I ever put it into words? Our first overnight stay in a pilgrim hostel (called an albergue) we met Fred and Roy, two pretty cool dudes. Fred, retired and still going strong, and Roy our tall friendly Dutchman, journeyed with us and became like family. Sometimes we walked together, sometimes solo, but now we are forever kindred spirits. Fred had a saying he would say each morning–rain or shine– as soon as we stumbled sleepily onto the path, “it’s another fine Camino morning.” Now we’ve been thrown into the next chapter of our adventure (into the wonderful world of Morocco) but I know that the lessons we learned–about ourselves, others and the world around us, will stay with us for the rest of our journey.
Alex, Angelina, Josh, Amanda, James and Sarah
For free travel some of us wanted a more laid back break from studies. It worked out that there were three couples in the group who all had this idea, and we found a cheap beach front apartment in a very nice town called Port de Pollensa, on Mallorca which is a Spanish Island in the Mediterranean.
On the Island we found exactly what we were looking for–a laid back week at the beach. Our typical day consisted of sleeping in, a late breakfast and then going to the beach at about 12 or 1 for a couple of hours. We would normally have lunch at about three or four, which we prepared ourselves, and then relax or go shopping until dinner. We only ate out one time for dinner. We did breakfast and lunch as a couple and then took turns cooking dinner for the group.
Some of the other activities we did included a hike to another nearby beach, (Mallorca has beautiful mountains) renting bikes for a day and a two hour snorkeling trip. We also had movie nights and game nights as a group. Overall Port de Pollensa made for a very fun and relaxing independent travel and although we didn’t leave Spain, we were able to see a very different part of the country from Granada.
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and Becka
Mckenzie, Michelle, Melinda and I spent a week in the sleepy town of Reggio Emilia, Italy for independent travel. We spent one night in Malaga prior to leaving Spain which consisted of a makeshift lunch of chocolate, nuts, crackers and sliced cheese (because we were too cheap and hungry to go buy lunch), downtime by the pool with a beautiful view of the beach, and colorful conversation with an Irish man we befriended during our stay. After a taxi, plane, bus and train (every form of transportation except a boat) we arrived in Reggio around ten, starving and ready for some motherly love from Michelle’s aunt Sharon who we were staying with!
Some highlights of our trip include an exclusive tour of the pamagiano reggiano cheese factory (with free samples) a gondola ride in Venice, quality time with Sharon’s crazy cat, Maurice, and FOOD! We had the most amazing pasta including ravioli filled with squash which was specific to Reggio and we learned how to make gnocchi. But that’s not all, the pizza and gelato were out of this world! Best food ever! Also while in a town called Parma, we ran into a couple from Baltimore who saw my EMU shirt and immediately thought Harrisonburg! Such a small world. Overall, it was a relaxing week spent with some great friends, and I have many memories that will last a lifetime.
Annika and Taylor
Our independent travel was all about relaxation so we headed to a small town in Portugal called Albufeira which is located along the Atlantic Ocean. We rented a small studio apartment just big enough to be comfortable. The first three days were warm and sunny, so we gladly lounged around the pool to soak in the sun. We also wandered around our little town finding groceries, touristy shops and restaurants.
The beach was just a five minute walk away from our place, so while it was a bit too chilly to go swimming, we enjoyed the sand and shells. A highlight of our time in Portugal was our day trip to Lagos. We explored the city finding the location of an old slave market, a fortress and a museum of Lagos history. We returned to Granada and the rest of the group rejuvenated and ready for the next chapter of our cross-cultural in Morocco.
This was another whirlwind week for us as we travelled roughly 3,000 miles. On Monday we said goodbye to Xiahe, which had gotten some snow on the mountain tops during the night. During the day we made a stop in Binglingi where we took a boat ride on the Yellow River to visit grottoes with Buddhist wall paintings and sculptures. We then got back on the bus to go to Lanzhou for one night before catching a train in the morning.
Our next stop was Jiayuguan, a small desert town famous for being at the end of the Great Wall. It was quite different from our first visit to the Great Wall near Beijing, since the Wall (more like a mound in some parts) was made of dirt and the terrain was flat. First we went to the fortress that guarded the end of the Wall, and the museum there. We even took the time to banish Jonathan, since this was the official place to do so in dynasties past. We also went to Jiayuguan Pass where the Wall actually ends by meeting a cliff and a beacon tower stands. Myrrl told us back in the U.S. that it was a goal of his to see the end of the Wall, since he had never done so before. As we all touched the end, I may or may not have seen Myrrl cry a single tear.
The next day we traveled to Dunhuang and saw the Mogao Grottoes. There were over 400 caves of various sizes that hold Buddhist sculptures and wall paintings centuries old. There was also one library cave that used to hold thousands of scrolls until they were discovered and sold in the late 1800′s. Among the many Buddhist scrolls were some Christian documents from the Tang Dynasty when there were Nestorian missionaries in China. These scrolls and the Christian pagoda we saw earlier show how the Nestorians took a syncretic approach to introducing their religion just like the first Buddhists in China before them.
After spending the night in the fanciest hotel we’ve been in yet, we spent the majority of the next day at the sand dunes. It was amazing to see such high land forms made out of a constantly shifting material. We got to ride camels, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of China’s great biodiversity. We also tubed down a sand dune, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of the awfulness of sand in your mouth. After eating a lunch of instant noodles, many of us decided to take on a gigantic mountain of a sand dune. While most were smart enough to take the stairs, Carissa convinced Jia, Malinda, Malika, Hattie, and I to climb up the steepest part stairless. It was an exhausting task, took us a very long time (some of our guys made it to the top, ran down, and made it to the top again by the time we got up), and we ended up “channeling camels” most of the way. Finally, the day of the dunes ended with the finding of the most adorable puppy ever, which almost licked Emma to death.
The next day (Saturday), our westward travel officially ended and we took two planes and a train back to Nanchong. We will be here with our host families again for a little less than 2 weeks before moving on to new places. But first we have another adventure: Loren Swartzendruber.
Passionately penned by Nicole Yoder
These past two weeks in Spain seemed to have gone quickly. Our group just completed another two weeks of intensive Spanish. Our culture and civilization class also ended with a busy week of papers, presentations, and an exam. Many students have enjoyed the remainder of our time here through hikes, a trip to the beach, Spanish cuisine, and even los Baños Arabes (Arab baths). The following is the recipe for Spanish tortilla, and a reflection on a personal highlight of this experience.
Una Tortilla Española
Patatas, uno para cada persona
Pimientos Verde y Rojo, sobre 2-3 de cada
Cebollas, 2 pequeños
Aceite de oliva virgen extra
Huevos, sobre 4-5
Direcciones: Se lava, se pela, y se corta las patatas. Se lava y se corta los pimientos y las cebollas. Se pone el aceite en la sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone las cebollas en el aceite y se cocina hasta las son marron. Despues se pone las patatas, los pimientos, y el sal con el aceite y las cebollas y se cocina por sobre media hora. Se mezcla sobre cada diez minutos. Se pone la mezcla en un tazón. Se mezcla los huevos junto y se echa en el tazón. Otra vez, se pone aceite en una sartén y se calentalo. Cuando el aceite es caliente, se pone la mezcla en la sartén. Se permite los huevos cocinar. Cuando puedes, se da un capirotazo a la sartén en un plato. Se vuelve la tortilla a la sartén. Se repite hasta los huevos estan todo cocido y la tortilla esta doren. Se disfruta!
Disclaimer: I am not in a very high level of Spanish, and I apologize for any mistakes that are made in the recipe.
During our time in Spain I have had the pleasure of enjoying many dishes that are typical of this area, but one of my favorites has been the Spanish tortilla. Luckily, it is also a dish that my host mom loves to make, and makes often. After an evening of talking with my host mom and sister for three hours about many topics including fruit, differences in universities, and what a Mennonite is, I finally asked the question I have wanted to ask this entire time: Can you teach me how to cook a Spanish dish? Naturally my host mom loved this idea. She was thrilled that I wanted to learn and have her as my teacher. We decided that Saturday would be perfect since the group excursions were finished.
I was excited to actually be able to help and get hands-on experience, but rather she had me sit and watch everything she was doing. So I sat and watched, listened to everything she was saying, tried to write it down as best as I could, and took pictures of the time spent together. Even though I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to help, simply sharing this time with her is easily one of the special moments I will take from our time in Spain.
It is not the experience of learning to make a Spanish tortilla that is so special. I could find a recipe somewhere I’m sure. But a cookbook lacks the human connection that was made stronger that afternoon. I had crossed over the language barrier, not without mistakes, and was making connections with people of a different culture. My host mom and I have had very different lives. We come from different cultures and each grew up in very different times. Nevertheless, we have things in common, as all human beings do. One of those things happens to be the enjoyment of cooking.
Connections are made, and strengthened through common experiences despite the differences that exist between the people. Spending time with my host mom learning more about something we both love was an excellent way to strengthen such a human connection. It crossed the barriers of culture and language that are so often difficult to break through. It strengthened the relationship that was built during our short stay in Spain. And it is something that I will never forget.
Such a wonderful experience is going to make leaving even more difficult. As I am writing this our group is enjoying our last day in Spain, getting ready to leave on free travel. Groups of students are preparing to leave throughout this evening and tomorrow, heading out on different paths. Destinations for free travel include Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Holland, and even the Island of Mallorca off the east coast of Spain. Prayers for safe travels and a rejuvenating time before we gather and travel to Morocco are welcomed and appreciated.