EMU Cross-Cultural

Western Travels

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.

Jiayuguan  photo by Dylan Bomgardner
photo by Dylan Bomgardner

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.

Riding camels in Dunhuang photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Riding camels in Dunhuang
photo by Dylan Bomgardner

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

Tortilla and making connections

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

A Spanish tortilla. Yes, it is even more delicious than it looks! Photo by: Taylor Waidelich
A Spanish tortilla. Yes, it is even more delicious than it looks! Photo by: Taylor Waidelich



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.

Pepper and Potatoes. Ready to become a Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich
Pepper and Potatoes. Ready to become a Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich

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.

Our host mom making Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich
Our host mom making Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich

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.

Our host mom making Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich
Our host mom making Spanish tortilla. Photo by: Taylor Waidelich

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.

Holly enjoying the meal! Photo by: Taylor Waidelich
Holly enjoying the meal! Photo by: Taylor Waidelich

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.

-Taylor Waidelich





Photo Gallery – China 2013-5 Western travel

Western Travel: Week One

This week was a wonderful week for this EMU cross-cultural group! On Monday we traveled to Qingchengshan to climb a Daoist mountain. The scenery and energy there was spectacular. We climbed to the top, or at least, a top, where we ate lunch at a Daoist temple. On the way down exhaustion set in for many of us, but we had a relaxing boat ride and trip back to rest.

That next day we left Chengdu for the ancient capital city, Xi’an. Other than having a wonderfully comfortable hotel, we enjoyed biking around the city wall and exploring the city center. Xi’an was certainly built like a fortress with old watch towers and traditional Chinese buildings. We were very touristy in Xi’an, and there were many neat little shops for souvenirs. One favorite was a shop selling biblical passages in Chinese on scrolls. I think the owner was happy to sell to a group of Mennonites with lots of spending money.

Photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Photo by Dylan Bomgardner

The Terracotta Warriors museum was also a great attraction. The amount of time and effort put into making all of those warriors is staggering, though I don’t know the exact statistics. Let’s just say that many, many pictures were taken there. After a few more visits to Christian pagodas and mosques we left Xi’an for Lanzhou by overnight train.

We arrived in Lanzhou a bit tired and disheveled. After a few long bus rides we arrived in Xiahe where we still reside. Situated in Gansu province at about 9800ft of elevation, this Tibetan town is the most peaceful I have ever experienced. Combined with the mountainous scenery, fresh air (that one breathes slower due to the altitude), a large reason for the peace is the Labrang Monastery, home of about a thousand Tibetan monks.

Yesterday we visited the Monastery and it is certainly a powerful place. One of the Monks honored us by his presence, and we were briefly educated about the ways of Buddhism through a translator. The simple lifestyle and complete spiritual discipline was intriguing and impressive.

The grasslands of Ganjia called our name today. It was really cold and the bus ride was extremely rocky but the lunch and the atmosphere was tranquil and gigantic. We also went to a nomad village and a Black Hat Monastery (different from the Yellow Hat of Labrang). The spiritual worship and brutal, yet wonderful, lifestyle seen there was quite humbling.

Most of us are loving it here, but it’s time to leave! Tomorrow we head out for more adventure.

-Brad Mullet



Photo Gallery – Spain/Morocco 2013-2

Adventures in ancient China

“Adventure is out there!!!”  This phrase has been adopted by nearly everyone in our group while exploring China and all it’s exciting and historical locations or even just walking around our host city of Nanchong, in most cases we find it.

This last weekend we had the privilege of visiting and staying in the ancient city of Langzhong.  Langzhong is one of only 4 well preserved ancient cities that remain in China. One of the first things I noticed when walking into the city were all of the elaborately painted arches, temples, and towers that seemed to be around every corner.  This city seemed to be lost in time.

The narrow stone streets were lined with little one-floored shops filled with brightly colored silk robes, beautiful scarves, handmade tunics, and other traditional Chinese arts.  Throughout the weekend we spent many hours walking through these shops exploring their goods and spending way too much money.

While there, we stayed in a traditional guest house.  These guest houses were beautifully adorned with plants, lanterns, and other ancient relics. The rooms themselves even made you feel like you were in ancient China with their wood walls and bamboo beds (which, by the way, were not nearly as comfortable as they looked).  The only down side to the guest house was how easy it was to get lost in its many courtyards and corridors.

The highlight to the weekend was Saturday night. Myrrl and Deidre bought everyone in the group a floating lantern.  We all decided we would write something on it; some people wrote their wishes, others wrote poems and quotes, and a few even wrote Bible verses on them. We then all went down to the river bank and lit the flame and let them go. It was a beautiful sight to see, 20 big bright lanterns floating to heaven with our dreams and prayers.

It was a sad moment when we boarded the bus to leave the city.  Many of us were begging Myrrl to let us stay a few more days, but all good things have to end for better things. The rest of this week we have language and history classes in Nanchong, followed by a two week excursion out to western China.  We are all looking forward to the many adventures to come within the next few months and we look forward to coming home with many stories.

Until next time remember, “Adventure is out there”.

-Dylan A. Bomgardner

Growth & Healing


The last week here in Granada has been a rollercoaster. Our group has had its highs and lows. But what’s important is that we are all growing; academically and spiritually.

This past Saturday we were blessed with a day trip to the beautiful city of Seville. Unfortunately, Carol, our fearless leader, and Amanda were not able to go on the trip with us, as Amanda was hospitalized for appendicitis. Carol has been with her every moment at the hospital and helping to translate the completely Spanish speaking environment. The other 19 students on the trip have been visiting her in waves to help her through this difficult time. Hopefully the laughter and smiles will help her recover faster. Doctors are working on getting Mandy up on her feet and project her return possibly tomorrow! We all wish that she would make it through her recovery swiftly and painlessly. All of us are glad that she is doing alright, and we ask for prayers from those back home who wish Amanda a smooth recovery.

Our visit to Seville went without a hitch. We got to see many fascinating places, such as the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the royal palace, the gardens, and the Plaza España. Many pictures were taken and the rain cleared up just in time for the start of our trip. It turned out to be quite a beautiful day.

We are wrapping up our month-long intensive Spanish class here at the University of Granada. We all seemed to have made it through our final exams and are awaiting scores. Wednesday we start our second round of Spanish classes but only for two weeks. We will also be working on our Spanish Culture and Civilization class presentations this week.

We hope life back in the States is as exciting as it is here, and we look forward to the next two weeks here in Spain. Morocco is coming fast, and the adventures have just begun.

-Joshua Sauder & Amanda Vega

Photo Gallery –Spain and Morocco 2013-1

Photo Gallery-China 2013-3