Tag Archives: featured

Host Families

I was so nervous as I waited to be claimed by my host family. It felt as if I was a young child in an orphanage waiting to be adopted. As my family approached me, I was relieved that the mother was there and they looked fairly young. My first impression was that they were very friendly and they seemed wealthy, because their car and clothes looked expensive. They did not speak English very well, and my Chinese was even worse, so I was worried about how we would communicate. As soon as we got home the mother had to go to work which upset me, because I did not know how to talk to the father or two children. I spent a lot of time looking around, because their home was so modern. The apartment building consisted of thirty-seven floors and is surrounded by restaurants, shops, movie theatres, and even karaoke bars.

A few hours had passed and it was dinner time. It was then that I got to meet the whole family. The grandparents cook and clean, the mother Ivy and her husband worked, and the children were very entertaining. Evan, who is 9, usually dances and sings as Didi (who is two) just points and laughs at absolutely everything. It seemed like everyone had a role to play in the family. The food was always very good and usually included rice, some type of meat, a vegetable, and green beans, which are my favorite.  I liked everything about the family but I wanted to find a way to connect with them on a deeper level. Days passed and we were not doing much together because of the parents’ work schedule. Finally, the father and children invited me to walk around the garden area outside of the apartment. As we were walking I came to the conclusion that maybe I should change and become more open. When the mother was home, I would try to talk to her until I was ready for bed. She tried to teach me Chinese while I would teach her English.

Going out together was my favorite time. The first place was karaoke with her colleagues which was very fun because there were a lot of American songs for me to sing. Some of her co-workers knew English, so it was great to have a translator. The next time we went to a hot pot restaurant, which was amazing. After hot pot we ended up at a movie theater to see “Mission Impossible 5.” I was excited because I was waiting to see the movie and it was in English which made it ten times better. Next weekend we have plans to get massages with hot rocks and go hiking up a mountain. I am very excited to see what other places we plan to go. I am feeling a lot more comfortable since we are spending more time together. When the time comes to leave, I know I am going to miss them very much. Overall, I like my host family a lot and I am excited to see what the future has in store for us.

– Taeshia Frank


On the streets of Nanchong

21 September 2015

The first thing you need to know about Nanchong streets is that they are filled with people, especially in the evening, especially on weekends, and especially at lunchtime. Now, when I say, “The streets are filled,” I don’t mean every single street – far from it. For a city of 1.3 million people (on par with Dallas), Nanchong feels decidedly uncrowded, especially compared to an American city of similar size. The places where Nanchong does live up to its size, however, are perhaps not where you would expect, especially if you have grown up hearing a Western narrative of China.

So where, then, are the people of Nanchong? Are they at the new underground shopping area at the center of the city, or the sparkly shopping mall downtown that looks unsettlingly like an American Sears? Or even the large McDonalds on the corner of the busiest intersection in the city? Well, no, not really. This is not to say that there are no people in these areas, because there generally are, but there are a lot fewer than the stereotypical view of an “overcrowded consumerist China” would lead you to expect.

Instead, the places most frequented by Nanchong citizens are far more community-oriented. Of these, the most notable are, as we call them, the “food street,” the “market street,” and the parks. These are the places where the true spirit of Chinese culture shines through, debunking American media’s favored narratives of totalitarian oppression and consumerist culture. ring tossThe food street, right next to our university, is lined with food carts and noodle shops (here, a bowl of noodles can cost as little as $.75), and full of good-humored college or high school students. On another street, closer to my apartment, an entire three blocks of sidewalk (clear for most of the day) spontaneously transforms into an open-air market every afternoon, as peddlers bring in their wares on an assemblage of rickshaws, carts and scooters. This same street, in a remarkable show of fluidity, changes again around 6 p.m., turning into an open-air hot pot restaurant. And the parks! At a park in Nanchong, one might join a crowd in listening to a man practice his karaoke skills, watch a group of people participating in a spontaneous line dance, or appreciate music drifting from a local band’s weekly street-side practice. But the most striking part of it all is the thousands of other Chinese who are simply content to be alive and to be outside, strolling happily with a friend or spouse.

This is where the people of Nanchong are, and this is why Nanchong feels so strikingly different from any American city I have ever been to. In all of these places, the buoyant spirit of the Chinese manifests itself in a way that reflects in stark contrast with the typical American view of China and its people. Call it consumerist if you like, but it certainly is not American consumerism. It is China. To distill it to anything less, anything else would be unfair to the unique spirit and palpable humanity that pervades modern Chinese culture.

– Harrison Horst (sophomore)


A divine appointment in the Beijing subway

On Sunday, our second full day in Beijing, we boarded the subway and headed to the Forbidden City. I was standing on the escalator when several people from our group asked for someone who could speak Spanish to join them. I immediately made myself known. A lady pushing her two-year-old son in a stroller asked where she could exchange her Euros for Yuan.  Ling (one of our leaders) provided the Yuan needed and soon the lady was walking with us.  She was elated that I spoke Spanish and began telling me her story.  “Andréa” is a single mother who works as a nurse and was traveling to Beijing on her vacation. She didn’t speak Mandarin and knew little English, which resulted in no breakfast, poor lodging conditions and a morning’s struggle of trying to get to the Forbidden City.  Not too long into our conversation, she asked me where I learned Spanish. I responded that I had lived in Cusco, Peru for six years. Her facial expression changed from curiosity to deep joy and then tears of gratitude as she told me that she was from Cusco. She had been praying for someone who spoke Spanish, and God went above and beyond to meet that need.

DSC_0490I wondered what she was doing in China with an energetic toddler who would constantly jump out of his stroller and escape through the crowds.  Andréa was recently divorced and traveled to distract herself from life.  Andréa’s faith was so strong and she believed that God would take care of her.  She explained that though she once was a Seventh Day Adventist, she was no longer tied to a specific religion, but strongly wanted her son to have faith in God. Andréa and her son, Inti, entered the Forbidden City with us, but once we were inside we split ways.  It was very clear to me that this was a divine appointment used to help Andréa and to build both of our faiths.

I left thinking, God has such a great sense of humor. Living in China has been a dream of mine since I was nine. I had been asking God what I could do in China with my God-given gift of Spanish. This encounter with Andréa showed me His goodness, provision and faithfulness to answer prayer.

-Hannah Shultz


Exploring Beijing

10. September 2015

We arrived in Beijing at about 5:30 pm (5:30 am EST) on Friday feeling very groggy but still overwhelmed at the fact that we were in China. We ate our first authentic Chinese meal, Beijing Duck, and then fell into our hotel beds exhausted. Our first full day was slightly rainy but filled with exciting adventures. We started the day by taking our first bus ride to Tiananmen Square. (For anyone who is wondering, the buses are just as crowded as you think). Next, we went to the Temple of Heaven, where the Chinese Emperor traditionally held ceremonial sacrifices, and then a few of us haggled for “name brand” merchandise at Pearl Market, a mall popular among Westerners. The next day was Sunday, so we went to one of the only churches in Beijing that has an English translator. Church services tend to last a little bit longer in China, but the interpreter provided an excellent translation and joined us for lunch afterward. Then we walked around The Forbidden City, a lavish and gigantic palace in the heart of Beijing. That afternoon, Myrrl set us loose on Wangfujing Street, a very modern-looking area with several shopping centers and roadside food stands selling foods ranging from chips on a stick to giant spiders. We spent Monday on the Great Wall, hiking about 4 miles of steep ascending and descending stairways. The sheer size and scope of the Wall and the surrounding mountains left us in awe. While tiring, it was exhilarating to be at a place that we had heard so much about and that had such an important place in China’s history. On Tuesday, our last full day in Beijing, we visited some smaller attractions, providing a nice contrast to the important historical sites we had been visiting. We went to the Summer Palace (where the Dowager Empress spent her time), the Olympic Park (where the Bird’s Nest is located), and to Houhai Lake (a market area). After four days of tourism, fried noodles, and impressive skylines, we flew out of the capital city en route to Nanchong – our next destination.

-China 2015 Group

Know where you come from

During the past three weeks, I have been blessed with incredible knowledge, faith, hospitality, love, and strength from all of the beautiful Maori people our group has come in contact with. Our stays have included time at their sacred Marae’s where we learned about their history and traditions. I was touched to hear about how the Maori people pass on their traditions.

While immersed in their culture, I have learned that the Maori people are people who respect nature as if it is part of their family. They honor their ancestors with incredible admiration but most important to me is how humble they are.

I have built many connections and relationships during our stays at different Maraes, but one that has inspired me in many ways was a conversation that I had with Rapata, a member of Rangataua Marae. He is a very spiritual man, one who never wears shoes to be closer to mother earth. He is solely dedicated to his tribe and Marae. He is a member of the council that fights for Maori rights. The most important thing I took away from our conversation was that it was highly important to always know where we come from and to live in a way where everything you do is with aroha (love), and not for money.

Introduction to the Maori

17 June 2015

Today we visited the Mangere Domain and Auckland Museum. I love learning about historical people and places, so this was right up my alley. It was really helpful to be able to talk directly to descendants of a Maori tribe and hear about their history from their perspective. Jane Matthews demonstrating flax weaving.50Practicing the powhiri (welcome ritual) with them was definitely a new experience, but I am learning to embrace new things. I am also excited to do a real powhiri when we go to a Marae.

One of my favorite parts of today was hearing about the hangi and the Maori “pantry” and then seeing a model of it in the Auckland Museum. This helped me to better imagine what life may have been like. In addition, I was amazed that they built their houses on terraces. It is hard to imagine because over time they have been worn away and skinny now. Continue reading

Where is God?

Where is God in the midst of poverty and oppression? I have asked myself that question many times over the years, always with a healthy dose of cynicism. Why did He allow this to happen? I questioned, clutching my iPhone as I stepped around a woman clutching two dirty faced children to her side, palm extended in hopes of a few pesos. Why isn´t the church doing anything to help? I sighed, gagging slightly at the sight of a man with a festering leg wound extended into my path. Where is God? I asked again as our group trooped past a man sprawled unconscious on a sidewalk in Mexico City.

Answers came in two different forms: Our hosts in Mexico City, and a book. I was nervous about staying Continue reading

On the Pacific Coast

18 May 2015

On the Pacific Coast

The first day we arrived in Uvita, Costa Rica and we had a more relaxed day on the beach. Many of the students were playing soccer, swimming in the ocean, and walking the beach. Several students had surfing lessons in the morning. After lunch at the Flutterby house, where we were staying, we hosted a soccer clinic at a Christian school in Uvita for children under the age of 14. There were three different stations where the kids learned passing, juggling, and teamwork skills.

Later, we went to a turtle reserve in Dominical, and learned about the different types of turtles in Costa Rica, and the ways they protect the turtles. Then we did a service project at a primary school down the road from the turtle reserve. At the school we painted two classrooms, we did cleanup around the school, and then made a garden. Overall it was more of working with the community by working hands-on and interacting with them. Continue reading

Dominical: relaxing and rafting

18 May 2015

After leaving San José we traveled down to Dominical, Costa Rica. As soon as we drove into the town there was an amazing environment of a surfing town. Every person was extremely laid back and going with the motion. No one was in a hurry to do anything other than hitting the waves. Once we got off the bus we all headed towards the beach to get food. As we looked around, we were amazed because there was the most wonderful market right in front of us.

There was a great amount of time spent at the market. Throughout the time we stayed there we had a pool and a much needed hangout area. On the second day we did a thirty minute walking tour plus zip lining. We all had to get strapped in and sent off with a leader and a catcher. There was a total of eight different zip lines that lasted an average of 15-18 seconds of air time; while zip lining it did not seem that long because we were all admiring the beauty around us. Continue reading

íSi Puebla!

17 May 2015

We apologize for the apparent silence from the summer Mexico Cross-Cultural, but if I speak for myself, I can say: I’m having an awesome time!  While many of us have had our difficulties: extreme flight delays (and arriving to Puebla at 4:00 in the morning), getting lost in a large city with no cell service, struggling with a language that many of us only have a basic knowledge in, personality issues with conversation partners, and adjusting to some cultural differences, we have also had several exciting times.

Already we have spent two weeks here in beautiful Puebla studying intensive Spanish at the Spanish Institute of Puebla.  Antonio, the director, is a sweet man and always extremely helpful with understanding the language and culture of Puebla.  The institute has been wonderful to us, including taking us on a field trip to Cholula to see the pyramids and some churches.  We also have made friends from all over the world here at the institute including a diplomat from Northern Ireland and a human resource manager from Germany.  Our professors are great, and I have observed a good many of us taking large strides in our language skills. Plus, one of the coolest things happening right now in Puebla is the International Cultural Festival including free theater shows, concerts, and original art from all around the world.

While most of the students on the Mexico cross-cultural are staying with Mexican host families, I have the opportunity to be staying with some friends of mine.  My dad met Keith and Debbie Myers at a West Virginia American Baptist conference and eventually, our church came to become supporters for Keith and Debbie when they decided to become missionaries in Mexico.  Keith and Debbie have two teenage children, Boyden and Bailie who I am growing to view more and more like my true brother and sister.  While we do speak English in the house, I have had the opportunity to travel to the mountains of Oaxaca to one of their churches that they work with.

Right now, Keith and Debbie are working on a chicken project and helping several communities become a self-sustaining community while spreading the love of Christ.  I experienced a whole different world in Oaxaca from the city of Puebla.  While I am still getting a few things mixed up (for example, one of the pastors in Oaxaca asked me “¿Como te llames?” (What is your name?) and I said, “No gracias.”), I feel more confident with myself, the language, and traveling “beyond the margins,” as Profe puts it.

-MaKayla Baker