Category Archives: Summer 2010

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

New Zealand 2

New Zealand 2Friday morning, May 21st we woke in one giant circle inside the Marae. After three nights of sleeping in a giant room we were ready to pack our “tramping packs” load the “boot” of the van and go up the road to our next destination. Before we left the Marae though, we returned to the meeting room to participate in the “poroporoaki,” or the customary way to end one’s stay at the Marae. The Maori man leading the poroporoaki deeply blessed us with his words. Especially poignant were his words regarding the untimely death of a fellow student’s grandfather the day before. Although he was speaking Maori his words were deep, strong, and spoken with deep conviction and truth. His words stretched far beyond the barriers of culture, language, distance, or even death itself. Friday morning’s experience was best described with words I did not understand. It seemed fitting that the ceremony was in a different language because any words I know are too trivial to describe what I was experiencing. The ancestral and family lineage is extremely vital to the Maori people and to have the people of that Marae invite us to share in the sacredness of their ancestors while honouring the student who lost their grandfather proved very meaningful. I really enjoy the times we get to hear Maori and really enjoy the fact that I do not understand the words but somehow I believe them.

After leaving the Marae we drove up to a picturesque backpacker’s hostel resting atop a gorgeous coastline. The grounds were speckled with old cabooses, the cabooses were covered in surf stickers and the horizon was speckled with surfers. We all enjoyed the “no worries” vibe we received at Solscape Backpacker’s. We also enjoyed the giggle when Jim told a student to go “clean their caboose.” After a rainy afternoon spent with the director of a Christian Conservation association, A Rocha, we returned to our quaint little caboose village on top of the hill. Around 4 o’clock the rain turned off and the clouds broke just in time for the sunset. As the sun set over a black sand beach, endless wave trains, and mountains stretching into the lingering fog- I could not be anything but speechless. The day began and ended with experiences of beauty and truth far beyond any words I know. For me- so far- New Zealand has been intensely beautiful and pleasantly hospitable and far beyond any words I know. In keeping with local lingo, New Zealand is truly “sweet as.” Needless to say that phrase in a Kiwi accent is NOT a comment on one’s caboose region. Cheers!

– Julia Johnson

Saturday night rugby game. May 15, 2010

Today was a cleanup day around the Kodesh Community.  We were assigned and or volunteered to do random tasks around Kodesh that included washing windows, checking possum traps, raking leaves, sweeping sidewalks, etc.  Sam and I volunteered to chop wood that had been sitting around awhile.  It was really fun, and we both enjoyed it, although the wood was wet and hard, so chopping it did not go very smoothly.  It took us quite awhile to figure out a system that worked, but when we did it went quickly.  After the work was finished we had several hours of free time until we went to the rugby game in the evening.  I spent some time hanging out with my family at their house in the afternoon; reading and journaling a bit to catch up.

Later in the afternoon Kacie and I went across Oakley Creek with Ben, a man from Vanuatu who is living with my home stay family, and we played soccer for an hour or so.  Ben is really good, he put Kacie and I to shame!  After playing a bit we went back to my house for supper, and my host mom, Monika, cooked a delicious meal of rice, chicken, and fish.  After supper was finished and cleaned up we started getting prepared for the rugby game.  We made sure to dress warmly, because it is starting to get chillier as the days go by.  We walked the short distance from Kodesh to the train station, and got onto the train that would take us to Eden Park and the stadium.  Because we had rugby game tickets, we got to ride the train for free, a small benefit for us poor college students!  When we arrived at our stop, we were swarmed with drunk fans for both teams dressed up in their supporting colors and with their faces painted; a much different environment than most American sporting events.  Once the game got underway it was easy to see that no one from our group had a clue as to what was going on in the game.  We had gotten a brief rugby lesson from Andrew one day on the beach, but we still were attempting to figure out basic situations and occurrences in the game.  Needless to say, rugby players put our American football players to shame; they play the same type of rough, hard tackling game, but with no pads on their bodies whatsoever.  No helmets, shoulder pads, etc.  The experience of the game and the atmosphere of the stadium were amazing though, and an experience I’m sure that no one from the group will forget anytime soon.  After the game and the train ride back to our stop, we walked to our home stays and climbed in bed, after a long but very entertaining day.

-Cody Peters

Spain/Morocco 3

Spain/Morocco 2Every time I hear the word desert, I always think about millions of endless sand dunes. We set out on a long van ride, not really knowing what to expect, to the Sahara desert. This long, winding, and seemingly endless trip proved that what we have always pictured as the desert was not completely accurate.

After a 6-hour van ride, we finally arrived at the breath-taking Hotel Xaluca. Words can not even begin to describe the beauty of this place located in the desert. As we walked in, we were greeted with the infamous Moroccan tea and live music with belly dancers at the pool. This resort was so meticulously designed, as it portrayed different accessories including Berber tents, pottery, and plants. We were all so excited and in awe of the beauty of this place and were kind of sad we could not spend another night.  We spent some time in a hot tub and pool and had a great time further getting to know each other.

The next day we gathered our things and went to the hotel Tombuctu. This was another unique place, but we were only there for a few hours. The time finally came for the camel ride that everyone had anxiously been awaiting.  The entire ride was through the sand dunes, just like the ones I had always imagined. This place was amazing, unlike anything I have seen before. On the camel ride, there were four different groups of six camels. Mohamed and Yusef, two of our guides, told us many stories, made some jokes and good small talk. This entire time I remember thinking what kind of life this must be just walking camels to and from camp every day. Then we made it to the bottom of the highest dune. Now was the hard part. We all climbed it after sliding, sweating, and struggling on our way up. We sat and watched the sun set from the top. The beauty was breath-taking. This is when it became clear to us why Mohamed and Yusef enjoy their lives. The dunes are their “playground.” Both of them are in their twenties and were like kids running and sliding through the sand.

We came down the other side of this huge dune to the Berber camp where we would be spending the night. We each chose a tent to put our things in and were greeted with Moroccan tea. Back in Tombuctou we got off our camels, said goodbyes to the men and our camels, and went to a huge breakfast buffet.

This trip to the desert will definitely be one of the most unforgettable experiences of our lives. Not only did we form friendships with some of the Berber men, but we got to experience the beauty of the desert that we had only dreamed about up until this point. We also learned that a camel ride is great but really only for a short period of time. The memories we created on this trip will be lasting.

-Julie Young

Spain/Morocco 2

Feels like I have none here…
Anger, confusion, rage
Appears so rapidly
In a split second
My mood can change
Children… they have no hearts
Or so it seems
What happened to the love?
The urge to learn?
To play? To be friends?
NO!!! Instead insults flare
With outstretched hands…All for one Durham…
For what?! Nothing…
All because America is wealthy
Everyone….if they only knew

STOP?!? ???
That would be asking too much
Life is a rush…
Ringing of horns
Lets us know it times to go
Constantly on the move…
Left, right, left right
We sway thru traffic
So many possible casualties
…Sit back and hold on
The only option
For life here is a rush
Stop signs have no value
Nothing but anger, confusion, rage
Lingers around each corner

I have so much to say
But no one understands me
Body language…my only hope
Frequent smiles help ease da tension
And they say ignore what
You don’t wanna hear
But how?!
When it’s directed to me?
Just me as if I were the only woman
So I wonder if hiding myself would help?
Is it the hair?
Am I too exposed?
I don’t know…
So I walk on as if my ears hear NO evil
Smile as if it doesn’t hurt
Look as if I don’t see the gestures
Act as if everything is okay
Yet the anger, confusion, rage…
Lingers around every corner…

My money…..seems to be in the same boat as I
No worth here…A ride… so hard to get
Why? Is my Durham not worthy of pay?
Every step I take closer to a taxi
More and more doors lock
Fingers sway to say NO!!!
But why?!
I did nothing to deserve this…
Or did I?
Is my presence in their space wrong?
Does my camera give the impression that
They’re not human?
I don’t know…
So…what do I do?
Who shall I ask
When no one understands me?
This is a crazy feeling…
But I like the challenge
Kinda enjoy the life I’m living
This experience wasn’t meant
For me to fit in…
I AM different
And I came to learn…
So no matter how hard
Each day is…
And even though
Anger, confusion and rage
Lingers around each corner…
I will continue this ONCE in
A lifetime journey till the end
And somehow enjoy
The little things
And be thankful for what I do have…
Take the good with the bad
And take it ALL in stride!!!


-Ebony Dennis

New Zealand 1

New Zealand 1On Sunday (May 9) we went to the Te Puea Marae, a common meeting area for the native Maori people in urban Auckland. We were welcomed through one of their formal ceremonies which included singing, dancing and speeches from some of the elders and a few of our members as well. The whole ceremony was completely different from any experience I’ve ever had. The Maori were intimidating, funny and intense. It was a very confusing time for me emotionally, I was scared but at the same time so entertained. After the ceremony the Maori performed some more dances and songs for us including the famous Haka dance that their warriors did before battle. The Maorie men teach our guys some traditional dance steps After the entertainment we went outside and watched them uncover an array of meat from a hangi, a pit dug in the ground and filled with hot rocks and covered with burlap sacks.  We then went inside and enjoyed an amazing meal which consisted of, but was not limited to lamb, pork, and chicken from the hangi; mixed vegetables, baked pumpkin, potatoes and yams. The dinner was phenomenal and was probably a highlight of the trip. After dinner a Maori woman shared a story with us. That night we slept around the outside of the large communal room like a big slumber party, it was good.

-Jason Marner, Kelby Miller, Andrea Yoder

Students exploring Ark in the Park, a New Zealand rainforest Today, Wednesday May 12, we encountered our first day of rain. We are at still at Kodesh, which is an intentional Christian community, and my home stay is a bit of a walk away. As I started my walk the sun was just coming up. The wind was howling and I was up early enough to grab a coffee and sit with some locals in the town of Avondale. It started to drizzle when I got up to Craddock St, where Kodesh is located. Kodesh is a lot like the first community we stayed in. It is peaceful and centered around community. Breakfast and dinner are shared with a blend of international students and local Kodesh residents.

After breakfast today we all piled into our vans and took off for ‘Ark in the Park’. The Ark in the Park is a reserve that was established to reintroduce and maintain many of New Zealand’s fauna and vegetation that has been under stress or even threatened with extinction. This reserve has also been a site for trapping of rats, mice, weasels, and stoats. New Zealand fauna has been terribly affected by the introduction of rodents and other land mammals. This reserve and its volunteers/employees are devoted to help bring back and preserve some of New Zealand’s native birds.  The rain started to come in waves and without rain jackets and rain pants our day would have miserable. Luckily we were able to see a New Zealand Robin and a HiHi (or “stitch bird”). We spend the morning and early afternoon going through the park and observed tons of different trees and other vegetation.

After Ark in the Park, we embarked onto our afternoon activity. We arrived at Earthsong Eco-Neighborhood around 3:00 PM. Earthsong is a completely different type of intentional community when compared to Kodesh. Earthsong was established by a group of couples and individuals who were passionate about living environmentally and socially sustainable. The property and buildings were amazing. Small communities like this do exist back in the states but I have never seen a community so involved with the social aspect. We headed back to Kodesh for dinner. The day was long but packed full of great things.

-Sam Berenstain

Spain/Morocco 1

Spain/Morocco 1We all signed up with different expectations, thoughts and intentions. Our journey was set off right with the blessing and “see-you-laters” distributed between family and friends. The plane ride was 6 hours but preoccupied us by unexpected and fascinating technology. Spain, our first taste test was a challenge for some and a delight for others. With that said, we are figuring out things we never knew we liked, a blessing in disguise. Back and forth in the metro we go! To the big city of soul.

Soon after our first-come-first serve flight to Tangier, our group of mainly independent women and one guy versus pushy European men put up a fight through…(this is to be taken with humor, of course).

Morocco begins with narrow windy roads (led by a professional driver) that leads us to Chefchaouen. They call it the Blue City, Chefchaouen, our blue town but no image in our minds could depict the mastery and gracefulness of this place. After what felt like miles traveling, we entered out palace-like house, Dar Meziana. Everything is hand-crafted, from the bathroom to the tiles, to the coffee cups…all running around to claim the best rooms, to find out that the host has already assigned them. To no surprise, every room is drenched in beauty, each unique in design.

For lunch and dinner we order from a confusing menu and pass all things around. This is a very giving group. We eat and to the market we go. The pressure is on in the Medina. Men try to bargain and sell us everything. We are becoming good at it. From 120 dirham to 100 to 80… Ach, Hamdulilah!!!

The journey through the medina is a moment to remember when you are walking with Queen Latifa, Obama’s sister, and Shakira.

The mountain hike makes me think of words like exhaustion and unbelievable beauty. The people live on the hills of the mountains and live sustainable lives. Donkeys, sheep, and goats fill the place, as well as cats. Cats are everywhere! At last, standing at the top of the mountain, we look down at the town of Chefchaouen …the buildings and houses, small enough to fit in our hands but the people in them big enough to fill our hearts. That much beauty will never be forgotten.

Out differences are slowly diminishing and transforming into similarities. The bargaining, no matter how stressful is teaching us life lessons. The town so open to our arrival and as time starts to fly by we seem sad and unsteady about out departure. After learning so much and mastering our way through the back allies, we must leave. One day left, one day to cram this beautiful place into out pockets and carry ons.

We are your eyes to this place, …all I can say is too little paper to tell it all and to enjoy all the beauty around us.

-Melissa Lewis