EMU Cross-Cultural

Seminar in Sustainable Urban Development

Germany 3On Wednesday, May 20th, we had a seminar on alternative energy sources and sustainable city planning. We met our guide in a classroom under a solar tower in the city of Freiburg. We began with a powerpoint that had many facts about energy usage in Germany as well as the rest of the world. We saw, as we expected, that America was using far more energy per person than the rest of the world. We then spoke about transportation in Germany versus America. Our guide stated that in Freiburg almost a quarter of the people ride a bike while even more use public transportation. This cuts down on energy costs, pollution and the depletion of natural resources.

After the powerpoint presentation, we went on a tour of two special communities in Freiburg. Each of these communities was unique in that the people opt to live in smaller apartments without their own yard or garden. Many also forgo a parking space as they don’t have a car. Instead, there are many public areas such as playgrounds, parks and public indoor living rooms where people can gather to spend time together. There was also a market in each community which had venders selling local goods. Each community has schools for the children, stores for most things you would need as well as access to public transportation. They all work together to cut down on energy expenditure and are cooperating to further a more sustainable city. I found these ideas intriguing and challenging.

Although many of these ideas would be difficult to begin implementing in America, I believe we should work to incorporate these more conservative and Earth-aware lifestyles and mind frames into our day. One example of a way we could cut down on pollution is the idea of carpooling. Another idea would be to encourage the use of separating waste into plastic, glass, paper, aluminum and biodegradable items. This way we could recycle more things and cut down on the amount of useful things we dispose of. America could also work harder to make better use of the space that we have. We could build our towns and cities in a more earth-friendly way by incorporating solar energy and less paved and cemented areas. This is important to us as Christians, as it is being a good steward of what we have been given. Overall, we as Americans have much to learn from the rest of the world on what things in life are truly necessary and what luxuries we should spare.

-Julie Davis

Week 2 in Nigeria

Our second week in Nigeria started with a tour of Vom Hospital and a relaxing swim at HBC resort.  We’re beginning to submerge ourselves deeper within the culture as we learned about the conflicts within Nigeria and the peace building efforts of Gopar Tapkida.  We also volunteered the morning at Faith Alive Clinic where nursing and accounting students stayed within the hospital to work while others went to the village school that Faith Alive started.  We have also been creating relationships and connections with the students at UniJos and learning about ministries such as Ayuba’s wheelchair shop for those with polio.  We are now relaxing for the weekend in Miango, catching up on sleep and getting a taste of American food before beginning our last week here with trips to Otukpo, more interaction with UniJos and saying our goodbyes before heading back to the states!  We are continuing to learn so much and can’t wait to share all of our lessons and stories once we get home.

 -Becca Snyder and Ashleigh Tolliver

Germany group worships in Basel, Switzerland

Germany 2On Sunday, May 10 we went to Basel, Switzerland. After walking along the Rhine River we went to church at the Mitenand Fellowship. They were very welcoming and excited to have us there. The service was unique from many other services I’ve been to. They included many languages besides German and English. Also, they put together a drama of the scripture they performed during the service. Following the service, we were invited to join then for dinner. Much of the food was new and different to us, but we were thankful for their generosity.

 We were invited back the following weekend for their Friday night meeting. A few of us decided to go. We met in a house the fellowship owns. The group was made up of all ages and many different backgrounds. We
joined in their singing and bible study. Many of their songs were familiar tunes and we would sing four verses, each one in a different language. We read the scripture passage in both Spanish and German, but people contributed to the discussion afterwards in their own language.

It was an awesome experience to be with this group of people from all different backgrounds who did not let their language get in the way. Many of us on the trip are struggling with the language and feel lost not being
able to communicate with our host families. It was great being able to worship the same God each using our own language.

Gott ist gut, die ganze Zeit.
Die ganze Ziet, Gott ist gut.

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good

-Maria Zehr

Nigeria – the first week in Jos

Greetings from Nigeria!
From the moment we arrived in Abuja, Nigeria we have been flooded with the kindness of Nigerians.  Our safety is a high importance to the city of Jos and we all are feeling incredibly safe and protected.  Everyone is having great, eye-opening experiences with our host families and are treated as if we are permanent members.

Here in Jos, we have visited the chaos of the market, with many vendors, colors, animals, fabrics, and goods.  We have also been given tours of MCC Nigeria and Vom Christian Hospital as well as experiencing a Nigerian church service where we were asked to perform our musical talents.

This coming week, we are planning on spending our time at Faith Alive Clinic and relaxing this weekend at Miango Retreat Center.  As we are forming new relationships with our host families and fellow group members, we ask for your prayers for our continued health and safety.

-Ashleigh Tolliver and Becca Snyder

Week 1 in Germany

Germany 1The past few days have been very interesting. On Friday, I ventured away from home with 16 other EMU students, Moira, and our helper Salomé to discover the people, cultures, challenges, language, and great aspects of Germany. The plane ride was great relaxation and gave us some preparation time for our adventure ahead. We then arrived at 7am on Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany, and hopped on a train ride to Freiburg which was a lot of fun. The most nerve wrecking part happened when we arrived at the train station in Freiburg and our host families were waiting for us. We then parted and went to our new, beautiful homes. Some of us, for the rest of the day, either went shopping in the big city or went to sleep exhausted from our long journey.

Meeting my family was very interesting. The son came and picked us up from the station and then when we got to our home, we met our mother, Gabriele, and the Japanese exchange student. The next morning the first challenge arose- I set my alarm wrong so we were late for breakfast and most often, Germans are never late for anything! Our host mom was not happy at all and then pulled out the “rule book” and began explaining every house rule. The most exciting part of the first day or so was being able to explore the city. There were so many beautiful sights to see and little shops to venture into.

On Monday we started school. Class is 3.5 hours, which is very long, but the teacher is fun and does a fantastic job at teaching us the important things needed to know about Germany and the important vocabulary needed to communicate.

Team building, Freiburg history tour, and reflection on the mountain are a few of the many activities we have done as a group. This allowed us to learn many things about this amazing city and gave us a view from the sky lift we took to the top of the mountain. That was breath-taking.

Communicating with Germans and learning their customs have been the biggest challenges but get better by the day. All of these experiences have allowed us to grow as individuals, a group, and as more diverse people. I am so grateful to be a part of this group and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. This cross-cultural has been, is, and will be a life-changing experience for me and hopefully for everyone else.

– Jackie Collins

Final reflections from India

India 12We recently arrived back in Delhi for our final stay in India!! For the past week we’ve been in Mussoorie, once again surrounded by the beautiful Himalayas. While we were there we stayed at Woodstock, an international boarding school. It was a very peaceful and relaxing place. During our stay we did some hiking, played card games, and worked on our final papers. We left Mussoorie at night and had an absolutely unbelievable view of the city lights.

Now that we’re down to only a few days left in India, it’s hard to know how to feel. One minute I’m excited to go back to see friends and family, and to eat some American food, and the next I don’t want to leave and am trying to soak up every last bit of India that I can.

This has been an eye-opening experience and has allowed me to learn more about myself. I’ve gotten used to living a more simple way of life, and have realized that I take a lot of things for granted. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things, whether that’s sleeping on the floor of a house instead of on the street, or eating foods I hate, instead of going hungry. Overall, this trip has been a fulfilling experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. India is a country that has so much to offer and it will be greatly missed.

-Laura Stoltzfus

Mussoorie Sunset When I return home in the next few days, I will use pictures and tell stories attempting to describe how I experienced India. I will be able to sit for hours talking about the last three months to anyone that will listen. But none of this will be able to accurately depict the pictures burned into my memory: joy and despair, achievement and failure, old and new. I have been overwhelmed with emotion on this journey; let me explain how.

On our sightseeing adventures, many scenes have evoked strong responses. I grieved watching children beg in a train station. I felt arrogant walking out of fancy showrooms. I felt guilty swimming in a pool in the middle of a desert in Rajasthan with the potential of a drought in the next two years. I wept viewing women sort through trash for any precious leftovers from frivolous tourists. I complained about a hair in my paneer, tossing it aside, wasting a perfectly good meal while a hungry family sits outside. I was confused staring at the Akshardham temple constructed for Neelakaat, a religious figure, built 5 years ago, which cost an unimaginable amount of money. Perhaps that money could have been spent in a better way. These are a few of the emotions and images that stirred my thoughts throughout the trip.

Today, while walking the busy market streets of New Delhi, a beggar girl approached our group of guys, a typical occurrence. I was feeling generous, so I walked over to a nearby street stand and asked what 10 rupees could buy (my generosity extended to only 20 cents). He pointed to a strawberry ice pop which seemed like a nice treat on a 90 degree day. Then, I walked back to the group and handed the ice pop to her. As she walked away, she turned and smiled the brightest grin I have seen. That smile warmed my heart. One ice pop is not going to change the state of 800 million people living on two dollars a day, but that smile will remain in my memory forever. Thank you India for taking me on this crazy ride.

-Michael Harnish


Latin America 10The coffee industry has had a major impact on the lives of most of Central America´s rural communities. In many cases, it has further impoverished families, creating land tenure problems and trapping small growers in a cycle of low selling prices and high production costs. However, some small coffee growers have found that by forming cooperatives, they are able to earn fairer wages for the coffee they produce.

CECOCAFEN is one of these cooperatives, representing 2,637 small coffee growers. Santiago Dolmus, one of CECOCAFEN´s agronomists, referred to the cooperative as a “democratic” business that is tightly linked to the individual producers. Apparently, marketing and finding a fair price for coffee are the biggest struggles for coffee growers. As a large cooperative, CECOCAFEN can find markets for the coffee that Hill bring fairer wages to the farmers.

Dolmus gave four reasons for the existence of the cooperative: to sell coffee, to provide financing to farmers, to provide technical training to farmers, and to provide special programs for the cooperative´s members. In addition to finding fairer prices for its members, CECOCAFEN runs a women´s microfinancing program, a program to develop a market for high-quality coffee in Nicaragua, a tourism program in rural communities, and a youth education program.

On April 1, we visited Martin Vicente Padilla´s farm near Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Padilla is a member of the CECOCAFEN coffee cooperative and serves on the board of directors. His own coffee finca consists of about 9 acres of land that he tends using only organic farming methods. While organic coffee is his main source of income, he also grows a wide variety of fruits, precious woods, medicinal plants, and staple crops such as corn and beans. He raises chickens for eggs and meat, pigs for meat and extra income, and a cow to provide milk for his family.

While every member of the family works on the finca, they all take education very seriously. Through CECOCAFEN´s youth education program they were able to complete high school.  Padilla is determined that all of his children will become professionals in some field of study, and two of them are well on their way, one studying to be a lawyer and another currently studying medicine in Venezuela.

Visiting the Padilla family´s finca reminded me again of how little I know about the origins of common products, in this case, coffee. Our visit also made me rethink my attitude toward coffee drinking. I don´t drink coffee, so I had always thought of it as a waste of resources, kind of like candy that doesn´t exactly hurt one´s body, but doesn´t really do any good, either. I never realized how many hundreds of thousands of people depend on the coffee industry to provide their daily rice and beans. Our visit also drove home the importance of buying fairly traded products. Before this trip, I viewed fair-trade products as things that were great to buy, as long as they were convinient to find and not too expensive. Now I realize that there´s a reason that most commercial coffee is cheaper: the small growers are paying the difference through low wages.

– Christina Harman

Village life in the Himalayas

India 11This past week was an incredible cultural experience in which we learned about village life in the Himalayas.  We were connected to the villages by a local NGO called SIDH, or the Society for Integrated Development of the Himalayas. This organization helps provide a good education to rural children by giving them a solid base of knowledge and keeping them rooted in their culture. SIDH feels that this way of teaching is important because recent studies show a high percentage of the youth moving away to larger cities, which is breaking up their traditional way of life.

To find out more on this issue, we split into 3 groups and spent a day in 3 different villages talking to people in order to hear their stories and to see how they live. We heard perspectives from 4 areas, the school teachers, the young adults, the small children and the village leaders.

The condition in the villages is centered around a couple problems. The effects of global warming make it difficult for the famers to grow their crops and feed their animals. This is one factor influencing the young peoples’ decision to move in order to find a job. Another reason is that in recent years, people have begun to think they need a disposable income, which would be possible with a job in the city that pays in cash rather than the assets created by subsistence farming. When this happens, however, it tends to break up their traditional joint family systems into nuclear families, which is not as conducive to a successful rural lifestyle. When looking at all these issues combined, it is easy to see how such a cycle is hard to break, but this is something SIDH is working towards.

Village Discussion While in the villages we also had the chance to play games with the children, and ask the villagers various questions concerning marriages (arranged and love matches), leadership in the village, their daily routines, their religion, and relationships with the surrounding communities. We really enjoyed this opportunity to see the area and connect with people in a more intimate way. We feel privileged to have experienced another aspect of the diverse Indian culture!

-Sylvia Lorisme and Anita Hoover

The astonishing beauty of India

India 10Returning for our final stay in the colorful state of Rajasthan, we arrived in the city of Udaipur, renowned for its multiple, majestic lakes. We spent some time touring local attractions such as the massive city palace and recuperating from the weary fatigue that accompanies intense travel. After a couple of days of sightseeing and shopping, we traveled up a mountain to Udaipur’s famous monsoon palace where the royal family of the Mewar dynasty would wait out the rainy season.   Gazing down from the palace’s panoramic vista captivated my attention and provided me with a stunning aerial view of the entire city and its interlocking lakes. Waiting for sunset, a group of us began exploring the palace and we chanced upon a narrow staircase leading to the dank, pitch black palace cellar. When we first heard the rusty animal screeches and sounds of ominous movement we mistakenly figured the lightless catacombs were full of rats and contemplated turning back. Upon further inspection, however (and with the aid of an illuminating camera flash), we discovered a colony of bats that had taken up residency in the palace’s basement.  It seems like no matter where we travel in this country, India  constantly provides ceaseless surprises. Heading back to the top of the palace, we arrived just in time to watch the day end. As the sun set on the city’s mountainous backdrop and mirroring lakes, I found myself marveling once again at India’s stunning beauty and sheer magnitude as the glowing city of Udaipur stretched beyond my field of vision.

After departing Udaipur and making a quick stop to Ranakpur to visit its impressive Jain temples, we traveled back to Delhi to prepare for our final excursion up north. Upon arriving, we found out, to our great excitement, that the Dalai Lama was going to make a speech in Delhi thanking India for fifty years of generous hospitality during his long exile.  The Dalai Lama in Delhi Unable to catch up with him in his headquarters in Dharamsala, we quickly jumped on the opportunity to see one of the most respected religious and political leaders in the world.  As we made our way into the lecture hall I discovered that the Dalai Lama was nothing like I had expected. Making jokes and passionately expressing his gratitude to the Indian people, he seemed to emanate personal warmth and sincere concern. I find it amazing that a man confronted with as much as adversity as he has experienced over the years can remain so jovial, upbeat, and amiable. I’m delighted that we were finally able to hear him speak, and the experience will remain with me for a lifetime.

-Andrew Meade

Udaipur at DuskAbout a week ago, we arrived in Udaipur, a city in Rajasthan. Udaipur was green and lush compared to the other cities we have visited in Rajasthan. It is the city of lakes, nested in the valley of a mountainous area. It is rich with history, as we learned from the sights we visited. These included the City Palace, Lake Palace, Monsoon Palace and a Hindu Temple.

The two highlights of our trip to Udaipur, however, were the Polio Hospital and St. Matthews School that we got a chance to tour. The Polio Hospital gives free care and surgeries to thousands each year in desperate need of aid. We learned that there are 6 doctors performing countless surgeries for people who couldn’t under normal circumstances afford care. They don’t turn away anyone who needs surgery and everything is financed by donations. It was overwhelming to see all the people in need, but inspiring to hear stories of transformations made in these people’s, mostly children’s, lives. It was obvious in the faces of the patients and parents that this clinic gives hope when there otherwise wouldn’t be any.

The evening we spent at St. Matthews School showed the dedication of the minority Christian community in Udaipur. We met with the couple who rent the school and seminary and were moved by the stories they told of Christians in India. Their stories led to discussions of our own faith and how different the trials we face are. Along with these conversations, we were able to play games and sing songs with the orphan children who live at St. Matthews. Their energy and smiles were enjoyed by the whole group. Our experience was very memorable.

After our adventures in Udaipur, we traveled to Ranakpur, which was a rural setting. Jain Temple Here we experienced and visited our first Jain temple. It was a beautifully constructed temple that had over 1,000 columns. It is known as a pilgrimage site for many Jain believers. Our stay in Ranakpur was very relaxing and we enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of this area. It was a nice change from the large, crowded cities where we normally stay.

It is hard to believe that it’s almost April and that our trip is coming to an end soon!

-Allison Thurman and Kristen White