EMU Cross-Cultural

Home stays

Morgan, Elisa, Jelly:

Going into the home stay was nerve racking because our family didn’t speak any English and we didn’t know much Spanish to communicate with them. We found a way to communicate with them by hand signals and little key words. Some ways we bonded with them were playing Spanish twister and eating hot chili peppers around the dinner table and laughing at everyone’s reactions.  We bonded with our 11 year old host brother André by playing soccer, jumping on the trampoline, teaching him English, and Elisa by chasing him with a toad (Sapo). When it came time to leave, it was a lot harder than we thought it would be.

Aislinn, Becca, Michael, and Rachel:

We entered our house a little more confident than most groups because we had a little more assistance with translating since Michael was staying with us. As we walked through the doors the host mother and one of the daughters were open arms in greeting us. They were so kind and so open Continue reading

Visiting the Maleku tribe

  1. May 2015

We started our travels early in the morning; it was roughly a 3 hour drive to the Maleku reservations, near the town of Guatuso. Once we got there, a truck took our luggage up to our location while we walked on a long, strenuous, hilly, and rocky road. By the time we got up to the dining area, we were all extremely sweaty because of the strenuous walk we were not prepared for. Once we got up to the dining area we had lunch. The locals knew we were on the reservations so they wanted to play a pickup game of soccer. On our way down to the pickup game we walked through the village to invite people to come watch or to come play.

The next morning we woke up and had breakfast around 7:00. We then split up into two groups; the first group took a tour in the dry forest and the second group worked on an art of painting on a shell of a fruit. The tour in the dry forest consisted of our guide Alex showing all of us plants that are medically used Continue reading

An introduction to Nicaragua

4. May 2015

We departed from EMU at 6:00 a.m. after 24 students were asked to show their passports. All but 1 were able to do so. The other sends her parents on a trek, first towards home, then turn around and chase the bus towards the airport. Phone calls were exchanged often to check on mile-markers to see if the pursuit vehicle was gaining…33 minutes, then 28, then 25, the two vehicles are getting closer. Twenty miles onto Route 66 we decide to stop for a quick breakfast at the Golden Arches in an effort to both give the group a final opportunity for a familiar American breakfast, and allow the chase vehicle to make up some ground. Within 20 minutes the chase vehicle arrives, and drops off the goods. We board the bus and head to Dulles. And so, the adventure begins.

The flight took us from Dulles to San Salvador, to a final destination of Managua. We touched down on time at 3:49. Going through customs was a breeze, then students observed the variety of sights, sounds, and smells of the city as we drove through the streets of Managua. We arrived at Quinta Shalom guesthouse for a hot meal of chicken, pasta, rice, salad, fruit drink, and for those that had room, an iced white cake.

The first day in Nicaragua was spent touring Granada, Continue reading

Turning toward home

I walked into the dorm room from my morning shower and he was cooking something on a camp stove on the windowsill. Curious, I asked him, “how long have you been traveling?” From his worn hiking pack and sun kissed face I could tell that he had spent time outdoors. “Since last Saturday, we’ve been hiking for about a week,” he said in a smooth Italian accent. It was like he was touching the words gently, almost glossing over them with a song on the tip of his tongue. Much different than the lady that gave us a tour of the catacombs beneath the Church of St Agnes in Agony. Her English was like a roller coaster, an exaggerated movie Italian accent. 
“How about you?” my tall hiking roommate asked.
“I’ve been travelling about 4 months, since January,” trying to hide a sheepish grin. 
“Ooh, wow,” was the response, visibly impressed with the length of my journey. Respect was established, a bond shared.

I met this man on my free travel to Assisi. He was only one of many people that we met along the journey. One of many people we will likely never see again.

As we sit here in the airport in Rome awaiting the plane back, we are filled with excitement and anxiety. Home is within sight, friends and family within reach. But how will we answer the questions? How do we begin to share this with the people who love us and long to hear our stories? What stories are even worth sharing? And of course the strict security, passport control, and jet lag aren’t helping either. But we are going home. If it still feels like home remains to be seen. Continue reading


13. April 2015

As we enter our last stretch of time in the Middle East, the focus of our explorations has shifted to the sea – to learning and walking the different types of harbors, to studying Paul’s journeys by water (and land), to basking in the views of the seas from our hotel windows.

I’ve known water in a relatively limited way until this week. 
I’ve known living water preached about in church. 
I’ve known thunderstorms and flash floods. 
I’ve known peace like a river, love like and ocean, and joy like a fountain. 
I’ve known the cool, refreshing splash of jumping in a pool on a hot Texas summer day. 
I’ve known Palestinian water shortages and fewer showers.
Continue reading

La Finca La Loma and Holy Week in Antigua

6. April 2015

Coming back from free travel was both exciting and an adjustment for our group. After spending one week in small groups away from each other, it was a bit of a transition to come together as one big group again, however, we were all very happy to see each other. We all shared our adventures and experiences we had on our trips, and afterwards we prepared to go on retreat.

We left CASAS to travel to a retreat center in Chimaltenango called La Finca La Loma. It was a gorgeous venue that had everything we could want: places to be alone, a playground to have fun, restaurants to eat at, luxurious beds to sleep in, a field to play Frisbee and soccer, a paintball course, a zip line that really wasn’t a zip line, and two weddings! We were excited to theoretically crash the weddings, even though no one really did. The purpose of this retreat was just to relax after our week of traveling, and to further reflect on our overall experience while we also tried out a new method of communication…silence. Continue reading

One in One

One in One

What are the odds
that you’ll walk the Jesus Trail,
put your feet where His once tread,
gather the same dust upon your skin?

What are the odds
that there will be wildflowers,
blue skies full of birds,
And fields of wheat all along the way?

What are the odds
that your feet get sore,
that blisters will rise inside your shoes,
that your very bones will seem weary?

What are the odds
that a moving body
will mean a moving mind,
mulling over both the God
and your next meal in a seamless stream?

What are the odds
that a moving mind will turn
into a moving mouth,
the depth of conversation
pulling you up hills, over the rocks?

What are the oddsJesus trail 2015
that the trail will, at times,
seem endless and rough,
more a tiresome task
than beautiful privilege?

What are the odds
that it’s about way more
than four days of trekking,
and closer instead to a lifetime
of walking the trail with Jesus?

-Mariah Martin, sophomore

Jewish history and following Jesus’ story in the streets of Jerusalem

1. April

We arrived back from free travel and dove right back into the Old City of Jerusalem. We spent the week in a convent called Ecce Homo, which translates to “behold the man”. The arch that goes over the street adjacent to the convent has been suggested as the site where Pilate presented Jesus. The whole week has been focused on the Old City and how Judaism fits in there. We had lectures on Jewish history as well as 10 hours of Hebrew language.

Learning Hebrew proved to be quite the task, as our instructor informed us that she normally takes 50 hours to teach the letters completely. We only had 10 hours to learn the letters and some basic phrases. The pace of the class did not stop us from giving our best effort to learn. We ended up being able to sing some songs to help us remember how to say “good morning, evening and goodnight” and some traditional shabbat songs. Continue reading

Free Travel Viajes


Traveling can be many things, all at the same time: stressful, exciting, intimidating, life-giving, etc. For me, this past week touched on all of these things and many more. Our group was one of three that chose Belize as our final destination, but first we had to accept the challenges of getting there. We started with an early morning bus to Puerto Barrios, on the coast of Guatemala. After a late arrival came a hurried trip to catch a not-so-official looking boat to Punta Gorda, Belize. Another late arrival, and we managed to catch the bus towards Hopkins. The journey ended successfully with a four mile, hitched ride into town, hunkered down in the bed of a pick-up truck. The cabana that awaited us was seafront and serene. Palm trees, hammocks, sea water and salty air welcomed us to heaven. Throughout the week we would spend a lot of time enjoying all of these things, but we’d also learn quickly about what makes Belize so unique.

Lesson #1: People in Belize will be friendly and kind to anyone. Continue reading

Our Top Ten from Hannaton Kibbutz Week

10. Energetic Bar mitzvah Children (around 11 p.m.) – Unfortunately, we were unable to share in the children’s excitement for this new phase of life, due to preparing for our presentations and getting some sleep. 
9. Druze Meal – We shared a delicious meal followed by a short lecture about Druze’s history.
8. Search and Rescue Guy – A much appreciated, yet rare voice concerning the Israeli army’s rescue program. 
7. SNACKS ON THE BUS – Enough said.
6. Learning about Israeli Politics – We were able to be in Israel during a very rare, but exciting time. We learned about various political parties and got to see the election unfold first hand, while understanding its implications.
5. Mifgash with Soldiers – Soldiers our age spoke with us about their required national service.
4. Podcast – Tune in to Oranim College radio station to hear another annual podcast on our experience in Israel!
3. Akko – Another breathtaking view of the Mediterranean… and even a quick dip! Also, shout out to Lauren Sauder for having a timely birthday, giving us a baklava treat!
2. Talking with parents of Bat-Chen – A powerful presentation by parents who devote their lives to the path of peace, despite having lost their daughter in an attack.
1. Helen Goldstein – Without potentially spoiling anything for groups to come, this performance was a display of complexity and comedy, all the while touching every person in the group in a new, powerful way.

-Lexi Link and Erin Nafziger