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.
I 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.
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
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.
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. Practicing 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 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
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
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
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.
12 May 2015
From La Fortuna, we made our way to San José, Costa Rica. The Studio Hotel where we stayed was beautiful, with a roof-top pool. The first thing we did was get cleated up and play a 5v5 tournament where the winner stays on the field. From there we had a relaxing night to ourselves where most people went to bed early, watching TV. The next morning we made our way towards a park to play soccer and go to a nearby festival. The festival was promoting being active daily. There were items such as rollerblading, skateboarding, boxing, Zumba, and much more occurring on the streets. We all went back to the hotel for a break before the exciting semifinal game for the Division 1 league of Costa Rica. It was a rowdy game with an intense atmosphere, much different than any American sporting event. Since we have a diverse group from several sports, we conducted an interview to know people’s reactions to the game. Continue reading
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