EMU Intercultural Learning

Two journal entries from India

India 2

On January 20, our group arrived in Kolkata. As I stepped out of the train station, my first impression was that this was the most polluted place I had ever been. At that point, I wasn’t very excited for our stay. Looking back, however, the things we saw made it the most memorable place we’ve been.

We did the usual tourist things, as we saw Queen Victoria’s Memorial and the beautiful botanical gardens. But what really impacted me was visiting the different organizations.

First, we visited the Missionaries of Charity, seeing Mother Teresa’s house and the homes that she started for the dying and orphans. The orphanage had places for malnourished babies, orphans with mental or physical disabilities and orphaned babies. It was heartbreaking to see all of these kids, but also inspiring to see how Mother Teresa’s organization could help so many children. We had fun playing with the children and some even cried when we left.

Next, we went to MCC India and learned about the various things they do, including natural disaster relief, food distribution, AIDS/HIV education, and providing schooling for children.

The final place we visited was called Ankur Kala. It was started by a fairly well-off Indian woman who wanted to help other women. Not only does she teach them trades such as batik, catering and sewing, but she also teaches them basic math, literacy and business managing skills. The women sell their products in their store as well as through organizations such as Ten Thousand Villages. The women at Ankur Kala include Christian, Hindu and Muslim women; they all worship together, however. It was exciting to witness all these women put aside differences to pray for common goals.

After leaving Kolkata, I felt inspired because although this is a city with extreme poverty, it is also a place where God is truly working through organizations such as Missionaries of Charity, MCC and Ankur Kala.

-Vanessa Landis

Kerala Beach SunsetNamaste! The soul in me bows to the soul in you. I have yet to use this profound greeting in a social setting, but regard it as beautiful. It is performed by bringing the palms of one’s hands together across the chest and bowing slightly-a gesture symbolizing the connectivity of body and mind and the universal “oneness” of humankind.

There was a gentleman whose name I, regrettably, cannot remember, who approached me after I gave my speech of thanks at the Homecoming Donor Banquet in October to share his thoughts on my upcoming trip to India. He told me that above all else, India is colorful. And he was most assuredly right. He did not, however, describe how utterly vibrant the colors of India actually are! How truly vivid are they that swirl across the saree’d bodies of Hindu women; so majestic are the shades that are strewn across buildings and blazoned on billboards; how luxuriously are the green gardens spotted with brilliant purples, ochres, crimsons, yellows, indigos, violets, blues and oranges!

Yet, more beautiful than all the subcontinents’ colors are her people. Each and every human being that inhabits this breathtaking country is unique in countless ways-they are hospitable, generous, loving, overly curious, bold, persuasive, and are unafraid of violating the personal bubble we Americans place around ourselves to ask for a picture. We’ve caused quite a ruckus with our presence, let me assure you!

Let me conclude by saying; whether the grand monuments, the vivid colors, the delicious food, or the people themselves, India fascinates me beyond belief. I truly love it here and cannot wait to be a part of the experiences yet to come.

-Braydon Hoover

Mayan Culture

Latin America 3I think you can learn a lot about a group of people by the way they dress and by what food they eat. This occurred to me as I read about the Mayan people. It was very interesting to read about their farming and cornfields. “If there are no tortillas served, you have not eaten a meal.” I thought that showed just how much they use tortillas. It was pretty amazing to read about how many things they make from corn and that everyone grows it. Even though the dollar output would be better if they grew vegetables, they produce corn because it is a reliable source of nutrition. Also, a cornfield is not just made up of corn, the list kept growing of things grown in a cornfield.

At the museum we visited last week it was really neat to see the progression of the Mayan’s clothing. Those people are really good at making clothes and finding plants to dye the fabric. I think it is good that they didn’t conform too much to the Spanish in terms of clothing. They really value their history and traditions. I think it is important to realize where each of us came from and have something to remember that by. In the reader it said how the Mayans Aerial view of the Mayan ruins.dress to set themselves apart from the rest of Guatemala. Although we do not dress like our ancestors, I’m glad to see that people cherish their history.

The writing on the historical sources of Catholic power also intrigued me. In the 1800’s here the church used to hand out mortgages and collect the interest on them. Being a business major I’m trying to keep in touch with the current issues. In the current economic crisis you hear all these different companies being affected, but I have not heard the church’s name in the midst of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It just seems very odd to me for the church to have acted as a bank. I have never heard of that happening before so I just can’t picture what it was like for them to be in control of land and mortgages. If I knew more about the history of banking this may make more sense. If someone or something has money, they also have power and leverage. They can get things done and control what happens. The Catholic Church had money and so in-hand came power.

Two journal entries from Guatemala

2009 Latin America 2There is so much suffering all around me here. Actually, today was the first time I thought maybe Guatemala is not as ‘broken’ as I thought, but rather I am looking through a magnifying glass at how broken humanity is in general. I remember the night our Guatemalan group visited Guana Chapi. I’ll never forget the overwhelming since of suffering I came away with from there. The three families told their stories in very fluid Spanish-but I kept seeing this girl. She worked for the restaurant, but was constantly watching our group. My heart just kept going out to her for some reason. Finally I asked her where she was from and it was as if I gave her mouth a key and turned it for her. She told me how she was from El Salvador and that she came illegally across the border to live with her uncle. She left her entire family and country because of economic reasons. I think she saw everyone telling his or her stories and after feeling so much suffering herself, just wanted someone to ask her about her story. I was blessed with her openness, but I was again burdened with the suffering of many that I cannot begin to understand. Yet somehow, still people come to America. How can I be a light to people here? Again, I feel as if there is a call on my life to-hah-break down walls, to discover stories and give them a voice. I have this longing for this girl to know Jesus-and to learn to know Lisa. Perhaps she could connect with her well and begin to find a community. Perhaps she would find the hope of Jesus, or the reassurance of faith.

So many immigrating to America-and why? Vernon and Jim talked about the colonization of Central America and how as a result, now Central America has problems with connecting some communities because of the way roads were built towards the ports and not between cities. Countries in Central America definitely have a hard position to try and become economically stable countries. They have become stuck in cycles of debt, taking loans, increasing industry, but hurting the poor guy-who then, in desperation causes deforestation, hurting the environment and possibly causing mudslides, which ends up killing people and destroying efforts to increase the economy in the country.

Are we “destined”-I hate that word-to be a victim of our homeland? If someone is born in Guatemala, are they sucked into the suffering cycles we heard about in our classes and from the immigrant families? Monika and Amy with their teacher Marta. If born in America, do we automatically have the freedoms we are allowed and seek after the ‘American Dream?’ Similarly, faith. If a person is born in a Christian home, are they going to become a Christian more likely than the child born to Buddhists? How do we handle the cards dealt us, or the plans God has for us? I am blessed, I realize that. How do I be thankful and not feel guilty? Goodness. Maybe thankfulness and gratitude is the seed of passion, which love waters until a blooming passion springs forth with new life.

-Monika Burkholder

Julian, Lorena and Mitzye.

In some ways it’s hard to believe that only two weeks have passed on our cross-cultural time. Our time has been filled with much learning through lectures, field trips, time with our host families and being in Guatemala City. This last week was full of many adventures that were invaluable experiences. On Tuesday our group was privileged to hear from Hector Castañeda. He told our group about the last 70 years of history in Guatemala. His insights into the culture and consequences of the history shone through his words and personal experience. Guatemala has suffered much and continues to deal with the consequences even now. His words evoked many questions from our group and we could have talked with him for much longer.

A mausoleum next to niches, two different ways of burying loved ones in the Guatemalan cemetery. Wednesday afternoon was our free afternoon for the week and the group was kept busy with a short meeting in the early afternoon followed by time doing homework, quick trips across the street to Novicentro and basking in the warmth of the sun. On Thursday afternoon our group piled into a bus to visit the Cemetery in Zone Three where we split into small groups. The cemetery is split into small roads with endless lines of tombs. For the rich they build large tombs and they are often adorned with the riches of the deceased and fresh flowers left by their loved ones. For those who cannot afford these tombs there are large walls for the mass burials. Each grave is marked with a plaque giving the name and dates of birth and death. After our small group scavenger hunts we met back as a group and visited five significant memorials within the cemetery as a way of discussing the history of Guatemala.

After our learning in the cemetery we walked to the back of the cemetery, which overlooks the city dump. I don’t think I was quite prepared for the vultures, smells, and overwhelming amount of stuff that was in the dump. SO many people work in the dump to make their livings. Our group watched a movie on Friday afternoon about the people who work there. For them, it is their survival. They don’t want the dump to close because that would mean they would lose their jobs. The implications of all the issues surrounding the dump amaze and sadden me.

On Friday our group met in the afternoon for debriefing. We discussed some of the issues we were faced with this week and ended with a time of worship together. As our voices lifted together in song to sing ¨Juntos Como Hermanos¨ and a praise and worship song we were joined together.

Students enthuse over President Obama's inauguration. Tuesday, the 20th we gathered in the cafeteria at CASAS during our break from Spanish classes to watch the inauguration of President Obama. Occasionally the live streaming would break up, but we did get to see him sworn in and heard all of his speech. There were Guatemalans gathered with us watching as well. Even in Guatemala this event was much anticipated and brought hope. Our group has grown immensely through our short time here and I look forward to seeing how we continue to grow together.

-Peyton Erb

First impressions of India

Week 1It’s pretty hard for me to believe that I have only been in India for one week. It seems so much longer ago that we all said our goodbyes and boarded the bus at EMU. In that week so much has happened!

I have seen the awesome beauty of some of the world’s most magnificent buildings, the Taj Mahal and the Agra fort. I have watched countless brilliantly colored prayer flags blow in the wind at Buddhist temples. I have witnessed an energetic Hindu ceremony dedicated to the Mother Ganges from a boat on the Ganges itself. These sights have all been awesome and exciting, but I’ve also seen less pleasant sights.

I have seen poverty and hunger. I have felt a begging child’s hand tapping my sleeve. I have seen run-down huts and people sleeping on the streets. I have really come to realize how blessed I truly am and how much I have taken for granted.

Sari Shopping India is beautiful, hospitable, and interesting and I am learning so much about not only this culture but I’m also learning about myself! I can’t wait to see what else this trip has in store for me with learning more about the language and religions, interacting with the people, and continuing to grow closer to this group of students that is quickly becoming a family.

Una Marcha de Paz – A March for Peace

Play video

“Juntos como hermanos,
miembros de la iglesia
vamos caminando
al encuentro del Senor.”

Together as brothers and sisters,
members of the church
we gather together
to meet with God.

Words of a Catholic gathering song. Words of peace. But this time it’s not just words, it’s action as well. Today, our group had the opportunity to witness and be a part of an unprecedented stand against the rising violence in Guatemala City. Una Marcha de Paz – A March for Peace. Four groups marched from four different Catholic locations in the city to the plaza at the center at 4pm.

2009 LA 1Before long the plaza was filled with 10,000 people singing and declaring in solidarity that they desire peace. Cardinal Quezada spoke and gave the mass. Our group was unable to stay for the entire thing but we were impacted by what we were a part of. There were people from all parts of the city – young and old, indigenous, mestizos and ladinos – all wearing white, carrying banners, waving flags and singing songs of peace.

So often back home I hear talk of peace and justice and its importance today, but it feels disconnected from the daily reality of our world. Many times in my Spanish classes with Don Clymer we talked about the desperation, injustices and violence in Latin America. We read articles and discussed the problems and our desires for peace. But it is disheartening when it doesn’t feel like there is anything we can do besides hope and pray. And often times that has to be enough.

To actually witness a stand for peace and be a part of it today was an incredible experience. Several times I was moved to tears. I know that God heard his people today and that gives me hope for Guatemala City and for peace.

Reflections on returning to Spain

Spain/Morocco6For the past three weeks our group has been living in the vibrant country of Spain once again after spending five weeks in Morocco. The minute I stepped onto Spanish soil only a few kilometers from the African continent I instantly felt more relaxed, and as we drove up to the small town of Montoro that same day I noticed many stark differences between the two countries. I thought since we already lived in Spain for four weeks in September that going back would be non-eventful, but I seriously felt as if I was experiencing a cross-cultural all in itself by just going back to Spain. I saw more modern technology such as windmills, organized traffic patterns, and modern cars, and I watched the lush green landscape fly by in our spacious extended bus that we never had in Morocco. Some of these observations may not seem very different to an American reader, but after living five weeks in a third-world country such as Morocco they are.

The arches of the Mezquita Catedral in Cordoba. In Montoro we’ve been taking two classes with one dealing with the Muslim influence in Spain and the other about discussion between Muslims and Christians in today’s world. Along with these two classes we’ve taken field trips to Córdoba, Medinat az-Zahra, an oil museum, and most recently, Granada to reinforce and enhance what we’re learning in class. The Islamic empire’s history in Spain is rich and fascinating, and I’ve enjoyed learning about it in both the classroom and through my own eyes. Sometimes I’ve actually put myself in the story and imagined what life would have been like in that time.

The group enjoys a Thanksgiving feast. Back at home our group has been living all under the same roof making meals for each other, cleaning up after each other, and just having fun. Even though we’ve spent the past three months together, living together in the same house has been a different experience with its own joys and challenges, but we’ve settled in rather nicely. In the next week, we have some final presentations and essays to complete, a workshop on Islamophobia, and a trip to Sevilla before packing and heading home on December 8.


Spain/Morocco5After rewriting this journal numerous times, and each time throwing out the draft, I have finally come to the conclusion that there is no way of capturing every moment and every detail of our five weeks in Morocco in a one page entry; however, I will do my best to capture the essence of Morocco as I have experienced it.

Morocco has been a true cross cultural experience in every sense of the word. When I say this, I do not mean that Morocco has been an easy experience at all times, or that I have loved every minute of it. I mean instead that my time here has been an incredibly valuable opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth. Even our share of challenges as a group-severe food illnesses, theft, border crossing issues, a lack of independence, and a constant need for flexibility-have been stepping stones for better self-understanding and stronger group unity.

Although we have had many difficulties over the last five weeks, there have been moments so full of beauty and incredible joy that they have more than made up for the harder times. There was our first night at a roadside restaurant where we had the most succulent lamb I have ever tasted. There was the trip to Volubilis, where we explored ancient Roman ruins among the hills. There was the hike we took through a landscape that could have passed for the Shenandoah valley, if it weren’t for the monkeys surrounding us in the trees, waiting for the peanuts we had stashed in our pockets for them. There was the trip to the blue city of Chefchaouen nestled high in the mountains, where even the rain didn’t stop the group from going on a three hour hike.

The sun rises behind the group as they take their return camel ride. Most recently, there was the trip to the Sahara desert, where a nine hour car ride past snow covered mountains and sheer rock cliffs brought us into a wasteland of sand. In the Sahara, we rode camels as the sun set over the desert, had tea in an oasis, laid under the stars and counted the meteorites falling to earth against the background of the milky way galaxy. To me, if I had to describe what God looks like, I would describe the sky I saw that night, crystal clear, endless, and filled with an ancient beauty and unfathomable mystery. We woke before the dawn with the wind howling through the tents and the stars still over our heads, and spent forty minutes climbing the high dune behind our campsite to watch the sunrise from what felt like the end of the world.

My time in Morocco has not always been easy. My time in Morocco has not always been fun. But my time in Morocco has changed my life in ways that I do not even fully comprehend yet, and for that, I will be forever grateful

Free-Travel Journals

Spain/Morocco4My free travel – a week of Greek salads, rock beaches, and relaxation. This week included many bus rides over Santorini Island, an invigorating donkey ride through the tourist filled town of Fira, and a delicious dinner overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the thirty seven hours spent waiting in various airports and on the ferry, we enjoyed our stay immensely. We did lots of shopping, eating, and played cards at every opportunity.

Our countryside hostel was a geographical oddity, being a fifteen minute bus ride away from any town, but it was beautiful, and the owners were extremely friendly and helpful. Fira and Oia offered us a variety of wonderful experiences, shopping, sampling local tasties, and many photo shoots. Even though Santorini wasn’t what I expected, I was constantly impressed by the food, scenery, and the welcoming people of Greece.

–Written by Kelly Baker who traveled to Athens and Santorini, Greece with Rachael King, Nicole Yoder, and Lauren Derstine.

Jasmine Brubaker looks out of the Astronomical Clock Tower over the city of Prague. I chose to visit Prague for free travel because Wikipedia claims it is the most beautiful city in the world. Although I wouldn’t entirely agree with this assessment, I couldn’t be disappointed after having visited Prague Castle, one of the biggest castles in the world with its acres of vineyards, gardens, and beautiful view of the city. We visited the famous Astronomical Clock, the picturesque Charles Bridge, the Communist Museum, as well as the house of the writer Franz Kafka. Much of our time, however, we spent in the Old Town Square where we witnessed a range of events from the International Bartending Awards to a confrontation between 200 drunken football fans and three hundred police officers.

My favorite part of the trip was getting the opportunity to meet people from all over the world in our hostel. We hung out with people from Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, France, and Finland. It was fascinating learning about the differences in our cultures and finding out how similar we all really are.

–written by Jasmine Brubaker who traveled to Prague with Nichole Dinges and Abigail Spurrier

Erica Yoder, Michelle Lehman, Steven Rittenhouse, Sarah Harder, and Sarah Gant sit by a canal in Venice. Rome, Florence, Venice. Three Italian cities in one week were kind of intense but the 5 of us had a lot of fun. We started in Rome where we hit the historical stuff pretty hard; Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, Coliseum, etc. In Florence and Venice we took more of a break, relaxing and spending our time not only in art galleries but also exploring the city streets (canals in the case of Venice), taking in the local color and flavor of Italy from impromptu street dances, clowns, and shops to chalk artists to desserts! It was an experience we will never forget.

— written by Sarah Harder who traveled to Italy with Sarah Gant, Erica Yoder, Steven Rittenhouse, and Michelle Lehman

My group and I decided that we wanted to explore Spain, so we made a list of all the things we wanted to do in our week of free travel. Since Barcelona, our first destination, had so much to offer, we quickly realized that we wouldn’t be able to have time to do all of the things on our list. We began with La Segrada Familia. Words can not explain the way we felt when we got there. Taking a tour of the magnificent church was like taking a tour through the stories of the Bible. The architecture was breathtaking despite the incomplete construction of the building. Next, we went to Gaudi Park which was another beautiful experience. On our way to each of these places, we met with many wonderful people. One couple whom we met gave us advice for the best things to see in the city, and told us that if we ever returned to Spain, we were welcome to stay with them at their houses.

Throughout this entire cross cultural, God has been appearing in unexpected situations. This couple did not have to take the time to give us advice or be so welcoming, but through their kindness, I was able to see God working in Spain. Our group was extremely grateful for the experiences we had on free travel.

–Written by Angelica Lorisme who traveled around Spain with Katie Brubaker and Angelica Robles.

Steven Stauffer, Colten New, Greyson Dructor, and Robert Alderfer sit in front of the Amsterdam sign. The city of Berlin is massive. To get a feel for the country in a limited time is simply not feasible. However it is rich with distinct culture and exhibits passion for the ambiance of pre-war Germany. An example of such can be found in the avoidance of sky scrapers and
adherence to height restrictions to best emulate architecture modeling a time prior to the decimation a great war inevitably brings.

The air smells pure, the streets are clean, and unity and pride can both be found throughout Germany. On the whole the Germans treated my small group with respect and were open to conversations and discussions of political and lifestyle perceptions alike.

–Written by Greyson Dructor who traveled to Germany with Robert Alderfer, Steven Stauffer, and Colten New

Our last week in Cadiz

Spain/Morocco 3Of course I would be approached to share publicly my thoughts from our final week here in Cadiz, which is also the first truly trying, testing week. For us it’s almost time for our final exam, and if you’re in the upper-level Spanish class as I am, time for a twenty minute exposition of your speaking abilities. Up until this point the pace of University study seemed comfortable, but now there’s a palpable sense of apprehension and anxiety.

In the cross-cultural setting my emotions have been heightened and tonight they are precariously perched at the top of the roller coaster. For me this unfamiliar and challenging experience has led to new exploration. During one of our weekly meetings at Moira’s, she shared a devotional that resonated deeply with me. The devotion came from the book ¡Gracias! and comes back to me in a striking way tonight.

“We can come to experience our basic vulnerability, our need for others, our deep-seated feelings of ignorance and inadequacy, and our fundamental dependency. Instead of running away from these scary feelings, we can live through them together and learn that our true value as human beings has its seat far beyond our competence and accomplishments.”

I could not articulate more accurately the feelings that are revealing themselves here in Spain. Through sharing our feelings of being overwhelmed and insecure we give each other strength to face these challenges, and that’s an amazing thing to be a part of.

Life in Cádiz

Spain/Morocco 2 Once I met my host family, it didn’t take very long to get settled into a daily routine here. Spain is not all that different from the U.S., although there are some noticeable differences in what Spanish society deems important. Continue reading