Tag Archives: EMU

Huangshan and Nanjing: A Medley of Experiences

After bidding our Anqing host families farewell, we hopped a bus to the foot of Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain. The following morning, we rode out to the mountain, where we experienced a wealth of people queuing up to take the cable car up the mountain. For me, at least, this was a time where the number of people packed into one place (and particularly the pushing while in line) became almost overwhelming. However, the view in the cable car was spectacular: trees dotted the mountain all over, and the beauty was unmistakable. We then took a somewhat arduous hike to a hotel (not ours, mind you), where we ate a simple lunch of vegetarian dishes and a single meat dish of bone-ridden fish. We hiked around to different scenic spots before finally reaching our hotel. Rooms were a bit tight, with many bunks crammed into the room, though it wasn’t uncomfortable for most of us. We spent the night on the mountain, and we even saw a bit of snow, amidst chilling winds. We spent a wonderful time reminiscing as we began to plan for our last week back at EMU. The sound of our laughter could be heard several rooms away.

Yellow Mountain photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Yellow Mountain photo by Dylan Bomgardner

After descending the mountain the following day, we visited a small, ancient village, which was more of a tourist attraction than we thought, but still intriguing. Unfortunately, it rained, so we didn’t stay long. From there, we took our bus to Nanjing.

Nanjing in Chinese means “southern capital” (Beijing would mean “northern capital”), and the history we saw in the city made that apparent. We visited many museums and historical sites, such as the Nanjing Massacre Museum, the John Rabe House, a collection of Ming Dynasty tombs, Sun Yatsen‘s tomb, and the Taiping Museum. They were all very interesting, and reinforced things we’ve learned from Myrrle in our study of Chinese history, both ancient and modern.

Each morning we met for a couple of hours with Dr. Wang, a good friend of Myrrl’s and a professional psychological counselor, who is a pioneer in mental and emotional counseling for Chinese people through the idea of “zhi mian“, which he has adapted from Chinese writer Lu Xun. “Zhi mian” translates to “facing life directly”, a sometimes contradictory idea in a culture where keeping harmony and peace often trumps confronting an issue and resolving it. We were able to talk very openly with Dr. Wang about some of our more sensitive questions about Chinese culture (like the one-child policy or the continued veneration of Mao Zedong by many). Our dialogues with him were both refreshing and eye-opening, and it was a unique opportunity that I am thankful we had.

Johnathan, Hattie, Brittany, Malika, Emma, and Derrick at Sun Yat-Sen's tomb   photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Johnathan, Hattie, Brittany, Malika, Emma, and Derrick at Sun Yat-Sen’s tomb photo by Dylan Bomgardner

Of course, as our journey in China is winding down, some of people’s extraneous money went toward Nanjing’s excellent shopping. I think many of us found many cool gifts and keepsakes in Nanjing; I know I did!

We ended the week in Nanjing by visiting Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, the largest in China. We had a jiaozi (dumpling) party, in which we joined many seminary students in making what I’m sure were hundreds of dumplings, which the students then cooked. While I’m terrible at making things like this, the experience was fun, and it was nice to connect with the seminary students over our delicious dinner of both meat and veggie jiaozi. We ate SO MANY, I thought I was going to explode.

Nanjing was an incredible place, and definitely one of the highlights of our cross-cultural for me. If ever you are in China, Nanjing should be on your “must-visit” list!

– Alex Bender

Lijiang Free Travel

November 2-9, 2013

Malinda, Hattie, Dylan, and Nicole at Tiger Leaping Gorge photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Malinda, Hattie, Dylan, and Nicole at Tiger Leaping Gorge
photo by Dylan Bomgardner

This week we were in Lijiang, which is located in the Yunnan Province of southwestern China. Much of our group chose to go their separate ways for this week of independent travel. Two groups tackled the hike of Tiger Leaping Gorge while another group decided to stay behind in Lijiang to explore the city and the surrounding areas. One of the hiking groups then went on to the city of Shangri-a while the other rejoined the group in Lijiang and traveled to Dali. I was in the group that stayed in Lijiang Old Town.

The Old Town was a wonderful place; very scenic and full of things to do. For the most part, there were a lot of shopping areas and food stalls selling local specialties. Outside of the ancient city were some beautiful sites to visit. One such site was the Black Dragon Pool park. The park offered a great walk around the pond and a gorgeous view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the distance. The only downside to the park was the entrance fee to get in, which was 80¥.

Next to the park was a place called the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture. According to a website I had read, this museum was a great place to go if you were at all interested in the local culture. Our group was very interested in the Naxi culture, but unfortunately we didn’t get to the museum in time because I made the mistake of thinking that the museum was inside the park. Thus, we never found the museum and ended up wandering around for a while. This was my one regret of the week because I was very curious about the Naxi culture.

The next destination on our list was Dali. It was about 3 or 4 hours from Lijiang by bus. The bus ride was good until the last half hour or so, when the driver decided that it was time for a lunch break. We were literally a half hour away and he pulled into a restaurant in the middle of nowhere for a 30 minute lunch. We were all forced to get off the bus for that time, much to the annoyance of those who were napping.

Three Pagodas Photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Three Pagodas
Photo by Dylan Bomgardner

Once we arrived in Dali, we settled in at our hostel named the Jade Emu (coincidence? I think not). The old city of Dali was similar to Lijiang’s but there was more to do. We went to see the famous Three Pagodas and it was beautiful with the misty mountains in the background. Afterwards, the group took a bike ride to the big lake surrounding the town. Carissa and Malika decided to go on a horseback ride up the mountain and then watch the local fisherman who have trained birds to catch fish for them.

We all met back in Lijiang Old City on Friday, where we shared stories of our travels and took some time to rest up for the following day of travel to our next adventure in the Anhui Province.

From the desk of the Chairman,
Derrick Turner

Western Travels

This was another whirlwind week for us as we travelled roughly 3,000 miles. On Monday we said goodbye to Xiahe, which had gotten some snow on the mountain tops during the night. During the day we made a stop in Binglingi where we took a boat ride on the Yellow River to visit grottoes with Buddhist wall paintings and sculptures. We then got back on the bus to go to Lanzhou for one night before catching a train in the morning.

Jiayuguan  photo by Dylan Bomgardner
photo by Dylan Bomgardner

Our next stop was Jiayuguan, a small desert town famous for being at the end of the Great Wall. It was quite different from our first visit to the Great Wall near Beijing, since the Wall (more like a mound in some parts) was made of dirt and the terrain was flat. First we went to the fortress that guarded the end of the Wall, and the museum there. We even took the time to banish Jonathan, since this was the official place to do so in dynasties past. We also went to Jiayuguan Pass where the Wall actually ends by meeting a cliff and a beacon tower stands. Myrrl told us back in the U.S. that it was a goal of his to see the end of the Wall, since he had never done so before. As we all touched the end, I may or may not have seen Myrrl cry a single tear.

The next day we traveled to Dunhuang and saw the Mogao Grottoes. There were over 400 caves of various sizes that hold Buddhist sculptures and wall paintings centuries old. There was also one library cave that used to hold thousands of scrolls until they were discovered and sold in the late 1800’s. Among the many Buddhist scrolls were some Christian documents from the Tang Dynasty when there were Nestorian missionaries in China. These scrolls and the Christian pagoda we saw earlier show how the Nestorians took a syncretic approach to introducing their religion just like the first Buddhists in China before them.

Riding camels in Dunhuang photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Riding camels in Dunhuang
photo by Dylan Bomgardner

After spending the night in the fanciest hotel we’ve been in yet, we spent the majority of the next day at the sand dunes. It was amazing to see such high land forms made out of a constantly shifting material. We got to ride camels, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of China’s great biodiversity. We also tubed down a sand dune, which was a lot of fun and another reminder of the awfulness of sand in your mouth. After eating a lunch of instant noodles, many of us decided to take on a gigantic mountain of a sand dune. While most were smart enough to take the stairs, Carissa convinced Jia, Malinda, Malika, Hattie, and I to climb up the steepest part stairless. It was an exhausting task, took us a very long time (some of our guys made it to the top, ran down, and made it to the top again by the time we got up), and we ended up “channeling camels” most of the way. Finally, the day of the dunes ended with the finding of the most adorable puppy ever, which almost licked Emma to death.

The next day (Saturday), our westward travel officially ended and we took two planes and a train back to Nanchong. We will be here with our host families again for a little less than 2 weeks before moving on to new places. But first we have another adventure: Loren Swartzendruber.

Passionately penned by Nicole Yoder

Western Travel: Week One

This week was a wonderful week for this EMU cross-cultural group! On Monday we traveled to Qingchengshan to climb a Daoist mountain. The scenery and energy there was spectacular. We climbed to the top, or at least, a top, where we ate lunch at a Daoist temple. On the way down exhaustion set in for many of us, but we had a relaxing boat ride and trip back to rest.

That next day we left Chengdu for the ancient capital city, Xi’an. Other than having a wonderfully comfortable hotel, we enjoyed biking around the city wall and exploring the city center. Xi’an was certainly built like a fortress with old watch towers and traditional Chinese buildings. We were very touristy in Xi’an, and there were many neat little shops for souvenirs. One favorite was a shop selling biblical passages in Chinese on scrolls. I think the owner was happy to sell to a group of Mennonites with lots of spending money.

Photo by Dylan Bomgardner
Photo by Dylan Bomgardner

The Terracotta Warriors museum was also a great attraction. The amount of time and effort put into making all of those warriors is staggering, though I don’t know the exact statistics. Let’s just say that many, many pictures were taken there. After a few more visits to Christian pagodas and mosques we left Xi’an for Lanzhou by overnight train.

We arrived in Lanzhou a bit tired and disheveled. After a few long bus rides we arrived in Xiahe where we still reside. Situated in Gansu province at about 9800ft of elevation, this Tibetan town is the most peaceful I have ever experienced. Combined with the mountainous scenery, fresh air (that one breathes slower due to the altitude), a large reason for the peace is the Labrang Monastery, home of about a thousand Tibetan monks.

Yesterday we visited the Monastery and it is certainly a powerful place. One of the Monks honored us by his presence, and we were briefly educated about the ways of Buddhism through a translator. The simple lifestyle and complete spiritual discipline was intriguing and impressive.

The grasslands of Ganjia called our name today. It was really cold and the bus ride was extremely rocky but the lunch and the atmosphere was tranquil and gigantic. We also went to a nomad village and a Black Hat Monastery (different from the Yellow Hat of Labrang). The spiritual worship and brutal, yet wonderful, lifestyle seen there was quite humbling.

Most of us are loving it here, but it’s time to leave! Tomorrow we head out for more adventure.

-Brad Mullet



Adventures in ancient China

“Adventure is out there!!!”  This phrase has been adopted by nearly everyone in our group while exploring China and all it’s exciting and historical locations or even just walking around our host city of Nanchong, in most cases we find it.

This last weekend we had the privilege of visiting and staying in the ancient city of Langzhong.  Langzhong is one of only 4 well preserved ancient cities that remain in China. One of the first things I noticed when walking into the city were all of the elaborately painted arches, temples, and towers that seemed to be around every corner.  This city seemed to be lost in time.

The narrow stone streets were lined with little one-floored shops filled with brightly colored silk robes, beautiful scarves, handmade tunics, and other traditional Chinese arts.  Throughout the weekend we spent many hours walking through these shops exploring their goods and spending way too much money.

While there, we stayed in a traditional guest house.  These guest houses were beautifully adorned with plants, lanterns, and other ancient relics. The rooms themselves even made you feel like you were in ancient China with their wood walls and bamboo beds (which, by the way, were not nearly as comfortable as they looked).  The only down side to the guest house was how easy it was to get lost in its many courtyards and corridors.

The highlight to the weekend was Saturday night. Myrrl and Deidre bought everyone in the group a floating lantern.  We all decided we would write something on it; some people wrote their wishes, others wrote poems and quotes, and a few even wrote Bible verses on them. We then all went down to the river bank and lit the flame and let them go. It was a beautiful sight to see, 20 big bright lanterns floating to heaven with our dreams and prayers.

It was a sad moment when we boarded the bus to leave the city.  Many of us were begging Myrrl to let us stay a few more days, but all good things have to end for better things. The rest of this week we have language and history classes in Nanchong, followed by a two week excursion out to western China.  We are all looking forward to the many adventures to come within the next few months and we look forward to coming home with many stories.

Until next time remember, “Adventure is out there”.

-Dylan A. Bomgardner

Agriculture and Guangan

Dwan's farm
Dwan’s farm. Photo by Jonathan Drescher-Lehman

On Friday (Sept. 20) we had the unique experience of visiting a farm located about a thirty minute drive outside of downtown Nanchong.  After our morning language classes, we piled into four vans and drove to the outside of the city.  Before long the paved road ended and we turned abruptly onto a dirt road that appeared to be heading straight for the forest.  The trees, banana plants, vines and grasses that we saw through our open windows provided a remarkable contrast to the tall apartment buildings, concrete, and seemingly endless construction of the city.

The home we visited belonged to the extended family of our “Nanchong mother,” Wang Ying.  We learned that the farm has been in the family’s possession for about five generations beginning well before the official founding of the People’s Republic (1949) and is currently taken care of by Wang Ying’s father-in-law, Duan.  Shortly after we arrived and had a tour of the house, we were shown to some tables for lunch.  We enjoyed a delicious meal featuring rice and vegetables raised on the farm.

Farmer Dwan
Farmer Dwan. Photo by Jonathan Drescher-Lehman

Following lunch, we went with Duan on a hike around the premises to see the farming operation.  We walked past some rice paddies, recently drained of water, that provide the family and other locals with food for the year.  Large patches of sweet potatoes, beans, chili peppers, and greens also supplement the family’s diet and their income.  The farm is located in the midst of hilly, green terrain, recently replanted with trees.  Duan said that trees have been planted in an effort of environmental restoration following the events of the Great Leap Forward several decades ago.  As we continued, ducks and chickens wandered around; several dogs barked, disturbed by our presence.  When we made it back to the house we had the opportunity to talk more in depth with Duan, asking questions as they came up.  He provided the group with a greater understanding of agriculture and what it entails in Sichuan Province.

Sunday (Sept. 22) provided us with another opportunity to journey outside of Nanchong.  Part of the group met for an 8:30 a.m. worship service at Nanchong Christian Church before joining others on the bus bound for Guangan. After about an hour and a half on the road, we arrived at the city known as the hometown of Deng Xiaoping, a leader and reformist in the Communist Party of China, following the death of Mao Zedong, from 1978-1992.

We ate our packed PB&J lunches made by Myrrl and Ruthie in the shade of some trees before we went into the museum.  As we ate, we became aware of the stares of some locals sitting nearby.  Whenever we are together in a large group we attract a lot of attention; it has taken some getting used to.  After lunch we went into the museum (there was air conditioning!) and spent the better part of an hour learning about the life and impact of Deng.  Because of the reforms Deng pushed for toward a market economy, he can be credited with helping to pull hundreds of millions of people out of abject poverty.  It was a neat opportunity to learn about recent Chinese history that will allow us as students to better understand what we’re experiencing in China today.

Following our time in the museum, we walked through the park area surrounding the building to see Deng’s childhood home.  The building was made up of about ten rooms constructed in a horseshoe around a courtyard, and had served as his family’s home for generations.  We toured the house and then met in front of the lake just outside before loading up on the bus and heading back to our host families in Nanchong.

-Painstakingly written by Malinda Bender