Tag Archives: featured

Exploring Beijing

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

China 2015 Cross-Cultural on the Great Wall at Jinshanling

Know where you come from

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.

Group picture in Kauri Tree Forest

Introduction to the Maori

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. Jane Matthews demonstrating flax weaving.50Practicing 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

Group picture in Kauri Tree Forest

Where is God?

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


On the Pacific Coast

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


Dominical: relaxing and rafting

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


íSi Puebla!

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.

-MaKayla Baker


La Liga vs. Saprissa National Semi-Final

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

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