Course of the Day: Off Campus

January 23, 2008

New England Saints - Nancy Hull and Gary Schmidt

New England Saints in front of the Atlantic OceanFrom Libby Howell and Abby Schartner:

It was 7AM and the New England Saints were already at breakfast enjoying homemade banana bread and steaming coffee. We boarded the bus shortly after breakfast and our faithful bus driver Glen took all twenty-four of us to the Beverly Historical Society, about a half hour from North Bridge Inn, our home in Concord. We began our discussions by creating skits based on Nathanial Hawthorne’s short stories. Nathanial Hawthorne was one of the author’s we studied in depth. Hawthorne wrote about the Puritan lifestyle and his grandfather participated in the Salem Witch Trials, so Hawthorne was our focus for our day in Beverly and Salem. After our literary discussion, an expert on the Salem Witch Trials from Gordon College came to “debunk” some common myths about what happened in Salem. Our myths debunked, we drove past the John Hale house and then explored the Salem seacoast. We then toured the short-ceiling House of Seven Gables and explored Hawthorne’s birthplace. After a delectable dinner, we met Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thanks to great efforts by our professors we were able to hear Hawthorne speak and question him about his literature. After an amazing performance, we headed back to bus and scribbled in our journals about our time in Salem. Once at the Inn some of us relaxed, some played euchre, and the smart ones headed for bed to get ready for another delightful day.  

January 22, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs in Romania - Jeff Bouman

From sophomore Sawyer Koops:

On Sunday the 20th, we had the privilege of attending an Orthodox Church service in full; what made the service special was that Father Cristi had prepared copies of the liturgy in English for all of us. Having the liturgy completely changed the way I experienced the service. Instead of being something that I could not draw much from, it was transformed into an experience that deepened my appreciation and understanding of the Orthodox tradition. The progression of litanies and antiphons (responses) was very interesting to follow because the order has obviously been refined over history of the Faith.  

Read more of this blog entry >>>

January 21, 2008

Transforming Cambodia - David Dornbos Jr. and Leonard De Rooy

From sophomore Jason Dornbos:

Today we visited the killing fields and S.21, the headquarters for the Khmer Rouge where they tortured and murdered 17,000 people.

Arriving at the Killing Field, it was hot, and we payed our 2 dollars a person to get in. I had been told that there was a display of 8000 skulls, so I was looking for that. Then I realized that it was in the tall building in front of me. skull upon skull. All of them dirty and haunting. All of them were screaming at me. The holes where their eyes had once been were panic stricken as the life was sucked out of them 30 years ago. These people were not killed nicely. They were unloaded off a truck and brought to a previously dug hole and beaten, shot, or stabbed. Then the poisonous chemical DDT was poured over the whole lot. It took care of the smell of the freshly killed bodies. Many times, people weren't completely dead, but the DDT took care of that. There was a tree that had a sign that called it the "Killing Tree". They would beat children against it.

We then went to Toul Sleng (S.21). 14 people were found dead on their torture beds. The photos of how they were found were on the walls in the rooms. Toul Sleng was once a high school before it was transformed into the headquarters to hell. 3 million people were killed in the Khmer Rouge era. That is more than the amount of people killed by Hitler and the Nazi's. Walking through the rooms that once held learning children, the floors were stained by the blood of innocent Cambodians. There were photos of the dead. There were skulls in displays that showed how some were killed. Some skulls had simple bullet holes. Some had been beaten and fractured. Some were badly mutilated. It is unspeakable the things that happened in the place that I walked today. Pray for the healing of these Cambodian people.

January 17 & 18, 2008

Pubs, Clubs and Alternative Worship - Kevin Corcoran

This course's video site—calvinaltworship at YouTube—received 250 hits within 1 hour of going live! View video montages of Calvin students visiting alternative worship communities and talking with key leaders in the emergent church in England.

See pictures of students talking with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and traveling throughout England.

Read more about this course.

Read an article about Interim that features "Pubs, Clubs and Alternative Worship."

January 16, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs in Romania - Jeff Bouman

From sophomore Annie Chresand

This Monday we finished up our homestays. Listening to everyone’s stories, it is clear that they will probably be one of the highlights of our trip for a lot of us. It is also safe to say, I think, that our host families taught us valuable lessons in hospitality. For example, some students were given the best room in the house while the families slept in the living room or crammed into one bedroom, most were not ever allowed to help with dishes or even clear the table, and we were all fed delicious Romanian food (and lots of it!!). 

In my case specifically, I was given my host sisters’ bed while they slept on hard couches in their living room. On my first day I mentioned that I really liked a certain type of juice they had given me. From that day on, almost everytime I sat down I was handed a full glass. I was never allowed to pay for my own drinks or taxi rides when we went out, and their was a constant stream of “do you need anything?” “do you want anything?” “if so, just ask!” I hope that one day I can offer my guests even half of the hospitality that I was shown this weekend. After all of this, imagine my surprise when my host sister Evelina offered ME a gift. We had become very close over the few day we spent together, but I was still taken aback when she told me she wanted me to have one of her scarfs and a necklace. Evelina’s gifts will be things I treasure forever, but I suspect that my homestay with her family offered me an even more important gift. Not only did it teach me clear lessons about the  virtue of hospitality and offer me an inside glimpse at Romanian culture and family life, but the most important gift that I was given this weekend is the  friendships that were created.

 As my new sister and good friend Evelina quoted in a note to me, “Nothing makes the Earth seem so spacious as to have friendss at a distance; they make the latitudes and the longitudes…”

students eat a meal in hondurasJanuary 15, 2008

International Teaching in Honduras - James Rooks

From Jim Rooks

We are back from our trip to the banana plantation in La Lima and a visit to the Mayan ruins in Copan. It was a long trip but well worth it.

It was a very interesting tour of the banana farm and the harvesting, cleaning, and packing operation. The bananas we saw being washed and packed and loaded on Friday are probably being unloaded from the ship in Miami today and will soon be on their way by truck to various locations.

There was a bit of tension between the union representative and the management who were on the tour with us and they didn't want us to take pictures of the production/packing area--and the students were saddened by the sight of the women working the 10 hour days packing 30 boxes of bananas per hour in order to earn 300 Limpares for the day (about $15 US). We are confronted by poverty everywhere we turn in Honduras. After each of our group dinners we box up the left overs and find someone to give them to before we have gone 30 steps from the restaurant.

We carried on to Copan on Friday afternoon and arrived in time to stroll around a very pretty well lit old town with stone streets, a very nice central park, and lots of street vendors and restaurants. Maribel Gomez found us an inexpensive but nice hotel with wonderful plants, flowers, patios and a large veranda on the roof where we could all sit and talk while observing the beauty of the surrounding hills. Saturday morning we went out to the tour the ruins early in the morning to avoid the heat. That worked out really well; we had an excellent tour guide and learned a lot about the amazing Mayan culture that existed in that area at one time.

It's Monday and we are back in the schools now. The students are enjoying their work here at the International School and at the Kingdom School. Tomorrow night we are going out for dinner with a small group of young North American teachers from the International School (mostly Calvin and Hope grads) so they can share stories of their experiences of teaching in Honduras. On Thursday we are going to squeeze in a hike at La Tigra which was rained out earlier.

Thanks to Erin we have now finally posted some pictures and if we have time later today we will try to post some more.

Read more blog posts and pictures from this course >>>

Students visit the temple Angkor Wat in CambodiaJanuary 14, 2008

Transforming Cambodia - David Dornbos Jr. and Leonard De Rooy

From senior Hannah Serfling

On Friday night I had supper at the Khmer Kitchen, recommended by a tour book. I had traditional Khmer soup. Eek! It tasted like drinking straight lime juice. So I just worked on the spring rolls ;).  Then we had a time of worship together as a large group. The RUL students and more have joined us, making us a group of about 50.

This morning/day we visited one of the seven ancient wonders of the world -the Angkor Wat temples. They were amazing. Mostly ruins left, but the walls are very intricately decorated and carved. One temple has huge 400 year old trees growing throughout it (it was used in the movies Tomb Raider). We played tourists today but did enjoy seeing the treasures of Cambodia.  

Tonight we were at an all you can eat buffet . . . spells trouble. It was delicious, especially the ice cream, which tasted homemade. The dinner was followed by traditional Cambodian dancing. The women and men dressed in elaborate costumes and danced different dances or stories. Cambodian dancing is very particular about hand movements. 

Tomorrow we head for Phenom Pen.

Keep praying for us!

January 11, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs in Romania - Jeffrey Bouman

From Jeff Bouman, Director of the Service Learning Center

"I felt like I went to America today."  These were the words of our 18 year-old Romanian guide today after accompanying us to a monastery, church and castle in nearby Hunedoara.  Robbie is a particularly helpful young man who has been singled out for potential admission to a peer Christian liberal arts institution in Iowa (Northwestern) and who also speaks nearly flawless English (in addition to four other languages).  He made this comment after riding with us in our "maxi-taxi", a 19 passenger over-sized van,  sharing Starburst candies and Hershey's kisses, listening to English, and watching a few more episodes of "The Office."

So what felt to us like a day in a strange and foreign, even exotic land, was to Robbie a trip to America.Robbie's comment was a reminder to me, and to all of us, of the nature of interim travel abroad.  Wherever we go, we carry with us a dual persona - on the one hand we are students (and a professor) and this is a teaching and learning opportunity with all sorts of experiential facets to it.  But on the other hand,  no matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid the fact that we are also tourists.  And being tourists, particularly American tourists, carries a variety of unavoidable baggage with it.  In Romania fortunately, most of this baggage is positive, but when you don't speak a language, and you don't understand customs or street signs, you are inherently "other" and thereby outside a culture. 

Calvin students in Cambodia help with a construction projectJanuary 10, 2008

Transforming Cambodia - David Dornbos Jr. and Leonard De Rooy

From junior Sara Evans:

It is such a relief to finally be in Cambodia!  Many of us are very happy that we have arrived at our destination and have started working. The other students have already written about the work project that we are doing here, so I will just write a bit about my thoughts about what we've seen. 

I find that every time I see someone having a difficult time in a third world country, I try to think of ways to fix it—I guess this is the engineer in me! Vising the floating village on the Tonle Sap yesterday was definitely challenging.  I wonder how it is possible to get clean water to these people that are surrounded by such an easy source of water (that is unfortunately very dirty). It was also hard because of the many people who were begging for our money. They were obviously very poor, but it's hard to tell how much of it is just putting on a sad face for the many tourists. Not that I don't think that these people require help. I just think that there must be a better way to help them really get out of poverty and stop being dependent on our hand-outs, but I'm not sure how to do that.

And these thoughts are just a small snap-shot of what is going on in my head all of the time here...

Read more student posts at this course's weblog >>>

January 9, 2008

Leadership in Africa: Development, Church and Civil Society in Kenya - Mark Fackler, George Monsma and Bob Crow

A word from Mark Fackler:

21 students and three faculty (Monsma, Crow, Fackler) were scheduled to leave for three weeks in Kenya on January 3, but post-election violence first postponed our departure, then scrubbed it completely. Our purpose was an interim course called Leadership in Africa. This week in Kenya is the best case study on that subject anywhere in the world.

The issues go deep: land ownership since pre-Independence (1963), ethnic suspicions and lack of mutual trust, a long history of corruption in and around African democracies, and the impossibility of running an election with the technological sophistication required to satisfy super-heated power blocs within Kenyan politics. Those tensions usually live well beneath the threshold of violence, but this week they surfaced. BBC World News Service reports well on the grim headlines, so I won't try to comment here on particulars. (US news outlets are rather fixed on our own primary races, but even on a slow news day, African news is always behind celebrity headlines or steroids or market adjustments.)

Our group from Calvin was primed and ready. Our schedule included meeting leaders in Nairobi, the capital of the region, and then ten days in rural western Kenya exploring how leaders engage with the poor in sustainable community development. We would have returned with new friends, African names and (adopted) families, and a first-time visit with next year's in-laws (for one of our group).

But safety precedes learning. The Christian Reformed Church and Calvin College continue to monitor the situation with advisory notices, prayer updates, and relief shipments as roads clear and supplies are available. The entire region is affected by the damage to transport, agriculture, housing, and the loss of life that was the most horrible part of this preventable tragedy.

The world needs competent and compassionate leaders. Thankfully, Calvin has a strong investment in helping a next generation of Christian leaders grow and launch.

Read the Chimes article about canceling this course >>>

January 8, 2008

Transforming Cambodia - David Dornbos Jr. and Leonard De Rooy

See new pictures from this course's Weblog.

Students in this course are visiting villages and cities across Cambodia to experience and identify the causes of poverty across the country. They are assessing things like food production capacity, land use trends, availability of adequate water or reasonable quality, availability of education and human health in order to understand the poverty they experience while there. They are also visiting cultural sites like temples and prisons to aid their understanding of the issues addressed by the course.

The students won't just be observing poverty in Cambodia—they'll be participating in service projects in order to learn what some of the solutions to poverty may or may not be.

January 7, 2008

Pubs, Clubs and Alternative Worship - Kevin Corcoran

Churches beginning in bars and clubs? May sound unusual, but this January, twenty-three Calvin students and philosophy professor Kevin Corcoran are in England exploring a Christian movement that saw churches starting in just these places beginning in the late 1980s.

The class is spending their Interim going to eight or nine alternative worship communities in England and meeting with several key leaders of the movement often called the “emerging church.” Professor Corcoran appreciates many of the practices of these faith communities, but while sharing his appreciation with his students, wants to challenge them to think critically about the movement that has communities in the United States as well.

No trip to England to study churches would be complete without a trip to the famous St. Paul’s  and the Westminster Abbey, both located in London. Students will even get a chance to speak personally with the worldwide Anglican churches’ leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Go this courses' photo blog >>>

January 4, 2008

Urban Missions in New York City - Jack Kooreman

Taught by Rev. Jack Kooreman, the Urban Mission in New York City Interim course is studying the challenges facing urban ministry today. Students will spend 10 days in New York at the International House in the Upper West Side of Manhattan engaging with issues like multiculturalism and its implications for urban ministry. During their time in the city, students will visit with significant Christian leaders and become acquainted with NYC ministries and churches, including the 30,000-member Christian Cultural Center, led by Dr. A.R. Bernard. 

If you watch Good Morning America or Late Night with David Letterman between January 5 and 15, you might catch Calvin students from this Interim course sitting in the audience. The students, in addition to spending much of their time in churches and ministry centers, will be visiting these and other New York cultural sites.

January 3, 2008

Social Entrepreneurs in Romania - Jeffrey Bouman

Everyone knows what it means to be an entrepreneur in a business sense. Webster says that it has to do with organizing and managing—taking risks for—an enterprise. Students traveling to Romania today to participate in this Calvin Interim course will learn what it means to be an entrepreneur in a social sense, taking risks in community organizing, youth development and other social enterprises. They'll be hosted by the New Horizon Foundation, an eight-year-old NGO that does community development work in Bucharest, the nation's capital, and the city of Lupeni.

Students will be exploring connections between the Calvin education they have been receiving and the social entrepreneurship they might pursue at home and across the globe. Their time in Romania will include a weekend stay in the home of a Romanian family, and an optional ski day at Straja, near Lupeni.

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