All Things Travel

Migrants are People

By All Things Travel One Comment
[Alannah DeJong, a 2nd year student at SSU, recently participated in Uprooted – a Learning Tour with Mennonite Central Committee to the Northern and Southern borders of Mexico. The three week tour explored themes of migration and peace building. This blog post originally appeared on the Uprooted blog.]

This past semester I learned about dehumanization. Simply put, dehumanization happens when a group of people is seen as “less than human” by another group. By giving a different name and attributing only a single story to this group, it becomes easier to justify their mistreatment. In my own experience, these kinds of dehumanizing tendencies are sometimes shown when it comes to migrants. Naturally, on this learning tour which focuses on migration and peacebuilding, we have had some important discussions about migration. These have continued here in Mexico City. We have learned that there are many different reasons for which a person might migrate. Someone might decide to leave their home because of economic opportunities elsewhere, or because of environmental dangers. Someone may migrate in order to be reunited with family members, or simply for a change in scenery. Some people leave their homes because they will be killed if they stay. There is no single migrant story.

Being on this trip has allowed me to broaden my understanding of what a migrant is. I have come to the realization that a migrant is someone who has left one place to move to another. I am a migrant if I leave my home country for fear of persecution. I am a migrant if I move to another province for a job. Migrants are not all victims. Migrants are not all criminals. Migrants are not all poor. There is no single migrant story.

During our time in Mexico City so far, we have been able to visit some of the spaces that shelter migrants along their journeys. Within these shelters are incredibly beautiful pieces of art painted by some of the people who have stayed there. I would like to share pictures of a few murals in CAFEMIN, a family migrant shelter that also provides workshops in areas such as baking, sewing, and computers for the people staying there:


This mural pictures an angel overseeing Mary, Joseph, and Jesus during their own migration.


This mural shows Jesus carrying his cross, and migrants after him carrying theirs.

The message of these murals is one of humanization. They bring humanity to the topic of migration in a powerful way; by countering the disassociation that sometimes occurs when migrants are concerned. It is important not to fall into the tendency of dehumanization. I know that the pain in the world is so great, and it is often easier to talk about people as though they are a little less than people. It makes life easier to bear. But if I take a step back, I remember that Jesus was a migrant, and that I myself am a descendent of migrants. Yet I also remember that migrants are people deserving of human rights and dignity not because I am related to migrants, or worship a God who was one, but simply because they are people.

Market Morning

By 2015, All Things Travel, Asia No Comments

We’re in Laoag city. Walking to the market this morning, the air’s warmth hugs my body. It’s eight a.m. and the sun’s rays are delicate but assuring. Getting anywhere requires the utmost alertness of the senses since the vehicular and pedestrian traffic are off the hook and sometimes indistinguishable one from the other.   People just hang off the sides of buses, bikes and jeepneys, jumping on and off as they please. To cross the street is to risk being run down by a swarm of tricycles or a big truck carrying boxes of fruit or cases of glass bottles of coca cola.

We miraculously manage to arrive at the market. All of us. In one piece. As soon as we go into the tent we are enthusiastically approached by several vendors with menus all boasting a number of dishes I have never heard of. These women are brilliant; all four of us buy an empanada and watch as one woman’s experienced hands roll out the bright orange dough and stuff it with fresh papaya, mango, local longanisa and then crack an egg into it.

As our empanadas sizzle in the deep fryer we fidget with a box-like machine that apparently produces coffee. I jam a five peso piece into the money slot and a small paper cup pops out of the bottom of the box which then fills the cup with a murky liquid that looks just like river water. I shyly ask the empanada lady if this is normal. She shyly tells me to “taste” as though if I liked it she would confirm its normality but if I didn’t she would do what she could to remedy the situation, obviously eager to please. After I awkwardly and apologetically reject the river water, she makes me a new coffee. It’s sticky and sweet.

By this time the empanadas are hot and crisp. We sit down at a table with a red gingham plastic tablecloth, which is promptly equipped with local vinegar and banana ketchup. I douse my empanada in vinegar and crunch into it; the egg is yokey, the fruit sweet and the longanisa spicy and rich. I’m in the Philippines and I’ve just bitten into the beginning of a two month long oriental adventure.


By 2015, All Things Travel, Asia No Comments

The sound of the tires reminds me of the speed and power around me. This bus is moving us towards our goal. Dimly it is lit, with red lights beckoning for attention. Headphones are in, and we are engaged with tones. Twenty-two of us. Sitting and waiting for movement.

This grey tube whining in the darkness, saying, ‘here I am, here I come.’ Screaming with energy and force, its hundreds of working parts are placed together to form a solid, automation of movement. Here I sit amongst it all. An impermeable membrane that tends to sweat in heat. A mass that has connections that make a consciousness that is aware; that it is aware.

Like the automobile the membrane is made up of hundreds ,if not thousands of parts. Working together to make movement. But is there a difference in the purpose, in the nature of the moment?

Both have destinations. The vehicle runs till it breaks down and cannot support the movement any longer. The membrane or the body, is the same. It goes till it cannot go anymore. It all depends on the make and model.

If we derive purpose from consciousness aren’t we just fooling ourselves. The body function is to carry the being that lives in infinity. Who lives in a world of pulses and chemicals; semi-connected to the rest of the world. The automobile carries people to their destinations. It takes people places, it kills people. But yet it is not conscious.

The bus keeps whining as we come around the turn. It is quiet. It’s 2:30 in the morning; darkness surrounds us. While the bus keeps moving my thoughts turn to my past travels. The warmth of the East, the people and its smells. The smell that gets into your senses. Rising up even in your thoughts. Words become the smell. Grimy,dirty, garbage and sometimes the subtle smell of the fragrance of the breeze from the mountains. At last the bus stops whining, but other voices are heard.

Excitement is impeded on the soul by careless people. They don’t know what’s ahead. The pain, the smells, the last memories of leaving a home that was so foreign, yet had become like home.

Mr. And Ms. University 2015

By 2015, All Things Travel, Asia No Comments

Never in my life have I known what attending a beauty pageant is like. After this experience I cannot say the same. Northwestern University put on a “Mr. And Ms. University” beauty pageant. Why? I will never know, but I can speculate!

Filipinos love to perform in the spotlight. Normally, they are modest and shy but they love to put on a show when given the correct outlet. Naturally they are attracted to the glitz and glamour of a beauty pageant. It allows them to dress-up in rolls of sparkly sequins and seven-inch heels. They have the confidence to strut their stuff on stage and show the crowd how good they are at entertaining.

So there I was, one of twenty white people on campus being ushered to sit well near the front (the 2nd row to be exact) in order to see best because we are guests. The sound booming from the speakers pulsated in my ears and palpitated against my heart. I sat back to experience the show for what it was. A college organized Filipino beauty pageant.

The girls in the bleachers went crazy when their favorite male contestant gave them a twinkling shoulder, while the men waited for the swimsuit competition so they could gawk at the women they would never obtain.

When the swimsuit competition finally started I had no choice but to watch as fourteen 15 to 19 year olds strutted their stuff on stage. Luckily Ate Jonah, my host mother, sat next to me and used her uproarious laughter to help me see the humor in the displays of half-nude, half-legal collegiates. Together we chuckled at the young men and women who tastefully bared it all in hopes of winning the pageant crown. Several times we broke out laughing when the young men posed as if they were highly sought after hunky models.

Northwestern University used local celebrities as judges and gave away awards from sponsors. The pageant contestants received grants and prizes as round one of awards seemed never ending. The students who participate have the opportunity to receive grants and prizes from local and national businesses. Receiving such prestigious awards can be an enticing incentive for any student to join in the competition.

As the loud award ceremony came to an end my Ate told us it was time to leave. We would be unable to stay for the evening gown competition and second round of awards. It was only 9:15 and the crowns would not be awarded until midnight! Thankful to make it out of there with my eardrums still intact, I could not help but take the whole experience as a Filipino cultural event. That night I went to bed feeling like I understood Filipinos just a bit better.

The Ocean

By 2015, All Things Travel, Asia No Comments

From the road that I stood on, I could see the ocean. With sweat beading on my forehead and rolling into my eyes, nothing could have stopped me from making the trek toward that break. I stepped off of the pavement and onto the faded dirt path that entered into the foliage. It zigzagged, mimicking the river that flowed to my right. I stepped over a decaying tree and took a sharp turn to my left where a skinny cow blocked my way. Shocked by the beast, I froze. Then I laughed. I scooted around her and found my way again. Ducking, dodging, weaving, walking. Sweat was pouring down my face at this point and my shirt was getting darker. I watched every step as I was wary of snakes (my greatest nemesis). The forest was thick with palm branches and bamboo shoots. The healthy dark green leaves were masked by shadows as the 2 o’clock sun shone from above.  A vine caught my foot and I stumbled, but only for a second. I felt embarrassed but I don’t know why.

I heard the ocean now. The waves crashing beckoned me toward them. The river’s current was growing stronger. Its banks had been a dark, rich brown and their solidity was maintained by the roots of the trees. Now the structured walls lost their form and turned to sand. I followed the now sandy path along a gradual bend to the left. Around the corner it emerged in all its vastness and glory. Rolling waves thundered when they hit the packed wet sandy shore.

I picked up my pace until I was running. I kicked off my shoes and waded through the knee high river that was now emptying into the ocean. On the other side I stripped down to my boxers, stumbling over my pants and throwing away my shirt. I ran in up to my waist and then dove into the first wave that hit me! Oh it was refreshing! I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect temperature. It was cold but not shocking, just enough to rejuvenate me instantly. The salt tasted like freedom. I was smiling ear to ear and let the ocean pull me out just a little. I lay on my back and felt the life of the ocean through my whole body. It heals. The ocean heals everything. It heals physical, mental, and spiritual injuries. I could feel it healing me. Healing my cuts. Healing my stress. Healing my longing for God.

I rode a wave to the shore and let it wash me up. I laid there for a moment, letting the waves that followed massage my legs. Finally I stood up and took four steps forward and sat down to study its ways. It’s simple. In that moment nothing mattered. Everything made sense. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath in through my nose. The salty air gave me life. I wanted more. I kept breathing with my eyes closed. In through the nose. Out through the nose. In. Out. In. Out. I opened my eyes and looked out across the empty space that stretched to the horizon.

A Celtic Pilgrimage

By 2012 - Scotland, All Things Travel, Alumni Abroad No Comments

We’re on our way to Scotland (April 29th, 2012)! The countdown is on and if you’re interested then you can find the full itinerary and more information online here.  This is a really great opportunity to experience study abroad SSU style, whether you’re a student or not!

Now to answer some of your frequently asked questions…

What is the exact cost and what does that include?
The total price is $3699.00 and includes round trip airfare from Saint John, NB, accommodations (double occupancy), transportation around Scotland (luxury motor coach), breakfasts and dinners (lunches not included), guides and admission to all sites mentioned on itinerary.

Can I make payments or is it all due at once?
Yes you can! While the final amount is due by Feb. 17th, 2012, you can set up a payment schedule with Freedom Tours. Bi-weekly payments can make it easier.

Is this an SSU trip or Freedom Tours?
SSU has contracted Freedom Tours to take care of most of the logistics, but SSU’s Dean of Arts (Gregg Finley, PhD) is the trip leader. Payments are made to Freedom Tours who are working closely with SSU to be sure the execution of this trip is just how we want it.  We use a similar process for our Greece & Turkey trip as well as our Israel trip.

How does this “for credit” thing work?
If you are interested in doing this as a 3-credit hour course, then you will receive a syllabus with preliminary readings and assignments. This will all be under Gregg Finley’s instruction and there is no extra charge.  To take the trip for academic credit, please send an email to [email protected], or visit our facebook page and share your interest.

What about travel insurance?
This is not included in the price but HIGHLY recommended. It can be arranged by Freedom Tours for anyone interested at the time of booking.

When and how can I reserve a spot?
Call 1-800-61-2324 to pay your $300 deposit to reserve your place as soon as possible. Space is limited!



We’re Going to Scotland! Wanna Come?

By 2012 - Scotland, All Things Travel, Alumni Abroad, Europe No Comments

Springtime in Scotland: A Celtic Pilgrimage

SSU is proud to announce our upcoming study trip to Scotland! Students, alumni, and friends are invited to participate in this 9-day trip throughout the lowlands and highlands of the Scotland.

Mark your calendars and book your time off and embark on this journey with our fearless leader and Celtic saint, Gregg Finley!  Here are some preliminary details, but stay tuned for a detailed itinerary and instructions on saving your spot!

WHEN–April 29th-May6th, 2012
WHERE–All over Scotland, from Glasgow to Iona, Skye, Inverness, Edinburgh and more!
WHAT--Historical sites like Culloden, and Holy Isles  like Iona & Skye and yes even a few Scotch Whiskey distilleries.
HOW–Travel by luxury motor coach and sleep in tourist class hotels (no camping on this trip!)
COST–The price will vary slightly depending on the final number of people, but expect it to be around $3500 per person. This will include everything except your lunches.
CAN I GET UNIVERSITY CREDIT?– Yes, this trip is a 3-credit hour course with readings and assignments for anyone who would like to take it for undergraduate credit.

“The tourist goes to see and collect (memories and mementos); the pilgrim goes to be changed.”    Daniel Taylor, In Search of Sacred Places: Looking for Wisdom on Celtic Holy Islands


Snooze at Versailles?

By All Things Travel No Comments

For anyone who’s been to Versailles on one of our trips, it makes an impression to say the least. Whether you’re appalled at the opulence, or overwhelmed by the extravagance, you definitely won’t forget being there.

Well, now you can more firmly implant that memory with a sleep as a private company has taken over one of the mansions badly in need of repair and is turning it into a hotel (click here for more details). Opinions go back and forth on whether or not government  and taxpayers should continue to pour millions into historic sites like this, or whether they should be turned over to private enterprise so that they can remain cost effective, if less historically representative.

Whaddya think Gregg Finley? Is there room for private enterprise in the preservation of UNESCO Heritage sites like this and other architectural gems?

the results are in, everyone wants to come here!

By All Things Travel No Comments

A friend of SSU, Heidi Turner, recently brought this article to my attention. For those of you who aren’t aware, Barna group is a well respected organization that constantly conducts studies to keep it’s thumb on the youth culture of today (not an easy task for anyone familiar with the ever changing aspects of youth culture).

I’ll give you a textual clip and let you head to the article to read the rest.

God and Global
Having a connection with God and international travel emerged as second-level priorities. Nearly three-quarters of teenagers felt they would have a close, personal relationship with God (72%) in the next decade or so. About seven out of 10 youths (71%) said they will definitely or probably have traveled to other countries by their mid-twenties.

Sounds to me like SSU is the kind of place that youth are looking for today.

Donate Now