Terrible Towel, Tremendous Tradition

Written by Amber Arandas.

I can’t recall the last time I missed an entire football season. Traveling on the Around-the-World Semester® II means that there will be one less Steeler fan watching this winter. Ever since I was a little girl, I grew up in Steeler country watching football with my dad, uncles, and brother every Sunday. Not to mention, every summer the Steelers bombard our little town of Latrobe, PA and host their training camp at St. Vincent College right near my house. It’s a Pittsburgh tradition that anytime you travel internationally, you take a picture with your terrible towel. This tradition is a reminder that even though you are far away from home, Steeler nation is represented wherever you go. Traveling with my terrible towel in my daypack, I am constantly reminded of my home culture, memories, and where I come from. Being a Steelers fan is a part of me that cannot be removed and I am proud to carry the towel on this trip.

So far, the towel has been hoisted above a ger in Mongolia, above the Great Wall of China, on top a boat in Ha Long Bay Vietnam, on the beach in Thailand, in the slums of India, in front of an obelisk Ethiopia, at a palace in Slovakia, and many more to come. God has blessed me with this trip in serving him, and I am forever grateful to be trekking around the world with this community, towel in hand.

Thai School Activities

In Chiang Mai, Thailand, Rounders taught English classes at a local middle school. Students are often intrigued but shy around a group of more than thirty foreigners. In order to break down barriers with these students, we often play some small and large group games. Here, Ellie and Kristine lead us all in some icebreaking games.

The Golden Triangle

The ATW II team moves around very rapidly and through many different countries.  Sometimes, remembering the geography of where we are is the most difficult part of the trip.  Nicole describes the significance of the Golden Triangle, the location where three Southeast Asian nations meet: Laos, Thailand, and Bohmar the Great (also known as Burma).

Here at the Wall

Our service time in Chiang Mai, Thailand included aiding a local church and school with their building project. Promise Lutheran Church is partnering with local people to build dormitories for low-income students so that they can attend the schools in the city. The ATW II team brought both the resources and the laborers in order to complete the first stage of this building project. Robyn explains what we had done so far on that first day.

Brick by Brick

One of our projects in Thailand was to build a wall that would demarcate the new dorms for local students.  Promise Lutheran Church in Chiang Mai is working with local people to accommodate students who cannot afford housing.The Christians in Chiang Mai have a vision for housing low-income students and allowing them to attend school, even when financial hurdles are crippling. To that end, the ATW II team was able to donate enough resources to start this project, and we were also able to participate in the building of the first wall.

As we were the first foreign team to visit this site, we experienced the fact that 37 volunteers are not always the most efficient means for accomplishing a building project.

However, the local church leaders and students were so thankful for our time that we were spending with them.

They considered our friendship a blessing, and the work that we accomplished alongside each other was a symbol of this new relationship. As we left that place for the second and final time, we thought about our time with people and how it is often more important than any wall we can build.