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.

Trench Digging and Friendship Building

ATW II trench digging

Our time in Vietnam included working with the local commune leaders on a drainage system near the local health clinic.  In the village of Phu Tho, the local government leaders were very welcoming and excited for us to work alongside them for this project.  Students mixed cement and placed it where the trench was being built.  Other students dumped dirt into the stagnant water, slowly soaking the water up and eliminating the mosquito-filled pond.

ATW II trench digging

At first, our project seemed mundane, even self-defeating.  What happens when the drainage trench clogs?  Why are we moving this dirt by hand when a tractor could accomplish the task in five minutes?  We began to see, however, that our service project had less to do with the project and more to do with the people.  We were able to work alongside them and to show them that we cared about them.  We were able to tell them about ourselves and why we had come thousands of miles to mix cement with them.  It was an amazing time to realize that we have not come to accomplish projects, but to love the people that we meet.

Concordia in Vietnam

We were blessed with the opportunity to visit the Concordia International School in Hanoi and to facilitate a day of games and activities.  We planned and implemented an “Around-the-World Day” for the younger grades, complete with activities that taught them about different places in our world.  For the older grades, we led activities that would excite them about English and allow them to have a little bit of fun, even on a school day!

It was very enjoyable to spend time with these international students and to hear a little bit of what Concordia Hanoi has already been able to accomplish in a short three years of operation.  The students as well as the staff were attempting to recruit some of our CUI students to come back and teach after just a few hours!  Many of us hope to visit Vietnam again in the future, and to visit our friends at Concordia Hanoi soon!

Cat Ba Bicycle Interview

From time to time, we try to sit down with our Rounders and catch up with how they are doing. However, because of the nature of our journey, these conversations often happen in places that are out of the ordinary. Here, I have a typical conversation with Kristine as we ride bicycles around an island paradise in Vietnam known as Cat Ba.