Friday, January 25, 2008

Shopping Spree

... If you consider getting a sweatshirt, bag, and a pair of gloves a "spree". Thursday was a free day so lots of people went shopping to get things that they needed for Egypt. We don't get a 2 day weekend like the rest of humanity (we only get off Shabbat, or Saturday), so sometimes we get a random free day in the middle of the week to make up for it if we don't have a field trip that week. Today I went to the West City, the Jewish part, because that is the only place we are allowed before 3pm on Fridays. We wandered around the open market and I ate a lot of wonderful things including strawberries and fresh pita bread. I LOVE the pita bread. The pitas here make the pitas in the states taste like paper. I'm kinda obsessed. I eat pitas with at every meal.

We leave for Egypt this Sunday! We will drive down into Sinai and stay in a kibbutz the first night, then cross over into Egypt where we will be for a week. Everyone is so unbelievably excited!!! I won't be able to access internet while I'm gone, so y'all can fill up by inbox with nice things for me to read when I come back :-). I'll definitely be taking lots of pictures to make you all jealous.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fun Stuff

The trip to Jaffa/Tel Aviv was great. Turns out we couldn't swim after all, but we did make the most out of wading to our knees. The water was actually not bad, I totally would have gone swimming. We played frisbee on the beach and enjoyed the sand and sun. Jaffa is an ancient sea port and was formerly known as Joppa. The group I stayed with hung out in Jaffa all day. It is a beautiful little town with a district of really old architecture, and a newer district not as old, but still quaint and Mediterranean. We actually saw the Hayes, a service couple that lives with us here at the JC. They were out sightseeing too. Sister Hayes is leaving us this Friday to go back to the states. Her mother isn't well and she is leaving to go help. We'll miss her a lot.

Tel Aviv is only a short walk away and very modern with skyscrapers and shopping centers, really anything that you find in a big city in the states. We had fun confining ourselves to the little town of Jaffa: going into St. Peter's church, crossing the Wishing Bridge, cruising the flea market, and eating some delicious gelado. We took taxis to and from the coast and on the way there, our driver's rear view mirror flew off. Not the whole contraption, just the mirror, exposing the wires and stuff behind it. It was really funny. And kinda scary. Drivers here are crazy and drive very close together, so driving without a mirror on our driver's side took some major skill.

Yesterday we couldn't go out into the Old City or East City because of something we don't fully know about. Apparently some people are striking for reasons associated with stuff going on in Gaza. You probably know more about it than I do. We could still go to the West City, but you have to take a taxi. We've had beautiful weather for nearly two weeks, and today it decided to rain again. Too bad it didn't yesterday when we couldn't leave anyway.

Jaffa pictures are in Album #2. The link to it is on the left. I added the Gethsemane pictures to Album #1.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Geography Field Trip

The geography field trip was so cool! Literally. We almost froze to death. We went to several of the highest places in the area so that we could see really far in all directions in order to get a handle on where different places are with relation to others. The higher the elevation, the colder it is and the worse the wind. But I made it... with 5 layers. For two of the sites we were actually in the West Bank, which is exciting. We could see the partition wall not far away. The neatest part for me was to look out from the top of the Augusta Victoria Tower and see the Dead Sea and Jordan in the distance. This country really is not very wide. It is only about as wide as the panhandle of Idaho. We'll get to go to the Dead Sea later this semester. It's a mile lower in elevation than the place we were viewing it from. It is difficult to download photos to the blog because the internet is slow with those sorts of things here, but I did upload a lot of photos to an album on my Facebook profile. I created a link to it on the left and anyone can view it.

Today I went to the Orson Hyde Memorial Gardens and the Garden of Gethsemane. They are beautiful places, even in the winter. It was so fun for me to go to the Hyde Park; I felt like I was coming full circle with my Church History studies in Nauvoo, IL. The Park sits in the area that Orson Hyde, a missionary that we studied about in Nauvoo, came in 1841 and dedicated the land for the return of the Jews. Now I feel like these two special semesters are connected and part of one extraordinary, continuous experience. I haven't downloaded those pictures yet, but I will soon.

Tomorrow a lot of kids are going to Tel Aviv after classes to play. The brave ones will try to go swimming! I am determined to join them in the attempt. I'm excited because Tel Aviv is at least 10 degrees warmer than Jerusalem since it is 3000 ft lower in elevation and right on the Mediterranean Sea. Plus there are lots of cool things to do around there too. It is a very modern city and heavily influenced by Europe.

We leave for Egypt in a week! I am so excited, you wouldn't believe.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Today was a free day for those not taking Arabic, which I'm not. I left with a group of kids for the Temple Mount soon after breakfast. For a while it was closed to all visitors because of security reasons, but recently they have reopened it for a couple of hours a day in the morning and in the afternoon. They still don't let anyone but Muslims inside the Dome of the Rock, but anyone can wander around it. If you aren't familiar with the mount, it is where Solomon's and then Herod's Temple used to be until the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD. When the Muslims took over the city in the 7th century AD they built the Dome of the Rock on the spot where the temple used to be because that is where they believe the rock that Abraham was going to sacrifice Isaac on and where Muhammed ascended into heaven is located. It is an amazingly beautiful building and can be easily seen from any window here at the center.

After seeing the Dome I went with 3 other friends to do the Rampart Walk where they let you walk around Old Jerusalem up on the walls. It was really fun and we got lots of cool pictures of stuff all over the city. Next we went back out to the east part of the city to the moneychangers to convert our dollars to sheckels and to visit Omar, one of the most well-known vendors to the BYU students. He carves all sorts of figurines out of olive wood.

Next we went back into the Old City to get falafel for lunch before wandering the city a bit until we headed over to the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, the other place in the city where people believe Jesus was crucified and buried. It is a stunning building with a high dome, vaulted ceilings, amazing mosaics.

On the way home for dinner we stopped at a candy stand and purchased some "stay awake" food for the reading we will inevitably have to complete in the near future. I am turning into an old woman. If I stay up any later than 8:30pm I think I am past my bedtime. Our days start very early each day and are always very full. Now my feet are very sore; that is what 8 hours out and about will do to you. Tomorrow is our first field trip away from the city. It will focus on the physical geography of the local area.

I'd like to note that I added a couple of links on the left to maps of the city and the land so that when I refer to places, you can reference what I am talking about. And if you didn't figure it out already, you can click on any pictures I add to see them larger.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Just Another Day

This is a picture of the view from my balcony. It's several images stitched together, so it's not perfect, but it's pretty good and sufficient to make you all jealous.

They sure keep us busy. I'm ready for bed by 8pm. I have to pace the floor to keep myself awake as I finish my reading every night! We have to get up around 6am since breakfast is at 6:30, immediately follow by classes at 7:30. At least that is how it is on many days. We are discovering that classes and meals and trips are kind of random and subject to change at any time. We don't have a MWF/TTH schedule like at the university. Since we have field trips in the middle of the week usually, our schedule changes to accommodate wherever and however long we are gone. Shabbat (or the Sabbath) is really the only weekend day we get, and we observe it on Saturday since for most of the city today is a workday. I thought it would be weird going to church on Saturday and having school on Sunday, but it's really not. Every day is just a day. It doesn't matter which day is the Sabbath as long as you respect it as the Sabbath. We don't worship on Sunday because Sunday is significant, but because that is the day we choose to make our Sabbath.

Yesterday was Saturday and we held church here in the auditorium which overlooks the city. The view is one of the best in the city, if not the best. I'm in the student choir and we had our first practice in the morning and then sang in the meeting an hour later. We did pretty good too.
After church several groups of students went out to visit several of the local sites that are open on Sunday since they are either state owned or run by Christian groups. I went to the Garden Tomb, one of the couple of places that claim to be where Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected. It was really neat. You're walking though the city and then suddenly there is this sign pointing--> Garden Tomb, in the middle of this crazy city mess. A coalition of British Christian churches has developed this little area into a beautiful garden. It's like a little oasis of peace. When you enter it you can't even tell you are in a city. We took the tour this first which was very informative and I'm looking forward to going again sometime.

Today we have classes. They are usually first thing in the morning leaving us lots of free time in the afternoon for free time and homework. So much reading! It's hard to budget our time between work and play. Sorry this is long. I don't like reading long ones, so I'll keep them shorter in the future.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Baptism by Fire

Well I made it here! I feel like I've been "orienting" for three days because I have. The day before we left we picked up some of our materials and had a long meeting covering all the rules and curriculum. I saw my friend Lauran Miller who was with me in Nauvoo; she is now with me in Jerusalem. Then I happened to sit next to a girl that turned out to be one of my roommates.

It took a full 24+ hours to get from Provo, UT, to my new home here in Jerusalem, but all flights went smoothly with no complications or big delays. We traveled in two big groups. One connected through New Jersey and my group went through Chicago and Vienna. We flew to Tel Aviv and then bused to Jerusalem which is about 45 min away. We were all zombies by then, but they kept us awake till bedtime by doing another orientation meeting followed by tours of the center.

Today we did a foot tour of the city. It's all just right there. We are maybe a mile or less from the wall of the Old City. To get to the gate is about a 15 min walk. On our way there I ran into a couple I know from BYU, Buzz and Cherea Carlson. They are friends from the swing dancing club that now live on Cyprus and they were just visiting Jerusalem. Small world! Classes begin tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

And thus ends life as I know it...

The last week has been spent doing last purchases, gathering all the stuff I need to take with me, and weeding out the stuff I really don't need to take with me. I've done a pretty good job if I may say so myself. Last Friday was kinda weird because I suddenly realized it was my last day to drive my car, sleep in my bed, wear whatever shoes I want, wear whatever coat I want, send mail cheaply and quickly. Saturday is my last day to see my house as I know it and how I will always remember it in my childhood because by the time I come back, it will be torn up and in the midst of a remodel. But change is good because it makes way for even better things.

Tomorrow is our pre-departure orientation meeting with the whole group. I'll start meeting all the people I'll be spending the next 4 months with. That is kinda weird: to know that you are about to meet the people that are about to become your best friends. It's almost like knowing you are about to win the lottery, but instead of cash you're getting Life. We all fly out very early Tuesday morning from Salt Lake City for Tel-Aviv where we will take buses to our new home: the BYU Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies.
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