Monday, April 28, 2008

Back at the ranch

Hm, not sure how many people will keep reading this now I'm back at home in the states. The flight was long but I think I'm about over jet lag. I ended up with a 8 hour layover in Chicago because my flight was delayed and hour because of weather. My friend Ashley was there with me because her flight left late too, but hers ended up getting canceled and she had to sleep in the airport! Bummer. I don't feel like I'm had to do much adjusting; I think I was ready to come home.

I didn't name this blog after Jerusalem on purpose because I intend to keep it updated with what is going on in my life. I was informed yesterday that now that I'm not in Jerusalem my blog won't be interesting, but I'll try my hardest to make it worth reading! The day after I got home I had some real pizza, and I had my Mexican food the next afternoon so that was exciting. Ok, maybe not but I was pretty happy about it. It takes me a while to get dressed in the mornings because I have so many options. I love it. One weird thing about being home is I get to experience spring all over again. Let's pray for summer to come fast! My parents are adding on/remodeling our house so I came home to a hole in the back yard and a huge pile of dirt. The walls and floor of the new basement are in. Soon they'll move to the upper story.

Right now I am summer job hunting, so if you have any ideas or connections, let me know! Hopefully I'll have good luck since I get out for the summer sooner than most universities. Mom started her own family blog so she doesn't have to put lots of family stuff on my brother's Scott's medical update site. She's got pictures up of spring break to Mexico and the house remodel. Check it out via the link on the left. Hope all is well with you and yours and hopefully I'll see some of you around now that I'm home!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

And thus ends life as I know it... again...

It's our last night in Jerusalem. Nobody is going to bed. There is still a lot to be done: packing, picture sharing, etc. Half of us head to the airport at 3am, so... no point in trying to get any sleep. It was a good week. Monday and Tuesday we went to all the places Jesus did the last week of his life culminating at the Garden Tomb where we finished touring the last site of our last field trip of the semester.

Today was a free day to spend as we liked. I went all around the Old City with friends, saying goodbye to all our favorite vendors. I met a few I had never met before and I wished I would have! I'll just have to come back someday to see them again. One guy owns a photography shop. He used to be the photographer for the late King Abdullah II, the king of Jordan. He's probably the kindest man I have ever met in my life. I'm sad I didn't know him all along. I said goodbye to Shabban, Omar, Jimmy, Baghdadi, Aladdin, the falafel guys at Damascus Gate, my 15 shekel shirt man, and all the other shopkeepers that know and love the Mormons and expressed their sadness at our departure as we passed them by. I finished my day coming up the valley via the Orson Hyde Park. We ate our last dinner in the Oasis and then watched our end-of-semester DVD. We had a last devotional out on the lawn all together overlooking the city. We all got tours of the underneath side of the center where all the workings are. I think we were the first group to not sneak down there. Now we are finishing up all our last things. I need to get all my things together, weigh my bags, and get ready to get on the bus at 3. I don't want to spend my last three hours on a computer.

So long Israel, so long Palestine. Life as I know it ends once again.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming down the homestretch...

Classes and finals are done! I am getting excited to come home. I know I'll miss all my friends here a lot, but I'm ready to come back. I'm worn out! We've had several field trips this last week. We did a tour of some archaeological sites that date back to the first century AD and we toured a lot of the old Christian churches. We had one ancient near east final last Thursday, and we had out New Testament final this morning. I think I did well on both, so that is satisfying.

The next two days we walk the places Jesus during the last week of his life. Should be really cool and a fitting end to our semester. Wednesday will be our last full free day and then we fly out early on Thursday. Coming up quickly! It has been a good semester and I am satisfied.

Today I walked around the Old City and finished my shopping. The Old City is my favorite part of Jerusalem and I'll miss walking around, seeing all the vendors, visiting our favorite shop keepers and haggling for cool stuff. It has been so warm and every day is beautiful. The rainy season is most definitely over and it's sunshine all the time. I checked the weather at home today. 32 degrees, feels like 24. BRRRR!!! Here I am ready for summer and I'm going to have to go through spring all over again! So much for my base tan..... ha!

I added a new picture album-- Jerusalem: the Part.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Singing and Sneezing

The choir concert went great. Since it was in the Anglican Church there were a lot of British people and it was fun to meet them. It was a big deal that we sang there because the Mormons have a historic clash with the Anglicans, namely the Anglicans hate the Mormons' guts. Often the faculty have their children here in Israel with them and have always sent them to the Anglican Church and it can be rough on the kids. The center has tried to create good relations and once invited the Anglicans to give a concert here and they refused to step foot here because they don't consider Mormons Christians. SO.... it was a really big deal that they invited us to perform in their cathedral. It was a big step in a good direction and we had a really great experience. The bishop and the bishop's assistant were very welcoming and loved our singing.

Just my luck, the sniffles are being passed around and I think I got it. Or it could be allergies. Or both. Whatever it is, I have a leaky nose, the sneezies and a congested head. This happened last year right before finals too. It is making an already stressful week more inconvenient.

We have a final on Thursday and another on Sunday. I've finally cracked down today, got myself a study buddy, and got some hard core studying done. My previous efforts had been embarrassingly weak, but we got a lot of work done today. We had another field trip today into the old city to the big, old Christian churches. I'd post pictures, except in my haste this morning I forgot my camera on the bed. I also forgot my sunglasses. Kind of a sad morning. But! I did finally get to go up in the tower at the Church of the Redeemer after 3 previously failed attempts (but without my camera... ouch!), and I had lunch at the best falafel and humus place ever. Literally a hole in the wall, or basement rather, in East Jerusalem.

8 more days! Eek!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Coming down the homestretch....

My time is growing short over here. We have one final on Thursday, the other next Sunday, and then school is finished! I come home on the 24, so in 11 days. Actually, I leave in 11 days, I'll be home in 12! It takes a whole day to get from here to there. It's time for all the lasts. Last shopping, site seeing, etc. I've got much of my souvenir shopping finished for family and friends, and I only have one last site to see that I really want to see before I'm done.

Today we had a field trip of the archaeological park by the Temple Mount. We saw lots of things from the 1st century, it was pretty cool. It was pretty warm out today. I'll be coming home with lots of freckles and a real watch and sandal tan. I'm sure glad we leave before it gets REALLY hot. That would be unbearable I think.

Tonight is our choir concert over at St. George's Cathedral; should be good. We had our dress rehearsal last night. Our conductor and his wife, the Gailbraiths, go home on Tuesday, their time here is up too. They are one of the service couples that just stay at the center for a year or so. They have been in charge of Sunday concerts at the center and the student choir. Their replacements are the Squires who have recently arrived. Brother Gailbraith has been a saint dealing with us students! We are a pretty "interactive" group in the words of Bro Huntington, aka loud and distracted. Since Bro Gailbraith is a musical genius and either wrote or arranged nearly all the music, we can record the performance without violating any copyrights, so when I get a copy I'll see if I can post those up for y'all to listen.

ps. My pictures are updated through the Dead Sea FT. Look for those under the "Second Half of the Middle" album.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life Since Galilee

Now it's time to catch up with what has happened since Galilee! The day after we got home was a free day, so I went out into the city. I went with a couple of friends to the citadel, which is often called David's Tower, but it wasn't actually build by King David. After that we walked over to West Jerusalem, had an amazing bagel sandwich from Holy Bagel on Jaffa Street, and did some shopping at one of our favorite stores. The next day I got to go help with a painting project. One of the teachers here has his wife and two of his children here with him. The son is working on his Eagle Scout project (and he is only 13!) and for it he is doing a mural in the hall of a nearby school. We all got to go contribute. We had a lot of fun painting the walls and each other. On Shabbat I paid another visit with some friends to the Garden Tomb. The weather is a lot warmer so there were a lot more visitors than when I went that very first week I was here. I also went to the Russian Church of the Ascension convent which has a tower that overlooks the city. It is being worked on so we couldn't go up in it.

We have 6 field trips spead out over our last two weeks here. We have already been on three this week! The first one was Sunday to Neot Kedumim, a land preserve dedicated to preserving the land as it would have looked during the time of the Bible. We learned about lots of the plants mentioned in the Bible and gave a lot more meaning in reading those scriptures now! It was a really cool field trip, cooler than everyone expected it to be. We got to herd sheep and goats, make our own zata (a popular spice mix here) and pita too.

The next day was a class day with a free afternoon. I made it a shopping day to get lasts things. I got my nativity set, t-shirts for friends and myself, and other gifts. I think I'll need one more day to get everything I want. Tuesday we had a field trip to Tel Aviv and Jaffa. We learned about ancient history in Jaffa and modern history in Tel Aviv. Jaffa is the port town where the apostle Peter had the vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Tel Aviv was the first Hebrew city, established by Jews migrating to the Holy Land in the early 1900s. Yesterday was another class day, but we got confined to the center for the afternoon so I spent it taking a nap and doing homework. Really exciting.

Today was super cool!!! We went to Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, hiked to a waterfall at Ein Gedi, and went to Qumran. It was a really fun day. The Dead Sea was so cool! You just float. No swimming involved. You float so high in the water that people look like they are standing in the water. You can recline and prop your feet up. You can float on your tummy and lift your hands and feet out of the water and still float. Trying doing that in fresh water-- doesn't work! We found a mud pit and slathered Dead Sea mud all over our bodies. It's supposed to be really good for the skin. People pay like $25 an ounce for it. We did it for free! It was a really fun day. Picture from this week were added to the "Second Half of the Middle", album so check 'em out. Only two more weeks before I'm home!

Monday, April 7, 2008


Where to begin? Galilee is AMAZING. If you ever get the opportunity to come to Israel, a few days in Galilee is a must. A few weeks, even better. I spent 11 days and we all wish we could have stayed the whole semester!

We left on Easter Sunday. We were able to attend the sunrise service at the Garden Tomb. It was very evangelical, so it was a lot of fun! We are all still singing "Happy Day". Then we departed to head up north. We stopped first at Megiddo and toured the tel. I saw the famous stables of Solomon and learned that they probably weren't stables after all. The tell overlooks the Jezreel Valley aka the valley of Armageddon. Next we stopped for lunch in Afula which is famous for its falafel. There is one falafel stand where the guy does tricks and throws the falafel balls up in the air and catches them in the pita; it was really cool! Our last stop of the day was Sepphoris, Herod's Pearl of the Galilee. It's near Nazareth, so it is possible that is where Joseph, step-father of Jesus, may have been employed since the city hired lots of artisans as it was being built up. The area around Sepphoris was so beautiful that it reminded me a lot of home and even made me a little homesick. That doesn't happen much-- that tells you how beautiful it really was! We finally arrived at Ein Gev, the place we were staying. We stayed in little bungalows near the Sea of Galilee.

Day 2 was a field trip day for my class. We are divided between the two religion classes. We only kept one bus all week, so the two classes would alternate. When one class was on a field trip with the bus, the other would have a class day. We started off with a boat ride across the lake. It was a beautiful and clear day, something we learned was rare because there is often a haze over the lake. On the other side there is a museum with a fishing boat that was found that dates back to around the time period of Jesus, so it is often called the "Jesus boat". It was found about 13 years ago in the mud around the lake during a drought. Next we made our way to the Mount of Beatitudes were there is a beautiful Italian church that was built by Mussolini actually. His people accused him of not being a good Catholic so he built this church. We had our lecture about the Sermon on the Mount up there. After lunch we toured the Byzantine basilica-style chapel at Tabga which commemorates Jesus feeding of the 5000 with 2 fishes and 5 loaves, then walked over to the Crusader chapel commemorating St. Peter's Primacy, when Jesus told Peter to "feed my sheep". Our last stop was at Capernaum where Jesus based much of his ministry from. Archaeologists are confident that they have actually identified Peter's home because of the many other chapels built over it over time. There is a Franciscan church suspended over it now, but you can see beneath to the ruins.

Day 3 was a class day for us, so we had 3 hours of New Testament class in the morning outside on the lawn overlooking the water underneath the blooming trees. Spring is here in the Holy Land. Roses are already blooming too. Summer isn't here yet though, which means swimming season is not yet, so we weren't allowed to go in the water. Our director begged for us and arranged for each class to get one day of swimming though. This was our day and we got 4 hours to spend in the water. It was great! The temperature was like Hayden Lake in August= perfect! We had lots of fun playing in the sand too, as you can see from pictures!

The next day we had a field trip to Gamla. This is the place where Josephus, the Jewish historian, had command during the first Jewish revolt in the first century. The Jews ended up committing suicide by jumping off the cliffs rather than being brutalized as Roman slaves, so that is what it is known for. You can still see where the wall was breached by Roman battering rams. We climbed up to the very top of the hill. We had not been sufficiently informed about the nature of the field trip that day and many girls wore skirts because of the heat. Bad idea! It was really windy and we had a time trying to not flash everybody! I ended up just tying my skirt around my legs, or as I called it "girding my loins". It was really fun still and really beautiful. If you have seen the new Pride and Prejudice movie it looks like the area of the peaks in the movie. After Gamla we went to Qazrin, a village where the people had lived Talmudically during the period of time when the Talmud was being written, sort of an experimental village where they would see what things worked and what didn't. That night our class got to go to the fish restaurant and eat some St. Peter's fish, an indigenous species that has always lived in the Sea of Galilee. It was pretty yummy. After that we went to Tiberias for ice cream.

Day 5 was another class day. That afternoon many of us went on an optional hike up in the Golan. We hiked among the hills and up to a waterfall. We got to swim in the pool at the base and it was FREEZING. Think Lake Pend Orielle in the spring. When our bus brought us home, our driver favored us with a sample of the Muslim prayer call. Apparently Ata, our driver, is a local celebrity of sorts. He does the prayer call for the mosque next to the Dome of the Rock every weekend and is broadcast to Jordan too. He just spontaneously did part of a prayer call for us on the bus and it was really cool. He is the nicest man and definitely the nicest bus driver we've ever had.

The next day was another field trip day. We first went to Beth She'an. This city was Hellenized so there are a lot of Roman ruins. This is the city where King Saul's body was hung on the gate (after he died in battle nearby) before the Israelites sneaked and took it down to bury it. We climbed all over the ruins. Next we went to the area of the Seven Springs. It's a national part now, but it has been people have been going bathing there for centuries. There are these 7 natural thermal springs that bubble up in one area. The water was clear and beautiful and warm, like a pool in August. There were lots of fish in the water and there was this one that kept biting everybody. It even drew blood a couple times! We went to Bet Alfa to see a cool mosaic floor that has been well preserved, then to Nain to the little chapel that commemorates the miracle of Jesus raising the widow's son from death. We ended the day with a taxi ride up the 17 switchbacks of Mount Tabor, one of the mountains that the Transfiguration may have taken place. Up on top we met Truman G. Madsen, a well known historian.

Saturday was Shabbat and we went to church at the little church building in Tiberias. It is the only chapel for our church in Israel. It used to be a house that was converted into a meeting house; It is beautiful and overlooks the Sea of Galilee. Church was the only thing scheduled, so we got the rest of the day to ourselves. I spent it reading and writing in my journal on the lawn looking out over the lake. Life is tough.

We had class the morning of the eighth day, so in the afternoon lots of us climbed up to Hippos. It was a Hellenized pagan city on a nearby hill. It is speculated that this was the town Jesus was referencing in talking about "a city on a hill cannot be hid". It was a fun adventure. One kid had been up there earlier in the week and accidentally dropped his camera down a hole into a cistern or something like it. This time he brought rope and the boys were able to lower him down into the hole to retrieve the camera. He got it back and it still works too! From the top of Hippos you can overlook the whole lake.

Day nine was a little rainy. We first went to Hazor which is the biggest archaeological site in Israel. Then we went to Tel Dan, which is now a preserve and so has lots of beautiful greenery everywhere. After this we went to Caesarea Philipi and then to our final stop of the day: Nimrod's Castle. It's actually a crusader castle that was then taken over by Muslim conquerors. But it's a real castle! It was a lot of fun to crawl all over it.

Monday we were to go to the world famous Bahai Gardens at the headquarters of the Bahai faith in Haifa because they rescheduled our tour from Monday, but we were still in Ein Gev in Galilee and couldn't make it to Haifa in time for the tour so we missed it. We were all really sad. Instead we went the place that commemorates the miracle of the swine, and Chorazim before heading to Nazareth. In Nazareth we went to the Church of the Annunciation and then had some free time to walk around the city. We also went to Acco and toured the Crusader citadel and the al-Jazaar Mosque. My camera batteries died in Acco, so I didn't get any pictures of it unfortunately. That night we stayed in Haifa on the coast of the Mediterranean.

Tuesday was the last day of the trip. Since we couldn't go to the big gardens, we went to some smaller Bahai gardens instead. They were still very beautiful and incredible manicured. We did do a drive by of the Bahai headquarters to take pictures. We were supposed to go to this cool Templar cemetery, but our bus driver got lost and we ran out of time to stop there, so instead we stopped at a beach by an ancient aqueduct to eat lunch and stick our feet in the water. Our last stop was at Caesarea Mauritania, where Herod had a man-made port constructed. Finally we made it home and have since caught up on our laundry and are back in the usual grind.

As long as this post is, this I barely skimmed over what we did! At least this will give you a dialog to follow as you look at pictures. Now it is very late here and I have another field trip to Tel Aviv in the morning, but I had to finally get caught up with this! Check out the pictures, all the Galilee ones are up.
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