Thursday, February 28, 2008


I haven't posted because I have been doing virtually one thing for a week: homework/studying. We have a LOT to do and it is difficult to keep up and still get sleep. We had our midterm for our Modern Near East- Jewish Perspective class last week. Those of us in Hebrew have a quiz today and everyone has the midterm for our Ancient Near East class tomorrow which involves knowing an insane amount of information. Brother Seely calls the panic before a test "mass hysteia". It can be pretty entertaining to watch. To those of you who wonder what we do here, yes we really go to school, and yes we have to actually study and take tests that will ultimately affect the grades that affect our collegiate GPA's. Some study more than others. Some kids will be graduating in April so it doesn't matter what grades they get this semester. I am not so fortunate.

A nice break in the daily grind was a field trip to the City of David yesterday. This is the part of Jerusalem that constituted the city when King David was ruling back in the day. There is some cool stuff being done archaeologically over there on the Ophel where David's City was. They are finding buildings and walls from the time of the Babylonian destruction in 586 BC when the kingdom of Judah was taken into exile. This is exciting stuff if you didn't know. To end our tour we got to walk, or wade rather, through Hezekiah's Tunnel. King Hezekiah had a tunnel carved out to divert the water supply so that it would come inside the city walls in preparation for an Assyrian attack. It's still there and water still runs through it. The tunnel ended at the Silome Pool which has recently been discovered (currently the tunnel ends short of the place). The pool is associated with a miracle involving the healing of a blind man by Jesus. By the original pool (which is only partially excavated) a guy also let us in to a place that is not open to the public. In it were original Herodian stairs that would have led up the hill toward the temple mount. The current ground level of Jerusalem is 30 feet above the level that Jesus would have actually walked. These stairs are part of the level of Jesus' day, therefore Jesus would have certainly walked on them. I finally got to walk on a place where Jesus walked! It gave me chills. Pictures will be postponed till the madness of this week is over, but I most certainly have pictures.

Today is a beautiful day. And we go to Jordan next week. And tonight there is a big Ramadan dinner complete with folk-dancing lessons. There is happiness here despite the mass hysteria.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Talents and Babies

Our BYUJC Winter 2008 Talent Show was held last night. Who knew what forms talent can take? It was a party. First off they divided everyone who wasn't signed up to be in the show into groups and gave us five minutes to create a quick skit based on a place or event we've had, like Egypt and cleaning checks. To add a fun twist, people had strips of paper in their pockets that they had not looked at beforehand. The papers had random quotes printed on them and you'd have to create situations in the skit where you'd pull out a paper and read it and work it into the act. Needless to say it was hilarious, especially since yours truly was over compiling the quotes. I didn't know what they were for beforehand though. My group did our skit as if we were in the mummy room at the Egyptian Museum, so I was a mummy lying on the ground as others walked around us "mummies" wondering what we would say if we were alive. I was laughing so hard lying there that I was crying. I guess you had to be there. All the other acts were fun and cool; we really do have a lot of talented students here.

A few days a week, two students at a time go to the Red Crescent Hospital down the hill to volunteer in the baby nursery. There they get to help feed the babies that have to spend a little extra time in the hospital for various reasons. I went this afternoon with Lauran Miller. They usually have a lot of babies and really appreciate the help, but this week they have only had a few. There were two babies to help with when we arrived, and then the mother of one came to feed her own, so Lauran fed the other one and I got to feed one of the brand new healthy babies from the post-natal nursery. He was probably only a day or two old. It was a great way to spend an afternoon on Shabbat. It was so peaceful and quiet in there with those brand new little babies. I haven't got to hold a brand new baby for a long time. It was really neat.

I updated my pictures and added an album. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

It (Was) Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

IT SNOWED! Again. The first snow this year was during our trip to Egypt so we missed it, but it snowed again on Tuesday. We got about 1/2 and inch, but it was really wet slushy, nothing like y'all have been getting in the West, but snow nonetheless. When it snows here, the city shuts down. It snows so infrequently that it is not worth the effort and expense to do wide-scale snow removal, so they clear the routes to the hospitals then just sit tight till it melts which is usually by the next day if not that afternoon. Our Palestinian teacher canceled class because he was ill and it would have been difficult for him to drive here from Bethlehem on the slick roads. The Arabic students didn't have Arabic for similar reasons with their teacher, so we got a half-snow day since we still had the classes taught by the teachers that live here with us. It was bittersweet because we had all this free time, but there was a storm raging outside so we all stayed in. Most caught up on homework or vegged around watching movies and enjoying a break. I did a little of both.

Today we had a field trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum. It is a beautiful and fairly new facility. It's a very sobering place as you may expect, but I liked it and I'd like to go back. We had a 3 hour tour and felt like we hardly saw anything. Some Holocaust museums focus on the brutality of it, some on the graphic stories of individuals, but this one I felt like really memorializes the people, as both group and as individuals. They do outline the brutality and do focus on individuals to illustrate what happened, but the focus felt like it was all in memorial so that people as individuals will never be forgotten. After a sack lunch we toured Mt. Herzl which has a lot of things around it that basically commemorate the Zionist movement. Once again, it was cold. Like every other field trip all semester. (Note: it was 60+ degrees on Sunday) But the field trip was good one regardless, like every other field trip.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Everyday Life

I realized I never posted anything about everyday life here at the JC. The Jerusalem Center is located on Mount Scopus, which the northern extension of the Mount of Olives. Since it sits up on a hill it has one of the best views (if not the best view) of Jerusalem. Since it is on the side of a mountain it is terraced to follow the slope. This allows for picture windows overlooking the city in nearly every room of the building. It also conveniently lets in lots of natural light, thus saving significantly on electricity bills I would wager. Since it is terraced, this also means there are a lot of stairs to get anywhere. Good thing I already have such buff legs from walking up the never-ending stairs to campus for 1 1/2 years... ha. The top (8th) floor has the main entrance, the library, and the big auditorium. The 7th floor has the offices of the teachers, directors, and other staff as well as access to the forum, or the smaller auditorium used mostly for classes. The 6th floor contains the most important room of all: the cafeteria, or the Oasis as it is formally named. All the classrooms, computer lab, and study and student lounge rooms are also on this floor. The remaining 5 levels are dormitory rooms. I live on the 4th floor. The dorm rooms are all open-air access and my room is down at the end of the hall, so it's a project hurrying to and from the main building when it is raining and the marble floors are slick with rain! No spills yet luckily.

There are four students to a room. Each room has the beds and storage area for all of us and room to spare since we couldn't bring much with us anyway. We also have our own bathroom which is convenient. My roommates are Bethany Whittington from Portland, Bethany Romero from San Diego, and Bekah DeMordant from Boise. I'm the oldest which is weird. It doesn't make me feel old, it just makes the other girls seem really young. Our rooms also have a porch and a personal view of the city. I like to peek out the curtains early in the morning right after I get up, to make sure the city is still there, or to remind myself of where I am or something. The city lights are still on, but the buildings are just starting to glow as the sun gets close to rising.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Catch Up

So I'm behind on this, and even more behind in my journal. I'm only through the second day of the Egypt trip! EEK! I have written since on selected days, but it is just taking me a while since I feel like I have to detail everything. Now I finally have some time to catch up on my personal stuff.

The week after we got home from Egypt we had two more field trips. The first one was a half day to Jericho. We got to visit a monastery that is on the side of the Mount of Temptations, the traditional spot of Jesus' fast and subsequent tempting by Satan. It is literally built into the side of a cliff. The other field trip focused on the Judges from the Old Testament, so we went to the five main valleys that connect the coastal plains to the mountain ridge where Jerusalem is located. It was fun to think that we get to just cruise around Israel. Who does that? I've updated my photos from the trips in the Jerusalem #2 album. On Sunday I went to the Rockafeller Museum in east Jerusalem and saw a lot of cool archaeological stuff about things we have been learning about.

My birthday was last Monday and I had a great day. My roommate made my bed for me and I got a card signed by all the students. I spent the morning with friends at the zoo and that was really fun. The weather was beautiful and warm! Then we spent some time in the Jewish market before walking home across town. I took the route through the Old City and got myself a birthday present: leather "Jesus" sandals that I have been eying since before Egypt. When I got back to the center my birthday packages from mom had arrived! I called home while I opened them. I got just what I wanted: eye makeup remover, ranch dressing, gummy bears, a laptop case and a few other wonderful things. I got lucky and we even had cake for dessert at dinner. And by cake I mean "cake", but it was more like cake as I know it than I've had in other places around this part of the world. It actually had sweetness to it! It was a good day and I felt good too.

The rest of the week didn't fare so well. I kinda wore myself out on my birthday and I didn't feel so well the next day. I'm in recovery though and each day I'm feeling better. It helped that it was rainy for a lot of the rest of the week so I didn't have to feel bad that I was missing out on nice weather. I had lots of schoolwork to keep me busy. We had a midterm today in our Jewish studies class and lots of other reading to do for other classes. I did pretty well on the test and spent most of the day getting ahead with other work. That about catches things up on this end. Hope you all had a very happy Valentine's day!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Another Casualty

So most everybody got sick before or during our Egypt trip. Only one case was because of eating unsafe food (to my knowledge). It's just a nasty cold that is passing around striking the students and teachers alike. I was quite triumphant to not have even so much as a sniffle since arriving in Jerusalem.... until yesterday. I've been struck. Fever, chills, aches, pressure in the head-- the whole bit. I feel like someone who went through the battle without a scratch, then died of disease afterward. It's really bad timing because we get nearly two days of free time between today and tomorrow. I think I'll spend it in bed trying to muster up enough strength to do something fun for my birthday tomorrow. Did I mention the bad timing?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

“Welcome in Egypt!”

This is how my friend was greeted as he passed through the last checkpoint at the border to Egypt. Yes I am back, and yes it was amazing!

Day 1: We left Jerusalem and headed south to Tel Beersheba. Next we stopped at Ben-Gurion’s grave and the Wilderness of Zin (or Sin) overlook. The Wilderness of Zin is one of the areas the children of Israel wandered during those 40 years. We ended the day with a stop at Kibbutz Yotvata. We had a tour of the place, then continued to the town of Elat where we stayed the night at the Kibbutz Eilot.

Day 2: We left early for the Taba border crossing. There are usually problems at the border, but we were blessed and all went just fine and we got through in record time for this program. They don’t plan anything else this day because the border is so unpredictable. We drove though Sinai to Cairo and as we neared the west side we got our first glimpse of the Pyramids. We stayed in Giza in a really nice hotel.

Day 3: We started the day with a visit to the Pyramids of Giza. They are as cool as you’ve imagined, but bigger. We got to go inside Khufu’s pyramid (the biggest one) down to the burial chamber. They don’t allow pictures inside unfortunately. Then we went up the hill and all got to have a camel ride. Forget any pre-conceived notion you have ever had about Egyptian weather—it can get cold. And windy. I don’t know what it is but we have nasty weather wherever we have gone. It rained while we were at Yotvata, and they only get rain about once a year. I just wanted to let you know why we are bundled up in most of our pictures. We also went to Saqqara and saw the Step Pyramid of Zoser (or Djoser). We visited a papyrus factory and a jewelry bazaar where we were able to purchase cartouche pendants. That night we flew down to Luxor. I unfortunately got a migraine and got pretty nauseous and could not fully appreciate it, but thankfully I was better by morning.

Day 4: We took carriages to Karnak and then to Luxor Temple first thing in the morning. After lunch we took a boat ride out onto the Nile. We were supposed to go out on falukas, boats kind of like sailboats, but it was too windy (at least it wasn’t raining!). We went out on motorized boats instead and it was still fun. In the evenings we'd go bargain for souvenirs at the nearby markets. We're getting pretty good at it too!

Day 5: We crossed over to the west side of the river to visit the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatshepsut’s temple, and Ramses III’s temple. After lunch we took boats back across to take camel rides though the countryside. That night we took the overnight train back to Cairo.

Day 6: Back in Cairo we first went to Memphis where we saw a giant statue of Rameses II. We also visited one of the oldest mosques in Egypt, then went to the Egyptian museum. The museum was awesome and I go to see King Tut’s gold, mummies of many kings, and other cool stuff I learned about in art history. Next we went to lunch at the Hard Rock Café and it was great to finally sink my teeth into a real American-style hamburger! We rounded up the evening with a drive though Cairo and an excursion to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar, an open-market that dates back to medieval times.

Day 7: We went to Muhammad Ali’s Mosque which is huge and beautiful! It had the best view of the city of Cairo. Then we left Cairo and headed back to Sinai.

Day 8: Our day started very early at 2 am. All those able (and not sick, which were many) gathered and climbed Mount Sinai. We watched the sunrise from the top. It was pretty cold up there at 7000+ feet above sea level, but I was all right under my 6 layers! I’m still sore, but it was totally worth it and a lot of fun. That was the most beautiful day of the whole trip. After coming down off the mountain we gathered for a lecture on the Ten Commandments. After brunch we took off for the Taba border and then home via the Dead Sea shore. In that one day I saw the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia (across the gulf), Jordan (also across the gulf and Dead Sea), and Israel. Wow!

I've included a link to a map of the areas we traveled. You can find on it most of the towns I've mentioned. For the couple not included: Taba and Yotvata are next to Elat, and we crossed the Suez Canal at Ismailia. Mount Sinai is south-central Sinai Peninsula.

This is a big post, but it was a big trip and I edited details heavily. Look at my pictures and you’ll be able to see and read a lot more of the specifics of where we went. My favorite part of the trip was seeing so many things that I have learned about in school all my life. They really do exist! As much fun as Egypt was, I’m glad to be back home in Jerusalem where I can drink the water, eat the fresh fruits and veggies, use the restroom for free, and flush my toilet paper!

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