Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Garden Tomb

So I didn’t have time to blog yesterday cause I was out having too much fun! HA! I don’t feel bad at all. We had classes in the morning and then almost the entire day off so that we could get ready to go to Egypt. I was going to do some homework but…I mean how much fun is that? And Moon had left her wallet in West Jerusalem the day before so we used that as an excuse to go play a little. We decided to go to the open market and get some dried fruit and candy and things for the Egypt trip because the food there is…well…sketchy at best. The entire city was REALLY busy because everyone was getting ready to party on Shabbat, and so it was hard to even walk through all the people, but it made things a little more interesting. After picking up some supplies and then making our way back though rapping Jewish men and awesome shopping-cart-riding-singing men…we called a taxi and came back to the center.
After dinner (which I randomly fell asleep for an hour before), I started some laundry (and may or may not have accidently flooded the room…woops…) and then went to play some games with kids from the center. Let me just say that Sardines on the Jerusalem Center grounds is way cooler than Sardines back home. About half way through the first game, I remembered my laundry and rushed down to pull it out. Only problem was they had locked the door an hour early! Anyway this is getting way too detailed, I”ll give you the summary: me, laundry room, my ipod and dancing. That’s basically how it went down – and no, I don’t know how to dance but I thought it would be cool to try, and I was alone anyway so it doesn’t really matter right? Then I spent the rest of the night running around the Center discovering some pretty cool secrets about the building, and chatting with good friends. (If you’re a JCite…no…I can’t tell you anymore secrets, it’s against the rules. Anyone else feel free to ask!)
Today we had Church which was every bit as amazing as it always is. We got to perform I Need Thee Every Hour in sacrament meeting, and the spirit was very strong. Afterwards we all set out for the Garden Tomb, another place people believe the tomb of Christ could have been located. What I appreciated about this place as opposed to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was that it was outside, and actually felt like it could have been the place Christ was buried. We had a guide tell us about the different parts of the Garden and Tomb area – an American Baptist preacher who had a lot of personality and flair – it was really neat to learn about everything and the evidence they have to support this place. The guide kept emphasizing, however, that it doesn’t really matter if we know the exact location of the events that transpired there or near by, what is more important is that it happened and that we have faith in how it can change our life. I realized that is how a lot of things are in this life: instead of worrying about all the little details that have only to do with mortality, we should instead worry about eternal implications of the actions of others and of ourselves. Anyway, that was a super neat experience which we ended in singing He is Risen, Christ the Lord is Risen, I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and How Great Thou Art. There were some Nigerian folks taking tours through the garden as well, and on How Great Thou Art they joined in singing, it was amazing to feel the fellowship we had with these brothers and sisters in the gospel. I’m so grateful for all these experiences!
Well I guess that’s it for now! My computer isn’t going with me to Egypt so I guess I’ll just have to keep an amazing journal and fill you guys in when I get back! Look forward to an EXTRA long blog then!!! Love you all

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dance Party Ya!

Today we had lots of classes again - they're trying to cram them all in before our trip to Egypt next week! After we got out of class a group of five of us decided to go out to the city and get a few supplies before the big trip. It took quite a bit longer than we expected, but we spent our time pretty efficiently I felt, and we got lots of good treats! No one wants to be getting sick in Egypt...we have a 12 hour bus ride home without any bathrooms...need I say more? After going to the city we just had dinner and then an evening of fun and games...even though it should have been studying!
I have some crazy cool roommates and awesome friends here, and we decided to throw a "flash dance" party in our room (it was all Moon's idea...if you don't understand I can explain - Moon is one of my roommates). We decided the dance party would be from 9:45 until 10:00, and we'd go crazy! It was SO much fun. Not long enough that everyone got tired of it and didn't have any fun, but long enough that everyone could get in to it! We were making so much noise we had girls from the floor under us coming up to see what was going on - the Branch President even showed up! We thought we were going to get in trouble but all he said was "you girls have got to stop!...wait until I can go get my camera!" It was awesome! :D Well that's all for tonight!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kotel Tunnels!!!

Sorry I haven't written in a few days (I'm sure everyone is actually a little relieved because I always write so much!), there's just been a lot of studying and not much sight seeing going on! Today, however, we had a scheduled tour first thing this morning at the Kotel Tunnels. I mentioned visitng the Western Wall last Shabbat, and the Kotel Tunnels are right near this site. I'm going to try to explain this the best I can, but I'm not sure if it'll make much sense, so maybe the pictures will help! Basically when the temple at Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, the retaining walls surrounding the temple complex were also torn to pieces and turned in to piles of rubble - except the Western retaining wall. There is a portion that is still visible above ground (the Western Wall I talked about before), but the rest is buried. This happened because the next civilization to come build a new city replacing Jerusalem decided that instead of building on the old city of Jerusalem (which sat right next to the Western Wall), they would build arches on top of the city to create a more stable foundation, and then build their city on top of that. These arches started out from the Wall and then continued outward covering much of the Old City. Because they built several levels of arches that ended up being as high as the Wall itself, it leveled out the city streets with the very TOP of what used to be the Western Wall - making the Wall nonvisible from the streets. I hope that made at least a little sense! The Isralei's here have started an excavation project that winds through all these underground arches, and reveals portions of the actual wall as it existed in the time Christ lived! It's really quite an amazing thing, and has been one of my favorite activities so far! So that was really neat and I learned quite a lot as well!
After that we came back to the center, and I joined my committee in starting one the projects we're heading up. Everyone here is put on a committee so that they can be involved, and the one I was assigned to is the Humanitarian Aid/Community Service committee. At first I was a little skeptical about what I was going to be doing, but now I'm EXTREMELY excited! BYU has relations with a center for disabled children here called the Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children. Kids who have cerebal palsy, hearing and vision impairments, mental handicaps, and all sorts of other disorders are able to come here to have schooling with other more "normal" children, and also have supplemental help. The mothers of these disabled children also come to classes with them, and are taught the best way to cope with the handicaps, and the best ways to help the children progess. The center was founded in 1987 by a woman named Betty Majaj, who herself gave us the tour of the center. She is quite an amazing woman and was named one of the 12 women of peace in a book: Making Their Own Peace: 12 Women of Jerusalem by Ann Madsen, one of the members of our church, it's quite the accomplishment! We're going to be able to assist children in learning, play with them, help with water therapy exercises, and maybe even paint a mural to represent our group on one of the walls. I can tell this is going to be one of the best experiences and I'll keep you updated more as I'm able to spend time there!
Thanks for enduring another long blog post! I'm glad you're all able to share in these experiences with me, I miss you all lots!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

En Kerem

So today was incredible. The center gave us an entire day off to go see whatever we felt like, and they’re really pretty trusting so we get to explore and go as far as our shekels will take us. I usually don’t plan to go in the groups I end up with, and today I wanted to spend a good amount of time studying, but after hearing everyone’s plans I just couldn’t resist going out myself. One of the bigger groups of students decided to leave at 7:30, right after breakfast, and head out to the Haddasah Hospital, a Medical school where there were some beautiful stained glass windows, called the Chagall Windows, each representing one of the tribes of Israel. And then we started down to En Kerem (or something like that…) which is the supposed place of John the Baptist’s birth. We actually got lost a few times on the way down, but it was all good cause a nice local guy helped us find our way. When we finally got there, I was surprise, while the church itself wasn’t really large like many of the others, it was located in the most quaint town I’ve ever visited. The streets were so beautiful, cobblestone roads lined with little cottage style homes, flower pots lining the window seals and freshly washed laundry hanging from the balconies. You think I’m exaggerating but I’m not, I told everyone that from now on when I was having a bad day, those streets would be my “happy place”. After we visited there we were supposed to go up to the Church of All Nations, but my group got a little lost because we were at the tail end (my roommate and I usually are because we’re in the back taking pictures of everything we see), and we got stuck back in an ultra orthodox Jewish convent. It was extremely beautiful as well, and we were the only ones there so it was like visiting a ghost town. When we found out we were supposed to be there, however, we got a little panicky until the Monk managing things just told us to jump the fence. It was so funny! By that time it was a little too late to see the Church of All Nations, so we just decided to stop by a local gelato shop…best decision of the day! The gelato was amazing! I thought it was cookie dough flavored…but it had some kind of chocolate candy bar thing in it, and it was to DIE for. Ok I’m not gonna lie…I had two of ‘em. After that we were all pretty exhausted so we called a taxi and headed home! The evening was pretty chill, we just studied a lot and ate dinner, followed by more studying and then ultimate classic…the Prince of Egypt! The people here are just so amazing and everyday I spend with them I have more fun and love it even more! I’m so lucky and grateful to be here, and I know the Lord has hand picked every person here for a reason. Thanks for all the love and support!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Garden

So I wish I would've written yesterday but I was too tired after our crazy night out! Luckily I've got my journal next to me so I can keep you all updated :D The beginning of the day was super boring cause we had four hours of class - and only two classes. The information was really good, but it's really hard to sit that long, and it didn't help that I was really tired. It was nice though, after class I took a three hour long nap, and was almost late to the information meeting prior to going to the Western Wall (otherwise known as the Wailing Wall). My roommates were still sleeping too, so at the last minute we all rushed upstairs and listened to Professor Skinner give us some history so we'd know what we were going to see; some of the remaining portions of the original retaining wall that surrounded Herod's temple in Christ's day. It's a very holy site for many people, most especially those of the Jewish faith. Because it was Friday night, it meant the beginning of Shabbat and so many Jews were at the Western Wall at sunset to begin worshiping. The wall is surrounded by a plaza where people were greeting each other and talking together, and then there are different sides for men and women to worship, and so we all had to split up. (They're afriad if the men are with women they won't be able to concentrate very well, and so men engage in singing and dancing, and the women are only allowed to do the same when their sound level is less than the mens. It's kind of hard to explain and a strange concept but I guess I can see where they're coming from!) Each of the girls wrote a prayer on a piece of paper and went and put it in the Wall, and afterwards we met some Jewish girls from Los Angeles who explained to us a lot about what the Wall meant to them, and why they are here in Jerusalem. It was neat because while they weren't really practicing Jews, they're all here to learn more about their heritage and traditions, and we found a lot more in common with them than I expected. After that we joined a different group of girls who were singing and dancing traditional Hebrew songs; it was a lot of fun. This group had traveled to Jerusaelm for their Birthright (a similar journey as the other girls we'd met), and at first they couldn't figure out where we had all come from and why all of a sudden there were lots more girls than they started out with, but after a minute the leaders kind of laughed and formally invited us to continue singing. It was kind of an awkward but funny situation. The experience was really incredible in a lot of ways, it was fun to get involved in the Jewish faith, and it was also neat to see how devout the Jewish people are.
Today we had church again, which was amazing as usual. It's neat to have such a close group of friends and be able to share all kinds of experiences with them. Afterwards about half of us headed over to the Garden of Gethsemane (it was the first time there for me). We walked through Orson Hyde Park to get there, and I was amazed by the beauty of the trees and the view that we had of the Old City walls. Me and a few others were at the tail end of the group, and as we were taking pictures in front of the gate leading in to the Garden, one of the gardners let us in to a locked off portion that wasn't publicly accessible, and about five of us got to spend time in an area all by ourselves. I wrote in my journal and took a few pictures; it was an incredible experience I'm excited to have again soon! I just want you all to know how grateful I am for my Savior and hope that even if you're not here with me you can feel the power of the things I'm experiencing through what I write. Thanks for all your support and sorry if I write way too much sometimes!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A demonstration

Hey! So I haven't posted in a few days because not a ton has been going on, but I thought it was about time to update you guys. (Ok so really I did a lot yesterday but was so tired after I didn't post and...well yeah). Like...two days ago? The city was closed and so we just stayed in and studied most the day, but in the evening we had a member of the church living here in Jerusalem who works for the U.S. embassy come speak to us. He explained the situation going on in Gaza right now, and gave us a great, simple, easy to understand history about everything. (I took a lot of notes and I know this is kinda nerdy but if anyone wants to read them let me know and I'll send em to ya!) So that was really good and educational, I felt so much smarter afterwards. And then yesterday we had field trips all day! We visied sites like Beth-el, where Jacob had his famous ladder dream and where Samuel heard the voice of the Lord. And we went to shepherds fields and looked out to where Bethelehem is - the world of the Old Testament is really a lot smaller than I imagined it to be. I wish I could remember everything I learned about, I need to take better notes next time, because I never realized how many amazing experiences happened in such a small amount of space! One of the places we stopped was on the Mount of Olives, from which we had a great view of the Garden of Gethsemane. I haven't been able to visit there yet, but I'm really excited to. Along with visiting these places, we were able to visit a few other cathedrals and churches. Thats where a few of the pictures come from! Today after we got out of classes (we only had two hours), some of us decided to go shopping in the Old City again. This time I actually bought a few things, but I'm trying to be really careful because I still have so long to shop and have fun! I think the highlight of today was eating lunch outside of the center. We had a burrito like wrap called Schwarma - and I fell in love instantly! I'm probably going to be having lunch outside the center all too often. I've also fallen in love with a candy bar called a Bueno bar - there's nothing to even compare it to in the United States! Maybe if you're luck I'll bring you one home ;) After we had done a couple hours of shopping, the center called one of the girls in my group on her cell phone, and told us there was a demonstration going on outside of one of the gates in to the Old City, and that we were to leave the city immediately. These things usually aren't any harm at all, just extra precautions the center makes - I just wish I see one so I could photograph it! (Which is totally against the rules by the way). Anyway! Sorry for blabbing on for so long. That's whats been going on in the Holy Land!

Monday, January 12, 2009

School is the same...

So today was kind of a slow day if you ask me. We had our first day of language classes (Hebrew for me and Arabic for many others), so that was interesting. My professor is a very energetic woman who seems to be perfect for many of the students here. She's very positive and tells us that Hebrew is easy! English is hard. I'm excited to learn because I think it will help me interpret the scriptures better too! After classes I was just planning on studying, but a big group of people decided to go visit the Rockefeller Museum...and what can I say - I'm easily persuaded. And besides! I decided if a lot of people were going today then they wouldn't be going later and...I dont' want to miss out on anything while I'm here! The museum was really neat, they claimed to have things dating back almost 200,000 years! (And no that's not an extra 0, I double checked!) It's weird for me to think of things being that old...the concepts many people have are different from mine lol. But yeah it was interesting and all, and afterward I just...studied a lot more! The director says that this is the most studious group he's ever seen, and that's saying a lot because he's almost done here and has seen several semesters of lots of students! I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing though - lol we're supposed to experience while we're here! But anyway I guess tonight is not very exciting - here's a few pictures anyway!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Old City

So today we were allowed out in to East Jerusalem and the Old City for the first time since our orientation. As an extra precaution we were to have five people in each group, and no one was supposed to be back after sunset - no one seemed to mind the extra restrictions because they were so excited to finally be able to go explore! My group decided to exchange our money for shekels at the very end so we weren't too tempted to shop - and we went exploring first! The Old City is beautiful in a very different way than most people would use the word, but I just love everything about it. The people are so interesting it's hard not to stop and just watch! One historical site we visited in between shopping was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I got some pretty amazing pictures inside, that's what one of the posts is. As we were nearing the end of shopping, it started to rain - and not just a little bit, as Aladdin the money changer said "raining not only cats...but dogs too!" (That's what the one picture is of - don't look too closely I LOOK like one of the wet dogs!! HAHA) There are may nice shopkeepers here who cater to the BYU students, and give them fair deals so it's fun to talk to them. The money changer even has a whole wall dedicated for BYU students to leave notes when they leave for future groups. It's funny how they really can tell we're from BYU, I'm sure it's our clothes and skin color, but I like to think it may be in small part due to the light President Faust says is found in many of the students eyes. Well anyway! I guess that's it for today. We have a dinner tonight and then opening of the snack bar party - and as for me...I gotta hit the books! Oh and p.s. MIKE! The fire engine picture is for you!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


SHALOM!! Hey everyone! So I know it's Saturday but we are just finishing up our first "Sunday" in Jerusalem. Over here the locals practice sabbath on Saturday, and it is one of the only areas in the world where the First Presidency has given the church permission to hold church meetings on the same day as the culture in the surrounding area. It was kind of weird at first but I guess I don't really have my sense of time back anyway - so it didn't really bother me. There is actually a branch here in Jerusalem, and they meet in the Center. There are only about sixteen members total - most of which work for the US consulate here in Jerusalem, and so are Americans. There is one lady from England who has a wonderful accent, and a Palestinian woman as well. We didn't get to hear much of the her story, but what we did hear was pretty amazing. She grew up here (in Bethlehem), and got baptized when she moved away to study at a university. She then moved back to this area, because she is working for the U.N., although she is not allowed to live in Jerusalem anymore because of her choice to become a member of the church. She has a special pass that allows her in to the city because of where she works, but even then sometimes she is denied access - she barely made it to church today. There have been, in the past, months and years where she wasn't allowed to go to church at all, and yet she has remained strong on her own, and is an amazing example for her people. She taught the Relief Society lesson today and I was very impressed with the amount she knew and how well she was able to convey her message.

Church was amazing not only because of her lesson and story, but for other reasons as well. We have a choir here that almost all the students participate in, and we held our first practice and preformance today (kind of funny that they were on the same day, I know). We hold church in the Auditorium which houses a beautiful organ and has windows that look out right on to the city. (You can see a picture of the organ and then of the city from the auditorium). The branch members all come here and stay around the center until dinner time (they don't have lunch on Shabbat, and so they wait about three hours until we eat). After sacrament meeting and the musical number, we all had Sunday School together in a dome topped building, and it was probably the most spiritual lesson I've ever attended. Everyone participated, and the lesson took off in a direction I'm not sure even the teacher anticipated.
Anyway! Things are going really well over here, sorry to ramble on for so long. I hope everyone is doing well at home and enjoying themselves as much as I am! Thanks so much for the support - love you all.

Friday, January 9, 2009

So this is an amazing picture of me and my roommates on our first day of school! How cool is that?! Haha. I know that I look SUPER nerdy but that's ok cause we just figured our moms wouldn't want to miss out on that just because we were in Jerusalem. We had Old Testament classes today as well as an Ancient Near Eastern studies class, both of which were very interesting. The professors here are amazing and you can tell they love the people and the students a great deal. Because our travel and study are integrated, we get to learn so much more than just doing one or the other - I couldn't imagine it any other way! After classes we went and played around a little bit, and took some more pictures of the city and of ourselves in the traditional Middle Eastern dress. I think we fit in quite well!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A city divided

So we just took our first tour of the city of Jerusalem. It's divided in to two parts - East and West, and then contained in East Jerusalem is the "Old City". Right now as an extra precaution we're not allowed in to East Jerusalem because it is Palestinian occupied and with recent conflicts is a bit more dangerous - this makes things difficult because that's where most the shops are located! I guess this is bad for my camera and good for my wallet right? Well anyway, with a tour guide we were allowed today to see most everything, and let me tell you there is a LOT to see. It's fun to see all the shops and different people there are, but more amazing are all the historical sites that are just right next door. The Dome of the Rock and the Temple of the Holy Sepulcher are only a few. It's also interesting to see how the people change so drastically from East to West Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is occupied by Palestinians (like I said before), and West Jerusalem is more occupied by Jewish people. Their life styles are very different and this becomes evident in the places they live and the shops they keep. It'll be neat to learn more about this! I was telling some of the others here that I can't imagine coming here and not having the opportunity to learn like we do from our classes - it will make the experiences so much more meaningful. Well anyway its off to lunch now! More later

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Twenty-four hours and three nasty airplane meals...

Hey everyone!! Ok so the good news is I made it in one piece - the bad news is that I am VERY tired. I guess that's to be expected after nearly 24 hours of straight travel! It's worth it though because the center is the most beautiful place I've ever been in my entire life. There are balcony's and windows that line most of the building and look out on the city of Jerusalem...I know this is supposedly a place of war but I've never felt more peace just from looking at a city. The evening started out with dinner and then an introduction of all the professors, after which we got to take a tour of the center and see all the different areas. It's amazing to me that this place is nearly 20 years old because it is so well preserved it looks like it was built yesterday! Anyway I'm very tired so I think I'll take off and get some rest but look for some pics and more updates later!