Friday, February 27, 2009

Just another week in paradise...

So I think I'll just do highlights for the week again - sound good to everyone?
1. Last Sunday (which to me always feels like Monday because we have our sabbath meetings on Satrudays...but anyway). We set out, in the rain, to an Italian Israeli Artifact Museum/Synagogue. It was kind of an odd combination of purposes for a room, but it worked out pretty well. There were some pretty old pieces of woodwork (some dated back to the 1500's), so that was pretty awesome. It was fun to wander around, but my favorite part was probably the man who worked at the front desk - I probably should have asked his name but unfortunately I didn't. He was really friendly and joked around with us a lot. Something that I've not done that I want to do more, I realized after this, is just talk more with the local people here, and learn from them. After all, they are the ones that know the most about this area, and I can learn from the culture by being in it!
2. I also bought my olive wood this week, the next day (Monday) actually. I got a beautiful nativity set that I love! As well as a statue of Christ that looks a lot like the "O Jerusalem" pose that Greg Olsen painted.
3. FHE - the same day as the olive wood actually. I have a pretty sweet family, and we decided for this week we'd play Around the World Pingpong. I did pretty well the first round, I actually got it down to where it was just me and two...or maybe three of the guys - but they got me out.
4. Went to the Princess Basma Center for Disabled children again (Tuesday), although this time it wasn't a tour, instead we were there to help the children. The only problem was that it was the last day for many of the children and their mothers to be participating in the program, so they were out in the Old City at the Dome of the Rock for the day, so that meant there were only two children left at the center. One was a young boy , I belive his name was Hassef, who was blind and had a syndrome problem as well (I think probably down syndrome). It was really sad because his mother had to be constantly holding him, he was so restless, and she also had to constantly wipe the spitup from his mouth (he had to be fed every two hours because of the rate of his fluid loss). The next little girl's name was Raneen, and she was a bedouin child who had a hard time interacting with other children. We played Legoes with her and tried to get her to talk to us, but it was pretty difficult, it was nice to spend time with the kids though, I really enjoy them a lot! I can't wait to go back again.
5. Then next day (Wednesday) we went to Hezekiah's Tunnel, which has been one of my favorite field trips so far (I think I probably always say that). We started out with a video (one in 3D!! Super cool), that showed the way the City of David looked during Christ's time, and the conversion to how it looks now. We were able to see the ruins from King David's palace, as well as walk through Hezekiah's tunnel itself. The tunnel was used to bring water from the more plentiful part of the city down to the bottom - and it collected at the Pool of Siloam. It's still filled with water and so we got to slosh through it all to the very bottom, where we talked more about the Savior and the man that he cured of blindness at the Pool of Siloam. It was a really fun experience because we talked and sang Disney songs all through the tunnel, and then we got to have a spiritual experience as well.
6. Volleyball that night, ok so we didn't really play a game, it was more like Elyse, Matt, Moon and I messing around trying to pretend like we knew what we were doing. Four people honestly isn't enough to have a full game of volleyball anyway - right? Maybe that can be our excuse. What ended up happening was Moon, Matt and Elyse spent some time laughing at me as I "practiced my hops" (in other words tried to figure out how the heck someone who is 5'3" is supposed to spike the ball).
7. The Seder dinner (Thursday) So our awesome Judaism teacher, the same one who accompanied us to Mt. Herzl, came to the center and assisted us in putting on our own Seder dinner! It was pretty long, and the food was - well - the main course tasted pretty regular but I wouldn't recommed bitter herbs on a regular basis. The best part about this was everyone got to particpate in something if they wanted to, so we had students participating in everything from singing the traditional songs, to the reading of the Haggaddah itself. I helped set up for the dinner, and then was one of the narrarators, so I sat right next to Ophir and his son, Shimei (I'm not sure if that's how you spell his name...but that's ok). Shimei was quite the character - especailly for a four year old! I was really impressed with how smart he is, and as soon as he warmed up to me he was more than willing to jabber my ear off. He told me the entire story of the Passover (complete with how much he hates the "bad guy Pharaoh"), and then had me hold up, in the middle of the program, each page of pictures from his Haggaddah to all the students at the dinner. I also had the great opportunity to take him to the bathroom...four times. Yep, four times! He had the system worked out pretty well, he'd say he had to go to the bathroom and start jumping up and down, but then really he'd just run in real quick, and go explore after - making it quite a while before we could return to the dinner! He was really smart and lots of fun too
8. Edek Refadim St. (Friday) So we had some classes and things this day, but then I was able to go with a few other students to this awesome part of the West part of Jerusalem. The reason we went was for a cute jewelry shop, but we had a lot of fun wandering around the rest of the area as well. There are a lot of neat cafe's and shops, so we want to go back when it isn't raining so hard. It was a neat discovery though!
9. Humanitarian Aid/Elder Neuwenshwander: We're lucky right now to have many guests from the church Humanitarian Aid leadership for the area staying with us - one of whom is Elder Neuwenshwander (I don't really know how to spell his name - sorry!) We were lucky enough to hear from him in a fireside on Friday night, and then again in Sacrament meeting for Shabbat! It was a lot of fun to hear his takes on Humanitarian Aid and the things that we've been doing here, as well as his testimony of the Savior. He even came and atended one of the sessions of creating Hygeine kits and boxing them - that was really neat as well. I'm really glad we've had this opportunity to serve while we've been here.
10. Bodyball!! Ok so I don't think the creation of this game was intentional - but it's pretty awesome! Basically you try to get an exercise ball to hit one of the pads that line the end of the gymnasiums, without the other team knocking it out. It's kind of confusing, but lots of fun to play. You can use your entire body to move the ball back and forth across the court, and everytime you hit it you have to make some kind of intimidating yell at the other team. Another plus is it's quite the workout! (You should ask Elyse how she likes bodyball...or maybe you should ask Bryan...I'm not really sure).
11. Studying for finals. So the way the classes are set up here, we have to take a lot of our finals halfway through the course, so we can start the next course (which builds on the last). I guess the only ones that really do that are our field trip class and our religion classes..but yeah - that's pretty much all I've been doin today! Studying for finals! I got so lost in homework that Moon even made a movie about me being lost and how worried she was! Stay tuned for more details.

So I'm headed out to Jordan tomorrow early and that's why I wanted to get this post out before I left! Sorry there's not any pics but I'll add some when I get back!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quite the plethora of events...

I've known since I got here how blessed I am to have the opportunity to be here, but it wasn't until last week when the new director, Brother Brown, gave us a fireside about the history of the building that I came to truly appreciate the opposition that the church faced in the construction of the center, and the value that they place on the center as a learning opportunity for students. President Kimball picked the land plot in 1978, even though it was not for sale, and many people said it wouldn't be possible. They thought they could have the land plot secured in 6 weeks - but it wasn't until 18 months later after much difficulty with various organizations all around Jerusalem they were given the ok to go. The bottom part of the building sits on an Israeli "green zone", meaning no one is allowed to build there, and the top part had to be below a certain height because of the Lutheran group that holds a piece of land with a magnificent view of the city above us. Against all the opposition that came to the center, they began construction and tried to think of ways to pay back the local society for taking up a piece of land on their beloved Mt. Scopus - and came up with the idea to grant 10 Palestinian students every semester a full-ride scholarship to BYU (incidently one of the Palestinain members of hte branch here attended BYU on this scholarship several years ago). The construction company that started building the center was told they'd never build in Israel again - and now the "Mor Company" (as they've named themselves..."Mormon") has been in charge of construction of the Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry Building, and many other promiment places. Brother Brown said "Even with the enormous opposition - the center went on."
He informed us that the center was to bring the city in to the building. The corridors are cobblestone, and are covered in some places and uncovered in others - reflecting the atmosphere of the Old City and the shopping areas that are also sporadically covered. The architects also wanted the building to "live" and "breathe" along with the land, and an important part of that was bringing light in to the building - thus the many windows and beautiful arches. You can feel the life of the building through the changing light throughout the day. The brethren even declared the building temple quality. My favorite quote of the night was "This is a place that holds the Lord's eye, His eye is upon this place." The night was really incredible, and made my appreciation for the center grow even more - if that's possible.
The next day was pretty incredible as well, we got to visit the Holocaust Museum of Israel called Yad Vashem. This was quite an emotional experience, that I'm not sure I was ready for. We learned so much about the Jewish people and their experience through the Holocaust, it's incredible to me what they had to go through, and how seemingly ignorant the rest of the world was. One of the most powerful quotes I recorded from the Museum was by a member of the Jewish community of Germany (at least...I'm pretty sure that's who it was, sorry for the uncertainty), anyway, it said "Tomorrow we will be heading towards the Great Unknown in full awareness and at peace. If we are meant to live, all the better; and if not,..." I can't imagine living in that kind of fear. At the end of the museum tour which was filled with awesome pictures and video clips, we entered a memorial for the children who died during the Holocaust - all 1.5 million. It was built by a Jewish couple who survived the concentration camps, while their 5 year old son did not. Inside was only a few - probably less than 5 - candles that were reflected thousands of times off of many mirrors. The room was dark besides the light that eminated from the candles, and on a speaker a man read the names, hometown, and age of the children known who died echoed throughout the building. At the entrance were nine pictures of Holocaust victim children - it was really powerful. While Yad Vashem was definitely a great experience, almost as good was the experiences we had with our guide. He was from the states originally - a retired lawyer named Larry who is now living in the Holy Land and guiding tours both here and occasionally in Poland. He started asking all sorts of questions about our religion, and while at first they were things about population and more...demographic questions, they eventually switced to be more doctrinal, and we had to tell him we weren't at liberty to discuss that while here. It was so sad to me because it was such a great opportunity to share the gospel. One of the other students, Stephen, remarked at branch prayer tonight that their guide, a different lady, commented on the respectfulness of the Mormon students, and how even though she had led groups of Mormons through before, there really seemed to be something different about our group - just like President Faust she mentioned something in our eyes. It really gives me chills to know that we can have that kind of effect on people. It's such a great resonsibility too!
After Yad Vashem we met our Judaism teacher, Ophir, at Mt. Herzel, a site commemorating the establishment of Israel as a state. It was really neat to learn about this history as well, I really appreciate the fact that we're getting all sorts of history here, scriptural, political, and national. There was a group of young students here, as Ophir described them "playing army". I guess one thing they can do as Israeli older youth is learn about the state and about the army by participating in the army for a short period of time. It was fun to see that devotion and love of country as well.
That night we had a really fun volleyball tournament planned! My team (Rachael, Priscilla, and Jeff), the Cat's with Kippa's won our game, although it was close! Luckily for me I had the best fans on the side lines, my roommates came to cheer us on and even made a sign! It's always fun to have exciting things going on around the center, as well as the things we get to do outside!
The next day, Thursday, was pretty much all free! We decided to get a troup and go hit up a lot of the sites around the Old City we hadn't seen yet. The Chruch of Mary Magdalene was first on the list, because it's only open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. It was a beautiful building really close to the Garden of Gethsemane. Inside the artwork was unique and beautiful as well, that is one thing I really respect about other religions, I love the artwork that frequently adorns the places they worship. Josh, Miriam, Moon and I got a bit lost on the way - but we finally made it and met up with a bunch of other students. After that we decided to head in to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City for some PIZZA! (It'd been forever since I'd had some decent pizza so it sounded amazing). It's incredible how different the various quarters of the city can be. The Jewish Quarter is very clean, and the shops are more like mall stores than shacks. The pizza was really good, although we had to put up with a lot of hassling from an owner of a different pizza shop, who claimed his was much better and cheaper as well. (I tried both, he was wrong! ha).
The next landmark was the Dome of the Rock or the Temple Mount, depending on which religious group you're talking with. It was neat to come here because I hadn't yet, and it's a pretty key tourist spot. Moon and I played wheelbarrow with a few young boys who were wandering around the grounds, it was pretty fun! It reminded me a lot of my brothers and how much fun they are. I was taking some pictures of the beautiful Heidi when one of the security guards approached us and told us that we had upset some people (Heidi was advised by Moon to "loosen up" for pictures, and was perceived as having been dancing!) A fuming lady with a head scarf and a face the brightest shade of red I've ever seen came stomping up to us screaming in Arabic. At first I thought the guard was kidding - but it became obvious quickly that he definitely was not. We went to grab our things and he said to us again "You've got to be faster - it's time to go". So that was an interesting experience for sure! I guess we need to be more careful not to offend others here!
Dormition Abbey was also a lot of fun, a really beautiful chapel that contains a crypt which was the burial spot of Mary Magdalene. It was fun just exploring around this area as well, we got to see an awesome statue of King David, and also the room where the Last Supper took place (although it looked a little like they had done some restoration work to me ;) ). We had to hurry back because with all the rain the sky has been darkened with clouds and we didn't want to get back to the center too late. We were going to stop by Omar's on the way back, but we got lost on the way and so we just went straight back to the center!
The in center activity that night was volleyball as well as a ballroom dance class put on by Lara Mayfield. She and Matt Huff taught us all the ChaCha, and I'd have to say that for only having 17 guys for 63 girls...or something along those odds, we did pretty well for ourselves! And while the Cat's with Kippas didn't win our game that night, we still had a pretty good time - in fact I may have to pick up volleyball as a hobby!
Four hours of class were in store for us yesterday, and feeling pretty worn out from the activities of the night before and the long, late hours studying - after class I decided to nap. And by nap I mean...NAP big time. I slept from lunch until about 4:30, Miriam woke me up just in time to run out to catch our group as they were heading out. Our Judaism professor arranged for groups of 20 of us at a time to attend a Jewish Synagogue for Friday night Shabbat service, which was quite the experience! We arrived a few minutes early, dressed in what we would probably term as Sunday Casual. Ophir explained to us a little bit about the service and gave us copies of the songs that would be sang so that we could follow along and join in if we wanted. The services were held in a building that doubled as a scouting building, and was filled with metal folding chairs. It was partitioned in the middle with curtains to separate the men and the women. We took our seats, all the students kind of split up so that we could experience the meeting with other members of the synagogue surrounding us. The service was filled with singing different Psalms, all of which were in Hebrew, of course - and I was surprised at how great everyone sounded together. There was even a point during the service where women got up, grabbed hands with their neighbors, and danced around the perimeter of the chairs. (I'm pretty sure the men got to dance around even more than we did!) The purpose of the Friday night service is to welcome in Shabbat, which I think is really great because it shows they are truly grateful for Shabbat and the things it brings them. We picked Ophir up on the way to the service, but because of Jewish customs and beliefs he was not to ride home in a car, so we bid him goodbye at the door and jumped back in the vans. It was pretty cold so I was grateful we were able to ride home! The service was really beautiful and filled me, as frequently happens in this land, with spiritual envy for another religion. It makes me want to incorporate certain aspects of their religion in to my own beliefs.
Shabbat started out great - even before I got out of bed. It's been threatening to rain all week, and while we've got a few drops here and there, there hasn't been anything too substantial until last night. The thunder and lightening is even more impressive when it's viewed through the many windows in the building (I guess we're living with the building again). I woke up to the rain pounding on our window, and although I didn't really appreciate it then, I was able to in sacrament meeting. Like I've said before, we hold our meetings in the Auditorium, in which one entire wall is windows - the wall we face actually. The speakers today were framed by the storm - which was both incredible and awful. I'm sure those of you reading this know how much I love the rain, so while many of the students were a little sad at the implications of the rain on plans for the week, I was ecstatic. The best moment for me was when Kari, the most talented violinist ever, was playing a medley of There is a Green Hill Far Away, How Great Thou Art, and I Stand All Amazed, and behind here a great bolt of lightening struck, and not more than two seconds later lightening clapped. It was, to me at least, as if God himself was approving of the song and the circumstances. The line from the song How Great Thou Art kept sounding in my mind: " Shabbat here is so incredible, I feel, because it is spent the way sabbath days should be - totally focused on Christ and bringing oneself closer to Him. The great part is it's almost completely self motivated - which just shows the caliber of the students here - they're awesome! I look up to each of them so much.
Anyway, I feel bad for posting such a long blog but it's been a really incredible week and I can't not share with everyone. Thank you all for reading and keeping up with me, all your support and love is really important to me.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Just a few days later...

Well we've really done a lot in the past few days, but I guess I've just gotten out of the habit of blogging cause I sure haven't in a while! Maybe what I should do is just give a summary of events, and list some of the highlights, then I can continue my "regular blogging habits" and keep you all updated a little better! So the last time I blogged, I believe, was the political t-shirt day we go!

1. Pools of Bethesda (Thursday): This was pretty awesome, its the site where Christ told the man who had been waiting by the pool to be healed to get up and walk. What an incredible miracle! The ruins looked really legit, which is cool cause most stuff here is just a church built on top of a supposed site. The grounds surrounding the pools were very well groomed, and the church of St. Anne that was at the same site was really beautiful as well. Wandering around with Jeff and J.J. was a lot of fun because I got to know them both a bit better, and lets face it, who wouldn't want to do that? I'm pretty sure the best activity was when we all decided to freeze in front of a group of tourists. It was pretty hard not to smile or laugh, but we pulled it off well. The next most exciting thing was throwing rocks in to an old cistern - it was pretty dark so we couldn't really see how deep it was, but the rocks sure fell for a long time! (Oh, and that picture is of SNOW! I know it's not Utah snow's Jerusalem Hail/Snow)

2. Talent Show (also Thursday): So I was a little nervous about this at first because people were hesitant to sign up, but it turned out to be a GREAT show. There are so many talented people here, and it was awesome to be able to see them show that off for everyone. Talent shows have always inspired me, and so after this one I decided to make some goals for myself. One of the things I did with this was make my own "Bucket List" (I know it sounds cryptic but it's actually awesome). Goal #1 SKYDIVING. Don't worry, I remember I'm afraid of heights, it's just something I'm gonna have to get over.

3. Friday the 13th (Friday): Basically I don't need to go in to all the details about this day, because it really was kind of cursed! But it started off with Miriam spilling a LOT of toothpaste on herself (a lot sounds better than a little regardless of the true story), and then somewhere in between Moon happened to misplace a box of...give or take...20 brownie pastries, while at the same time losing her Diet Coke and getting some green makeup instead of black (trust me, it's a big deal). The redeeming event of this day was our Freaky Friday the 13th dance party. (I know...we sure do have a lot of dance parties, but if they're awesome you really can't hold back!) It was supposed to be a Valentines Day Dance, but lets face it - who wants one of those? This was lots better! Moon was the expert for all of our make-up, and she made us look pretty dang creepy. I was Joker from Batman (if you can't tell), and Miriam was some creepy doll thing. (IT?) Moon rocked the dead Indian look...and if I could go through everyone else I would cause there were some awesome costumes. Anyway, it ended up being a pretty good day

4. Shabbat (Saturday): I can't ever really say anything bad about Shabbat because they're always awesome. Sacrament meeting was sweet as usual, and then after all the girls noticed they had surprises on their door steps! The "JC Gentlemen", as they termed themselves, bought all the girls roses! Sweet huh? We thought it was pretty awesome. So after all the commotion from church meetings and flowers settled down, Miriam and I went downstairs to visit one of the service couple missionaries here, Brother and Sister Thomas. Sister Thomas used to be in the General Young Women's Presidency for the church, and we really want to learn as much from her and Brother Thomas as we can while we're here (and everyone else of course, we just decided to start here), so we asked them if we could come visit before dinner. They graciously agreed and so we got to visit with them for a while about how we liked things here, and some of their past experiences. It was really a great "Sunday" activity! That night we had a pretty good Valentines Ward prayer, in which several people got singing Valentines. The highlight of that had to be when President Allen dipped his wife and gave her a great Valentines Day kiss! We had a great game of signs going after that - you can never go wrong with JC signs! (That pic is Apartment 410 delivering Valentine Candy to the guys!)

5. Shopping and Touring (Sunday): So...yeah...I'm still pretty bad about this (don't worry Dad, I'm trying to budget better, and I'm getting better at it too!), but...basically this morning Miriam, Whitney, and Priscilla decided to go to Aladdin's to get some money for the next few weeks, we were running low on "sheks" (as we term them), so we set out for Aladdin's and then decided to stop by the t-shirt shop in the Old City. I probably mentioned this place before, but it's worth mentioning again so I will. It's htis awesome place where you can get t-shirts that have just about anything on them! You can pick the color and then the color of the logo, and voila! He makes them for you on the spot. We definitely have too much fun here. We had to hurry back to the center for the next event, so we ran back home - barely making it up the hill to get ready for the next event!

6. Ringing the bells at YMCA Tower (Sunday...again): About a week ago Emilie asked me if we'd like to join her and her roommates to go play the bells for all of Jerusalem, about 60,000 people, accompanied by Brother and Sister Squires. We agreed and were really excited about it, but then the day we planned for fell through because we had a schedueling change with classes. We re-scheduled for yesterday, and it was a good thing because this has been one of my most favorite things since! We all got to practice with a partner on an organ off to the side (only getting one run through), and then we were to play the bells for everyone to hear! It was pretty nervewracking, and kinda hard to get used to! Emilie and I made a great team, however, and I'm sure that no one was disappointed with our rendition of "Ode to Joy" (at least...I'm pretty sure that's the song we played!) Afterwards a group of us wandered through the city, stopping at some famous hotel...the name escapes me, I'll look it up later, and then to some Windmills and an Art Community. We meandered back through West Jerusaelm and finally got back to the center with a couple new skirts and a few pounds heavier from brownie pastries. Oh! And we also visited Omar this day, which was pretty neat - he's the man who does the incredible Mormon Olive Wood carvings you've probably heard about associated with Jerusalem. I'll try and post a picture or two once I pick one out! The rest of the night was spent studying for Ophir's quiz in Judaism class...ugh...

7. Ophir's quiz in Judaism class...ugh...(not to sound redundant ;) Today): So this was pretty much awful. It's ok though, I'm getting over it because you know what?! I'm learning! I just wish I had an awesome pic to post on here of my score like Chelsea does - good thinkin Chels!

8. Lounging around (Also today): So after that I basically...well...I wish I could tell you what I did! I think my brain needed a little bit of a breather, so that's what I gave it! (Don't know if it was the best choice or not, but regardless, that's what I did!). I took a nap, read a little bit of a book, called Dad...talked with some kids around the center - it was pretty great. Then after dinner we had FHE, which was awesome because it consisted of a great spiritual thought (provided by Team Start and the "Quote Book"), and then watching Anastasia and singing along! What a great family I have here - we always have lots of fun!

But basically that's been what's going on! I'm sorry I haven't been very good about updating, I'll be sure to keep on that and umm...I hope you're all doing well!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So I'm really sorry I didn't blog yesterday, not because everyone back home is dying to read my next post (that'd just be too cocky of me to assume), more because we had a pretty amazing day and I didn't share anything. The only thing was it was so amazing and so long...that I think it wore me out because I went to bed just as soon as I possibly could - which meant no blogging.
We began by visiting a few sites that were important in the times of David and Goliath; a lookout where we could oversee where the battle would have taken place, as well as fields that would have been important to David as a shepherd. We also visited a field similar to the one where David would have slain Goliath. Chris, Miriam, Stefanie and I were able to construct our own paper box Goliath the night before, so everyone took their turn slinging rocks at it and trying to see if they couldn't kill him. (Chris was finally successful and after taking the giant down, proceeded to follow the rest of the Biblical account by running across the field and "cutting off" Goliath's head). After that we visited several sites that had caves dating from 2,000 to 2,300 years ago - the Hellenistic times. Some of these caves were huge water cisterns, while others housed pigeons (they would harvest fertilizer from these pigeons). Others still contained olive presses in them, which were very well preserved for how old they are, and one of the most fun ones was an old tomb (we actually fit 26 people inside of one tomb!) We had a lot of fun running around and exploring in these caves, (Brother Huff called it "splunking") because while some of them were part of a national park and easy to navigate, there were others through which you had barely enough room to fit yourself - meaning you had to wiggle your way through. We ate lunch outside of one of these and made friends with an awesome chameleon who was way more tame than I expected him to be. The cool thing was it really changed colors depending on what it was by! It turned bright yellow-green when we put him by our yellow lunch sacks, and black when I put him on my shirt! So that was pretty cool. One of the other really neat things we got to do in the caves is sing hymns all together. We all bring our small hymn books to the different sites we visit, and take the opportunity to sing when we can. We're especially lucky when the acoustics improve our sound. Singing the hymns really makes the spirit so much stronger no matter where you are.
After all that exploring we were allowed about an hour and a half to eat dinner and clean up before FHE. Usually we just meet with our FHE groups here at the center, but last night each "family" was assigned a real family in our branch to go visit. We had the opportunity of sharing a lesson and singing songs with one of these families, as well as playing a game and eating a treat! (The treats were incredible, I miss American desserts so much!) We had a lot of fun with the Peterson's and their children, and it hit me while we were there just how consistent the church is around the world, and that the spirit of the Lord really does reside in the homes of righteous members. I commented to Moon that I really did feel at home with them, it was a really great night. I love that we call one another brothers and sisters, because that's really what it begins to feel like.
Today I was just planning on studying, but Miriam and Moon convinced me it would be good to go out to West Jerusalem just for an hour or so and take a little break. I hesitantly agreed, my decision was made mostly because of the awesome mission we were set on. Today happens to be election day in Jerusalem, and about a week ago on one of our field trips Moon and I noticed the different party members standing around the city trying to persuade citizens to vote for their candidate. It was then that we got the idea to try and find election t-shirts for one of the candidates. We set out to West Jerusalem with this in mind, but after eating some brownie batter filled pastries and asking just about every t-shirt shop and person we could think of where to find these shirts with no positive feedback, we got a bit discouraged. We were about to hit up McDonalds and then head back to the center when I got an idea - you see we've kind of made friends with the workers in the camera shop we got followed in to by the creeper guy, and so I thought we could just ask the workers there if they could help us at all! At first they said they weren't sure where we should look, but then after thinking for a minute one of them suggested we head up the street about 5 minutes, and we'd find the headquarters for one of the candidates. We set out in to quite a storm, and on our way there I'm kind of surprised we weren't blown away, because it was pretty windy! Not too far away, however, we found the building he had sent us to, and although it looked kinda sketchy, we went in. I honestly thought by headquarters he meant a center to vote at, but as we walked in and saw all the people rushing around, we realized this was one of the candidates offices! We poked our head in to a few rooms and saw the man himself...this is the part where I'd put his name if I knew it...but unfortunately I don't, all I know is he's some Communist guy that is one of the worst candidates, you'd think this would make it worse but honestly I think it just improves the story. His secretary scurried out to meet us and said "Can I help you with something?" Moon asked her if there was any way we could buy one of their t-shirts and she looked back kind of sternly and said "Why?" I got kinda nervous until she came back with "! I give them to you free!" She went in to one of the side rooms and grabbed four t-shirts (Allison was awesome enough to come with us) and some posters too! You should see the cocked eye-brow on this guy, it's SWEET! We jumped up and down and yelped a little, and some random old guy growled back at us before laughing. We walked back outside and took a picture in front of the building, and as we were about to leave some random lady came up to us and said she was writing an article for an American Newspaper and wanted to know if she could take our picture. We agreed (hopefully we don't get in trouble for that one!). So look for us in the Lubbock Texas paper if you're there! It was getting really stormy at this point and the wind blew a huge piece of metal off the roof, it about hit us on the head - so we decided it was time to go. We walked back in the rain, stopping at McDonalds to get the biggest hamburger I've ever seen. The taxi got us back to the center just in time (we have to be back before dark), and even though I was gone way longer than the hour break I thought I deserved, it was most definitely worth the hastle.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Pita-Nator

So I've always known that I have a problem - I love to shop. I thought at first that the shopping here would be like souvenier shopping and would eventually not appeal as much as it did at first, but I think I was wrong! We went shopping today and it was a lot of fun, I got some SWEET genie pants and some custom made t-shirts, my most favorite one is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle one - Hebrew style. I also got a Coca-Cola one, and one that says Peace, It's a Beautiful thing (That's probably my favorite one). I also bought a sweet ring for one of the shopowners who is pretty well known at the center. He was training his nephew from New Zealand on how to sell and that sort of stuff, and my roommates and I were his first customers! It was a lot of fun to just spend some time doing "normal" things here. I think tomorrow a bunch of people are going to see a movie, that'll be fun too cause it's also just normal.
The most exciting thing that happened today, howeer, was the pita eating competition I was involved in! Several of the students here like to give me a hard time because I like to eat a LOT of all meals, everyday. Yeah it's pretty bad, the weight that I'm gaining definitely comes from toasted pitas filled with peanut butter and honey. I may actually have to talk to the District President because I'd definitely consider it an addiction - ha just kiddin. But anyway, when I was talking with Bryan, Miriam and Shelby about it at lunch today we decided we should have a pita eating contest! We talked with the cook about it to see if they'd have enough pitas for everyone, and he said he'd have us backed up if that's what we wanted to do - so we decided to do it! Before hand Miriam and I properly prepared by getting our war gear on. We entered to a screaming crowd and the song "Eye of the Tiger" playing (ok so the screaming crowd part may be made up but the song definitely wasn't). At first we decided to have a 20 minute time limit, but the braces and spikes were really slowing me down, and I was confident I could out eat them, so we said no time limit and just decided to see who could eat the most period. It got pretty intense, and I'm not gonna lie, there was talk of throwing up as a group afterwards. (That'd be quite the waste of pita if you ask me). One thing we didn't really take in to consideration when we planned the pita competition, however, was the fact that we have visitors staying in the JC right now, and so graciously on behalf of them, Sister Allen asked us if we could stop the contest while we still could. It was probably a good idea anyway, although while my competitors were slowly dying out, I'm pretty sure I could have kept going and taken them all. The final scores were Miriam - 10, Richelle - 11, Bryan - 14, Shelby - 15. I may not be the fastest, and I think that's why I was a little behind but I definitely have the best endurance (thanks mom!) Even the guys said that they had bet on me - I guess the world will never know who could have really won.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Today was a really neat day, I guess Shabbat always is here, although I think it may have more to do with my attitude towards things than how it actually is. I really feel like the church is the same all around the world, and I'm really grateful for this new perspective that I've gained!
Besides having just a "normal" fast Sunday, we were really lucky to have the Presiding Bishop of the church come speak to us in a fireside tonight. We were able to sing I Need Thee Every Hour as a choir, and then afterward we heard both from Sister and Bishop Burton. He gave a baseball analogy having to do with Ted Williams and his incredible baseball skills. Apparently the reason Ted was so incredible is because he had amazing eye sight, which caused him to have a batting average of 400, which hasn't been had since. Ted could see which direction the ball was spinning or moving before it got to him, but only for a split second. Bishop Burton likened this to life, and being able to have a slight advantage over others as Latter Day Saints, in that we have the spirit to help us see just that little bit better. It was a really neat fireside, and a great way to end the night. "Sunday" meetings are really great here, I find myself being spiritually fed at every moment.
Tonight my roommates and I busted out this weird fruit thing we tried first in Jericho, called a pumemelo - it's kind of like a mix between a lemon and a grapefruit! It was fun to cut it open and share it, there's lots of neat fruits here which I love cause...well I love fruit. That sounded pretty bad - and maybe it's cause I'm so tired! I think I should head out - oh, and p.s. the last pic is me talking to all of you! I love you all!