Monday, January 31, 2011

Lane lines are for decoration. Egypt part 1.

I just returned from one of the best weeks of my life spent in Egypt! You may have heard about the protests and riots there. Although it was exciting to be in Cairo during all of that, it really didn't affect us and we were in very safe hands.
The first day along the drive we saw tels and ruins in Beersheba and Arad. Then we stopped in the middle of nowhere and had what we affectionately call a desert and sand dune experience! There were incredible sand dunes, where the sand was so fine it has properties of water. We ran and slid and jumped down them. I didn't want the sand to ruin my camera, but really only pictures would do it justice. Then we went off on our own and had some time to sit in the desert alone and write some of our thoughts. It was so beautifully silent. The landscape was just the sand and the sky as far as the eye could see. I felt so un-alone there. Everything around me testified of Christ and it felt so good to sit and ponder alone there. Then we got into small groups around bonfires and told each other some of the things we thought about while we were alone. We sang hymns and just had a wonderful time together.
We then drove to a kibbutz where they made us hamburgers in a pita which were really good. We learned all about kibbutzim and how they work, it was really interesting. We stayed the night there.
The next day we crossed the border to Egypt! We drove under the Red Sea via the Suez canal and drove into AFRICA! If you know me, you know Africa has been my dream for ages. Dreams come true!
Then we drove into Cairo--the third largest city in the world with about 18 million people. It is infamous for its traffic and I understand why. Why only have one car per lane if you can have two or three? Then, we turned a corner on the busy highway and BAM! We saw the pyramids peaking from behind the buildings of the city. Our bus exploded with excitment and we played the Circle of Life. Every single person on the bus was so happy at the same time. We watched a red, beautiful sunset and drove straight to the pyramids for a sound and light show there.
The next day we arose in our spoiled-rotten fancy hotel where we don't even have to share our king-sized beds with Egyptian cotton sheets. We returned to the pyramids which were even better in daylight. It was so dreamlike. Even though it looks like I could be standing in front of a paper backdrop, I promise I was really there! I even sat on a pyramid and got a picture before the tourism police got after me.
I'd like to thank Greg Hudnall for the inspiration and capturing of these photos.

I love Egypt.

He sphinx I like him.

We also saw the Great Step pyramid, which is the oldest one built by Snefru. We also saw some huge artifacts from an area called Memphis, and some incredible hieroglyphs inside the sakara temple.
It was an incredible day, and just the beginning. I'm feeling pretty blessed!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sabbath School

Today I had an absolutely marvelous Sabbath, and went to the Garden of Gethsemene after church and wrote pages and pages in my journal. We got special access to a private garden without any tourists. Outside the garden there were cars honking, men shouting angrily in Arabic, and lots of contention. Even with that noise, it was quiet and peaceful in the walls of the garden. It made me realize that in this world of chaos, frustration and mixed messages; Christ is our protected garden we can go to and feel peace.

I will be taking an 8-day hiatus to traverse continents and engage in modes of travel including bus, airplane, taxi, overnight train and even camel! (No joke!)

Stay tuned for some of the most extraordinary blog posts of your blog-reading history! Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Day in My Life

Lest ye perceive that my days are full of tourism and exploring, and I sacrificed money and a whole semester off my academic plan and four months without dating to merely sight see...... let me elucidate that I am here to study in between Indiana Jones-style expeditions, believe it or not. We actually are taking 15 (difficult) credits and have classes pretty much every school day. Although there is no such thing as a typical day.....let me present you with: A Day in the Life of a Jerusalem Center Student.

6:00 Wake up and go to the gym if you want! In how many gyms is everyone on stationary bikes reading the Old Testament and having conversations such as, "If you had to be afflicted with one of Egypt's plagues, which would you have?" I'd take three days of darkness over frogs or my firstborn being killed.

7:00 Breakfast. Always so many healthy options. Why doesn't Yoplait make pineapple yogurt in the states? Along with this wonderful fruit-milk-yogurt-granola-honey stuff, nutella and pita bread is always a favorite.

8:00 Old Testament. One of the best parts of the day! Brother Muhlstein always has a great quote to begin with. Today's was "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached, as the obstaces which have been overcome while trying to succeed."

9:00 Ancient Near Eastern Studies class. We discuss the meaning behind sites we've visited, geography of the Holy Land, history, archaeology. It's very interesting.

10-12 Free time or homework time, if we don't have another class. Writing a 7-page Islam paper, reading about tels, huge chunks of Old Testament reading, chapters and chapters about Judaism and name it.

12:00 Lunch. Sometimes the weather is just right to eat outside. After maybe sandwiches, falafels, or salads, nutella on pita bread is always a favorite.

1:00 - 5:00 Islam or Judaism class, a 2-hour class. If we had it in the morning than we usually find time to go into the city and see some of the sights. We get credit for seeing a list of required sights! Yesterday it was watching a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall and then a walk to West Jerusalem to the market. It included getting ripped off when I bought some oranges, sampling bread and halva (sesame candy), and bargaining for dried fruit. There were beautiful displays of pomegranates the size of my face, baby pineapples, and other fruit I'd never seen before. So much fun!

5:00 Arabic class. Taught by a large, humorous Arab guy whose name I still don't really know. He cracks us up, and teases the blonde girls. The classroom overlooks the city and it's usually sunset at that time, making it even better.

6:00 Dinner. There are always lots of really delicious vegetable dishes available, so often I don't eat anything else. Except nutella and pita bread...which is always a favorite.

7-10 Evenings usually entail homework, distracted by writing this blog, g-chatting or email.  I'm also an FHE leader, and chair of the snack bar committee which runs the Shekel Shaq each night to create revenue for Jerusalem t-shirts for all the students. There are forums on Wednesday nights when we hear from local speakers, and movie nights on Fridays. Tonight (if I'm not finishing a paper) it's the Ten Commandments!

Just want to mention Wednesday was my sister Hope's 17th birthday! I hope she had a wonderful day, I love her!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem

I just got home from taking this picture. The view from a church called Dominus Flevit (Latin for "The Lord Wept"). It is a tear drop-shaped church nearby that commemorates the time when Christ sat on the Mount of Olives, wept, and said...

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

I would love to have that mosaic in my house.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Road to Jericho!

The site where the walls of Jericho came miraculously tumbling down, the road to Jericho where the story of the Good Samaritan took place, the tree where Zaccheus climbed up to see the Savior before the final week of His life, the wilderness where Jesus fasted for 40 days, the mount where He was tempted to turn stone into bread, the mountain where ravens brought bread to Elijah and the spring that Elijah healed. What do these things have in common? They are all found in or near Jericho and I saw all of them yesterday! We also went to King Herod's winter palace. He was wise to build a palace in Jericho because in winter it is beautiful warm weather. I would take Jericho over Provo any January day. And yesterday I did. :)

We drove through some very barren wilderness and descended 650 feet below sea level. Yes, below. It would win the geographic game of limbo. The only place lower is it's next door neighbor the Dead Sea. But Jericho is the lowest city and the oldest, they say.

My teachers really are the best we could have! Brother Muhlstein spoke to us while looking at the road to Jericho about the Good Samaritan. It's likely that the priests and Levite who passed the injured man were on their way to Jerusalem to do temple work. They were in pursuit of a righteous work, yet passed up the opportunity to be Christlike. How many times have I passed by a "best" thing and settled for a "good" or "better" thing? It was a good lesson about good, better, and best in life.
My friend Sarah and I in front of a large sycamore tree where Zaccheus, who was too short to see the Savior, climbed up.
On the Mount of Temptation (looking a little Chameleonish in that shirt), with a rock. Christ created us from the dust of the earth, surely he could have turned stone to bread. Yet, He didn't give in, making Him fully understand temptation more than someone who has given into temptation.  Behind me is the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and in front of me is Jericho. The road to Jericho was in terrain like that.
Then, after we got home from the Jericho field trip, a few of us went to a beautiful Jewish synagogue for a tour. This is a pic from the outside balcony that overlooks the city.

It was another beautiful day in my life and in Jerusalem.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

He Lives--My kind, wise, heavenly Friend.

This week I was able to visit the garden tomb twice! It is a tomb near Golgatha right in the middle of the city that may be where Christ was laid. On Wednesday I went with a few girls, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We went on a little tour by an elderly man who lives there and volunteers. He kind of bore his testimony to us that although we're not sure this is Christ's tomb, it doesn't matter where it happened, just that it DID happen. The empty tomb is testimony of His resurrection.
Then today after church our whole group went to the tomb together. We sung "I Stand All Amazed" right near Golgatha (they are almost 100% sure that that location is really where He was crucified) and "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" near the tomb. These two songs pretty much sum up my feelings. I'm just so thankful that I always have a friend in Jesus Christ, that He will always understand me. He must have felt so alone as He suffered and died for us, but because of Him, we will never have to feel that way. He is always there for us.

Weekly Update

Aside from feeling like skim milk who mistakenly got bottled up with the cream of the crop, this week has been wonderfully busy and lots of fun.  Last night we all went to the Western Wall at sundown for the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Hundreds of nicely-dressed men with smiles as obvious and their kippas  grabbed each other’s shoulders and marched into the square singing and dancing, celebrating the beginning of Sabbath. It made me ask myself why I am not that happy when the Sabbath arrives each week. Then I went to the women’s side of the wall, where women of every kind were praying diligently or reciting Hebrew scriptures aloud.  Everyone had walked there, because they don’t drive on the Sabbath. There were beautiful young mothers with their babies in strollers who had made the effort to come. Farther from the wall, there were younger women singing and dancing in large circles. We linked arms with them and joined in. The Spirit was there and you could almost taste the happiness that was thick in the air. I loved being there with so many devoted people! I could type two more pages about this experience.
Yesterday in my Old Testament class we had another wonderful lesson. We read the story of Joseph who was sold into Egypt.  We talked about how he is a type of Christ. The comparisons are incredible! Anyway, one thing I really liked was the lesson that sometimes blessings do not immediately flow from obedience. Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife, the righteous thing to do. He was then put into prison after being falsely accused. He could have wondered why the Lord didn’t bless him for this righteousness, just like Joseph Smith or the pioneers could have questioned, too. In hindsight we know that he was greatly blessed for his obedience—he was brought as high as he could go and blessed beyond anticipation. The same thing will probably happen to all of us—we will not see blessings immediately flowing from an act of obedience. Keep in mind “these things will be but a small moment” and in the eternal scheme of things obedience always brings the greatest happiness.
One day a few of us went out for lunch and explored Zedekiah's cave, which is a quarry under the city they used to get stone to build Solomon's temple.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Hummus Heaven

Today was a beautiful day so some of us ate lunch outside on the balcony. The highs and lows are at least double those in Provo, the sun was shining over the city, I was eating the best hummus I've had with delicious pita bread and the sweetest persimmon I've ever eaten. I was surrounded by wonderful people with strong testimonies and had just finished four hours of classes that were particularly interesting. Does life get better than this?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A View from the Mountain (in more ways than one).

Yesterday we went on an interesting field trip to several outlook points over Jerusalem. We went Gibeah, which is the hometown of Saul, and where Jonathan and David pledged to be friends, and where David played the harp for King Saul.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Just Another Day in the Office

Today we had a free day and used it to explore the city! First Jessica and I and a few others went on a walk around the walls of the Old City, called Rampart's Walk. It's amazing to think we were walking on walls that Suliman the Magnificant built. We had some great views from up there!

This is the top of the wall we walked on for several miles around the Old City.

Then we went to the Western Wall, which was a lot small than I had expected. I love seeing such devoted people.

Then we met up with some other students and went to the Dome of the Rock and walked around the Temple Mount. I was so glad we got to see it! Hopefully we'll get a tour sometime. It's really beautiful.

It sounds like we just did one thing after another, but we actually spent forever in between these activities just figuring out how to get there, and getting distracted by shop vendors who want to give us Mormons "special price." I do love it how they just see us and say, "Hello Mormons!" They just know who we are, and I don't even know how they are so sure. Everyone knows the Jerusalem Center as the Mormon Univeristy.

Well, homework is calling! School is getting rough and I just read on the syllabus for my Ancient Near Eastern Studies class that it takes a 96% to get an A!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday is a Special Day

When in Jerusalem, we do as they do. We have our Sabbath on Saturday, which is really confusing at first. Today we had a wonderful Sacrament meeting. We’re in a branch, and there are several members in it other than us BYU students. Our chapel overlooks the city. I joined the branch choir and this morning we sang, “Jesus the Very Thought of Thee.” Singing the words, “Jesus, our only joy be thou” while looking at the very place where He sacrificed His life was a touching moment.   As I looked out over the city I thought that although all church buildings are His, I think he was excited that we were able to come to His home ward.
I know it doesn’t really matter what day you observe the Sabbath, and it doesn’t matter where you observe it, either.  The scriptures come alive easily here, but they can come alive in a brick building church, too (which seems so boring compared to the Jerusalem Center!). But, that being said let me point out just a few  of many advantages I’ve already discovered to being here.
1.       In my Old Testament class at BYU my teacher never pointed out the window and said, “Over here…..”
2.       If you’re looking at Jerusalem during church, you are constantly trying to connect the view with what you’re listening to. It really emphasizes that everything about this gospel is about Christ.
3. Five times a day a call to prayer rings out from minarets calling the Muslims to prayer.  Although sometimes the 5 a.m. call wakes you up, I’ve come to love the reminder and pray in gratitude for whatever I’m doing.
4. My Relief Society President spoke today about how she was born In Bethlehem, close to where Christ was born and she knew who Christ was and was raised Greek Orthodox. However, it wasn't until she moved to Provo on a Jerusalm Center Scholarship to BYU that she came to know Christ. What a great story!
5. Saturday afternoon activiites entail visiting the Garden of Gethsemene with your friends! Actually, it's raining now (we're in the middle of rainy season) so we're going tomorrow.
6. My professor's daughter is being baptized in the Jordan River in a couple months.
I took a walk around the center by myself, and used my handy self timer that takes my picture when I smile at it!

 The building with the arches in the upper left is where I live! I was standing on the other side of the Kidron valley when I took this. Yep....I cross the Kidron valley everyday which is between the Mount of Olives and Jerusalem.

This was the first picture I took when I got here....the view of the city from my bedroom balcony at night!

Blogspot is all in Hebrew and I like the challenge so I didn't translate it.... so I hope this turns out alright...ha.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

There is a Green Hill Near at Hand

I don't have much time, but I just wanted to say I am here and couldn't be happier! After saying goodbye to dear friends in Provo, a 6-hour layover and 14 hours of flying (when I had to eat a Kosher meal because they ran out of normal meals, and the flight attendant called me a sweetheart for not screaming that something went wrong) we arrived in Tel Aviv. Driving into Jerusalem at night was surreal. The Jerusalem center is like a palace, and the view out of every window is breathtaking. And then, to see my reflection in the window and realize where I am is even more dreamlike. I just can't believe I'm here, living on the Mount of Olives. But I am sure glad I am!

My fellow students are an incredible group and I'm so excited to get to know each of them better and learn from their excellent examples.

We went on a tour of the city this morning, but couldn't take cameras because we didn't want that to slow us down. But pictures are soon to come!

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...