Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Galilee Experience

I don’t know where to being to describe my experience in the Galilee. All I know is that it will probably be one of the greatest highlights for the rest of my life. It truly was one of the greatest tender mercies the Lord has given to me. I have grown so much mentally and spiritually during this semester, and my greatest growth spiritually probably came during those 10 days spent on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. During those 10 days I visited all of these sites:
Caesarea Maritime, Megiddo, Nazareth, Boat across Sea of Galilee, Nof Ginosar Ancient Boat, Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, St. Peter’s Primacy, Capernaum, Gamla, Qazrin Village, Tiberias, Mt. Tabor, Nain, Bet Alpha Synagogue, Gan Ha-Shelosha, Beth Shean, Hazor, Dan, Banias, Nimrod’s Castle, Bahai Gardens, Akko, Beth Shearim, Sepphoris(Zippori), Muhraqa, Haifa,
The first day we spent driving up to the Galilee we stopped at Caesarea Maritime, Megiddo, and Nazareth. Caesarea Maritime was absolutely beautiful. It is on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea—which is of now my favorite Sea! (Sea of Galilee is actually a lake so that doesn’t count.) Megiddo is where they get the term “Armageddon” from—supposedly where the last battle before the second coming will be, but it will actually be at Jerusalem. Nazareth was a definite highlight of the Galilee trip. The Church of Annunciation was so big and beautiful, and surprisingly, I could feel the spirit a lot more in there than at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or the Church of the Nativity. I believe it is in part due to the smaller crowd and more room to sit alone and think.
We had three sessions of three hour class marathons of the New Testament. Normally it would sound a little rough, but studying the Ministry of Christ in the Galilee while actually on site was one of the most exciting things I have done. I learned so much within those three hour sessions of class about who Christ was as an actual man serving on Earth. Bro. Wilson does such an excellent job bringing the spirit into the classroom setting.
A couple days after Nazareth, we took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee from Ein Gev where we were staying to the other side of the lake where Tiberius, Mt. of Beatitudes, Capernaum, St. Peter’s Primacy, and Tabgha are. One the ride over the wind was blowing hard, it was cold, and all though the waves were not roaring, I felt so close to how the apostles may have felt out on the lake as they feared of perishing, and asked the Lord, “carest not that we perish?” It was a great testimony building experience for me as I could relate to the actually living experience of the Savior. Later on in the week I had the wonderful opportunity of Speaking in Sacrament meeting with a view of the Sea behind me. Part of my talk emphasized the point that the Lord really does care about us, and he is aware of even the small and simple things happening in our lives. Visiting the Mt. of Beatitudes and Capernaum after the boat ride was a truly humbling experience as well. I won’t go in too deep about the spiritual experiences I had because that would take a very long time, and it is personal. But let me just say how much I love the New Testament and also how grateful I am for my teacher Bro. Wilson. My Galilee experience was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. I love the Galilee!!
Mt. Tabor, Tel Dan, Nimrod’s Castle, and Muhraqa were probably my other favorite highlights of the trip. Mt. Tabor and Muhraqa were tender mercy experiences for me. I realized that most of my favorite places here in the Holy Land have been either mountains or temple-related places. I realized it is because I can feel the spirit so much at those places similarly to how I feel the spirit in the temple at home.
Anyway, I apologize that this blog entry has turned into a little spiritual journal entry, but that is how the Galilee experience was for me. I truly loved everything about that trip. But I will end this entry on a less serious note. Two of my other favorite things about being at the Galilee were running by myself on the beach (obviously) and the fact that when they prepared a thanksgiving dinner for us, they brought out the turkeys with sparklers in them!!! It was soo cool! I want to start that tradition at home, although I am not sure how well it would work out with smoke detectors at home. Would it work? I don’t know, but it was awesome, and it definitely helped to make me feel less homesick on my first big holiday away from home. We also went to a fish resturant one night on the lake, and no I didn't order the fish, I don't like eating things that are looking at me, but I did kiss Kyle's fish (the picture) and tried some of it. It was pretty good, Dad you would be proud of me, I have eaten a lot of fish here, even just at the center.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Pictures

First picture is the "spot" inside the church of the Nativity where Christ was born. Next picture is at the Seder Meal, my teacher Ophir is in the middle of saying the blessing on the Matza--the unleavened bread. Then the last picture is of the Separation Wall--if you are bored and want to learn about something--google the Separation Wall. It is one of the major sources for current conflict in Israel. Very interesting. I definately do not approve of the wall, but then again, they were able to re-open the Jerusalem Center after the wall was built because it decreased terrorism so much. However, I still don't approve of the wall. Everything is so complicated and complex here. But this Separation Wall is way bigger and longer than the Berlin Wall ever was.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Seder Meal and Bethlehem

Last week we had a Seder meal—it is a meal that Jews have once a year to commemorate the exodus of the Children of Israel. I loved it. We dressed up and had a very fancy five course meal, and everyone had an assignment for the occasion. Mine happened to be narrating, which meant that I got to sit at the main table with our teacher Ophir Yarden who lead the Seder meal. He is such an awesome teacher by the way. So it was a nice cultural experience to participate in the Seder meal, which lasted about 4 hours. Ophir said that it isn’t unusual for some families to have them last all night.
Bethlehem was another one of the tender mercies I have had on this trip. Again, it is one of the highlights of my semester here. I loved it so much. Our day started out by going to a research institute in Bethlehem where they gave us a Palestinian perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict with particular reference to life behind the Separation Wall. After that we went to Bethlehem University where my Arab Civ teacher Dr. Mussallam teaches. There we got to have a question and answer panel with the students, who are all our age. It was such an eye-opening experience for me. One of the girls lives in a refugee camp and just five days before her brother had been arrested, and no one in her family knows why. But she still comes to school because it is like a refugee for her. Not only have I grown so much spiritually since I have been here, but my knowledge about the Middle East has increased immensely. I believe that we do not need to pick a side about this conflict, but we should all form an opinion. In fact as I have lived here, I find that picking a side becomes even more difficult, but my opinion about the Middle East is shaping. There is good and bad on both sides. I have come to love people on both sides of the conflict. Truly the only way to have peace in this land is through forgiveness and understanding. What better example do we have of that than our Lord Jesus Christ? If only the missionaries could be here, but I am praying that this land will open up for them one day.
After our visit to Bethlehem University we were able to go to the Church of the Nativity. It was an interesting experience kind of like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, but it was still a sweet experience for me. We had to wait in line for over an hour just to get to see the spot where the baby Jesus was born, it was so crowded. So as far as having a spiritual experience in there, it was rather difficult, but I am grateful to have a point of reference now when I reflect on the birth of our Savior. I’ll just look beyond what we see today and imagine what it would have been like in his time.
The sweetest experience for me however came at Shepherd’s field. We had to walk a little ways from the bus to an area in the field where we would eat our sack dinners, and I promptly took advantage of using that time to be alone as I looked towards Bethlehem under the stars and I could see the Church of the Nativity glowing as if it were the New Star in the Horizon. Dad I am so grateful that you shared your experiences with Shepherd’s field to me because it helped me to be in the spiritual mind set to reflect on the nativity story. After we ate our dinner we separated into classes and our religion teachers gave us a short lesson on the nativity. I was asked before hand to share my thoughts on Elisabeth and the role she plays in the birth of Christ. So that night my heart grew extremely close to Elisabeth and Mary, two faithful mothers who would raise their sons in righteousness. We hummed Silent Night as Bro. Wilson read out loud Luke 2, and I immediately imagined Dad reading it to us out loud as he does about every Christmas, and the spirit was so strong for me. Christmas will never be the same for me. And I cannot wait for Christmas to come this year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pictures from Jordan


Well, I loved Egypt, and Jordan was incredible too! The first day was spent crossing the border and driving to Petra. We stopped at Mount Nebo (Where Moses was Translated) as well as Madaba—a church with this incredible mosaic of a map of the Holy Land in biblical times. The next day was PETRA!!!!! First off, let me just say that growing up on Indiana Jones definitely prepared me to anticipate and appreciate what I was about to go see!!! And oh my goodness, it was so great! I was impressed at how much Petra reminds me of Moab and other parts of Southern Utah—only it has awesome structures in the stone. I loved walking through the narrow pathway to see where it opens up to the famous treasury where Indiana Jones was partly filmed. But that is only part of how great Petra is. I rode a donkey up to the Monastery—which looks a lot like the treasury just bigger. The donkey ride was the best $5 spent! I had no guide so I rode a donkey up all these stairs by myself. It was actually a really special experience as I imagined what Mary went through on the Donkey on her way to Bethlehem with Joseph. But the Monastery at the top was so cool! Its huge!!!!! I still don’t understand how these people were able to build these awesome structures—but that goes across all different lands and cultures. After lunch at the bottom (which has fabulous falafels, yum!!!) I went to “The High Place” which is basically you just hike up all these stairs to the top of one of the rock cliff/mountain things, and you have a huge overlook of Petra—it is absolutely beautiful—I live for these types of adventure. I want to go to Moab so bad now! I loved Petra—it is absolutely incredible—everyone should go there!!! And, I got a ton of junk, I bought so many necklaces and other things. After Petra we drove to Amman. After eating dinner at the hotel I walked a couple blocks down the street with some people to this place where they had all these American food places like McDonald’s and Subway. There is also a Black Market movie store there which was very popular with the students—that man made a lot of money that night. The movies are actually legit though!
The next day was just as great. In the morning we went to this huge Mosque—where all of us women were required to wear these black robe things. I very much felt like a death eater from Harry Potter, too bad I couldn’t keep the robe or I would have had a perfect Halloween costume! The mosque was neat. After that we stopped at Jabok River where Jacob encounters/reunites with Esau. And then we went to Jersah! I LOVED Jersah!!!!! It is this old ancient Roman city. It is huge and so well preserved I was impressed! It was so neat. In the Chariot/Sports Arena I got run a foot race with some of the girls against these Jordanian girls. Me and Becca Snyder smoked everyone else, and I even did it in a skirt. I know mom, it was probably not very lady like, but hey, I still beat everyone in a skirt—that is awesome right? And it was about a 50 meter sprint, and sprints aren’t even my thing. It was so fun I loved it!! Then at the theatre there, these Jordanian men were playing the bag pipes and drums so a bunch of us girls danced with these other Jordanian girls. It was certainly a great bonding time with these women from a different culture. At one point I had about ten young girls come up and ask to get a picture with me because they thought I was beautiful—that made my day!! Especially since they were all so beautiful!
After Jersah we went and met with the District President and a couple members. The District in Jordan covers Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. There are about 400 members total. It is quite an incredible story. The church is everywhere, even where we cannot proselyte. And a man was even just recently baptized about two months ago!! I was so touched listening to the two members bear testimony—they truly are the pioneers of this land. I am doing my best to follow Pres. Monson’s council and pray for the missionary work to be able to come to these nations where it is not allowed yet. The work is coming here slowly, it truly is penetrating every nation!
After that we headed back for the hotel. That night many of us went to the Mecca Mall. It was a blast there, and felt like at home!!! I bought a shirt from FOREVER 21!!!! Can you believe that mom? It was so exciting! Haha. The boys from the group all rode the mechanical bull and we drew a huge crowd of Jordanians to watch us Americans. It was a riot. It was so fun, except it was disgusting cause everyone smokes in Jordan, and they all smoke in the buildings too. We went to go buy cookies from subway, and the guy gave me a free cookie cause he thought I was cute!! Man I am loving it here; I get free food for having blonde hair! We had to take taxis to and from the mall. I am pretty sure our taxi driver on the way to the mall was either drunk of high off of something. It was a little frightening but absolutely hilarious as well. I probably should have been a little more frightened than I was laughing, but I couldn’t help myself, especially since kept repeating the same English words he knew over and over again. I am safe though obviously, so it was all good. I am definitely grateful for America.
Today before heading home we stopped at a citadel and also at the baptismal site of Christ at the Jordan River. That was really special. We sang a few hymns there and read from the scriptures. I still can’t believe that I am actually at these sites. I think that one of the best part about going on these incredible trips is that when I come back home, I am coming home to the Center, which in itself is like a giant long trip. I love it. This place is wonderful and I am learning so much. I miss you all so much, and it was pretty tough to have gone all week without knowing anything about baby Brynn. I am praying and fasting! I love you all!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Gethsemane and Carillon Bells

Here is a picture of Lindy and I in Hezekiah's Tunnel! You can see where the water was at that point. That was the very beginning of the tunnel, but the water doesnt get much deeper than that.
The next one is of me playing the Carillon Bells!! I am so cool!

This has been an eventful last two days! And it will just keep getting more exciting because I leave for Jordan tomorrow! So next post will be about Petra and Ammon!!! I am so excited! But before I get ahead of myself I'll talk about yesterday and today. Yesterday was the Sabbath for us, and it started out bad. A lady from the Branch lent me here violin that hasn't been touched in years--it was in really bad shape--but I needed it cause i am going to play in Sacrament meeting with the primary in a couple weeks, and then for the Christmas concert some of us are doing a string quartet. (probably more like a trio playing quartet music) Anyway, so i went up stairs to try and tune it to a piano--i was being as careful as possible, but sure enough the bridge snapped!! It was sooo devastating to me I started bawling! I immediately ran down to call mom and dad--i didn't care if I was waking them up in the middle of the night--my mom had to ask me to repeat what happened three times cause she couldn't hear me through the tears. But I asked her to go buy me a new bridge and send it. (She didn't have to I called her back and told her she didn't need to cause we would do it here, but I didn't know what to do at the time) So I had to get the courage up to tell Sis. Squires--the music director, and the lady who's violin it was. Both were completely understanding, and assumed something would break or go wrong anyway cause the violin was in such bad shape. Ofcorse it wasn't that big of a deal at all, but at the time it happened it seemed only a matter of life and death to me. Don't you love those kind of stories? Anyway

So then Church was great, I borrowed Gage Herbst's violin to practice with the primary kids and after Church I went to the Garden of Gethsemane. I am not even going to try and describe that experience because it is too sacred and there aren't any words for it. It was so special though. I will be going there several more times before I leave.

Sis. Susan W. Tanner gave us a firesdie that evening!! Cool huh!?! she came here to the center! It was a beautiful fireside, her husband spoke too!

Today was really fun as well! Bro. and Sis. Squires go to the YMCA tower every sunday to play the Carillon Bells, and they invited me to come along so that we could go stop at a music store after to see if they had a bridge, or at least find out where we could get one from. i got to invite a few other people to tag along, so Me, Ali, Kelsey, and Lindy as well as three other people go to go play the Carillon Bells at the tower!!! I have played them!! How cool is that? After that we went ot the music store, which did not have a bridge, but we now know where to get one, and we went to this open market place for lunch. A man there gave me free food Because he though I was cute! I was flattered of corse. We also got to go to the pita factory--you get 20 hot pitas for about $1.50--its the best thing ever!! All the students that came were telling me that I should break violins more often so that we can do all these cool stuff with the Squires in a van!

Anyway, it has been an excitng last couple of days. Now I get to go pack for Jordan! I love you all and miss you!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Things I love about BYU Jerusalem (Part 1)

The Old City!!!!!
My balcony with rose garden and pomegranate tree
The Oasis (cafeteria)
Climbing Stairs
Auditorium—especially the organ
Sunday Evening Classics Concerts
Vendors who say “BYU!” and “Hey Mormons!”
Damascus Gate
Elia Photo Service
Western Wall
Calls to prayer 5 times a day
Hearing the Call to Prayer while I sit on my balcony looking over the city
Standing out from everyone on the street—blonde hair does not fit in
Ben Yehuda Street & West Jerusalem
Bad English spellings & grammar
Taking a week off of class and going to Egypt
Boats on the Nile & camel rides
Mount Sinai
Valley of the Kings
Egypt Museum
Hard Rock Cafe
Fancy hotels and restaurants
Having people take pictures of us
Walking through history
Diversity of dress
Olive wood – Omar
Aladdin’s Money Changer
Making olive oil
Living with my teachers and their families
Having my teachers’ wives come to class
Linen Exchange
Having chocolate pudding with whipped cream for breakfast everyday
Deep Fried French Toast every morning
Chocolate Croissant
Rockin awesome field trips
Rollin in Mercedes buses
BYU-JC backpack and fanny pack
Head Sets
Crazy drivers
Smells--brings me back to the Congo
1 Shekel popsicles at Lana’s
Augusta Victoria
1.5-liter water bottles and water carrier
Tel Aviv & the Mediterranean
Room checks with treats
Service couples
Donkeys, horses and goats just hanging out around the city
Internet- even if it is painfully slow
Student choir
Random schedule
Hebrew U
Consulate families
Stellar movie collection in the library
Learning about peoples and cultures
Being able to drink the water in Israel
Kibbutz Yotvata
Official nametags
Being taught by and associating with people who are known worldwide
Wandering and shopping
Palestinian Costco
Herding sheep
Tons of soldiers and people with huge guns everywhere—the best is when you see a normal dressed cute boy, then he turns around and has a giant gun!
The Center gardens
Dormition Abbey
BonBons, Ali Babas & Jericho Wafers
Genie pants
Olive Picking and Crushing
Talent Shows
St. Mark’s Covenant
Sling Shots
Playing the Violin in the Center
Hezekiah’s Tunnel
Garden Tomb
Ramadan Dinner

City of David, Dormition Abbey, St. Mark's Covenant

On Wednesday we had a field trip to the City of David. I wouldn’t exactly call it a city though—just the remains of a city. It is just below the southern end of the wall to the Old City. Back in Christ’s time it would have been within the walls of the city however. At the City of David we got to see the excavation going on what they are discovering to be David’s Palace. The most fun part of the City of David was going through the caves to see Warren’s Shaft in the Gihon Spring, and walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel where at certain points the water came above the knees. The water was cold at first but I quickly adapted to it. The tunnel is pitch black so my head lamp came in handy—head lamps are one of the best inventions ever! At the City of David we also go to see the Pool of Siloam where Christ would have sent the Blind man to wash and be healed. It was so neat. Up until the 1980’s Israelis did not believe that Warren’s shaft was the probably shaft that Joab would have gone up to get into Jebus and allow David to take over the city. But in the 1980’s a BYU student actually (sort of illegally) climb up the shaft without anything to show it was possible—so now they believe it is most likely the shaft Joab went up! So that’s a cool fact related to BYU!
After the City of David we were able to wander around the city the rest of the day like we do many other days. My friends Kelsey, Ali, Lindy and I decided to go to Dormition Abbey. It is supposedly where the virgin Mary is laid to rest. The church is very beautiful and above Mary’s crypt is this beautiful Mosaic of Christ and the women who influenced him, The outside of the Abbey is incredible, it reminds me of a Disney castle almost.—Belle’s castle probably.
After Dormition Abbey we headed over to West Jerusalem. We shopped (I got some Genie Pants and accessories for Halloween and to wear at home) and ate Falafels. On the way back we stopped at a Jewish bakery and ate cookies. They were delicious. I love the bakeries! I eat so much food here—even in the center’s cafeteria. My goodness food is yummy. I know I have put on weight but fortunately I don’t it is noticeable yet. I’ll keep exercising!
Yesterday after class I went out into the Old City again with a few people. We decided to go to St. Mark’s Covenant—this small Church where in the basement, supposedly the Last Supper took place. Whether it did or not I am not sure, but that isn’t what is important. It was such a special experience. There is this sweet old lady who takes care of the Church—she is originally from Ninevah, and is one of the few hundred people left in this world that speak Aramaic—the language Christ would have spoken! She sang us a prayer song in Aramaic, it was so beautiful! She also told us stories of miracles she had seen happen in the church. One of the nice things about the Church is it is a little hard to find it and not m any people go there. So the few of us students were able to go into the basement where the Supper took place and take about a half hour to read John chapters 13-17. I don’t know how to describe spiritual experiences very well but it was something I won’t ever forget.

well, I was going to upload images for this post, but the internet isn't working right, so I'll have to post the pictures later! I love you all and miss you!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jewish Holidays

I have certainly lucked out being here in Jerusalm this month, because this is the month with the most Jewish Holidays!! I got to be here for Rosh Hashanah (New Year) then Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shimhat Torah, and other small ones! This video I took this morning. We walked to the Western Wall at 6 AM to go see all these people at the Western Wall. They are all holding willow branches--I still don't understand the significance very well let alone be able to explain it to you guys, but it was so neat to watch! It was the most crowded I had seen the Western Wall--even more crowded then on the Sabbath and other holidays. Although I was not allowed to go there on Yom Kippur--I imagine it would have been just about as corwded then.
Yesterday we did a service project with all the young boys from the surrounding neighborhood--we cleaned up the streets near the center. It looked so much better, but sadly enough, by this morning there was already so much trash everywhere--in face all the dumpsters where we put the trash looked like they had been gone through, and trash just left around the dumpster. Oh well, I still believe our efforts were not done in vain--it looks great! This place is so beauitful I don't even know how to describe it.
Last night I attended one of the concerts that they hold here every sunday. It was a cello and piano duo. My mind was flooded with memories of all of my beauitufl sister Megan's recitals. Although the two men are older and not near as beautiful as Megan, it was incredible. Both are so qualified. The Cellist has played for Leonard Bernstien and with Yitzhak Perlman (Incredible Violinist) and the pianist was basically another child prodogy. I am blessed with the greatest opportunities here in Jerusalem. I have a few more occasions as well that I will be able to play the violin for people here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Olive Crushing and Biblical Times

Two very exciting things I got to do this week are Olive picking and crushing, and then we went on a field trip to this "Bible Land Reserve" where I got to participate in activities they would have done during the Bible Times.

Olive picking and crushing was particularly special. Every Semester gets to crush olives, but Fall Semester is the only semester that actually gets to pick the olives as well, so I am so blessed! Two days in a row we picked olives for an hour and a half, then a couple days later we got to do the crushing. Bro. Skinner gave a lecture on the symbolism of the olives and making olive oil before we did it, and it was so touching. I have heard the metaphor of olive crushing in comparision to the Atonement, but I actually got to see how it works, and it was so touching. It was such a special experience.

At the Bible Times Reserve I got to heard sheep around--that was quite the experience, and make my own pita on an outside fire, learn about Torah Scrolls, make my own oregano spice, etc. It was really fun although I don't think I would have made a very good Shepherd.

The Caliber of BYU Jerusalem

I have been in Jerusalem for over a month now, and have come to realize just how great of people I associate with everyday. Still, I don’t think I even fully comprehend the caliber of the men and women that serve us here at the BYU Jerusalem Center. I just want to take some time now and let you know how incredible these men and women are by telling some of the things about them. First off, there is Jim Kearl, who although he does not stay here, is the director for the center. I think the family already knows how smart this man and how qualified he is, so I won’t spend time on him. Eran is the Director here at the center. He is a secular Jew and has been a leader of the Peace Now Movement—an Israeli movement that is pushing for peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is a big and important movement here.
Bro. Huntington is the assistant to Eran. Not only is he a great administrator, I have discovered that he use to be a teacher here, and is just as qualified as any of the teachers here to teach our classes.
Bro. Skinner is amazing—you can just ask my sister Brooke about how amazing he is. One of his Master’s is from Harvard in Biblical Hebrew. He is one of the very few scholars in the world to have actually done work on the Dead Sea Scrolls. He is one of the smartest men, and not only is he smart, he loves what he teaches. He is so excited in class that he gets me excited about the subjects of the Ancient Near East!
Bro. Huff is my Old Testament teacher, and he team-taught with Elder Bednar at BYU-Idaho.
Bro. Squires is one of the service couples here, and his is sooo talented on the Organ.
Sis. Thomas is also a service couple, and she use to be a counselor in the General Young Women Presidency.
Sis. Susan W. Tanner and her husband are coming here in a couple weeks—I think her husband has something to do with Kearl at BYU.
My two teachers of Modern Near Eastern Studies, Ophir Yarden and Adnan Musallam are not any less qualified as scholars than Bro. Skinner. If you “googled” them you would find that their name and work is everywhere. I am so impressed with the people that are here. I also feel very inadequate to be here, but all the more grateful. I love it here, and I love all my teachers and leaders!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Temple Mount

These are pictures from the Western Wall (bottom of the Temple Mount) and the Dome of the Rock (on the Temple Mount). Both are incredible to go to. The Dome of the Rock is fascinatinig in itself, and it seeing the people praying at the Western Wall is quite the experience. I got to go to the Western Wall and to a Synagogue on Wednesday for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) I couldn't understand anything they were saying but it was so cool to listen to. It was really interesting to watch them sing and dance at the wall. I certainly felt out of place inside the Synagogue, but it was neat to listen to them read outloud from the Torah. They keep the men and women separated at the wall and within synagogues.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back From Egypt

I am back from Egypt! I can tell that I am actually assimilated into the Jerusalem Center life because I feel at home after spending a week in Egypt. Egypt reminded me of the Congo in so many ways, only nicer because it actually has a tourist industry, whereas the Congo does not. There is so much to say about my week in Egypt. Everyday felt like the best day, except for the day I got sick of course. I’ll just list of the things I got to do, then elaborate on some of the highlights.

On the way to Egypt we stopped at Beersheba and the Wilderness of Zin—both places in the Old Testament. We spent the night at a Kibbutz, which was relatively pleasant. We arrived at Cairo in the evening, so I got to see the Pyramids at night. We went to a sound and light show of the pyramids which was a good experience to see the Pyramids and Sphynx lit up as they told stories of how the pyramids came to be. The next day we went back to the Pyramids, and I loved them so much!! They are so cool! We got to go inside the second pyramid, which was a neat experience, although I did get very claustrophobic at one point and it was so hot and smelly. We also visited other pyramids, the great statue of Ramses II, other tombs, etc. Then we flew to Luxor for a couple of days. In Luxor I went to the Valley of the Kings where King Tut’s tomb was discovered (his mummy is there on display as well). We saw all these incredible temple complexes filled with hieroglyphics and pictures, I absolutely loved it. Some of the places were still filled with color as well, it was incredible. I am impressed with how much LDS Theology are found in the hieroglyphic stories. Also in Luxor I got to ride in a Faluka (little sail boat) on the nile, as well as take an hour long Camel Ride that went through the little villages, and a carriage ride as well. On the way back to Cairo from Luxor we took an overnight train. Wow was that an experience—one of the grosser places I have slept, but a good experience.

When we got back to Cairo we went to the Egypt Museum. I got to see many of the treasures from King Tut’s tomb, including his famous mask. My favorite part of the Museum however was the mummy room, which you had to pay extra for, but it was well worth it. I got to see the actual mummies of many of the famous pharaohs of the ancient world. Among them were the two Pharaohs: Seti I and Ramses II who are believed to be the two Pharaohs associated with Moses. Ramses II was so well preserved; he still had his hair and everything. He was balding in case anyone was wondering. They also had mummies of animals too—that was very interesting.

My favorite thing we did (although everything was my favorite), which Mom was the most excited for me to do as well, was to hike Mount Sinai at 2 AM and watch the Sunrise. Dad—you said you wouldn’t hike Timp at night, which I understand, but this is something unbelievable. The hike isn’t bad at all first off, it only took me an hour and half to get up. Plus you can take a camel up about 2/3 of the way if you pay extra. Anyway, being up there for the sunrise was indescribable. Mom, you are right, I had an incredible experience up there. The best way to describe the feelings I had was what I felt at the Sacred Grove when I went there. So, I like to say that it was my “Sacred Grove experience” of the Old Testament—although I felt the assurance of the Book of Mormon again. Everything is so connected in the gospel.

There is so much more I could say, but I worry it will get too long, which it already is. I love you all and miss you so much!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tel Aviv

Pictured: My roommates and I at the beach.
Pictured: My first falafel accompanied by a coke at a random vender on the street.

On Wednesday after Old Testament class in the morning, most of us headed over to Tel-Aviv for the rest of the day. We spent the day at the Beach on the Mediterranean. I forgot how awesome the water is--never once got hot or cold in the water, it was perfect. It was so clear too! I loved it! After the beach we walked around the city, I had my first falafel, and had a lot of fun. Tomorrow (Saturday) is Shabbat, where I will play the violin in Sacrament meeting, and then on Sunday we head out for Egypt for the week. So this is the last entry I will make for about a week. I will miss everyone a lot, and be very cautious so that I don't get groped. I really don't want that to happen and they have been talking about it so much lately. I'll be safe and smart!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Egypt and Stress

This picture is taken at the Israel Musuem. that structure is in the shape of a lid that would have been on the urns in which they discovered the seven dead sea scrolls!
okay, so the load of school work, activities, traveling, service, etc. is starting to get to me, and of course I start to stress out. But hey, that is okay, I love it here and I am enjoying it so much! On Sunday we leave for Egypt, and today we had an orientation about the trip. I am so excited! I will get to experience staying the night at a Kibbutz, staying the night on train, and then stay at a five-star Sheraton all in one week! To top it off we get to go to Giza, Cairo, Luxor, go on a Camel Safari, etc. We hike Mt. Sinai also during the trip, leave at two a.m. and watch the sunrise at the top. I am so excited for that!

Anyway, ofcorse with this trip they gave us all the information on how to stay safe while we are there. The huge thing to emphasize was how to avoid assualt and groping. Modesty is the most important issue, which I will abide by. They gave us a paper written for ALL tourists traveling in the middle east and for the first time in my life, I was a little sad to have such blonde hair when I read the paragraph: "if your hair is BLONDE, you must unfortunatelyresign yourself to more inquisitive, and sexualized attention--at least while walking around in conservative town-centers--simply because of the novelty."

Its okay though, I am over it because I love my hair. I cannot wait for the trip, it will be so exciting, I just have to remember not to drink any water from the tap and always brush my teeth with bottled water just like in the Congo.

This week has been great so far! I got to go see the Isaiah scroll from the Seven dead sea scrolls on display at the Israel Musuem. I also got to see the Western wall and explore the Jewish and Armenian quarters of the Old City.

I am playing the violin in Sacrament meeting on Shabbat. It is a miracle that a man showed up randomly for a concert here at the center, and Sis. Squires asked him if he would loan a violin to the center, and he graciously did. I had such a dilemma about bringing my violin or not on this trip, and the Lord is blessing me with the opportunity to play even though I did not bring my own violin. The Lord truly looks after us, and he does want us to be happy. I love it here. I miss home but this experience is something I needed!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Random things

The picture of me next to this wierd sphere thing is at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This strange metal thing is actually used as a security measure. If there are ever any suspicous bags laying around (possible bombs) they hurry and put the bag into this sphere thing, and it destroys it. Cool security eh?

Week At A Glance

Wow I can't believe I have been here for over a week now. There is so much to do and so much to see here. Today we went on a Geography field trip to the edges of Jerusalem. I got to see Bethlehem for the first time--I never realized how close it is to Jerusalem. It is only about five miles away. I learned so much about the geography of the area on the Judean plains, that now when I read the Old Testament, everything makes sense!!! I also learned that about 65% of the Old Testament takes place around the Benjamin Plataeu which is just north of the Old City. Probably one of my most favorite sites is the one from my balcony, which is where this picture is. i baught a beautiful scarf/prayer shawl. On friday we are going to the Western Wall, so I may have to wear it if I want to go all the way up to the wall. I cannot wait!


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sacrament Meeting

Okay, so I had already experienced the spectacular view of the city from the auditorium where they hold church services and concerts, but Sacrament meeting put it on a whole new level. i had this overwhelming experience as I took the sacrament and looked out across the city right where Jesus had been. It puts the meaning over the sacrament on a new level for me. I could not help but cry the whole time. And ofcorse the spirit made my heart race that the girls next to me could notice how fast my heart was pumping. So, as you all know, the only way to get rid of that is to get up and bear tesitmony, which I did. I have been studying a lot about the Muslim religion before this trip to prepare, and I will be more while I am here too, as well as Judaism. Sometimes as I read about Islam I would get troubled as I realized how much truth and similarities Islam has to the LDS church. But I know that they do not have the whole truth, most importantly in the fact that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God. He is the only way, and I love him. The Church of Jesus Christ is the true church! I know it with all of my heart. Wow, I knew I was going to have some amazing experiences before I came, but I never expected to feel like this and so soon after I got here. I love it here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Center

We arrived at the center--coolest place ever! I can't even describe how beautiful the view is from my patio, I am in love! I just sit outside and do homwork in the evenings while I listen to loud speakers of the Muslims' call to prayer. It sounds so cool. The month of Ramadan is going on, so we even hear the call to prayer at 4:30 in the morning to wake people up and eat before Sunrise. It is awesome. Classes have officially started. We are not allowed to leave the center today because it is friday--the muslim sabbath and first one of the month of Ramadan. Apparently muslims from surrounding areas all come into Jerusalem, so it is too dangerous for us to go out today. Bummer. I can't wait to go explore the city. We went on a orientation walk around the city to get familiaized with our surroundings, but it is not enough, I want more!! I can't get enough of the city. It is so beautiful and so sacred.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Adventures in Traveling

Well, my checked bag weighed 48 pounds; Kelsey’s only weighed 43, and Ali’s was a whole whopping 52, so we took out a couple things and threw them into my carry-on. Thankfully I have had lots of experience going through security, or else I wouldn’t have made it with how much stuff I had to get through the x-ray. With four bins, including my shoes, lap top, camera, jacket, bag of liquids and gels, then my big heavy carry-on and a large purse, I managed to never even hold up the line, and it all went through just fine! I rock at getting through security! The flight to JFK was fine, except for the unavoidable long wait when we landed and had to wait to get into the gate—of course I had to go to the bathroom really bad, and the fasten seat belt sign was on. Luckily I made it. At JFK there was a pigeon flying around INSIDE at our gate. Luckily no yucky white stuff landed on me. The rest of the trip was fine, except for the airport ate my bag up pretty bad—brand new and already has a hole in it! Jerusalem is incredible. It is better than I could even imagine! I love it here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Yahoo Kelsey, Ali, and I are all going to Jerusalem, I am dying to go! I cannot wait!!!!! Let's just hope we don't kill ourselves while we are over there.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


This is me standing next to a termite mound in the Congo--Yikes!!