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.