Saturday, January 24, 2009

Highlights

Shabbat Shalom! Since I'm lucky enough to be going to Egypt for 8 days, I decided to list some of the highlights before I leave. These are no particular order.

1. Visits to the Old City. An incredible mix of cultures, people, smells, shops and foods. It's surrounded by a huge stone wall, that might as well be a time warp. Falafel, nuts, jewelry, candy, scarves and very pushy shop keepers. Love it.

2. Shabbat at the Western Wall. We celebrate the Sabbath, or Shabbat, on Saturday like the Jews here. Last Friday at sundown we went to the Western Wall which is the holiest site to the Jews to ring in the Shabbat celebration. All the Jews pray to the wall and write their prayers on little pieces of paper and stick them into cracks in the wall, so I decided to join in. Then we danced around and sang Hebrew songs with all the Jews. My personal favorite was a girl with a lisp in her mid 20s thinking we were all Jews and kept telling us to "thing louder!"

3. Garden Tomb and Garden of Gethsemane.
Both of these gardens are within walking difference from the Center, which is such a blessing! I loved walking through and thinking about the amazing events that happened there. Both of the gardens are on major busy roads, but once inside the walls they are a little more peaceful and so beautiful. I already can't wait to go back!

4. Field Trips. We've gone on a geography trip to all the highest points in the city to see and look out over the Holy Land. We could see Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and Jordan all from the city! We also went on the Kotel tunnel tour of the Western Wall which was part of the retaining wall on the temple mount that King Herod built. The Jews have an underground synagogue there as its the closest thing to the temple. Next on the field trip list: Egypt!

5. Classes. As killer as my hefty classload is, I love learning about the history of the Middle East. So many things that we are learning about happened right outside the window of our classroom. I'm taking Old Testament, Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Modern Near East Studies (Jewish narrative) and Modern Near East Studies (Palestinian narrative), and Arabic. Thankfully Arabic is only pass/fail, which I'm thinking is a good thing since I can't even pronounce many of the letters in the alphabet.

I don't know how this whole picture thing works and I don't really have the time or patience to figure it out. These only reaffirm the fact that I am awful at taking pictures, but I promised myself to at least try to take good ones in Egypt.A lovely assortment of Americanized kippas or yarmulkes. My favorites: Pringles and my Denver Nuggs.

Above: A stunning view of the Jerusalem Center from the wall surrounding the Old City. Below: Another stunning shot. This time of me in captivity.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes it's true: I'm blogging.

Due to many of my recent acquaintances and/or friends begging me to create a blog to describe my fabulous adventures overseas, I have finally surrendered in my efforts to remain blogless (okay, no one has really begged me to write one, but I think I am one of five people who doesn't have one here out of 79 kids). Not that I usually give in to peer pressure, but I was feeling left out as everyone went to blog while I would go check my e-mail, which only leaves me feeling empty and sorrowful inside when there is nothing new in my inbox.

So, here I sit on the top of Mt. Scopus in eastern Jerusalem, Israel, avoiding futile attempts to do homework. To sum up the past few weeks of my life in a nutshell: I upped and moved to the BYU Jerusalem Center from two weeks ago until April and I am loving every second of it! The city is beautiful, the people are great, the classes are hard, I'm running on little sleep and basically life couldn't be better. [Sidenote: I am also sporting my brand new camel leather "Jerusalem Cruisers" that were only a mere 50 Shekels so really, what could be better?] I hope to update you all, or at least my mom if she chooses to read this, about my journeys and findings here in the Holy Land!