Lately…

So I don’t have an excuse to not update anymore. I just finished finals for all but two of my classes. Tonight is the last night in Jerusalem before we head to Turkey so I’m taking the time to update my blog and keep you in the know. I know I haven’t update since Petra and Jordan, but a lot has happened since then. Some of the highlights of the past few weeks have been the Seder meal, Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial museum), Hezekiah’s Tunnel (the water channel underneath the City of David), seeing the Separation Wall up close and personal, going to the Knesset (the Israeli parliamentary building), Arab and Israeli folk dancing, etc. Somehow life in Jerusalem just feels very normal now, besides the fact that it is snowing. I never though I’d see snow on the Dome of the Rock. Life is wonderful.

Feel free to check out the blogs of some of my friends here in Jerusalem who update more regularly than I do:

http://graceyfin.blogspot.com/

http://adverbialone.blogspot.com/

Now, here are the pictures you have all been waiting to see!!

Pictures!

So finally here are some pictures to satisfy your curiosity about what I have been up to here. Also I can see that updating my blog probably isn’t going to happpen as often as I had hoped for. So I would highly reccomend that you follow some of my teachers and classmates blogs, who are much more detailed and dilligent bloggers than I am. Check them out! http://huntsmansintheholyland.blogspot.com/

Rooftop view of the old city looking towards the Dome of the Rock

The Temple of Hercules: Greek/Roman ruins in Ammon, Jordan

 

Looking at the Treasury in Petra from the slot canyon leading up to it called the Siq

My friends Amy and Madison in front of the treasury in Petra (the one from Indiana Jones!)Madison and I at the lowest place in the world, Jericho

Highlights

Alright. I didn’t think it would be that hard to post every week. But it is. So here are a couple highlights of the past three weeks.

The Western Wall. We went here on a Friday evening for the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat. As we entered the square, I could hear both the Muslim call to prayer and the Jewish songs to welcome the Sabbath. This is such a city of paradoxes. The men and women have different areas to worship by the western wall: women to the right, men to the left. I love going to Western Wall (used to be known as the Wailing Wall) and people watching. There were hundreds of women packed into the worshipping space, most of the younger generation (girls my age) were singing and dancing in a large circle, while some older women were rocking back and forth and crying while praying next the wall. A huge group of us girls joined in on the Shabbat festivities and danced and sang some of the songs I am learning in my Hebrew class. I was amazed how the younger women were so welcoming and willing to teach us their traditions even though we butchered some of the songs. I hope I never forget that night.

Petra. WOW. Coolest thing I have ever done. I literally have never been so amazed at anything in my whole life. If you are like me and had never heard of Petra before coming the Middle East, you probably don’t get why this ranks on the top of my list. Petra is an ancient city that was literally carved out of sandstone cliffs by the Nabateans and was abandoned and forgotten for centuries until it was discovered in the 1800’s by a very curious explorer who convinced the local Bedouins to show him this lost city. What I couldn’t even fathom was how enormous these buildings are. Hundred foot tall columns were carved out of the rock that composed these buildings foundation and interior. Imagine Zion National Park except with a huge Greco-Roman city carved out of its cliffs and canyons. That is Petra. Except with lots of camels and donkeys milling around. I never thought I was very good at saying ‘no’ to people but I have become a master at it here. There are so many kids and shop owners that are begging you to buy from them here, especially when I was in Petra. Other than getting a fair amount of haggling, I did more hiking and climbing in four hours than I think I have ever done in my life. We hiked up to the Monastery, which were literally thousands of giant stone steps up this steep mountainside. I hate to say it, but a stray dog passed me and actually beat me to the monastery on my way up that treacherous mountain. I think that is why it was a monastery; I would never want to make that walk back to civilization every day if I were a monk. But I made it. The view was amazing. We hiked to a lookout point called “The End of the World” where you could see most of Jordan. I thought the view was spectacular until I looked down and realized I was standing on the tallest, steepest cliff I ever seen. I think it would be the end of anyone’s world if they got too close to the edge of that cliff. My group decided to go exploring in the nearby caves and canyons, I think my inner mountain goat must have come out because I managed to not die while climbing around in slot canyons and such. What an amazing day. I would go back to Petra in a heartbeat.

So there’s the highlights for right now! I will try to get some photos of Petra and other adventures up soon!

So what you hav…

So what you have been dying to hear: my first post from Israel!

 

A Side Note: Right now I am listening to the Muslim call to prayer that is ‘broadcasted’ from minarets (strange looking loudspeakers next to mosques). There are several across the city, and I swear there is one right next to the center. It is surprisingly loud, and since it plays five times a day, the earliest around 5 o’clock, it has consistently woken me up. I don’t know how to describe what it sounds like, but it is an Arabic recital of select passages of the Koran that sounds like something in between monks in a Gregorian chant and as Amy put it, a dying cat. Each time I hear it, I enjoy it more. It is so foreign to me, but it is beautiful as well. I am just looking forward to the day it doesn’t wake me up in the morning.

The Flight Here: Ami, I really could have packed my full sized shampoo and conditioner, my luggage weighed in at 49 pounds at home, but 47 in the airport. So Laurel, it looks like your scale is two pounds off haha. It was nice to travel in a large group, it made spending a couple hours laid over in JFK much more pleasant. The plane flight to Tel Aviv was about 9-10 hours from JFK, so it was completely manageable but it would have been much less uncomfortable if I hadn’t chugged my liter of water before going through the last leg of security before entering the plane. I haven’t had to pee that desperately in a very long time. While I stayed quite hydrated, I had to climb over my seatmates three times during that long flight to use the smallest bathroom in the world. I was lucky to have a window sleep, but even with my brand new pillow pet, I only got an hour of intermittent sleep. Jesselle—Bossy Pants by Tina Fey was the perfect thing to listen to on the flight over, it was all I could do to not wake up my seatmates by busting out laughing.

After some edible but still slightly frozen Kosher airplane meals, we made it Tel Aviv. As we walked out of the airport, I almost cried because it was so perfectly warm and beautiful. And I knew that I would have another months before I would have to endure such a miserably long flight home.

The Jerusalem Center: This center has to be the nicest place I have ever lived, or ever will live, as a student. It is eight floors of marble hallways and has a panoramic view of Jerusalem on top of Mount Scopus (next to the Mount of Olives). It is the second most expensive building the church has ever built, and I feel so blessed to live here. I can’t get over the view from here, I look out from my apartment’s balcony and I see a perfect postcard shot of the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Church is held in the Auditorium which has glass walls facing the city, needless to say, the speakers have a lot of competition for our attention.

The second thing I love about the center (other than its prime location) is the food. Yep, I bet no one saw that coming…I thought it would be strange to cook any of my meals, but I can definitely get used to this. The Oasis is our little ‘cafeteria’ but it is more like food paradise. The local chef and his staff make the most amazing food. Last night I had Shwarma—which is just like Dad said, marinated meat stacked on a spike and roasted on a standing rotisserie then shaved off. I could have died and gone to heaven. Plus there is pita bread and hummus everywhere! Jesselle, you would be happy to hear that I am having the most regular, balanced meals of my life there are so many fruits and vegetables and salads, I just can’t get over it. Yesterday I had Tabouleh, some garlicky, sweet and kinda pickled carrots, fresh mozzarella caprese salad and a persimmon along with my shwarma for dinner. And the muesli and kefir for breakfast are so amazing. I am going to try and get the ‘recipes’ and eat this for the rest of my life. Lots of students have had some trouble adjusting their stomachs to all this ‘strange’ food. Not me.

Classes: The classes are definitely going to be intense, but I am going to glean all I can from them (even if we have a ridiculous amount of reading to do) and try to get a decent grade. But I think I will like them a lot. I am just getting ready to go to my first Hebrew class–I can’t wait to take a class from the legendary Mrs. Goldman. I had my first class of our Israel politics/history today and I have the Palestinian perspective this evening. There is so much conflict here, but not many people can/will talk about it. I am hoping that these classes will shed some light on it.

The People: This probably goes without saying, but the people here are amazing. The students in the program are awesome and really want to be here. My roommates are chill, fun and sweet and it is just so refreshing that we are all in the same boat because we are all in the same classes and have the same homework. I haven’t had a ton of interaction yet with locals, but I can’t wait to get to know them and ask them about how it is to live in Jerusalem. I can’t talk about the Church or politics at all, but I really want to get the local perspective.

The City: The walls and the streets of the Old Cit are magnificent and once you enter through the Damascus gate, you have step back in time. Street vendors and shops crowd every alley way and street. As we walk by in our groups, I can here people saying “It’s the Mormons!” You have to be pretty careful not to attract unwanted attention, and I am sure I will get more comfortable as I stay here longer. Evidently, looking a guy in the eyes and smiling is considered heavy flirting here and you are considered a ‘loose woman’ if you touch or hold hands or even hug another guy. I haven’t had any trouble, but I have been much more conscious of where I look and have been considerably less touchy than I normally am. The smiling part, well, I can stop smiling because I am in constant awe at this city. I can’t wait to spend more time in the city walking around and getting to know the streets and the vendors and locals.

Becca, Jacob and I walked the ramparts of the city walls on Sunday. We were walking at least 3/4 of the time from 9am to 4:30 pm. Needless to say, my calves and feet are killing me this week. I really should have worn socks with my TOMS that day. I know TOMS are sock optional, but blisters are not cool. We walked at least 6 miles and then every day we walk some more on uneven stone streets. The view of the city and the surrounding valleys and cities is so beautiful and really helpful as I am trying to get my bearings.

We observe the Sabbath on Saturday instead of Sunday here like our Orthodox Jewish neighbors. In a way, it seems almost more fitting, even though it keeps throwing me off.

Hmmm…well I swear I will post more soon. And I can’t upload pictures from the center and I have to go the Hebrew University to do that but I will keep you posted!

Ready….Set….Fly?

Wow. First post! I created this blog hoping it would help me feel more ready to leave. But I still have a mess of packing ahead of me. Fitting my life (not to mention my ultra-modest wardrobe) into a 50 pound suitcase is tricky. Wah, wah, wah. Watch me complain as I get ready to embark on the most awesome adventure ever. I am convinced things will work out in the end. Like Kylie told me,”If things aren’t working out, its not the end.”

Truer words were never said.

This plane flight will be so long, that heck, I might be a hobo for 14 hours and get a free blanket and meal! I leave JFK at 8:55pm and arrive in Tel Aviv at 2:45pm the next day. From Seattle to Jerusalem there is a ten-hour time difference. At 6am in Seattle it is 4pm in Jerusalem. So calling/Skyping might be a little…interesting.

Alright! I am off to do last minute packing! Happy traveling and have happy New Year!

Blog at WordPress.com.