Thursday, April 12, 2012

For Mom!

I don't know how else to get in touch with you at the moment, so this will have to suffice:


Also, I took this picture meaning to upload it forever ago. It was a giant rock I saw on our Shephelah field trip. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to take a picture. You know why. :)

Love you!!!!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

O Little Town of Bethlehem...

"Angels we have heard on high...

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing..."

I've sang that song countless times, through church, recreation, and of course Teen Tone caroling. But never did I think that I would actually live up to those lyrics. I came to Bethlehem. And I saw. And I felt.

However, we started the day (a month or so ago... I'm catching up, slowly but surely) out at the Herodium. We don't go into the West Bank very often, so when we do, we try to make a full day of it. The Herodium was a fortress that Herod built as he was fleeing to Masada. It's built on a mountain that looks almost like a volcano, which makes it pretty secure. There were plenty of columns... but we had gotten sick of column pics, so Sarah and I took some in a doorway. Oh yeah- and I wore my hair natural that day! First time in, well, since like 6th grade. So that was a big deal. Everyone was super nice about it, so I think I may be bringing back the "80s rock princess hair" (as Wesley calls it).

Sarah Brown doing Asian face. I guess she's okay at it.
Then we got back in the bus and headed to Bethlehem! We toured the Church of the Nativity, which is said to be built over the spot where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. It's probably not the same spot, but as with most things, it's the thought that counts. It was a beautiful church nonetheless, and touched the places that are said to be the actual places where these holy events occurred. After that we went to an empty basement room where we sang Christmas carol upon Christmas carol. The songs literally drove me to my knees. I've never felt such an overwhelming feeling that I should kneel in front of my God. 

1/2 of our hometeachers, with 3/4 of the hometeachees in front of the Church of the Nativity.
Janae and I at the spot Jesus was laid in a manger.
We then went to "Shepherd's Fields," a traditional site of the shepherds who saw the star announcing Jesus' birth. We sang even more Christmas songs there. While we were singing, multiple tractors and construction trucks drove by below us. Looking around, we could see houses cropping up all around the field and encroaching on this special area. At first it angered me slightly--there I was, trying to have a spiritual moment and experience what it would have been like for the shepherds, and these loud vehicles were really hampering my ability to do so. Then I realized, once again, the biggest lesson the Holy Land has to offer: the place really doesn't matter. At all. It's not about where things happened, but the fact that they actually even happened at all. After that, I was glad for all of the modernizations. They reinforced in my mind that regardless of what that sacred field looks like, shepherds saw a star. The star that shone to tell the world that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born. And at the end of the day, that's quite enough for me.

Janae, Me, Becca, and Sarah in front of Shepherd's Fields
Lee, Me, Janae, and Sarah sporting our apartment gang sign, 404... get it? Fairly clever.  Not like I came up with it myself or anything.... ;)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Second half of Turkey... In a debatable number of words...

Due to collage-ing pictures, I'm not exactly how many thousands of words this post has. Hopefully enough to satisfy.

Part of our trip was talking about the different canonical councils, including the famous/infamous Nicaea Council! We visited the site where they would have debated the books of scripture, which was a pretty neat site, considering how much influence the council had on each of our lives as Christians.

At Nicaea. It was soooo cold. 

Janae and I at the gymnasium at Sardis, where men used to wrestle. 

Not feeling up to wrestling, I did the most gymnasium appropriate thing I could think of- cartwheels! After doing like ten or so I was able to compile some good shots, thanks to Sarah's super camera skills. 

Then we went to the HAGGIA SOPHIA!!! Only one of the most beautiful buildings ever built. It started out as a gorgeous church and was then converted into a mosque. It now functions as a sweet tourist attraction. I've heard about the Haggia Sophia for a long time, and last semester in Art History we learned a lot about it. So actually getting to see it was quite fulfilling.
Haggia Sophia collage!!! So pretty......
We spent our final hours in Istanbul at a fish restaurant... which would have been great, if I was a fan of fish. (and yes mom, I did try it. But it was super fishy. :) Thus, I ate a dinner consisting of soup and probably 15 pieces of french bread. Very good french bread. The restaurant itself was impressive, complete with pillow seats along the wall! Sarah and I fought our way in to get prime pillow seats. Others, like Becca and Jason, weren't as lucky.
This picture demonstrates a univesal truth: Pillow seats = wealth and wine glasses, regular chairs = poverty, water, and bread. Pillow seats FTW.

Regardless of having pillow seats or not, we were all still served these delicious appetizers: green olives wrapped in fish. ...errr, yum.

Turkish Discotecas > Turkish Delight

And I love me some authentic Turkish delight, Chronicles of Narnia style. But it's a pretty easy decision that their discotecas are even better. Going to a foreign discoteca has been on my bucket list for. ever.

This is a small taste of what happens when a bunch of BYU students overrun a Turkish discoteca. This, and Claire's dreams come true.

"Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

Ephesus was so great. No, really, so great. The ruins there are incredible, the weather was perfect, and Acts 19 will never be the same.

Not only is Ephesus beautiful, but it's also a significant location in the Bible. Acts 19 chronicles Paul's experience in Ephesus, which is a really interesting account. However, when your entire class re-enacts the scene in the ancient 25,000 seat theatre where the scene very well could have taken place, screaming, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!!!" at the top of our lungs ... the whole story has a lot more meaning. Silly as it sounds, re-enacting that scene in Ephesus suddenly made the story stand out in a way it never has before, and has now become one of my favorite stories from the Bible. Paul was an incredible servant of our Lord. 

After acting out the story and singing some hymns we were free to explore around--my favorite. We saw the ins and outs of Ephesus, and took some sweet pics. It was a good day.

Posing with the Library at Ephesus. It was reminiscent of the mausoleums at Petra... and more than anything, it was incredible to be able to make that kind of comparison.
Upon finding a base without a column or statue, we figured we had better spice up the lonely rock a little bit. Heisman pose? Check. No antiquities were harmed in the taking of these photos. Promise.

There were pretty flowers everywhere! I found this one in some water, in an old column base. Score.
Pretty flowers make girls frolick. Scientific fact. See proof above.

Epic band pic. Mark, Sarah, me, Janae, and Grace rockin' the deep,  sultry, contemplative look.  This pic makes me feel like we'd definitely be some chill alt-rock band. I could handle that.
Outside the library, senior pic style.
We literally ran off the bus when it got to the hotel to try to catch the sunset on the beach. We missed the sun going down, but we did catch this beautiful lighting. Lovely end to a lovely day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

First Half of Turkey! In over 8,000 words...

So, I just realized that if I don't get on top of my blogging soon, I'll still be catching up by the time I get home. Thus, I'm going to shorten my writing and just get some good 'ole pics up for everyone to see. And since a picture's worth a thousand words, you guys get 8,000 words. So here are just a few highlights from the first few days in Turkey:

  • The most incredible bonfire of my life. Our first hotel built us a giant bonfire, on the beach, on the Mediterranean, under a full moon, with rockin' music and 82 best friends. Yeah- life is good.
  • Visiting Troy, and wishing the whole time that mom could be there with me! It was so cool to see the ruins and, especially, the wooden horse replica! We had tons of fun climbing up in there.
  • Riding a ferry from Europe to Asia! Literally. And, incredibly, it took all of 25 minutes.

The beach at our first hotel! 
Me, Becca, and Sarah and the BEACH!
We spent a good half hour or so just writing things in the sand... So much fun. :)

"Chicken"... in Turkey... Get it? Haha. 

At this point we were a 20 minute boat ride away from Greece... but couldn't go... :(

Riding a ferry from the Europe part of Turkey to the Asian side of Turkey

Not exactly an "O-H-I-O," but pretty good. ;)

In the replica wooden horse! Sadly Brad Pitt wasn't there to go in with us...

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Istanbul was Constantinople...

Istanbul! What a city. Up until a year ago, students at the Jerusalem Center would spend a week in Egypt, visiting important sites there. However, with the Arab Spring and resulting political uncertainty, the program has been changed, and students now spend a week in Turkey instead. I must say I was fairly disappointed in this change at first. I’ve always wanted to go to Egypt (hasn’t everyone? Mom- no input here :), and especially now that democracy is blooming there. People my age are stating their opinions and making real changes in the government. I find that so exciting. Thus, Turkey seemed only like an afterthought. But, after spending a week there, I have to say: I love Turkey. What an incredible country. And, especially, especially Istanbul.

ISTANBUL! At the airport.
Mercedes-Benz bus... the height of luxury...
We arrived in Istanbul at night, and the next day we spent exploring the city. We visited the Blue Mosque, which was absolutely incredible. We've seen a lot of mosques here, but this one takes the cake. Fun story: most mosques only have two minarets, but the Blue Mosque has six. Sultan Ahmed was 19 when he began construction on it. He wanted it to be bigger and better than all other mosques (some young man testosterone acting up, no doubt), so he wanted six minarets. However the Masjid al-Haram- the main mosque in Mecca- had six minarets itself, so people were reluctant to let Ahmed have six on the Blue Mosque. However, the Masjid got one more minaret, and then the go ahead was given to Ahmed to have his six minarets, and prove his testosterone once and for all. Google search for pictures of the interior... seriously, it's beautiful.
In front of the Blue Mosque -- probably the most gorgeous mosque I've ever seen

Me, Sarah, and Becca inside the Blue Mosque

Then we went to Topkapi Palace, in downtown Istanbul. It's seriously gorgeous. And huge. Oh yeah, and I got to see an 85 carat diamond there. nbd. It overlooked the gorgeous Marmara Sea, which was a bonus.
Looking out over the Sea of Marmara
Some examples of the beautiful tiles, architecture, etc. at the palace
At the palace... Haggia Sophia is technically visible over my right shoulder... if you squint...
We also spent an hour at the world renowned Grand Bazaar, which has over 5000 shops!! Crazy. There was so much to see there.

In the Grand Bazaar!
We ended our incredible day with a boat ride on the Bosphorus. One side of strait was Asia, the other was Europe. Crazy sensation to literally be between two continents. It was one of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever seen, and, coming from Montana, you know that means something.
Sunset from a ferry on the Bosphorus.... so beautiful.
Not the most attractive picture ever, but it comes with a good story. On a boat ride, we figured we had to do a rendition of Lonely Island's "I'm on a Boat." So we did an edited version. And it was great. When I have good internet again (so probably when I'm back in the States), I'll post it.  :)