Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Let's just run away and live in Jerash, among the columns..."

Wednesday evening we went to Jerash, an hour or so north of Amman, to see more ruins. I'll admit that I was getting a little ruin-ed out at that point, and wasn't particularly looking forward to it. Not that I haven't enjoyed all the sites we've been to, but after that many ruins in that short of time things start to run together. 

Upon arriving at Jersash, however, I found that I was in for a big surprise. The ruins there were absolutely incredible. We were there for two hours, but I would have gladly stayed there all night, and then come back again the next day. It was like a giant playground for big kids. It was by far the largest set of Roman ruins we've seen yet--every new corner we turned I realized how much farther the structures spread out. I talked to a guy here who has been to Rome, and he said that he thought these ruins were even cooler than those there (save for the Colosseum, of course). 

We started out at Hadrian's gate, south of the city. At the time this city would have been built, it was common procedure to build a wall around the city for increased defensibility. Thus, there would have been four gates into the city, like this one. Here in Jerusalem we have to go through gates to get into the Old City, which is walled as well. Though back in the day the gates would have looked like this, the one's here are now small corridors lined with various shops. It was neat to get an idea of what our temporary home would have looked like in its prime.

Standing in front of Hadrian's gate

We then moved into the city, and came to the hippodrome, or arena. Here they would have held most of their outdoor events, including, most likely, jousting! I was reminded so much of A Knight's Tale, and took incredibly too many pictures accordingly. It looked just like in the movie, sans the Heath Ledger.

Can't you just imagine horses speeding down the length of this?

Entering the city proper, we were greeted by rows and rows of columns, a sight we've now become fairly well acquainted with. These were by far the best preserved we've seen yet though. And, as you can see by the picture below, they were everywhere.

Too many pillars to count...

Even more columns. I tell you, they were everywhere.
Moving farther down the main street, or "cardo," we came to a very large fountain. The Romans would have had various performances here, probably with scantily clad women. Our guide told us girls not to get any ideas, but... seriously. We're BYU students. We're more likely to have a random dance party in it than we are to "get any ideas." But, in any case, it was one of the largest Roman structures we've seen. I felt dwarfed standing next to it (I presume that even Morgan would...).

This picture adequately captures the dwarfing.
We then found even more columns, this time with a cool staircase by them. So we took more pictures.

me + columns = half of my pictures.
Eventually we got some free time to run all over (without climbing on antiquities) and explore on our own. That was my favorite part of the day. We climbed up the staircase in the picture above, and found a neat overlook where we could see a good portion of the city. Keep in mind though that it still stretched out for a good quarter mile or so on the other side of the picture that you can't see.

You can see Hadrian's gate far in the distance, and a theater to the right (stage left) of the picture. As well as many many columns.

A sweet shadow shot of Me, Sarah, and Becca. And - more columns!
As our departure time neared, we made our way back to Hadrian's gate along the upper ridge, and went into the theater. It was beautiful, and bigger than I had expected. While we were exploring the stage, a group of bagpipe musicians began to play. There were about fifteen or so BYU students in the theater at the time, and the mob mentality took over. Soon we were all doing the macarena on stage, to bagpipe music, in an ancient Roman theater, in Jordan. I feel safe saying that is an experience I will never have again, but it was a complete blast. It also solidified my theory about BYU students and their susceptibility to dance parties.

Standing in the theater. The man behind me on the left wearing the red keffiyeh was one of the bagpipe players

Jerash was, most sincerely, one of my favorite places that I've ever visited. I never wanted to leave. The temperature had been perfect the whole time we were there, and as the sun was slowly setting it basked everything in a warm evening glow. I was also lucky enough to explore the whole place with some great new friends. 

Jerash is a magical place. My imagination was running wild the whole time I was there picturing what the city must have looked like in its prime. What the horses would have sounded like trotting down the cobble stone road. What a Sophocles play would have looked like being performed in the theater. How crowded it must have been going through Hadrian's gate at midday. Or even how the columns would have looked when they were connected to things. Not that I have anything against columns...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Jordan Posts

Hello all!

I'm in the process of catching up with some posts about our incredible adventure to Jordan this week. I've gotten most of it done, but will be finishing up soon- hopefully. We're entering our first midterms, so this is serving as a very welcome means of procrastination. :) Haha.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Claire Rose

"And as he passed over Peniel the sun rose upon him..."

On Wednesday we had a variety of experiences. We started our day off by going to the King Abdullah mosque in Amman. There all of the women had to put on head scarves and then wear black robes (Dr. Huntsman coined them the "Dementor Cloaks"). Though black robes aren't traditionally necessary, different religious leaders in Amman have been pushing through more modesty requirements, and, thus, we we donned the cloaks.

King Abdullah mosque

Outside the mosque in my head scarf and robe
The mosque itself was actually quite beautiful. It was one of the larger ones we've seen, and the first one I've ever gone into. After taking off our shoes and entering, we sat down on the ground and our guide Jousef began explaining some fundamentals of Islam to all of us.

The inside of the mosque
I've never thought of myself as ignorant, and especially after attending a lecture on Islam last semester I assumed that I knew most of the fundamentals--Muhammed's revelations, the five pillars of faith, etc. However, in the space of half an hour, Jousef was able to surprise us all. For instance, I had no idea that Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as a prophet and hold great reverence for Him. Though there are, of course, some large discrepancies in our beliefs, it was really refreshing to hear that we share something that is so absolutely vital to our Christian faith. I now feel a much greater kinship with all the Muslims I have met so far, all those I will meet, and those that I never will. Just another great lesson here in the Holy Land.

After the mosque we went to the Citadel in Amman, or the ruins of the old Roman city that was built there. It's strange to be at a site full of ruins, and at the same time be surrounded by a modern city. But we found that to be pretty common practice in Jordan. We had a good time there and got to spend some time in a neat Archaeological museum there.

A sign explaining some different periods of Amman, and some ruins in the background

There were some very big pillars. They accentuated my shortness quite nicely.

Davis and I in front of some of the ruins

A shot out from the citadel over Amman - one of my new favorite cities

Next we headed to Jerash, an area in northern Jordan. On the way there, we stopped at the Jabbok River, known as "Peniel" in the Old Testament. It's the place in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with an angel of the Lord, and where he is blessed and becomes Israel.

The Jabbok river from where I sat
After that we headed to Jerash, which was absolutely incredible and definitely deserves its own post, so I'll conquer that when I can.

God Bless you all,

Claire Rose

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Well, we could be in Provo…. Or PETRA!!!

Tuesday we went to Petra. It seemed so surreal. Every second of it seemed like a dream. Thinking back on the experience now, it doesn’t seem like it even actually happened. I kept looking around myself, and I was simply overcome with a feeling of awe.

You walk about half a mile or so before you get to the infamous entry way to Petra: the Siq (or, according to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the canyon of the Crescent Moon). The Siq itself is an incredible site. You walk through this narrow canyon that goes on for almost a mile, with walls that reach high into the sky. The rocks on either side have incredible colorings, and there are interesting carvings on your way through, including men, camels’ feet, and whales.

Becca and I at the entrance to the Siq

Me in the Siq

Then, as you near the end, you suddenly catch a glimpse of the Treasury (probably the most recognizable building at Petra). And your breath is taken away, and you have one of those moments I described earlier, when you can’t believe that you’re actually seeing what you are. It’s such a magnificent, giant, beautiful building – and none of those words even begin to do it justice.

This is what it looks like as you round the corner from the Siq into Petra proper. Probably my favorite picture I took all day.

Me in front of the Treasury

Vladi and I with our "serious faces" in front of the Treasury

After spending some time there, we began our long (and steep) hike to the Monastery. The hike was hard, but absolutely beautiful. There are carvings everywhere, and from the high altitude you can look over all of Petra.

An overlook on the way up to the Monastery

Posing in an arch, with Becca and Sarah creeping in the back

More facades on the way up to the Monastery

The Monastery itself was incredible. It was so incredibly large. Just the step up to the door was about six feet high! But we made it up and looked around inside, once again, it was pretty small. Actually, considering how much work must have gone into the outside, the inside was a bit of a let down. But all of the beautiful carvings of Petra simply serve as facades to mausoleums, so I suppose that was to be expected (although Indiana Jones is completely misleading in that regard…)

A far back shot of me and the Monastery - see how big it is?!?!

A closer up shot where you can actually see my face
Sarah, Me, Becca, and Crystal in the doorway of the Monastery

A whip action shot, channeling my best Indiana Jones

We then hiked back down, and went back to the Treasury where we rode camels! I expected it to feel somewhat like riding a horse, but the height you have on a camel is far greater than any of the large horses I’ve ridden. After dismounting the camels we went back through the Siq, where we then picked up horses to ride back to the entrance of the park. After some reassuring, I convinced the man in charge of the horse I was riding to let go of the lead rope and let me just ride it myself. My reputation around here is that of the “Montana Cowgirl,”, so I had to live up to that. I think I succeeded fairly well. :)

That is a camel. And I'm on top of it. What...??
Me, the Camel, and the Treasury. We make a good group.

The horse ride back to the buses
Before I was able to convince him that I could ride on my own... facing backwards may not have helped the problem.
Petra senior pic! Haha. 

From Jerusalem to -- Jordan!


I have found my second favorite country in the world- so far, at least. And it’s not one that I was expecting. But I’ll say it plainly – I’m in love with Jordan! I don’t even know how to describe why I love it so much. I guess probably just because we all had such an incredible experience. But in all seriousness- it’s a beautiful, wonderful place.

We left early Monday morning, and headed for the border between Israel and Jordan. Even though the border is only like 45 minutes away from the Jerusalem Center, it took us two hours to get across because of the strict regulations you have to go through for crossing Israeli borders. It cost 17,000 just for the students and professors to cross the border—that’s roughly $4500!

Once we finally crossed we went to Madaba, where Mt. Nebo is located, which overlooks the promised land. According to Deuteronomy 34, it was where Moses was taken to view the Holy Land.  [Madaba Picture]
A group of us posing with a monument at Mt. Nebo

Sarah, Me, and Becca posing in front of the Promised Land!

After that we went to Machaerus, which was a fortress built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Janneus, and later a fortress of Herod Antipas. Antipas lived at the time of John the Baptist, and revered him as a man of God. However, Antipas decided to marry his brother’s wife, something strictly against the Law of Moses. John the Baptist knew that this was unacceptable and condemned the marriage. Thus, his head was demanded. The fortress is the supposed site of the beheading. The site was in pretty good shape, and was a great opportunity for a discussion about serving Christ. It’s easy when you read a story like aforementioned one to say that we would each be willing to die for Christ like John the Baptist, and, in fact, I believe most of us would. But really, dying for Christ wouldn’t be all that difficult. It might be painful, but it would be fairly quick and wouldn’t require too much of our own effort. No, rather than dying for Christ, the harder path is choosing to LIVE for Christ; to exemplify Him in everything we do and to be an example unto the believers.  This is the real struggle that most of us face every day, but really, what more worthy struggle could there be?

Sarah, Becca, Me, and Crystal posing on some ruins as statues... so I went for the Heisman pose, of course.

Me, Amanda, and Sarah around a column at Machaerus
The view from Machaerus

That evening we made the long drive down to Petra in southern Jordan. We arrived at our hotel and were greeted by the best welcoming party I have ever seen. There were tables and tables of fresh orange juice and pita bread waiting for us, as well as horses available for us to ride around in front of the hotel and a man playing traditional Arab songs on a wooden flute. After getting over the shock of this five star treatment, we brought our bags in and headed to the hotel restaurant for dinner, where there was once again a wooden flute player, this time joined with a bongo-ish type drum player. Dinner was great, but it soon developed into my first real Arab dance party.
Me and Sarah with our welcoming glasses of OJ :)

One of the horses they had there to welcome us... Seriously, it was like a royal welcoming. I could get used to that... haha. :)
The drummer and flute player at dinner

We had all gathered around the flute and drum player, and soon the waiters came over and began to demonstrate some of the traditional dances. They then started teaching us them, and before we knew it we were doing a grapevine-like dance all around the restaurant. It literally seemed like a scene out of a movie. After spending an hour dancing with what seemed like the whole restaurant staff (chef and his chef hat included), we headed up to our rooms, very satisfied, and with the beginnings of a passionate love affair with Jordan.

Lee, Amy, Sarah, one of the waiters, one of the chefs, and Me after the epic Arab dance party

He is not Here, for He is Risen

 Last Saturday we took a class trip to the Garden Tomb to celebrate the Sabbath. The place of Jesus’ actual crucifixion site and burial place are well contested here in Jerusalem, with the two most prominent claims being the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Garden Tomb. But, as our tour guide said, it doesn’t matter where it happened, it just matters that it does. We weren’t there to worship a place, we were there to worship the Living Christ. That’s an especially neat thought when we consider going back to the states and having to cope with the loss of all these holy sites. Because, the truth is, God is just as much in Provo, Utah or Dillon, Montana as he is in Jerusalem, Israel.

Anyway, it was such an incredible experience. After touring the garden we got to actually go into the tomb and look around. It was so much smaller than I had thought it would be. I guess there’s no need for it to be really big, but I guess I always assumed that it was. It all reality it was pretty tiny.


The inside of the tomb
The sign on the door - a good reminder to not worship places, but rather, Jesus Christ
Kaylie, me, and Crystal in front of the entrance to the tomb

After seeing the tomb, we sat back in the middle of the garden and began to sing hymns. We sang a bunch of Easter songs, celebrating the Resurrection, before ending with “I Believe in Christ,” one of my favorite hymns. It’s funny how you can sing a hymn so many times without actually fully appreciating the words. We got to the last line, and “I believe in Christ, so come what may…” really hit me. Everyone goes through hard times, but regardless of what happens, Christ died and rose for us, so the hard part is already over. We have a Savior who loves us and who we can depend on. At that moment all the crazy experiences of the last month and the significance of the Atonement hit me and I cried all through the closing prayer. It was one of the most intense witnesses of Jesus Christ I’ve ever had, and it was a very welcome experience.

Then, on Sunday, I volunteered to help with the mural painting at the school for disabled children that BYU helps sponsor. Every semester some of the students here spend free time painting a wall for the kids, and so I spent from nine am to noon of my free day painting the mural at the school. Last semester they did the map on the top, so we’re doing some children and some more decorations on the bottom half. Things went so fast though that we might try to do another one as well before the semesters finished.

The tracing in progress (thank goodness it was just tracing, otherwise I wouldn't have been much help...)

Us with the finished (or as finished as we could get for that week) product

Next week, more students will go back and continue our work