Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Fridays ago we had another Humanitarian Activity. The first time we did our humanitarian activity we made 800 school kits for local children. Additionally, we had a totally rad dance party, both while, and after, assembling the kits.

This time we were assembling hygiene kits. We had a goal of assembling 1500 in the two hours of the activity, in order to get us on track to beat the previous records of 10,000 total kits assembled in a semester. With this goal in mind, we made kits like no one’s business. I was rolling toothbrushes in towels so fast that my hands were literally chaffed by the end of the activity. We took no breaks, and our dancing was definitely tamed. Our line in particular was flying—we created an eventual backlog because the second groups couldn’t keep up with us. But, in the end, it was so worth it. We made a total of 3400 kits! Those other semesters ain’t got nothin’ on us.

That night we watched Alladin for our “Friday Night Movie.” I had forgotten how great of a movie it is. It’s particularly more enjoyable now though, having lived in the Middle East. I was able to identify with so many more of the jokes. Like when Genie says, “Wake up and smell the hummus!” …oh, like the hummus I have almost every day here? Or when the shopkeepers are trying to get Jasmine to buy their products; that’s literally exactly what they’re like. Super pushy, and selling products you don’t need for prices that are far too high. Dad would love the bargaining here. :)

That Sunday was another free day. We started off by attending an Armenian Orthodox service. Except that service isn’t exactly the right word, or, at least, it stirs up the wrong picture in the mind. A group of fifteen or so young men stood in the middle of the chapel and did call and response with the priest while everyone else sat in the back. The song/chants were almost hypnotic… or maybe that was just a side effect of the strong incense. Either way, it was a beautiful service and we enjoyed the foreign nature of it completely.

Outside the Armenian chapel

A close up
After the service, we embarked on an adventure to find good food—the best kind of adventure, in my opinion. We wandered around the Jewish quarter for half an hour looking for a donut place we had heard about, before talking to a British Jew selling candied almonds who told us that the donuts were no good. He did suggest a little bakery called Marzipan though, so we made our way there. After deliberating between various tantalizing treats, I settled on one of the best cream puffs I’ve ever had. We then left to wander some more of the Jewish quarter, before heading back to the Christian quarter to get some hummus that our Arabic teacher suggested. And wow, was it good. It had a different texture than any of the hummus I’ve at home, or even here for that matter. It was ridiculously smooth and flavorful, and the fresh, hot pitas we got to go with it only made matters better. 

The delicious pitas and hummus

In the restaurant

Devouring pitas
We then wandered some more around the Christian quarter, before heading back to the Center. On our way we were distracted by a man advertising milkshakes. It was a fairly warm day, and a milkshake sounded just like what we needed. We decided to split a large between the three of us, and I was more than happy to pay 5 shekels for my share of a milkshake. Or at least I would have been, if it had been a milkshake.  The liquid we received, however, was straight chocolate milk. The foam on the top did make it appear as if he had, quite literally, given our milk some shakes… making it a milk-shake of sorts. We were happy for the refreshment nonetheless.

Awkward picture with our "shaken milk"
Road sign to "Mormon University"
All the locals here call the Jerusalem Center Mormon University
Later that day we went to Hebrew University to upload some pictures and get some school supplies. This turned out to be more of an adventure than we had bargained for, however. Hebrew U has two book stores- One with textbooks, and one with school supplies. We found the one with textbooks, but after ten minutes or so of wandering, we decided to find a map to help us find our way. Well… we found a map. And if anything, it just confused us more. The only part of the sign that was in English was the title. Another way of saying that would be that the least useful part of the map was in English. While we were trying to decipher where we were even just standing on the map, we heard two students walk behind us speaking English. At this we all whipped around and proceeded to chase them down to ask where the book store was. We had significantly better results with this method. It was such a helpless feeling though to look for something and not be able to find it, and moreover, not being able to do anything about your helplessness.

Sarah and Becca looking clueless next to the useless map

Thursday, February 16, 2012

City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel!!

The sixth of February we went on our field trip to the City of David and Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It was a chilly day, and we had to leave the Center at 7:30 in the morning, but we made the 15 minute walk to the oldest part of the city in good spirits. When we arrived we sat through an informational video. Most of the “informational videos” we watch at these sites are really corny and seem outdated. This video, however, was great. It was in 3D (and good 3D, at that… not the silly red and blue glasses kind), and pretty exciting.


On our way to City of David (quick note: I didn't bring my camera on this field trip, for fear of it falling into  the water, so all pictures are stolen from Huntsy (aka, Papa Hunts, aka Dr. Huntsman)
After the video we were pretty psyched for seeing the city. We walked through the remains of the City of David, which have been taken care of fairly well. They were more extensive than I thought they would be. They looked pretty similar to the multitude of other ruins we see on a regular basis, but a few of the places we saw were places that Christ actually would have walked. The added significance definitely brought these a notch above the regular rocks. :)
Our OT class, with part of the City of David in the background


After the ruins, we proceeded to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The tunnel is about 1750 feet long, and at sometimes only three feet or so wide. There’s anywhere from six inches to two and a half feet or so of water running through it at all times as well. Being a cold day (for here, at least…) we weren’t particularly looking forward to drenching ourselves in water. However, once we got in, we found it to be way more fun than we were expecting. We pushed thoughts of flash floods out of our minds, and wandered through the channel, which was manmade in under Hezekiah's rein, around 700 BC. It's mentioned in 2 Kings 20:20: "And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?"

 For the first five minutes everyone had their headlamps on and flashlights out, but one by one, we all extinguished our lights in favor of complete and utter black. This prompted a lot of sudden grabbing of arms, and subsequent screaming, which added to the creepy ambiance. Of course there was also plenty of bumping into the person in front of you, uttering apologies, and then going slow with your arms stretched ahead of you to avoid the problem, only to realize you’re now 20 feet behind them. In any case, it was quite the thrill, and we all had a great time. By the end, with our pants soaked three-quarters of the way up our legs, we didn’t even realize we were cold.
After coming out of Hezekiah's tunnel--notice how soaked (and yet how happy) we all are.
Sitting on the steps by the pool of Siloam







We finished off the day at the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus sent the blind man to be healed in John 9. This is one of the few places where we can actually say, “I walked where Jesus walked.” A lot of the city of Jerusalem is built up ten or fifteen feet from where it would have been two thousand years ago, so though we’re walking “close to” or “directly above” where Jesus walked, it’s not quite as effective as sitting on some steps, singing hymns, knowing that Jesus had sat where you were. It’s mind-blowing, actually. Sometimes I think it’s hard to realize that Jesus was, at one time, a man. Or at least for me it is. We read stories about Him countless times, sing songs praising Him, and pray in His name. But to take time to actually picture Him, walking around, just like you or I—that’s a powerful image. He’s not just some idealized character. These stories took place, on Earth. They really happened. He really came. And thank God for that.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Videos!

Some quick videos that I finally got a chance to upload! :) 

This first one is from the hotel in Jordan where we had our impromptu dance party. This video doesn't accurately capture the best of the dancing, but I was a little busy during those moments...

video

This next one is from our Palestinian folk dancing clinic after our Arab Night dinner. At this point most of the organized dancing had broken up and we were just jammin' to the Middle Eastern music.

video

And this last one is a guilty pleasure that hopefully Annie and Slavy will appreciate. Lemurs galore!!

video

Thursday, February 9, 2012

ZOO!!!

Sunday was such a fabulous day. Really.

It started off with attending another service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the middle of the Old City. One of the guys here mentioned on Saturday night that they wanted to go to a service there, and wondered if I'd want to go with. I, of course, said yes, and before I knew it we had a group of 25 or so of us attending Church the next morning. It was a really cool experience for me to be able to share my traditions with the people here, who have graciously shared their traditions with me. It was nice to show them that in the end, we really aren't all that different. Moreover, it was really special to have their support and eagerness to learn. I appreciated that more than I can put into words. 
Me, the roommates, and one of our awesome hometeachers, David, outside the sanctuary
After the church service, we loaded up into buses and went to the zoo!! We had been trying to think of a fun way to spend our free day, and a bunch of us decided that we should go to the zoo. We thought that maybe a zoo, is a zoo, is a zoo - but boy were we surprised. This was honestly the coolest zoo I've ever been to - and I've been to quite a few in my day. I've never gotten as close to animals as I did at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. It was a blast. They had lions, and tigers, and bears... well, the bear was hibernating, but still- he was there somewhere. There were plenty of giraffes and zebras and more to make up for his absence. 


Jumping picture! I should have concentrated more on smiling and less on the jumping though...

Feeding some birds nectar... they loved me.

Jason, Haylie, and Me on the bear statues. Almost as good as the real thing.

Making (or moreso, attempting to make) the owl face

Part of our Zoo group
We ate our lunch next to the Noah's Ark that they had at the zoo! So cool. The sign graciously informed us that "Entry to Noah's Ark is not limited to pairs..." Good thing it told us. We were confused for a while...

Entering in pairs...

Upon reading the sign... :)
They had a prairie dog exhibit, which might be pretty fascinating to some people... but less so to a Montanan girl. However, they did have tunnels we crawled into in order to get to small observation bubble-like things, which made for a good photo-op, if nothing else. If only I'd had a .22... ;)

In the observation bubble... notice the creature on my right. It was close after Groundhog's day, and we figured these guys were close to groundhogs, but we couldn't exactly figure out how to tell if they could see their shadows. 

We then found some cool mosaic statue things that acted like a giant playground for big-kids. We promptly crawled in, around, and on top of as many as we could. 

A dog? Or an anteater? Or...?

Flamingo-ing!
By far, however, the best exhibit was the lemur exhibit!! There were no fences once you got inside the exhibit, so you literally got close enough to touch them! It was incredible. 

They're so close!!
We finished off the day by going to downtown West Jerusalem and grabbing some pizza and ice cream! It was a great way to end the day. And, the best part, was the Montana license plate on the wall!!! I was so excited to see one from MT. No coincidence, I'm sure. Just another of the many God-sends to remind me that He's watching out for me... and to keep me from getting too unbearable homesick. :) Edit: Daddy emailed me, and told me that this license plate is from Great Falls. And, incredibly, my grandparents on his side were living in Great Falls in '85 when this expired. Just one more incredible coincidence to keep me comforted. :)

Reppin' the 406!!

Garden of Gethsemane—


Jerusalem is, of course, full of spiritual moments. What I’m learning here though, is that we can choose to let these spiritual moments affect us, or choose to only recognize them superficially. I’m trying to get better at recognizing these moments, and getting as much out of them as I can.  The following post is void of any pictures, but is rather aimed at sharing one of these occasions.

I had one of these moments in the Orson Hyde Park. The Orson Hyde Park is on the Mount of Olives, a along with the Jerusalem Center, and is thus only a fifteen minute walk. More importantly, it is one of the possible sites of the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus Christ took upon Himself all the sins of the world – a feat completely incomprehensible to me.

On Saturday, our Sabbath, a group of ten of us went to the Park after church. We took a few pictures, and then sang half an hour’s worth of hymns. After that we spread out and took twenty minutes to do some personal study and contemplation.

A few days ago I had read a verse in Romans that really hit me, so I began my study by proceeding to Romans to mark the verse. On my way looking for it, however, I found myself in Romans 6 – one of my favorite chapters, but one that I’d forgotten about until then. It speaks on being dead to sin, but alive in Christ. Romans 6:11 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And 6:18 “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”

These verses are powerful on so many levels. Obviously, they let us know that sin no longer has power over us. Christ died for ours sins, and thus we have been promised eternal life. We are not enslaved to our past mistakes, instead, we are now in the service of righteousness. This last part really stuck with me. There is a thin line between learning from our old sins, and letting them affect and infect our daily lives. Guilt is an important emotion in that it helps us to realize when we’ve done something wrong, so that we can learn from that experience and grow from it. But guilt should not be allowed to rule our lives. Through Jesus Christ and His atonement, we have been made free from sin. Not only free in eternal terms, but free while in this mortal realm as well. The chapter ends with a beautiful observation in 6:21, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?...” These sins and trespasses that we commit never have any lasting “fruit.” They are simply temporal pleasures or unkind reactions, from which we get no lasting reward. But, when we are “servants of righteousness,” we do receive those lasting benefits.

I then continued my search, and found the verse I was looking for in Romans 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” I like this verse for a number of reasons.

“Be not conformed to this world” –many young believers, but BYU students especially, are very different from their counterparts. A Friday night at BYU will be easily distinguishable from a Friday night at almost any other college campus. Obviously, it’s not always easy make decisions that sometimes alienate you from others. But just because choosing to honor God and His commandments is hard, doesn’t mean that it’s any less vital. We might be different, but we’re different for a reason. God has called us all unto Him to be different, and in doing that, we need not conform to this world. We are citizens of an Eternal Kingdom, and we have a responsibility to act that way.

“Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…” We are lucky enough to have knowledge of Christ and His incredible atonement. This should transform our mind and the way we think about life. And finally, “That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” In the end, that’s what it’s all about. Following the will of God, which is good, and acceptable, and perfect. Focusing our lives on these things are important, and not worrying about the other things that the rest of the world may deem important. But since we need not conform to them and their agendas, we are free to follow God.

I then finished my studies on Romans 12:12. This verse really resonated with me. Not only is it in one of my favorite books, but it has my lucky number (x 2!). “Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;” This verse basically sums up the past three years of my life. And upon reading it, I knew that I was getting the message I was supposed to that day. I know this sounds strange, but I could literally feel God’s presence upon my heart. Tangibly feel it. It was exactly the reassurance that I needed. Life is never easy, and especially when I’ve had many, many unanswered questions and pleas. So to feel His presence then, stronger than I have in years, was precisely what I needed to know that God has not forgotten me and my needs.

I know that He still cares for me and is with me every day. I have witnessed firsthand His healing power, and sometimes forget all He has done for me because my vision gets so clouded with other things that I need. I have tried my best to rejoice in hope, to be patient through my tribulations, and to be continually in prayer. This verse affirmed that I need to continue to do these things, and to not lose my determination. That verse was exactly what I needed to hear. In that moment, and still, as I write this, I can say, without a doubt, that our God lives, and that He loves and personally knows each and every one of us. And I am so grateful for that testimony.

God Bless You All-
Claire Rose

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Elephant Pants and Arab Folk Dance

Wednesday was a great day (although, I suppose, I could say this for just about every day here). We were done with our classes at the Jerusalem Center by ten AM, and then a group of us made our way to a local preschool (the same one where we did our mural painting a few weeks ago). Upon arriving at the school, we were led to the classrooms where we would be working. I was put in a group helping with four year olds. The next hour was full of laughing, playing, and singing. Our main purpose of being in the classrooms is to help the kids with their English through exposure. We started off by reading them a really simple book. We then proceeded to sing as many easy English songs as we could think of, including “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and an Jerusalem-ized, and less morbid, version of Ring Around the Rosie. It went something like this: “Ring around the olive tree, basket full of olives; Olives, Olives; we all fall down!” ...Not the most creative, but not bad for being under pressure and on the spot.


Then that night was our Arab Culture Night. We’ve been looking forward to it for weeks, so we were more than ready for it by the time it arrived. We all dressed up in our Arab garb that we’ve been collecting for just this purpose. One of the local shopkeepers who’s especially fond of BYU students showed a few of us how to tie scarves in turban-like head wraps, and we taught others here, to make for a new JC trend (and one that I’ll be bringing back to the States – you’d never expect a scarf wrapped on your head to be as comfortable as it is). Genie pants were also a definite must—mine even have elephants on them! Another trend I’ll be bringing back to BYU. 


Head wraps! Definitely chic.
Becca and me! The picture's kind of far away, but I promise that there are elephants on my pants.

We started off the festivities by attending a forum address by two of the men who do the call to prayer for the Al-Aqsa mosque here in Jerusalem. That was pretty incredible. They did a demonstration of the call, and then of the Quaran readings. The call to prayer is projected from mosques five times a day here. The Al-Aqsa mosque is the third most important mosque to Muslims, so it was a privilege to hear a demonstration from the men. 


Sarah, Me, and Lee
After the forum, we had a big traditional Arab dinner, including (of course) lots of rice, chicken, and salads. Following dinner, we all proceeded to the gym for a lesson in Palestinian folk dancing! It was a bit like a mixture of Irish River Dancing and country line dancing. In any case, it was a blast, and we spent an hour or so winding our way around in circles this way and that. However, even after the hour of dancing, I was still in need of more dancing catharsis. Thankfully, my roommate and best friend here, Sarah, was as well. We made our way down to the laundry room (where it’s cool and there are mirrors) and finished out the dance party. Two hours, plenty of hip hop, J-Pop, and K-Pop later, we found ourselves quite satisfied. We’ve now made roommate dance parties a staple of our evenings here. All of you who know me know that a dance party a night is exactly what I need. :)



Roomie pic! Janae, Sarah, Me, and Lee

Saturday, February 4, 2012

On Monday we went on our “Shephelah Field Trip.” The Shephelah is a region of low hill country in Judea. Shephelah literally means low hills. This region housed many Bible events, some of the more exciting including the David and Goliath story, as well as many of the conquests described in Joshua. 

Standing above the site where David killed Goliath
We visited many different Tels and hills, and enjoyed the wet, rainy weather -  a statement completely void of sarcasm. “Winter” in Israel translates to “rainy season.” Though it can be annoying to prepare for all the water, we’re learning to enjoy it as much as we can. There are plenty of bright sides to be found in the rain, as any good cross country runner could tell you. Here, our bright sides include beautiful green hills that make you feel like you’re in Scotland, and not in the middle of a desert. It also makes for plenty of good stories. The times we’ve spent running through the rain back to the center and getting splashed by cars, but laughing too hard to care that we’re soaking wet.


An example of how green the hills here are!
After all of our escapades on various green hills, complete with a rendition of “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music,” we went to the caves! We got free time at the caves to explore on our own, and wander through the various rooms. Since caving is one of my dream jobs, I was overjoyed to be given free reign. Some of the caves we went into were fairly simple, but others wound on and on. We spent a good 25 minutes or so in one of the caves, finding various pathways and cool rooms. We finished our caving experience with the Bell Caves, where we all met up once more and sang hymns in a natural acoustic wonderland. We then returned to the Center; soaking wet, hungry, and completely satisfied. 

Standing in one of the caves

We found a rock perfect for the Little Mermaid pose. The girl with the red hair was encouraged to duplicate it... Haha.



The actual Little Mermaid pose...



We found a room that was dedicated to putting children into time-out in... or something like that. I'm demonstrating  with a classic Morgan pouty face.
More caving
Wine pressing. Becca has a good face; I was distracted by the fact that we actually got it to move!
After 25 minutes of being underground, natural light was a welcome sight.
Sitting in a tomb!
More tombs! Excuse the dusty camera lens... It was super chalky in there.

Final Day in Jordan


We had a few hours of free time both nights that we stayed in Amman. Too much time on a bus and the prospect of a new, unexplored city led us to make the most of our free time. The first night we walked to a main street of Amman, where we found some boys our age or so rollerblading. We decided to stop and watch for a while, and we were not disappointed in our decision. What we at first thought was just a group of kids messing around on rollerblades, turned into a full on production for us complete with one of the boys jumping objects eight or nine feet high. (If you read this Morgan, think JSRF :) We were really impressed, and enjoyed spending time with people our age. We talked to them before we left, and found out that the boy who had been doing most of the tricks is actually sponsored by Red Bull, and competes in all the competitions in Jordan! So that was a cool surprise.

The guy who's sponsored by RedBull is in the white sweatshirt. The girl who's horrible at rollerblading is in the yellow one.
The second night we consulted the concierge for things to do in Amman. Sadly, there weren’t many options available at 8:00 pm on a Wednesday night for honor-code-abiding students. However, he told us of “Rainbow Street,” where we could find shops and good ice cream. It didn’t take much more convincing than that, and we had a splendid night exploring the most tourist-y of tourist shops and antique stores. As well as our ice cream, which did not disappoint.

After our night on the town, waiting for our taxi.

On our final day in Jordan we visited a Roman Theater, which was an extension of the Roman citadel we had visited earlier in Amman. This theater was huge!

Really, really huge.

While there, a bunch of us girls cheoreographed (possibly an overstatement, as this process took less than two minutes) and performed “What Dreams are Made Of” from, yes, the Hillary Duff movie. She sings it at the end of the movie in a theater similar to the one we were at, so we saw it to be fitting. Dr. Huntsman caught it on camera, and the link is below. Look for the girl in a yellow sweatshirt in the upper right hand (stage left) corner.


After our riveting performance, we moved into a smaller theater to sing hymns. We sing hymns at almost every sight we go to. As everyone reading this knows, I really enjoy singing, and thus I appreciate how much we incorporate music into what we’re doing. Not only because I think it’s fun sight-singing the alto part, but because music has the power to bring a whole new spiritual aspect to a setting. There’s a lot of power in ninety people singing lyrics in praise of our Heavenly Father. I’m also learning to actually concentrate on the meaning of the words we sing, rather than just getting through the words. For instance:

“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, he bled and died, to take away my sin. Then sings my soul! My savior God to Thee – how great Thou art.” Looking at the lyrics like text make them all the more powerful. “My burden gladly bearing…” is probably my favorite line. Because it’s true- I scarce can take in the love God and His Son has for each one of us.

After eight hymns we left the theater, and were lucky enough to enjoy a miracle. Or just about. For lunch, we got KFC and Pepsi!! They drain all the blood out of the meat here to obey the Mosaic law, so none of the meat is very good. Thus, getting a little taste of home was a real blessing. My first caffeine in a month was also more of a blessing than I’d like to admit. :)

I think the pure joy is evident on my face


Finally, tragically, we had to make our way home. But before leaving Jordan, we stopped at the Jordan River to see the baptism site of Jesus Christ. This land is full of surprises and breaking down assumptions, and this was no different. Whenever I’ve imagined the site of Christ’s baptism, I always imagine a large, blue river. The Jordan River is no such river. Perhaps it was 2000 years ago, but today it’s a small brown river that wouldn’t seem significant, had such an important event not occurred there. So we sang more hymns at the site and then got some time to read our scriptures and do our own contemplation. Those are some of my favorite times. We usually have fairly tight schedules when we’re on field trips, so moments to do our own self-discovery in our own time become treasured. I used my time to go through each of the Gospels and read their respective accounts of the baptism. It was a beautiful experience. 

Studying the scriptures by the river (Thanks to Dr. Huntsy for the picture)

Standing in front of the Jordan River. Excuse the weird expression on my face. Do, however, notice how brown the water is. Different that you'd expect, eh?