Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Baby Sister is all Grown-Up!

So my beautiful little "seester" Elisa graduates from high school today and turns 18 on weird! I seriously can't believe it. She is the baby of the family and I swear she is not old enough to legally be an adult, even if people do typically think she is the older sister when they first meet us haha (to my credit she is three inches taller than me!)
I look up to her for so many reasons other than her height tho. For example....
  • She is the hardest working girl I know! She studies so hard and she has a straight A high school career to prove it
  • She got all the athletic genes in the family and can beat me in an arm wrestle
  • She is hilarious! She has been the family entertainer before she could talk and lets us laugh at her blonde moments
  • She is a loyal friend and sister
  • She makes the greatest chocolate chip cookies
  • She can moonwalk and bust out lots of other sick moves during our kitchen dance parties
  • She is such a brave girl
  • She can trash talk with the best of them...just ask my grandpa
  • She has such a strong desire to be good and is so dedicated to the gospel
  • Most of all, she puts up with me when I am moody, watches disney movies with me on Sunday nights, jams out to awesome music with me in the car, makes ridiculous faces in pictures with me, is my personal fashion consultant, and lays on my bed for hours so we can have girl talk and giggle late into the night.

my all-time favorite picture of us....haha her face is priceless!

Love you sissy! I am so proud of you and so grateful to have you as a sister and best friend. Sorry that I am not there to celebrate this week with you, and I hope you have an amazing graduation and birthday! Live it up :) hugs from Jerusalem

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day Eight-Mt. Sinai

Our last day in Egypt started bright and early, or should I say dark and early, at 2:00 a.m. so that we could make it to the top of Mt. Sinai in time for sunrise. It was an amazing experience and the Mt. Sinai experience was the absolute highlight of my entire trip to Egypt!
The hike was intense-three hours long at a steep incline with 700 steps at the end-and all I can say is that Moses must have been a pretty in shape guy to make that trek six times as an old man! We had a great time hiking it though and ignored the hundreds of bedouin men along the path trying to convince you to hire them and ride a camel up the rest of the way.

getting ready to start our hike was two in the morning, don't judge!

Stacey's hiking footwear of choice...nice

we made it!

We arrived at the top of the mountain a few minutes before sunrise and sang hymns as we huddled together trying to stay warm. As we sat there the spirit was so strong and you could just feel that you were standing on holy ground. As the sun started to come up over the mountains, it was honestly one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my entire life. I don't even know how to describe it and no picture can do it justice.

After the sun came up and we finished singing hymns, we had a lesson from Brother Manscill, a testimony meeting, and some quiet time by ourselves. It was such an amazing spiritual experience. Brother Manscill taught us that God brings his people to mountains when he wants to speak with them and how this particular mountain is especially sacred. You could definitely feel how Mt. Sinai is a temple place and I felt so close to Heavenly Father while I was up there. After a few hours we reluctantly hiked back down the mountain, visited St. Catherine's Monestary, got back on the bus, and headed back to Jerusalem. It was such an amazing way to end an amazing trip and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to have my own personal Mt. Sinai experience!

Day Seven

This morning had a hectic start-Karlee and I did not get our wake up call that we specifically ordered the night before and instead woke up to Brother Manscill calling for the bus asking us where we were haha. We were miraculously able to get ready, throw on clothes, and pack in a grand total of three minutes though so it all turned out okay.
We headed out to the Cairo Citadel and Muhammad Ali (no not the boxer) Mosque. This mosque was built by Ali to house his tomb in 1830. The outside of it has not been kept up very well, the limestone was cleaned for the first time in decades when Obama came to visit a little bit ago. Its actually pretty funny because whenever you tell anyone here that you are American they yell "Obama!" afterwards and say they will give you a special deal on whatever they are trying to sell you at the time. Well, haha I am glad that somebody likes him! Anyways, now that I am done with that complete tangent, the inside of the mosque was absolutely beautiful. The incredible domes and lights strung up everywhere really were breath taking. Our tour guide Islam taught us all about the muslim prayers and the proper procedures followed in the mosques. It was great to learn about the religion from someone who actually practices it and can give us a first person perspective.

The rest of the day was mainly spent on the bus as we drove to our hotel located right by Mount Sinai. Bus rides get extremely entertaining when you get forty three 20-something year-olds together for extended amounts of time who are running on very little sleep with no real form of entertainment present. Games of would you rather, truth or dare , and what if... get absolutely hilarious! Laughing until you can't breathe and your abs kill is nothing out of the ordinary.

We did make one stop though at Rephidim, which is where the Israelites fought with Amalek. This is the battle where if Moses stood on top of the hill and held up his hands so that the Israelites would prevail, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands when they grew heavy. Brother Brown, Manscill, and Jackson were kind enough to reenact this for us. The greatest part that I sadly did not get a picture of was that there was a group of a few little Bedouin kids standing right behind them that reenacted it as well haha. We then were taught a great lesson about how holding up the hands symbolizes the cross and how the atonement is what saves us.

We hopped back on the bus for a few hours and drove to our hotel. It was a pretty low key evening and we all went to go to bed early to get ready for our 2:00 a.m. hike up Mt. Sinai the next morning!

Day Six-Cairo

Tuesday morning begain with us getting checked into our hotel in Cairo and freshening up from our sleeper-car-train-ride-from-heck adventure. Let me tell you a shower has never felt so good, haha even if I did have to be careful not to get any water in my mouth. After everyone had detoxed we visited the church where Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus stayed when they fled to Egypt to escape Herod. Brother Brown taught us inside the church about the early childhood of Christ and had some amazing insights. The church was beautiful and all the handmade ornamentation was incredible. All the wood detailing in the church was created without using a single nail, pretty impressive!

After the church we visited the Egyptian National Museum, which was definitely a highlight! Sadly, they did not alow any The only word to describe the museum is incredible! The museum is massive and holds over 150,000 pieces. Just to give you the idea of how many items that is, our tour guide Islam told us that if you spent just ten seconds at each piece for 8 hours a day, it would take over a year to see everything. So obviously the few hours we spent there did not do the museum justice, but it was still amazingly cool. We saw the sarcophagus, burial mask, and all the treasures of King Tut, tons of ancient statues, coffins, jewelry, and the Merneptah Stele which is the only Egyptian record of the Israelites. We also got to see all of the royal mummies which were absolutely fascinating and completely disgusting! They were so well preserved, that the mummy of Ramses II still had hair, toenails, and gross haha.

After touring the museum they took us to Hard Rock Cafe for a good old fashioned American meal. Even though we had to take all the vegetables off of our burgers, it was still great to get a little taste of home! After we ate we all ran up to the stage and in typical BYU J-Ru style had a spur-of-the-moment dance party, no big deal.

Before heading back back to the hotel, we stopped and said goodbye to the Nile River, which in case you were not aware is the longest river in the entire world! Its actually really pretty, despite how dirty it is, and I will definitely miss seeing it outside of the windows of our bus.

Oh ya know, just another day in Egypt!

Day Five-Luxor Round Two

Our second day in Luxor was another jam-packed one. Unfortunately the day before I had gotten pretty sick and was throwing up most of the night, but that did not stop me from enjoying the city! The morning started with a boat ride down the nile from our hotel to the Karnak temple, which was a gorgeous way to start the morning.

our group on the boat! Notice my amazingly nutritious but completely necessary breakfast in hand....a bottle of sprite haha

The Karnak temple complex was amazing! It is HUGE and was built over 4,000 years ago. It was focused on the worship of the fertility god Amun and is one of the largest ancient worship site in the entire world! Even though I was still not feeling great, I loved every second of our tour there.

the Egyptian Holy of Holies

From the Karnak temple we took a carriage ride over to the Luxor temple. The carriage ride was fun, but it was so so hot! We were literally melting. The Luxor temple was built by Ramses II and Amenophis III and used to be connected to the Karnak temple by an avenue of sphinxes. Like the Karnak, it was massive and amazingly detailed. It is mind blowing that such impressive structures were built so long ago and without any modern day technology!

the girls in the carriage, and yes that is a poster of Bob Marley in the roof of our buggy

After Luxor we went to the Souke, which is basically a huge egyptian bazaar. They have some great things for even greater prices, but the shop owners are out-of-control aggressive, which makes the whole experience not as enjoyable. We definitely got a taste of the local culture though and had a great time together! The absolute steals we found didn't hurt either...

That night we took a sleeper train from Luxor back to Cairo which experience to say the least. It was definitely one part of my Egypt trip that I would be perfectly content to never repeat for the rest of my life haha. It was super dirty, cramped, and in the words of my roommate Karlee "what a prison cell should look like". We arrived in Luxor at 5:00 the next morning after a very sleepless night, which was partially due to the fact that no one dared to climb inside the beds! So overall, definitely not my favorite form of transportation, but definitely worth it to be having this once-in-a-lifetime experience in Egypt :)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day Four-Luxor

Sunday was our first day in Luxor and it was an amazing place! It really is a completely different world where camels walking down the street are no big deal, the common mode of transportation is a horse drawn buggy or felucca boat rather than a car, and incredible ancient statues and temples are everywhere you look.
Our day began at 5:00 in the morning, which was insanely early but the only way to go if you want to beat the crowds and the heat. And when I say heat i mean heat.....Luxor was 122 degrees both days we were there....not cool. Our first stop was Valley of the Kings, which was incredible! It holds over 60 tombs of past pharohs. Sadly, they were all robbed by tomb raiders centuries ago, with the exception of King Tut's tomb. Even without the treasures they were still amazing and the wall paintings were so cool. Not gonna lie, I was pretty jealous that I have not been through the temple yet, because all of the endowed members in the group talked about how many similarities and shared symbolism there was with our temple, so fascinating! Cameras weren't technically allowed inside the tombs but Melissa is kinda sorta a rebel and took a few anyways....

Then we went to the temple of Queen Hatchepsut. The temple is massive and literally carved out of the mountainside. Queen Hatchepsut is actually pretty cool because singlehandedly ruled Egypt for a time, despite the fact that was a woman and had to work hard to win support from the people. Sadly, any painting or reference of her in her temple was chiseled out by her stepson Thutsome III, who did not like her very much and wanted to erase all memory of her. Even with its occasional disfacement, the temple was really cool and lots of fun to explore.

After the temple we made a quick visit to Pit Tomb 33, which is where the Book of Abraham papyri were found. Brother Manscill told us the whole story of how the church came to possess these records, and it is very clear that the Lord played a huge role in getting the scrolls to the prophet Joseph.

After the pit tomb our group had a fun little adventure and went on a felucca boat ride down the nile followed by a camel safari. There are more pictures coming of this I promise, I just have to steal them from the people nice enough to take some for me (one of the downsides of having a broken camera). It was a ton of fun though, and the man guiding my camel told me he would pay 5,000 camels if I stayed there are married him haha. (Don't worry Paul, I turned him down!)

our view from the camels. One of the coolest things about the camel safari is that we were able to get away from the touristy areas and see more of the real Egypt-lots of beautiful farms and fields!

After dinner at the hotel, and by dinner I mean a granola bar I had brought with me from Israel, a group of us went out and explored the city of Luxor. The coolest part was the Luxor Temple, which was gorgeous all light up.

After such a jam-packed day we were exhausted and pretty sure I fell asleep the second my head touched the pillow, which never happens to me! It was a great day though and we got to see so much!