Sunday, July 25, 2010

Off to Jordan!

Sorry about the overload of posts today.
We are heading off to Jordan for 4 days early tomorrow morning, so I have been desperately trying to catch up on everything before I leave!

I am way excited about getting to go to Jordan though-I personally think my passport will look great with another stamp on it. 
I must say that I am not looking forward to having to be brush my teeth with bottled water again, but getting to see Petra will make it totally worth it!
We watched Indiana Jones tonight to get ourselves pumped up. 
It is going to be amazing. 

See you all in 4 days!


I am convinced that absolutely nothing can quite make your day like an unexpected package.
Thanks baby :)

Christian Jerusalem Fieldtrip

Earlier this week we had a field trip through the Christian quarter of Jerusalem.
I had already been to most of the sites they took us to, but it was great to go through them with our brilliant professors who could explain all of the details about the places to us. 

Our first stop of the day was the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I loved this stop, even though I had been there the day before. Brother Emmett stressed to us how important this site is to so many people and how even though most members of the church disregard it, that it could very well be THE place.

This spot in the Greek Orthodox chapel is where they believe the center of the earth lies

Another interesting thing Brother Emmett taught us was how much rivalry exists between the different Christian denominations who claim ownership to this site. Historically, there are have full on brawls and fights between monks and different priests inside the church over issues on how the building should operate. To try and avoid this as much as possible, the building is divided up into tons of different chapels and niches, which were each alloted to specific denomination hundreds of years ago. However, the ownership of many of these places is still contested and continues to be a huge issue. 
In fact, no one is allowed to change anything or even clean or perform maintenance in certain areas of the church, because doing so apparently implies ownership. As a result, these places have fallen into disrepair.
It really is a shame that this has occurred in such a beautiful church, all because fellow Christians cannot get along.

For example:

This ladder has remained outside of the church for over 150 years because no one can agree on who has the right to move it

A shrine which has become so dirty it is unrecognizable

You cannot really see it in this picture, but many of the pillars are filthy from the layers and layers of built up soot.

Next, we went to the nearby Lutheran Church. This church makes it very clear that it does not mark any whole spot or event, but it is still extremely beautiful and offers an amazing view of the city. We stopped inside the chapel and sang some Lutheran hymns-including my favorite "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing".

After the Lutheran church we went to St. Mark's House, which is the probable site for the Upper Room where Christ held the Last Supper. Before we descended down to the Upper Room-that did not make sense to me at first either-the woman who watches over the room and chapel above us gave us an overview of the location. She had the most memorable/hilarious voice and accent I have heard in my entire life haha I cannot even describe it. It was really interesting to hear her describe all the different miracles she had witnessed and personally performed in front of the icon of Mary they have there. We weren't sure if we quite believed everything she was saying, but we certainly loved listening to her talk!

inside the Upper Room

Our last stop of the day was the Church of St. Alexander Nevsky. This church was one place I had never been before and was really pretty. One of its coolest features is that is has the remnants of one of the ancient gates into Jerusalem, a gate that Christ certainly would have passed through at some point. My favorite part of this gate was the small opening on the side of the gate which was referred to as the "eye of the needle". This is what Christ very well could have been referring to in the famous scripture. 

This church required all women to wear skirts. I luckily came prepared, but Katie and Karlee were forced to use the lovely and oh-so-fashionable skirts the church provided :)

The eye of the needle! I tried and passed through just fine-so I should be good, right?

Happy Birthday Kaity Baby!

Today is my bestie's birthday-the one and only Kaitlyn Swenson!
Kaity and I met in BYU Preschool and have been BFF ever since!
(That is a very long time to stay best friends in case you did not realize...and no we have never gotten sick of each other)
This girl has been with me from the beginning and I could not love her more if she was my own sister.

Kaitlyn is ....

Absolutely beautiful

One of the funniest people I have met in my entire life-I get a killer ab work out from laughing so hard every time I am with her

An amazingly talented me this girl has got some killer moves. You don't get to be the Cougarette President for nothing!

A total sweetheart. I cannot count the number of times she has been there for me when I needed it most 

Extremely hardworking and dedicated to anything she is involved in. I am seriously inspired by her work ethic every single day

Such a great influence and example in my life. I honestly feel so blessed to have her as a friend and don't know what I would do without her!

(Once again, I am dying that I don't have pictures from our younger years. They are classic!)

I love you soo much and hope you have an amazing day!
We will have an epic belated birthday celebration, complete with lots of mint chocolate chip ice cream, when I get back :)

Free Day in Jerusalem-Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Domee of the Rock, and the YMCA Bell Tower

Our first day back in Jerusalem I got up super early to go to early mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was hard to get up so early, but the walk to the church alone was enough to make it worth it. Seeing the empty streets of the old city before any of the shops were open and filled with people gave the city a completely new feeling.

It was also really cool to see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre early in the morning before it got crowded. This church is where many religions, primarily the Eastern Orthodox, Armenians, Roman Catholics, Coptics, Ethiopians, and Syrians, believe Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
Because so many people consider this place holy it is usually swarming with pilgrims and tourists. We had the place to ourselves though and were able to wander around and explore the entire church to our heart's content!

the courtyard
The stone where Christ's body was anointed. If you get close enough you can still smell the oils 
stairway to Golgatha

Calvary. You can reach down and touch a drop of Christ's blood that supposedly fell while he was up on the cross.

The Holy Sepulchre where Christ was buried. We were in the tomb with some Italian women who were crying, kissing, and worshipping the sepulchre. It was amazing to see how much faith they had and how devoted they were.

After exploring the church, we went to mass which was a very interesting experience. I did not understand a single word of the service (it was all in Latin) and I was often confused about why they were swinging around balls of incense or chanting back and forth, but it was great to see and experience how other people worship.

After mass we decided to stop by the Dome of the Rock. I have visited this site many times, but I am blown away at how amazing it is every single time I go. I honestly don't think any picture can do it justice. 

This particular visit to the dome was particularly great because we actually got to see inside! Only Muslims are allowed inside the mosque and many students in the past have tried to get in and failed miserably. So I had accepted that I would never get to see what was actually in there.
We were standing by one of the side doors, innocently taking our picture, when suddenly the doors opened! A woman was vacuuming inside and needed to open the door to get the edge of the carpet, so we got a great view of the dome's interior. The woman got mad at me when I tried to snap a picture, but besides that she really did not seem too worried about us being there, so we stood there and looked inside for three whole minutes! The entire thing was beautiful and super detailed and intricate. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! We were very pleased to inform the rest of the JC that we were the first to successfully see inside Jerusalem's most famous landmark :)

Our next adventure of the day was going to the YMCA to play the bells with Brother Whipple. Like I have said before, Brother Whipple is a musical genius and every Sunday he plays the bells for all of Jerusalem to hear. Here is a piece of random trivia for you-the YMCA bells are the only ones that you can still manually play in the entire Middle East!

After Brother Whipple played his masterpieces, he let those in the group who were musically talented play hymns on the actual bells!
(Mom-you were right! I should have kept on taking piano lessons-they would have come in handy)
Even though I did not play an actual song, I did get to help ring out the twelve strikes of noon!
And yes I felt super cool. All of Jerusalem knew what time it was because of me.

Pretending to play the bells

Brother Whipple being legit and actually playing the bells haha

My moment of glory!

Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Bahai Gardens, and the Templar Cemetery

This is my last post about our Galilee trip-yay! 
We left the kibbutz super early in the morning to head back to Jerusalem, which is only about a 2 hour drive if you drive straight-but like always it ended up taking all day with all the stops we made along the way!

Our first stop was Megiddo. This city is over 3000 years old and has been destroyed and rebuilt over 20 times. Interestingly, the word 'Armageddon' comes from the word Megiddo and many Christians believe that the battle at the end of the world will occur here

The 'Armageddon Battlefield'

Our next pit stop on the way to Jerusalem was Mount Carmel, the place of Elijah's 'sacrifice contest' with the priests of Baal. Our lesson inside of the chapel was awesome and it was amazing to read the scriptural account in the Old Testament right where it actually happened!

This altar in the church is supposedly where the altar stood that was completely consumed with the fire that Elijah brought down from heaven.

After Mount Carmel we stopped at the Bahai Gardens. This 19-terraced garden is the headquarters of the Bahai faith, which is actually really interesting. Members of Bahai accept everything as truth, which the RMs in our group said was so frustrating to work with, because they will take the discussions and believe in the Book of Mormon, but will still refuse to be baptized!
Regardless of their stubbornness to be baptized, their gardens were absolutely gorgeous.
Seriously, if I ever become a billionaire I will landscape my backyard to look like this place.

Our last site of the day was the Templar Cemetery in Haifa. What is interesting about this cemetery is that there are actually two LDS missionaries buried here. In the late 1880s two young missionaries from Utah, Elder Haag and Elder Clark, were sent here to spread the gospel. Sadly, they both died from disease during their missions and never made it back to their families. Their graves are both marked with broken-off columns to represent their cut-short lives. Brother Huntington, the last man in charge of the Jerusalem Center, said that this is his favorite place in the Holy Land because it testifies of the dedication of the members of church and their willingness to sacrifice and serve wherever the Lord has need of them. To honor these young men we stopped and sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go".

We had some free time in Haifa so a group of us stopped to get some schwarma. This was actually my first time ever getting schwarma, which is actually pretty amazing since all of the kids at the JC (especially the guys) are OBSESSED with it and get it in the old city at least twice a week. 
A schwarma is essentially tons of shaved meat stuffed into a fresh pita along with vegetables and sauce and they can be found everywhere in Israel-literally there are at least five stands on every street.
I never thought they looked very appetizing, so I was surprised at how good it was and how much I enjoyed it! I will not be dreaming about it at night like many of the other students do, but I can now definitely understand what all the fuss is about.

We were all feeling very full as we got back on the bus and passed out the second the bus stared moving.  2 hours later we were back in Jerusalem and woke up to this very pleasant site...

It is amazing how much this place is starting to feel like home.