Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 30, 2007

Travis' blog

Sabbath again. After Travis' not-up-to-par day yesterday, we decided to take the day easy. After sleeping in, the both of us went to breakfast, then headed up to church. This was a fun day, seeing as how it was our first week with the new students. (Turns out it'll be our only week with the new students since they'll be in Egypt next Sabbath.) We also had the full three hour block, since there were so many people there again. This week, instead of having RS in the LRC as we usually do, they decided to open up the dome for class. I'll be honest, I had completely forgotten about the dome, seeing as how we never once used it. The only time we even went in was during our Orientation tour. All in all, the entire block was quite nice. The only downfall I saw was due to us being almost late, due to the long hike to church. (I shall never complain about a 3-minute drive to church in a hot car. It doesn't hold a candle to a 45-minute walk down and back up the steep Kidron Valley in scaldingly hot weather.) Due to the hike, my back was nice, hot, and sweaty, and really, that doesn't make for pleasant atmosphere for a spiritual experience. To top of it, it was decided that perhaps we had spent too much time complaining about the AC on too high, because they hardly had it on at all. I had noticed, but figured it was simply because I was so hot that everything else seemed warm as well, however, turns out, others were complaining about it afterwards. Temperature aside, the day was lovely. We saw Peter there (the Mormon that we had met in the Garden Tomb). Turns out they were having Fast Sunday... though I have no idea why... it was definitely the last Sunday in June. Perhaps because the students were going to be in Egypt for July's fast sunday? Needless to say, Travis and I had no idea and hadn't fasted. But we enjoyed the testimonies anyway. Not having my scripture journal to write in, I didn't take many notes, however, here are a few things that I did write down in my little notebook:

- Our words should be filled with love, hope, and charity.
- That's all the Gospel is—it's just love.
- That's why we all came here [to Jerusalem]—to be healed.

After church, we stayed and talked for quite some time. I chatted with Mike Gadd, who is in Summer term, as well as Ryan Davis (Davies? Sorry Ryan!) who is attending Hebrew University for a Biblical Hebrew program. We had fun telling stories, them of what's happened this far, and me giving advice for their time here. Going along with popular tradition, talked far too much. ~sigh. Oh well. After awhile, Travis and I got my laptop out and proceeded to check email and post all of last week's posts. (Free wireless only comes along here and there, y'know.) While we worked, several students joined us on the chairs with their laptops. (It is nice to have wireless on the 8th floor now, to be sure.) We got talking to a few of them, telling them places to see, and how to get into the locked Garden of Gethsemane. We also promoted Jimmy's a bit, seeing as how we all seemed to have forgotten about him last semester. Especially since I felt a tinge guilty having gone to Omar's again with Travis instead of Jimmy's. Just before we left, Sister Huntington made us a couple of sandwiches to eat for lunch. It was beautiful, seeing as how we had no idea where to go for lunch, and that we were hungry. She also stuck in two pink grapefruit mentos, which made me incredibly joyful, as she knew it would. Really... sweetest lady ever. So, we went out onto the Center grounds, found a shady spot in the grass, and ate our lunch. Then we headed off. Where we headed to, neither of us really remember. We know we went out, though, since, according to my money log I've been keeping, we spent 50 shekels on dinner. I vaguely recall the restaurant, and I think we ordered burgers... maybe? But I did happen to right down that on the menu, instead of lamb, they wrote lamp. So my favorite dish on the menu was lamp eggs. Haha! But even if it were spelled correctly, what in the world are lamb eggs?

Hmmm... I do know, however, that that night we packed for our trip the following morning to Egypt. Travis and I speculate that perhaps we spent the evening shooting his David and Bathsheba photo. And watching the moon rise over the Dome. Or perhaps that was the night that it was too windy to fully appreciate the moon rise on the roof. Oh well. One day that you're not boggled down by my much talking. Oh wait! That was the night that I discovered I could get wireless on one corner of the roof. So I got to chat with people back home. That was fun. Too bad I only realized it our last night there. Bother. Oh, and we had gone over to Aladdin's to get money for the trip, and also to tell Omar that I had lost my checkbook (I figured I had left it at the Center) so to find out the best way to pay for our newest collection of Olive Wood. We decided that I'd find my checkbook after Church next week, after we'd returned from Jordan, and call him then. Ummm... yeah. I think that about covers it.

Quote of the Day: "F-stops give me goosebumps." - Travis

Friday, June 29, 2007

June 29, 2007

Travis' blog

This morning started ridiculously early. Stinkin' photographers and sunrise anyway. My alarm went off at 4 am, and by 4:30 ish, we were out the door. We left so early that there was no one at the desk to give our key to. We hiked our way up to Orson Hyde Park, but, since we're not allowed inside while dark (Center rules), we found a spot outside, overlooking the city through olive trees. There we camped out until sunrise. Travis then took pictures while I half-slept on the wall. After sunrise, we went a little ways into Orson Hyde park, but after a few pictures, he decided he liked outside better anyway. So back outside we went. After awhile, we made our way back to the hospice, still too early for breakfast. That's ridiculous. We're usually not even awake yet by that time. So, we came back in, turned on a chapter of Harry Potter and waited for breakfast. Apparently I fell asleep partway through, because at one point, I realized that it was no longer playing and I didn't remember it being turned off. Hmmm... We went up to breakfast, then came back down to take a nap. A few hours and a few knocks on the door from housekeeping later, I finally got up, figuring Travis was just waiting for me to wake up before we headed out and about again. When he didn't move from his scripture reading, I started catching up on blogs. 6 blogs later, it is now 3 pm and we haven't left our room. Either the massive hiking in extreme heat or something that he ate hasn't boded well with Travis, so we've been vegging out in our room all day. Timing worked out well for me, since it gave me a chance to catch up on all my blogs. Talking to one lady here, it sounds like Travis may have caught a bug that has been going around the Biblical Program here (a group of people come to learn about the Bible). Luckily, it's only been a 24-hour bug for them, so we're hoping it is the same and that he'll feel better tomorrow. Now, if only I can get him to drink more water while we're in here...

While we were talking about it, wondering why he got sick, I hypothesized that he had bronchitis before he came, which weakened his immune system, then instead of letting it heal, he came to a foreign country in intense heat, hiking around all day, which just taxed his system more. His response? "Just like Mary and Joseph—I came to Israel to to be taxed. They found no room in the inn, I found no room on the plane." [rolls eyes] At least he's kept his sense of humor. :)

Basically... we just stayed in all day. Let the poor boy recover. :)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28, 2007

Travis' blog

We got a relatively late start around 8:30 or 9. Wanting to go to the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdeline, which is only open Tues and Thurs mornings, we made that our first goal. Having a bit of time beforehand, we decided to swing by Jimmy or Omar's to buy mom's stuff that she has requested. Upon reaching Aladdin's, we ran into Bro. Huntington and a group of students that were on their "Getting oriented to Jerusalem" tour. It was a fun little reunion where Bro. H introduced me and Travis to his little group of students. Omar, being off the beaten path, stood at Aladdin's, passing out his card to the students. Recognizing me, he asked if we were coming over. How could I say no? So I said yes, once again, picking Omar's over Jimmy's. I felt a tinge of guilt, since Jimmy had been the one to invite me over to dinner and I have yet to step foot inside Jimmy's shop. But at the same time, I knew that Omar had everything I wanted, and I wasn't so sure about Jimmy. So oh well. That's the way it went. I'll be sure to mention to the new students to check out Jimmy's as well. Omar was waiting for one more group of students, so we waited with him. This group was accompanied by Victor Ludlow. (You know, it really is slightly strange to meet so casually names that I hear all the time. Like when I met Don Parry, Stephen Ricks, Dana Pike, etc. Or, when I know a person from one class, then am assigned an article they wrote in another class. They're mini-celebrities in their own right. Then it turns out that they're normal, down-to-earth people that I rather like. Crazy how that works.) He also introduced Travis and myself to his little group. One boy, seeing Travis' new sandals, asked if he bought them here, so we told him where to find them and how much to pay for them. Hopefully he'll spread the good word.

When that group left, we followed Omar to his shop. I told Travis that if he found a nativity he liked, mom would subsidize it as his Christmas, so he started looking around while Omar took down my order. Apparently, there are no Bethlehem blankets to be found, so he didn't charge me for them, but promised to try to find some, and if they show up in the box, we can send him a check. He really is a nice guy. Once he was done with my portion of the order, he turned his attention to Travis. Upon mixing and matching nativities and the figurines inside, Travis finally put together his ideal nativity. I have to admit, it's quite gorgeous. I'm a little jealous. I wasn't nearly so picky. But, then again, Travis has a much better eye for detail than I do. I'm happy with much less. So it all worked out.

Later, while Travis was looking for a little box to hold his newly purchased coins, Omar asked if Travis was married. When Travis said no, Omar said that it was my fault!!! Now, how did that happen? Travis loved this approach and jumped on it. [rolls eyes] Upon expressing my disbelief at this idea, Omar explained—I have many friends, I should introduce them to Travis. When I explained that Travis didn't like being set up, Travis explained that was because we don't set him up with girls he liked. Omar then turned on Travis. "If you're going to be that picky, you'll never get married! You still have time, but there comes a point when it's too late, and then it's simply too late for you." Hehehe. I think Mom would like this guy.

Leaving Omar's, we headed up to the church of Mary Magdeline, happy to find it open. To get to the actual church, you hike up through gardens. It's rather gorgeous, actually. The only other two spots I can think of to rival it is Bethany and Dan. The church itself is also remarkably beautiful. The outside has the golden domes that I'm sure you'd all recognize from pictures. (Again, forgive me for my lack of pictures. But it's much harder to do a) when I can't open Travis' pics on my computer b) when I've stopped taking as many pictures because Travis takes much better pictures and c) I don't have unlimited Internet access anymore.) The inside is painted with detail and filled with artwork. It's rather beautiful. Everyone come over to look at pictures when we're home and you can see for yourself.

After leaving Mary Magdeline, we headed up to Dominus Flevit. Now, I would tell you what exactly Dominus Flevit is, but, to be honest, I have no idea. By the time we finally got there (it was a rather steep and long climb that we didn't expect), Travis realized that he had filled up all 9 GB of his cards. Oops? So, instead of continuing onto the church, we went over and picked up my computer. "Which Tianna swore was just a short walk away and was using the tower of the church of the annunciation as her landmark, unfortunately it was not a short walk nor was it the tower of the church of the annunciation that we were heading towards. I don't recommend getting lost in 100+ temperatures while hiking. Bringing it back to the hostel, we immediately set out to transfer over all of his pictures and deleting the old pictures off the cards. While waiting for them to download, we ate our lunch of pita bread and peanut butter, which Travis has dubbed pita butter. [rolls eyes and chuckles] We also listened to a chapter of Harry Potter 6.

After the last download, we headed over to the Ophel (the excavations on the southern end of temple mount). While in there, we set up his big camera on the temple stairs that they have uncovered that actually look quite nice and new still, surprisingly. Then, when one of the tour groups finished their explanation, we invited one lady to be a hand model for the widow's mite. (We had already done one shoot of this back at the hostel with one of the sisters, but after completion, Travis started doubting his composition and wanted to do it again on the stairs to the temple.) She agreed and we had our first photo shoot of the day. Leaving the Ophel, we went back to City of David, hoping that we really could get down to Abraham's shop w/o paying. It took a wee bit of adventure, but we did it. There we shot the coin Travis bought of Caesar and also the silver dinar that Abraham is still pushing on Travis, and Travis, being the pushover, is considering. Here I am supposed to be the Ancient Near Eastern person, and he's the one collecting coins. Perhaps because he has more money than I do... But either way, this city is turning him into a coin collector. He's going to have to make something to display them all. After we finished the shoot, I started cleaning up, but soon realized that Travis hadn't moved. Rather, he was just standing there stewing over something. So I stopped and asked him what was wrong. He didn't say anything. I finally figured out that he wanted to redo it, but wasn't sure if he should. I asked if he'd regret it, and at that, he started setting everything back up. Bringing Abraham back, as well as his son... (something like Mohammad, but a little different) he reset up the pose and we shot it all again. Upon finishing it, we hiked back up the massively steep hill, wishing we had just hired a car back, and lamenting the 100+ weather.

Despite the heat, we headed over to the Cardo to take another picture or two. We were debating between Potipher's Wife and the Woman with the Issue of Blood. When we ended up by ourselves for a long time, we decided upon Potipher's wife, since that one only needed me as a model. But, of course, as soon as I got the blue cloth wrapped around my waist and holding the white cloth so that I looked like a complete idiot, 2 or 3 tours made their way through. [rolls eyes] Though, oddly enough, for being the person who always cares what others think of me, I really wasn't embarrassed to be seen like that. I just chuckled and went on as if it were normal. Perhaps I'm just used to people staring and pointing at us because of Travis' camera and tripod. Not wanting to shoot two very different pictures at the same place, we decided to go home and do the other shot later.

Once again, we returned home as everything was closing. So, to be safe, the first restaurant we found, we popped in. There we found chicken kabobs (or screws as he called them), salads and french fries. 5 shekels less per person if we took it to go. Wanting to get back to take a picture while the light was still good, we jumped on the offer. We got back in barely enough time, but there was a car parked exactly where the camera needed to be. I told him to just stand on the car, but he didn't seem to like that idea much. So instead, we just came upstairs, ate our dinner in our room, then went to bed. Not thinking, we threw away the remains of our dinner in our room, which then stunk up the entire room. Bother.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

June 27, 2007

Travis' blog

Oh my was today hot!!! (Turns out that it got up to 109 degrees. But we didn't know that until much later.) We started off with our next photo shoot at the Garden Tomb. They wouldn't let us in at sunrise as we had hoped, but after some careful reading and discussing of the scripture, we figured that Christ talking to Mary Magdeline could easily have happened hours after sunrise. So we decided to take it for what it was worth and showed up when the Garden Tomb opened at 9 am. The first ones there, we took full advantage of the quiet, tourist-less tomb and started setting up. Who knew that at 9 am the sun could be so brutal? Especially wrapped up in muslin cloth as I was? ~sigh... what I don't do for that boy. :) With the help of a nice volunteer there named Rory, who loved Travis' camera, we were able to take the picture. We ended up staying there until about noon. (We had to pause a couple of times in order for a tour group to pass through.) On our way back, we stopped, yet again, at Aladdin's. I'm realizing that it's a lot more expensive when you have to pay for food and board every day. (Ok, I paid for that with the Center, but it was in all one lump sum at the beginning, so I've forgotten about it. :D)

Upon returning to the hospice, Travis changed film, and I fell asleep. When we finally left, we stopped at the top of the hospice to fill up the water bottle and pay off our bill. While Travis was in doing that, I just sat and listened to three Muslim women talking to a guy staying here. One of them had on the full headdress and at one point, turned and, noticing me eavesdropping (they were rather loud, for the record... and right next to me) commented on how beautiful I was. (awww...) Then searched for the word to describe herself. "You are beautiful, I am... what is the word?" I assumed she was looking for 'ugly' but since I didn't agree with the description, I didn't volunteer the word. Finally, the guy figured out what she was looking for and supplied the word for her. Upon which, I promptly disagreed and told her that she was also beautiful. By then, Travis finished, so we left.

We continued our quest of seeing all of the Via Dolorosa stations open, so upon finding yet another one open that we hadn't seen before (#5) we went in. Then stopped at the Internet cafe, then found Station 7 open as well. (We're not sure how we missed #6...) On our way towards Jaffa gate, we happened to see a BYU pennant for sale at one of the shops. Stopping to take a picture, a tourist sitting behind us started talking to us. Travis explained that he had gone to BYU, hence why he was taking a picture of the pennant. Then the merchant asked if we were Mormon, we said yes, then the guy asked where we were from, we said Utah, but that we had grown up in Idaho. Upon confirming that we were still Mormon after moving away from our parents, he asked what we believed about being born again. Then the merchant piped in with, "They're not Christian, they're Mormon!" We laughed, but then told him we were, in fact, Christian as well, which the merchant didn't believe. But we tried to answer his question anyway. Travis explained that we believed in being born again, though not in the same way. That we had to firmly believe in Christ in order to get to heaven. Apparently we had misunderstood him, so he clarified. "After you moved away from your parents, you were still Mormon? I had a defining experience in my life that confirmed my Christianity." So Travis explained that we also believed that you couldn't ride your parents' testimonies. You have to gain your own in order to make it to heaven. He was satisfied, and we probably said more about religion than we should have, so we left.

For lunch we found this really good little cafe just outside of Jaffa gate that served sandwiches that were rather tasty. My favorite, however, was the bottom of the menu—"Service not included." Haha! After lunch we went to Mazada tours again to pay off our bill there. Then, considering the heat and the time, we decided to skip the rampart walk that we had been planning, and went to Hezekiah's tunnel instead. Travis had let me wear a pair of his pants that zipped off into shorts for the tunnel. (Calm down mom... it was simply so our pants didn't get wet. We are not vile sinners.) So, entering the tunnel, the bottom part of the legs came off and went into the camelbak. Let me tell you, it was much nicer to only have a little strip of shorts wet than more than half of the legs of your jeans. Halfway through the tunnel, when the water was rather low (only to the tops of our feet), Travis decided to be brave and take a picture. Needing lots more light and a long exposure, he set up his mini-tripod and we used our headlamps to light the tunnel for the exposure. Including having Trav walk down the tunnel shining his light on every surface he could find. It was rather entertaining. And we did it several times.

At the end of the tunnel is a little gift shop run by a man named Abraham. (I'm supposed to give a plug for his shop, so here it is.) While there, we discovered that he also had widow's mites and is a sweet talker. Oh, and he provides certificates of authentication for his goods. One widow's mite, one Roman coin, and a promise to come back and photograph a silver dinar later... we continued on our way. In trying to decide how to get to the real pool of Siloam, we unintentionally enlisted the guidance of two boys. One was 12, one was 9. They were experienced in their touring and was sure to tell us what was Roman and what was Byzantine and that the running water we saw was from Hezekiah's tunnel. It was rather cute, so I didn't mind giving them 3 shekels at the end, although I'm pretty sure they expected more and weren't incredibly happy about it. Along the way, the security guard for the end showed up and was laughing about the boys helping us. At one point, he tapped me on the shoulder and started mouthing something like, "Blah, blah, blah" ... or ... yapping... (hard to describe in writing...) and pointing to the boys. It made me laugh. We finally made it out, while discovering a way that we hoped would take us back to the shop w/o having to pay for the tunnel again.

On our way home, we decided to try going through the Palestinian cemetery. The gate was wide open, so we just crossed our fingers that we wouldn't get in trouble. It seemed legal enough, though. It provided some great views at Travis' favorite time of day with beautiful light, so we walked slowly through to get the pictures he wanted. By the time we got to the Old City, we feared finding dinner in time, so we headed straight to the pizza place down the way, this time ordering mixed grill. This was unlike any mixed grill I've ever had here. Instead of being, well, mixed, it was a patty of lamb, some cubes of chicken, and several typical salads. Oh, and french fries. We also decided to try lemonade with mint. I was a little skeptical, but took courage from Travis' daring and decided to try it myself. I'm glad I did, because it was delicious. We're going serve that at Christmas dinner. :) In fact, I started writing down a menu for Christmas dinner. Oddly enough, Travis, the one who really wanted to try it, only thought it was ok while I, the skeptical one, loved it. Then... it was back to the hospice and bed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

June 26, 2007

We woke up late today and headed up to breakfast. All of the sisters that saw us kept asking us, "Are you leaving?" or "You're still here?" I'm not sure how to take that... You'd think they didn't want us here! ;) No, they love us. They were all just shocked that we were still there, since we had planned to only stay a couple of nights then head to Egypt. Plus, there was the fact that we were supposed to check out today...

Around 10, we left to find Mazada tours. We headed toward Jaffa gate, accompanied by another lady staying at Ecco Homo with us... Gloria? I really should figure out her name. She's an archaeology teacher at the University of Toronto, here on a grant to prepare for future grants. On our way, we passed by Shabaan's, who was finally open, and Nassar's. Both recog me and joyfully said hello as we passed. I love being recognized by the locals in the Old City. Parting with Gloria, we went out Jaffa gate and started our adventure to find Mazada tours. With a point in the right direction by a couple of security guards, we found what we were looking for. An hour-ish later, we had booked our trip to Egypt. We leave July 1st. Yay for having some plans! (Plans on when we'll be back to Israel are still a little in the making and are currently waiting on-the-fly decision making.)

We returned to the western wall in time to pick up our tickets for the Kotel Tunnel tour. I went to the washroom while Travis went out to take pictures. (Note: Many of our tour guides use the term washroom as opposed to restroom, bathroom, or WC. Several of us have determined that we like the term and want to incorporate it into American vernacular. So please, join with us in calling it the washroom.) Ok, first, I need to tell you about one of the joys of a city constantly concerned with bombings. We were warned from day one never to leave your bag unattended. Ever. If the guards ever see an unattended bag, they will assume it is a bomb and will blow it up, without checking to see who it belongs to or what it contains. One student lost a very nice camera that way. So, randomly placed around the city are these giant spherical concrete things that are used to blow up unattended bags. It's crazy to think about. Ok, back to the story. So, while I was in the washroom, I guess Travis was meandering about. In his meanderings, he saw one of those spherical bomb-detonators and it was smoking! But, by the time he got close enough to take a picture, it had stopped. ~sigh. Wouldn't that have been an amazing picture?

By noon, we were on the Kotel tunnel tour. I think I have skipped the day that I went on it with the group, so I will describe it here. Then when/if I catch up, I'll just refer to this description. Basically, the Kotel tunnel goes alongside the Western Wall of the temple mount. It wasn't initially a tunnel, it used to be the road people traveled along the wall. However, when the Muslism moved into the city 1300 or so years ago and built the Dome of the Rock, the people wanted their houses to have a clear view of it. So they built arches to lift the ground level so they could see the Dome. Now, what used to be road is currently tunnels. It's a fun tour. They have models that walk you through what has happened to the temple mount from when it was simply Mount Moriah until today. You also walk directly next to original Herodian stones that form the platform as well as see Roman and Byzantine artifacts such as columns and cisterns. It's a very informative walk, though very biased this time through. (My guide when I went through with the Center was much younger and much less biased.) At one point I turned to Travis and said, "He's not bitter, is he?" just as Travis was about to say, "Bitter, party of one." hehe.

At the end of the tour, we came out on the Via Dolorosa, right next to our hospice. Everyone else got an armed guard back to the Western Wall, but we decided to skip out and stay where we were. (Obviously, the walk between the Via Dolorosa and the Western Wall is a highly dangerous walk that requires an armed guard at the front and rear. [rolls eyes] Give me a break. But, if it will make the Jewish tour guide feel safer walking through Muslim shops, then go right ahead.) As we walked back towards the hospice, we noticed that the Prison of Jesus was open for the first time, so we detoured through there. Then we headed back to the hospice where Travis was boring, so I fell asleep. :)

An hour or two later... we headed over to the Garden Tomb to see if we could make a sunrise appointment and to check out where we wanted to shoot from. They said no to the sunrise shot, but we went ahead and looked at spots anyway. After we were done and were being more touristy, looking at the winepress, this Korean Christian missionary who is learning Hebrew and English came up and started talking to us. It was kind of hard to understand him at first, but became easier the more we talked. By the end, he had invited us to meet with him and his pastor for a short 20 minute meeting. We reminded him that we were Christian and were really busy, so politely refused. I felt kind of bad, but not really, considering that if we went, we wouldn't be able to talk about what we believe anyway. So then we went and sat down while Travis took pictures of the winepress from another angle. From the bench behind me came a voice, "Excuse me, but are you Mormon?" Uhhh... you'd think I'd be used to that by now. But how in the world did he guess that? Then to add shock, when we said we were, he said, "Me too!" Woah. That's a first here, to be sure. Obviously we were curious as to how he knew, so he enlightened us—Travis was wearing a BYU t-shirt and I was wearing a CTR ring. hehehe. That was easy enough. And here I expected a "light in your eyes" kind of answer. Oh well. I guess not all recognitions of us being Mormon can be romanticized. His name is Peter and he is from the Philippines. He had brought a Catholic friend of his to the Garden Tomb with him, so we got to meet her as well. He was so excited to see a fellow Mormon. It was cute. After awhile, we said goodbye and promised to see him at church on Sabbath.

On our way back, we bought a pair of scissors in case we needed to adapt our material for props, then found some baklava for Travis to try. Mmmm... I like that stuff. Then came the Internet cafe where we started booking hostels for Jordan and figuring out a tentative plan from there. Not sure where to find a good prayer shawl (or how much to pay) or a new-looking widow's mite, we headed over to Shabaan's for advice. Like typical Shabaan, he pulled out an old, dirty prayer shawl that he sold us for 20 shekels. Not bad at all considering that everyone else sold them for over 100. He also pulled out his "authentic" collection of widow's mites and sold us one for $3. Oh well. We had been looking for fake ones. hehe. As we sat there and pondered over it, he gave us each a coin that none of us have any idea what they are, but it's an ancient looking coin, so good for us! :D

After getting lost again, we stopped for dinner at Amigo Emil's again (the divinely good restaurant we had cheeseburgers at) and this time ordered pizza. Again, really good. Then it was back to the hospice where we stayed up for awhile just talking and laughing, then went to bed.

Monday, June 25, 2007

June 25, 2007

Travis' blog

We woke up late, yet still got to breakfast on time. (I really like having breakfast open from 7-8:30. Not quite so early as the Center. Plus, if we sleep in even later, it's ok, as long as we're up there before 8:30, we can still eat.) Then we came back to our room and were crazy lazy or something, because we didn't leave until 1 pm! But all that time was not wasted. we planned out some pictures (I read through a large majority of the chapter headings in the Old Testament, minus obvious chunks in books such as Leviticus), and made a tentative calendar for us. Deciding it was late and we should get some lunch and do something out in the city, we headed off.

We headed off to the Western Wall, but realized there wasn't much food that way, so we stopped literally right before security at a restaurant off to the right and ordered shwarma. It was a rather nice place. Definitely the most expensive shwarma I've ever had, but really, it was worth it. It was really good shwarma. This was the first time I've ever had french fries in shwarma, though I've heard about it from many people. It was rather good.

From there we passed through the Western Wall and went up to the Dome of the Rock. That's the second time I've decided to go and got up first try. I don't know what happened to the groups who had to try 2-3 times. On Temple Mount we wandered and took pictures. Travis decided he wanted a shot of the Mary Magdeline church through an arch that required he stand in the sun and wait for a group of tourists to move, so I decided to go sit in the shade of a little dome where a group of Muslim women were sitting. All was fine and good for awhile. A couple of little kids kept looking over at the giant camera lens I was holding for Travis, so I smiled at them, then ignored them. They decided that wasn't good enough for them, however. So two or three boys came over and started pointing at the lens and saying something I didn't understand. But language aside, I soon understood that he wanted me to give him the lens. Laughing, I told him no. So he pulled out a 20 shekel note. (For those of you non-shekel savvy, that's $5.) Laughing even harder, I stuck by my original 'no' for which I am sure Travis is grateful. Now here's the best part. The boy reached into his pocked, pulled out a half shekel coin (12.5 cents) cradled it in his hand as if it were the last possession he had (we needed him for the Widow's Mite pictures!), then, with a pout on his face, he slowly handed it over towards me. I couldn't help laughing even harder. I again told him no. At this point they became very touchy with the lens and I decided it was time to go find Travis. The first thing that ran through my head was Bro. Merrill saying, "If you see small children, run!" I never thought that phrase would be applicable anywhere outside of Herod's palace. :D haha!

I grabbed my stuff and headed over to Travis who had finally decided to come find me. So the boys (who had now grown in number) started pestering him after seeing the actual camera with the telephoto lens. We humored them for awhile and showed them the camera, but soon realized we needed to get away from them. Tragically, they followed us. Whenever we'd get a break, Travis saw a picture that just had to be taken. [rolls eyes] ... photographers... At this point, the boys were very insistent that we give them the camera. While a few of them were actually grabbing the camera and trying to pull it away, another boy was sneaking behind me and trying to unzip my camelbak. Ahhh!! Who knew you could get so frustrated and feel so unsafe with a handful of pre-teen boys? Luckily (for us), the boys spotted a group of other tourists and took off after them. I enjoyed the respite and watched the boys try their ploys on this other group, feeling remarkably sorry for the group. All while Travis took more pictures. I finally pried him away and we went over to the other side of the temple mount. Finding a tidbit of shade over there, I sat on the ground while Travis took pictures of the Dome, of boys flying kites, and of a security guard standing next to me, apparently staring, probably wondering what I was doing there. (I had no idea that he was there. I had noticed someone standing there, and decided to tactfully ignore him. Apparently Travis saw it and took a picture.)

After we got kicked out of Temple Mount (we didn't do anything wrong... goodness! Jump to pessimistic conclusions, why don't you... it was simply closing time for we infidels.) Back to the Western Wall for us to take pictures. And by 'us' I mean Travis. While he took pictures, I set up a Kotel tunnel tour for the next day. Then we decided to head over to Gethsemane, passing through Absolom's Tomb, and all the other tombs along the way. As we got to the top of the tomb hill, next to Gethsemane, we saw a WC. Knowing my obsession with signs, Travis pointed out the men's sign. Instead of your typical picture of a man, it had a head with a pipe in the mouth. Ha! No worries, I took a picture.

May I just say that Camelbak's are brilliant!? For anyone reading this that may come over to the Center in future terms, may I suggest bringing a Camelbak? Especially for field trips. I only wish I had it the last two months. You will stay much more hydrated than if you carry around a water bottle. Plus, it's easy and convenient and really doesn't weigh much at all. And... I'm pretty sure your headset will be fine in the back pocket. (Be sure to bring headsets that you like. Earbuds are the best. Otherwise, you're gonna be stuck with old-fashioned headsets that are flimsy and very brightly colored. They don't tell you this beforehand, but every field trip you take a headset and earphones with to better hear the tour guide/teacher. Which is brilliant. They also provide a fanny pack that you can carry around all the time with your headset in. Also perfect size for hand sanitizer, tissues or toilet paper, money, sunglasses, Pink Grapefruit Mentoes (if that doesn't sound appealing, hang around Sis. Huntington for awhile...), etc. I know, I know. Everyone hates fanny packs. But really, everyone wears them, and everyone looks stupid. So why not join the crowd and enjoy the convenience?)

So, turns out I've never seen the front of the Church of All Nations inside Gethsemane. We kept seeing it, and Travis would ask what it was, but I had no idea. Which shocked us both because it was gorgeous mosaic and we all know how much I love mosaics. So, as we got closer, I realized what it was and felt really silly. But, in my defense, you can't see the front of the roof when you're inside and we always went to it from the back.

On the ceiling of the Church of All Nations are (I think) twelve mosaics for twelve different nations. Having no idea which were which, Travis started pointing some out to me. America was easy to pick out, with the American Eagle holding the Olive Leaf. Then we saw one that befuddled us... it looked like they put the Kirtland (or St. George... take your pick) temple right in the middle! Craziness. Turns out to be England. Not sure what it's really supposed to be...

Travis and I finally figured out who we needed to talk to for permission to get into the side garden at night—Father Raphael. (He's the one that let me out the day I was locked in the Garden.) We chased him down for awhile (he was giving a tour), then finally talked to him. We had been told by the security guy that our chances were slim, but Father Raphael was very helpful and agreed to let us come that night!

After leaving, we went up to Orson Hyde park and Travis picked out a few good sites to photograph in, then we went back to our hospice, then over to Aladdin's (who have finally figured out who we are and now recognize us. hehehe), then found a cheap little place to eat pizza for only 8-10 shekels. (depending on what kind you get... even though he advertises for 7 shekels per slice.) Pretty sure he just took the pizza that was sitting out on display and covered it with new toppings. hehehe. It had the reminiscent taste of cardboard, plus, we noticed that three slices were missing from the display pizza. :) Still, it wasn't bad. Especially for the price. Pretty sure that fresh, it would have been delicious.

Then we caught a taxi and went back up to Gethsemane for our appointment with Father Raphael. Being about 10-15 mins early, Travis decided to change out his film before we rang the bell. So, sitting on the side of this mostly deserted road, we sat, Travis with his changing room (which looks like a plastic/material kind of box) on his lap, with his hands inside, changing film. To the unknowing eye, it had to look suspicious. Especially in a country such as this one. In fact, at one point, a cop car drove by slowly, looking at Travis, then turned around and left. hehehe... close call. :) Right on 7:45, Father Raphael opened the door, afraid that he hadn't heard the bell, and was shocked to see us sitting across the street. Silly Americans. :) So, he let us in the other garden. (I got to hold the key and actually unlock the gate that previously I had been locked into! Haha!)

Travis and I were then alone to photograph to his heart's content. We had gotten there right after sunset so that there would be light left to set up his camera, then we got down to business. Now, this was my first experience using the 4x5 camera. Travis gave me a little lesson, because we figured his hands would be more appropriate than mine in a Gethsemane picture. I'm fairly certain this has to be the hardest picture we will take this entire trip. Not because it was hard to set up or anything like that, but just the nature of the picture. In order to make it look like we wanted, Travis had to basically lay face-down on the ground, then reach in front and above his head to grasp a rock. Now, that's not bad for a point-and-shoot picture. But Travis is not a point-and-shoot kind of guy. Nope. No flash for him! Instead, he requires long exposures. And by long, I mean the first picture was 3 minutes long... then 4... then 7!! That position is far from comfortable. After the second one, I literally had to help him lift his hands off the rock. But, he was willing to endure the pain for the sake of a picture. However, with each picture, his insistence on many shots waned, and he decided to trust himself and hope for the best outcome. (We are all praying that they turn out the way he wants, if not better! We're also praying that I counted out the minutes correctly.) I'll be honest, it was hard to watch him go through that. It was a learning experience, that's for sure, more-so for him than me, I'm certain. But to go through that kind of pain in the garden of Gethsemane, which isn't even the tiniest fraction of what the Savior suffered for us, is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon. I feel like I have a new-found respect and understanding for the Atonement.

After we finished, we went home and immediately crashed. Well deserved, methinks.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

June 24, 2007

Umm.... I have no idea what we did this day. I haven't had my computer for a week, so I'm catching up here. I hadn't yet thought of taking notes of what we did, nor do I have an itinerary to look back on. I'm sure I'd be safe saying that we tried to get some more stations of the Via Dolorosa, took lots of pictures, and ate something crazy. Oh, and I did have the sense to write down the following quotes:

- "My feet almost look tan when they're losing blood." - Trav
- Favorite sales pitch - Merchant: "Come in my shop or I kill you; I'm a crazy man!"
- Travis when talking about call to prayer being at 4 am: "I'd so be a Jack Muslim."

Ummm... yeah. What else can I remember? Let's see... Travis finally got his luggage. Yay! We called the Center just off-hand to see if they had heard anything and they surprised us by saying that his luggage was just sitting there waiting for us. Wahoo! So we rearranged our schedule order to go up to get his luggage. ~whew. That's a relief. Thanks everyone for your prayers! :D

Yeah. I think that's the most important thing that happened this day. :)

I remember walking around to all the churches and them being closed because it was Sunday. Then we went to the Jewish Quarter because we figured they're Jewish and their Sabbath isn't on Sunday. Upon discussing the matter, Travis and I have decided that this was, in fact, the day that we did the walking tour of the Jewish Quarter. The tour in our guide book included the Armenian Quarter and it was all closed due to it being Sunday. Oh! And we ran into Mr. Oooo on our way out, so we asked if the stations were open and he looked at us funny and said no, they were in mass. Duh. Such Christians are we... :) hehe So then we did the Jewish Quarter tour. Then on our way back, we stopped at the stations guarded by Mr. Oooo and were able to photograph them, even though they were about to close. Wahoo! Travis keeps trying to convince me that he has perfect timing. I almost believed him, until I realize that we have yet to finish getting all the stations on the Via Dolorosa. :D Ummm.... yup. That's all I remember.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

June 23, 2007

Travis' blog

New feature: Anything in bold is an addition by Travis. :)

The morning started with what's becoming tradition: alarm starts going off just past 7, I hit snooze until 7:20 when I finally give in and say, "Hey Travis, it's 7:20." Then hit snooze again until around 7:30 when one or the other of us finally gives in and gets up. Then it's off to breakfast. The only difference in breakfast this morning was the milk being slightly colder. Yesterday we'd gotten a note on our key to see the reservation desk the next day, so, seeing it open, we went in. Turns out that the office is Sunday, which is when we were going to leave for Egypt, so our reservation ended. So basically, she wanted us to pay off our bill today. Not having enough money at the time, we asked when she closed. 2 pm. Hmmm... That was going to be rough with church being 10-1. We assured her we'd work it out.

Back in the room we started our next adventure—helping Travis not stink. Now there is a project. ;) With only what he was wearing on the plane, all the sweat and dirt have started taking its toll. I'm not sure why he hasn't taken me up on my offer of boys t-shirts... The worst is actually his socks. I think they're supposed to be white. They look more... gray and orange. Gross. So, he got in the shower, clothes and all, and started cleaning up. "actually, I took my clothes off but I didn't expect her to know that, we're not that close" Having no laundry detergent, he used shampoo. Ha! Then came time to dry his clothes. We had about a half hour. He stayed in the bathroom with my hair dryer to get his underclothes and pants while I stood on my bed with his shirt in front of the fan hanging on our wall. Needless to say, by the time we had to leave, his shirt was a very cold damp, his socks were still wet, and his pants were sopping. Then we started off our trek across the Kidron Valley to the Jerusalem Center. By the time we got there, all but the seams of his pants near the top were completely dry. He picked good clothes for this climate.

One thing I realized today that I've taken for granted while on the program is the doors on the first floor of the Center. If you can't enter the Center from the bottom, you have to walk up and around a huge hill. It adds on another good 15-20 minutes of steep hill. I looked at the gate and stairs with longing for probably the first time ever. Usually I get to the gate, look up the stairs and think, "Ugh. I don't want to climb more stairs." I guess it's all a matter of perspective, eh?

We got to church just in time. Everyone else was pulling up in their cars and taxis. We had time before church to talk to several of the couples, and the other students and their families that have stayed in Jerusalem for a few days. Travis finally got to meet the Huntingtons. That was fun since it was they that followed Travis' travels all over the world with me, followed second only by the Lees. Church was really good. It seemed to be focused a lot on marriage, dating, divorce, etc. I was surprised at how well Sacrament and Sabbath School tied in together. Because the branch was so small today (being in between groups of students, plus, most of the tourists left after sacrament) we only had a two hour block. That actually worked out quite nicely because it gave us time to jump on the Internet, check my email, post yesterday's blog, and download some upgrades for my computer. Turns out my Photoshop is too old, too, so the new plugin still doesn't work. So we still can't see Travis' pictures on my computer. Pity, really.

We caught a sherut back to the Old City and went straight to Aladdin's (pronounced All-a-deen) to get money. (The rate is up to 4.23 shekels!) For the record, after all the getting lost yesterday, I went straight to Aladdin's today. With everything open, I recognized it again. Haha. :) Then we came back to pay our bill. We asked the lady at reception if we could send a fax to the airport to try to find Travis' baggage since they weren't answering their phone. She let us, then after hearing Trav's sob story, she even called for us so she could listen to the message that we couldn't understand. Turns out that, according to the phone message anyway, they aren't open on Saturdays. So we decided it would be pointless to keep calling today.

We hung out in our room for the next few hours, reading, talking, pretending to sleep and eating our lunch—leftovers from dinner last night. Supplemented with some Club crackers that I had brought from the states and had forgotten about until I packed to come home. I'm kind of glad I forgot about them, because peanut butter tastes much better on them than on onion crackers.

Finally we decided to head back out for another adventure—finding the Dakkok travel agency. With the clues I had been given from our phone call yesterday and the address, I led us straight to Dakkok. And by straight, I mean, I found the corner that it was on. Travis was the one who finally found the Dakkok sign hidden in the other signs. Good eye, Travis. We went in and talked to Willeka. She was very helpful and not helpful at the same time. She made several phone calls, trying to find Trav's luggage. We basically discovered that no one knows where they are. However, another of Dakkok's clients flew in on the same flight that Travis was supposed to fly on, lost their luggage, so they went straight to Egypt w/o luggage and are coming back tomorrow, hoping to find their luggage here. So Willeka has been trying to make sure it gets here. Supposedly, the bags have been sitting at JFK and should be on a cargo plane leaving tonight. We've got our fingers crossed that Trav's bag is with them. She's also looking into a Nile cruise tour down to Aswan. Depending on cost, we might do it. Apparently Aswan is really gorgeous. However, it's also three days, so that cuts into Travis' biblical photography time. I get the feeling however, that if we go, he won't be disappointed by the photos he'll get down there. I don't know, though. I've never been there. She also told us different ideas about how to get into Jordan and how visas work and such. But, other than that, she didn't really give us any organized help about how to get places, where to stay, if there's a group we could hook up with, or anything. She just told us that we could do it relatively inexpensively, good luck, and have fun. Joy. Well, it'll be our next great adventure, I suppose.

Back to pictures. This was another fun night. I like touring the city much better this way, actually. Instead of having certain sites we have to see, we instead just go with the flow, go to sites as we feel like it, while taking our time to get there. It's nice to stop here and there to take a picture and really soak in the city. We never did that before because we were always on such a tight schedule. :D (Go ahead and laugh anyone in Bro. Merrill's class. :D) But we had such limited free time that we took advantage of every moment we had, then as soon as we were done, it was back to the Center as fast as possible to do homework and/or eat. But now, we eat when and where we please, we have no homework to get back to. When we're done touring, it's time for bed. Usually really early. I mean, Trav was asleep by 9:30 tonight. I'm sitting here listening to him snore as he sleeps. Hehehe.

We started tonight at a photography shop. I encountered it for my first time just a few days ago on our last trip as students into the Old City. Tricia had bought a picture there, but it was too big for her luggage, so she wanted the mat trimmed down. Instead, he just gave her a new picture in hard cardboard w/o a mat. But looking at all the black and white prints and all of the fun cameras, I decided to take Travis. He enjoyed it, but spent more time debating on if the prints were original prints or printed digitally. It was entertaining because at the beginning, the guy swore up and down that they were all printed from the original negatives. But by the end, after listening to Trav's shrewd observations, he admitted that his son has started scanning in the negatives and making prints from that. As we left, we found a really nice restaurant called Amigo Emil.* The first thing to catch our eye was the menu. After dinner last night, we've become much more aware of places to eat. Seeing a menu, we decided to stop and look to see if it was any good. Pizza for 25 shekels (5 less than what we got it for the other night). Oooohhh... cheeseburger, fries and a salad for 30 shekels. Not bad. Being in the mood for American food, we decided to try it. Plus, the restaurant looked very nice and clean. Bonus points. Upon entering, we realized that we had underestimated it. It was beautiful. The walls were made of stone instead of being plastered over. It was decorated with black and white photography from our friend across the street that we had just come from. The decor was beautiful, and, turns out, the food was quality to match. I had been a bit skeptical about finding a cheeseburger in the Old City... sounds questionable to me! Very non-kosher. Turns out I was right. It really was cheese, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't hamburger. It couldn't have been.

When Travis started taking pictures inside, it drew the attention of the owner, so we started talking to him. The guy was incredibly nice. He told us how he had gotten the store and about the food and plans for the future. I asked him about the food, but he admitted that he bought the burgers from somewhere else, he didn't prepare them there. So I still don't know what they were made of. And the cheese was... accer? Or something like that. Apparently it's a local cheese. (Any of my dear friends with developed research skills (*cough *cough... you know who you are), I would be greatly appreciative of you finding the real name for said cheese. It's white if it helps... it's still white, even if it doesn't help, actually.) Then another bonus was the dressing. Lemon and olive oil. Oh my, it was sooooo good. So mom, part of Christmas Eve dinner (I'm simply assuming that I'm going to be in charge) will be a salad with this dressing. Heck, let's mix two dishes and do the salad from Jimmy's with this dressing. So, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mint with a lemon dressing. Finally we looked at the time and, realizing that we wanted to be across the valley for sunset pictures soon, we left. After we paid, we realized they only charged us for the price of the dinner, even though the menu very clearly stated on every page... in bold... that the price did NOT include a 10% service charge. They were so nice that we felt guilty, so I pulled out 10 shekels and went back in to pay it, but the guy refused to take it. We argued for a bit, but he won. ~sigh.

Our hurry was quickly interrupted by an antiques shop with coins. Travis really wanted to find a Widow's Mite, so we decided to stop. It wasn't the right store, though. The guy was Palestinian, and although he was located in the Christian quarter, he had no idea what a widow's mite was. His coins were old, but not old enough. Once he realized more of what we wanted, he told us where we needed to go. He even wrote down the guy's name, his name, and gave us detailed instructions on how to get there. Seriously, who says that people here are sketchy and untrustworthy? Oh sure, they all want to take all of your money, and there are pick pockets, but really, there are so many people who are genuinely good and simply want to help. They give me a much higher opinion of the people of the world. If there are such good people in the midst of one of the most fought over cities in the world, in a country that is considered highly dangerous, then this world hasn't gone to pot as much as some people would like us to believe. Sure, there are evil people all over, but there are even more good people. The evil people just make a bigger bang and make it into our papers. Why can't we have a newspaper that prints stories such as this guy who was willing to send us to another shop in order to find what we wanted? It's something little, but it's something good. Someone really needs to start a newspaper filled with all the good things of the world. Never print the tragedies—we've got enough of those—just the good things that happen all over the world. I think we could easily fill up a newspaper with that. And it would be so nice to read something uplifting in the news for a change. Ok all my PR, Comm, etc. majors... there's your next project. And when it takes off and makes you really rich, all I ask for is a lifetime subscription. Perhaps for my family as well. :)

By this point, we had accepted the fact that we weren't going to make it up to the 7-arches observation point for sunset pictures, so we decided to instead start scouting out spots. So we headed for Lion's Gate, looking for shots of the Center and of the Jewish graveyard. On the way, we found one of the Stations of the Cross that we hadn't gotten a picture of before, so we stopped to take it. This Palestinian boy was sitting in there talking to a girl and started talking to us. He asked us if we were Catholic or Protestant, so we answered Mormon. He lit up. "I've seen many Mormons here lately." I told him that I had been part of the group at the Mormon University, but they had all gone home and I had stayed. So he asked me, "Do you believe in Jesus?" Oh no. I can see where this is going. But I figured that was an innocent enough question. I just had to watch where I was going here. "Yes, I believe in Jesus." "Do you believe He is going to come again?" "Yes." "Why hasn't He come yet, then?" At this point I looked at Travis, having no idea how to answer this in a situation where I couldn't talk about the Gospel, so finally I just answered, "Well, I suppose that's something you're just going to have to ask Him." "Travis talked during this conversation as well" He laughed and told me he liked my answer. He then told a story about helping a priest through the city and asking him the same questions. The priest's answer was simply that it wasn't time for Him to be here yet. He respected that answer, so he liked my answer because it was similar. He then told us about his Grandma's answer. "Actually, this was his mother, his grandmother was already dead. I also liked how he answered the question, "where are your from?" he said from his mother." I like his Grandma already. First, the woman is 99. She sounds like a spunky woman. He had asked her all the same questions. She answered the same for the first two, but for the third said, "He has come back. I saw Him in the West Bank. But the Israeli government doesn't want to give Him a visa." HAHAHAHA! So, we've now promised this boy that if we see Jesus in the West Bank we'll tell him hello from Mr. Oooo. (To pronounce the name, think monkeys... or Tarzan.) We kept going. We got to the Pizzeria place right by our hospice. The guy knows us by sight now. At this point I got a little confused and said we needed to backtrack and Travis said that we needed to turn. So the guy asked us where we were going and we told him Lion's Gate. He agreed with Travis (blast), but then warned us to be very careful down there. He said it with such sincerity and gravity that it shocked me. Wondering what was going on down there I asked, "Why?!" "Because there are two lions waiting for you." Oh man. He really got me on that one. Stinkin' people who can keep such a straight face while saying such non-sensical stuff! (For those who don't know, Lion's gate got its name by the lions carved into the gate.) I mentioned to Travis later that there are four lions down there, but Travis informed me that only two of them are waiting for us. [rolls eyes]

Outside Lion's Gate we looked at the Center for about 2 minutes, then headed down to the Jewish Cemeteries. While Travis took pictures of the Church of Mary Magdelene and the cemetery, I sat down and started reading about Absalom's tomb and surrounding areas. We meandered down a bit for better views, I realized I had been bit by something so I have this huge bite on the front of my ankle, then we kept going to the southern wall. I taught him a bit of history to make up for the photography lessons he had taught me. (Today was polarization, focal points, distortion... and I don't remember what else.) "framing and distortion was actually perspective." We went back into the city at Dung Gate, through the Western Wall. Technically the Sabbath was over (the sun had set) but there were still people worshipping, so we watched for awhile. Then we headed back.

Once back, we talked for a bit, decided to make a tradition of listening to a bit of Harry Potter 6 here and there to prepare for book 7 coming out, then Trav fell asleep on top of his blankets while I wrote in here. It's probably been an hour since I started writing... yup. This post certainly is long. :) Bedtime for Tianna!

*On Al Khanqa Street in the Christian Quarter. I would highly suggest it if you're in Jerusalem! It was delicious! If you enter at Damascus Gate and take the right fork, it's on one of the streets to the right, before you get to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It's on the right hand side of the street. Right across from a photography shop. But be careful, there are two photography shops on that street. It's the one that doesn't have the giant cameras on display outside. Rather, it has a display of small cameras inside the store.

June 22, 2007

Travis' blog for June 21
Travis' blog for June 22

Ok, I'm a little behind... and I don't have the time to catch up now. Also, I don't have time for pictures... especially since most of my pictures now are Travis' and my computer and software are all too old for him, so we can't see any of his pictures. hehehe. So, I'll update when I can. Btw, everyone, Travis made it safe! His luggage is a different story... ehhh... pray for his luggage!


First full day with Travis. Breakfast was from 7-8:30, so we set the alarm for 7, finally got up at 7:30 and ate breakfast at 8. I felt like I was eating in Jordan again, except the cornflakes, watermelon and bread weren't because it was the only edible food, but because it was the only food. I seriously laughed when I saw the picture of warm milk sitting next to a bowl of cornflakes and large spoons. Travis, however, introduced me to something that I wish I had thought of months ago—jam in cornflakes. Ok, yes, I admit, I'm pretty sure I've eaten that before back home. Which makes me feel even more dumb for not thinking about it in all of our partially-edible buffet breakfasts. ~sigh. Oh well.

After breakfast, we came back to plan our day and make plans for Egypt. We looked through pictures, watched Journey of Faith, and tried to call the airport to find his missing luggage. We discovered quickly that the phones in our room don't call out of the hospice. So we headed out to find Omar or Jimmy to see if they could help us out in placing this call. After a self-confidence deflating trip of getting lost, we finally found the closed shop of Omar. Apparently, when the students aren't here, he closes on Friday with the rest of the Palestinian community. Seriously, it looked like a ghost town. Or perhaps it was just because it was so early. Maybe he opens in the afternoon. Who knows. So instead, we found a falafel shop and let Travis try his first falafel. Then we bought a calling card that calls in Israel and headed back to the hospice. I felt a little guilty entering Damascus gate before 2 or 3 on a Friday, but what were we supposed to do? We're staying inside the Old City. But don't worry, we went straight to the hospice. We first tried the phone. First call, Travis listened to the entire Hebrew message, then the English at the very end simply said, "We're sorry, we're unable to take your call at this time." So we called a few more times, hanging up after 4 rings. Giving up, we started adventuring

After climbing onto the roof, we realized there were amazing pictures to be had. Back to the room to get the telephoto lens. Now we have this fun picture of Muslims actually praying at the Dome of the Rock. There's a picture no one in our group should have. (If they do, I'd love to know how they did it without breaking rules...) We tried the phone again. This time, we called the Jerusalem Center to see if the airport had called them. No luck. Then we called the travel agency —they were closed. Then we tried calling the airport over and over and over again. We finally got bored of calling the airport then hanging up, then calling, then hanging up, etc. So we went back to the room and tried to figure out what to do for the rest of the day. After an hour of looking at books and maps, I finally declared that we were going to go to the Church of St. Anne's (including the Pool of Bethesda), Church of the Flagulation, and Church of the Condemnation, then play it by ear after that. So we did.

We've discovered that Travis' mini, flexible tripod is very helpful. It took a little while for him to figure out how to hook it to the back of a pew, but he got it. Then started the time-consuming picture taking. I was amazed at how bored I wasn't. It was kind of fun watching him set things up, watching other people, listening in on their tours, enjoying the churches, and reading the Michael's guide book. We'd walk from church to church as I read the guide book to him, and he stopped to take pictures. After we finished the three churches, we headed out Lion's Gate, just to see the outside of it. While out there, we were entertained by the amount of people trying to drive in and out. Or the guy parked on the sidewalk that was two steps above street level. We finally went back in and decided, we've already started, why not finish the Via Dolorosa? Out came the guide book and we started following along with the stations of the cross. We were helped along by random people in the street that would see us reading a guide book, looking around, and dangling a giant camera. Taking pity on our obvious tourist state, they would point out "This is the first station, and that is the second. They're both open. Do you want a guide?" Ok, so perhaps they weren't taking pity on us so much as wanting to make a buck as a guide.

Oh, that reminds me. At some point during the day, we were wandering around the Ecco Homo (our hospice), looking at a map of what seemed to be the underneath of the hospice, when this guy showed up and motioned us to go down with him. Curious as to what the basement held, we followed. He took us on a little tour, speaking very little English, and the little he spoke was rarely understandable. I caught the words "Mary" and "cross" a few times. So we just smiled and nodded. So I started trying to figure out what things were. At one point, the floor had glass and you could look down several feet below, so I told Trav that was probably the original street level. The guy was a little creepy, though, in his own right. He seemed safe enough, but he liked to hold my hand to guide me to the next place, and very quickly. Luckily, after he took my hand, I would pull it away and he didn't protest. Then, he saw Travis' camera and asked if he wanted to take a picture. Not being the ordinary point and click kind of guy, he got down on the floor and started setting up his shot. Then our self-appointed guide tried to get me to move on to the next stop. Growing a spine, I told him we could move when Travis was done. The guide tried again, and I again said I was waiting for Travis. So the guide told me I was a good friend, and we waited. While we waited he said something about coffee. His tone implied that he was asking a question, so I simply said No Thanks. He looked a little confused and hurt and asked why not. I told him I didn't drink coffee. After that, he let us leave, but not before he made us pay him. ~sigh. Why didn't I think of that before? I, of all people, should know that nothing is free in the Middle East. Silly Tianna.

Anyway, back to our tour of the Via Dolorosa. After the first few stops, everything was closed. Note to self, do the Via Dolorosa again during business hours. :) And not on a Holy Day. The city was empty. It was really weird. We walked down the streets with shops closed all over, with the roads to ourself, being able to take pictures without having to wait long for them to be void of people. We ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I must admit, I liked it much better this time. First, there was only a fraction of the people there. Second, I had the guidebook to explain things to me. Third, Travis got some really cool pictures. Thank goodness for a wide angle lens. He got some great pictures that I never could have. Even better was how empty the church was. I discovered today that Travis is a very patient man when it comes to taking pictures. He'd set up his shot, then sit there for 10-15 minutes waiting for a 10 second window with no one in it. With the darkness of the church, he had to do long exposures, so even if someone quickly walked through, you can't see them in the end product. It's really neat. Travis insists that I'm going to know so much more about photography before we're done. He randomly stops and teaches me photography lessons. ~sigh... he's probably right... make a photographer of me yet. :) It'll be fun, though. I've always wanted to have a creative eye. Hopefully he can help me out. I've already learned about reflected light (though I can't really see it yet) and stops. The Holy Sepulcher took a good hour or two to go through and photograph, but it was worth it.

We finally left around 8, deciding it was time to find dinner. We started our quest for an open restaurant. The city now was almost ghostly empty. Everything was closed except for sweet shops. Finally, stopping in two of the little grocery-type sweet shops, we obtained our dinner: onion crackers and honey flavored peanut butter. Oh, and Sour Cream and Onion Pringles. Sounds healthy, doesn't it? :) We've decided to eat dinner earlier from now on. We didn't realize the crackers were onion until we got back to the room, at which point I couldn't help laughing. But, being good sports (and hungry), we dipped the crackers into the PB anyway. They weren't half bad. If covered in enough PB, it almost covers the taste of the onion. :) Luckily, I had brought some fruit with me, too, so we split an orange. Oh... the adventures of a foreign country. I didn't really think food through, I'm realizing. ~sigh.

We also discovered today that my old OS and Photoshop are detrimental to Travis' picture viewing abilities. First, we can't open his RAW files. Second, we can't load Lighthouse. (Whatever that is...) Oops? Looks like we might be taking my computer to church tomorrow to use the Center's internet. :D hehehe. I hope they still love me over there... Wish us luck! (Granted, if we don't get access to the Internet, you won't be reading this for a long while...)

Also, pray for Travis' luggage! We haven't found it yet!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


PS - I got all my text up for the past several days that I've been behind, but not the pictures. Right now I'm tired and want to go to bed. And tomorrow I go to Jordan. I don't get back to the Center until Monday. So... not sure when I'll get around to putting on pictures or adding new posts. Just so y'all know!

June 13, 2007

This was an amazing and full day. Really, probably one of my favorites! We started bright and early with breakfast at 6 and leaving the Center at 6:30. First stop: Kotel Tunnel. Don't know what that is? Don't worry—I didn't either. So, basically, it's a tunnel that starts at the Western Wall, goes down underground, and follows the rest of the western wall of the temple mount. You can see the actual wall that Herod built. Our guide taught us how you could tell a Herodian stone from some other time period. He gave us all sorts of trivia and was impressed at how much we already knew. Multiple times he turned to Bro. Merrill and told him that he should be proud of how much we had learned. :) That's gotta bring warm fuzzies to your heart. At the end of the tunnel, we walked through the Old City, back to the Western Wall via the Via Delorosa. (Sorry, but how often can you use via twice in three words?)

 Once there, we went to the Ophel. What's the Ophel you ask? Another good question. This is the excavation on the south and west of the temple mount. Here you can see the rocks (probably from the temple) that had been cast off the wall. You can see the damage done when Robinson's arch collapsed. You can see the old road and where the shops that probably changed money were located. There are mikvahs for ritual bathing. Around the south you can climb up a tower to see a view of the city, then go around to the southern wall and see the arches of where the gates used to be. You can walk up the stairs that used to lead to the temple in Jesus' day. Apparently Neil Armstrong, the astronaut, came to the Holy Land once. He asked his guide, "Did Jesus walk on these stairs?" His guide answered, "Well, Jesus was a Jew. So yes, he mostly likely did walk up these stairs." Armstrong then answered and said, "I feel more excitement to walk on these stairs than I did to walk on the moon."

We left from the Ophel and a few of us joined Bro. Whitchurch at the Israeli Museum. First, let me lament. The entire archaeological section of the museum is closed for renovation. For two years!!! How!? Why?! ~sigh. I am deeply sorrowful for this fact. All in all, I still got to see the Model City, which is pretty much amazing. It's a model, built to scale, to the best of our knowledge, from 2nd temple period. Around 66 AD. The scale? 1/4" = 1 foot. (If I remember correctly.) This thing is massive! It was fun to walk around and have Bro. Whitchurch explain to us what everything was. He then showed us where the Dead Sea Scrolls were kept—The Shrine of the Book. So I got to go in and see actual Dead Sea Scrolls! (Sorry, no pictures allowed) He didn't give us enough time in there. Or maybe I'm just slow at something like that.

We got home and I went straight to work on my site journals. They were due at 8, but I had to finish by 4:30. Theresa works at the BYU Bookstore, where Jimmy, one of the Olive Wood merchants, comes every year during Education Week to sell his goods. He told her that when she came to come find him, and he'd have her over for dinner. We've been so busy that we haven't had a chance to explore past Omar's. I kind of feel bad now. But Theresa finally went over to Jimmy's the other day and he offered her and her roommates dinner. I won the luck of the draw in being her roommate, that's for sure. He picked us up at the Center at 4:30 and drove us over to his house. His 7-year old son rode in the car with us and spoke fairly decent English, though he was a little shy, especially with his dad there. (Jimmy speaks 7 languages!) They live in an apartment complex, but moved in when it was brand new and got to design and decorate their flat. Wow. His wife is an amazing decorator. I want her to come design my house! There we met his wife and 9-year old daughter who apparently speaks Arabic, Hebrew (I think), French, English, and is learning Spanish on her own. Honestly, why are we so lazy in the States and don't do things like that? I want my kids to learn other languages. I just have no idea how... Theresa told me that there are schools in Utah that teach in half Spanish, half English. That would be a good idea. Perfect way to expose my children to another language. We'll see.

Dinner was divine. She made sure to make a traditional Arabic dish for us. It is translated in English as "Upside-down." Or, at least so says Jimmy. :) I don't think it would be hard to make at all, and was very delicious. Cook and spice some chicken, fry some cauliflower and carrots. Take a large pot. Put the chicken on the bottom, put the vegetables on top. Now, cover with uncooked rice and water. Cook until the water is gone. Now, get a large platter and flip the pot upside down over it, so the rice is on bottom and the chicken on top. Stir and enjoy. For even more eating pleasure, get some plain yogurt and mix it in with your rice. Yes, I know that sounds disgusting. Personally, I hate plain yogurt. I must admit, it was good mixed with rice. They also had a salad that I think was simply lettuce, mint, and diced tomatoes. It also had some sort of dressing, like an olive oil or something. I don't know what. To drink? Mango juice. Mmm... I'm going to miss all the juices. After dinner we talked for awhile. Some of their old neighbors showed up which was really fun. Then they brought us out this chocolate cake/mousse stuff. And then a platter of fruit. (Including ripe, organic apricots that were delicious.) And then amazingly juicy watermelon. Seriously, I thought I was going to burst. It was amazing.

June 12, 2007

Today was our last classes. It was kind of sad, I'll be honest. Bro. Merrill humored me and let us sing Come Unto Him. After lunch, we all met together and went on our Separation Wall tour. He went into a lot of politics for the first bit, and I can honestly say that I didn't understand most of it. So, I'll just tell you what I now understand. So, the Israelis have decided to build a wall around Jerusalem and surrounding Israeli cities. It separates the Israelis from the Palestinians, and you can only cross through checkpoints. Good news is, it has basically stopped all suicide bombings. The only one they've had since the wall went up was someone who swam in the Red Sea and entered down by Eliat. Bad news. It's a pain. Children who used to have a five-minute walk to school now have an hour and a half drive (which also inconveniences the parents) or have to switch schools. It has destroyed the economy of the outside Palestinian communities. Just look at Bethlehem. It is so sad! The graffiti on the wall showed us that the people hated it as well. I didn't really get the full grasp on it (ok, I still don't) until someone called it the Berlin Wall of the Holy Land. That hit home and hurt. I have such conflicting feelings. I feel for those people who have had their lives torn apart because of the wall. However, it's due to the wall that Jerusalem has experienced enough peace to allow the Center to reopen. And it's not just for my sake, but for the peace in the land. Honestly, why can't we all just get along?! I really don't get how people can get so angry that they would turn to violence, to murder! I've never understood war. I don't think I ever will.

June 11, 2007

Yay! This is one day that I've been looking forward to all semester! Masada, Dead Sea, Qumran!

History: Fortified by Herod the Great, in case the people revolted against him. Last hold out of the Jewish rebels (Zealots or Sicarii). Built on top of cliffs (300-1300 feet high) with only 3 narrow paths to get up or down. Romans built a siege ramp using Jewish slaves. They captured it in 72 AD, only to find all the rebels had committed suicide. (Or rather, 10 had committed murder, then suicide.) Only 2 women and 5 children survived by hiding in cisterns. At least… if you believe Josephus. Read the Wikipedia article at the least.

Each of us has to do one site report, to tell the class what we're getting into. This was my site. I think it’s remarkable that the sites were chosen randomly, and I got this one. It made me so happy! I knew the majority of the story right off. Throughout the semester I kept thinking of how I wanted to present it. But it was really easy to decide that I wanted to do it in story form. I’m kind of glad I got to do it in the classroom, though. I didn’t have to try to work up everyone’s emotions while fighting to stand upright on a bus. (I presented on Sunday morning, so that I could do it before the movie—when people were still interested.) It shocked me as I told the story that I actually got choked up. There were a few times that I thought I would have to stop because of it. That was greatly unexpected.

The site itself was wonderful. All I could have hoped for. I am eternally grateful for the cable car. It would be fun, some cool, breezy day, to hike up the siege ramp… but not today. Luckily, following tradition, “the weather [was] very unusual. You’ll never see weather like this again.” I’m really hoping I’m the lucky one in the group so that we can keep the nice weather for when Travis comes. This place was much larger than I expected it to be. I guess it makes sense to house 900 people with food and to spare. We went to a few of Herod’s palaces and still could see the paint on the walls. The cistern we went into was huge! Climbing those steep stairs, however, I can’t fathom doing while carrying full buckets of water. You’d have to be skilled and trained to accomplish such a feat! But it’s easy to see how they could easily store plenty of water for a long period of time. I’ve decided that if we could keep the cable car, the weather, and install escalators, I really wouldn’t mind living there. But I think that’s too much to ask. :)

Dead Sea
Ahhh!!! This is my favorite water spot of all. Have I mentioned yet that I am scared to death of drowning? :) I can’t keep my face underwater; I can’t be where I can’t touch the ground or be close to a wall or rock to hang onto. I simply can’t tread water or float or swim well enough for me to feel comfortable further out. But the Dead Sea?! Amazing! I can be as deep as I want and stay floating without any fear at all! Minus the pain caused when it gets in my eye, I could stay out there forever! Travis, we're going. Period end of story. Everyone needs to experience it at least once. I want to do it at least twice. :) Now, there are those of you who will say, "How much different could it be than the Great Salt Lake?" Well, I have to honestly admit that I can't say from experience. I've never been in the Great Salt Lake. (Though, I definitely want to now!) But, according to the site report, the Salt Lake has between 9-23% salt density at a given moment. The Dead Sea is 30%. It evaporates six million tons of water off the surface every day. Plus, how many times can you go swimming and say that you're below sea level? Or even, "I'm in the lowest place on earth. Right now." haha! I loved it!

We should have done this before the Dead Sea. This is one site I had been looking forward to the entire time, but the Dead Sea had sapped me of all energy, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I know I wasn’t alone in that, either. This was a lot smaller than I had expected. I don’t think we went into the entire thing. And we got a lot closer than I had imagined to the caves. Well, at least to one. (Cave 4?) Just as I was waking up and really getting into it, it was time to go. I really hadn’t expected such a short stop. Hmm... We'll go back there. I'm sure Trav can get a much better picture of the caves than I could have. Oh, but this was probably the hottest site yet for Israel.

June 10, 2007

Class again all morning. After class, I started doing some homework, then ended up taking a nap. I woke up just in time for Rebecca to come knocking on my door. We had decided to use our free afternoon down at the Garden of Gethsemane—reading the New Testament for class. Benyamin joined us and we went down, again through Orson Hyde Park. We got into the special garden (where they had never been) and we sang a few hymns, then read until it was time to go back so we'd have time to make it for dinner. Apparently I said something profound that I'm supposed to cross-stitch into a pillow for Benjamin: "Dinner may start at six, but it doesn't end until seven." Umm... not positive on the significance... but I'm sure he had something amazing in mind.

We finally decided to leave. In order for them to unlock the gate to let us into the garden, they have to also unlock the gate to let us out. Problem is, the people with the keys are across the street. Luckily, it's just a narrow little alley and typically a shout of Hello! will get us out. In the back of everyone's minds, however, is the fear that they'll get locked in. We got the pleasure of experiencing this today. We yelled, we shook the gate, we hollered some more. Nothing. No one walking down the street; no one touring the Garden. Nothing. Hmmm... It was probably only 3-5 minutes, but 3-5 minutes in that type of situation is a long time. Then, a Palestinian man started walking up the street. I'm pretty sure he didn't speak a word of English, but it wasn't too difficult to make him understand our predicament. He went into the other garden... and disappeared. Next came a woman. We asked if she could speak English, she informed us in a brilliant accent that she was from London. We explained what had happened just as two nuns came down the hill. (Where were all these people earlier?!) "Sister Victoria. These young people are locked in. Do you know who could let them out?" Apparently Gayle (the lady from London) was staying with the sisters. The sisters went into the Garden... and disappeared. So we sat and talked to Gayle for a bit. Apparently she received a grant from J.K. Rowling to come down to Jerusalem to come install air conditioning in poor apartment complexes. ... or something to that effect. Point is, it was good will, and the money came from J.K. Rowling. Another reason to love the Harry Potter books. ;) The nuns came back and informed us that there was no one around. The room the men were usually in was locked and the one priest they found didn't have a key. They had to leave, but they promised to wave at us if we were still there when they came back. They even offered to bring us dinner. They also consoled us by informing us that if worst came to worst, we would be able to relate to Jesus by staying the night in Gethsemane. Then they left. Of course, that started scripture jokes where Gayle told us we needed to be sure to stay awake and watch. :D It made it all that much more applicable that I had just read one account of Gethsemane. Haha. They had suggested that we climb a wall, so they started looking for a good place. But Rebecca was in a skirt, and I didn't think that would be very respectful. So then I was inspired with a brilliant idea—let's call the Center! Gayle, convinced that we would be ok, left. I called the Center (my first use of my cell phone!) and explained our situation. The security guard got my number and told me he'd call Gethsemane, then he'd call me back. While we waited, Rebecca sat down in front of the gate, pulled out her harmonica and started playing Behold the Great Redeemer Die. Now that was an experience—a sacrament hymn sounding like the blues while locked in the Garden of Gethsemane. My phone rang. I answered. Security informed me that he had called Gethsemane and the priest had assured him that no one was in the garden. "But we're sitting right in front of the gate!" But just then, I looked up and a priest was walking across the street with a key. Turns out that the men who had let us in had gone home, not telling the priest that there were people in the garden. So, when the Center called, the priest (named Raphael) looked around the traditional garden across the street, and didn't see anyone and told the guard as much. After he hung up, he thought about our garden and came to the rescue. Needless to say, I have lessons like crazy for future teaching moments. :D

We got back in time for dinner, finishing eating just in time to go watch the movie, Masada. It's a good movie. Some people complained about it being a slow movie, but I think that's just because we're so used to fast-paced action movies nowadays. However, I recommend you get it edited. Bro. Merrill watched it every semester over here, then one time, back in the States, rented it to show some friends, not realizing that the Center copy is edited. Oopsies! I can see how they could definitely carry parts too far. It's a hard movie to watch as is. There are parts that will turn your stomach if you have any humanity in you. But it's a true story (well, a fictionalized true story) and one that is hard. Think Hotel Rawanda or Power of One though not nearly to that extreme. There is much more humor involved (though not always intended as such). It's an old movie. But good.

June 9, 2007

So, I think I left my scriptures on the bus or in the computer lab, which is locked on the Sabbath. So, I had to go to church scriptureless. Here's what I wrote about it. "I lost my scriptures today. I feel like a part of me is missing. But I've lost them before, and they always turn up. I have this ache in my chest, fearing that they're gone—but part of me simply refuses to believe it. It reminds me, in a very, very small measure, of the mother who hears that her son is MIA at war and is probably dead, yet deep down, she knows he's still alive. She mourns, yet hopes and prays. That's what I'm doing—mourning, yet hoping and praying." You'll be happy to hear that wherever I left them, they got turned into security and I got them back later in the day. Yay! :)

I think the lack of sleep finally caught up to me. I never fell asleep in church today, but I really struggled with focusing and found myself nigh unto nodding off a couple of times. After Sunday School, I went off to Relief Society only to run into Adam—one of Clark's old roommates! Talk about random! He walked with me into RS and introduced me to his wife, Martha, and his new little baby girl, then told me that Spencer (another roommate) was here too! Craziness! Wanna make the world a little smaller? Spencer is engaged to Martha's sister, who just so happens to be the best friend of two of the girls here at the Center. That was enough of a jolt to keep me wide awake during RS. It was an amazing lesson (#10 for anyone who cares). Just a few thoughts:

- What are you trading? Health for junk food? Integrity for a good grade?
- Satan shocks us so that next time, it's not so shocking.
- What kind of a movie has a good moral when it has no moral?
- How we spend our free time is a sign to both God and Satan of our priorities.

After church, I rounded up Adam, Martha, and Spencer, and we took a picture of us with the Dome of the Rock in the background. (Though, it's kind of small and partially blocked by a pillar. We were all in a hurry. Oops?) Then they left while our entire group got together for a group photo. After that, Theresa, Kathryn, Daniel and I went off to the Garden of Gethsemane via Orson Hyde Park. That was an interesting experience. Mix the sacredness of the places with the bickering of Theresa and Daniel with the humor of us all with the heat of the day, with hymns and journal writing, and you'll have a glimpse of those few hours. Oh, don't forget getting lost on the way there and back and fearing missing dinner. But it was really good. When you get to Gethsemane, there is the traditional garden that is surrounded by fence so you can see the really old olive trees, but not touch. And, of course, a church. However, there's another little garden that, for some unknown reason, they let the Mormon students into. It's a beautiful little place. It's bigger than the other garden, there are olive trees and little red flowers sporadically (they remind me of little drops of blood on the ground), and it's just a nice, meadow-like area. A place to leave the hustle and bustle of the touristy city. There's a giant fence all around it, but that's ok. It adds to the seclusionary feel.

One thought I had today that I'm not sure the answer to: Why is it that the people that we are closest to—those that we love the most—are the ones that we treat the most poorly? They're the ones we make sarcastic comments about then say, "It's ok, I can say that. They're my ______"

After dinner we had a fireside by Bro. David Galbraith, the man that probably had the most knowledge and history with the Jerusalem Center. He basically told us about the history of building the Center, all the trials and opposition they faced. He was amazingly funny and the story is phenomenal. We asked him afterwards if he'd consider writing a book. He said that there is 500 pages sitting on the 1st Presidency's desks and that it would probably never be published. Really. Someone needs to tap into his memory more often.

June 8, 2007

Happy 23 year 11 month birthday, Tianna! :D hahaha.

Class all morning. ~sigh. Then was lunch, then on a bus for Bethlehem. Since Bethlehem is in the West Bank, we have to take security with us. I ended up sitting next to Toreq, one of the Center security guards. Now, I'm not nearly as outgoing as Benyamin or Rebecca, so I'll admit that conversation was a little awkward for awhile. But I got him to teach me Hebrew numbers (yes, I should know these) and got chastised, "You really need to learn to write in cursive." You know your handwriting is bad when a boy criticizes it. ~sigh. :D

Bethlehem is, you guessed it, a church. It was a fun enough church. It's run by several different Christian sects and each section is decorated differently. The upstairs was all gaudy and "churchy" but downstairs was pretty cool. That's where the 14 pointed silver star (for the 14 generations of Christ found in Matthew's genealogy) and the manger was. Plus, we sang. A lot. Yay for Christmas hymns! What we didn't sing downstairs, we went outside and sang in a courtyard. Finally, we decided it was time to go shopping. We headed over to Nativity Square and started around the shops. Apparently, this is the place to buy Bethlehem blankets. But after the first group got out of the one shop we found that sold them, they were sold out. Oh well. I can still get them in Jerusalem. :) It was really sad, though. It's obvious that there were dozens of shops that had been closed down. The separation wall has destroyed the economy in Bethlehem. Tourism is down dramatically. Richie was talking to some young men there who said that they hated living there and wished they could move somewhere free like Canada or the US. It made me very sad.

We left Bethlehem and went over to Shepherd's Field. We ate lunch, where I got a video of people throwing cherry tomatoes from our sack dinners at Anthony while he tried to catch them in his mouth. It was rather entertaining. Bro. Merrill has finally be united with his wife and daughter, Brittany. They arrived in Jerusalem while we were in Galilee, so they've only been here a couple of days. So, to begin our Bethlehem program, we had them come up and introduce themselves. Sis. Merrill is so dramatic in a wonderful way. We've all decided we love her immediately. The best part was the story of how Bro. and Sis. Merrill met. Let's just say they were office supplies in a ward roadshow, knew each other for about a year (even had a date or two... I heard an alternate version that said they dated for a bit, then drifted apart), then 10 months after their last date, he spent a couple of evenings with her, prayed about it, took her for a drive and told her he was in love with her. At the doorstep he said, "I don't want to rush you, but I graduate in 9 days." 9 days later, they were engaged. Ha! After introductions, we had a program where we had violinists and singers giving us musical numbers. As one group was sining, this boy walked up the hill with a baby sheep or goat. (I was never quite certain.) I’m sure he wanted money, but still, it was pretty cool. Toreq kept his eyes on him the entire time—even picking up a stick! Just in case. But we had no problems.

On the way home, I again sat next to Toreq and had much more enjoyable conversation. We talked about traffic and how cops are required to have their lights on at all times in the city, but they have "plain clothes" police cars on the highway. I asked him if there was a rhyme or reason to all the honking, short answer? No. I'm going to do something, hello, or road rage. Take your pick. He hates it. We moved on to yawning and the causes behind it, as well as funny stories, then we were back to the Center. I liked the guy. He's got a good sense of humor and is just ... real. It made him less intimidating as security and more of a real person. Oh, he also offered to help Travis and I as much as we need. Yay!