Thursday, May 22, 2008

Out of Egypt

I haven't put anything on my blog in a while, I know, but it is not all of my fault. First I was a week in Egypt where I didn't have access to a computer, and since then I have been sick (with Ramses Revenge).

First though, I can't remember if I talked about the western wall which was an awesome experience. We went there on Friday night, so just before the sabbath, and I wish I could have taken pictures or video because the expereince was nothing like I would have imagined - but it wasn't allowed. Thousands of people were in this little square, and it was really more of a party than anything else. First there were all the ultra-orthodox Jews in thier fancy get-ups praying at the wall and in the synaguage - rocking back and forth like they do. But then all the rest of the Jews stand a little further back and they get in big huge circles, and everybody puts hands around each others shoulders and they sing and they dance and they mosh and whatever comes to mind. I did something that resembled the ramba with one group, and I tried hard to learn the songs, but mostly I just made vowel noises with the tune. At one point I was singing a really cool harmony, but kept getting looks so I stopped. After that I went over with the soilders who were the biggest partiers. I've never danced with so many people with M-16s strapped to them, it was a crazy time for sure.

Ok, so Egypt. We spent a day driving there, one day in Cairo, two days in Luxor, back to Cairo and a day driving back. I'll post some pictures later on but I'm having trouble with the data dump from my camera to my flash drive so it will have to wait. Anyway, I'll put up a bunch of pictures with captions and that way I don't have to talk about it here.

On the last day I woke up, and everything I ate the previous day was coming out both ends - pleasant imagery I know. I couldn't stand up without getting nausious, and my arms were all tingly. The doctor came and threatened me with an Egyptian hospital so I told him that I would get on the bus. That ride accross the Sinai Pennisula was one of the worst experiences of my life. I wanted to die. you would think that if you were making a road accross a desert that it would be easiest if made straight, but no, the Egyptians had to make them really windy with checkpoints, requiring busses to constantly be changing their speed and coming to stops.

Getting accross the border was like a scene out of a movie. I had to be helped accross the border - supported by my fellow immigrants. The Egyptian officials were really nice and let me to the front of the line, and basically just waived me through (probably because they were glad that something so sick was leaving their country) The Israeli side was hell. I was harrassed by border officials, had to wait forever, for them to X-ray my bags and in the end they ended up just searching the entire thing anyway - If you are just going to open up the bag, why don't you do it in the beginning before you spend hours xraying it? Anyway, I made it accross and was able to sleep for most of the Isreal trip back to Jerusalem, although I didn't get to snorkel in the red sea like everyone else, which was fairly disapointing.

This week has been finals for our block classes and so I've been mostly staying around the center and trying to recover - which has proved harder than I thought. But next week we go up to Galilee so I need to get better.

Friday, May 9, 2008

One Week

Its hard to believe that we have only been here one week. We have done so much that it feels like a month. We also took our first midterm today. This week has been especially busy with the study part of this study abroad and all the students are feeling it. But I suppose it all works out because on Sunday we leave for Egypt and no one is going to be doing any studying.

This week I went with a group to Ma'e Sharim the section of the city where all the Ultra-Orthodox Jews live. It was really interesting to see everyone down their in their hats and long black coats, with the tassles of their garments hanging down. The Jewish part of the cities are actually much nicer than where the palestinians live (because of political repression its hard for palestinians to get jobs) but this section of the city was really quite a dive. As I understand it, the Ultra-Orthodox dedicate their lives to studying the talmud, and therefore don't work. The state of Israel pays for these people to subsist which has caused a lot of tension within the Jewish community in Israel - because of the tax burden.
Also, a part of the the Ultra-Orthodox, are actually opposed to the state of Israel, because they believe that their punnishment is exile, and their repentance is longing for Jerusalem, and that the nation of Israel should only be restored by the Messiah when he comes.

As far as the official fieldtrips go, we have spent a lot of time touring the lands around Jerusalem. We saw where David slew Goliath, the valley where Samson lived, a bunch of ruins, cisterns, and archeology not necessarily connected with the Bible but still increadibly old and really cool. I need to figure out a way to get enough broadband to upload pictures. I think that other people are doing it so I'll look into it.

Tomorrow is the sabath, and then we leave for Egypt. I'll try to put some pictures up tomorrow.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

First Impressions

So on Thursday we went into the old city and walked through the main streets of ancient Jerusalem. It felt a lot like my first few days in Irkutsk. Everyone was speaking strange languages, there was unfamiliar writing everywhere, there were people wearing strange things, there were sounds of poorly running buses, there were a million different smells - and it was hot. We walked through the main streets just to get accuainted with the city. All the merchants were out and it felt like the bazaars in Russia.

The next day we took a tour around Jerusalem looking from vantage points around the city. We learned the geography and talked about all the events from the scriptures that happened at different places. It was amazing to look at how close everything is. I had always read about Christ staying at Bethany, but bethany is just up the mount of olives a little ways, and the Mount of Olives, is right outside the city. The Garden of Gethsemene is maybe 300 meters from the city wall. The traditional spot of the crusifixion is now within the walls of the old city. The major places in the new testement, you could walk to in 5 minutes between each point. Then we went to a different point and looked at the surrounding area around jerusalem - it is estimated that 70% of the Old Testement took place in the area that we could see from Nabi Samwil.

Today we went to the Garden Tomb. There were so many Nationalities, and languages, and denominations there. Unfortunately everything was kinda rushed today, but we'll be back.

Today was also church - because we have it on saturday here. I was called as the secratary of the Elders Quorum of the Jerusalem branch of the Israeli District. Jerusalem Branch in the Israeli District sounds really cool.

Tommorrow we have a lot of free time so hopefully there will be a lot more to write about the old city.