Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seder It Up and Some Rain

Alright, so I got a little lazy the past few days. I'm just starting to feel like this blog is a chore now. But I will express my sincere thanks to those who are still bothering to read it. My google analytics tells me the page average is a whopping 3 minutes and 14 seconds. Apparently I'm not entertaining enough for a whole 5 mins. But on the bright side, at least it leaves something to aspire to. So, the last few days have been rainy and cold. But that hasn't stopped the action in the JC. Thursday we had our Passover Seder dinner, and it was one great big cultural experience for sure. We got to sing songs (albeit very off key), chant Hebrew, eat things like parsley dipped in salt water, and drink wine...okay so it was grape juice. But overall, it was a very educational and enlightening evening.
Carly and I sporting our Passover books that always seems to confuse me because you have to read right to left.

Here I am participating in Urchatz, which is the washing of the hands in the Seder ceremony. Can you tell how excited I am? For real though...

Mike and Jeff showing off their Jewish rap skills. All I remember is something about "He-be-brewing".

Yesterday a group of us braved the city in the cold rain and took a taxi to the far side of West Jerusalem where we shopped in a boutique. We also visited a bookstore next door to it where I indulged my book buying habits and bought a copy of Mrs. Dalloway. Maybe next year I'll give up book buying for lent, because it's becoming a rather pricey and weighty problem. Oh well. Oh and my chocolate lent fast is pressing forward, but not without great sacrifice. I've had to convert to hot milk instead of hot chocolate. Hard times I tell you. But anyways, our adventure in the rain yielded some good times.

Here's me, Moon, Richelle, and Lauren waiting for our taxis in the pouring rain. I think Lauren got thirsty.

This was in the bookstore. Living proof that the world is going to pot. You know it is if Twilight can be bought in Hebrew.

Chelsea, Miriam, Lauren, Moon, and Richelle holding up their prized boutique purchases. What's that face about anyway Moon? Maybe she was confused she just spent $15 on a leather post-it pad.

Anyways, after that adventure and some dinner, we started a game of what's been dubbed "Body Ball". I wish I had pictures, but I was too busy playing. I'll give you the gist though. Imagine 10 college age students running around a gym with a giant exercise ball and two goals. Add some awkward sound effects, massive body/ball collisions, and a whole lot of laughter, and that's pretty much our game. Of course injuries have been sustained by multiple peoples, but it hasn't stopped us from playing as of yet.

Finally, today was another amazing Shabbat. It was district conference for all the Israel branches, so we had a full auditorium. The speakers were fantastic, the music was incredible, and the view, as always, was breathtaking. I think I'll miss church in the auditorium most when I go home. After our 2 hour session, we had a leadership meeting where we learned about alot of the humanitarian aid things going on here in the middle east. It was really neat to see all the things the church is doing and I think it made a big impact on alot of students and members alike. It also helped me recognize the power one person has to make a difference. So, that's been the week in a nutshell. Monday we are headed to the land of Jordan, but I'm going to try and put some pre-blogs up before then since the blogging work is never really complete. So have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent, Museums, and Tunnels

Today is the first day of Lent and in an effort to acquire more culture in the Holy Land, I have decided to participate. So, in order to make myself more accountable, I am announcing to the blogging world that for the next 40 days, I will be giving up chocolate. I'm not gonna lie, this is kind of a big deal. My name is Elyse and I am a chocoholic. While I anticipate hard times ahead, I think relinquishing my daily cup of hot chocolate will prove most difficult. Thus, any support you have to offer whether through comments, emails, letters, or high fives, will be highly appreciated.
In other news, yesterday I took a trip to the Biblical Lands Museum where I actually knew the context of some of the artifacts thanks to the excellent tutelage of Dr. Skinner and Bro. Wilson. Favorite displays included 'weaponry through the ages' and some incredible mosaics. I was highly tempted to purchase a 'build you own mosaic' from the gift shop, but then I remembered I'm approaching a state of poverty so I saved myself the sheks. I did however, get to bond with some of my favorite people.

Here is Jayne, Nycole, Kim, Suzy, Kara, Teri Ann, Jessica, and I. Of course I have to give props to Miriam who is behind the camera, but no less loved or important.

Here I am making my mark on history among other homosapien handprints, note the sweet nail polish.

Today was yet another field trip, and I have to use my signature phrase...that was awesome. First we got to watch a sweet 3D movie that gave us the lowdown on Hezekiah's Tunnel and the City of David. Then we embarked on our trip down the tunnel. Sloshing around in our jeans and singing disney songs almost all the way down, experiencing history with this group is anything but dull. However, the pictures can tell the story alot better than I can.

Me being so excited to make the descent into a wet and narrow tunnel. It rocked my world.

Richelle and I in front of the millo in the City of David. Brother Huff also informed us that there used to be a toilet in this dwelling. That's history for you.

Here's Janay, Richelle, Aleni, and I striking a pose. JJ, Josh, and Jeff also felt the need to be included. Posers.

This is Jennifer, Ali, me, and Aleni after emerging from the tunnel in all our glory. We're pretty much amazing.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Business as Usual

Alright so I've been getting a little lazy as of late, but blogging just takes so much time. I'd rather waste my time other places rather than glued to my laptop. Anywho, life is business as usual at the JC. Old Testament class got a little dull the other day though, so Moon spiced it up with a little picture. Here was the finished product. My favorite part is the head bandage personally, but judge for yourself.This also reminded me of another important point. I finally had to make the transition from my favorite black ink pen to the blue. It was rough, but all for the better. We'll see if the reprecussions are manifested in my test scores after studying two different colored inks. Hard life huh? Let's see what else...we had an amazing storm on Saturday that provided an incredible backdrop for sacrament meeting. Although choir practice was pretty amazing too since we sang "Master the Tempest" as rain was beating down on all the windows. Then a patch of sunlight shined (is that proper tense? hm) through for just a moment. Things like that just bring life back in to perspective you know? So, shabbat had some great talks and then Valorie convinced me to go to the Spanish sunday school...which was brilliant. I really need to brush up on the espanol though, it's not quite like riding a bike. That night after another intense game of extreme signs, I hung out with those crazy girls from 410. Give us some fiber bars and incense and let the good times roll. Here's Richelle, Miriam, and I showing off our bars.Yesterday was a free day and we braved the cloudy day to visit an Italian Jewish Museum in West Jerusalem. While it wasn't the most impressive museum to date, the crown and circumcision chair made it worth the trip. After that a group of us headed over to a store called American Apparel where I learned how I should be dressing...seeing as how I'm American. What do you think?Of course I can't forget to include a picture of the brownie surprise which has single handedly destroyed all hope for a healthy lifestyle here in Jerusalem. You may judge, but I don't think I'll be able to remember my days in the Holy Land without thinking of these delicious little pastries right alongside things like the wailing wall and the dome of the rock. Plus, when I come home looking like a teletubbie, you will know why. Today has been a beautiful sunny day and I finally got the chance to visit the Dome of the Rock. I can't believe I've been missing out on it this whole time because the entire place just has the coolest feeling. There's such a peaceful feeling and it really is gorgeous. Sometimes I just wish I could just make the world stop and imprint on my memory the things I get to see here. Unfortunately, life doesn't work like we have cameras instead. Here's Anne and I in front of the Dome.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Playing Catch Up

Sometimes I think, hey, I should catch up on my I go to my usual spot outside the forum where everyone knows I like to hang out. I should make a sign that says "Elyse's Outlet" on the bench by where I always sit. When did I become so predictable? Bleh. Not the point though. So I go sit down, upload my camera pictures, and then stare blankly at the screen wondering how on earth to put into words everything that goes on here. But it's impossible. I think that sometimes I am under the mistaken impression that just because I am an English major, I should be able to convey exactly what I need to through words. But let's be honest, I don't command the English language that expertly quite yet. Oh well, hopefully it'll live on in my memory years from now when I'm living my dull life back in Provo. Remembering days where I got to spend my time sitting inside a mosaic duck.
So, back to Jeru then? Monday resulted in more failed attempts at homework, a quiz that I managed to luck out on with only an hour of studying (why does that keep happening?), and finally crashing and burning after 2 days of lousy sleep. I went to bed at 8:30pm and slept until 6:30am. Tuesday we had more classes and a group of us decided to reward ourselves with some brownie surprise after finishing our Egypt papers. Oh and I can't report on Tuesday without mentioning the committee meeting. All of the committee chairs had a meeting with our new director Bro. Kent Brown. Suffice it to say that words were said and it provided a memorable experience for all parties involved. Although Stefanie and I couldn't discuss it for the rest of the day without getting riled up about it. Next time that happens I'm just going to my room... On a completely different note, yesterday was our visit to Yad VaShem. I can't even begin to describe the course of emotion that swept through me as we walked through this Holocaust Memorial. Devastation, bewilderment, sadness, frustration, heart break, and hope. The things that hit me the hardest were the shoe display and the children's memorial full of candles. This quote by a Danish pastor also struck me as poignant, "I do not know what a Jew is, we only know what human beings are." I hope I never forget that visit.After the memorial we were taught by our Jewish MNE teacher and visited some other sites. Came back to the center for dinner and more class. Finished the night off with a volleyball tournament where sadly, the powerhouse team of Jessica Ralphs, Matt Morgan, Chelsea Bigney, and I, took a loss in match 3. But we still have some pride...Uzi Forever!!! Today had been a whirlwind of adventure following a rather long hour of Old Testament (it's okay Bro. Wilson, I forgive you for keeping us 20 minutes late in class). First we went to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene which was beautiful. Here's our group right after taking the "scenic route" down the mountain on our way.

Following those expeditions we visited some tombs, got lost in the city, ate some falafel, and walked to the Pools of Bethesda. While there weren't actually any pools, we did get to sing in the chapel which had the best acoustics out of all the chapels we've visited thus far. It was incredible. We also got to chat with one of the priests who was from Ghana, spoke French, and knew Mormons by sight. And for your final viewing pleasure, here's a sight of Bethesda.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Too Cool For School

So, it is nearly midnight and instead of studying for a midterm tomorrow I am wasting time doing handstands, singing nacho libre songs, and losing leg wrestling matches. Let's be honest...I'm just too cool for school. And I did pretty good on my religion midterm, so I feel a little justified in slacking off. Well, except I've been doing it for over a month now. Someday I'll care, maybe. Anywho, we'll recap the last few days for those of you at home. Last week we had an amazing talent show where I had the opportunity to behold the magnificence of my peers. Seriously, there are some crazy talented people around here. I wish we had talent shows everyday. Friday was the midterm of death for Bro. Skinner's class and I uncharacteristically spent a 5 hour cram session with a group of people. This is a little taste of what the session yielded....
That night we unwound with a friday the 13th dance party. Getting our crazy on together is always a good time. Not to mention the occassion to wear absurd amounts of makeup and scary/weirdo clothes is a sure fire way to have fun. What a good looking group we are. We also continued a secret JC tradition after that...but that's another blog altogether. Although I will say that pantsing Miriam back definitely felt good. And, "That was awesome."

Saturday was another great shabbat as usual and I'm always amazed by the incredible testimonies and examples of the people here. I love hearing them speak, teach, and perform, and just learning from them. I can't say enough how much I love these people!

Today was another free day, and it was well spent with a visit to the Israeli government headquarters called the knesset (just say it out loud, like huh?) where they had some awesome art. A triptych tapestry, some incredible mosaics, and a magnificent olivetree/bronze sculpture made the experience worthwhile. However, they were lame and didn't let us take pictures inside, so you have to live with this picture of me and a menorah star outside the knesset. Moon also found in entertaining to physically harrass all of the girls in the group throughout the knesset tour. Thanks for the memories Moon.
In other news, sleep deprivation has reached an all time high and it seems my scholastic motivation is in direct an all time low. Yet I somehow manage to find the energy to play extreme signs, sing along to disney movies like aladdin, and play absurd amounts of ping pong (shout out to Stefanie who beat me today!). I think I might be regressing back into idle adolescence. Or perhaps I never left it...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Great Blogging Problem

So, I have a confession to make. I recently succumbed to the temptation of google analytics and now know just how under-appreciated my blog is. Not to mention the lack of comments I’ve had in recent weeks. Therefore, I will be blogging less frequently in order to punish you all…just kidding. Kind of. Actually, I really just need to quit wasting so much time on the computer formatting the stupid blog. So you’ll have to take whatever I can give you.

Anywho, the last few days have been just as crammed full of excitement as the past month. Shabbat on Saturday was awesome and we had the profound privilege of hearing a fireside by the Presiding Bishop of the Church, H. David Burton. We also got in some hard core choir practice, which has been lovingly dubbed “Squire Choir.” But seriously, Sister Squires is a champ for putting up with all of us. Sunday was spent between classes, singing in a cistern, visiting the Coptic church, and of course more shopping. Here’s a group of us on the stairs of the cistern and the other one is outside the Coptic church where Stefanie pretended to be mad at me (a fiasco regarding a nice note that apparently didn’t have enough obvious sarcasm) while Ryan... just posed as himself.

Yesterday we had yet another field trip. Every time we go on a field trip I think it can’t be better than the last, but then it is. This time we visited the sites where biblical stories like Samson and Delilah as well as David and Goliath took place. We also got some contemplative time at the top of the Elah Valley. It was amazing to just look over the valley and imagine all of the history that has occurred here over the years.

The highlight of the day however, had to be the Micah caves. Here we got to climb through some crazy tunnels and basically pretend like we were in Indiana Jones. It beat the Disneyland version hands down. Brother Huff was our valiant leader who not only led us through the caves, but gave us a serious info download. The man is a genius. Here he is teaching us about the wine presses and the last one is Richelle and I showing off ourdirt after coming through the “birth canal” tunnel.
Today has been a catch up on homework (which I’m always behind on) and laundry day (which is clearly necessary after the caves). Although with all the things I have to do I still manage to play ping pong. Unfortunately, word has gotten out that I play every day so now people are under the impression that I’m really good. That would be a negative. Oh well, I’ll live it up until I embarrass myself as usual. It’s good to know some things never change.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Good Day

You know you're having a good day when the last thing you ate is a magnum ice cream bar and you get to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's. Seriously, the JC knows how to treat a girl. Let's see what I've been doing for the past two days... Yesterday was spent on yet another field trip. This time we got to traipse through the west bank and see some real live biblical sights like Jericho. We even got to blow a horn just like Joshua. Later we climbed up a mountain to see the beautiful Quruntul Monastery (i think that's the name anyway). Here's Angie (who I consequently learned a WHOLE lot about on the bus ride there playing the 5 second random fact game) and I overlooking the valley and sporting our scarves. The field trip was followed by a much deserved nap and a cram session for our old testament midterm. I forgot how much I hate fill in the blank questions. Curses to whoever invented midterms. Today was a return back to academia with 6 long hours of class. Luckily, it was supplemented with ping pong, volleyball, and ice cream. Here's Chelsea, Carly, and I showing off a little desire. At least that's what the wrappers called it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Jeru Zoo

Today was a glorious free day that I took full advantage of. After getting a whopping 8 hours of sleep I woke up chipper and bright, ready to take on a day of play. I even made it to the Oasis with enough time to eat a full breakfast instead of sneaking a roll as the door closed. Made it all the way to the Jerusalem Zoo, despite the fact that the taxi robbed us of 10 shekels a piece. But I'm not bitter or anything...especially considering mother hasn't deposited my check yet (hint hint mom). It's all good though. So, the zoo was pretty much awesome. I fell in love with a three-legged leopard...and a prairie dog. Just look at them!

Seriously, I'm adopting a praire dog when I get home. Anyways, there were giraffes, elephants, tigers, meerkats, kangaroos, snakes, and a whole lot of birds. I've never had so much fun at a zoo. Of course that may or may not be because I've the awesome company. Here's us posing with some bear statues that had a warning sign on it about the metal being very hot at specific times of the day. I love that society is pathetic enough to need a sign for that.

Anyways, after the zoo we hit up the Israel Museum where Lauren, Nycole, and I had some special "bonding" time. Listened to the brilliance of Bro. Skinner for awhile, and then split home where I had every intention of doing homework...and didn't. Played some ping pong, checked some email, reviewed for a test, went to choir practice, and then hit up the Egyptian dance party. I know you all thought I was exaggerating when I said it's like a party everyday, but I wasn't lying...

Oh, and let's not forget that almost every person has been converted to the magnificence of what I like to call "the brownie surprise". This is a flaky pastry filled with something akin to brownie batter. Basically, all hope for a healthy lifestyle is dead to me now. I crave them at all times of the day, and since we're all obsessed with food here (it's a main topic of conversation at all times) there's no point in denying it. My roommate Jess brought me one home tonight, and I literally kissed her. That is roommate love. Anywho, I'm still backlogging on Egypt, so if you get bored, keep checkin up on those 10 days I went missing.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Back in Jeru

I really can't believe I am still awake enough to write this blog, but we are going to do it anyways. I have officially returned from the land of Egypt without any injuries or diseases...that I know of at least. It was quite possibly the most intense 10 days of my life since I got here, but completely worth it. I wish I could give you all a full description of everything, because it was brilliant. But alas, I don't have enough time to blog and you don't have enough time to waste reading it. So again, I will attempt to sum it up. But it's probably going to take a few blogs to recap, so I'll be doing back-posts. I'll work my way backwards, so just bear with me y'all. Just in the last 24 hours (which I've been awake for...straight up) I've got enough to fill a post. First, just imagine waking up at 2:00am to hike Mount Sinai. Bundled up in sweaters, scarves, and any other clothing we could fit on, our group of 78+ students and faculty began the hike up. It was cold, dark, and starry. The first half was pretty decent, but altitude sickness started to kick in for the latter half and I found myself gasping for air just to keep my water down. However, through reminiscing about elementary school teachers, singing B*witched songs, and listening to Richelle's superior storytelling skills, everyone made it to the top. Then came the hard part. Pretty sure it was cold enough to induce frostbite on top of the mountain. So we huddled together in tight groups, sang some hymns, and watched the sunrise together. This really is what made everything worth it....
The trip down the mountain was infinitely more pleasant. Stefanie was fully convinced her finger had fallen off, but I wouldn't let her take her gloves off to look until we were almost all the way to the bottom. Turns out I was right, although I have to admit I was a little concerned. We spent some good time bonding on the rocks and cheering as everyone made their descent. Here is Priscilla, Stefanie, me, and Moon looking happy to be at the bottom.
The Mount Sinai adventure ended and we returned to our hotel where a small group of us basked in the sunlight by the pool while getting down to what I like to call "the dirt" of things. It was some pretty juicy stuff, and I have to admit that I gained some new perspective on things and people. I'm always happy to discover that my first impressions are wrong. Anyways, the lounge-fest was followed by a lunch of sorts and a whole lot more of bus time. The highlight came when we got to stop by the kibbutz (this explanation will come in a back entry) for dinner. Our dinner crowd got a little rowdy, especially when Richelle blew chunks of rice and Steve came over to share a mission story about a baptism, a tongan, and some VERY large pants. This was followed by a mad dash to the ice cream stand where we were more than happy to devour our delicious Kibbutz desserts. Can I just say that I love these girls? Because I really do. Anywho, the night finally concluded with our return to beloved Jeru. Now we can again shower with real shampoo, use bathrooms without fear, and eat salad until our hearts are content. Thank goodness for the Holy Land.