Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentine's Day and such

So yesterday was the infamous holiday of love. And you want to know something - it was actually a great day! It felt like I was back in elementary school... everyone had "boxes" and people were writing silly poems left and right, at the end of the day I had some fun little surprises. Mom you will be thrilled to find out, I even got a sweet little almost serious valentine.  But the real highlight of the day for me was finishing the book Far From the Madding Crowd. It was the perfect way to spend Valentine's, wrapped up in my happy little world filled with the agony of Bathsheba and the solid undying service and love of Gabriel Oaks. Finally seeing them happily married and their happily ever after beginning... mmmm...I thought of all the fictional men I've fallen completely in love with, (I promise this has a connection with Jerusalem.) the different worlds that I've been involved with whether that's Pemberly, Prince Edward Island, or Manderly, and started thinking about my different real worlds. This week all my different worlds seemed to collide.

My first world was my younger self... Sarah. When I was Sarah, I was painfully shy - especially around boys, very thoughtful and pensive, and I felt things very deeply - especially when it came to those I care about. My second world was my BYU self - motivated, in a constant hurry, and a small tightly knit group of friends. This week I've had lots of contact with my friends back in Provo and it's made me a wee bit homesick for a Sunday afternoon at the Dance's or a 2 am chat with the 22 girls. My third world was my Ragnar self. Through my years at Ragnar, I feel like I've grown from a nervous and unsure girl into a leader and confident business woman. Today at church, Mike Kamanski - one of my old friends from my time in the Ragnar office walked in and we had a fun time reconnecting. We laughed about the office and joked about the quirks of working SWAT and good times from the past.

 Finally, I've had to reconcile these different girls into my Jerusalem self. I'm still not sure what will be the defining quality of my time here in Jerusalem. I've been labeled by quite a few people here as the "adventurer" which is a title I'm happy to claim. At the same time I want to incorporate the imagination of Sarah, the friendship of Provo, and the confidence of Ragnar... Jerusalem has already molded me more into the person that I want to become and I hope that I come out of this experience being much more that person.

Ok, calendaring time. I'm going to take a cheater route and try and catch up these past 2 weeks through pictures. Excuse the explosion :)

We went to Jericho, the oldest city (remnants) on Earth.  The boys decided to reenact Joshua bringing down the walls. I love this picture as boys with the same priesthood that they had in ancient days circle around the walls that "came tumbling down!"

Jericho is also right by the Dead Sea... so lowest elevation on Earth. My ears were popping like CRAZY all day!

My friend Larson and I at the overlook to the St. George Monastery. The monastery doesn't have tons of significance to Mormons besides that its super cool cut into the side of a cliff. But the area around it is the Judean wilderness that is mentioned so often in scripture. It is so neat to imagine this area as a literal representation of trials in our life.  

Spring is upon us here. I've started to notice beautiful little dainty wildflowers popping up everywhere. These little poppies are my favorite!  

This picture is looking over to the valley where David slew Goliath. Phil was kind enough to reenact the Giant being slain for my picture :) From the top of this tel... I don't remember the name right now... we used a mirror to send a reflective signal to the other half of our class on a tel (Lachish) a few miles away. We were reenacting the part in the scriptures when someone in Lachish writes a letter saying that they know they are next to be taken because they can no longer see the signal fire from this city. Shoot I wish I could remember the name! But the whole day I felt like we had a Lord of the Rings theme. So this was the part when they light the massive fires to signal war!

This was an underground city, this particular cave was where they raised doves. Hundreds of literal pidgeon holes for the birds that were used for food and economy. Here I felt like I was walking the Mines of Moria... and a bit later when we went into the "basement" of one of the houses that turned out to be a giant cistern system. So incredible!!

The same underground city had a massive Olive Press. Olive presses have become one of my favorite symbols here.

So this is a really bad picture, but we met up with the other class here and sang hymns in the massive cisterns. Lydia my roommate has one of the most melodic voices I've ever heard. I'm so glad I get to have such incredible friends here!!!

Ok next day... we went exploring! We discovered some fun points around the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This one was probably my favorite: a giant cistern, still full of water under the famous church! Here, pilgrims during the crusader era would  restock on water after visiting the sacred space. It's the first cistern I've seen still full of water. We also discovered an old cistern that is off the beaten path there - it looked like something straight out of Harry Potter, full of rubble and completely dark. Jon almost fell in while he was exploring. 

This is Dormition Abbey. This picture can not do it justice. There was also the tomb of David and a possible spot for the Last Supper here. This is by far my favorite church in Jerusalem so far. This is a traditional spot for Mary's burial. But this church is covered in the most magnificent mosaics.  My personal favorites were the ones depicting Christ and his lineage - it's the first time faces have looked lifelike in a mosaic to me. And then another one below...

In this regal room where Mary supposedly once lay, is a fantastic mosaic depicting the wonderful women of the Bible: Ruth, Esther, Eve, etc... Anyone who knows my admiration for strong women can see why I loved this mosaic soooooo much!

Free Sunday: we decided to visit the Tower of David Museum. mistake. I was not in a mood to stare at ancient artifacts behind glass that day. Apparently not many people were. Haley (red skirt) started making up stories for everything we saw and telling us them in a British accent. Honestly the coolest part of the museum was the view behind us in this picture. My personal highlight of the museum, was as we were looking at ancient Canaanite artifacts specifically a fertility goddess. A Jewish school group came in, and a teacher hurriedly rushed over and put a poster of a mosaic over the glass with a quick apology to us and motioned to the young boys. It was a sweet gesture and one that struck me as kind of funny. 

After the museum we walked back through the tomb of David and Last Supper area and made it to the grave of Oskar Schindler. I've don't know the story of Schindler, but Logan gave us what I felt was a decent summary. And Haley (what this picture is showing) whipped out a guide book (for real this time) and told us a bit about it. A few days earlier we'd been exploring this cemetery and  been kicked out by an official. But not before I'd noticed some cool looking tombs. We had a huge group come back with us this time, so Matt and I decided to try and sneak away to get a quick peak at them.  We had to climb down this overgrown staircase that was crumbling, and had actually just discovered a full skeleton of a goat maybe... when the others saw us. They watched from above as we picked our way over big holes. I got nervous because of all the bones and holes and stinging nettle so I made Matt go look in the well that we were trying to get to. He started FREAKING out "There skeletons down here! Tons of bones and lots of skulls!!!" Well that got all the boys attention and before you knew it they were down there exploring. I got uncomfortable because I felt like we were trespassing on some mass grave, especially when they started looking for a way into it. So I went and explored the rest of the cemetery. I discovered a couple other skeletons laying undisturbed in their catacombs.

We split off from the mass group just after that... and discovered my new favorite dessert. Lava cakes. I've already gone back for seconds! They are delicious!!! After the Lava cakes we walked along the colonnade under the old city that was at the level of Christ's city. While we were down there, some jokster  set off firecrackers. The initial explosion noise sounded like gunfire and everyone in the street ducked into cover. My heart was racing, but the boys with us assured us after a few seconds that it was only fireworks and thankfully they were right! 

This week we finally talked our way into seeing the Tomb of the Kings. It was a huge underground tomb system. It honestly could have held about 100 bodies. We spent an easy 2 hours climbing through the tunnels and exploring the little caves. 

This was one of the tunnels we crawled through. The longer I'm here and the more I discover, the more I love this city, the history it holds and the people who live here.

One thing that we did that I couldn't take a picture of was go to a Jewish synagogue. I love going to other faith's worship services, finding out what other's believe. This service was by far my favorite other faith that I've been to. The people were so open and friendly. The singing was beautiful and devout. Half way through the service I closed my eyes and imagined that I was back in the time of Moses with the children of Israel singing praises to Jehovah. It was so simple. I even made a friend there! I got her number and we're planning to have lunch this next week! I can't wait!!

Alright, I think I'm pretty much caught up. Tomorrow we are headed to the Holocaust Memorial. Pray I have the strength for that!! 

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