I can hardly believe that I have lived in Jerusalem for a month. In some ways it feels as if I have lived here my whole life, yet on the other hand everything has gone by so fast. I have had so many incredible experiences- it's a good thing I have a journal to keep track of all the adventures there have been. I thought I would recap my top 10 favorite things about the month of January in Jerusalem.
Anyone that knows me is aware that I lack somewhat in the athletic arena. Although I love sports, I have never excelled in anything- which is hard for someone as competitive as I am. However, I do love to play around and have fun. One of the amazing committees at the Jerusalem Center planned a fun excursion to a park near the Center to play soccer on one of our free days. My roommates and I were not planning on going, but we ended up getting roped into it at the last minute. I was embarrassed to prove to everyone how sad my soccer skills are, but it actually turned out to be fun. The best part about the day was how kind everyone was to me- "Good job Jessica!" "Wow, that was great!" (when I touched the ball, even if it didn't really go anywhere). I was amazed at the end of the day at the caliber of people I am surrounded by here. I absolutely love everyone and I feel so much love from them every day. I am so glad I went to play soccer, even though it was out of my comfort zone, just so I could recognize how great the people at the Jerusalem Center are. 9) Shwarma
My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Just look at the size of those things! Schwarma is a delicacy here- the most delectable turkey you've ever had rolled up in a pita or lafa with hummus, vegetables, and french fries. This is my new favorite food and I'm already dreading leaving it behind when I go home.
8) Wadi Kelt
One of our field trips was spent in Jericho visiting Biblical sites. At the end of the trip we stopped at the Wadi Kelt and took a short hike up to the top and looked to our left at Jericho and in the distance at Jerusalem. Then we looked down and saw the road that the Savior would have walked when he made that journey. This was one of those moments for me when everything became so real and I realized that I am in the place that the Savior lived. On top of that, I love looking around at those rolling hills and seeing the beauty of the earth. And take a look at that fanny pack- never did I think I would wear one of those but they are actually quite handy- you should try it sometime.
7) Arab Night
Just a week ago we had a night to learn about the Arab culture. Two men came and demonstrated the Call to Prayer for us- this prayer happens 5 times throughout the day and reminds the Muslims that they need to pray sometime before the next call. Then we had an authentic Arab dinner and learned an Arab dance from some locals! We also got to dress up- as you can see- which is always a blast. We had a great night and it was so much fun to learn more about the culture and the people who live here.
6) Camel Ride
Our camel ride in Luxor was incredible- I loved every minute of it. The trail we were on brought us through the heart of the city and we had the chance to see the people and watch their excitement as the Americans went by their homes. I learned to love the people in Egypt- especially the beautiful children who just melted my heart. I've always wanted to ride a camel- check. But seeing the land and the people was even more exciting to me.
The pictures got a little bit out of order- so these lovely ladies should be down towards the bottom- oh well. I lucked out big time with roommates- and I am reminded of that every day. They just make me so happy to be around. We are all so different but we get along so well and i learn so much from them. People joke that we are attached at the hip and I wouldn't have it any other way- I am so blessed to live with these girls and to learn from them. Jess is always surprising us with the funny comments she makes and her cute facial expressions. Kaitlin always entertains us with showtunes; her love for life and creativity inspire me to try and be better. Rachel is so genuine and sweet to everyone she meets- I have never heard her say something bad about anyone and she has the most contagious laugh that usually puts us all into uncontrollable fits of laughter. I love these girls!
I still get excited when I think about the fact that I saw the pyramids in real life. Not only that but I touched them and actually went inside a couple. I understand why the Great Pyramid is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The creativity and work that went into making these boggles my mind. This was definitely a highlight of the month.
3) Garden Tomb and Gethsemane
I can't decide which one of these places I love more. There is nothing else quite like going to the Garden Tomb or Gethsemane after church. The spirit at these places is incredible. I love them both for different reasons. The Garden of Gethsemane is a wonderful place to sit quietly and ponder about the sacrifice that was made at a place closeby. The Garden Tomb is not so quiet- but I love singing hymns with my friends and sitting and watching/ listening to the tourists as they see the tomb and worship God. There are so many different ways that people worship and I love that we all have this common love for God and can learn so much from each other. This picture is in front of the Tomb that some believe Christ was buried in before He rose on the third day.
2) Teachers/ Families
I learn so much from the teachers here. They love what they teach so much and are so excited to see us learn. We have the best of the best at the Jerusalem Center. Brother Muhlestein is one of the sweetest people I have ever known- my roommates and I adore him- he has a way of teaching that touches me every time I hear him. Brother Chadwick gets so excited when he teaches about the history of this land and in turn gets me excited to learn. Our Arabic teacher is so entertaining and makes us laugh countless times. Our Israeli and Palestinian teachers may expect a lot of us, but I have so much respect for them and the time they take to share their beliefs with us. We also have the most incredible staff here- they all tried to know our names when we first got here and really have a genuine desire to get to know us and make sure we have an amazing experience.
The families of the staff here are also amazing. I love getting to know them. Sabrina has become one of my little buddies and calls me "her love" ( instead of friend). She is so easily won over and has the sweetest little heart. All of the kids here are adorable and show me what it means to be Christlike. I am so impressed with all eleven of them (from the Muhlestein and Judd families).
I have learned so much here about the people and the culture but the best part has been the relationship I have developed with the Savior and Heavenly Father. I never knew I could have this kind of relationship with them. Some of my best moments have been spent in quiet reflection, studying the scriptures, and learning in my Old Testament class. I know that they have an infinite love for me and everyone else on this earth. I cannot fully understand this love but I have felt so much love since being here that I have a taste of it. I love that I am learning in the place where the Savior lived and taught. It has only been a month and I am so excited to continue to learn and grow- I have eternity for that to happen right?
Some of my other thoughts and things I have learned here are on my family blog: markandangie.blogspot.com
I love Jerusalem so much! I can't imagine being anywhere else but here right now and I know that I am supposed to be here at this time. January was an unforgettable month!