Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cairo Part Two and Mount Sinai

Well now to be honest I've changed my mind, and have decided to put Cairo 2 together with Mount Sinai. You see, I didn't sleep at all on that train overnight and got pretty sick. So one out of these last two days in Cairo I spent hanging out at the hotel with a good buddy of mine, Lauren, who was also sick. She's from Alaska, and was in the same congregation as on of my old mission buddies back in Anchorage. How crazy is that? The Mormon world is too freaking small, I swear.

So I missed some cool museums and such, but on day two I was back in action for my favorite day. We went around and saw all the biggest and most beautiful mosques in Egypt, learning all about the Islamic faith. We had four specific parts of the mosque pointed out to us, and had their functions/symbolisms explained. I won't even try to spell of them here, but we talked about the tower from which the call to prayer is broadcast from, the carpets with "lanes" outlined for where people pray, the acoustics to the domes and half domes throughout, and the podium where sermons and given on Fridays.
We learned a ton of stories from the Qur'an, examining the similarities and differences between its stories and the Bible's. We were taught about Ramadan and the importance of forsaking sin or weakness that is associated with it. We were also learning more about what is involved in their pilgrimage once they reach Mecca.

Now for Mount Sinai. The climb was ridiculous, mainly because I had diarrhea so bad by then. That was not fun at all, but our group was great and I was able to talk and hang out with a lot of people on my way to the top which helped a lot. The hike itself was only a couple hours, and the view on top was so worth it.

One of my most favorite things to do out here it read from the scriptures on site. It was so interesting to me to read about Moses and the burning bush, then later going to Exodus 19. I also read in Mosiah about Abinadi teaching King Noah's priests about Isaiah as well as straightening them out on what the law of Moses was really all about. I pondered the miracles that happened on Mount Sinai, how it was used as a temple for so many, the teaching that came to Moses from there, and how misinterpreted those teachings became over the ages. I was again felt so grateful for the fact that we have living prophets on the Earth once again today, that the Heavens are opened, and that those same miracles for that same God is still here for us today as He has been throughout time.
After my own personal reflections, I met back with the group to sing hymns together. Later, we enjoyed a couple talks and a testimony meeting. It was powerful stuff. As we started our way back down, our teacher gave us some closing remarks. He mentioned how the Israelites were so close to meeting God at Sinai, but that through their own choices they wandered the wilderness for forty years instead. "We've been able to hike this mountain today, but what will you choose in your life. Will you chose to wander for forty years, or will you claim this mountain today?"


Luxor was the land of travelling through different mediums. We went down there by plane, rode a carriage, a camel, a sail boat and a motor boat on the Nile, and we rode a train back up to Cairo. Check out some of these pictures.
Pictures are kind of lacking on this one for me, because the battery died in my camera and it took awhile to find someone with a charger I could borrow. Which was already for the morning, because they made a new rule where you can't take cameras into the Valley of Kings. But I do have some cool pictures of temples and such. This trip really made me feel like Indiana Jones, climbing through all sorts of tombs and old ruins. Here's one really cool picture on the back of the Holy of Holies in the Luxor temple.
Around this picture it has all sorts of symbols that directly translates into, "I give to you protection, eternal life, stability, power, health inside your heart like God/Ra forever." It's fascinating to see how much this culture eternal life and the resurrection.
Here is a wonderful temple that carried a history of Egyptian wars and accomplishments on it's walls.

Another huge part of Luxor for me was the aspect of haggling at the shops. I found out that I'm actually a pretty good haggler naturally. It seems like the best way to go about things is to come across like you don't care about anything and to stay quiet. So all I had to do was remember how tired I was, and a non-caring quiet Josh just came out naturally.

Well that about covers everything in Luxor. I'm not sure how well this picture will come out online, but this is a nice ending pic on the sunset looking over the Nile from our hotel before we left on the train back to Cairo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cairo Part One

Ok, so I've decided to split this up into four separate entries. This makes the most sense to me. I'm dividing it from my first time in Cairo and Memphis, Luxor, second time in Cairo, and Mount Sinai at the end. Sound good to everyone? Yeah, I thought so too. Here we go!

On the way to Egypt we made some cool historical stops along the way, like hitting a garden in memory of one of the early Prime Ministers of Israel. We also saw some cool ruins and a really cool lookout point into the desert. But that's not Egypt, so here's a picture or two before we move on.
So we got there at night for this sweet laser show from the 80s or earlier.

So I guess going into Egypt requires hiring their tour guides, which can be a real gamble. We lucked out by having one of the coolest kids in all of Cairo, Islam. Just check this guy out.
What a pimp, eh? Yeah that's right. So what made him so cool was that he's about 30, all about his religion, and was a complete genius. And you could tell that he really enjoyed working with us too. He said he usually gets old retired British people that only care about getting a picture. Several times he was amazed at how fast we picked up stuff and how many questions we all had, especially when we were touring the mosques and learning about the Islamic faith. I don't know why people hate Americans so much, we seem to be much better than any other touring European group we've come across. We actually care about the peoples and cultures we're visiting.

So our first full day we went the pyramids first. The mob rush at the counters were brutal even at seven in the morning. I acted as a wall with other guys to keep others from rushing into our crowd and pushing the girls out the of the way. At one point I even grabbed a girl from behind me in line and put her in front. The end result was that they sold out of tickets before I could get mine. So I didn't get to into the pyramid. Dumb! Oh well, our guide took us through so cool tombs next to it, which were all decorated and actually much better than the inside of the pyramid itself I'm told.
We saw the sphinx, then set out for some stuff in Memphis. We saw some crazy giant statues of Rames the second. At a museum there, I heard a faint urn, duere, troiere.....Québecois!!!! I definitely ran up to them and talked for a bit in French. And yes, I waved around some Québecois expressions like a cute little American would. Taberouette les vendeurs sont fous icite en Egypt! They were from northern Montréal. We had a great little chat, before getting on the bus.
Lastly, for this post at least, we saw the oldest pyramid in Egypt. I'm sorry this post isn't more factual, I sound like I didn't learn anything. But this would take way to long to write up if I used my notes and tried to teach everything I learned in Egypt. You'll just have to get the smart side from me in person. So we saw the oldest pyramid with a huge open court yard area for ancient parties and such. There was one section blocked off, but some security guys let a few of us go back to take pictures and see some cool stuff. Afterwards he asked us for money. I quickly learned that's how it all works here in Egypt, you can see and do almost anything even if it's off limits. People act like they're nice and get you to do stuff, then guilt you into tipping them afterwards. Not so sure how I feel about it, but I guess that's how it goes here.
So that's it for our first few days in Egypt. Next post is off to Luxor. I'm feeling good so let's see if I can crank out another one tonight. Oh, one other cool thing. I bought some papyrus paper to bring back home for my parents. I got the different facsimiles from the Pearl of Great Price, how 'bout them apples?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back from Egypt!

Whoa dang, has it been a crazy trip here in Egypte! I have no idea where even to begin. In a nut shell I saw an overview of the wilderness Moses passed through during the Exodus, slept at a Kibbutz, saw a pyramid light show at Giza, saw the Sphinx, checked out some things in Memphis, bought papyrus, went to Luxor, walked through the Valley of Kings, saw King Tut's body, saw Hatchepsut's Monument, saw Karnak and Luxor's temples, toured old Cairo, went into the Muhammed Ali Mosque, and saw the sunrise on the top of Mt. Sinai. Not to mention bartering at local markets, riding a bus, plane, camel, train, motor boat and sail boat on the Nile as well as traveled along the Suez Canal and the Red Sea Coast, learned a ton more about Mormon temples, got the Egyptian squirts, and fought a cold being drugged on NyQuil the entire time.

Now how on Earth do I write this into an intelligent, organized, and entertaining reading......

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shephelah Field Trip

Today we had one long, actually very long field trip. It lasted most of the day, but was pretty cool. We visited that low hill country of Judea, focusing on events associated with the Philistines in the era of Judges and the books 1st and 2nd Samuel.

Most of the field trip was underground actually. We went through old areas used for water storage, a cave for raising carrier pidgins, an olive press inside a fortress, something called the bell caves, and some random cave for fun. We also saw the ruins of a fortress at Lakhish, overlooked the Sorek Valley where Samson was raised, and visited the Valley of Elah which is where David fought Goliath.

Like I said this is was a ridiculously long field trip, so I'm not exactly sure where to begin or what to tell about. To make matters even worse, I was slightly chafed from walking around Tel Aviv yesterday after swimming, and had somehow managed to sit on the mouthpiece of my camelpack and leak about a liter of water on my pants. Yeah, not too what I think I will do is just throw up some pictures this time around with a couple comments to each one. That should be the easiest.
This is Sorek Valley. Samson was raised here, you could just see those foxes he set on fire running through the field down below us.
This was inside the bell caves. The acoustics were crazy. We had a couple students sing a solo there, and we sang many hymns together as a group.
This is overlooking the hills of Judea from the ruins of Lachish. This was the last line of defense against Assyria and Babylon before Jerusalem.
At the valley of Elah, we had a chance to use slings made here in Israel/Palistine. We shot at a box across a dried up creek, right where David would have fought Goliath.
And this is just me hanging out of a hole in the ceiling of a cave we went to for fun. Have a good one everybody!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tel Aviv

This was quite possible one of the most perfect days...ever. We bused it out early to Tel Aviv, where I was greeted by this beautiful site when we got off the bus.
We started things off right with a swim on the beach. This was only my second time ever swimming on a beach, and I got rocked pretty hard by those waves. But luckily, I was given lots of helpful tips by my friends from BYU Hawaii. By the end of the day I caught quite a few waves body surfing.

We had lunch and played some volleyball, then it was off to investigate the city! We headed off to the carmel market. I'll need to go check, because someone miss-read her Israeli tour guide book and thought it was called camel market, so that's what we ended up calling it all day long. After getting there we broke up into groups of three, and I adventured with Tanya and Aaron. I have never randomly fell into such a good group! We were all very chill, laid back, and enjoyed the day even when we got lost and walked all over the place.
This is Aaron, truly a man of great stature. Hailing from BYU Hawaii, he is part of a band that sings about pirates such as Lobster Mcgee and riding bicycles to Japan.
Explorer of all, fearer of none, Tanya does it all. She is a black belt, with the ability to totally kill anything with one judo chop. At Provo she's started some crazy Brazilian fighting/dance thing, and spent the past summer wrestling grizzly bears in Alaska. Later it was made known that she's an Obama hater, but I think we can look past that. :)

Today's adventures covered falafel and gelato, finding a deformed pidgin with feathers on it's feat, a Hebrew Darth Vadar, getting pooped out of an elephant, and a night swim (dropping trou and all). Honestly, I can't think of a better day.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Garden Tomb

This here was a pretty awesome and sobering experience, today we saw the Garden Tomb. We were introduced to the two waves of thought, how Christ could have been crucified here or at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Where ever it's at, I really like the Garden Tomb. As hippie as this is going to sound, you can really get a better sense for the energy and the atmosphere in the garden where they left things. Here's the tomb itself inside and out.
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We sang a couple hymns in the garden like I Stand All Amazed, and I Believe in Christ. Gotta admit, I was getting pretty choked up over there. Also, it was interesting how many other tourist came over to record us singing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

West Wall on Sabbath

It's interesting to see something be the focus point of so much dedication and faith. Tonight we visited the west wall after sundown, when the Jewish Sabbath starts. There seemed to be a huge party in the main common area. People were singing and dancing in huge circles, while others were running around waving the Israeli flag around. Some of our students joined in, while I decided to sit back and observe.

The inside area is divided into male and female sections, having a two-thirds to one-third ratio. Further, on the male's side there was a library area that you could walk into next to the wall. Where ever you went the place was absolutely packed.

I had the chance to put a prayer into a crack of the wall. While I was inside the library, surrounded by people on all sides, a Rabbi(at least I assume) rallied everyone to stand up and sing a hymn. When they had finished they all turned 180 and did another hymn to the other wall, then sat back down and continued their individual prayers.

On my way out two people met right in front of me. One was really excited to see the other, and asked him how his trip to America was. The other smiled and shook his head, and the first responded in an oh right you can't talk response. It made me wonder what the rules were for conduct within a certain proximity of the West Wall.

We took a different route home, using buses called for us by security. There were a couple shootings that night, two Palestinians were killed, and tensions were rising in Jerusalem. I think the Israeli forces were concerned over the higher concentration of Palestinian Organizations in the area due to Ramadan and were afraid those groups would use the moment of the shooting to start things. I could be completely wrong in all that, I'm still pretty new to the people, culture, and just how things work around here.

Friday, September 4, 2009

First Impressions of the Jerusalem Center

First off everyone and his mom has these crazy chaco sandals. I think they're almost as dumb as crocs, but whatever.

Now that I got that out of my system, let's see here. It's time to whip this blog into shape, it has been way too long. I'll give a big update here then try my best to write smaller post more frequently. I'll also try to fill in the blank between now and last fall with blog post whenever I have the time as well. That way I can fill in the gaps. Hopefully either way this will still be entertaining.

August 31 we had this huge meeting with good old Econ Prof K-rizzle let's call him. People say he's a bitter old man that thrives upon the idea that he can intimidate young college aged students. While other's complained, I thought his meeting was good. Although the parents were absolutely ridiculous. Here's a quick rendition of how it went.

K-rizzle "I'm going to be very blunt with you all. Women are not allowed to show cleavage at all. Shirts must be loose and higher on your chest, above and behind normal BYU standards."

Stupid mother " What about these kind of tops?"

K-rizzle "Avoid cleavage"

Another stupid mother " And what about this kind of top"

K-rizzle " As long as there's no cleavage"

30 min later on a completely different topic

Yet again another mother, " Well I have a great question *long dramatic pause* my daughter really likes to where these types of shirts, is that allowed?"

K-rizzle "Um... once again, avoid cleavage..."

You'd think when a BYU teacher has to be to blunt to talk about cleavage and using terms as slut, people could understand on the first try. But no, they have to take over the meeting with nonsense. First off, why are these parents even here? Second, I can totally understand parents wanting to come ask questions because they're afraid that their kids are going to be blown up in Jerusalem, but these women only worried about the dress code their daughters would have to obey. Even more so than their daughters. I can only deduce that these women I saw today are the future of all those really annoying girls I see on campus that major in Home and Family Sciences with an emphasis in sewing or some other "discipline" like that......(edited later: note that this was an angry rant, I am not saying everyone pursuing this major is annoying, just that most of the girls who annoy me the most at Provo coincidentally all pursue the family sciences)

So I can absolutely 100% understand what jet lag feels like now. Never before have I slept 8 hours, gotten up, and wanted to go back to bed for another 8 at noon. The flights were a lot of fun. There was this crazy Austrian one that made me wish I had my father's German. These planes were seriously ridiculous though. The seats were green with red, white, or yellow things over the head rest. They had red pillows and even uglier lime green blankets to go along with it all. The first class had an even worse blue and purple theme to go with their green.
Do you know that popular painting of Jesus Christ sitting on a hill looking over the Jerusalem? Well that view is pretty much what I get every day there. Outside my apartment is a balcony, and I'm actually sitting under an olive tree with about the same view the Savior did in that picture. It's my favorit spot to do homework.
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Our first night after we arrived we all ate dinner then walked outside just to look out into the view. The sun was setting as the Islamic call to prayer was broadcast over the streets into the city. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

That's enough rants for one post. I'll finish with my first day of freedom in the city. We had our first real day to go out and explore the city. We walked the Via Dolorosa, which happens every Friday. It starts where tradition says Christ met with Pilot, and ends at this shrine built above where his tomb was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Then we saw the West Wall. I went in and saw their library and all sorts of stuff in there. Next time I'll bring some paper to put in the wall.....that is if I'm allowed to. I guess I need to figure that one out first.