Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jerusalem, If I Forget You

Goodbye genie pants and jewelry stores
Well, somehow I made it to the U.S.!  I'm just sitting in my queen-size bed(!) writing my last blog post. Yeah, I don't get it either.  I would post a picture but 5 chins is a little more than most can handle.  But really, how was I in the Jewish Quarter eating pastries just yesterday?  Sorry, I'll try not to make this post too sentimental.  I'll start with the last few field trips and then we'll see where this goes.  Sorry I couldn't get around to posting this in Jeru- the last few days went by so quickly!  The Sunday after Galilee, we went on a field trip to the Dead Sea, Masada, Qumran, and Ein Gedi.  The good news?  We got to wear shorts!  The bad news?  I was temporarily blinded by some pasty white legs/sustained some fairly major injuries when I brushed against a few of the girl's hairy legs. When it's wintertime, girls go wild aka their razors go into  hibernation.  What can you do I guess?  I am strong.  I am invincible.  I am WOMAN.  Masada was a bit hot but it was the site of an ancient fortress on top of a cliff.  Qumran was basically just this cliff thing.  Well, probably more significant than that but I'm really tired (remember the bed thing? I'm not really a person that "tries to beat jetlag."  I embrace it wholeheartedly, taking as many naps as possible and staying up all night watching Netflix.

Cistern in Masada
Jess and Tess
The Dead Sea.  Ahh, what to say about that place.  Well, it was pretty fun because you could float!  Other than that, the Dead Sea has few redeeming qualities.  We realized that we could bob up and down and we would barely touch the bottom.  However, all of that bobbing fun did not go without consequences.  Oh, it burned.  Like a fiery dragon blowing where the sun don't shine.  Basically, major pain and it wouldn't stop.  We quickly realized the bob was crazy painful and the only way to prevent "fire burning" was by floating.  We also coated ourselves in natural black mud and our bodies ended up super smooth and softy.  Another word of warning: if you accidentally get splashed with water, pray for help to get you through the subsequent few minutes.  Your eyes burn.  Your tongue burns.  Everything burns!
                             The Dead Sea- Float or Die!                                                                                                                            
After washing off from the Dead Sea, we went to a natural spring called Ein Gedi.  It had waterfalls and was very beautiful.

No, I'm not wearing my mom's suit from the 90s...
On Wednesday my friends and I decided to do something awesome.  With help from YouTube and Just Dance, we choreographed our very own boy band dance.  It was a mashup of "Dynamite," "Space Cowboy," and "You Don't Know You're Beautiful."  All the essentials.  It was probably the best performance I've ever been a part of.  Jackets were thrown off, the crowd went wild, and I was lifted off the stage by two strong men.  Does it get much better than that?

On our second to last "Official Free Day," we hit up the classics.  We went to the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall, Schindler's Grave, and, of course, shopping.  I have to say, Schindler's Grave was so much more meaningful after watching "Schindler's List" and visiting Yad Veshem.
My mission-bound best friend
Putting my prayer in the Western Wall

The following week we had finals.  Insert me grumbling/trying to sleep here.

The next week's free day was filled with shopping and walking around West Jerusalem.  It was rainy and cold, but we didn't wimp out!  When we got too cold/wet, we went to the Waffle Bar to recharge.  Hello white/milk chocolate sauce all over a rich waffle.  Come to momma T!  After lunch, we went to the Shuk (the covered outdoor market) for the last time.  We bought awesome pants and found apples the size of a small child's head. 

Spice stores are pretty
On Monday and Tuesday, we went to places that were a part of Christ's Last Week.  After the field trip stops, we could go around the city.  Just some last-minute shopping (there's ALWAYS more to do.  I mean, crappy long-lasting Old City gifts are the best!) and eating.  Foods I will miss? Falafel, baklava, these delicious red straw candies, and basically any kind of chocolate candy.  European chocolate is far better than American chocolate (say hello to Miss East Coast Snob, amiright?)  I won't miss the all-natural peanut butter they served at the Oasis, though.  I'm a Jif girl any day.

And that's about it.  The last few days were filled with goodbyes, sitting on my suitcase to make everything fit (yep, it doesn't just happen in the movies), and exploring Jerusalem for the last time.  For our last day in the Holy Land, I did not have many things I wanted to do.  Above all, my friends and I had to visit our favorite place in the Old City- the Jewish Quarter.  It has everything you could ever want- a Spanish guitarist, lots of people, and delicious food.  Yesterday I ate my last falafel and only bought 1 souvenir.  Talk about something to put in the record books!  I signed the money changers "Book of Mormons," and wrote a note full of advice for future JC students.

For those of you who have been wondering, here's a few shots of the JC.  I did live there for a while I guess.

The chapel/auditorium.  See the Dome?
The Oasis= breakfast, lunch, and dinner
So painful with suitcases

I'm so grateful I got the chance to come here- even if I had less than a week to prepare.  Somehow I made it all work (with a lot of help from people I love) and I am so glad I didn't pass up the opportunity.  To anyone and everyone reading, you must visit Jerusalem!  Hey, I'll even come back as your tour guide.  Thanks for reading diligently.  It's been great writing this blog and feeling like I am somehow connected to my loved ones back in the U.S.  Shalom, y'all!

Old City street
 Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Jerusalem, if I forget you, Let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chillaxing in Galilee

Yoga in Galilee
I just got back from 10 days in Galilee!  And, yes, "just got back" is not the most accurate statement ever made.  Like when I told my brother I didn't eat all of his Halloween candy that one year and blamed it on my sister and then a huge fight ensued and I think I just stood back and laughed mischievously to myself.  Tess Bertonneau, ladies and gents.  Creating family unity since 1993.  Don't follow my example, little cousins.  For 10 days, we stayed in these little condos right on the Sea of Galilee.  It was practically perfect in every way except for the fact that we also had class and full day field trips.  But, on free days, you best believe I plopped myself on a hammock and stayed there.  There was a lot of hammock plopping going on that week- I think our group broke about 5 of them?  Seriously, people.  Cool it with the chocolate pita consumption already.  Because I was in "vacation mode," I can't say I took a ton of pictures.  But, I'm not going to let that get to me because I've taken more pictures this semester than I probably have in my entire life.  Don't worry, I still got some decent pictures.  And, more importantly, I stole plenty from my friend's camera.  All is well.  That'll do, donkey. Side note: do I quote Shrek too much?  I didn't think that was at all possible.  Maybe I'm just too stuck in the glory days (5th grade=glory days=when I wrote my very own Shrek play starring myself).  I'll try to censor myself a little better, but I make no promises.  Also, I won't even promise a little bit to have this blog make more sense.  I prefer just throwing out my unorganized thoughts and seeing what happens.  Shall we recap?
One of many Biblical translations at the Jordan River 
Monday, we departed in the early hours and stopped at sites on the way to Ein Gev, our seaside condos.  We hit up Bet Shean, Nazareth, and the Jordan River.  We had been to the Jordan River before if you remember, but this spot was a lot prettier than the first.  There were some beautiful churches in Nazareth.  It was a very reverent site, so long as you ignored the small children peeing on a tree.  Hey, when you gotta go!  (That's what I told my teacher when I tried to do the same thing but was reprimanded.  Then I said, "I'm mad as hell and I can't take it anymore!"  Did I mention I'm actually home in the U.S. because I got sent home early for "disorderly conduct?")  In Bet Shean, there were some ruins.  That's about as good as it got.  But, then, miraculously, something new!  A surfboard!!  Unfortunately, it was not an ancient one.  Also, I don't even think it was a surfboard.  But, it was a fun, new treasure so I practiced.  A huge dust storm set in later.  So, we cancelled plans to go on a mountain summit and went to the Church of St. Peter's Primacy instead.  

Contemplation at the Sea of Galilee
Jordan River
On Tuesday we went on another full day field trip.  The best part was the boat ride where I pretended to be a Southern preacher as soulful music played in the background.  Then, the dramamine set in and I almost passed out over the side of the boat.  The sad part is that the water wasn't choppy at all and there's no way I actually needed it.  Point 1: mother nature/my overly anxious mind.  There were a lot of sites we visited on Tuesday- the Mt. of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Mt Arbel.  At least, I'm pretty sure we went to all of them.  (I definitely consulted the weekly schedule to double-check.)  A few places stood out to me.  The Mount of Beatitudes has a beautiful church and little plaques with scriptures inscribed on them.  We had a bonfire late at night but there weren't s'mores, so it was a little lackluster.  I don't mind smelling like a fire, so long as I get my s'mores!  Remind me to talk about that time I ate 14 s'mores in a competition.  That was gross, actually.  Still, a good party story!  Tuesday was the last day of Passover, which meant the last day of unleavened bread.  My unfulfilled stomach rejoiced!

Galilee Boat Ride
Mt. Arbel
Wednesday consisted of class, tanning, and a restaurant on the pier for dinner.  We also went to the Tiberias boardwalk.  The ice cream I bought was so mediocre that I considered buying another one- like a Magnum bar.  You know it was bad if I had to buy another ice cream.  Okay, maybe I was just looking for a reason to buy some cream is my drug.  Thursday was another pretty full day.  We went to the area called the Golan, namely Gamla and Kursi.  We were supposed to go to Hippos, but it was closed.  I couldn't believe it- the site I spent hours doing my paper on and we didn't even go there!  MADNESS, I tell you, madness!  After we got back we went river rafting.  I got the hardest job- sitting in the middle trying to stay dry and cowering in fear when I got splashed with water by other boats.  Also, I had to insert as many movie references as I could.  "The water's so cold, Jack!"  "You're gonna need a bigger boat."  They didn't all exactly fit the situation, but it sure was fun.  

Frodo + Gollum = I'm so very nerdy

On Friday we went on a hike.  It was cold, but super fun.  Did I mention I didn't take a ton of pictures on this trip?  It was super cold which means my fingers had no blood circulation to take pictures...also, I left my camera at home.  Sometimes you just have to experience life, you know?  *she says, sighing wishfully, as she types a blog post in her room all alone while the other students are at a dance party*  But, I did get one picture from a friend.  
Hiking with my friends!

On Saturday we went to church at the Tiberias branch.  It overlooked the Sea of Galilee and was so beautiful.  The rest of the day I just relaxed.  Or should I say "chillaxed?"  I know you thought that word died 10 years ago, but I'm bringing it back!  Trendsetter in tha houseeee.    

Rachie Rach & me at church
Sunday was a really great field trip- we went to Mt. Tabor, Nain, Megiddo, and a natural spring.  Okay, Megiddo was only good because we laid on the ground after Armageddon.  The natural spring- talk about crazy!  Little fishes nibbled on our toes.  I thought the fish would take one look at my nasty feet and swim in the opposite direction.  They are not in the best shape after trekking around the Holy Land for 4 months.  Believe it or not, fish have pretty small brains (but they do have huge hearts), so they didn't think about how gross it was to eat the skin off of my feet.  

Mt. Tabor- the Mt. of Transfiguration
Dying at Armageddon/Meggido
Not much of anything happened on Monday- I think I took a nap.  Cool story, bro. Tell it again.  

On Tuesday we went to the Upper Galilee.  The best part was probably Nimrod's Castle- lots of great acting moments happened there, included but not limited to Rapunzel letting down her hair and lots of great conquering poses.  But actually, we also went to some really gorgeous places.  Tel Dan has a stream and a beautiful trail.  I thought I was in Virginia or sumthing!  So, of course I had to start talkin' in my Virginya ACcent.  Caesarea Philippi is also beautiful. 

"Take me home, to where I belong"

Making our own fortress
Wednesday was a visit to the Western Galilee. Akko is the site of a beautiful Crusader fortress on the Mediterranean.  In case you've been counting- that means I've been to the Red, Dead, and Med Seas all on one trip!  The next post will concern the Dead Sea, no worries.  Chorazin and Sepphoris- hmm I can't remember much about them.  We also went to an Israeli bunker from which we could see Syria.  For our last night in Galilee, we had a bonfire- with s'mores!  About time.  Unfortunately, I was only able to have around 4.  Poor showing, indeed.       

So far from D.C.!
The last day we hit up Mt. Carmel, the Haifa overlook, the Haifa Templar Cemetary, and Caesarea Maritima.  We had our very own piggyback race in the ancient hippodrome.  Naturally, I was carried on the back of my 5'2" friend.  Thanks again for that- hopefully your back pain has subsided some.  After that, we went to an overlook of Haifa.  We looked over a Baha'i Temple.  Apparently it's a huge religion, but I had never heard of it before.  Just when I thought I was getting cultured....We made it back to the JC just in time for the Oasis.  Good thing we made it back on a Thursday- Friday is ice cream night!   

2nd Place (of 2) in the Hippodrome race!

A final post is coming in the very near-future!  I know, I don't have much time because I fly out of here on Wednesday.  So, stay tuned and check back real soon!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Holy Holy Week

It's April already??  Time flies when you take two naps a day!  Yeah, right, I wish.  That's only happened one time since I've been here.  Of course it's been here in Galilee.  I'm a fan of this more slow-paced life.  Of course, "slow-paced" is relative, seeing as we still have class for 3 hours and wake up at 7.  Worth. It.

So, an embarrassingly long time ago (embarrassing because I haven't blogged about it yet), we took a field trip to Bethlehem.  First, we went to Herodion.  It was dirty and windy.  That is all you need to know about that.  We visited a few churches, a few shepherd's fields, and bought blankets.  Baby blankets from Bethlehem!  My kids won't get their dinner until they say that 10 times fast.  Yeah, I do think they'll love me a lot, why do you ask?  Most importantly, we got 30 whole minutes of free time to shop around.  I can't deny it, I'm addicted to the little shops around here!  I hear the words "special price for BYU" and my heart melts.  Well, mostly, my wallet empties.  We went to three shepherd's fields because they are the traditional sites that different denominations recognize as the shepherd's field of Jesus' birth.  We spent a long time at one of the them that was located right on the Mount of Olives.  Sometimes I get caught up in the craziness of exams/soccer practice (I would have written it as "practice" but it's the real deal), but it was nice to have some time to ponder and reflect on Christ's life.
The "exact spot" where Christ was born
Beautiful churches on beautiful churches
Gotta be sheep at the shepherd's field

Shepherd's Field, Take III
Later that week we went snorkeling in Eilat.  I laid on the beach, swam over some coral, and got a little dehydrated I think.  Why yes, I am still a four-year-old who needs to be reminded to drink lots of water.  I would also appreciate it if my friends made airplane noises while feeding me dino nuggets and applesauce.  Now receiving applications to be my friend!  I took basically no pictures, so just imagine me floating on top of the Red Sea.  I'll do my best to put you in my feet (no shoes. snorkeling. duh.)  Sparkly Princess music is now taking you to a daydream/flashback....La la la, I'm just a-swimming around in the Red Sea.  I wonder where the nearest ice cream place is.  Oh, look, a school of fish!  That's really cool.  Maybe I'll change my major to marine biology.  Do you think anyone will notice me picking my wedgie?  Let me get a closer look at that awesome coral down there $ag*!?@giadf#%!!! (me taking in a liter of salt water.  Dontcha know, I'm converted to the metric system?  I'll come back and start referring to everything in kilometers.  Like those people who have visited Chile one time and have to call it "CHIle."  Dude, you're from Montana.)

The best picture I have of Eliat...oops
Some classes and other stuffs happened.  We went to the Old City to celebrate Palm Sunday.  Contrary to popular belief (okay, maybe it was just me), palm fronds are not cuddly.  They are not to be regarded as friendly animals for petting or else used to comfort people (In case you are a robot like me and would choose to stroke someone with a palm frond instead of touching him or her.)  Palm Sunday was a PARTAY! (College Freshman year 7th grade, anyone?  If you used the word "party" instead of "partay," I probably couldn't sit with you at lunch.)  There was a huge parade of people who walked for 2ish hours.  My friends and I joined in near the end at St. Stephen's gate and walked for a few minutes to the end at the Pools of Bethesda/St. Anne's Church.  Whoever said Mormons don't know how to party didn't see me in the Palm Sunday parade!  Granted, it wasn't on the same level as me dancing to Miley Cyrus' musical masterpiece "Can't Be Tamed" or "My Goodies" by Ciara, but it was a great time).

We had three field trips in three days, plus a midterm and a paper.  Talk about stress!  Just kidding, y'all know I was watching Easy A and chillin' like how I do.  The first of the three field trips was to the Jewish Quarter.  We went to two excavated houses, and then the Jerusalem Archaeological Park.  It has the famous steps that Jesus probably walked on.  The next day we visited the Christian Quarter.  It was probably the best field trip ever because most of the churches we were going to visit were closed for Holy Week.  So, our field trip lasted less than 3 hours.  You guys, that never ever happens!  We celebrated by doing something really unique and shopping in the Old City!

Church in the Christian Quarter
We "toured" the Separation Wall on Friday.  Basically, a local Israeli came and showed us a part of the wall, gave some history of it, and then took us to a spot we visited on our first ever field trip.  Talk about coming full-circle.  It's still hard to believe I've been here since January and been to as many places as I have.  I feel like I'll come home and think it was all just a dream.  I mean, it featured the best parts of dreams- lots of ice cream and forgetting to wear underwear in a public place.   

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem was such an amazing experience.  We left the Center before 6 (¡-it's upside down because I hate emoticons and thus an upside-down/sad exclamation point seemed appropriate) to get to the the Garden Tomb's morning service.  Over a thousand people showed up for the service, which was mostly singing led by a worship band.  Since the BYU-JC Centers are well-established in Jerusalem, we had the best seats there!  After the service, we wanted to go to the Temple Mount (with the Dome of the Rock), but the line was super long.  Jerusalem was packed all of Holy Week with pilgrims experiencing the city and all of its holy sites.  We decided to get breakfast as Plan B.  We headed over to the Jewish Quarter excited for a Holy Bagel or a pastry or something delicious.  Even just some cereal from the grocery store.  We headed into the store, and the cereal aisle was boarded up!  This same experience was repeated at Holy Bagel and basically every other place in the Jewish Quarter besides some meat restaurants.  Meat breath in the morning, oh baby!  I honestly don't know why we decided to go to the Jewish Quarter for breakfast.  Not like it was Passover week or anything... leaven really hurt me.  I thought we had something and it was always there for me, but then it left me for a whole week and matzo took its place.  I tried other things, but nothing measured up to leaven.  And then after a week it just expects me to take it back!  Well, you know I did without a second glance at the dry, tasteless thing known as matzo. After walking around looking for a non-Kosher store, we stumbled into a tiny shop with hot pastries!  Talk about serendipity.  John Cusack was the owner, I bought gloves there, good times.  Just kidding, that would be weird.  As we ate, a bag-piping parade passed us by.  Just another reason why Jeru is the best.  We decided to take a leisurely stroll back to the Center, stopping to shop as we went.

"He Is Risen"

Later that day, we played soccer with Palestinian children.  These kids were better than the ones we played with before because they knew a lot of the other students.  Not me, guess I'm not cool enough for 10-yr-olds.  Someday, someday.  My day was made when Ahmed told me I was "pretty good."  Pretty good?? I'll take it and run with it!  My team was a little unbalanced because all of the boys banded together to be on one team.  So, we had about twice as many people.  I only caused a few broken pinkies, so it was a successful game.

Now, I'm in Galilee and I'm super sorry to be so behind in blogging.  Life is still great, but most everyone is excited to go home soon.  It'll be bittersweet saying goodbye, but it's getting time for a new life chapter.  A few more things are still on the agenda- more souvenirs + swimming in the Dead Sea + eating shawarma (yeah, I haven't done that enough yet).  They just don't have anything like it in the states!  And with that I've officially become one of those annoying people that says "the states."  Tess, out.