It took a long time, but I'll admit it: I was a little tired today. Not even that tired because of lack of sleep (I actually got to bed before 11:30!), but just tired of touring in general—it does get a little laborious after awhile. As a result, I will be brief: we visited another mosque, another archaeological dig site, another museum filled with really old stuff, etc... I was just restless. Nothing was just “wow, cool!” at the beginning of the day. But then we went to a temple dedicated to Hercules which was cool, as well as one of the most important sites in all Christiandom! That's right, the last two popes have come out and said it: they have found the site where Jesus was baptized! We visited Bethbara, “beyond Jordan.” I read some scriptures and touched the river Jordan. The drive home from there was short... and since this was our last major trip... everyone was talking about what they were going to do when they got *home*. Ahhhhhhhh!
Today what was, for me, the coolest place in the entire Jordan trip, and one of the best in my entire BYU-J experience: Jerash. Besides a few in Italy herself, it is the best preserved Roman city of all time! The sites were... breathtaking! Romans were incredible in their architectural and... combat... err... accomplishments. We even watched an entire gladiator show—complete with horse racing, hand to hand combat, and audience participation: one of our own was chosen to be a gladiator! After what (for one of the few times of the entire program—they really take excellent care of us) seemed like too long, we had lunch. It was totally worth it. It was pretty authentic Jordanian and very satisfying. Our next stop was a fireside of sorts at the branch house in Amman. The story of the church there is very interesting! That evening we had free time, but not a lot to see... so we decided to go bowling. We never ended up finding the place, so we just wandered around the city and talked about stuff. I realized, much to my disappointment, that a lot of people take my introspection into subjects of self-improvement to mean that I lack confidence. And all I could get out of them as far as a solution to that is just to “be” confident. It was a little frustrating. One thing I did like, though, is that we all agreed that being normal is overrated. Yes!! The rest of the night revolved around the ethicality of pirated movies and such. I wouldn't call myself an absolutist on that particular subject, but I do have a strong opinion—and it honestly bothers me when people find nothing wrong with it. In the end, it is a personal decision and one that I can honestly respect even if others disagree with me... I only wish people would care enough to look at what the Church has said on the subject—and not assume that, because they have “never heard” anything said about it, that that means it is ok.
Today we got up at 5am to go to one of the 7 New Wonders of the World as well as one of the 40 places you must visit before you die, PETRA! I was stoked about this visit, and it was way cool! Though, to be honest, I wouldn't rate it in the top 40 myself, but that is another story. We hiked through some gorgeous rock canyons, saw the famous “treasury” facade (so called because when it was first discovered it was hoped to have gold inside... it did not), hiked up to the monostary tomb, had lunch, went and saw the tombs of the kings, hiked up to an official “high place”--a paagan sacrifical rite area—and all in all just explored around. It wasn't that hot as we had an early start, but it was such a long day and the heat was progressively more intenst that it really was quite draining by the end. Especially because a lot of us ran out of water—I broke down and bought a 1.5 liter bottle for two whole dollars! There was a long bus ride back which I spent watching “The 5 People You Meet in Heaven” with Daniel on my laptop. Great show! We got home to our new Hotel in Amman, had dinner and explored the town. A lot of students bought cheap DVD's of... questionable origin... which inspires me to write a thesis on the subject, but I have not the time to do so now. So I will end, contented with my day and enjoying the amaaaaaaaaaazing pictures I got at a great tourist spot!
July 26, 2010
Today I entered the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! Our first day was pretty low-key at first: we went to Mount Nebo, the place where Elijah and Moses were translated. It had a nice view and had a monument to Moses' brazen serpent. Next was Madaba, which has one of the most famous mosaics of all time: it was a map of Jerusaelm and the surrounding area. It was pretty accurate, too. The coolest thing, though, by far, was Shobak Castle, a stronghold built by Soladin in 1115 to cut the route off between Egypt and Syria. I hiked up with one group of friends and explored around a bit. I went into what seemed like a small room by myself just to check it out, but there was a stairway—so naturally I went down it. I had no idea how far it went! It just kept going and going and going...after about 10 minutes of going straight down to who knows where, I decided I shouldn't go any further alone and started back up. I didn't go more than a few dozen yards before I saw someone coming down. I was going to tell them that there was no end in sight and that we should probably turn back... but it turned out to be my teacher, Bro. Emmett, and he said that he wanted to see it through to the end if I would accompany him. I was aaaaaaall for it, so down we went. I still thought it was probably a dead end—probably to some crusader storage area or something, but Bro. Emmett said that a student last year found a tunnel that went straight through then entire castle and went out on the other side of the mountain... so we hoped this was that tunnel and kept going. It got to the point that Bro. Emmett was saying we should turn back when off in the distance I saw what I thought was light, so I said we should keep going. We did so and it turned out to lead to that exit on the other side! It was so cool! On our way home driving to our hotel, we visited the traditional site where Moses hit the rock and made water come out. At night, most people went to Turkish baths to get massages and cleaned off... at first, I wasn't interested, but then I decided that it might be a good cultural experience (and that we have our swimsuits on the entire time), so I conceded. We couldn't end up finding a place with open slots available, however, so instead we just walked the town and bought some local baked goods—mmmmm!
July 15, 2010
Today we went to Megiddo in the Jezereel Valley. Also known as the Valley of Armageddon. Yep, the place where the final battle will take place before the second coming of Christ. It was an amazingly quiet place--only a little bit of agriculture and archeology happening. It wasn't a big city at all. Just a small town when before this was the place to be--the crossroads of civilization. The area had been conquered dozens of times by just about every major civilization. King Josiah died there at the hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho. Our next stop was Mount Carmel! This is the site of one of my favorite scripture stories: 1 Kings 18. Hopefully I can dedicate some time to write a full entry about it. Awesome. Our next stops were a Bahai garden and a cemetery in Haifa where two early missionaries for the church were buried. We got back to the center--it was such a good feeling to be "home"--had dinner, set up a study guide for our test on Tuesday, and then played basketball with the best players at the JC. I wasn't even in the same league as the best players, but I had some good plays and gained their respect. All in all, a great day.
July 14, 2010
Our last full day in the Galilee. Our first stop was Zippori (it means 'bird' in Hebrew). It had some really famous, pretty cool mosaics. Bro. Brown made the connection that these mosaics were focused on Abraham and the aaronic priesthood and how it is passed via lineage and some mosaics in Italy that shows a chalice and shewbread—all of them are acceptable offerings... and anyone can offer them up. The blessings are based on righteousness, not lineage. Akko was moderately cool. It had some beautiful shoreline. It was the last major crusader stronghold. Bro. Hamblin retold the final siege when Saladin defeated the templars. It was really interesting. Then we had free time and Chris and Brooke and I got trapped in a Turkish bath house. Long story. To make it shorter, it was a really underwhelming experience. To be honest, it was one of my least favorite field trips. I took more pictures and movies today than any other, though, because one of my favorite people in the whole program was sick today! He did not go, so we made him a special video telling him about what we learned and saw so he wouldn't feel left out. We got home and swam for a few last hours together (it was way fun—the water was perfect), had dinner, and then a testimony meeting. I really can't believe that this is over. I am so happy. I am so nostalgic. I have had so many experiences here. I will never be the same again.
July 13, 2010
My day was AWESOME. It was hard at first, because I was super tired as my roommates were up until 1am playing pranks on a girl's bungalow—which, of course, included the girls trying to infiltrate our apartment to play pranks on my roommates... sigh. Maybe I'm just lame (To be honest, I was feeling a little left out when they were talking about it the next day). Anyway, I can't really tell you much about Hazor except that it had a cistern, it was one of the main cities of the Northern kingdom with a wicked king (Jabin), and... I was really tired. Chorazin was much better. The sleep on the bus got me to a more coherent state. It was really thought-provoking. This was one of the places that Christ cursed for rejecting Him. It spurred a discussion on what it means to have an opportunity to receive the gospel and the level of understanding needed for accountability. Dan was beautiful. We hiked around and saw the source of the Jordan river. We also saw the Winnie the Pooh tree, as well as the place that Jeraboam set up the altar as a political move to tell the people that they did not need to go to Jerusalem to the temple.
By far, though, my favorite was our next stop: Caesaria Philipi. Bro. Manscill talked about Peter's confession of faith and testimonies in general. He asked for volunteers to share their testimony and I raised my hand (usually I wait to give others the chance, but the last time I did that Bro. Manscill took the brief silence to mean that no one wanted to... and moved on!). Even though I didn't have time to think of anything, I was so glad I raised my hand. I simply told the story of how I felt when President Monson had said “I stand before you and declare this First Presidency is united as one under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Thomas S. Monson, “To Learn, to Do, to Be,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 60–62, 67–68) and how I felt my testimony being renewed in a very full, conscious way. I felt the spirit and throughout all of the free time I thought about the evolution of my testimony. I reread my patriarchal blessing and realized how far my testimony had come since I had received it—and I was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. A testimony really is a gift. I had the idea to record my testimony at that spot. It was a little hard to hear it because of the running waters, but it felt good to just do it so that there would be a record that I had a testimony of the gospel when I visited the place where Peter testified of him.
Our next stop was a mountain with a huge fortress on top of it—Nimrod's castle, as it was called. It had a good view and another bat cave, both awesome. Our last stop was an overlook of the UN embassy of Syria—another sad reminder of the disquieting relations of Israel and its neighbors. At night, we had a bonfire with SCONES (soooooooo yummy!) and then I helped my teacher with a computer problem (their email account was hacked).
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