I am finally getting around to making my first blog post! For those of you that don't already know, I arrived in Jerusalem about 5:00 on January 7th. (I can see that I am going to need to keep up better with my posts, because I already feel like there is too much to write.)
Life here at the center is coming into full swing. We've had most of our classes a few times (or at least once) and get lots of free time to go out in the city. The Center has 8 floors and most of us live on either the 3rd or 4th floors. The rooms feel kind of like mini apartments--with four beds, a bathroom, and a porch to walk out on (the view is absolutely incredible). People are getting to know each other a little better, and it seems like it is going to be a fun group to be with. Getting over jet lag was a new experience for me, and I have still been waking up very early in the morning. Although, if the jet lag didn't wake me up, the call to prayer definitely would. We are within range of several minerets and when everything is so quiet in the morning, the call to prayer is actually surprising loud. . . Today was a big improvement, though, because I wasn't awake until about 5:30.
Here is a little bit just to kind of catch up for people that have been asking for an update:
The day after we got here, we went down to the city for an orientation walk. We didn't spend a long time in any one area, but it was so exciting to see so many places and to just be out in the city. I was surprised at how close so many places are together. I guess I kind of imagined it being more spread out....The merchants were very happy to see us and many of them came out to greet the "BYU students" and to say hello to "the Mormons." I love meeting the people here or even just seeing them working and walking on the streets.
Because of the conflict in Gaza, we have started off with some restrictions about where we can go in the city, but there is so much to see and do anyways. We are very safe here, but being here so close to the conflict and tension is already giving me a new perspective. Probably my favorite part of everything I have experienced so far is just seeing all of the different people that are here in Jerusalem. Last Friday we stood on the balcony and could see a demonstration happening at a mosque. Fortunately it didn't escalate, but it just made me think about how this is just a part of life here for many people. At the same time, I go out and sit on my porch and can here the Palestinian children in my neighborhood outside running around and playing. There is so much I want to understand about the history here, but also to understand the current people and culture.
We have also had our first Sabbath. Church services are on Saturday here instead of Sunday, for those of you that don't know. It was so amazing to sit in sacrament meeting looking out on the entire city. . . We also performed our first number as a choir. It was such a special experience to be able to sing there.
I love the city so much already! Yesterday we walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I think we will be going there again, so I will save my comments for another time. It started pouring rain when we walked out, and of course, the merchants were all trying to sell us umbrellas. It's amazing how the price went up from what it had been in the morning. . . :) I got some really cool pictures of the streets and the shops in the rain--it was beautiful. It was so fun getting home in the rain, even though it was sort of cold and we really did get soaked. The streets were kind of gross too (which I noticed because I was wearing my sandals....).
Today a group of us went exploring in West Jerusalem (which is the newer part of the city).
So, I have never blogged before, but this seems like a really long post, and I have a lot of reading to catch up on. Hopefully I will be better about posting so that I don't have to do so much catch up! Oh, and one disappointing thing is that I don't know if I am going to be able to post pictures. I guess it kind of overwhelms the network or something. . .we'll see.