23 October 2009

To My Pals of the Pen(cil)

Hey Little Friends!
I am so sorry that it has been a while since I responded to your questions. I absolutely love hearing from you! And I hope you still write me... :) School has been VERY busy here, with 4 tests this week... Do you ever feel anxious or stressed when you have lots to do? But now it is over and I get to play!! On Monday I am traveling back to Jordan, the country just neighboring Israel. I am VERY excited to go back where I lived last summer and visit my friends that I made there. Do any of you have friends that live far away from home? I also wanted to thank you all for your birthday wishes! I had a wonderful birthday! And I LOVED all of those beautiful pictures you drew for me!! Some of you even made me a princess wearing a crown! How nice of you!!! But now to answer your most recent questions:

Daniel--Was the Zombie House scary? I don't like getting scared, so I'll only go with you if you hold my hand. :)
Juan--How did you know my favorite color was pink? You must read minds! And I love to play, too!
Adriana--I LOVE school over here. It is lots and lots of work, but I love to learn!
Manuel--We sometimes play games here, too. I also like to play the piano, do puzzles, and walk around the Old City meeting new people.
Arturo--I also read A LOT here at school. We have many books that we are supposed to read for all of our classes. So, I spend a lot of my time reading and writing.
Melanie--You got to play with Tuffy? I am SO jealous! There are lots of stray cats here, and they come begging for food at every meal.
Ana--You got to play with Tuffy, too? I love Tuffy and I miss him! Do you like to have long hair, too? Or do you like it short?
Mark--I am SO glad that you are respectful and pay attention to Mrs. Mills! I hope you are just as respectful to Mrs. Reyes! They are both wonderful teachers who can help you learn SO much! My favorite animals are horses and penguins.
Cecilia--I love parks! My favorite part is the swings. I feel like I'm flying whenever I swing! But... I also like to shop. A lot. :)
Monica--How did you know that ice cream is my BIGGEST weakness?! It is my favorite food that I can ever eat. I will eat it at any time of day-even for breakfast. That is how much I love it! Mrs. Reyes likes ice cream, too. :)
Yesenia--Are you learning a lot about math? Mrs. Reyes is really good at teaching how to do hard math problems, huh? And I am having SO much fun! I hope you are having fun in your school, too.
Cesar--Do Mrs. Reyes and I look a like? Do you and your siblings look a like? I hope I can come back to see you all soon!
Lizbeth--I see a really BIG city, that is also very old. There are some buildings here that are over 2000 years old! I also get to see lots of wonderful people every day! What kind of parade? Did you like it? Did you get any candy from it?
Marisol--Well, you are nice to me, too! I hope everyone can be nice to everyone wherever we go! There are some dogs here, but none as cute as Tuffy!
Alondra M--I love it here! I mostly see a lot of cats and birds. But there are also dogs, donkeys, sheep, goats, horses, and even camels. I hope you had fun playing with Tuffy. He is so cute!
Martin--My favorite food is ice cream! MMMMM!!!! I am so glad that you and your classmates were all such wonderful students that Mrs. Reyes could bring Tuffy in to see you! She only does that when her class is VERY good. Keep it up!

Thanks again for writing me! And I hope you have a wonderful week!
Miss Dana

14 October 2009

Recent Field Trips

Tell Jericho-the oldest city ever found in the entire world, with a tower structure dating back to 8000 BC... yeah, I was there! No biggie. Just pretty much made my life complete. Almost anyway :) But seriously, this place was incredible. I remember studying the city and its archaeology in my Biblical Archaeology class I took two years ago. My group was assigned to write a paper and present on Jericho, and I absolutely fell in love. I knew I just had to go, and well, now I have. Check. :) I won't launch into the nerdy archaeology stuff that got me so excited to go see this place in person, but let's just say there was a lot of it, and it made me REALLY happy. :)

And I always knew that Jericho was an oasis city, but after seeing what it looks like in person, it is truly an OASIS CITY. Modern day Jericho stretches from the hills down to the Dead Sea. None of this small village business. I don't know what I was expecting, but whatever it was was quickly surpassed.

City of David and Hezekiah's Tunnel
Last week we went to the City of David--the Original "Jerusalem" captured and built up by King David, still considered by Israelis today as the greatest king in their history. From this original city, Jerusalem grew north and west up on to Mount Zion and Mount Moriah and through the Tyropean valley in between. After seeing some excavated areas from the ancient city (including a 3000 year old toilet! haha), we had the highlight of the trip by walking through the 1/3 mile long tunnel built by Hezekiah in 701 BC to channel water from the Gihon Spring to the Siloam Pool. On the eve of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, it was crucial that Hezekiah devise a way to protect the water source of Jerusalem. After the prophet Isaiah prayed and consulted with Hezekiah, the plan was to dig a tunnel underneath the city so as to channel the run-off of the spring to be within the city walls. Incredible! Seriously... And I'm not necessarily one to LOVE wading through a wet, dark, moldy tunnel built 2700 years ago. But this was absolutely amazing! SO FUN!!

At the end of the tunnel, you arrive at the Siloam pool, where there are some remnants of columns, where we got some really fun pictures. Luckily, we have national parks cards that will get us back in there for free, so I'm definitely planning on going again!

Neot Kedumim
On Monday, we had a field trip to a Biblical Landscape Preserve called Neot Kedumim. Here they have plants and animals from the Bible, and it is very hands-on, which I love! We herded sheep and goats, ground hyssop into the stuff we eat on our pita bread (Za'atar in Arabic), drew water from a cistern, made pita bread, threshed some wheat, etc. It was such a neat experience and definitely one I will treasure forever. And I tried to gather as many types of the plants/fruit that I could while I was there for my Jerusalem Box. :) So those of you who have always wondered what hyssop is... well I can show you. ;)

School, Security, and Random Sidenotes

So School has pretty much overtaken my life here since we've been on restriction for the last 10 days or so. But good news: The security restriction was lifted yesterday and we can now go back out into the Old City and East Jerusalem!!! YAY!!!! I have been sending my mom the news articles about what was going on here, but maybe she was actually the last person I should've been sending them to. Whoops. haha But basically, there have been tensions during this High Holiday season in Judaism here in Jeruslam because the Israel took control of and shut down the Muslim controlled Temple Mount to prevent any violence during the 8-day long Sukkot. Palestinians were not allowed into the Old City for most of the week, and then it was changed to only men 50+ years and women were allowed in. Of course this meant that the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosques, which are two of the top holy Muslim sites in the world, to pray daily and particularly on Friday. Among MANY other things going on, this outraged the Palestinian Authority and the whole Arab world... which led to a lot of other really scary things happening. Anyway, there is no need for me to really go into detail when most of you aren't really interested. And things are calming down here in Jerusalem, and we all pray that they continue to do so. Psalms 122 tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and in a visit to the Garden Tomb President Hinckley said that he did so every day. I hope that we all can include this in our prayers along with the Prophet of the World and the residents of the Holy Land.

BUT I did get the once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Western Wall in the morning on the final day of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles in the OT). This last day is known as the Day of Many Hosannas-and as it sounds, it is a joyous day of celebration, as well as continual prayer for the rebuilding of the Temple. It is customary that after the Jews are finished saying their morning prayers on this day that they "whack" their willow branches on the ground. Why do they whack? Well it is a symbolic "final plea" or a pleading "temper tantrum" if you will... noting to God that they have done everything else they know how to do in order to have the Temple rebuilt, and it is the only thing left they can think of to get His attention. From the smallest child to the oldest patriarch there, everyone would whack. It was SO interesting! Not to mention all of their chants and prayers and dancing and singing that we got to observe as well... And another plus was that I got some really fabulous pictures of people that day.

In our Old Testament class, we have now finished as much material as OT 301 covers at BYU in an entire semester. We are in the middle of 1 Kings now and we're just zipping right along! We will be completely done with the OT by the beginning of November- and that includes a 4 day trip to Jordan before then! Then we will have 6 VERY intensive weeks of the New Testament. Gratefully, I've already taken both NT classes at BYU, so that should hopefully ease the intensity for me a bit. But I am so grateful to enhance my knowledge and understanding of the scriptures while I am here!

A complete side note to everything: Elder Holland is coming in less than two weeks. I am SO excited about this opportunity to not only meet an Apostle of Jesus Christ, but also to literally sit at his feet and learn from him. Not to mention, he was always my dad's favorite, and I know he's really jealous. haha But let's just say I'm hoping he gets to come join me in spirit for this incredible experience. :)

And another side note: Logan comes home form his mission in just 48 DAYS. This means that December 1 is only in 48 days. How in the world did THAT happen?!?! Wow time flies, and I'm feeling more than ever that I need to make every minute count here!

I love you all!

01 October 2009

Dear Penpals

Dear Mrs. Reyes' class,
How are you all doing? Thank you so much for your letters!! All of your questions about food made me VERY hungry! Lots of you LOVE pizza... Mrs. Reyes LOVES pizza, too! I really like pizza as well, but sadly I have not had any pizza at all since I've been here in Jerusalem. I am starting to miss it a lot though! My favorite food is most definitely ice cream!!! Mrs Reyes can tell you all kinds of stories about how much I LOVE ice cream! :) My trip to Egypt was so fun! I got to go inside the Pyramids. Have you ever seen what the Pyramids look like? They are SO BIG!! Also, I got to ride a camel along the bank of the Nile River. It is the biggest river in the entire world! We took a bus and rode all day long to get to Egypt. But while we were in Egypt, we took a plane, a train, a camel, a horse-drawn carriage, and several different boats and buses in order to get around. We also walked and hiked A LOT. What kinds of transportation do you guys use every day? I have been seeing so many really old things. One of my favorite things has been to see records that people kept thousands of years ago about what was going on in their lives. Do any of you keep journals and records, too? I hope that you guys will practice your writing a lot so that your records can last a long time, too! Thanks for writing me! I love to hear from you all!

Miss Dana