Monday, February 22, 2010

Egypt Day 14

Wow... what a busy day! We got up at 5, but i got up at 4 cuz I love to be an early riser ;-) Actually, i heard something ring in the hallway and i thought it was our wake up call. So I got up and took a shower and packed all my stuff and headed to breakfast. When i got there, the door was closed and i asked teh couple outside what time it was and they said 4:15. Great... i just chilled for a bit and when everyone got up we got breakfast. We were out the door by 6 and hit up the valley of the Kings and the valley of the Queens and some other tombes. They were amazing! The colors were still on teh tombs and it was interestign because the longer a Pharoah ruled, the deeper and longer the tombs were. The people kept on working so that they could keep their jobs until there was a new tomb to start working on, plus no one wanted to tell the Pharoah that his tomb was ready for him :-)

Next we went to the Karnak Temple and it was really cool. It was 65 acres, so we didn't get to see all of it, but there were tons of cool ruins and cool stuff to see. The statues of the Pharoah are always with his left leg forward. For a long time people thought it was a military pose or other theories, but then the found one with the right leg forward. Everyone thought it was a mistake, but later when they dug up that King's body, they discovered that his heart was on the right side of his body. They figured out that the foot is linked to the heart and means that the Pharoe rules out of a sense of love. It's funny how we work to interpret things from teh past without all or sometimes any information. We make lots of assumptions, and don't even realize it all the time. We also learned that the scarab bug was a sign of love that this one Pharoah gave to this lady he wanted to marry because she wasn't of royal descent. It was a cool story about how he rebelled and didn't want to marry his sister like most pharoes did. It really strkes me that as different as Egyptian culture was and is, they were looking for the same things we are still looking for. There are tons of similarites between their relgion and Judaism and Christianity. In fact, Satan appears way more in Egyptian writings than in Christain writings. Next we went to the Luxor Temple, it was very cool as well. These dudes kept showing us around and then asking for money. I was sick of it so when these dudes started to show me around there, I asked them for money. They said they didn't have any, and I told them that I saw someone give them some, please, I need some money. It was funny, no one else bothered me the whole time i was there.

The lady and her daughter left a little early today and it turns out that it was the girl from the Twilight movies. I haven't had time to look her up and see what she looks like, but after they left our guide told us that the mother had said something to him about it at the very beginningand how they wanted to spend this time together so they didn't want anyone to find out. For some reason, the mother is in Cairo after taking leave from her job. She was very secretive about it... I'll have to find out by watching TMZ when I get home :-) It is funny becuase the girl told me her name the first day on the boat but it didn't mean anything to me at the time so I totally forgot it. I don't even know if she gave me her real name or not then. I can't remember what she said for the life of me. When I found out that actresses name was Kristen or something like that, it sounded familiar like that's what she said, but who knows. So mystery solved... it was pretty cool that we got to spend a few days with her even though they acted kind of weird sometimes. It must be hard to be famous and have people bugging you all the time. I hope I find out what a pain that is someday :-)

We chilled back on the boat for the afternoon and then took a plane back to Cairo to stay for the night. We are leaving early tomrrow morning and we will be home on Wednesday afternoon... it's gonna suck, but we'll be fine I'm sure.

Egypt Day 13

We didn't do a lot today. In the morning we toured the Temple of Horus, which was awesome! I have taken tons of pictures and broke down and bought a new memory card for way too much money, but there is so much cool stuff here. We sailed most of the day and went through a lock in the afternoon. I never have heard of one of these before, but apparently when you are going from the water on one level to water that is significantly lower, you have to go through one of these. It was interesting to see. There were even people selling things on the shore and the kids would swim them out to the boats. Our guide calls them hustlers and on the first day there were really little kids selling bracelets, and he told me "there are even baby hustlers here" :-) We sailed down the Nile and I listened to some of my bands music and had a drink. It was an extremely relaxing afternoon and evening. It was really quite emotional for me for some reason, but I am getting ready to come home. I have learned so much and experienced things that I never thought I would. After dinner there were some really cool dancers that we watched before going to bed. The next couple of days are going to be crazy. Tomorrow, we get up at 5 and leave by 6 to tour all of Luxor, after lunch we go to catch a plane back to Cairo and we stay there for the night. The next day, we get up at 5 and leave at 6 and travel like mad until we get home. In New Mexico time, we will leave at 9 pm on Monday and get home at 2 pm on Wednesday. It's gonna be nuts!

On the celebrity sighting front, I have tried everything I know to fish for information with this girl without being obvious and totally severing all ties of communication. If she is the girl, she very clearly doesn't want anyone to know, so I don't want to ask her straight out. She gets very uncomfortable when anything personal comes up, so something is going on for sure, I'm just not sure what. Here are my clues so far: her hair is black but has grown out for quite some time and is brown at the top. It seems very possible that it has grown out since filming the last movie, maybe like 9 months to a year of brown hair and the rest is black. The cons are that she does not seem like the actress type to me. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, but that doesn't mean anything to me because I have no idea where the actress is from. Her and her mom are acting really weird at times, so I'm not sure what's going on. We'll see what transpires tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Egypt Day 12

Today we got off the boat and went to see one of the places where they used to make the obelisks. There was one that they just left there because it was cracked, so it was like part way done. It was really cool to see it. Then we went to see the Aswan dam and found out that this one dam supplies like 11% of the electricity for all of Egypt. Then we took a motor boat out to this Island where they moved Philea temple. It was amazing how much writing was on the walls and the pictures that were carved into everything. It took them 8 years to move it because when the Nile flooded, it was underwater. There are stories in all the hieroglyphics and I am going to have to learn more about them. It is amazing how similarly people in different places looked for God and discovered very similar things. There was this one place where the face of one of the people was scratched off by the Christians, during the Crusades I think. We go to place after place where Christians have defaced things at different times. It makes me sad!

Later on, we sailed north down the Nile to the Kom Ombu temple. Our guide explained a lot of the meanings of the pictures that were carved into all the walls. There were medical devices on one of the walls, like scalpels and those things you listen to people's hearts with (I can't think of the name). There are pictures of how they used to have pregnancy tests too. 6 months before a baby was born, the woman would go to the bathroom on two plants. Because of the proteins, one of the plants would bloom first if it was a girl and the other one if it was a boy. It was really cool to learn that. They said the same thing happened with the mother's milk. They could tell the gender based on the proteins and other things in the milk. It was really interesting. We got back on the boat and sailed longer. Tomorrow we are going to see some more temples, like the Temple of Horus and either check out Luxor tomorrow night or Monday. It is amazing to see the things that are this old so well preserved. Everything is carved up in the temples and it is so detailed. This has been a truly amazing experience! On another note, it seems that the ladies in my group think that this girl on the boat that has been going on the tours with us and her mother is the girl from the Twilight movies. I haven't seen them so I have no idea, but I have been talking to her and she will talk about a lot of stuff, but not anything about her life. Her mother is the same way, they will talk about all sorts of stuff, but then get really quiet and secretive when anything personal comes up. Maybe it's true, I will launch a full-on investigation starting tomorrow :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Egypt Day 11

Well, we had a new security guard today, so I guess that means going sans security was not in the plan. This dude was way nicer and he though Dara was my mom, LOL! The pyramids are amazing! We saw them first thing as well as the Sphinx. It was easily one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. The dudes selling things there were buggin, though. I think I'm gonna send my kids here when they are young for an internship in selling cheap crap! It will be nice for them to earn a little money to support themselves :-) We saw how Papyrus was made and saw these awesome paintings on papyrus. It was very cool. The rest of the day we traveled to the airport and flew down south where the Nile River starts, or at least where we can catch a boat. Geography has never been my strong suit. We got to the boat and are here for the rest of the night. I went up on the top deck and watched the sunset. It is nice to relax for a night. Last night, I sat outside at the resort we were at and chilled for a long time. It was tough getting up early this morning. We have an early morning tomorrow too, so I may try to sleep a bit early, but it is very nice to just have time to relax before 7 or 8 at night.

The boat is super nice and has all sorts of stuff like a pool and hot tub and stuff. I have a lot to explore, but I know that there is some cool Egyptian party in the near future, one night soon! It's been a long trip and today I was thinking about home and am starting to get ready to come home. This has been an amazing trip... I would even say life changing. I honestly think that every Christian should try to get to the Holy Land at least once in their life. It has completely blown my mind and changed my perspective. I think it could have a huge impact on a lot of people. One thing I notice today is that I haven't seem a Muslim praying since I have been here. The Minaret's have been sounding prayers 5 times a day and I see tons of people in Muslim garb, but they just keep doing whatever they are doing when the prayers sound. If I get a chance, I am going to ask one about it before I leave. I wonder if Muslims have gotten kind of lax about some of those things, like Christians have gotten kind of lax about things like fasting, tithing, etc. in America. I know that this isn't true of everyone, but it seems like it is generally true. I have seen tons of effects of globalization with the fast food industry since I have been here, and this could be yet another effect. I realize today that I have really been away from most media for some time now and I don't know much about what is going on in the world, i'll have to catch up when i get back.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Egypt Day 10

We started the day early but I was feeling great after the night I had before. It was truly the highlight of the trip! We had an unbelievable day today as well! We started out with breakfast and then we stopped by some sights on the way to Cairo. We saw the area where the Israelites wandered, where quiail and manna was delivered to the people and we saw the Suez canal. In face we drove under it. We stopped by some shops and I talked to the Bedouin girls that were selling hand made goods. They were asking me about my earrings and other jewelry and they were saying how cool it was. People looked at me very funny in Israel and some people even scoffed at me and gave me some static. At the time my guide was right beside me and told me not to worry about them becuase they were just "stupid," lol, but I think that my appearance ruffeled a few feathers while I was there. Kinda like going to some churches in the US, but I won't go there right now :-) Anyway, my fashion seems to be a hit so far in Egypt, at least with the Bedouins, who are some of my favorite people at the moment. We had a security guard with a gun the first day, which probably made me more nervous that we needed one than it made me feel safe. I don't think he spoke English but he stood outside and looked intimidating whenever we stopped the bus. More about him later.

We got to eat at McDonald's for lunch just as we were getting into Cairo because we were in a hurry and it was really good. Just a taste of some American food was great! I'm good for the rest of the trip now. Cairo is the second biggest city in the world with like 18 million people, second only to Mexico city which has like 20 milllion. While we were stopped, we saw this guy on a horse pulling a bunch of pots. The traffic was unbelievable and this dude comes riding along and all of his pots spill off the cart. Some people help him pick them up and some people give him money. We are parked basically in ths busy street, kind of pulled over, while our guide gets us McDonald's and a couple of us get up to go help the guy cuz it looks like he is going to get run over. Monty tells us that he knows the guy and he does this just so people will give him money. He makes more off of people's sympathy than he does selling the pots that break. We then see a guy on a motorcycle hit a car in front of him and they just keep going. Our guide said that when people get in a wreck, they get out of the car and yell at each other for a few minutes, then they shake hands and drive away! LOL, the dude almost flew off his bike, sat back down and shook his head and drove away. It was very funny! Almost right after that we hear and feel a thud and someone hits us from behind. Monty the driver goes behind the bus and the lady apologizes and drives off. There are no lanes or parking spots, poeple just drive and honk. It's unreal! We eat McDonald's on the bus and head to the Egyptian Museum.

The museum was amazing! We saw all sorts of artifacts and learned a whole lot... they had King Tut's face sheld and sarcophogus that were like 18 carrot gold. They were all shiny just like they were brand new and they are over 3000 years old. It was crazy to actually see them and be right there. There was a real mummy in a case too! I was thinking that when I'm mummified, they will find me one day in my awesome tomb and some tour guide will tell all about how their research indicates that United Methodist pastors had big earrings, lip rings and eye brow rings. They will tell of their imagained significance. Since I will likely be the only one that's mummified, they will think ever pastor was like me. I owe it to the future to get that done... note to self. We didn't stay long enough there, but I could have stayed a month and it would not have been long enough. While we were driving from the museum, we look over and see the Nile river right there. Then we look up and there are the great pyramids, just sitting there, not far from the city at all. Or maybe they are just that big and they are further than they look. I'm pumped we get to see them tomorrow. We stopped at this store on the way to the hotel and I was talking to Monty. He saw the security guard at the hotel and told me something funny. I realized this morning that he wasn't with us and I figured he was just there to get us across the border into the mountians. However, Monty tells me that they tried to wake him up in the morning and he didn't wake up. They told Monty and he went and tried to wake him up. Since he didn't wake up Monty just left him. So, apparantly we were supposed to have a security guard all day and didn't cuz the dude didn't want to wake up. LOL, I didn't know whether to laugh or be worried about what could have happened!

We stop at our hotel and it is the most amazing resort I have ever seen. It is very nice and there was a Muslim wedding going on and later a band was playing and it was really cool. Lots of people were dancing and the couple was marching around. In Egypt, when you get married, you get an acre of land and a bull from the government as a gift. Now that's incentive to get married! We should start that. When we get to our rooms they are super nice and have a really cool foot washing sink next to the toilet. I found out later it is called a bidday (sp?) or something like that. So now with super clean feet, I go to dinner ;-) After dinner I go to the spa and use the jacuzzi, sauna, and steam room. It was awesome! They had separate facilities for men and women and swimsuits were apparantly optional. I opted in... everyone else opted out. Yeah, uncomfortable...

Well, Brenden Frasier and "The Rock" told me to tell all of you hello and they hope you are all doing well... and you know they are serious, becuase they certainly can't act! We fly to the very south of the Nile river tomorrow and sail up it on a cruise boat for a few days. Internet is probably not going to happen, but I'll update when I can.

Egypt Day 9

Wow... what a day! We got up early in the morning and got in this small 15 passenger van. There were 13 of us so it was a pretty tight fit. We drove for about 5 hours to the border of Egypt. On the way we stopped at this dairy and got lunch and ice cream. It was really good! When we got to the border we had to go through tons of secrurity and it was at that moment that i realized how safe I was in Israel. There are tons of check points all over the place and guns pointing right at you all the time. We went to the base of Mount Sinai and visited the monsetary there. It was prety cool to see and to hear the story of the monestary. We talked about Moses and stayed at a hotel after driving 3 hours into Egypt. It was really nice, in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by mountans and there was a huge pool, but it was too cold to swim. Apparantly the water in Egypt has some different kinds of bacteria that we aren't used to and it will make you really sick, so we can't eat fruit or vegetables and we have to use bottled water to brush our teeth. I have to try hard to remember all of that.

After dinner, I went to this Bedouin tent that was near the hotel, because they were selling stuff and there was cool music playing so I wanted to check it out. I talked to one of the guys there for a while and I saw Monty our must driver. He knew these guys and introduced me. They invited me to stay and sit by the fire so I did. We started talking about music and they showed me their tabla drums. We sat by the fire and they taught me how to play on the drums and we played and listened to music for a long time. They offered me some of their tea and at first I was afraid to drink it, but then I remebered that it was ok to drink hot tea and coffee becuase the hot water killed the bacteria, so I drank tea with them. People were dancing and laughing and not everyone spoke english, but playing drums, music and laughter transended any language barriers. We smoked some sheeha tobacco out of their hookah too, and I had to partake as it was all part of the experience. They didn't have the clear plastic gaurds that they have at the hookah lounges in the States so I just went with the flow :-) Monty had some coffee that his friend had given him from Greece so I tried it and it was awesome. One of the guys that lived in the tent told me come to the back with him and he had a computer hooked up to a generator in the back. He burned me a cd with like 60 mp3s of the Bedouin songs on it that we had been listening to and playing along with. I got to keep the cd and one of the tabla drums, but the experience that they will remind me of is the most precious thing. I finally walked over to the hotel and went to sleep. It was a truly amazing experience!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Israel Day 8

We got to sleep in today which was awesome and we had a pretty short day. We are all pretty tired, but still having a lot of fun. We started our day going to the Holocaust Museum. It was overwhelming to say the least. We saw a lot of pictures and history about what happened and some of the most powerful parts were the piles of shoes and the dolls and kids toys that they found. At the end they had this huge round room with books all around the room on shelves. They went from below the floor to above the ceiling, which was high, and each page of each book had the information about one person killed in the Holocaust. It was overwhelming to see that mass of people ruthlessly murdered. There was also this huge canvas where people wrote the first names of all the people really small and some were in different colors so it made a picture. It was really cool. At the end they had a room just for the children. you walk in holding a handrail and it gets totally dark. You go into a round room and in the middle there is this huge circle full of candles. Around the outside there are tons of mirrors at different angles, so it looks like there are contless candles all around you and it's all you can see. There was a voice reading off names of children that were killed and their ages and where they were from. If you wanted to hear a name over again, you would have to wait for 20 months. That's how many of them there are. It was amazingly sad. At the end, we talked for a little while about why this happened and ways to try to prevent something like that from ever happening again. We talked about the importance of developing relationships with people that are different from ourselves so that we see everyone as people and not as issues, or causes, or demons, or things. It was also interesting that in a lot of ways, the church set up an environment of anti-semitism, blaming them for the death of Jesus. Hitler used this in a lot of ways. There were even quotes from Augustine about scattering jewish people and punnishing them for what they did. The church also ignored this in many ways while it was happening, which makes it worse. I think I need to think very carefully about the things that I really need to take a stand on. Many Christians in America seem to think that taking a stand to demonize groups of people like Muslims or homosexuals, is the way to stand up for what is right. It seems to me that this leads us down the same road as what I just saw the effects of today. Standing against hatred and violence, seems to me to be the way to combat things like this. These are just my preliminary thoughts as I try to work though all that is going on in my head.

Next, we ate lunch and Kaleel's uncle's restaurant. We ate some good food and I sat with Mike and Kaleel and talked to them a little about what it was like to be a Palistin living and working in Jerusalem. It was really interesting how their everyday lives are. Kaleel is a driver and he works everyday. He has no days off and then gets 2 months off in the summer. He is an awesome driver!

After lunch we went to the second place that claims to be where Jesus died and was buried. It was in a garden by a mountain that looked like it had a skull on the side. The tomb was down below and it was different from most tombs because it has 2 separate rooms instead of one. The body is to the right in this one and is straight ahead in most tombs. They make a pretty good case and it was much less gaudy than the other place that claims to be the place. This was nice and peaceful and a beautiful garden. Afterwards we had a really cool service and took communion together. We each got one of these cool stones that said hope or believe or something like that on them. One got mixed in that said "kiss me" on it, like on those candy hearts. Jeb got that one and showed it to me when we sat down. We were laughing so hard. We showed it to "dollar Bill" who was sitting in front of us and he busted up. He was laughng so hard, it made us laugh even harder. It was supposed to be a solemn time so we were all trying like mad to hold it in, which made it even funnier. Bill couldn't take it and busted out audibly at one point. I was biting my toungue. This really nice and sweet lady was sitting next to Bill and though he was crying. She comforted him and it was very sweet, but i almost lost it! Maybe you had to be there, but it was extremely hilarious!!!

When we got back to the hotel we walked around for a while. After dinner most of the poeple left to go to the Tel Aviv airport to go home. I've got another week where I'll be in egypt along with 12 other people. Half of us will be going down the Nile River and the other half will be spending time around the Luxor. It seems like a lot of stuff in Egypt will kill you, so I am going to be careful. Drinking the water is dangerous, and associating with Israel seems to be pretty dangerous as well. I wanted a tattoo on my had in Hebrew, but i found out today that it would not go over well in Egypt, like some people would want to harm me when they saw it, so I took a pass. I guess there is a lot of tension between Egypt and Israel as well... I need to watch the news more often. Well, we'll see what the internet situation is, but we leave at 7 tomorrow morning for a 5 hour bus ride to the border and another 3 hour one after that. i'm hoping to sleep some on the bus for sure! Once we get in the desert, it is all going to look the same most of the time.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Israel Day 7

We got to sleep in an extra half-hour today. It was nice because I was tired. We took the bust back up to the mount of Olives. We went into the garden of Gethsemine and spent some time. There was a church there (as always) and we checked it out. People were being served communion. We spent some time in the garden and it was cool. We saw the city a lot today and we went and walked on the teaching steps where Jesus and others used to walk on to get into the temple. It was a very hot day today, but it was cool to see the old city and how things used to be. There was a barmitzfah right by us and these dudes were playing djembes. They were really good and it was fun to watch. We ate lunch and then went to the place where King David is supposedly buried.

At night we had a debate between a Palistian and an Israeli man. They were friends but each presented his side very well. It put the dispute into a very different context for me. Before coming here, I didn't know what was going on with all that, but now I understand enough to be interested. It is a very complex and troubling issue, but they framed it in such a way that I understood a lot. From what I understand, the main problem really comes down to trust, just as in any relationship between two people. Both sides has betrayed one anothers trust so many times that there is no trust to be found. You can't make a deal with someone or work anything out if you don't ever and can't ever believe a word they say. The solution to that has been difficult to find throughout history and it doesn't look like a solution is coming any time soon.

Oh yeah, I met some people and ate with them the first day we were here. We talked a lot and i saw them at several places. I saw them at the dead sea and we were talking and said we should exhange information and keep in touch. They were from another tour with another company and are from iowa. I said sure, I'm sure we'll see each other tomorrow and we can exchange info then. Today, i heard someone yelling at me and I turned and looked and there they were. They had their info on a piece of paper ready to hand to me and I gave them a few of my different cards. It's neat to make connections like that. Tomorrow is our last day in Israel. I leave the next day for Egypt. I don't know how much I'll be able to get on line there, but for now, you can catch up on what I have so far! See all of you later, my friends.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Israel Day 6

We went to lots of cool places today. First we went to a mountain palace that Herod build and the jewish people escaped to for a while before the second temple was destroyed. We had a great discussion about suicide becuase all of the people there killed themselves instead of going into slavery. It was amazing because you had to take a tram to get there and it was way up high. Everything was build into the mountain. You could see the ruins of the Roman camps below as they waited there until it was a good time to attack.

We went to Qumran next, which is where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was interesting to see how those people lived back then and how they thought of things. There was a lot of driving today. We had a "stomach experience" there as our driver calls it, and they had Shnitzel which is German food. It was really good, but I didn't expect to see it there. After lunch we went to the Dead Sea and it is so salty you can't even swim in it. My scraped knee from a couple days earlier burned like the dickens :-) You can't sink at all, you just float on the water. It was crazy and I have never felt anything like it before.

We rode camels next and it was really cool. I don't think I have ever ridden an animal before, mostly becuase I wouldn't want an animal riding on me. I tried it though and it was freaky. It stood up really fast and I thought I was going to fall off as I held on for dear life! We went back to the hotel and took showers and some of us went out on the town for the night. We walked around the old city wall and found a really good place to eat. We walked through the outdoor mall and I stopped at a pharmacy and got some stuff to pop my blister because it was just getting bigger and bigger, worse and worse. Hopefully, it is going to start getting better now because it is getting harder and harder to walk. We had some awesome food and had a great conversation with the owner of the restaurant and across the street we found a hot dog stand called "Doggy Style" we had to get Kosher hot dogs there. They didn't sell T-shirts, I asked! We laughed a lot and had fun as we walked through the old city to get back to the hotel. We saw a fight and these 4 guys were kicking this other guy and then someone saw his face and yelled out that he was jewish, and tons of people came to break it up, but not until they saw that. That is just an example of how bad the hatred and tension is here. It affected us all a lot... we all wanted to stop it, but didn't know how to handle it, being foreigners and all, and by the time we started thnking about it, it was over. Things are pretty bad here between lots of people... a lot of hatred in the town of Peace.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Israel Day 5

We went into the old city today and it was crazy. We started by going to the mount of Olives and overlooking the whole city. It was a really awesome view and we took a group picture there. We went into the gates of the city and looked around the pool of Bethesda. It was where people used to go to get healed once a year. St. Anne's church was right next to that so we went in and sang in there. It echoed like crazy so it sounded really loud and cool. Some other group clapped for us afterwards, so it was kind of funny! We went down to the place where Jesus started his journey with the cross. We walked on the entire path and it was pretty long. There were street vendors everywhere trying to get everyone to buy something. It was really nuts. We went to this church where Jesus tomb was and 4 different religions own it together so there are a bunch of churches there. Golgotha is also in that church and you can see the mountain and supposedly the spot where Jesus died. It was a really neat place put there were tons of people praying and kissing the stuff there and crying and stuff. The things and the location of where things happened are so important to so many people here, I am realizing how unimporant that is to me. It is cool to see the area and imagine what is was like, but to me those places aren't any holier than any other places.

We are some good lunch and had pomigranite juice to drink. It was really good... we shopped a bit and walked through the city some more. It was Shabbat and we went to the wailing wall, which used to be the western wall of the temple before it was destroyed. People were praying and crying and putting prayers in the wall. We had to cover our heads and got yelled at for writing on Shabbat. We went to the place where Peter denied Jesus and where he was held after he was arrested. It was a really cool place.

We had another lecture this night and we went to a place afterwards where a lot of US Expatriots hang out. We didn't meet anyone, but is was a cool place. T.C. and I had an adventure after that. He needed to go to an ATM and so I went with him so he wouldn't be by himself. We got lost and took a wrong turn into a parking lot. The people there were asking us for money and we told them no, but then they got mad at us becuase they thought we had parked in the lot and weren't going to pay them. We took off down the street and passed by St. George's church, it was lit up and really beatiful so we stopped and looked through the gate. We got harrassed by the guard, so we took off. We finally found that ATM and when T.C. was using it this police van came speeding down the road and peeled out around the corner. It slammed on its brakes and stopped right in front of us. This dude in the passenger seat jumped out and he had a machine gun. We thought that one of those people called the police on us for some reason and it was really freaky. The dude just got behind T.C. in line to use the ATM and that was all. Wow... my legs were a little shaky :-)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Israel Day 4

We left early in the morning, checked out of the hotel and hit a few places on the way to Jerusalem. The first major stop was Jericho. It is controlled by Palistinians so we had to go through a check point. Our driver Khaleel is amazing! He goes so fast and gets a 40 foot bus through very tight spaces. It's awesome! We saw a sycamore tree like Zachaeus climbed up (again of course they claimed it was the one, but who knows). We also stood on a hill around the area where Jesus was tempted in the Wilderness. Afterwards, we stopped at a glass shop where they sold hand blown glass from Hebron, which is like what Hatch, NM is to green chili, to glass. The dude banged the glasses together over and over again and they didn't break. It was a cool shop, but again, very expensive. After we got on the road again, we saw some Bedouin communities. I was drawn to them. They hunt and take care of their animals and when they run out of food, the move their comminities to somewehere else. They just travel around all the time. I don't think there is a United Methodist Church so I began to make plans to start Bedouin UMC here in the deserts of Israel. :-) The funniest thing was that some of their temporary houses had sattelite dishes attached to them!

From there we went to Jerusalem and Mike played a song for us and as it ended we drove out of a tunnel and saw this huge city right below us. It was awesome! We drove through the city into Bethlehem where we went to several places. Bethlehem is controlled by the Palistinians and Christians, so there was a checkpoint there also. I don't always understand all the gated communities, but there are tons of them for lots of different reasons. There are illegal squatters in some places that fence themselves in and then there are different people that own different parts of the country. It is all mixed up and it is clear that there is a lot of hate here. Everyone that is 18 has to go into the army for 2 or 3 years so there are tons of young people with machine guns all around. While we were here we went to the place where Jesus was born. There is huge church that is split between Catholics and Orthodox, so there are several different churches in one building. We went down to the caves where the manger was. It was at least close to the real place, but they had a star that supposedly marked the exact spot. Who knows?!?!?!

It was funny because it was very crowded and people were rude and pushing. I got knocked into a bench by someone and hit my knee. It hurt a couple of days later when i went into the salty Dead Sea! We then went to a shop and i talked to this girl that moved from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and she said she likes it better in Bethlehem because there are a lot of Christains and it is more calm and peaceful. It was interesting to hear her perspective on things and she said there are only bands that play there like one or two times a year. I need to start lining up a tour! :-) We saw a lot of Jerusalem driving around and got to our hotel. We were all so tired by this day! I crashed somewhere around 9.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Israel Day 3

Today we went and sailed on the Sea of Galilee. It was really cool and we stopped in the middle of the sea and talked about how the Sea of galilee is alive because it has fresh water running into it from the north and out of it from the south and the Dead sea is dead because it only has fresh water running into it and nothing running out. This sounds like the American church in many ways. When we got to shore we saw this boat that was like 2000 years old and had been preserved. It was pretty neat to see that, as it was the kind of boat that they used to use back then. We went to the place where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount and there are churches everywhere they think something might have happened. Place and location are a huge part of the theology here, I've been thinking about what that means a lot.

Just near this place, we went to where Jesus told peter to feed his sheep. This was a really neat place because there was a church built on the rock and part of it was inside and part was outside. It was also right by the water and it was very peaceful. This was one of the neatest places to me. Next, we went to Capernaum which was where Jesus spent a lot of his time. Peter's mother in law lived there and we saw the ruines of her house. It was really neat and big because she was rich. Peter sure knew how to pick em :-) The thing about all of these places and the places we see later is that there are ruines from lots of different times and people. So many different people have lived in this area, so there are remnants from all of them. You get to see things from OT time and Jesus time but also from when the Romans controlled it and so on. There were lots of pillars and headstones and stuff and it was really neat.

From here we travelled on the bus to the Jordan river. Some of us got in it and stuff, but it was really gross and there were tons of germs in it so you had to be really careful. Everything is marketed here so they say that certain places were actaully where things occured, but in reality it doesn't fit what we know. They are kind of symbolic places where things happened instead. Mike is a great guide and tells us about all of this so it makes sense. This is a great example. The place says that this is the place where Jesus was baptized, but in reality it had to be quite a bit south of there, closer to the Dead Sea. Nevertheless, it was a cool place and it was cool to see the river and what it was like around it.

After the Jordan River we went back to the hotel and attended a lecture. We had seen a bath house that we kept walking by so we decided to go after the lecture. A bunch of us and a few wives went to the bath house which was like 2 huge swimming pools filled by the hot springs there. It was supposed to have healing properties and I hope it healed athlete's foot from all of the people walking around that whole area in bare feet :-) It was obvious that lots of people used this facility and was even pretty crowded when we went. It did totally relax my muscles as I was pretty sore and that seemed to help it. One odd thing was that the changing room was co-ed. There were stalls for individual people to change in, but outside of the stalls by the lockers was just a huge mix of people. One observation was that the choice of swimwear in other countries greatly differs from the majority of people in the US. I'll leave it at that :-) This took many of us out of our comfort zone quite a bit, but it was a good time. Afterwards, a few of us went back to Galileo to see our friend again. We had a great talk and said goodbye because it was our last night there. We got his email address and he promised to visit us in New Mexico sometime when he comes to the States. When we walked out of there we heard some music, so a couple of us went to a dance club for a while and met lot of people, some of whom spoke english :-)

We went back to the hotel pretty late and had to get ready to leave in the morning.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Israel Day 2

The last thing we did before we went to bed was to walk around Tiberius for a little while and we stopped at this restarant/bar called the Galileo. We talked a lot to the owner there who was also the bartender. He was very nice and we got to know him well as the week went on. We crashed out around 11 like we would in our time so we could try to get used to the time. I slept well and woke up feeling well. We got breakfast at the buffet and were on our way to see the area around the sea of Galilee. The hotel overlooked the water and was very cool. We left right away around 8 in the morning and went to check out an awesome ancient town called Ceasarea that Herod built. We walked into this theater and I was thinking how awesome it would be to play music there. This was the place where Cornelius was baptized and it was awesome to be at the place where I, as a Gentile was included as one of God's chosen people. There was all sorts of cool things there in the ancient ruins and Herod's palace was right on the water so he could make a quick escape if he needed to. Our guide's name is Mike and he is very cool... he has great progressive theology. He said we should call Herod, usually called Herod the Great, Herod the Crazy and has been referring to him as that ever since.

After this we went to this place that was on top of what is called a "tell" which is just cities built on one another over and over again until it forms a huge hill. They dug out a slice of it so you can see all the layers, it is pretty rad! This is a place that is fought over a lot because it controls like 4 or 5 of the valleys, so it was very strategic to control it. There were tons of people killed there and it is called Mageto. The Jewish term for it is Ar Mageto which eventually turned into the word Armageddon. Many people think a last battle will be fought here one day because of all the past bloodshed. We went down into some tunnels and it was amazing how they tried to hold enemies off from here.

From there we went to Nazareth and saw the town where Jesus grew up. We went to some churches and went to a place where we could look down on a lot of towns. It is crazy, you can see all these towns in different places and there are absolutely no suburbs. We then went to Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, we didn't get any wine, but lots of people were selling authentic Jesus wine :-) After this, we went to a diamond factory where they clean and cut diamonds. Lots of people made engagement jokes to me and I deflected them :-) The gave us a good deal, but even good deals were way out of my price range.

When we got back to the hotel a bunch of us went into the downtown section of Tiberius. It was really cool... we walked pretty far and finally found this place to hang out at called Big Ben. It was karaoke night and most of the songs were in English. None of us wanted to sing, but we saw some pretty funny stuff. There was this dude in a terrycloth bathrobe with a towel around his neck. We has many guesses to what his occupation was. :-) After a while, we walked back towards the hotel. A few of us stopped back at Galileo and the bartender was much more talkative. He was telling us about the policial situaion and how he felt about living in Israel. It was very intersting. It seems we are making a friend here. There were a few more people there this night, amd it was a lot of fun!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Israel Day 1

We left on Monday at around 8:30 in the morning. Since it was an international flight, I got there a little earlier than normal. i was still the last one there I think, but in plenty of time. I was surprised to see that some of the people from around El Paso were there and others flew out of El Paso. They didn't know they had a choice, which is pretty unfortunate. I'm sure that's a little annoying, but it didn't seem to bother anyone too much. I repacked my stuff that morning into a lighter suitcase because it was supposed to be under 40 lbs. and it turns out that doesn't even seem to matter much, but oh well. We had a really short flight to Phoenix and then our flight to Philly got delayed, so we waited in the Phoenix airport for a long time. We talked and walked around the airport for a while and got some food. We planned on getting a pretzal and cheesesteak when we got to Philly but that didn't work out. It took like 4 hours to get there which was a pretty long flight, but I was sitting across the aisle from Joe who I hadn't seen in a while and we had a good talk, which made the flight go pretty fast. We talked a lot about new church stuff and i got lots of ideas floating around in my head that I've been thinking a lot about. We went to the New Church development conferences together and have many shared opinions and experiences in that regard. Joe's wife Alex was there too and she was really patient about putting up with our 4 hours of flapping our mouths :-)

When we got to Philly we had like very little time to get on the plane to Tel Aviv. Joe and I got a couple of refreshments as we were walking by, but the lady at the gate was rushing all of us pretty hard. We had to go through an additional security gate since it was an overseas flight. It was no big deal and it seemed like every time we got on a plane US Airways rushed us to get on and then we sat and waited once we were on the plane. It was kinda annoying, cuz i don't like rushing :-) My seat was not around anyone I knew and I went up and sat with Jeb for a little bit and ate dinner with him, then went to my seat and watched a few movies and slept. Jeb and i noticed a drugged up lady and a large number of people that went to the bathroom without locking the door. We woke up and got breakfast before we landed, I think the flight was like 9 hours or so. The neck pillow thing that I got worked like a charm. i was pretty comfortable and was able to sleep for at least a few hours. The time difference is like 9 hours ahead in Israel.

So we get to the airport and go through customs and get our bags. There were 3 ladies at my station and I showed them my passport and they start asking me qustions. i don't understand them very well, but it kind of freaks me out. It turns out that they just want to know about my piercings and which ones hurt and they told me how much they liked them. *whew* all was well. I don't have the best luck at check stations and things like that so chit chat was the last thing I wanted at that point, but it all worked out well. We got on our Tan bus and a lot of the people got on their Blue bus and we were off and headed for Tiberius. We passed tons of miliatry stations and lots of Muslim neighborhoods. They were all fenced off and it was amazing how separated people are here. Our bus broke down and we had to all get on the blue bus about halfway, and we hit rush hour so we got to the hotel pretty late, but we ate anyway and i did the first devotion of the trip.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Been a while

So the last several months I have been working hard to finish my dissertation. Any and all writing energy has gone into that so I haven't touched this blog. I have made a ton of progress and it has gotten approved by my first adviser. I am nearly done making all of the necessary changes, and am going to be turning it into my second adviser for approval today or tomorrow. In addition to that, I am leaving for Israel and Egypt for a couple weeks on Monday. I will try my best to update this blog about the trip, but I won't have a computer and internet access is pricey. I may just write things on paper and copy it here when I get back. My good friends have lent me their camera, which is very nice, so I'll have some good pictures when I get back as well. When my dissertation is done, I will be posting here much more often. I will try to post something once or twice a week at least. I look forward to the journey ahead with all of you!