So I've just spend my first few days here in Jerusalem. It is nuts! I will be keeping a handwritten journal while I'm here, but I'll be using this blog as a journal as well.
After over 24 hours of traveling (everything in between the flights was sprinting to catch the next one), 81 other kids and I finally arrived here at the BYU Jerusalem Center. We were exhausted, we had dinner, and we had to (unsuccessfully) try to stay awake for orientation meetings. The kids in my group are all super cool. I love them! It's been really fun so far; everyone is super nice and we are all just so excited to be here.
Thursday was our first real day here and we all split into groups with our professors and the service couples on a walking tour of the Old City. It was nothing like I had pictured it to be! Ok, maybe a little bit, but I was definitely surprised. The city is alive! There are kids running around everywhere, shops just piled into every nook and cranny, and crazy corridors and alleys just waiting to be explored. I know I'll be lost for a few weeks, but I think those will be the most adventurous days.
Friday we had our first classes. It is going to be really difficult to balance the crazy school schedule here and having fun roaming the city. The curriculum is nuts. We've only been to 3 of our 6 classes and I already feel like we have a full schedule! Luckily some of the classes require the students to go explore the City and visit sites, so hopefully it won't be too hard.
Saturday was the Sabbath here. It was a little strange to have church on Sunday, but I think I'll come to like it better than church on Sunday. Sacrament meeting was in the upper auditorium of the building (on the 8th floor) and the back of the auditorium is a wall of glass with a panoramic view of the Old City. It was amazing! It will be difficult to pay attention in meetings probably haha.
Sundays are our free days! Right after breakfast we all grabbed our sack lunches and took off for a day in the city. My group of 5 went to the Dome of the Rock in the morning, which was amazing, and then spent the rest of the day shopping and doing the ramparts walk up on top of the city wall. The views were amazing from up there! I took a TON of pictures, but I'll have to wait till either late tonight (when no one else is using internet) or for a time when I can run over to the Hebrew University next door and get better internet to upload them. It was also cool to see the real living part of the city... the places that you don't see from the market streets. We saw some very dire things and some very cool things! We saw an elementary school out at recess and this big circle of kids were dancing to the beat of their teacher's drum. It was so cute! We stopped and watched and clapped for like 10 minutes. Between the Southern and Northern parts of the walk, we got dumped out next to the Western Wall, and in that 5 minutes we passed, we saw Senator McCain and Senator Lieberman! It was so crazy!! A couple of idiots decided to chant "USA", but they got shut up pretty quickly - by us and others around them. Also, while we were almost to the end of the Northern walk by the end of the day, we stopped on a corner and sat on top of the wall and hung out, and about 10 more people from the center showed up and we all just hung out - with a 360 degree view of the Old City, the Mount of Olives, and the Kidron Valley. It was amazing!
Today, Monday, was our first fieldtrip. We went on a "geographical field trip" to various high points around Jerusalem. We saw EVERYTHING around Jerusalem and visited some pretty cool and very Biblically important sites. It was so interesting.
It's hard to describe the experience here. The culture is so different - more different than I ever imagined - and every sense is stimulated as you walk through the City. It's the sights, the smells, the looks on the peoples' faces... It's everything, and it's all completely different. I am loving it here and I am learning so much! I can't wait to really get to know the people and be able to call this city home. :)