Saturday, February 28, 2009

Well everyone, I leave for Jordan early Monday morning which is way exciting! We arrive back here Thursday night and then we have an all-day field trip the following day with another adventure on Sunday all day so life is busy over here like always. Thursday night, we had our HUGE Seder Meal. Even though Passover does not actually occur until April 9th, we follow a different calendar than the rest of the world at the Jerusalem Center. I’ve learned to just go with the flow since plans are constantly changing. So our celebration lasted for four hours as we read the story of the Exodus, sang songs, participated in the rituals of the festival, and ate kosher (“fit”) food. I felt like we were eating for three hours straight with the five course meal of an appetizer (fish...Yuk!), salad, soup, BBQ chicken with broccoli, and two different desserts. It was pretty intense stuff and quite an experience. I might even make this event a new holiday in my life from now on. Friday, I went to the Jewish Market which is absolutely crazy before Shabbat (the Sabbath) begins at sundown. Although it was freezing cold, super windy and rainy, I had a way fun time watching everyone run around buying last minute essentials for the following day. The smells of the market and the Old City in East Jerusalem are SO different than anything I’ve ever experienced in America so it can be quite nauseating at times. On our drive home with my awesome Old Testament teacher, Brother Wilson, we stopped at the Pita Factory where we got to see the process it takes to make this phenomenal bread. We walked out with a free pita in our hands so I would consider it a successful outing. As soon as we got home, we rushed off to the Humanitarian Project to make hygiene kits for victims of the Gaza Conflict. It was so fun to provide aid to those less fortunate than me and was definitely worthwhile. That evening we had a devotional with Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander and his wife Joni which was an inspiring meeting. My favorite statement from Elder Neuenschwander was when he encouraged each one of us to use our time wisely exploring all the wonders of this land and immersing ourselves in the incredible opportunity we have to participate in this study abroad program. We had district conference today with members of the church from the Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Galilee and Tel Aviv branches. What a sight to see the faithful saints of the Middle East gather together and take part in the sweet spirit of the gospel as a community. I feel so lucky every day to be in this Holy Land. I am so grateful for everything I have learned in my journey thus far and I am so stoked for the experiences I have yet to encounter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Today we had a crazy fun field trip visiting the City of David and getting our pants completely soaked through Hezekiah's Tunnel, a water supply system, hence the reason we all got wet. This tunnel served as an aqueduct to provide Jerusalem with water during a future capture by the brutal Assyrian army. The tunnel was excavated by two teams starting at opposite ends and met at the middle where I saw the Siloam inscription which contains one of the oldest records of Hebrew using the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. I'm not actually sure what all of that means but it's still cool stuff. I felt like a spy travelling through Hezekiah's Tunnel and sneaking into the city to conquer the land. It took about 30 minutes to walk through the entire pitch black, narrow tunnel so it was definitely a glorious experience! After we all made it through the tunnel, alive thankfully, we visited the Pool of Siloam which is the real place in John 9 where Christ anointed the eyes of the blind man so that he could receive sight. It was cool to actually touch the exact spot where this story in the Bible occurred. The stones that ascend this pool are the literal steps where Jesus Christ and His apostles walked frequently. How amazing it is to encounter places depicted in the Bible with my own eyes. Every day I marvel at the wonders of this land; there is so much history! As I have been informed by so many people this week, I am halfway through my trip which is absolutely crazy. Quite frankly, I'm not ready to come home just yet as there is much more exploring , experiencing, learning, and discovering to do!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It has been a pretty mellow week for me so far but don't you worry...I still have things to share. Sunday was a free day but the weather was not very pleasant so I decided to stay in and catch up on some reading. In my attempt to get ahead in my classes, I kept dozing off so finally I gave up. Since I am the worst nap-taker of all time and couldn't EVER fall asleep, I tried reading once again but by that point, it was time for a girl's night out! We are not allowed to be out after dark without a guy so technically it wasn't completely exclusive (ridiculous I know). We went to see Bride Wars which was in English with Hebrew subtitles so it was quite an experience. It was great to get out on the town and feel like a semi-normal college student. Monday and Tuesday consisted of morning classes which is always such a joy (sarcasm intended). Yesterday I needed to do some errands which is usually difficult since you have to bribe two other people to join you. I am so looking forward to having my car once again and completing simple, mundane tasks like this ALL by myself. Last night was another insane game of soccer where two guys rolled their ankles and the rest of us now have bruised shins. I think we forget that none of us have shinguards but it's still great fun! Today I went to the Sisters of Sion Convent which was fun to take pictures inside. Even after reading the handy pamphlet provided, I still didn't really know the meaning behind it all but there was a way old Roman road that has been preserved which was pretty cool. Well I think that's it for me tonight.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another week has flown by once again which is totally crazy!! It has been really cold and rainy this week so I have stayed inside more than usual. I know that's wimpy of me since I'm not even in snowy Provo but I'm a California girl through and through. Tuesday was a fun day of shopping in the Old City since I haven't done that for a while. I got some sweet t-shirts which I was super excited about so I would say it was a successful outing. On Wednesday, we took a group field trip to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, which was a very sobering experience. Yad Vashem was built in 2005 as a memorial for those who suffered beyond belief and told the tragic story of the hatred exhibited toward the Jewish people. My eyes were opened this time to a new perpective as the tour focused on the positive attitude of the Jews during the darkest age in their history. The most influencial part for me had to be the Childrens Memorial. As I walked into the pitch black building where thousands of candles illuminated the entire room and every single name of the one million children who died were named, I was so overwhelmed as I thought about each innocent child who was killed by the brutal Nazi regime. It was definitely a life-changing experience. We then met our Jewish professor Ophir Yarden at Mt. Hertzel. This mountain commemorates the prophet of Zionism and the return of the Jews to Israel. That's pretty much the only point of this mountain so, honestly, not very exciting. Yesterday I went to the Knesset which is the legislative branch of the Israeli government. The tour was short and sweet but very informative. Last night was the Diner's Club in West Jerusalem. We found this hole in the wall pasta restaurant which was so ridiculously amazing! It was fun to get out on the town and feel like a normal college student just out to dinner with a group of friends. Today we had Old Testament and Ancient Near East for two hours each and took up our entire morning so it was quite draining if you ask me. I was supposed to have Arabic tonight as well but my teacher got sick so class was postponed! Even though Arabic is super fun with our hilarious teacher, I was not in the mood for more classes. Today we played another intense game of soccer which was absolutely amazing!! It was so crazy that I now have a swollen ankle from getting hacked at, a bruised left arm from being rammed into the door and an extremely sensitive coccyx so I'm feeling mighty fine. Shabbat Shalom!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

So yesterday was a free day which means we have the entire day to waste away our time and do whatever we want! It's awesome and always much needed every once in a while. I rang the bells at the YMCA which is across the street from the King David Hotel where the United States President stays on their visit to the Holy Land. Crazy stuff, I know! At 12:00pm sharp, me and my Egypt roommate Anne dominated Frere Jacques for 60,000 people! It was way intense and quite stressful since we only had one time to practice before the big debut. We made the best of it and rang those bells like Quasimodo has never heard before. Later I did some wandering in the Old City which was kind of pointless since everything starts winding down super early here (around 4pm-ish). We wanted to go to the Dome of Rock and then some churches but all our plans kept getting shafted so we gave up and walked home. Today I went to the Princess Basma Center for Disabled Children which was SO MUCH FUN!! I had the opportunity to work with 10 hearing impaired children. Although it was difficult to interact with them because of the communication barrier and the fact that I know an extremely minimal amount of their language, I made the best of it. The teachers expected us to come up with games to play (which we were not informed of beforehand) so we did duck-duck-goose and head-shoulders-knees-and toes about a thousand times. It was wonderful to take part in the community for once and see what life outside the Center and the Old City is really like. Later I did some shopping in the Old City which was very productive and then I had the most amazing brownie pastry in West Jerusalem. It definitely didn't come close to a big piece of homemade cheesecake but it was worth the 1 dollar and 50 cents I spent so I was pretty happy. My last exciting activity tonight was the best game of indoor soccer I've ever played!! It got pretty intense with me and Priscilla (legit intramural soccer teammate) owning all the guys. It was amazing to say the least!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hello again everyone. I know you just heard from me yesterday but I have a new addition to my blog! Check out the new photo link in the sidebar!! Sign in with and then type in the password as breana (That's me)! Enjoy!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Hello Everyone and Happy Valentine's Day!!! Today is Shabbat and what a wonderful day it has been. Sacrament meeting was amazing with touching messages about covenants, temples, and you guessed it...LOVE! The spirit was so strong and moved me to reflect on my experiences here so far and what opportunities await me with the time I have left. The first few weeks before the Egypt trip were going so slow and steady, moving at the perfect pace. Now it is February 14th and what have I done with my life? Well it has been an amazing journey learning more about the sacred books of the Bible, ancient and modern Near East, ARABIC, and other cool and exciting new things. I have seen some pretty important historical sites and cities that I never imagined to see with my own eyes in this lifetime. Although I am so thankful for what I have learned about the culture of the Israeli and Palestinians and the history of the ancient lands of the Near East, I have reflected a lot this week about what I have learned about the life of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I came here with the desire to gain a stronger testimony of my Redeemer and Exemplar and although I sometimes feel like I am not changing the way I hoped for, I gain so much insight about the baby steps I am making as I acknowledge the hand of God in my life everyday. I would be a most ungrateful servant of my Lord if I did not write down the spiritual promptings I receive. I love my Savior more than I could ever describe and am so eternally grateful for the infinite atoning sacrifice he provided for me that I may find a relief from my trials and hardships as I place my burdens at the feet of the Lord. "What greater love hath no man than this, that {Jesus Christ} lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). How wonderful it is that I may have a constant friend to turn to whenever I need a helping hand.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Family Home Evening was so much fun tonight because we were invited to a member's home in our branch who have the most hilarious kids ever! I had a blast playing and laughing a ton with them since we all know how children pull at my heart strings. I know I haven't updated my blog for almost a week now and I bet most of you didn't mind not having to deal with my shenanigans but sorry, I'm back! Since we have been back from Egypt, my homework load has escalated to a new level with reading, assignments, and quizzes all piling up. It's quite overwhelming at times but no worries, I still found time to sing in tunnels inside cisterns, do some shopping in the Old City, and experience my first encounter with phychotic people in Israel (refer to my My Blog List in the sidebar under The Holy Land with the title CREEPER for more info). We had a Conquest Field Trip last Thursday which was super cool visiting the city Jericho conquered by Joshua, the traditional site of the Mount of Temptation where Christ was tempted by Satan (hence the name), and Herod's Winter Palace where the evil "baby killer", as my Near Eastern Studies teacher refers to him as, lived when he got bored of his palace in Jerusalem (man, what a life). I had a jolly good time then but our field trip today was 100 times better!!! No one really knew what was going on so it was quite mysterious but ended up being my favorite one so far! We visited the five fortress cities in southern Judea that were established to protect the bigger city surrounding it but whatever, that wasn't really the coolest part. My two favorite sites today were Elah, the setting for David's encounter with Goliath and Micah's Cave which has absolutely no historical significance but we got to get down and dirty spelunking through "birth canals" (that is the actual name I'm not just being inappropriate). Although I never succeeded at hitting Goliath in the head, I did finally get the hang of using a sling shot...sort of. Let's just say there were no major injuries or hospital visits which occurred in my presence. After that, we visited Micah's cave and got covered from head to toe in chalky dust while climbing through a 1 foot in circumference hole that was way intense. A couple people started hyperventilating in the tunnel because it was dark and claustrophobic but we all made it out alive. That's it for my adventures today but to end on a spiritual note, Bishop Burton from the Presiding Bishopric of the Church spoke at a fireside here on Shabbat and he gave a simple but much needed message. He first started out with a baseball analogy describing how the pitcher is always trying to trick the batter just as Satan is constantly deceiving us. He stated that our advantage over temptation and deceit is the gift of the Holy Ghost so we must always be worthy to recognize the promptings of the Spirit. I appreciated the sweet but powerful testimony he bore as he blessed each individual that we might withstand the buffetings of Satan. I hope that when the Goliaths come and go in my life that I might fight them off with my newly gained sling shot skills.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

DAY 7 & 8 HALLELUJAH This is almost the end!!

If you are just beginning to read my novel about Egypt, it would make much more sense to start from Day 1 (just a hint). OK so this is my last post of my trip once and for all!! Hoorah! After getting my beauty sleep on Saturday, we visited the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. This sacred building is the burial place of the Muslim's most beloved prophet. Next we visited two other churches in Old Cairo that I have no clue what the names were but supposedly Mary and Joseph along with baby Jesus fled to them for refuge. Although I have never actually learned much about Christ's childhood, this theory didn't seem to resonate with me. I had my first Big Mac EVER as part of our sack lunch on the way to Saint Catherine's along the Suez Canal and Red Sea. It's not the best food I've tasted but there was nothing else to eat. The next morning started bright and early with a 2:00am wakeup call to layer on as many clothes as possible for our memorable hike up Mount Sinai. Although I had a life-changing experience, I can honestly say I have NEVER been colder in my entire life!! The only way for all of us to survive was to cuddle up next to the closest people beside us and not move. We looked like a pack of newborn puppies laying in a heap at the pinnacle of this mountain top. After watching the amazing sunrise, we began to walk down the mountain before hypothermia set in. As I strolled down by myself, I began to think about the difficult journey I have had to face in my life thus far and started to thank my Heavenly Father for the strength he has given me each step of the way to overcome every battle with a positive attitude. I know we are tried and tested so that we may more fully appreciate and understand our purpose here on earth and for that I am truly grateful. What a wonderful and absolutely unforgettable week I had and will cherish forever!


I'm sorry everyone for the extremely long novel that I have created. I give you all permission to skip over whatever part you want since I would never know anyways. So Thursday we were able to visit the Karnak Temple which is claimed to be the largest temple complex in the world. You better believe it is! I was absolutely blown away with the symbolism displayed about the New Kingdom Period by nearly every pharaoh from the 18th Dynasty onward who contributed at least a building or carving to one of the thousands of millions of columns. It was incredible! After that, I did more shopping in the Bazaar even though I vowed never to go back but what the heck. That night we travelled back to Cairo but instead of a nice clean plane, we were put on the nastiest train I have ever seen in my life. I went to bed right after our so-called dinner was served and our tables were transformed into our beds for the night. I slept in my clothes on top of the covers since there was no way anyone could get me to bundle up in those bug-infested sheets. We were woken up the next morning to breakfast at 6:00am which consisted of FOUR kinds of bread. At that point I had had enough of the train and all I wanted to do was take a shower in the dirty water (disgusting I know but I was desperate). After visiting the Egyptian Museum, shopping at another Bazaar (mall), linner at Hard Rock Cafe (it actually tasted american), we finally checked into our hotel at 6:00pm that night where I was able to take that beloved shower I had been longing for all day. It ended up being a fun couple of days with lots of filth and dirt. Next post...MT SINAI

DAY 4 Planes and Trains and Falukahs and Camels and Taxis and Carriages TOO!!

As you can see, we travelled around Egypt in just about every form of transportation you could possibly imagine! We've been told it's all for the experience...whatever. Wednesday was filled with more tours of old, historic buildings which was actually pretty cool. I know I'm a geek and I'm really ok with that. We started off the day at the Valley of the Kings which consisted of the tombs of Pharaohs such as King Tut, Sety II, Ramses the IV and VII, Thutmose the III and IV and a bunch more that you probably don't really care about. It was way sweet to say the least and was amazing to see the symbolism portrayed on the walls of every nook and cranny of the tombs. I can't wait for the day where I will have the opportunity to go to the temple for the first time and better understand the limited knowledge I have now. It will be so cool to make some crazy connections since I obviously have no clue what it all means at this point in my life. We visited the Funerary Temple of Ramses the III next which was a perfect picture of what ancient Egyptian temple-building was really like. Just as the floor level in our temples advance higher and higher as you proceed toward the holiest place, the Egyptians follow that same pattern in their architecture as one moves closer to the sacrificial altar. How cool is that?! We had some free time after our morning adventures, which was very rare, before we experienced a falukah ride (it's like a little motor boat) for the first time. We floated across the Nile River where a humongous herd of camels were waiting to take us for the ride of our lives! My camel's name was Mike Shoemaker and I don't remember my guide's name but he proposed to me right before our journey was over. I kindly declined and told him that I was not available. HAHA it was awesome!! I would have to say that the camel ride was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip; not just because it was totally crazy and may never happen again (unless my parents need a tour guide for their future trip to Egypt) but because my eyes were opened to how the majority of Egyptians really live. There were lush fields where sugar cane and onions grew at the start of our ride and then suddenly I was immersed in a small village with children alone on the streets waiting outside their homes to greet us along the way. Knowing me, I took as many pictures as I could of these sweet souls as I saw the light shining in their eyes and the innocence of their young age. The reason I adore children so much is because there is an aura about them that is absolutely contagious and never ceases to make me happy and laugh as I talk with them and see their curious faces exploring the world around them. It was a blessing for me to step outside of myself for a mere 45 minutes and realize the stark contrast between the luxurious life I was living in our 5-star hotel. That night was my first experience shopping in Egypt which was totally ridiculous and annoying. The shop owners were way more aggressive than the Old City which makes shopping in Jerusalem seem like a piece of cake. Next post...NASTY TRAIN ADVENTURE

DAY 3 GINORMOUS Pyramids and NASTY water

Tuesday was insane as we saw the incredible pyramids which can legitimately be classified as one of the seven wonders of the world! It is impossible for me to describe the magnificence of these amazing monuments!! All I can say is that I can't even imagine what the heck is hidden inside those structures (although many artifacts have been stolen and placed elsewhere), but it's probably more stuff than I could possibly attempt to accumulate in this lifetime! We saw the Sphinx of Khafre (son of Kufu whose tombs are right behind me on my left and right). That was way cool just for the fact that it is the first one ever built and I got to give him a nice big kiss...who can say they kissed a famous ruler from the Old Kingdom period?! I know I can! We had our first lunch in Cairo outside the hotel which was a little scary since our teachers successfully freaked us all out about the bacteria-infested food and water. We were told beforehand to only eat hot foods and fruit that you could peel yourself. Although I was kind of nervous, I did the daring thing and dove right into the culture exploring new foods of all shapes and sizes. To be completely honest, I was pleasantly surprised as I liked the majority of the various dishes I tried. Now that I am on the subject of the cleanliness problems of a third world country, I must tell you that all the rumors are true. It isn't as bad as everyone said it would be but it was pretty nasty to say the least. I actually never had one shower that I felt clean afterward which was way annoying but I guess it is all part of the experience. I am just grateful to be back home and be able to drink the water out of the tap and brush my teeth without a water bottle. We should all be grateful for the little things in life! Our last stop before we were crammed on a plane and taken to Luxor, Egypt (the southern part in Upper Egypt...confusing I know) was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara built by Imhotep as the first monumental stone structure in the history of mankind! Pretty cool, I know. I bet you are jumping off your seat at this moment. Well it was tons of fun to have no clue what was happening next all week long because plans were changing constantly which makes things spontaneous. I do love surprises!! Next post...more old buildings and CAMEL RIDE!!

DAY 1 & 2 The Flu + WAY LONG Bus Ride = ZERO Fun

Hello everyone! I made it back from Egypt alive and well HALLELUJAH!!! It was such a crazy trip and I have so many amazing experiences to share so I will take you through my adventure day by day so you and I both don't get overwhelmed and annoyed with all the details I love to share. Be patient with me as I try to portray the exciting and not so fun parts of my week. Beginning with Sunday, we left from the Jerusalem Center at 6:30am sharp with TONS of stops ahead of us and a super long bus ride which was dreadful. Starting out the trip with a cough and headache from coughing so much is not the best combination if you ask me. Also being shoved in a bus with people I just met three weeks before wasn't so pleasant either (do you get my drift?). The first day was a complete blur for me because as the day got longer and longer, I got sicker and sicker. I got the chills which progressed into a 103F fever. By the time we finally got to the Kibbutz where we were staying the night, I had cooled down some and it was nighty night time for me. The next morning I was much better so you can stop feeling sorry for me now. Going back for a second, you might be wondering what the heck a Kibbutz is (or not but I'm going to tell you anyways)! It's a small community of about 500 people who practice a form of communal living based primarily on agriculture. Basically, it is a foreshadowing of the law of consecration. Sharing each other's possessions, income, etc (you get the picture). It is definitely a different way of living so we got a taste of what it will be like in the afterlife. The next morning we had about six more hours of driving to our next hotel and across the Egyptian border which was actually a piece of cake. It only took about an hour for all 86 of us to get through. I love the Egyptians! They are totally chill. We arrived at our hotel at about 7:00pm after my Ipod was completely drained of battery and I was totally sick of being crammed in a bus with no chance whatsoever to fall asleep. We stayed at the Oasis Pyramid Hotel which was about a mile or two away from the Giza Pyramids so it was way cool! I know this is totally crazy but as soon as I found my room, which was practically impossible, I went on a mad search for the gym to get some blood pumping through my body after sitting for way too long. It felt amazing in case anyone cares and was a perfect end to my day which was finished promptly at 9:00pm. I totally sound like a bum but there was nothing I wanted more than to sleep off the rest of my sickness. It totally worked because the next day was the start of our wild adventures and extremely tiring days so I was up and running! Next post...GIZA PYRAMIDS!!