Friday, September 6, 2013

The dust has settled. Mostly.

Hi everyone!

So it's Friday night here (which is our weekend), and things are finally calmed down a little bit. I figure it's time to send a quick update to let you know how things are going.

I'm still feeling the jet lag. Only today have I felt at some point in the day like I was functional again. But I still bottom out around 1 or 2 every day. I imagine I will tomorrow, as well.

Our class schedule is bizarre! In fact, the whole schedule is bizarre. Hardly anything is regular. One day we ate breakfast at 6:30. The next was at 7. Then another was 8. Some classes will be an hour long. Other sessions will be two. It's pretty much all over the place.

There are 80 people here - about 28 guys and 52 girls. Yeah, not a surprising ratio in the church. And now that my roots have a place to plant themselves again, my social life has found it's feng shui! I'm so glad to have a place to call home again!

Homework is pretty darn intense. Like, lots and lots of reading. But the teachers are both brilliant and enjoyable! Apparently my Ancient Near East professor is one of the world's top authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pretty cool beans. It's also interesting that my teachers live a floor above me.

Speaking of the center, this place is magnificent! Just about anywhere you go, you have a beautiful view of the Old City. What I mean by the Old City is original Jerusalem, which still has a wall built around it. But since Jerusalem has grown beyond those walls, the city simply continues on after the walls for a long, long while. Anyway, we are so close to the Old City that we could walk there from the center in about 5-10 minutes. If it wasn't for that tree in the way, I could look out my bedroom window and look at the dome of the rock.

So the center is located on Mount Scopus, which is in east Jerusalem, a primarily Palestinian neighborhood. We get along very well with our neighbors, and the church aggressively broadcasts a neutral stance here. We make friends with all people of the Holy Land; we don't take sides, and even our staff is integrated. A small section of our center is a little art gallery, which contains paintings from both Palestinian and Israeli artists. It's quite a remarkable thing to be able to foster the spirit of peace and cooperation here. I really like our staff.

Many of the students agree, myself included, that one of our favorite things here is listening to the Islamic call-to-prayer songs, which broadcast on a loudspeaker from the Mosques five times a day. I don't know how to describe the music, because it's not really like anything we listen to at home. But to hear it reverberating throughout the city hills while we eat our meals is an entrancing experience.

Our cafeteria is called the Oasis. Can I just say, they serve such great food! I get real yogurt every day for breakfast if I want. And tonight we had chicken Shawarma for dinner. Think of the cafe at the end of Avengers - that's Shawarma. The only problem is, with our bodies wired to think we've been up at midnight and all of the great food we have here, my stomach is accustomed to more food, which means I'm more hungry all the time. That will make my Fast Saturday tomorrow easier... :S

I know, right?? Fast Saturday! That's two fast days in a month. But I'm okay with that. I always have wonderful experiences on fast days.

Well! We've finally stumbled our way through most of the orientations and initial setup. And most of jet lag. That means that the real fun begins next week. On our second weekday, which will be Monday, we'll do a tour of some significant sites around Jerusalem. As the semester progresses, our travels will reach further and further, going as far as Istanbul, Turkey!

This is going to be an experience like nothing I've ever had before. I'm so excited!


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