Sunday, October 6, 2013

So I was in Asia AND Europe today... nbd.

What's the best way to fly to Turkey?
By PEGASUS! (look at the wing)
Ah, the adventures begin. As if the adventures didn't already begin a month ago! Today began our first extended field trip. We woke up at 3:00 AM (Right when priesthood session started, actually) and flew to Turkey, where we will spend the next week!

Now if you were anything like me, you have no idea what's worth seeing in Turkey, or why anyone would go there on a religious-pilgrimage-style study abroad. Well, let me tell you. Now I know you. You're totally the kind of person that grabs your scriptures when you read my blog. Because let's be honest, everyone has those handy when they read blogs. A quick glance at map 13 of your scriptures would confirm that the Apostle Paul traveled all over Turkey on his missionary excursions. So we get to go follow in the footsteps of Paul!

So today we landed in Istanbul (not Constantinople) and immediately had our first meal in the city. It was a four-course meal at some ritzy place along the shore. At first we all saw them bring out this small appetizer and thought, "seriously? We woke up at 3 and we're starving, and your giving us this tiny little mushroom-crepe thingy?" But then when we finished that, they brought out more food, and then more food, and then dessert!

So after being thoroughly stuffed and tired, we set out to tour around Istanbul for the rest of the day. With only half a day remaining, we didn't see a ton, but what we did see was amazing!

1) First off, we drove over a bridge. Isn't that exciting!

...Why aren't you excited? Bridges are awesome. When's the last time you built something that could support cars while they cross a river? Seriously. But! Awesome architecture and physics aside, there was something special about this bridge. It is an inter-continental bridge! That's right, on the left side of this picture is Asia, and on the right side is Europe. Istanbul (not Constantinople) is a city of two continents. How cool is that?!
Asia on the left, Europe on the right

2) Next, we went to the Hagia Sophia. This thing is a massive piece of architectural genius! It was originally a Christian Cathedral, and the home of the Orthodox church. It was the largest church in the world for almost 1000 years! In 1453, when Istanbul (not Constantinople) fell to the Ottomans and became Muslim territory, it was turned into a mosque. Then when the Ottoman empire fell, it became a museum. So we got to go inside! I took 4 photospheres in the area. Check my Jerusalem Photosphere Album for all of those later.

3) After checking out the Hagia Sophia and the Turkish Archaeological Museum, we had a five-course dinner in the upper room of another seaside restaurant, which overlooked the view to these two continents. And now here I am in the Grand Washington Hotel! Not sure what the star-rating is here, but it's pretty nice in any case.

So! This week is going to be a great week. After being worked to the bone for the first month, it's almost like we're going on vacation, visiting amazing sites, eating great food and staying in nice hotels for a week. And yet all the while, we'll still be learning all about the sites and stories of the Bible.

And I'll tell you what, I've never seen the Old Testament come alive before like it has here. Seeing the sites is great, but it's really our Old Testament class that makes the difference. I read a lot for the class, but I get out what I put in. And as I've been putting all of this effort into my study, I've been feeling the spirit in remarkable ways. The Lord has been very carefully and intently guiding me to grow into what he wants me to be. There are ample opportunities here to feel the spirit. It truly it like a little piece of Zion out here, because we are of one heart and one mind, and I am always seeking to draw near unto the Lord.

Let me tell you what, folks. As you draw near unto Him, He will draw near unto you.

Stay tuned!

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