Meandering Mormons

Have I ever mentioned how fun it is that when we walk around, everyone knows exactly who we are? And how everyone seems to have a special Mormon student price just for us? And how (thankfully) we seem to have a pretty good reputation as nice people? Well, it’s fun.

Have I ever mentioned how fun it is to meander, and stumble across churches, shops, museums, and incredible people? I have had so many faith-building experiences that could never have been planned, all because we happened upon people or places or things that tell amazing tales.

The director of the center warned us about “JC LDS,” or “Jerusalem Center Last-Days-Syndrome.” People start to get frantic and want to visit EVERYTHING they haven’t seen. I can honestly say that I feel pretty good about what I’ve done here! I’ve spent all the time I could out in the city, I’ve tried to participate in every activity, and I’m sure I’ve seen more than 98% of tour groups will ever see. (It’s just a matter of having 4 months versus one week, you know?)

This week we’ve done a lot of what we call “meandering.” We have destinations, but we are very open to detours. We have shopping lists, but they change every time we see something new. We have sack lunches, but falafel and shawarma just call your name sometimes.

We’ve also been studying the New Testament extensively. I simply can’t get over how amazing it is to sit on my patio, read the New Testament, and look out at the very places it all happened. In. Cre. Di. Ble.

At this point my photos can’t adequately portray how I feel about this amazing city! But to save you from reading any more sappy nonsense I’ll just show them to you anyway.

Rockefeller Museum. I don’t even know whose foot this is supposed to be but I guess it’s mine now, ha, ha.


When you go to a Russian church and one of you served a mission in Russia but the other one simply just has no idea what’s going on
Alexander Nevsky church. Has some of my favorite artwork anywhere. The paintings along the whole wall are huge, depicting the last days of the Savior’s life. It starts with his suffering in Gethsemane and ends with his resurrection. They


This is such a fun place. Jewish artists have their workshops and sell their art in the same place so you can see how they work.
Will I miss these sunsets? Is that even a question?
Whaddup just chillin on an ancient tower
Kathryn is a true homie. She’s half my personal photographer and other half trusty always-down-to-meander friend.
David Tower Museum (full of archaeology!)
Western Wall at night! We got to tour the tunnels underneath and walk along what would have been the whole temple mount wall back in the days of Herod. SO COOL! #totesworthit


This was our awesome tour guide for the tunnels. She has the most perfect tour guide voice. We’ve all been talking about how she should narrate a tour movie.


Trying to move the biggest single stone on the whole temple mount. It weighs 600 tons so don’t blame us for not being able to move it OK
I love seeing people in their element. Tons of Jewish people come here to pray and it’s so cool to watch.
The streets are so quiet when you go out early in the morning.
We got to come back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for our field trip this week and it meant so much more after having insight and information from our teacher.
Courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre


Not only is this church impressive and beautiful, but Orson Hyde stayed in the monastery here when he visited Israel.


Gotta have a street selfie.
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Beautifully simple.
Went back to the Alexander Nevsky church on our field trip and, again, it was so cool to get more info from our teacher. This is an arch preserved within the church from an ancient pagan temple.
This is in the basement of the St. Mark church – claimed to be the house of Mark and where the Last Supper was. The nun who gave us an explanation was so great. I tried to film her talking to us, but she got mad at me so I just have a very, very short video of her, ending with “No camera, please!!!”
Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
What happens when you go out the city right before shabbat? You get asked if you want phylacteries multiple times and you see lots of people using them to pray.
A classic photo shop that a lot of people buy from. The man running the shop sells photos his father took in the early 1900s. Some of them are in a museum in the city and they are all amazing.

I went thinking I’d be a beach bum, but I actually turned into a somewhat more responsible adult

Like I said in post #1 about Galilee, I absolutely fell in love with the area and was sad to leave. (That’s how I feel about the Holy Land in general, but I try not to talk about the fact that I’ll have to leave soon).

But Galilee was pivotal for me because I had a breakthrough. I’ve always believed that deep down inside of me there existed a morning person, and I think I’ve finally found her! It helps the cause a little bit to have a gorgeous beach where you can wake up and write in your journal as the sun rises, and go for a jog and see towering palm trees every way you turn. I got in the habit of waking up early while there and I hope to continue. Especially because I have heard a noticeable number of people quote President Hinckley about this over the past few weeks and I think it is a direct message to me about what I should be improving: “If you go to bed at 10:00 and get up by 6:00 a.m., things will work out for you.” There’s an article that cites this that I found very motivating if you want to read it. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t read every word. Gotta keep a tight schedule so I can go to bed at 10! Lol. I have a test tomorrow. Should I just test it out and go to bed even if I don’t finish studying? I doubt the promise applies if you’re spending all your time blogging . . . hm . . .)

Anyway, now that you know I’m on the path to becoming one of those nutty people who wakes up early every day and exercises before attending to their mundane responsibilities, here are the rest of my photos from Galilee!

St. Peter’s fish! (Tilapia)
OK so this picture is deceiving. I didn’t ACTUALLY bit its head like that. I probably tricked you with the super believable photo though, right?
WOW sunsets over Galilee!!!
I don’t really know what I’m doing here. This was just a cool place we hiked to


This looks modern but it’s actually a thousands-of-years-old sacrificial altar (I think that’s what it was?) pretty cool huh?!
Lapping from the spring where the soldiers drank from and the ones who used their hands were the wise ones. I am not wise, apparently. This is why we study the scriptures.
Thought I’d better have a photo of what I see every time we go on a field trip.
All the Allisons at the headwaters of the Jordan River! (For some reason we all started calling each other Allison).
Another waterfall. SO GORGEOUS. Can’t swim in this one though, bummer, woulda been nice, it was HOT that day
Bri and Brittany! Love these girls.
Christa! We are at Caesarea Philippi, where Paul testified of the Christ. Is our testimony as firm as these rocks? Hopefully.


Bekah, Alison, Alison, Alison


Cool scrap metal art at an old battle site.
Crusader period castle that has been turned into a museum. So much fun!
Abby, Scott, and mossy green stuff on the wall of a creepy tunnel under the castle.


Made it to the Mediterranean Sea!


View from the top of Mt. Carmel


Bahai gardens in Haifa, Israel


Templar’s cemetery in Haifa, Israel. Two early missionaries from the church died and were buried here.


One of the early converts to the church in Israel.
Another ancient Roman city, Caesarea!

LAKE of Galilee!

I found out last week that the “SEA” of Galilee is actually a freshwater LAKE!

I can’t say this was actually disappointing to me, I just wanted to make this dramatic.

Anyway, I fell in love quickly with the Galilee area, and was just as sad as the next guy when my 11 days there were up. But more than anything, I’m happy and grateful for the experiences I had up there!

Out professor encouraged us to think ahead of time about what we hoped to get out of our time in Galilee, and I wrote down a couple of ideas. One of them was that I wanted to have a favorite miracle story from the Savior’s earthly life. Why does this matter to me so much? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to have one I could refer to as my favorite. Know where to turn in the scriptures when I need a boost. Know myself better by knowing what I relate to and am affected by.

As unimportant as it may have seemed, it was accomplished. When we read the story in Mark 9 about a father who wants his son healed, it struck me (like it always has) and I can now say that it is my very favorite. It’s the story that Elder Holland spoke of in a talk a few years ago: “Lord, I Believe.” Because when the Savior says all things are possible for those who believe, the man says “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

I have always been pretty sure of my testimony. That’s never been much of an issue. But I find this story so real and relatable because it is a reminder that we are all imperfect and sometimes we don’t have perfect faith. But when times are difficult, and we are struggling to overcome challenges, where do we turn? If we turn to Christ, as imperfect as we are, rather than turning somewhere else, it shows we have at least some measure of faith in him. And we are blessed for that, and our faith grows as we see the blessings from our Father in Heaven.

Since I already wrote one paper (for my New Testament class) about this story, I’ll leave it at that. Here are about a milllllion photos. Come on, 11 days, 8 of them involving field trips, all centered around some of the most historically and religiously amazing places in the world?! How could I NOT have a gazillion?! (Actually, I’m going to split this up into 2 posts. I just can’t bring myself to put that many in one post).

What kind of road trip would it be without stopping at an ancient Roman city?
The Church of the Enunciation in Nazareth


Inside the Church. It’s supposed to represent a lotus flower reaching downward, showing that we get our nourishment from above.


These awesome mosaics were donated from a ton of different countries and they are all so cool! We are just a couple of Chilenas so excited to see our country represented!
The Sea of Galilee from above on Mt. Arbel
Wind turns me into a colonial captain or something
Going canoeing! Luckily I had the foresight not to bring my camera in the canoe. We were tipped. Of course.
The next day we hiked to this nice little waterfall grotto


Wow! Cactus tunnel!
We stayed on a kibbutz that has some banana fields and we got to learn about the process! They didn’t give us any bananas though, sheesh that was disappointing.


Capernaum! Where MANY of the miracles you find described in the New Testament are found.


Me n’ Peter
Mount of Beatitudes church


Church of Peter’s primacy


Synagogue of Magdala. They only uncovered it as of a few years ago, and my teacher is certain that Jesus taught here.
A church built at Magdala with a fisherman theme.


Nothin’ like a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee!




Best double whammy of all time

I love Christmas.I love the 4th of July. I never thought I’d get to have the two together!

On Monday, July 4th we went to Bethlehem, so we celebrated the 4th by singing Christmas hymns all day and talking about Christmas stories. It was a fabulous day. (Plus, we got to celebrate the 4th in pure America fashion by having burgers and hot dogs the night before).

I have always adored the Christmas hymns. Imagine how surreal it was to sing “Silent Night” overlooking a shepherd’s field right under Bethlehem. I felt such a sobering peace in that town, especially as I reflected about the humble life of the Savior.

We only celebrate the beginning of his life so much because of what happened at the end of his life. He did what no one else could do for our sake, and we would do well to humble ourselves and remember that fact more often. I can’t say that I’ve become a completely different person here, or that I’ve changed in every way that I would like to yet. But I have been humbled time and time again and I have become more deeply and sincerely grateful to God for all he has given me.

I’ve become more grateful to live in the United States, as well. I even got emotional when on Sunday night we sang the national anthem together. All you back home know how much I LOVE America. I go all out for the 4th of July, my “bald is beautiful” bald eagle long-sleeve tee is one of my most prized articles of clothing, and I have been known to begin a “U-S-A” chant on more than one occasion. But this was deeper than all of that. A feeling of gratitude that I live where I have opportunities, safety, resources, and most importantly, religious freedom.

So, yes, I think you could say that celebrating Independence day and Christmas together was pretty much the greatest double whammy of all time.

The rest of that week was excellent as well. I keep thinking it can’t get any better, and then it does. We keep discovering new places and meeting new people who have incredible stories to tell. I’m fascinated by every church, every historical monument, and every person here. I’m starting to feel a sort of urgency, pushing me to take advantage of any and all free time I have here, because there is just so much to see and so much to learn! I’m grateful we have more free afternoons and infinite ground to cover.

We tried to dress up and options were limited. All I could think about was my gigantic AMERICA sweatshirt I left at home.
Just a little sneak peek of the amazing barbeque
We wreaked havoc on all that food. It’s not the 4th if you don’t eat way more than should be humanly possible, right?
I didn’t get there in time, but our awesome chefs made an American flag cake! And it was GOOD.
On the way to Bethlehem we went to the Herodium(n depending on what language you’re speaking. Do I sound like a historian yet?) which was one of Herod’s palaces. This place was CRAZY HUGE. He also may have been buried there but who really knows.
View from the top of the palace
Inside the church of the Nativity. It’s under renovation right now so we couldn’t see much. Here’s my motivation to come back someday . . . 🙂
The chapel adjacent to the Church of the Nativity


The Milk Grotto, where tradition says Mary stopped to nurse the baby Jesus and some milk spilled on the ground. Women who are having trouble getting pregnant, etc. come here seeking a miracle. It was such a special place to think about the importance of mothers and Mary’s special role in the Savior’s life.


They told me I couldn’t buy it cause it “wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.” Whatever, joke’s on them, I don’t even have enough money for something like this anyways!!! (Just kidding. I already bought one about a 200th of this size and that’s good enough for me).


Sunset over the shepherd’s field
Ellie was trying to photobomb me but it ended up being cute, OF COURSE.


The selfie struggle is REAL
Look at this luxurious taxi we were in, WOW
The last stop on one of our field trips. These are the steps from Herod’s time that went into the temple. We can be quite sure that the Savior walked up them. What a special place to be! He loved the temple so much. We always talk about him cleansing the temple as an example of when he was stern instead of loving, but I think it’s just yet another example of his great love. It shows how much he cared about the sacredness of his Father’s house, the ordinances performed there, and that we show respect for it.
Meet Harry. He makes beautiful Armenian style pottery and gave us a tour of the workshop. We call him Harry Potter 🙂 hehe
One of my favorite ceramic tiles from Harry’s shop. Ha, um, really though why would you want to hang this in your house


Jerusalem tour train!
Christ Church. The more we learned about it the less I was able to decisively say who goes here, but I think it’s currently a meeting place for Messianic Jews as well as Palestinian Christians. Talking to the guides there was fascinating because they both considered themselves to be Jewish, but believed in Christ. One never believed in religion whatsoever until he moved to the Holy Land because his mother had been living here. The other was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family and stopped practicing altogether as a teenager. Then he started learning more about Christ and the whole thing just made a lot of sense to him.



Ein Karem

I’ve gotten behind, oh no!  A couple weeks ago (yikes) we went to a cute part of Jerusalem called Ein Karem. It’s supposedly where John the Baptist was from and there is an impressive church there commemorating his being born there. It also has some of the best ice cream we’ve had while in Jerusalem, amazing stained glass windows in a hospital (which we had quite an adventure hiking to and finding), and great views from hilltops (like all of Jerusalem). It was a lovely day and we only got lost trying to find things a few times, ha ha.

Some person’s gate
The hospital with the windows!
The outside of the windows because we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside . . . ???


A gorgeous Russian Orthodox Church. We got there just in time to see the priest entering. We caught a glimpse of the service, too, but when they were trying to usher us in, we decided we probably shouldn’t get involved in something where we have absolutely no idea what’s going on and we know zero Russian.
A mosaic depicting Mary and Elizabeth on the outside of the church


See, isn’t it a cute town?
Outside the John the Baptist church
Inside the John the Baptist church. We almost got locked inside . . . they had already closed the gate as we were leaving and we had to ask a monk to open it up for us I freaked out a little and he was laughing at us. Not an every day occurrence, you know?

I am Indiana Jones! We are all Indiana Jones!

OK I should tell you something: I’m not really Indiana Jones! And neither is anyone in my class.

But we went to Petra and some other INCREDIBLE places in Jordan this week, so we basically feel like him. (We even watched the movie in preparation. At the part where Indiana and the others are riding their horses into Petra, we all cheered).

I don’t know if you remember me talking about how asleep I was during the whole Egypt trip we went on, but this trip was better as far as alertness goes. I don’t know why, exactly, but I had more energy. We also had a lot more free time to explore, take photos, etc. which made it really fun. We even set a record for the longest time to get through border control coming back into Israel—four hours! A small price to pay for such an incredible time.

Selfie in front of a store called selfie 🙂
A real brownie! Jordan rocks!
Entering Petra
Looks soooo familiar – Glen Canyon anyone?
People used to live in the walls or use the caves as tombs


The Monastery at Petra


I honestly should have counted the stairs because there were MANY
Meditating in an ancient temple
Camel caravan selfie!
Aren’t we such a good-looking crew?!


The Treasury (which wasn’t really a treasury but has traditionally been called that)


That hike was definitely worth it!


Do you see the resemblance between us and this elephant statue?


Whaddup homies


Jabbok river, where Abraham may have crossed
An ancient Roman city in Jordan


A crusader period castle!


It was the end of a long day and quite honestly I can’t remember what this was called
Temple to Hercules


King Abdullah I Mosque, Amman, Jordan


Minaret of King Abdullah Mosque
I could get used to this head scarf thing. Never have to worry about my hair again!


The river today
Church at the baptismal site
Mosaic of the Pope with the Jordanian royal family 🙂 why do I love this so much?
This was my favorite part: we went to the River Jordan at what is considered to be the Savior’s baptismal site. This is about where the river would have run in ancient times.
Mosaics are everything and everywhere in Jordan

Feelin’ 22: Miserable and Magical

Trying to somehow capture the whole “feelin’ 22 vibe.” Is it working?

Well, I turned 22 and only listened to the song “22” about 1800 times. (Or maybe like 3? The line gets blurry after the first one because it gets stuck in your head anyway). Some friends here had already been planning a day at the beach in Tel Aviv, so I decided to tag along and consider it my birthday celebration. And. There is a really good Mexican restaurant in Tel Aviv. And. You can rent bikes there. So. Pretty great, in my opinion.

Yes, you may have noticed that I borrowed some of T-Swift’s lyrics for my title. It’s because my birthday was basically the exact same as her music video for that song.

See what I mean? Literally the same thing. Went to the beach, partied with my friends, and rode bikes! OK so there were just a couple minor differences: my shorts were definitely longer than hers, I ate a burrito instead of cake, and I rode a bike by myself instead of with some guy I met at a party. Also, we didn’t really party (I should probably clarify that for the sake of my reputation and just in case someone who could kick me out of Jerusalem reads this) (now it sounds like I said that to cover up even though I did party but let me assure you I did NOT party), except for listening to our favorite jams on the bus ride to Tel Aviv.

Why “miserable and magical”? Well, it was magical. It was everything I wanted on my birthday (though I missed my family and people at home, of course). I even got to eat a pork burrito! Have I talked about that enough yet? I don’t think I can talk about it enough. Also, the beach is the best medicine I know for a finals-worn-out soul. What about miserable, though? Well. It was MISERABLY HOT. You know how I feel about heat. I was sweatty. I also got sunburned, which I didn’t think was possible after slathering yourself with SPF 70 multiple times, but there you have it, folks: my skin never ceases to amaze.

Despite finding all those things to complain about, I’m so glad I got to celebrate my birthday in such a wonderful place with such wonderful people! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling . . . well I don’t feel much different from 21, but what the heck, I AM FEELING 22!

Hellooooo Mediterranean Sea


Emma is cooool


WE FOUND A GUY SELLING MEXICAN EMPANADAS AND THEY WERE POSITIVELY DIVINE AND I NEARLY CRIED (this was pre-burrito dinner so it was just a fabulous bonus)


Jenna’s freaking out like me about Mexican food
The restaurant was tiny but everyone wanted to come so people kept having to peek between these plants and say hi 🙂
After Mexican food, we found some deliciously SOFT cookies (that is not a thing here!)


End of a long, exhausting, wonderful day.