As the title of this post indicates things are still feeling a little strange for me. If I only take one thing away from this semester it will probably be the importance of communication, both verbal and written. We've started taking our Arabic class, which will last for about a month and be extremely intense. We've had two sessions with out teacher and I already feel like I'm floundering.
Here are some snippets from my journal so you can get a taste of my reality (a lot of it tastes like falafel!):
Sunday, 9.1 "After four days of constantly being around people I'm feeling really worn out. I love these people already and I love spending time with them, but it's really hard. I wouldn't always classify myself as an introvert but I'm feeling very introverted right now. I need some time to myself to process and rest. We toured the Jewish Quarter of the Old City today. So much information was thrown at us, and don't get me wrong, all of it was super interesting...but right now I'm too tired to appreciate most of it. We visited the Western Wall today. It was hot. I was miserable. I can't wait to go back and enjoy it for everything that it is when I'm rested."
Monday, 9.2 "We started the day with a speaker at the Center. Our speaker was a professor at BYU in Jerusalem. He told us all about the different levels (I think that's the right word?) of Judaism. It's really pretty crazy how all of the different groups are so distinct and easily identifiable when you know what you're looking for. He also taught us about the different Jewish holidays that are coming up this month. I'm stoked to be in Jerusalem during all the festivities. After the speaker we went grocery shopping for the first time. Talk about a new experience! I get stressed out enough trying to shop at Kroger, so a Jewish market made it a little hard for me to breathe. But I did manage to find some Ramen and cereal. So I guess you could say I'm just living the college dream over here."
Tuesday, 9.3 "Service project day! One of the awesome things about MESP is that we are so immersed in the culture. Instead of having class on Tuesdays we all have been assigned to different projects with nonprofits and schools around Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I'm volunteering at an organization called Musalaha in East Jerusalem. Musalaha is a nonprofit that focuses on educating women and youth about the importance of reconciliation from a biblical perspective. They often host speakers and hold seminars and conferences. I'm not sure what I'll typically be doing while at Musalaha, but today I spent the morning editing a chapter of youth curriculum. It's not something I've ever thought about doing before but it was really cool! Later, Donald and Spenser and I trekked back into the Old City. I'm seriously in love with that place already! We had an awesome night wandering around and trying to find a cool spot to make our usual. However, we found out the hard way that the buses stop running back to Tantur from the Old City before 9pm, which is when we tried to find one. So basically we all ended up paying 3 or 4 times more for a taxi than we would have for the bus. Lesson learned."
View of the Plaza from the Jewish Quarter
Holy Books to read prayers at the Western Wall
Damascus Gate to the Old City
All of my cat lover friends would appreciate the number of cats!
New moonstone ring!
So, I think this post makes it pretty clear that my feeling in the past couple of days have been just as hard to understand everything else in the Middle East. But I promise I still have no doubts that I'm in the right place. It's just that adjusting to life in another country is difficult! For now I'm just going to focus on Arabic...easier said than done when I just want to explore.