Where to begin? There are 18 students in the program from all over the US (and Canada too!). We're living in a neighborhood between Gilo and Beit Safafa, which is right outside of Jerusalem. The apartment that I'm living in is ahhh-mazing! It's a three bedroom, two bath, with a huge kitchen and living room. More than enough room for the six girls that are living here. There was a note for us from the previous semester's MESP students saying it had been dubbed "The Penthouse." So we're sticking with it.
I honestly don't really know how to summarize everything that has happened in the past three days. I've seen so many amazing sights, met incredible people, and gone through the entire spectrum of emotions. Coming into this experience I really didn't have any expectations. I was just so ready to be here and experiencing whatever I could that I didn't put much thought into how I thought things would be, just they would actually be.
Here are a couple excerpts from the journal I'll be keeping for myself while living abroad:
Thursday, 8.29 "It's so strange to think about how anxious I was only a couple nights ago. I was terrified of so many things. A certain amount of that fear was appropriate, but now that I'm here the sense of peace I have is indescribable. There is no doubt in my mind that I'm in the right place and doing the right thing. I just pray that I will have an open heart and mind this semester. I want to embrace and learn from as much of this culture as I can."
Friday, 8.30 "During our tour of the Christian Quarter in the Old City we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I don't think I've ever even heard of it before, which is strange considering the insane amount of pilgrims that travel there each year. The fact that so many religious groups are literally cohabiting within the building is mind-blowing. It was fascinating to see all the pilgrims who came to see where Jesus was crucified, prepared, and buried. To me it just didn't seem like the right place. It will be interesting to compare my feelings when I go to the Garden and see the tomb there."
Saturday, 8.31 "We went into Bethlehem today, which meant actually crossing into the West Bank. As with everything else on this trip I had no idea what my expectations were or how I thought I would react. Walking through the check point physically made my body ache. All the gates and walls and barbed wire and showing ID--it made me feel caged. My heart is so heavy for the people in this place. Again, I don't know what I thought I would feel but my heart just ached. It took a lot for me to hold back tears. Maybe some of that was just being over-tired, but I don't think so. It was a lot for me to take in and I'm still processing it."
The Jewish cemetery on the side of the Mount of Olives.
Pilgrims touching Golgotha.
This is what my walk to school looks like!
Graffiti on the wall.
These first three days have been amazing, but really hard at the same time. Thank you so much to everyone who has been thinking about me and praying for me in these past few days. I am so appreciative! Please don't stop now, I'm going to be relying on all of my prayer warriors like crazy this semester. Living in a different country is hard! I just want to be able to read the street signs....eventually I hope to get there.
Sending all my love to you from across the country!