Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Little Slice of Life (with Nutella and Peanut Butter)

This post is for the sole purpose of giving you a little taste of what life is like here at the good old Jerusalem Center. Not the classes and homework, mind--just the fun bits of sweet and sparkle that make this an interesting and fun and exciting place to live.

The locals call this place the "Mormon University." If you tell a taxi driver to take you to the BYU Jerusalem Center, he will have no idea what you're talking about. If you tell him to take you to the Mormon University on Mt. Scopus, you'll be dropped at the front door for fifteen shekels.

The most popular treat here is not havla or gelato, but is in fact pita bread spread with nutella and/or peanut butter (my personal preference is for both). We eat it all the time. There's a special corner reserved for that purpose (and other breads, too) in the Oasis, and you can buy it after meal hours for one shekel (about 25 cents) at the Shekel Shack in the student lounge. According to my mother, this declicious treat has been a tradition for BYU students here in the Holy Land since before the Center was built--and probably at Ramat Rachel before that. And I do love being a part of long standing tradition...

Alyssa and Rachel Holdrige (there are four of us) enjoying  chocolate pita goodness in the Shekel Shack.
Speaking of the Shekel Shack, I attended the Grand Opening the other night. They had a whole ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a very loud but very fun dance party. I was a little standoffish at first (I don't know how to dance to modern music--never have, never will), but Mary dragged me unto the floor and soon I was hopping around with everybody else. I bought myself a peanut butter and nutella pita for a shekel, talked with friends, and enjoyed the creativity being exercised on the dance floor (which was actually quite impressive). The get togethers in the student lounge are a whole bunch of fun--I look forward to seeing what the activities committee will come up with next.

There is plenty to do at the Center, but since we couldn't bring much with us we still get creative with our play. The discovery was recently made that socks tractionless flip flops make great ice skates on the polished limestone floors, so I am thinking a stocking-feet figure skating competition will soon be in order. Volleyball and basketball in the gym are a must, and in addition to that a ping pong club has recently been organized (as a side note, the ping pong and Foosball tables are in the bomb shelters--I guess we really are prepared in there). A few students initiated the Sunset Watchers Club, of which I am a proud member--we sit out on the terrace and watch the sun go down over the Old City after dinner. The best I've heard of yet, though, is a creative use of water bottles. We get big two liter bottles every time we have a field trip or free day. I've been trying to conserve mine, but between the four of us we have a stash of six or seven under the desk in our room after only one week. I'm told that some of the FHE groups are going to put them to good use on Monday night by setting them up in the gym and having a bowling tournament. I am so there.

A gorgeous Jerusalem sunset as captured by the Jerusalem Center Sunset Club.
Me posing with out extensive collection of water bottle ten pins.
I have been practicing the piano off and on for fun, but the rooms are in high demand. The piano in Room 1 is out of tune and the one in Room 2 is electronic (a very nice keyboard, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing like real keys). Everybody wants the one in Room 3, but the end result is that I usually end up somewhere else. I am luckier than all the other musicians, though--I live with Katie and her little Celtic Harp. No contests there.

I couldn't resist this picture. Smile, Katie!
Everyone has been studying like crazy because we now have two new classes and, therefore, twice the reading. We have still made time to get out into the city, though, and I have loved every minute. Yesterday we visited the Austrian Hospice again (for the good view from the top) and the Church of the Holy Seplechure, explored Zedekiah's cave (complete with shadow-making competition) and did a little street market shopping. Every vendor we met promised a good price for the Mormons, and one particular scarf vendor just past Damascus Gate offered me a scarf for five shekels less than for Katie because he said he liked me more. The non-price tag version of commerce is a little frustrating sometimes, but I'm beginning to like it more--the interactions with the merchants are just too much fun.

We have our first test tomorrow morning, and my roommates and I are still singing our song. In fact, I have had it perpetually stuck in my head all week. I shall get down the lyrics I don't know for sure and post it tomorrow after I have (hopefully) aced my exam.

Boker Tov and Ma'assalama, everyone!

The beautiful patio outside mi casa.
PS) Please comment on these posts! I check all the time to see if anybody has said something about my little writings. I would love to hear from you if you've got a spare minute. I would also love to know who all is actually reading this--just for my own record. :)


  1. Hi Rachel- Yes, I do remember nutella and peanut butter with pita. I'm sure it was the cause of the extra 10 # I brought home from Israel! So watch out for the sneaky culprit. Thanks for your description of life at the center. You all are so creative! I'll look forward to hearing about the "ice-skating competition". Remind me of the significance of Zedekiah's Cave...
    love, mom

  2. Hi Rachel! Nutella on a pita sounds rather amazing; I may need to see about picking up both of those ingredients this week. Your description of living with a bunch of other BYU students in an enclosed building far from home reminds me very much of Washington Seminar (though there wasn't nearly as much culture shock going on there). I read your blog whenever you update. Keep it up!

  3. OK. Now I'm craving nutella. Thanks, Rach. :9 So wishing we could join you for sunset watching and water bottle bowling. Hit a strike for your Auntie! I'm thinking we're going to do strawberry nutella crepes and water bottle bowling for FHE next week--in honor of super-awesome cousin Rachel, the world traveler, in whom we are so proud. Keep the fun posts comin'!

  4. I loved your blog--it helps me to know what your life is like in Jerusalem. It sounds like you are settling in quite nicely! You could put your water bottles to good use by making a water bottle raft! The boys made one two years ago out of milk jugs and used it again this summer. We missed you at the Labor Day extravaganza at Grandma's--aka the hot dog bbq! Wayne and I caravanned with Mariel up to Rexburg on Tuesday. I hated to leave her there, but it's her time to progress!! Take care! I will continue to read your blog whenever you write! I love you! Aunt Linda

  5. Aw i love these posts! It sounds like you're having the time of your life! Love you!

  6. Hi Rachel I love your blog. I am very excited for you I loved traveling abroad and experiencing new cultures. Your adventure is an exciting one. wish I had kept a record like you.
    Love aunt Louise

  7. Wow!! You're in Jerusalem?! Gosh my dream. I love this blog. It makes me want to jump on a plane and go to the Middle East right now!


  8. Hi Rachel,
    I love your experiences with the vendors in Old Jerusalem. When we visited Israel to tour and see your mom, we loved going into the narrow winding streets of the bazaar and enjoying the fragrances of the spice shops and watching Sharma meat being sliced from the shanks of lamb rotating on vertical rotisseries. Best of all was the fun of interacting with the vendors. Some would call out, "hey Mormon, have I got a deal for you. The Mormon discount, 10% off ha, ha, ha". Most memorable was being offered 2,000 camels for your mom and Grandma. I turned the deal down because I had no way to get 2,000 camels back to the states.
    Luv, Grandpa Molen

  9. Rachel, you are such an incredible writer. I love reading your blog and keeping up with your life. Thank you for letting us live vicariously through you. Teach us what these places are; most of us will never get to go. Good luck to you. Love you

  10. I love reading your posts! Hearing about all your adventures is incredible, and they make me think of my summer in Berlin, with trying to balance classes as well as seeing the city!

    I hope you have a fabulous time in Turkey! I can't wait to see pictures :)