Sunday, October 28, 2012

Highlight Reel of Finals Week (and then some)

Yeah, we’re doing it this way again. Rachel’s a slacker on the blog—no big deal.  I do have a valid excuse this time, though. In the past two weeks I have had to juggle five tests, two papers, a field trip, several reading assignments, a field trip, and some part-time volunteer work as both a storyteller and a shepherd (don’t ask—I’ll get there in a minute). I should hope it is understandable, then, that my happy little blog has taken a backseat this week. I promise I didn’t disappear into the Judean Wilderness—I’m still here and still kickin’. So let’s do this. Here are the highlights of the past week and a half, for your viewing pleasure.

#1) I took my Ancient Near East midterm last Wednesday. I spent the two days prior to that trying to cram as much information into my head as possible about the whole history of civilization from 8000 BC through the fall of the Persian Empire (332 or so). I went over study guides, made many timelines and family trees, reread sections of the packet, Googled what I was too lazy (or too tired) to find in said packet, and conducted a study group the evening prior. By the time we were done, I could tell you anything you wanted to know about cuneiform, Hittites, chariots, ancient irrigation systems, Kathleen Kenyon, the Hyksos emperors, any Assyrian king that did anything worth doing, and the names, specialties, and (maybe) personalities of the superstars of four or five different ancient pantheons. I also felt like my brain was going to explode if anybody told me ONE MORE DATE or EVENT anywhere south of the BC line. I am happy to report that all that studying paid off quite nicely. I was at first a little put off by my 87%--but when I found out that the class average was a 76% I was very happy indeed. Brother Stratford is letting us gain back partial credit by doing some test corrections, so I should be able to earn back a few more percentage points from that. On the whole, I am pleased.

#2) Last week we watched a movie for Israel class called “Sallah Shabaty.” It starred the same guy who played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof in later years. It was a very funny show—and all the funnier because I got the jokes about Kibbutzim and Israeli immigrants and all of that from having learned about them in class. Speaking of Fiddler, we watched that one for the Friday night movie that same week. I quickly discovered that I have the show memorized. I can literally quote almost every line in the whole two and a half hour musical. I may or may not have actually done so under my breath (apologies to the girl sitting next to me).

#3) Our fieldtrip this week was AWESOME. We went to a Biblical nature preserve called Neot Kedumim (Nee-ote Kdu-meem = Beautiful Past). There I got to have some practice at my lifelong ambition of being a shepherd. None of us had really done anything like that before (though when asked May offered that she had a little lamb once). For having had no experience, we did pretty well. We took turns in groups and actually hearded a dozen or so sheep and goats around various obstacles and into a pen at the end. I carried little Abby Stratford around because she wanted to see the sheep but was too scared to go very close on her own. We got the sheep around just fine, albeit a little slower than the first group. My group had a special job after that, though—we were to separate the sheep from the goats. It was not easy—they simply did not want to go separate ways. I think maybe that’s what it will be like at the judgment day. Heavenly Father will have to figuratively separate the “sheep and goats,” but it will be hard for us to part from each other. We talked about that a little after we let the sheep go their own ways. Brother Judd brought a sign that said “I Love Ewe,” so of course I had to get a picture with the sign and the sheep. That’s what my name means, after all—“beautiful ewe.”
We did a lot of other things at Neot Kedumim as well. We observed different plants and learned about their biblical significance, including an almond tree, reeds, and fig trees (out of the leaves of which our guide fashioned what she called a “Biblical bikini”). We learned about hyssop and ground dried hyssop leaves into powder with mortars and pestles. We made pita dough and fried it up for lunch (Jackie did ours Navajo fry bread style—nobody else had any sort of experience with this sort of thing). We dipped our pitas in olive oil and date honey, and also ate some kind of lentil stew and hyssop herbal tea, all of which we made ourselves. It was all really good, actually—I could definitely go for the Biblical Brunch now and then.
After lunch we visited a Torah scribe and saw a real Torah scroll (it was huge!). Writing the Torah is a very sacred and very precise and very time consuming art that has been passed down from father to son since before the destruction of Jerusalem—so it was very cool to see it in person. Our last stops were to see a working cistern (from which we drew water) and to press olives. The olive press was another eye opening experience. We placed the flat baskets full of crushed olives one on top of the other, then started twisting the huge screw down harder and harder, increasing the pressure. As the pressure became greater, dark red olive oil began to seep through the baskets and trickle down the sides, running off into a basin at the bottom. I was shocked—it truly looked as though the baskets were bleeding. It made me understand the idea of Gethsemane so much more—the atoning olive press.

#4) I did not get out much these past weeks, as you can imagine. When I did depart the center, it was mostly for brief intervals—a walk around the city, some olive wood hunting, a stop by Aladdin’s, that sort of things. I went with Eliesha and Sarah and Liz and Kate (not Katie—different girl) down to the 7-to-11 for an ice cream run not long after our Israel final, and that was fun—we got back just in time to sit on the grass and watch the sunset. The other really fun outing was Thursday after our Old Testament final. I had planned to watch our rebroadcast of the foreign policy debate, but after about ten minutes of listening to Obama and Romney say essentially the same things about Syria, I sought bluer skies. I ended up joining a few others to go play a game of soccer down the street with some of the local Palestinian kids. My team won, and I even facilitated a goal or two (though the only thing I actually managed to get into the goal was my shoe). The Palestinian kids—Hassan, Yazzan, and Roget—were amazing players, tossing the ball around between their feet as naturally as walking. I felt perfectly clumsy by comparison, but I fought hard for my team—even taking a speeding ball to the chest (I would like to tell you it was as brave and self sacrificing an act as it sounds—but actually it was just me  being conveniently in the way and having the breath knocked clean out of me). It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. We bid goodbye (or ma’asalaama) to our new friends and walked back to the center in time for lunch—breathless and sweaty and dust-covered and triumphant.

#5) This weekend is a Muslim feast celebrating the pilgrimage to Mecca. Almost every store in the Muslim quarter and East Jerusalem is closed—which makes it problematic to visit the money changers when you need to.

#6) I have discovered something just as delicious as the peanut butter and nutella pita—if not even better. It is my new favorite: warm, toasted pita with honey butter. Oh, yes—heaven on earth.

#7) I am now an official employee of the Shekel Shack—or, rather, an official intern. I had my first shifts on the job last week. I think I am going to really enjoy being part of the team—it really is a fun thing. We sell all sorts of things—pitas, candy (chocolate and otherwise), drinks, Magnum bars, granola bars, pudding, pringles, bowls of cereal, and non-edibles such as soap and stamps and envelopes. My first night was a Blues Night with music from Paul and Michael. We were kept especially busy that night for a few reasons. 1) Because Paul and Michael are both very funny and everyone wanted to hear them bust out the blues; 2) Because an anonymous donor (aka Brother Stratford) provided for everyone to have a free drink; and 3) Because Paul and Michael had promised a song that included the name of every single girl at the center. There are some fifty-three girls here, so that’s nothing to turn your nose up at. The totally delivered. The song was about studying for Brother Stratford’s exam and was entitled “I Have Fifty-nine Problems and a Woman Isn’t One of Them.” I was also thrilled that instead of saying the name Rachel once and having it serve for all of us, they actually said it four times. It’s nice to be individually recognized.

#8) I called my family last week, which is always fun. I also surprised my Grandma and Grandpa Pullan with a call from Jerusalem. It made my day just to hear my Grandma get all excited when she realized it was me. She got Grandpa on the line as well and I talked to both of them for over half an hour. I have missed my family very much--it was so good to talk to them. Along this same vein, some traveling friends from my home ward came to the Jerusalem Branch yesterday and brought me a hand-decorated care package from home. It contained notes and letters from most of my immediate and extended Pullan family and pictures from some of the little ones (thank you, Kathrynne and Justin, especially). There was a whole scroll of pictures and ink stamps from my brother Nathan and a typed letter from my Aunt Amy and my cousin Ellie, who was recently baptized. There was a card from my Grandma Molen also (thanks, Grandma). The box also contained generous amounts of Halloween candy, a few Halloween/Fall decorations (including a picture of a turkey to color), my watch (which I left on the dresser the day we left despite many reminders not to do just that) and a refill of my second best friend, omeprozol (second only to Ibuprophen). I feel like a little piece of my home and family was delivered to Jerusalem. Thanks, everyone.

#9) I survived finals week. I did it. I went through ALL my finals and so far have gotten As on all of them. It has been long and busy and stressful, but I'm finally coming off the end of it. Now we are starting a new block, with only New Testament and Ancient Near East and field trips to occupy our time. I will miss Brother Judd's class, but Brother Schade is great so far, too. It will be a fantastic new adventure.

Sorry--I know that was a lot. Thanks all for tuning in. I want to give you details about our Arab Culture night from last week as well, but I will do that in a separate post for the sake of time. We leave early tomorrow morning for our four-day adventure in Jordan, so there will soon be many adventures to share from that as well. Love you all!

1 comment:

  1. I love ewe, beautiful ewe, Rachel! I just love hearing about this amazing experience you are having. I got your e-mail & will be responding soon, K! :) Have a great week!