Things have looked up since the sadness of Tuesday. As an update on that note, Jackson flew home that night to be with his family this week. The students are going to fast for him and his family tomorrow--and we've certainly been praying hard for them all week.
This week has mostly been a week in. I went out for a time on Wednesday to run some errands--stop by the post office, get a few little olive wood hearts at Omar's for Relief Society birthdays, and wander about the Christian Quarter (OK, that wasn't an errand, but it was still fun). Besides that, I've been inside a lot. Classes have been going on full throttle, and if I said I have kept up on the reading I would be unabashedly lying. Am I behind? Absolutely. Have I done a lot? Of course. Am I OK with this? Yes. I aced my Hebrew exam, wrote a paper, read many many pages of the Old Testament, made up part of a study guide for Ancient Near East, attended all my classes, and tried to get whatever in on the other readings. I also took time out for meals, the Forum address, a little leisure reading, and (last night) to watch a chick flick ("While You Were Sleeping"). I call that a productive week.
The forum the other night was about the history of the Jerusalem Center, which was amazing. Brother Jackson has been in on this program since the very start, so it was really neat to hear from him. He actually gave what I know as the "Kearl Speech"--the orientation talk--to my mother when she came here, as it happens. We learned when the program in the Holy Land began. We saw pictures of the program's previous home, Ramat Rachel--a place with a great name, of course, but with bad food and very poor air conditioning, which made all of us very grateful for this beautiful building. We heard about when President Benson looked over the land with the first presidency and David Galbraith. President Tanner said to everyone "All those in favor of this piece of land please indicate by raising the right hand." Everyone did, including the prophet. We heard about the opposition that came up the moment the ground was broken--protests, demonstrations, signs that proclaimed "Mormons Stop Your Missionary Project Now!" and "No Mormons!" I was surprised to find that part of our modesty code is for our safety--in the past there have been violent outbreaks based on people scantily dressed at bus stations and the like. Eventually the local people began to accept us here. They found us to be trustworthy--true to our word that we would not proselytize -and the protests became less and less worth it. Now we are trusted and accepted almost everywhere we go in the city--we are well known and even well liked by many. The program is a wonderful
I was even more surprised to hear that the total number of applicants for this semester was 110 people. 81 actually got in and 29 were placed on the waiting list, of which I was one. If somebody told me when I was placed in the #18 waiting list spot that I was 18 out of 29, I might have dropped out. As it is I am so glad that I kept with it--and I realize exactly how fortunate I am. I felt that all the more when I told brother Jackson that I had moved off the waiting list two and a half weeks before the departure date and watched him literally jump back in surprise.
I went out today with Jackie and Katie to grab some juice at the 7-to-11 (Strawberry Banana nectar--very good, though mango is still my favorite) and to just walk around some. We went out the lower gate to the 7-to-11, then walked up around the hill to the upper gate. We walked single file along a curb for a stretch along the crest of the hill where there was no sidewalk, which made me feel like a balance beam gymnast. It was marvelous to get out into the cool afternoon air. I also spent some time this afternoon watching a bit of a movie while I mended a pair of pants (belonging to my friend Lindsay, who seemed terribly reluctant to ask me to sew on a button--I took her button while assuring her whole heartedly that it was no trouble at all). I really have done hardly any homework, but it has been nice after all the running around and hard work that has constituted the week. I am writing this while I watch the vice presidential debate, which is both making me very annoyed with Joe Biden and very appreciative of the lady behind the desk trying to make him be quiet.
Tonight's Friday Night Movie is Megamind, but I think I'm going to do something different--a holocaust movie, if I can arrange it. Our teachers have been preparing us this week for what will probably be the hardest field trip of the entire program--Yad Veshem, the Israeli holocaust museum. I plan to spend some time mentally preparing myself through the assignments as well as my own readings and thoughts for that experience. It won't necessarily be fun, but at the same time I am looking forward to being there and seeing these things, if only in the honor of those involved.
At any rate, there will be a movie tonight, which will be great no matter what it is. Right after class today, our amazing chef, Achmed, set up some tables in the Oasis and let us all help make dinner--so tonight we will all be eating food we made (the stuffed tomatoes, in my case). We will have a prayer meeting to open our group fast for Jackson and family, and then we will all enjoy the evening. There are more tests and lots of study to come, no question--but for now, the weekend is here, and we are all rejoicing.
More soon! Ma'asalaama!