Our first day at Ein Gev--which, by the way, is technically part of a Kibbutz, which I find cool--was spent mostly in studies. Next week both classes will do our field trips together, but this week we have only one bus so we must take turns. The Judd class went off to boat across the Sea of Galilee and do other fun things which I will describe in the next post, while the Schade class stayed behind to pursue our studies.
Ein Gev is beautiful. We are staying in little hotel rooms clumped together in threes and fours in small buildings. Palm trees grow all over, and I have never seen the sky without birds in it. We have the mountains at our backs and the Sea of Galilee ahead, accessed by a beautiful little beach. High on the beach, in a grassy area, there are over a dozen hammocks and banana chair swings (so-called) in which anyone can relax but which seem to always contain a JC student. The meals are fabulous every time, which is good because we are going to be eating them for over a week. I live with three other girls--McKenzie Davis (my visiting teacher), Cassie (the one who's engaged), and Jenessa (my visiting teachee--I guess we'll all get our visiting teaching done this month).
I got up at 5:30 in the morning (I technically woke up a little after 4:30 but was too lazy to get out of bed). By 6:00 I was out on the beach, sitting in a hammock, reading from the New Testament, and watching the beautiful rosy sunrise come to life over the hilltops. The lake was clear and still, and the morning air was crisp and cool. When I had very nearly finished my reading, I put my quad down and went for a walk along the shore. There I met up with some protestant Christians from Hawaii who are sharing the kibbutz resort with us for a few days, and they invited me to join their devotional and Bible class. I ran to fetch my quad and did just that. It was a very happy, "we thank you Jesus" sort of arrangement. We sang several songs, accompanied by a guitar and small bongo drums, interspersed with a couple prayers. One of the ministers in the group then gave us what we Mormons would call a spiritual thought (or maybe a mini-sermon) based on Mark 2, in which Jesus Christ teaches that they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. The minister posed the question, why do we decide not to go to a doctor? His reasons were thus: 1) We don't know we're sick, 2) We think we can get well on our own or think the doctor won't help, 3) We don't want to hear what the doctor is going to tell us, or 4) We feel we can't afford a doctor (very applicable in this economy). He then proceeded to say how Jesus Christ transcends all those problems. He knows that is wrong with us, He knows exactly how to help (and that we can't do it on our own), He has a perfect treatment plan for each individual, and He's paid the whole bill. It was a good thought, I felt, and a good note to start out the day with.
We spent two hours in class learning about many of the miracles and teachings of Jesus ("help thou mine unbelief," "If thine eye offend thee," Mary and Martha, etc.), then two on break, which most of us spent falling asleep on the hammocks outside. I finished my scripture reading, enjoyed an Agatha Christie short story, and ate/shared my package of sesame cookies (attracting a few birds to my immediate vicinity). We had another hour of learning about the Savior before lunch. I cannot say how much I love these stories and teachings. We have a lot of homework and a lot of class time, but I am glad--it means that I am immersed in the New Testament all the time here in Galilee, which I think is just as it should be.
After lunch we all went swimming in the sea. We played frisbee and catch, and a few of the guys made sport of running around trying to dunk any girls that still had dry hair. My favorite was when Kayla managed to dunk or splash Brandon somehow, then he chased her halfway around the beach, cornered her by the water, scooped her up into his arms, and held her squirming as he walked out into the deep water until she was soaked. The highlight of swimming time was when Jed and Jordan (two brothers) brought their slack line into the water. We all pulled on either end tug-of-war style to keep it taught, then took turns standing on it to get our "walking on water" pictures. It was fantastic.
That evening after dinner we had a bonfire. It was perfect timing, too--the two classes hadn't seen each other all day, so it was great to have some free time on the beach together. I chatted and visited with a lot of people, including Katie and Hailey and Mary, and just enjoyed the warmth of the fire. Ashley came over and started giving me a back massage for a while, and that was lovely. Several students were taking turns with a guitar and playing songs for everyone to listen to, and still others were having fun playing with sparklers they had brought and getting pictures with slow shutter speed cameras. It was a great evening. I was getting tired by then and, to tell the truth, had been feeling a touch homesick that evening. Being in friendly company like that was just what I needed.
I turned in and did some more scripture study before heading to bed early again (though not as early as the night before). It was a great day.