Saturday, March 2, 2013

So I'm 20!!! I turned 20 years old in the Holy Land this year, which has officially begun my goal to turn every age in my 20's in a different country. Next year is covered in the West Indies, then I guess my 22nd birthday could be in the USA and if needed I will make a midnight drive down to Mexico to turn 23 and by then hopefully my poor college days will be over and I can make this goal a reality! Life is good.

I woke up on February 24th and got in the shower as normal. When I came out of the bathroom I found my bed decorated by my adorable roommates!!! I love Anne, Jacque, and Lindsey so much.

I got all ready for the day and headed out to meet the vans that were taking us to the party city of Tel Aviv!

Riding over I talked to Rachel, Kari, and Jeff for a bit and then put on my headphones and watched the country of Israel past by me. Listening to music while driving has got to be one of my favorite things to do in the world. We got to Tel Aviv and as soon as I jumped out the vans I saw this. Yeah, considering my love for the ocean it was bound to be a good day.

We ran around the ocean for a little bit taking lots of photos and videos and enjoyed the sand and the sea.

Then we decided to go check out the flea market. It was essentially the largest garage sale in the world. So pretty much everything I love. It was awesome and I got an adorable pair of earrings.

After spending some time walking around and eating our lunch I left the group I was in for the morning and met up with a huge group of BYUJCers down at the ocean where people were swimming, building sand castles, playing frisbee, and loving life. I changed into my swimsuit and ran into the waves of the Mediterranean Sea! Lindsey has a underwater camera so we had plenty of fun filming videos and taking pictures while trying not to be tackled down my the ever growing waves. I'm pretty sure I was laughing the entire time. I mean honestly, how lucky am I? I turned 20 in Tel Aviv, Israel!!!

Matching white vnecks!

After a few hours at the beach Jenessa, Hannah, Emily, Lindee and I decided to rent bikes and ride along the boardwalk. BEST DECISION EVER. I was saying earlier how driving and listening to music is my favorite thing to do, only second to riding my bike and listening to music, especially when riding along the ocean. I was on top of the world. I blasted songs such as "Unwritten", "Live While We're Young", "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N." by Noah and the Whale, and of course the Beach Boys. It was just perfect. I haven't been that happy in a long time.

We found a Restro Bar named "Jessica"!

Notice my crazy beach hair. Classic.

So happy I got to spend my birthday with these amazing girls {plus Lindee who was so kindly taking the photo}.

After our long beach bike ride we were getting pretty hungry so we found a little, adorable restaurant (notice we are sitting by a wishing well. Adorable) and had the most delicious meal!

Yum, yum, yum!

Afterwards we got our gelato and the girls sang "Happy Birthday" to me on the streets of Tel Aviv. I felt like the luckiest girl in the entire world. 

It was an amazing day and I am officially 20 years old! Let the good times keep coming :)

Thanks to everyone who has made the past 20 years of my life the best. I seriously don't know how I have been so blessed with such a great home and family along with so many wonderful friends. Life is good, and it's just getting better :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm going on a mission!!!

About ten days ago a member of the twelve apostles in Salt Lake City looked at this photo and was inspired to send me here to serve the Lord for 18 months.

The name of my mission is the West Indies Mission which is located in the Caribbean. I was called to speak English, however according to some blogs they speak anything but English because of their Caribbean accents. I am sooo excited it is insane. Then I have to remember I am here in Jerusalem and Turkey for the next two months and I have to enjoy every single second that I am here as well! Life is just perfect, and it is getting even better.

This is unreal. Thank you Google Images.

I will post a video of me opening my mission call soon. I was pretty dang excited.
I can't wait to serve the people of the Caribbean just like my sweet mother did as she served in Haiti 20 years ago :)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My life is awesome. Really, it really is. This past Thursday was Valentine's Day and it was the most fun Valentine's Day I've had since elementary school. Straight up.

I woke up and while shuffling around trying to get ready for the day to look presentable to the world for once my roommate came in from breakfast and said I had a surprise at our door!!! I came out to this cute thing.
"Take my picture! One mascaraed eye and all!" Notice the mascara in my hand. Seriously, it was so sweet and such a fun way to start my Valentine's Day!
Once I finished getting ready I made the trek up to class (about a 25.5 second walk up a flight of stairs or so). Old Testament was good and then Israel/Judaism flew by (could that be because I spent the whole two hours writing valentines? hmmm). 
Me, Jenessa, and Sarah loving our break in between classes and looking super pretty!
After class me, Linds, and Meg went out into the city. Can I just say I have never felt more like a fish out of water? Here we were. Three white, Mormon girls walking around East Jerusalem. We were decked out in pink and reds. We stood out like a sore thumb. Naturally, we had probably 15+ guys shout out and offer to be our valentine....awkward. Being in the city on Valentine's Day was seriously so fun though. You see teenage girls walking around with flowers sticking out of their backpacks, men with a dozen roses jumping in their car to undoubtedly give them to their wives back home, kids of all ages running around with some sort of valentine. In so many ways it is like the states, yet not at all.
I was so happy to find a 1D magazine at the book store!
All the valentine stuff was in Arabic. So precious. We met the most awesome girl at this store. She was 14 and spoke perfect English. She told us we all looked pretty, buuuuut that if you wear red on Valentine's Day you will be made fun of - no matter who you were. It made us laugh. She was such a fun and cute girl. I asked her how she knew English so well and she said she just loved to learn and at the age of ten she flew to the US to attend a conference to speak on the Palestinian relations with the United States. AGE 10!!!! She was so awesome.
Then I came back and went to Arabic class. We ended up mostly talking and learning about the Arab culture when it comes to dating and marriage. It was really interesting and so fitting for Valentine's Day. Afterwards I walked out to find my roommate Lindsey drawing mustaches on people. Turns out our Arabic teacher hates mustaches so the whole second class decided to draw them on.
 How funny is that?
 The class all ready to go!! We followed them and watched from the doorway as they filed in one by one and our teacher yelled "Barra Barra!" which means "Get Out!" hahaha it was great.
 Our mailboxes were packed full with valetines, notes, and candy. It was so fun! Everyone just loves everyone!
 The day ended with the most beautiful sunset ever. It was perfect.
However, the party had just begun!!! DJ Sukran cranked up the tunes and the dance party started.
 At the dance!
These girls are my friends (awkward). I am super lucky (not). Just kidding! I love them!
 After one too many hair flips (I'm pretty sure Willow's command to flip my hair back and forth will be the death of me) we headed to the Oasis to eat some Valentine dessert and chill.
 I went back to my room exhausted when fireworks began!!!!!! I ran out to my porch and watched them as they ended the best day. Ummm okay. Is this real life?!
Me and my roommates read our valentines and ate the chocolate. I haven't felt this loved in a long time!
 I'm super popular. Obviously.

 Overall, it was a super fun day in Jerusalem. Valentine's Day 2013. A day for the books for sure :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy (almost) Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day my only true loves are the city of Jerusalem and my mission call (which comes in less than a week!!) and I could not be more perfectly overjoyed with that. I've always loved Valentine's Day because I've always loved love. I don't like when single girls hate on Valentine's Day because I believe it's not just for celebrating love for a romantic significant other, but love for your family, friends, and all the wonderful people in your life! I'm thankful to be spending this Valentine's Day in Jerusalem with my 81 best friends!!

Okay so what's new?

1. I finally got to visit the Dome of the Rock this weekend. Well worth the hour wait to get through security, in which us girls had a deep conversation about important things (important things = boys back home/a tiny bit of Jeru boy talk).

2. I signed up for the Jerusalem 10k. I went running for the first time since being here yesterday and surprising it wasn't as bad as I thought. Maybe I will be able to actually run the whole thing after all!

3. On Monday we walked through Hezekiah's tunnel. Who knew walking through a tight tunnel with water up to mid-shin could be so fun. Well I guess having a strobe-light headlamp added to it. Oh, and singing Backstreet Boy's "I Want It That Way". The night before me and Linds decided to try out our headlamps so we turned off all the lights and I crawled around the room like I was in a horror movie then turned on my strobe and had a mini-dance party. Pretty sure my roommates think I'm crazy, which would be true. Pretty much anything you do wearing a headlamp is 100 times more funny.

4. School is kicking my butt. I'm usually a fairly good student but these quizzes are gonna be the death of me. Who knew the Old Testament could introduce so many characters in a matter of 15 chapters? I didn't until we read 1st Kings. Hello. On the bright side my Judaism and Islam classes are the most interesting things in the world. I had no idea I loved learning about different religions so much until being here. Being here in Jerusalem makes me wonder how anyone could be atheist. There is a God in heaven. There is no question about that.

5. I'm officially a part of a conditioning class! I'm gonna get ripped toned!!! Today is our second class. The first one was tons of fun, we listened to 80's music while running around the gym and then would drop to a new exercise every minute or so. I love having a coach and working with people. I do so much better. It was a blast until I woke up the next morning. SO SORE! I finally feel better today aaaand it's our next class. Funny how that works out. If I stop blogging it's probably because I died.

6. I'm learning Arabic! Today we had to write 10 sentences and for the first time I felt like I'm learning how to speak it! Marhaba, esmi Jessica (Hello, my name is Jessica). Too bad we aren't learning how to write Arabic characters yet. I don't know that we ever will because....

7. OUR FIRST SET OF BLOCK CLASSES END IN LESS THAN 3 WEEKS!!!!! Hoooooray! Finals are gonna kill me but then we get a Spring Break in Turkey. Whhhhaaaat?! Too fun for words. There's gonna be bonfires on the beach, boat rides, and oh course too many archaeological sites. I'm excited already.

Happy day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Had such a fun day with these two ladies. Finally went to the Dome of the Rock!!!! Photos to follow soon :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Shephelah, Shephelahhhh Goliath's back!"

Our Monday we hit up some archaeology sites on another awesome field trip day. We headed to the Shephelah, the low hills of Jerusalem. In the morning we visited "Beth Shemesh" which was near the birth place and burial site of Samson from the Bible. We had a devotional on Samson, learned some archaeology stuff, got a piece of pottery from the pottery dump, then frolicked in the beautiful wild flowers.

Then we headed to Tel Azekah overlooking the Valley of Elah. This is where the story of David and Goliath happened. So cool, right?

Overlooking the valley.

 Me and Rachel (LOVE this girl. She has inspired me to make a life bucket list and live it! One night in the hotel in Jordan we got talking and she showed me her life bucketlist and this Jerusalem study abroad is just one stop on her lifetime full of adventure. I seriously love that. Love Rachel!)

Just swinging a sling shot where David & Goliath happened. Epic much??

Loving the green and the warm weather!

A little bit of home in the Holy Land!

Next we visited Bet Guvrin which had the most amazing bell caves. We gathered in one and sang some hymns. The echo was amazing. I looove when we sing in caves. I'm not a good singer but I just love it.

 We went up a little and stopped at another part of Bet Guvrin where we walked through a ton of very intricate tunnel systems. They also had a few ancient oil presses. After, we had some time to walk around the extremely green hills. Apparently winter semester is the best time to go to Israel, can't you tell?

 An ancient tomb in Bet Guvrin.

Our last site was Tel Lachish. Which was a city since basically the beginning of time. By this time we were so exhausted but we treked through and I enjoyed every minute of it. The sun set rested so pretty on the land. I couldn't get enough of it.

It was an awesome field trip and a great way to start the week!!! When we got back Lindsey had a package. It had taken a month but her birthday package finally arrived from her family packed with art supplies and candy for my cute little artist roommate. Happy belated birthday Linds. Thanks for being the world's best roommate!! Love you!

Midterms killed my adventure this week so nothing new to report over the past four days, but tomorrow has fun plans already! More to come :)

Party like you're in Jerusalem

Last weekend I had my first night on the town in West Jerusalem (West J as we call it). A group of us meet outside Jaffa gate. It ended up being a ton more of us that anticipated so we broke up to go to different restaurants and then to meet up for gelato. I joined the Italian group and we headed to a little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant right off Ben Yehuda street. We sat outside and people watched people walk past. Our food took forever to come (an hour and a half) but it was fun to just sit and talk and the food wasn't half bad either. Although, I probably wouldn't go back again. We met up for gelato and made future plans for a mall trip. West Jerusalem is very different than East Jerusalem and the Old City. It is very modern and has a mall with even an American Eagle (or should I say Israeli Eagle - ha ha so funny)! So yeah - great night out!! We had to taxi back because of some of our rules about walking through parts of Jerusalem at night, unfortunately, or else I'd be going out all the time! This picture is of some of us after gelato.

3 words. ARAB CULTURE NIGHT. I could not stop smiling this whole night!! At 5 pm we all got together in the forum where they had the a father and son come who read the Call to Prayer over the speakers for all of Jerusalem to hear. They performed it for us, along with reading the Koran and showing us how they pray. What an amazing experience. They didn't speak English so our Arabic teacher, the one and only Ayman, would translate as we asked them questions. These men have the entire Koran memorized. They are amazing and so dedicated to their faith. Such an example for that.

6 pm came along and it was time for our FEAST!!! I already feel like we have a feast every day at the center but I mean we really, really had a feast. TONS of food, along with music and our Arab outfits. Our chef here is awesome. He used to cook for the king of Jordan....THE KING!!!! He's also the nicest man. So pretty much dinner was a ton of fun and everyone was super happy.

Me and one of my roommates Jacque at dinner. LOVE this girl.
 Partying as the Arabs do!
 Arab garb photo shoots for dayyyzzzz
 Room #405. The hottest girls in the center by far ;) In case you can't tell I was going for the Princess Jasmine look. Did I capture it?

After dinner we had DANCING!!!!! They blasted the Arab music and taught us some cultural dances. Afterwards we let loose and went crazy dancing to the Arabic jams. Suuuch a blast.

So yeah - we like to party around here. I haven't been very adamant about snapping some photos of our every day adventures we have here in the center in between surviving midterms but I will be posting some soon!! We like to eat chocolate pitas {free in the Shekel Shack on Saturday nights - whooop}, watch movies {Last night I suggested we watch a movie, can you guess what it was? FLIPPED. Of course. Everyone loved it. Of course}, play ping pong, play Rummikub after dinner, sit on our balcony and talk, and do lots of other fun things. Don't get me wrong, we do work around here. We work a lot. Too much sometimes. Yet I'm finding time to live my life the way that I like to, and that's doing something fun and being happy whenever I can!