Thursday, November 30, 2006

Handcuffing the Arms of Father Time
The time is currently 1:39am and I just recently finished my last final paper. It was enjoyable to write, I learned some, and I think it turned out alright. What kicks me though is this: in less that 24hrs I will be on my way home. I vividly remember my first encounters here in Israel. I used to stop and be in wonder and amazement that I had shekels in my pocket. Now, I have the same feelings and thoughts as I consider the reality of how soon I have to leave.

I’m nervous, scared, and excited to come home. A lot of different feelings are being pumped through my veins.

Nervous because I am scared…

Scared because of what might or might not happen when I return…

And excited because soon the questions will be met with answers…

I’ve been in Israel for over three months now. I’ve seen, experienced, and learned quite a lot. New thoughts have been given to me as well as new confrontations. Victories have occurs as well as defeats.

What am I’m going to say to people?

How can I adequately relate what I have been through?

What are their reactions going to be?

What is my life going to look like in the not too distant future and is this going to bring me joy or sadness?

The answers to some of these questions are about to be discovered. For I have realized that they are only time, an ocean, and a conversation away…

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Me, my sister, the Canadians, and a hole in the city wall that lead to...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Beauty and the Beast (a rather handsome Beast I might add)
So, my big little sister came to visit me over Thanksgiving and we had a good time. Hands down it was the best Thanksgiving I have experienced yet. We had amazing food, lots of laughs, and good friends to share it all with. Here are a couple of the experiences he shared together during Alicia’s trip to the Middle East.

Scary Suits
Towards the end of Alicia’s trip we rented a car and headed up to the Galilee and needless to say we had a couple of interesting experiences. We got up to the Sea of Galilee and decided that we wanted to take a little swim. We stopped at three different spots and they were progressively sketch.

The first one was down a gravel road and was simply a dirty beach and no one was swimming. An elder couple was eating and several kids were riding their bikes around, so we decided to move on.

We made our way on to site number two. Thinking back on it, I’m surprised I didn’t wake up in a bathtub full of ice cold water with one of my kidneys missing. This place was something out a horror flick. It was at this hotel and there was no one there. There was stuff all over the place though, such as a baby stroller, drinks, and chairs. It looked like there was a party and everyone disappeared. There was a pool, but no water in it and a couple of really big dogs barking at us. Alicia and I just looked at each other and decided to jet.

The final site showed signs of better days with a rusty ferris wheel and the remnants of a staff full of misfit carnies. We asked how much to use the beach and they said 50 shekels so we replied, “see you later.”

We gave up on swimming.

Pounds vs. Gravity
That night we camped out on the Cliffs of Arbel. By the time camp was set up the sun was getting rather low. So, I wanted to gather some firewood for a little fire, but there were only a couple of trees and they were on the cliffs edge. I climbed on down and got some wood and on my way back up I needed to use both hands to continue climbing. So, I yelled for my sis so that she would grab the wood and she eventually found me. However, instead of helping me with the wood she reprimanded me. She said she was calling for me earlier, but I didn’t hear her. She asked me if I was alright and I replied that of course I was. She thought I was hurt because I didn’t reply to her calling and she said, “I was trying to figure out how I could pull your dead lifeless body up this cliff.” Now that’s love.

Alicia and I went to the Galilee and camped and hiked on the Cliffs of Arbel, chilled at Elijah’s cave, and saw a beautifully landscaped Bahai temple. In Jerusalem we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Western Wall, and what kind of brother would I be if we didn’t go visit a hole with the Canadians (pictures soon to follow).

Bragging Rights
My sister and I are similar in a couple of ways. Hair and eye color (some people say we look alike but they lie). We both have very strong personalities and can be rather bull headed at times. However, my sister and I are different in ways as well. I’m a lot bigger than she is and she’s a lot better looking than I am (any guys reading this and are interested in my sis better be bigger than me…just an fyi). I’m athletic and she’s a genius. Alicia is much more of a stronger person than I am and I have a lot of respect for her because of this and for many other reasons.

My sister challenges me and pushes me for my own good. I NEVER would be here in Israel if it wasn’t for her pushing me to do a semester abroad. The finances and class schedule I didn’t think would come together, but they have. I didn’t think or care to check into it but I did because of her. My time here in Jerusalem has been the greatest opportunity and experience of my life. It never would have happened if it wasn’t for Alicia.

She has taught me the meaning of family. As I said earlier, she doesn’t have any money because she works for a non profit, but she scrapped what she did have together and came to visit her baby brother. That act holds a lot of significance and love in my eyes.

Alicia challenges my thoughts on politics, religion, and theology. She opens my mind and eyes to new thoughts, ideas, and views. We disagree sometimes, but I’m glad she challenges me.

She corrects me on my dinner manners, which really annoys me, but I know it’s for my own good. Take smaller bites. Chew with your mouth closed. Blow your nose don’t snort it up. Wear a black belt not brown. The list continues.

It was nice to have my big little sister come over to visit, but its better knowing that I have a sister that loves me, wants the best for me, and will always be there to challenge and encourage me.

Israel and so much more vol. 4 (sister edition)
several thousand words from my sis' camera...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Big Fat TurkeyThanksgiving is coming up this Friday. What a beautiful opportunity to spend time with our families that we love and be thankful for all that God has blessed us with. Well, that’s ideally what should happen. Another thing to think about this holiday weekend. I got an interesting email recently that shares some startling facts. The email read that if 20 people sit down at your table, representing the world's population, three would get a gourmet meal, five would get rice and beans, and 12 would receive a small portion of rice. The issue isn’t lack of food it’s an issue with distribution.

Check out:

Anyway, the whole reason I started writing was to say that in the next hour and a half I’m leaving for Tel Aviv to go pick my sis up from the airport. This digression simply spilled out. She’s coming to visit, see the land, and to hang out over the holiday. She’s leaving on Monday, but it should give us enough time to go visit some stellar sites. I’m thinking about…

Giving her a tour of the city…

Snorkeling in Eilat…

Hiking in Qumran…

Swinging by the Dead Sea…

and hiking at En Gedi…

Should be a good time and I’m really stoked about her visiting. We have a lot to talk about and share with each other. I really value that she’s coming for a lot of reasons, but one especially…

My sister graduated from APU in 2003 basically paying for college on her own. After graduation, she spent 2.5 years in Togo, West Africa with the Peace Corps and now she is working for a non-profit organization called Illinois Citizens for Better Care. Needless to say my sister is an absolutely amazing person. Due to the call on her life she has no money and it doesn’t seem to bother her.

She values and loves her little brother so much that she scrapped what little money she had to fly to Israel to spend the holiday with me. I wouldn’t even be in this country if it wasn’t for my sister’s influence.

I think my little big sister is an amazing person and I’m completely stoked about being able to spend the holiday with her…

As I wrote early I recently spent four days in the country of Jordan. The trip in general was somewhat of a shoulder shrug for me. I didn’t find a whole lot to be that interesting or exciting, but there were a couple of things that did enthrall me.

I’m sure this site had some historical/biblical significance to it, but I was a little distracted. As I wrote a couple of posts ago I want to build a bow. Well, my buddy Benaiah found a 30 lb flint stone for the arrowheads. I ended up digging it up with my hands and hauled it around from bus to hotel to bus to hotel to bus to hotel to bus to border checkpoint to bus to my room. This find was the highlight of my day because how cool is flint!?!

Body of a Greek God
Day two of the trip we visited the city of Ramon. We went to other places but this was the only one that was any fun. At this site were the remains of a Herculean Temple with these monstrously huge columns. The enormity of them blew me away. Also, there was a nice little museum that had some cool artifacts.

So, remember in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Indy ends up finding the Holy Grail in a palace type structure that is carved into the face of a cliff? Yea, that’s Petra and it was by far the most stellar place in all of Jordan that I visited. When we got to the path that leads into the ancient city, I booked ahead of our group because I was so excited. Ever so conveniently my batteries in my camera died right before I got to the Treasury. So, any pictures you see of that are from some of the other students here. I looked at the Treasury for about 30 seconds and then said to myself, “I’ll be back to see this later today,” so I continued to blaze a trail. I found that there was another structure somewhat similar to this one called the Monastery. It was about an hour long hike up a trail, through this mountain, which lead me to my destination. I looked at the Monastery for a little while and then opposite the Monastery I saw a large rock hill with a tall standing stone structure on top of it. When I saw those standing stones on top of that hill the first thought in my head was not the following:

“I wonder why the person(s) built the standing stones…”

“I wonder what they were commemorating as they built this…”

“How long ago was the structure built…?”

“How long did it take this person(s) to build this standing stone…?”

The only thought that was going through my head is the following:

“I have to go up there and build a bigger one…”

I wonder why that is?

What about my heart, character, ego, psyche, or DNA caused me to think in this manner?

Whatever it was I ended up spending the next three hours building a bigger, taller, better standing stone. From the time I arrived at that site until I left I carried stones, piled them up, and built higher and higher. That’s all I did and I had a blast. I felt like such a man grunting, hauling large rocks, and constructing. I spend three hours doing this and it was fantastic.

As I placed the final stone on top I then began to talk to GOD. I told Him that I wanted this to commemorate the life that He has called me to live. However, now as I sit and write this I wonder if I built it to pat myself on the back. I carved my initials, a cross, and YHWH in Hebrew, so maybe it was for mixed reasons.

I do not know…

After I was done playing with the Flintstone legos I made my way back to grab some lunch. On the way, I had some tea with a nice Nabatean girl and bought an overpriced camel bone box. I don’t know how profitable this type of business really is. At this girls store I ended up in a conversation with a British man, who has been living in Israel, concerning the absolute existence of GOD. Random.

Stupid Human Pet Tricks
On our last day in Jordan I was sitting at breakfast in between Meredith and Benaiah with a couple of elder Canadians across from me. I was eating my light breakfast when Benaiah made a statement. He said that he could blow an egg clean out of its shell. The Canadian across stated his disbelief, but I, yes I, had faith in the jungle native man named Benaiah. After a few moments of preparation the egg was ready for launch. Benaiah put his lips to end of the egg and out shot the hard boiled egg. I never saw that before and I found it to be impressive. So, I got a couple of eggs and Benaiah taught me a new trick. Oh joy.

Jordan in general was alright, but there were some major highlights in this prolonged textbook of a trip. I rode another camel, climbed some rocks, and saw a couple of stellar sites. Petra was by far the main event, so I’d definitely encourage people to go there. It was a good time and my last Field Study. So, the trip as a whole was a bittersweet symphony…

(pictures of this trip can be found below)
Israel and so much more vol.3 (jordan edition)

Friday, November 10, 2006

“No soup for you!”…well thank God
Here at JUC we have two cooks. One serves lunch and the other dinner. Lunch is always…interesting. We all know what I mean by that. Each day before I waste my time climbing the stairs into the kitchen to get my food, I look into the dinning hall to see what’s to eat and to get peoples reaction to it. Today I continued that trend. The main course was pita, fried cauliflower, fried eggplant, and fried peppers. I passed. But, then I noticed that there was soup. So, I asked how it was and here are some of the replies/conversations I heard concerning it…
“I think it’s a little…grainy”
“It tastes like a burrito.”
“I don’t think so.”
“So what do you think it tastes like then?”
“I…I don’t know”
“How’s the soup?”
“It’s…it’s interesting”
“Look what happens when you let it settle and then pull up what's from the bottom…”
“If you want to get the full experience, taste the stuff that settles on the bottom. I heard it was ground up chickpeas…but I think its cornmeal.”
“It tastes like the remnants of potato soup.”
-Jeremy (The Canadian)
"It tastes like pureed beans."
“It tastes like a combination of pea soup, oatmeal, and cinnamon.”
“When I leave my spoon in the soup for a little while and then try to pull it out…I can feel the resistance.”

Taking all of this into consideration, I ended up having two apples and a PB and J sandwich…

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sore Eyes
I just got back from Jordan and had some interesting experiences. There will be a couple stories and photographs to come in the not so distant future, but here are some random shots of the trip…

Friday, November 03, 2006

Back to the Future
Tomorrow morning at the bright and early hour of 6am I am leaving on my last Field Study trip here at JUC. We will be traveling throughout the country of Jordan studying the geography and Biblical significance of the land. I know we are stopping at Petra for a spell, which I’m absolutely stoked about. This trip might also contain another camel ride, some stellar cliffs, and maybe a newly fabricated instrument of self destruction (see previous post, Evolution 10-24-06). We had our last Physical Settings class on Thursday. While in that class I began to think of some other final events that are in the not so distant future in my life.

Only 4 more weeks here at JUC

Only 1 more semester before college graduation

I can’t get beyond that last one. I have no idea what is going to happen after graduation. My Pops would say, “I know what you’re gunna be doin, you’re gunna get a job so you can pay for my Social Security.”

Oh, I have ideas of what I’d like to do. It’s just a matter of finding someone who will pay me to do it…
Colored Stones (Part II)
The Beit Jala game was very entertaining. It was Jerusalem High School vs. Bethlehem High School. The epic match of David and Goliath was reenacted on that court today. However, there was somewhat of an unexpected Gnostic ending to this tale. I arrived at the school where the game was going to take place and the hearts of the Palestinians were already dismal before the game ever began. The Bethlehem students told me time and time again about how their proverbial mulls were about to get kicked. I had a hard time believing how pessimistic they were. Even the principle predicted the defeat.

The game started and I looked around the bleacherless gym to see that no parents had come to support their children. I asked the principle about this and she said that a parentless audience was the standard. However, there were several Bethlehem students who came to support their team. In the 1st quarter Bethlehem was ahead by 16 points and their attitudes quickly changed. They lost focus, started showboating, and were getting mouthy. Jerusalem quickly came back and towards the end of the game took a 4 point lead. Bethlehem pulled it out in the end with a 53-50 win. In this tale, the Palestinians won the battle.

It was a good game.

No stones thrown.

Which was somewhat disappointed…

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Colored Stones
I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to volunteer at a school in Beit Jala which is in Bethlehem. I’ve been volunteering there for 7 weeks now and every week is better than the last. The West Bank can be a little intense at times. Israel is very modern. I haven’t experienced the slightest form of culture shock since I’ve been here. However, it took me several visits to get used to the culture, environment, and social norms of the West Bank.

I volunteer at a school that has students from elementary thru high school age. I do conversational English with a 10 year old boy named Johnny. The kid is absolutely adorable and he’s really bright. I help him out with his homework reading and then I’ll have a game that we’ll play that will require him to describe, direct, or explain something. We have a lot of fun and he’s really starting to grow on me.

Also, I play basketball with some of the high school students at the school. My skills in the sport are somewhat lacking, but being a Hoosier puts me on par with the guys I’m playing with. Yesterday, when I was at the school, one of the high school students invited me to his game on Friday. So, the principle of the school is going to pick me up at JUC tomorrow and we are going to watch the game together along with some of the other students.

I’m really stoked about being invited and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to spend some time with him, the students, and the principle. It should be an eventful time. These Palestinian kids have minimal fundamentals when it comes to basketball, so it should be entertaining. I wonder if the fans throw stones at the referee instead of off colored phrases of disapproval? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

Say Hello to My Little Friends (Part II)
Do you ever feel unappreciated, unwanted, or unloved? On occasion, I used to until I came to Israel. Here I know that every night there are oh so many little critters that rely on me for sustenance, warmth, and protection. I washed my sheets and changed mattresses, but the little guys just won’t go away. This morning I woke up with seven new insect bites that swell bigger and bigger as the day goes on. These bites are a constant reminder that I am loved by the insect community. So, every night as I enter into a state of slumber, I can fall asleep with the warming of my heart, knowing that I am treasured and needed. Then in the morning I can look for their mark of appreciation that only grows as the day continues…

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Han Solo
I just now realized something. I’m single. Now, I’m not talking marital status single, I’m talking SINGLE. I’m not engaged, I don’t have a girlfriend, I’m not even dating anyone. In fact, I’ve never been so single in my life. Usually, I at least have a girl that I’m flirting with or a crush or at least some sort of prospect, but now I’ve got nothing. All interests have been painted out of the scenery.

My two best friends in the whole entire world are Brad and Justin. Justin got married in May and Brad’s getting married in December. In all honesty I’m completely stoked for them. Other friends of mine? I got this buddy David, he’s got a girlfriend who he’s serious with. I got a buddy Adam, but he’s like America’s #1 Most Eligible Bachelor, so it won’t be long for him. But me? Oh, I’m as single as it gets…

Someone might say, “Well, Chad I’m sure there are plenty of quality ladies at Bethel.” To that I would reply with the following quote that was spoken to me by none other than my friend Jeff. He said, “Chad, Bethel girls are kinda like a parking lot, all the good ones are taken and the rest…well, they’re handicapped.”

I’m not saying I wish I was with anybody, I’m just stating the obvious…