Saturday, October 11, 2008

The big 29!

I have already taken about 5 million pictures, and I don't know how to even begin to break them down to share. We've been to the Old City three times this week, which I love, and a bunch of other places. But for now I would like to document the very unique birthday I had today. It was an amazing day.

(Sorry, this post got long. I promise to try and condense later posts. But since today was a special day, I didn't want to leave anything out.)

It actually kind of started last night. We went shopping for jewelry in the Old City. I finally ended up buying some brown dangly earrings and a "pearl" bracelet. At first the guy wanted 250 shekels for just the bracelet! I don't think so mister! I finally got BOTH for 50 shekels, which is about 16 bucks. Yes, it's been a week, and I'm already catching on to the haggling around here. AND, while we were walking around we ended up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is where a lot of Christians believe that inside this church is the spot where Jesus was first laid after he was crucified, and a little further in is the place where the tomb was that he resurrected from. Even though we don't believe that these are authentic places for these events, it was very touching to see how much it meant to the people visiting there. I was completely overwhelmed by the place and the people.

Here is what the outside looks like as you come around the bend. These photos don't do it justice.

Me and Jojo just inside the doors. She is such a good sport with all the running around we do. She almost never complains.

I loved this spot. This is where some believe that Christ was first laid when he was killed - right on this stone. I loved to watch the people here, and see their love for the Savior.

So that was last night. First thing this morning Tom fed me breakfast in bed - Honey Bunches of Oats (costs almost 10 bucks here so it's a TREAT) and deviled eggs. Yum.

Then HE got the kids ready for church (another huge treat!). We headed out just after 9 am to be sure and be there by 10:00 with some time to spare to freshen up. It's a good size walk, (we have no car, so we walk everywhere) mostly uphill (think MOUNT of Olives). We watched a recording of Conference, not sure which one, but it was good. We then had lunch in the "Oasis" at the BYU-JC. (For those who don't know, we have church there every week, and the Sabbath here is on Saturday, even for us.) Then we tried to go back in and watch another session, but we could tell Jackson wasn't going to make it. Here are some picks of the BYU-Jerusalem Center:

This is the outside patio of the "Oasis". It has a gorgeous lookout, which I included below...

Here is some of the beautiful landscaping out front where the entrance is. It's SOOO beautiful compared to what a lot of Jerusalem looks's very dirty with trash everywhere. So coming into the BYU-JC grounds is quite a contrast.

The one thing I for sure wanted to do for my birthday was go see Gethsemane. So straight from church we started the walk there (Jackson does amazingly well in the stroller, so we knew he'd happy himself right up, and he did). We walked through a big Arab neighborhood, which I love to do. It's very fun to see the people all out and about.

There's shops and people and living quarters everywhere, all mashed up together. It's very crowded and dirty, but exciting at the same time. The kids love to walk up to us and say, "Haallo! Wus you name?"

Traffic here is NUTS! I can't emphasize this enough. The driving is completely insane. Everyone drives like 100 miles an hour, weaving in and out of traffic, pedestrians, you name it. I've realized that the people here are just good at it, but I still HATE it when a sidewalk disappears for a couple blocks and here we are pushing our kids on the street with cars WIZZING by us. We had to maneuver ourselves through this crowded intersection.

Anyway, on with the day. We walked clear across the city, down a huge hillside, and we finally made it. There's two Gethsemane gardens, a north and a south. The north one is the one we believe to be the actual spot, but they keep the south one up better. What an amazing experience to be there. Once you get past the hustle and bustle of the tourists and take a moment to take it all in, it's mind boggling - to be in the very area where Christ once was, doing such an unbelievable, eternal thing for all of us.

I LOVED this sculpture in the wall of the church right there next to the garden. It's hard to capture in a picture, but it was beautiful.

South garden
(I can't figure out what that white thing is in front. Tom and I don't even remember seeing it until we saw this picture).

North garden.
(I had to take this through a gate because they keep it locked up, and the guy who can usually let us in wasn't there).

The church there at Gethsemane. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. If I remember right, it was first built shortly after Christ, then destroyed years later, then rebuilt in the 12th century. It's totally silent inside. Even Joni enjoyed the quiet reverence of this place.

Sorry, I know this is seriously getting long, but it's been a big day!

After Gethsemane, we didn't want to walk back the way we came because it would have been up VERY steep hills, so we walked up around the Old City and went to the Garden Tomb before catching a bus home.


Some of the beautiful garden surrounding the tomb. It's beautiful. All you can hear is birds chirping.

Joni standing right outside the tomb. She was very excited to see this because she has a Living Scriptures movie she has watched about a million times that's about the resurrection.

This is just inside the tomb and to the right. It was an amazing feeling being there. Again, even Joni felt the reverence of it. She didn't want to leave. If you look behind her, Christ is said to have been laid there on the left.

This has probably been the greatest birthday I have ever had. For one thing, Tom has spoiled me rotten, and it feels sooooo good to spend the day with him - just walking all over the city, enjoying things together, taking it all in....TOGETHER.

Our kids were troopers. We started out the door this morning at 9:00 am, and we didn't get home until dinner time (and a good portion of that time was walking around the city, getting from one place to the other). At one point, Joni fell asleep on her back-end of the stroller, which has nowhere to lay your head, so she just leaned right over the bar and zonked out. Just like at the airport with Jackson, people were pointing to her, assuming we didn't know. After a little while, we woke her up because we were worried the bar was pushing too hard on her neck and would disrupt the blood flow to her brain! :) What a girl she is.

Although Tom and I have talked about how sad it is that the kids may not remember much of their experiences here, I still feel like Joni soaks in the spirit of this place. Even though she doesn't totally understand, I know she still benefits by seeing, first hand, the places Christ has been, and learning about it from her parents.

Happy Birthday to me! What a great day!!!


Lori said...

WOW!! That is an awesome birthday! Our stake just did the Savior of the World play and seeing some of those pictures just brought tears to my eyes and such a burning in my heart! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful pictures and stories! I can't wait to see more of somewhere I might not ever see with my own eyes,yet has such significance in all of our lives!

Jared and Tara said...

happy birthday amy! even though i SEE the pictures it just seems so unreal. what an amazing way to spend a birthday. that is such a wonderful once in a lifetime experience. thanks for sharing!

Megan said...

Oh wow! Like Tara said, it seems so unreal to see those pictures of those places. So incredible. Amy I'm so glad you had an awesome day! I've been thinking about you all day. PS Tom, Tim says, "Shave it off you hippie!" (Megan says: Woah I had to do a double take... who is that dude with the beard... um that is my BROTHER! And I have NEVER seen him with a beard in my life!! I think it looks really cool!)

Amy J. said...

I wanted to wish you a happy birthday! It's a few days late now, but I wanted you to know that I did have it on my calendar.
I'm glad to know you made it safe and sound, even if a little beat up! I need your skype address if you get a chance!