Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Passover...heading to Egypt

Oh the irony...for Passover, the holiday commemorating the Jews deliverance from Egypt, a friend and I are traveling around in Egypt seeing a ton of sites. It's quite the whirlwind trip! We left Beer Sheva on Saturday night at like 1 in the morning, made it to Eliat in southern Israel at like 4 in the morning, hung out in an outdoor cafe thing for a while, wandered the city, slept in a hotel lobby, got our visas for Israel at 9 in the morning, crossed the border, then hopped on a bus to Cairo and made it there around 5 (maybe...don't really remember the time that well)

Once we were in Cairo, one of the first things on our itinerary was to get our train tickets to Luxor...which was much easier said than done. We found our way to the train station, playing human frogger as we crossed the crazy streets where both traffic lights and lanes are more suggestions than rules. Once there, we were told that the train we wanted was sold out and the next one that we could get tickets for wouldn't be for another couple of days (a good scam if they want to make sure that you'll buy the sleeper car tickets, which are much more expensive). Amazingly, a couple of guys asked us if we needed any help, so we told them our problem, and they actually ended up getting the tickets for us. The guys at the counter gave them a ton of trouble and even followed us outside of the ticket office to make sure that they weren't giving the tickets to us. We had to get all the way out of the giant station before we could finally pay them and get the tickets. Ends up that both of the guys were Christians and the one who actually bought the tickets said that he thought God was telling him that he needed to help us. Yay for Christians actually acting on God's direction! We ended up spending the rest of the night with them, going out to eat, then driving around the city to see a few sites and just hanging out.

The next day we got up kinda early, had some free breakfast at the hostel, then headed off to the pyramids. Man, they work hard at hassling you there! They're huge on the "don't be a tourist, go this way instead...the local way.....aka pay way more to ride a camel or donkey in order to go in through the local entrance. We caught onto their schemes pretty fast and kept insisting to be taken to the tourist side, trying to convince them that we actually wanted to walk and not ride. We eventually got dropped off...still not on he tourist side, but oh well, and walked a few km to the normal entrance. On the way there, we stopped at a little coffee shop on the side of the road to figure out exactly where we were going and had some amazing (but super sweet) tea. The guys at the shop even changed the TV station to a western movie from the States from around the late 80s.

We eventually made our way to the pyramids where the hassling continued. There are people waiting as soon as you start to walk up to the pyramids who tell you they want to see your tickets and that they are government officials. The thing is, of course they're not actually from the government and they have no reason to see your tickets. Instead, they'll take them and make you pay them in order to get them back. Luckily we'd been warned by a few friends who had gone before, so we were able to avoid that whole problem.

The pyramids were huge! It was hard to take in, especially with all of the other tourists there and all of the locals offering camel and horseback rides. Dan and I ended up climbing around on a bunch of tombs (i think) in the "western cemetery" overlooking some of the smaller pyramids. That was actually one of my favorite parts of the whole pyramid experience just because we were the only ones there. There were some pretty cool engravings on the stones, some that were inside the entrance to the tombs even still had their original color. From there we walked around the back of one of the pyramids and climbed up it a little ways to take pictures. Dan and I both became celebrities at that point as there was a group of school kids there that wanted a ton of pictures with us.

When we were leaving that pyramid to go over to the Sphinx, we were stopped by a man on horseback who wanted to get us to ride around. We told him no a number of times, but he said that he would let us ride for 30LE (about $6) so we decided we'd give it a go. Riding was so much fun! I rode a ton as a kid, and really miss it. The man noticed that I knew what I was doing and asked me how I'd learned and if I wanted to go for a little canter. Of course I said yes and, I have to say, cantering around the pyramids was one of my favorite parts of the day. Sadly it was tainted once we were trying to leave the horses and get back to the sphinx. Somehow, we're still not how, the price got jacked form 30 total to 70 each, which we eventually talked down to 60 each.

From there we went and checked out the Sphinx, which was pretty stinking big. Apparently it had been buried in the sand for a number of years, and you could see how it had been dug out. It's so crazy to think how much the desert sand moves. There was a temple thing in front/to the side of the sphinx that was also pretty breathtaking. So much of it was made out of alabaster, which is a beautiful stone. After that we got tickets to go into the Great Pyramid, which was also quite an experience. Climbing up on the inside was stinking hot and humid! It took 7 or 8 minutes probably to get up to the top (I have no idea how far we actually were up inside of it) where there was a platform thing were a sarcophagus would be placed.

After the pyramids we headed down back into Cairo to check out the main museum there. This thing was huge! It was more like wandering through a warehouse of old Egyptian artifacts than going through a museum. There was no way that we could even begin to take it all in. It's definitely a place I need to go to again someday in order to really appreciate it.

Ok, that's it for now. We've also been through Luxor and are now in Dahab, but this is long enough already so i'll post another one later to let you know about those.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some thoughts from a month back

Sorry once again for the lack of posts...not that much is going on around here. I finished up with my genetics final today and am gearing up for a month of exams that will start a little bit after Pesach (Passover). I'll probably spend most of my break studying all of those little bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that can sure do a number on someone's health...but hopefully I'll get a chance to go up to Jerusalem and visit my friend Jill from Reality in Santa Barbara. For those of you who don't know, she's been teaching at an international school up there for over a year now, so she knows the area pretty well. I'm also planning a horseback riding trip around the desert once Pesach is over, which should be great, especially because it's been so long since I've ridden and there's quite a few people here who have never ridden.

Anyway, after I finished the genetics final this morning, I had quite a bit of free time so I came home to journal and as I was flipping through some of my old entries, I ran across this one that I thought I should share with you. It's from the 15th of Feb when I was in Jerusalem wandering around the Old City, taking a much needed break from Beer Sheva. Here ya go:

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:10a
What I am doesn't feel like it belongs here. I'm not a part of this doctor world...I really don't like it actually. More than ever my heart and soul are yearning for the "simple life" of fields and cows, sunsets and thunderstorms on hilltops, and hard, back-breaking work. Not cities and classrooms, and sterile floors, fancy dinners, nice cars and dressing up. That's not something I want. I was telling Keiko, I should have just been a farmer's wife...this isn't my world.
I feel like I've given up so much coming here...not that that's necessarily a bad thing, just hard. I gave up John, I gave up a huge chunk of my family identity (and gained a part that I don't necessarily like: the one that's changing thing--you decide if that's good or bad), my community of believers and church home (which has been really hard actually), my wide open spaces, and the possible guarantee of a predictable-ish future. I feel like what's ahead of me has good potential, but could also end up so so so horribly if it get off of God's track. And the thing is, it's getting harder and harder to just go and seek God daily, to open up His Word and pray to Him. Whenever I do, it's absolutely amazing, but for some reason it keeps getting harder and harder. I really, really need to find a good church home or some kind of consistency in gathering as a community. Right now, it's not good.
Maybe I'm an ignorant idealist who hasn't had her eyes opened to the ways of the world, but there's a few things that I really don't want to understand. One really kinda cuts deeps right now. So I was at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher right? So, I got there 10 minutes before it closed and low and behold, they wouldn't let me in. Now, ok, I get it...whatever...but really?! How can you close a church?! Especially that church. I mean, as a predominantly tourist site, I guess it can be closed, but then I was just sitting outside of it and guess what, they "closed" that part too an hour later! How can you close the outside of a building?! I really just want a safe place to go and draw near to God. I want a place where I can go and just ask someone to tell me about my Savior. I don't care if the stories are ones I've heard a hundred times. I just want to hear someone else tell me about Him. I want to go to a place and feel like a part of a family, a real family, again; to be in a room of strangers all seeking the same God, acknowledging the same--the only--Mediator.
I don't know why I can't come to the "Holy City" and find some church that's open 24 hours with someone there. It doesn't make sense. A church should never willingly close its doors, a church shouldn't have "hours." What happened to the churches where you could find homeless sleeping in the pews? When the rest of the world closes you out, who lets you in? Well, not the Church of the Holy Sepulcher...not where they say Jesus was crucified. How have we, as God's body, drifted so stinking far from His heart, from who He really is? How is it that we've gotten so much wrong, and in the process turned so many away? We've wanted the world, we've pursued it...and He's given it to us, or given us to it.
And those who stand up and say, "No, this isn't right! What happened to love being greater? What happened to laying down our rights, not getting paid for what we do (even though we deserve it) so that our message--our service of love--can truly be free? What happened to dying to ourselves, to being the filth and refuse of the world, to being foolish in the world's eyes? What happened to acting like out actions matter more than our words?"--What about us? We're crazy, dreamers, unrealistic, fools.
I think the thing that scares me the most is that God really does give us over to our desires. He really is a gentleman and doesn't force Himself on us. But with our haughty eyes we're so easily lured away by a sparklely world of instant gratification and empty promises. We're fine riding the fence, but the thing is, there's really no such thing. Hot or cold He'll take, but lukewarm? Never. But somehow we've convinced ourselves that our lukewarm is really hot enough. We're half-hearted people. We love God definitely, but to the point of utter, TOTAL abandon...no. That's just foolish, right? But then we can give ourselves totally to the world, convincing ourselves that God's Word isn't actually true, that he doesn't actually require our full hearts. C.S Lewis was right about the mud pie thing.
Renew our hearts LORD, shepherd your people. We are such foolish sheep."

So yeah, there's a glimpse into some of the stuff I'm dealing with here. Since I wrote that, I have found more of a community of committed believers. There's a group of us that's meeting once a week for worship and intercession...and it's amazing! God has also been drawing me in much closer to Himself and His Word since I wrote that as well. I guess my main reason for sharing this is just to challenge you guys, and myself, to really examine the areas of our own lukewarm-ness and where we've accepted the world's principles and ideas of what's possible and in the process have blinded our eyes to God's more perfect way. That's it. Love you guys! God bless!!