I've been sitting here for a few minutes trying to decide the best way to start this blog post. I have done so many things in the past three and a half weeks that I don't know where to begin or how to even skim the surface of everything that I have done and have learned. It's always hard to come back from a trip and try to explain it to someone who hasn't gone; I think the best option would be to just go back and bring all of you with me. (Luther would fund that for the sake of this blog, right!?)
In my last post, I briefly covered our time in Israel. Our first week we spent a lot of time during tours of area - we spent a lot of time in the Old City of Jerusalem (where we recovered everything I had learned in a semester-long Intro to the Bible class in about three days - crazy!), taking day trips to other areas (such as hiking in Jericho, visiting the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and spending time in many museums), and we looked at tons and tons of churches. It was really interesting to see these churches, because a lot of them (in my opinion) were there as more of a marker of a holy site than as a home to a congregation that comes together to worship on a regular basis. We were able to see churches that marked where Jesus was (supposedly) born, on top of St. Peter's house, where the shepherds (supposedly) saw the angels that announced Jesus was born, the Basilica of the Annunciation, the church where Jesus wept prior to being betrayed, and so many more.
Our second week in Israel, we continued to spend a lot of time touring the area and doing similar things to what I wrote about above, but we also spent a fair amount of time listening to lectures from people who live in the area, as well as having class time led by Professor Suomala and Pastor Vasquez. This is how we learned a great deal about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, possible resolutions, and how people in the area feel about the United States' involvement in the issue. One of the most insightful things we were able to do was to visit with students who study at Bethlehem University (Bethlehem is in the West Bank) and hear about their life living in the occupied territories.
The last part of our trip was in Jordan, where again we had some lectures but spent a lot of time exploring. The final four days of our trip were vacation-esque: we went snorkeling in the Red Sea, visited Petra, went for a sunrise ride on camels, and went four-wheel driving through the desert of Wadi Rum. All of the pictures in this post were taken in Jordan during our last week of the trip.
As far as workload goes, we had about 650 pages (I think that was the estimate) to read while we were there - we were given about 90% of this reading beforehand, so I had gotten a lot of this done during Christmas break. Prior to the trip, we had read a 250 page novel and had written about three really short (1-2 pages single-spaced) essays. We also had to write two blog posts while we were there (I coordinated the blog as part of my work study job, so this wasn't a huge deal for me), and we had to write 15 journal entries, which were connecting our experiences, previous class knowledge, and the readings -- mine were typically about six written pages (three front and back) in length. It was definitely a lot of work to be doing in addition to our eight or so hours of structured time per day, but it was manageable. I felt we all did a good job balancing of taking advantage of our free time to explore the areas we were in and to be present in our experience, yet making sure we put sufficient effort into our school work.
The trip was fantastic, and I would hop on a plane right now to head back. I'm pretty sure I'm never going to spend another J-term on Luther campus again simply because this trip was so fabulous.. let's just see if I can find a method to fund these trips (again, Luther, wanna help me out?!).