Saturday, October 30, 2010

Great Families and great students

I just can’t believe that we can stack so many incredible weeks one on top of the other. How can they just keep being so incredible?

Last Sabbath was great, as it always is. I so enjoy being with the students and helping them grow spiritually. They are so pure and want so much to be good. The Church is in good hands with these good folks. I also enjoyed seeing BJ act as the Deacon’s quorum president, and today Tashara was set apart as the Young Women’s class secretary. What great opportunities for them. They then went to a youth leadership meeting. It is great to see them doing such good things. I need to help BJ have a presidency meeting soon, and teach him about leadership moments.

Sunday was such a great day. We went with the Judd and Lewis families on a great field trip. We went to Beth Shemesh and talked about the Samson story. It was fun to see the kids running around so much and enjoying being with each other. Then we went to the Valley of Ehlah, and read the David and Goliath story together and let the kids sling stones together. When that was over we went to Mareshah, and went to some great caves created by limestone mining. The kids had a phenomenal time running around inside. We sang a bit too, loving the echo qualities of the place. We also went to a dove cote there, and some fun tombs. I love seeing the kids enjoy each other so much and all the cool things around here. When we were done with that we went to Lachish, and talked about the huge citadel and how it was attacked and conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. It is really a very cool site, and I think the kids liked it. We even took them over to the temple site that is there.

At that point the other families left us (the Judds even a bit earlier). But we were still up for some more adventure. So we stopped by some caves and went spelunking. I was a bit nervous crawling through the tunnels that no one had been in for a while, just because I didn’t want to encounter a snake that had sought refuge there or something. But in the end it turned out fine, and we had a great time in some great, wonderful caves. What adventure, the kids loved it.

The next day was a bit of a mixed day. We let the Palestinian culture teacher take us to some places in Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank. We had to go through the separation wall to get there, and that was an experience for the students. I tried to talk to them about the complexity of the politics behind the wall, but I’m not sure they got it. The first place we went was a Palestinian think tank. There we heard an incredibly propagandistic lecture. None of us were expecting it. It was frustrating because there was good information that the students really should hear, but it was mixed in with a whole bunch of wrong information, bad math that led to untrue facts, and just crazy propaganda. Some of the students could recognize it for what it was, but many just soaked it all in. I usually try not to get involved in political commentary with my students, but on the bus I had to say at least a little bit to help them know not to take this all in at face value.

From there we went to Bethlehem University. The students heard a little lecture on the history of the place, then saw a movie on the history of the place that was laced with amazing amounts of political propaganda, and then got to ask a bunch of students questions, that was fairly laced with political propaganda. When that was over they got to visit with students randomly for a while, which was great. Then we had a nice lunch.

The frustrating thing is that there is such alack of balance. We should expose the students to this, but also to the other side of the coin, and we don’t. I am sad to say that I think the program has been built a little bit this way, to provide a bit of a bias. I would like to do it differently in the future, I would like to not sway them in this way. I would like to give them all sides in a balanced way. I do not believe it is happening here. It was very frustrating.

What was more frustrating was that this happened just before we went to the Church of the Nativity, which should be a great experience, but everyone felt like it started out with some toxin because of the earlier events. To make matters worse, lately it has been very crowded at the Church, and today was worse than ever because President Abbas had come this morning, which closed it down for the first two hours, so the line was backed up. We waited in line for two hours. Then the students had to hurry through the parts that they were there to see. At last, when it was past time for us to leave, we gathered in a chapel and sang Christmas hymns. That part was great, and thus we ended on a good note. It took us forever to get home, going through the wall, etc. In the end it was a bit of a frustrating experience.

The next day we had classes. Then Julianne and I spent most of the day visiting with different students who had various questions, concerns, and trials. The same was true of the next day as well. I love doing this with Julianne. It is so much better to do it with her, and I love how she and I can share our life together more this way. And the way it helps us grow closer to the students, and how much joy we get from trying to bless the lives of these students is the most enjoyable part of being here. These students are such amazing people, and we love them so much. They bless our lives, and we love these times of being able to sit down with them and talk about the things that matter most.

That night BJ and I went to a part of town we hadn’t been in before, and we had a good scout meeting. I am pleased with how scouts is progressing. Tonight BJ was elected senior patrol leader by the rest of the troop. It is good for him, but I am not sure we have the time and schedule to live up to this responsibility. We will really have to work on it. BJ is becoming a great young man.

Wednesday was sadly the last day of class I had with my Old Testament class. I will love my new class, and I will still get to see these guys, but I love them so much. It was hard for me to say goodbye, even though it wasn’t really goodbye. I got very choked up. Julianne also came, with brownies, and addressed them. She also got choked up and got me going worse. Bless her heart, besides the other good things she said, she talked about the joys of motherhood. She is so good for them.

Then the students gave me a gift and thanked me. It was overwhelming. I could not believe how great they are, and how filled with love I am for them. I really started bawling. They were so good to me, and I love them so much. What great people, I really just can’t express how wonderful they are and what a touching moment it was. Their gift touched me very, very deeply. My time here is increasingly marked by walking around with an overwhelming feeling of love. This is a great experience in that way.

Thursday was an interesting experience for Julianne. She ran a Breast Cancer Awareness race along with four of the students. She ran through a lot of New/West Jerusalem, and ran along the wall of the Old City. Pretty cool to be able to run a race through Jerusalem. We had a good day, getting lots of good stuff done. That night we ate with the students, and I stayed for a long time visiting with them. I am getting an increasing amount of questions about politics. They can tell they are not getting a full story, and I think are becoming increasingly aware that even with a full story they would not understand it all. No one can. Things here are so complex, and every viewpoint, every angle, every narrative, has another side to it. When they want to talk about it, I am happy to help them see how complex it really is, and help them see the various sides of it. I sure enjoy visiting with the students, these are such wonderful people.

Friday I spent time with my new class. These guys are great, and this will be wonderful. I got to spend a lot of the day with my family today, and still got a lot of good stuff done. We are having such wonderful scripture study. It is incredible to sit on our balcony and study the scriptures together. The other day we read of the triumphal entry, and I was able to point out where it happened. When we read of Jesus teaching in the temple I can say “right down there.” The wonderful experiences just keep piling one on top of the other.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Olives and Pirates

What an incredible week. It is hard to believe that we can continue to have such intense and wonderful experiences week after week, but we do. It is a wonderful opportunity to serve in the Church here. The spirit fills me with such love for those whom we serve here. I cannot get over how much I have come to love all these students, those in my class and the others, I think largely because I work with them in the Church and the spirit brings a mighty charity. It also fills me with a greater and greater love for my family all the time. The opportunity to work so closely with my wife in our home life (I am able to work from home most the time, which lets me be around her so much more, and because I don’t have to commute and because my kids can be involved in my work stuff so much I am around them so much more), in my academic life, in my Church life, in my social life (I have no friends here that she doesn’t know and also do things with), it has helped me be closer to her than ever before, and I am amazed at how much I go around being filled with a love of her and everyone here. It is a great gift from God.

This last Sunday we went with the family of the other counselor in the Branch Presidency, the Glenn Lewis family, to Nebi Samwill. The kids had a ton of fun together. Plus, I was able to teach my children about Samuel, Joshua and the battle where the sun and moon stood still, Solomon and his vision of God, and Saul. It is so wonderful to see these stories come alive for them, and to be able to teach them that way. We were able to have the Lewises over for lunch, and then we spent a lot of time with a couple of students who were the only two who had not been able to go on a big activity. It was great to get to know them better. All the students here are so incredible.

The next day was a kind of terrible day. We took the students on a tour of the Holocaust museum. It is a good thing to do, but it really made me sick. I only realized later that I had been clenching my jaw the whole time, which gave me a horrific headache, and that combined with not being able to eat when I wanted and with the emotional exhaustion really had me sick by the end. I won’t talk about how much that place disturbs me, how horrible it all is, because I don’t want to go through it again. I think people need to go there, but I don’t want to keep going there. This time I thought I would do something different to maybe make it better for myself. I paid a little less attention to the stuff in the museum and instead watched the faces of the students as we went through. I watched as these happy, shiny, innocent looking students went from bright faces and eyes to sadder, to pale, to horrified. The light went out of their eyes, the shine from their faces, and in the end that was even more depressing. It is a bad, but necessary day.

Tuesday we had a court of honor, and BJ really started to advance in scouting. He has done so much in scouts, but somehow we have never been able to get in the loop of jumping through the hoops to have the official advancements come. Here we are finally making it happen. It was great to see.

But we had an even great experience on Tuesday. For a week now we have been picking olives. I have been out a ton, both picking with the students and trying to pick enough for my family as well. I have picked buckets and bags full of olives, and it has been a very instructive process for me. On Tuesday we went out with the students, and then later with just our family, the Judd family, and our Jewish friends (who teaches a class here), the Yarden family, to process the olives. It was so great to see the kids push the olive crusher around. We had to do it for nearly an hour, just pushing the great stone around a circle to crush the olives. Then the kids got to get their hands in the mash of olives we had made, and fill up a bunch of baskets. Then we took the baskets over to a press (with the students we did two kinds of presses, with our kids just one). We pressed the olive mash that was in the baskets. The juice comes out a brownish-red, very blood colored. The crushing and pressing often makes it look as if the stone is bleeding. Then the juice ran into some pots in the ground, where the juice sank to the bottom, leaving a golden oil on top. After letting it settle for many hours I was able to get some beautiful olive oil out for our family. We will consecrate this oil later.

I took a moment (after our Jewish friend went to the playground to play, where we would meet him) to talk to our kids and the Judd kids about the symbolism of the Olive Press (Gethsemene) and how the process works and what the Savior did for us on Gethsemene. I would have liked to have talked about during the entire process, but waited out of respect for our friend. Still talking about it when it was all over I think made for a good teaching moment, and I think the older kids understood something more about the atonement when it was over. That by itself makes all the hours of work more than worthwhile.

Wednesday I was able to go visit the Church of the Nativity, which always overwhelms me. Though I have been there a few times before, and though right now it is covered with scaffolding so that one can hardly see a thing, and though I have many times thought of this topic, I was still powerfully moved by the love, grace and mercy represented by God sending his son, and Christ being willing to come to earth. It was an incredible thing to sit and contemplate the overwhelming gift. I am sure I do not fully understand it, I am sure I do not appreciate it enough, I am sure that it is more important for me than I can comprehend, but what I do understand and the appreciation I do feel moves the very depths of my soul, and makes it even deeper.

We also went to Rachel’s tomb. I was grateful to have a few moments to pay respect to my great ancestress. The difficulty of her life and her family’s is easy to overlook. Here was a great woman (she had her problems to be sure), who has given life to a great people, including me and my family. I literally thanked the Lord for the great people who have sacrificed so much to get us where we are today.

Thursday was a big night for us. It was the untalent show. We have been practicing to perform a funny version of “A Pirate’s Life for Me.” We were first, and I think it was a huge hit. We had a great time, and the kids felt good about what they did, and everyone seemed to love it. The rest of the talent show was one of the funniest things I have ever seen. These students are so funny. I could not believe how much I laughed. It was a great night.

On Friday we went from one local birthday party to another. It is good to get to know the area and people around here a little bit better. We also got to learn Israeli folk dancing (except for Kaleb, who didn’t want to, and snuck out). More wonderful and fun culture. There is so much to take in.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Scouts, City of David, and more

So, it was two months ago today that we got on the plane. Time is flying!

Last week was a fun and interesting week. BJ and I went on a scout camp with the little group of Americans that we do scouting stuff with. This camp was different because we also camped with an Arab Christian (Catholic) troop. These are guys that live in the Old City next to the Holy Sepulchre. It was especially interesting because once we got up there we found out that they were a mixed gender troop, girls camping with the boys. We made sure we camped a bit farther away from them than we normally would have.

It was great to talk with this Christian group about what it was like to live in the Old City as Palestinians and Christians. They don’t quite fit in with anyone, and have a bit of a hard row to hoe in that manner. But they are strong in their Christianity. Their Scoutmaster talked to me for a while. He told me that he recently did a thing with a bunch of scouts who were of 6 different Christian faiths. He started out his speech to them by telling them that it did not matter whether or not they were Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant or anything else. They were all Christians, and they should unite together in that way. I agree so much with what he is saying. I even think we can unite together as people of differing religions, whether Muslim, Christian, or Jew, but just uniting together as people who believe in God. There is a great sense of unity in that way.

Anyway, it was a good camp. We taught the other troop Wilderness Survival stuff, and gave them some wilderness survival packs. It was a fun day. We also played steal the flag and some other fun games with them at night. They made us dinner, a tasty Arab meal, and we made desert. BJ and I helped with the dutch oven peach cobbler. The cobbler only turned out kind of good, but the oven was very hard to clean. We also did the totin’ chip training for them. I’m not sure the stuff about how to handle knives safely made any difference at all, but we tried.

This week we took the students on the field trip to the City of David. At the very, very last minute it worked out for Julianne to be able to come also. I so enjoyed having her with me, it was great. We looked at the varying structures from the time of David and Solomon, including the structure that might be David’s palace. We looked at the houses from the time of Jeremiah and Lehi which show evidence of the destruction that came upon the city under the Babylonians, which Jeremiah and Lehi had prophesied of. We looked at the place where Solomon was anointed king. We read a lot of scriptures together and learned a lot of lessons together. Then we went through the tunnel Hezekiah had chopped into the rock underneath the city to bring the water from the Gihon spring to the pool of Siloam. It is over 1700 feet long, going right through the rock under the city, with the water from the Gihon flowing through it. This time it never even got past my upper thigh, though when we went through as students it was up to my chest. It was fun and exciting to go through together. While in the tunnel we sand “give said the little stream”, and for a while turned out all our flashlights and saw how dark it really was. When we got out we sat by the pool of Siloam and talked about the man who had been born blind and had some lessons from that. All in all it was a great day. It was especially good because Julianne was there. I have found that as good as these field trips are with the students, they are better when Julianne is there.

This week we took Tashara out to a nice dinner to celebrate her turning 12 (last week). She is turning into an amazing young woman, someone who is trying so hard to do what is right and be the right kind of person. She is so pure and good.

We also celebrated the Seder (Passover) meal this week. It is not the right time for it, but we do it every semester with the students so that they can learn about it. It was a great experience, and we learned a lot. The kids like the students so much that only Jacob sat with us, the others sat with their friends and enjoyed being with them.

I am having so much fun here. We have started reading scriptures on our balcony, overlooking the temple mount/dome of the rock, and the city of Jerusalem. This has not come without its grumbling, but it has been a great experience. We are getting more out of our family scripture study than we ever have before. I am so enjoying my classes with the students, and am only frustrated that we don’t get to spend more time in the classroom with them. It is like a little Zion experience with them here. We do school/work together, we often eat together, they are with us for about half of our personal lives, we do church and everything ecclesiastical together. And everyone gets along, and as time goes by the feelings of love for each other just increases and increases. It is an incredible experience.

We love it all!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fast moving weeks

We were very glad that when we got back from Egypt so late that no one had school the next day, or even the next week. (At least none of our kids did, Dad and the BYU students had life as normal.) We were able to relax a little, catch up on shopping, etc.

The little ones had fared very well because Jill Judd had watched them. She is an amazing trooper. She had her three youngest and our three youngest with pretty much no one else around to help. Happily some of the missionary couples came to help her, so that each evening they read stories to the kids and helped them get ready for bed. But she was remarkable with them.

Meanwhile, I am amazed at the bond that the Egypt trip has created between the students and also between me and the students. I love them like a father and feel very protective of them. We are all very close now.

This week we got to do cool things like drive around and look at Sukkot booths, think about Simchat Torah, etc. It is great that as we return from Egypt and Mt. Sinai that they are celebrating the 40 years in the wilderness here in Israel, and the reception of the law at Sinai. The timing is meaningful for us.

Tashara turned 12 this last week. She is growing into such a beautiful and capable young woman. The day before her birthday there was a district wide youth activity. She was able to go along with BJ and Mom, who represented me in my role in the Young Men's presidency. I taught while they left, and Kaleb watched the other kids. Then I got down and we had a good day together. We shopped, played, etc. It was a nice day.

BJ and Tashara got to do such cool stuff. They went to Akko, a crusader town, and played in the crusader bay, went through crusader fort remains, and even out a Templar escape tunnel. Cool stuff.

Tashara bore her testimony in church on her birthday, and started young women's. I am very proud of her. The next day we had a little party/luau for her with the students, and made a huge hit when we all did the limbo.

We also went to the Church of all Nations at the Garden of Gethsemene, along with the Judds. It was a great experience. We got there just before they were going to close. Some nuns from St. Anne's were there singing, and it was incredibly beautiful. We had a very nice experience there. The sun set as we left, right over the Golden Gate. That was also beautiful, but it also meant that we needed to hurry home to make it there before dark. So we went up a very steep path, very steep, which is probably similar to the path that the Savior took each day as he went from the temple to Bethany. We had some crazy moments, but made it home just before it got really dark.

Other cool things this week was Julianne, Jacob, and Sabrina coming with me as we went on a field trip to Gath (where Goliath is from), the Ehlah valley (where David killed Goliath, Maresha, Lachish, which is an amazing site, and Beth Shemesh, where we could look down on where Samson grew up. The kids were fun, and the whole thing was amazing.

We are having great experiences, but we there is so much more to do.

Friday, October 8, 2010


After a few hours of sleep we woke up and had a little snack, grabbed our sack-breakfast, and started hiking up the mountain. Julianne has been having problems with her knees, so she rode a camel most of the way up. Kaleb, Tashara, BJ, the Judds and I hiked up with the students, bringing up the rear (way in the rear). We had a really nice hike. It was almost a full moon, and was beautiful. A few times we almost went the wrong way, but we made it. We really had a great time. We met Mom just before we got to the top and she hiked with us the last little way.

We got to the peak as the sky was just starting to get a little light. We ate our breakfasts (what hadn't already been eaten on the way up) and then gathered with some of the students on a rocky outcrop. There we sang songs together as we waited for the sunrise. I especially enjoyed it when we sang "How Great Thou Art". We gave everyone some time to sit and think.

The sunrise was wonderful, with amazing colors. I then gathered my class around me. There, on the peak, we spoke about Moses meeting God, about the Israelites meeting God, Elijah meeting God, God giving his law, all on Mt. Sinai. I spoke of the theme of God wanting to be with his children, and all he does to make that happen. We read part of Exodus 24. Kaleb slept through almost all of it, hunched up on the peak of the mount. I think most people had a great experience, and some students told me it was the highlight of the entire trip. It really is moving to think of the grand experiences that took place on Mt. Sinai, wherever that is.

After some time to think, etc., we started back down. BJ hiked down the stairs of penance with some of his new, good friends. Tashara and Carrie Judd went down with some others. Julianne rode a camel. Kaleb and I had a wonderful time hiking down together. It is something I will always remember.

Towards the bottom we saw Julianne on her camel. The saddle had slipped around, the camel was having some problems, and it was causing Julianne a very painful ride. She had blisters on her hand from trying to hold onto the saddle. So, we got her off and she made the end of the hike with us.

All in all, it was an incredible experience.

The kids then got to swim just a bit as we packed. Then we had lunch (they kept giving us free drinks because they thought I was in charge), got on the bus, and headed out for home. The drive was good. The border crossing was long, but okay. We had a fun dinner at a kibbutz. On the long drive Kaleb talked to the students about himself. Julianne and I told them the story of our getting engaged,and got the Jacksons to do it too. We played music together with the students, and had a really fun time.

It was great to see our little ones we had left behind for a week. They ran up to the bus to meet us, and we had a happy reunion. It was an amazing trip!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Last days in Egypt

We had a very early breakfast at the hotel, which was very tasty.

Then we went to an old synagogue in Egypt, and two Coptic churches. One of them was having a service, and it was wonderful to watch and hear the Coptic chanting. I told my students this was their one chance to hear someone speaking Egyptian.

From there we went to the Museum. That, of course, is wonderful. We all really enjoyed our time there. Poor Kaleb, who has been such an incredible trooper, was enjoying it, but was getting really tired (4:30 am wake-up's will do that to you). So I gave him a piggy back ride while we were looking at the Tut stuff, and he fell asleep on my back. He slept for a while, but I thought he might feel bad if he missed seeing Tut's golden mask. I thought he would wake up for it and then go back to sleep, but when I woke him up to see it he told me he had lost feeling in his leg (guess I was holding on too tight to keep the sleeping boy on my back), and the pain kept him from going back so sleep.

Its just as well, this way he got to get down and go to the royal mummy rooms. He liked that. In the meantime, one of my students became dehydrated, nearly passed out, and we had to take care of her and get her to the bus. I watched over her carefully for a while, and she ended up doing just fine.

The kids are starting to have so much fun with the students. They really enjoy them. They play games with them on the bus, hang out with them on the field trips, and are getting very close.

After lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, we went to the big bazaar of Cairo, the Khan al-Kalili. We got a few presents there and had a good time.

After this we had a sacrament meeting. That morning I had asked a few students (and Kent Jackson) to bear their testimony. BJ lent me his tie while I conducted, and I was going to give it back to him while he passed the sacrament, but someone else lent him theirs during that time. It ended up being an incredibly spiritual meeting. The five testimonies were really good, and then I had a few minutes to bear mine and talk to them. I could see that so many people were so moved. It was really a wonderful meeting.

I forgot to mention one experience I had that was meaningful to me. We have had little in the way of sickness on this trip. One girl got pretty sick at Hatshepsut's temple, and threw up a number of times. But she really wanted to ride the camels. During lunch and the hour we had to rest after that, she asked me for a blessing. I gave it to her, and felt prompted to tell her she would quickly be made whole and recover and be just fine. I started to doubt myself, asking if I should really tell her that. My faith wavered a little. Hers did not. She went on the camel ride feeling pretty good just an hour later, and told me that as soon as she started she got feeling great. I think she had the faith, and as she demonstrated her willingness to act on it she was blessed miraculously. It was faith building for me.

We went back to the hotel and prepared ourselves for a good night's sleep. The kids went to bed pretty quickly. Julianne and I went for a small walk around the hotel grounds. There we found students in trouble. Some were being hit on by guys who wanted them to go drinking with them. Some were having horrible smells eminate from their air conditioners, some were having strange men try to break into their rooms so strenuously that the door know broke, and some were hanging out by themselves where the less desirable guys were. It took us a long time to get everything squared away and all feeling safe and calm. So, we didn't get as much sleep as we hoped for, but we got some nonetheless.

The next morning we went to see some wonderful mosques. When we were done with that we ate lunch and left Egypt. On the way back we stopped at some places that were possible candidates for Biblical stories that happened to Israel on the way out of Egypt. It was fun and meaningful as well.

We finally got to our hotel at Sinai, and exhaustedly fell into bed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Karnak, Luxor, etc.

For the first time in a while we got a good night's sleep. We rode some motor boats to the Karnak temple. It is so wonderful to ride along the Nile. More picturesque than you can imagine. It is also a lot of fun to see our kids making real friends with the students. They are really enjoying each other, and having a great time.

Of course the Karnak temple is breathtaking. They hypostyle hall is so amazing, my jaw drops each time I am there. It is overwhelming. The whole facility is. Our kids loved seeing all the stuff, and exploring a little. They also worked on the movie, and the students are getting into helping them make it. This was a big wow! experience.

From there we took some carriages to the Luxor temple. BJ's driver actually let him drive the carriage most of the way. He and the horse seemed to get along very well. Luxor temple is also amazing.

After being awed by that temple we took the carriages back to the hotel. Then we had a bit of free time. Julianne and I had to spend most of it packing, and Kaleb slept a bit (I fell asleep on the carriage ride). BJ and Tashara swam with the students. We had a great BBQ, and then went to the train station. We had the most efficient train loading you can imagine, and then we were off. The students were having a great time, and they got BJ and Kaleb to do a little filming on the train. Tashara had one of the students for her roomate, and thought that was cool. I was very, very tired, so I went to bed pretty early, and slept very well. Still, we got up at 4:30 am. And then the day started anew, with more and more to do . . .

Friday, October 1, 2010

More fun!

Way too many cool things happened way too quickly to try to keep it in any particular order. Here is a list of some of the best things we did.

Went to Hatshepsut's very cool temple.
Went to the Valley of the Kings where we toured Tut's tomb, Ramesses III's tomb, Ramesses IX's tomb, Seti I's tomb, and paid extra for Ramesses VI's tomb (one of the coolest), except for poor Kaleb who was dragging by then.
Rode a Sailboat on the Nile.
Rode a carriage through town and shopped at a strange little bazaar.
Went to a tomb where the Book of Abraham may have been found.
Went to the Colossi of Memnon.
Went on a camel safari.

The kids have been so tough, and so great! We have been wearing them out, this really is tiring. They have not been getting enough sleep. Yet they are such troopers and had so much fun, and were so good to work with, and I so, so, so much enjoyed being there with them. The students loved them, and they have been making very good friends with the students.

It is a bit more tiring than I had anticipated. Keeping track of all these students is tougher than I thought it would be. I can't say enough good about this group, these are exceptional, amazing students. Yet some are a bit naive, and can get themselves in trouble pretty easily if we don't keep an eye on them. I have come to feel quite fatherly towards them, and Julianne has adopted them all.

First few Amazing Days!

I am so glad that Julianne and the oldest three kids were able to come. We had such a great time. The first day we stopped on the way south to tour and teach about Ber Sheva, the place where Abraham lived, made a well, etc. Very cool! Then we went to Tel Arad, a very cool and huge fortress that we also really enjoyed. We stayed the night at a Kibbuts, where we spent some time at a huge sand dune, and spoke a bit about how we had been following roughly the same trail that Lehi and his family had taken, and let the students and my children write for a while about going through the same wilderness as Lehi and his family. Then that night we swam and had a barbeque. It was pretty funny, the Kibbuts told us that they were going to give us real American hamburgers. The burgers themselves were genuine, and barbequed well. But the buns werre pitas, and the condiments were kethcup, humus, tsiki sauce, diced onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. In other words they gave us a falaffel with a beef patty! Pretty funny, but very good. The kids had a great time swimming with all the students. We really enjoyed getting to know them all better.

The next day we left early and go to the border. It was much less hot than the last time we went through, and we enjoyed the whole process much better. It was very nice to get to the other side and find a nice bus waiting for us, with bottled cold water all loaded up, and off we went.

As we drove through the desert, I gave a lesson on the children of Israel in the wilderness. I think it went pretty well, and I feel great about it. It is pretty cool to talk about it as we drove through the actual wilderness. We had a couple of rest stops on the way, and some of the girls did not handle the more crude toilets very well, but we just helped them as best we could.

As we neared Cairo I explained to the students some things about the city, and they seemed to enjoy being able to understand some of the things they saw. One thing I will never forget is how my children and the students were so excited when I pointed out to them that we were going over the Nile, and how they all burst into cheers as we pointed the pyramids out to them for the first time.

We checked into a nice hotel, it was great. We had adjoining rooms with the kids, and it worked out well. That night we went to the sound and light show at the pyramids. I will always remember walking through the little awning with the kids. When you pop out suddenly there it is, the great pyramid. It is so much fun to hear them suck their breath in and say "wow, that is really it, we are really here." We had a ton of fun.

We slept well, ate well, and then we went off to tour the pyramids. BJ, Kaleb and Tashara worked on making a movie several times while we were there. They thought it was pretty cool to see the pyramids, and even more cool to go right inside one of them. The students couldn't believe they were there. We had some problems keeping the students together, and with them being hassled by people, but we eventually got them all together and went out for a great panoramic view, and then down to the Sphinx. It was exciting to tell them all about the temples we were going through, the Sphinx, etc.

Then we toured a factory where they show us how they make papyrus. As a teacher we got a free papyrus. Then we went to Saqqara and went through a great tomb, then out to the step pyramid.Way too many cool things all at once. From there we went to the airport, caught a plane, and flew to Luxor. We had a nice dinner there in a very nice hotel, and finally went to sleep. What an incredible bunch of days!