Saturday, May 28, 2011

Abraham, Arad, Arabs, and Birthdays Ahoy!

After a few hours of sleep on Sunday the kids woke up, and we had a happy reunion. It was wonderful to be with them again (though I could have used a few more hours of sleep before they came to say hi). We played some games, gave some presents, did some shopping, and tried to get all settled in again. It was a nice day. For BJ’s birthday (a few days away), we went with a group of students to see the movie Pirates of the Caribbean IV, and had a great time. We dressed up as pirates, we sang on the way down, and enjoyed the movies. It was a lot of fun.

The next day we went on a field trip to the Negev. The whole family came with us. We had a nice bus ride down, and then we stopped at a place where Bedouin women weaved rugs. They taught us how they did it, and how it was a way for them to help support their families. It was nice, and the kids had fun. Then we went to a place where Bedouins are making a more permanent home. Apparently the time was spent, for the most part, with a leader talking about how they don’t like what the government is doing with them. I wouldn’t know, I was tired enough that sitting with Jacob on my lap on a cement floor, leaning against a cement wall, I slept through the whole things.

Julianne with some of the women who are learning to read on tables donated by LDS Philanthropies (along with other stuff).

The Bedouin village

This cement floor is more comfy for sleeping on than you would think

Tashara learns to weave from a Bedouin

What I do know is that it took too long, and we got behind schedule, and had to cancel part of the Biblical portion of the field trip. I didn’t like that very much. Still, we went to Tel Be’er Sheva, and had a great time going through the site. (site info: 940 ft. above sea level, N. 41* 08.662 E. 029* 03.461). We spoke of Abraham (though he lived over in the area of the new city, where we ran out of time to go) his well, how he and Isaac and Jacob spent a lot of time there. We read the accounts of his digging a well there, making covenants with the local inhabitants, of Isaac doing the same, and talked about how the place plays into all the great Patriarchal narratives (such as Jacob leaving from there to go into Egypt, etc.). I also taught students how ancient gates work, and case mate walls. This tel was a small citadel, used primarily for a military outpost, a government center and a place to collect taxes and tariffs. It was probably built by Solomon. It was at least partially destroyed by Shishak/Sheshonq, who called it the fortress of Abram (preserving the memory of Abraham in that place), and was rebuilt later. It witnessed the wars with the Assyrians and Babylonians. Oh, if those walls could talk. We looked at the replica of the altar they found there, talked about temples, worship, turning to idolatry, etc. We later looked at where they probably had a temple in the town that had ended up becoming idolatrous and being destroyed. There are a lot of great lessons in that. We especially talked about how easy it is to start out in the right path (as with that temple) and yet slowly start to worship both the right and the wrong thing, which will always turn us away from the right thing eventually. It was a great site, and I think everyone enjoyed it.

The family at Tel Arad. We have to wear hard hats because we go underground in a water system. Of course we do that several places here, and this is the only place you have to wear a hard hat. But we are glad they make us do it once, where else can we look like Bob the Builder's family?

Replica of the Altar at Be'er Sheva

From there we went to Tel Arad. It is a climb, because it is 1848 feet above sea level. This is a great citadel, you can really get a feel for an Israelite fortress there. It served a similar purpose and had a similar history to that of Tel Be’er Sheva. There are two very interesting things about this site. A collection of ostraca were found there (broken pottery shards that were used to write on). Some of these, from around 600 BC, contained writing that used Egyptian script to record Hebrew words and numbers. Enough was found to make it seem that there was at least a small school of Jewish scribes who had long been using Egyptian script in their own way. Interesting for readers of the Book of Mormon.

The fortress of Arad

The other thing that is interesting there is the clear remains of an Israelite temple. The altar is still there, the holy of holies is apparent, as well as altars of incense. The other thing there are two standing stones used to represent deity. The fact that there are two indicates that this temple too probably became idolatrous as well, so we revisited our message of how we worship both God and other things at the same time, and how easy it is to start doing that, but how problematic it is. It was a powerful time. I think my family enjoyed it.

The Holy of Holies at Arad

This is one way of taking the family to the temple, even into the Holy of Holies

The altar at Arad

We had a long ride home, but it went quickly enough. And the next day was BJ’s birthday. I think he had a good day. We made his favorite meals, the class sang happy birthday to him, we played games with the students, etc. BJ has grown so much lately. He really looks like a young man now, and is just a hair shorter than his mom now. The next day Julianne spent most of the day getting ready for Arab night. It was a huge success, everyone seemed to enjoy it. And then the next day we finally got around to taking BJ in to the doctor to have them look at his wrist. The doctor couldn’t see a break, but said it was hard to see a break in that area and that the indications were like a break. He sent us to a specialist. He did more x-rays, and still couldn’t see a break, but felt like there probably was one. So they put BJ in a cast, and said to keep it on for 3 weeks. If it still hurts after that we will have him x-rayed again, and if not we can just take it off. Poor guy, it seems to still be causing him a lot of pain.

BJ's birthday (how did he get so old?

Arrr. matey! For BJ's birthday we went with some students to see the 4th Pirate's movie. Get ready to swab the decks ye rapscallions!

Thursday was also Jacob’s birthday, and he turned four. He also seems to have really grown a ton lately. He looks really big. A lady in the store saw him the other day and guessed he was five going on six. He looks like it to me too. He is becoming so much fun, and learning to control his craziness. He had a great day, playing a ton and loving his cake and ice cream and presents, etc. Everyone is growing so much. It is hard to believe this is our last birthday we will celebrate here. Life just goes so fast, and our wonderful time here is starting to wind down.

Jaker's b-day!

We also had Arab night this week, and as always, the hardworking Julianne put together something fabulous!

Alexia and Joan in their accidentally matching dresses

Sabroina, Tashara and friends at Arab Night

We are Arabian looking, yes?

For me, I spent most of my free time this week tying up loose ends from Turkey. We are trying to refine the trip for others, and write down lots of notes, etc. It has taken a lot of work. I am also trying to tie up lots of loose ends. But the best part of the week was being back in the classroom. It seems like it has been a long time since we were there, and I do so love teaching these guys this wonderful stuff. This week we did Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and Saul. These are such incredible topics with so much depth and richness to it. I loved being in the classroom with my students again.

My beloved class

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day Seven -- There and Back Again

The next day we rose early, ate, dealt with the water in the hotel running out while Julianne and others were fully soaped up or shampooed up and couldn’t rinse (a little bottle of water helped a bit, and I was smart/lucky enough to shower early, so I was okay) and out we went, walking up to the Grand Mosque. This is not a mosque for tourists, it is just a big, beautiful mosque. I loved it, it was beautiful.

The Grand Mosque of Bursa

Students learning outside the Grand Mosque

Chadwicks outside the Grand Mosque

Wanya preparing to enter the Mosque

Inside the Grand Mosque

More from inside the mosque

We were trying to make our schedule work out just right, and made several adjustments along the way. With all that, we found that information we had was not right, and we had to make some decisions as we drove. At the last minute we decided to go to Iznik, which is the site of ancient Nicaea, the place of the promulgation of the Nicene Creed. It took us out along a beautiful drive along a gorgeous lake. Then we got to the site that commemorates the council, and Jeff Chadwick did a great presentation on the Creed.

Me in front of the church commemorating the Council of Nicea

Inside the church

Jeff Chadwick teaching about the Council of Nicea inside the church that commemorates it

Then off we went on our drive again. As we did the beautiful drive back towards the Marmara, Jeff and I ran a radio station, KTRK. We would DJ, tell about the songs, make some good jokes, and play some good music. Some of them they danced to. I think we all had a great time.

Dancin' in the aisles

It made the last of the long drives just plain fun. I love doing stuff with Jeff, we have too much fun together. We had commentary, such as the weather and traffic together: “the lanes on this long highway are clear, but the shoulders are clogged with three tractors stuck behind a slow scooter that is being outpaced by a donkey on a cart” (that was all true) “and the weather is about like this.” Or, when we saw a guy shampooing his hair in a waterfall on the side of the road “tourist report: man seen rinsing shampoo out of his hair in a waterfall along the road. He must have stayed in the same hotel we did last night.” I referred to Jeff as the “Gladiator of the Airwaves, Chaddicus.” I had a great time, and I’m pretty sure the students did since I found this on one of their blogs: “Our professors, Muhlestein and Chadwick, kept us endlessly entertained by pretending to be DJs on the bus radio station, KTRK. They would play oldies and make hilarious commentary on the traffic and the weather. SO much fun =] We all enjoyed singing along. I think our tour guide was highly amused....”

Chaddicus, the gladiator of the Airwaves

We had a lot of long bus rides, but we came to love each other on these trips

We had a quick, good lunch (which included me realizing I had left my water on the bus, so I hurdled two different hedges, a guard rail, and chased down the moving bus, knocking on the door just as it was getting too fast for me and then getting on and getting my water, feeling like I had been in a movie). Then we drove to a ferry and had a very nice sail over to Istanbul. On the ferry I found a bus driver for Trojan Tours who had a Trojan Horse tie. I asked him if I could buy it. He said he needed it for his work, but he had a friend who had an extra. They tried to give it to me for free (very kind), but I paid him $5 for it. I am very excited to have a Trojan Horse tie bought from a Turkish tour guide on a ferry that was taking me from Asia minor across the Marmara towards Europe. That is a good purchase.

Sportin' my tie I just bought from a bus driver on the ferry

The view of Istanbul from the ferry

So, riding boats gives me a bit of a natural high. I had Chadwick convinced to climb on the row boat with me for a good photo pose. On the way down he pointed out that if we did it, so would every student who saw us (and there were a bunch right there), So we didn't do it. I was forced to look for another great pose.

So instead I found this lookout tower with a bell and a flag, and no students around. Perfect! Except for the worker cleaning up broken glass over there. So I told Julianne to be ready to get the shot. I went over, waited for the right moment, climbed up, and while he kept telling me to get down, did a fine pose for a moment or two while I talked to him, and then jumped down. But Julianne wasn't really ready (she failed me), and only got a photo in as I jumped down, after about five seconds of the perfect pose. Oh well, I love her anyway (but next time I will find a better photograper).

This is basically the trip we took, except for at the end we did not go around the Marmara, we took a ferry over just above Lake Nicea, just north and west of it. But pretty much this is the path we traveled.

We finally got to Istanbul (Constantinople, and yes we played the song a few times), and then drove to the Hagia Sophia. This is a huge church, long the largest one in the world. Constantine started it, but it was the emperor Justinian who made it huge. It was later made into a mosque, and now it is a museum with both Christian and Muslim elements left within. As cool as I have always heard it is, and as high as my hopes were, it was better. It is a huge, magnificent building. Outside doesn’t look like all that much anymore, though it still looks pretty good (a few earthquakes and a some tough structural adjustments made by changing occupants have hurt the outside a bit), but inside is breathtaking. It is magnificent. I really like that building, it is a great work.

Hagia Sophia from up close

Roof of the Hagia Sophia looking over towards the Blue Mosque

Inside the church

BJ and I inside the Hagia Sophia

Jul and I inside the church

More of the inside of the Hagia Sophia

Mosaic of Constantine giving the city, and Justinian giving the church, to Jesus Christ

Cool looking guy near the church and the bazaar

We went from there to a bazaar, and then from there to a wonderful dinner, and then to the airport, which was not too bad, though it had a hiccup or two.

Julianne and our tour agent, the amazingly wonderful Willeke, at dinner

BJ, Jul, Me, and Fatih, our tour guide who took such good care of us

The group waiting for the airline ticket counter to open

We had an 11:30 pm flight, took two hours to get into Ben Gurion airport, cleared customs, got luggage, got on the bus, and we were home by 3:30 am. I was pretty tired, but it was one whale of a good trip. I wish we could have taken these students to Egypt. It fits better with the curriculum, it is even better than this trip, and I love hearing them gasp when they first see the pyramids. But if we aren’t going to Egypt, this is an awfully good substitute, this is good stuff. And I am personally grateful to have done both. The Lord treats me better than I deserve.

Day Six -- Up and down and up again

This morning we went straight to Hierapolis. I was skeptical about this site, I wasn’t so sure it was a significant place for us to go. I was very wrong. This is a little area that has Laodicea, Colossae, and Hierapolis all in one little area, with the Lycus river running between.

Map of the area which also includes the seven churches which John mentions in Revelation

Hierapolis is up in the mountainside, looking down on Laodicea and Colossae. Hierapolis is full of hot springs and mineral waters, some of which is carried down to Laodicea.

Looking down on where Laodicea was from Hierapolis

It is great to look down on Laodicea and consider what John wrote to them: 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:14 - 18). This is really interesting because Colossae has cold water that it supplies to Laodicea, and Hierapolis has very hot water that it supplies. We sat along the waterway that carried hot water, with steam pouring out on us, and talked about not being the mixture of cold and hot that the Laodiceans were. We talked about being hot in the Gospel. We applied it to our life, to how we can sometimes kind of be engaged in the Gospel. There, in the steams of Hierapolis I felt myself wanting to commit to being hot in the Gospel, and asked others to be hot as well. I feel that the setting affected all of us, and that everyone there wanted to make such a commitment.

The hot steam coming out of the waterway against which my students leaned, bathed in the steam, as we spoke of being hot in the Gospel.

Part of the water system in the ruins of Hierapolis

The natural formation that was turned into an aquaeduct to carry hot water from Hirapolis to Laodicea. The white all over the mountainside is the result of the mineral deposits left by the hot water springs of the area.

View of Hierapolis and its mineral deposits from the valley

It was also interesting timing because the night before, just down the hill, most of us had felt the stirrings of an earthquake that had happened some miles away. We have record of a time when Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake and had refused help from the emperor to rebuild because they felt the had weath enough to take care of themselves. John chastised them for being too tied to their weath, and how that blinded them. The teaching moment was perfect.

Ruins of Hierapolis that suffered from an earthquake like the one that struck Laodicea, or the one we felt the night before (5.9 in Ankara)

Also, we were able to talk about an Epahras, who Paul mentions as having served in Hierapolis. He is an unsung hero, one who helped many, and is given little credit. I hope we can all be unsung heroes, and be okay with not receiving great amounts of credit though we are engaged in great causes.

Jul, BJ and I in the temple of Apollos at Hierapolis

From there we had some free time. Julianne, BJ and I went around the Nymphaeum, the temple of Apollos, and some other very cool ruins. I could have spent forever exploring that area, it was very, very cool. There was so much to see and do there. I loved it.

One of the temples of Hierapolis

Part of the Temple of Apollos at Hierapolis

But, from there we started our very long drive back. I was afraid it would be a long, tedious drive. But one little element made it pretty cool. We figured out that we were going along a route that made it possible to see all the areas of all seven of the churches.

Map of the Seven Churches (with a few other sites thrown in free of charge)

We had already been at Pergamos (Pergamum), Ephesus, Smyrna and Laodicea. On our very long drive we made a rest stop at Alashehir, which is the site of ancient Philedelphia. We made a turn just after Salihli, and from there we could see Sart, the town built where ancient Sardis had been. We drove to have lunch at Akhisar, and the center of downtown Akhisar contains the ruins of ancient Thyatira, so we made s stop there. That made it complete, we saw all seven cities that had the seven congregations to which John wrote. That was exciting stuff.

The area of ancient Philadelphia

The area of ancient Sardis

Ancient Thyatira

Ruins from ancient Thyatira

On the drive I told some more stories that I hope taught some lessons. We heard from Jeff on some things. He is so much fun, and even more so with his wife with him. It is great to have Kim Chadwick with us on all this stuff. We had a four hour drive ahead of us. We tried to make it somewhat fun. It was helped by the fact that this is some of the most beautiful territory to drive through I have ever seen. Gorgeous mountains, amazing agriculture, scenic villas, and on and on. I could have looked out those windows all day. There was so much to see. This is amazing countryside.

Some of the beautiful views out the window

Long lines at the bathrooms (especially the women's, we do, after all, have more than twice as many women as men) are a regular feature of field trips.

We arrived in Bursa (down close to sea level, after being way up at Hierapolis) and had reasonable food in an adequate hotel. We first had sacrament meeting. I think the meeting went very, very well. We had a little glitch in the Air Conditioning and in coordinating some things regarding the Sacrament. As the person responsible for running the meeting I always feel strongly about trying to do things how the Lord would like, especially in regards to that sacred ordinance of the Sacrament. In trying to make it happen in the way I felt directed, I had a moment when I focused so much on trying to communication from above that I was not as attentive to communication with some around me as I would like, and I feel badly about that. I think I did what I needed to do as the person who was responsible for making things happen right, but I wish I had been more attentive to others as I did so. I always regret the things I do wrong. But overall the Spirit was very strong, and I think we had a very powerful meeting. It is wonderful that wherever we go we can worship the Lord Jesus Christ and be part of his fold. He takes care of us all over the world. It was a sweet experience. Too bad that I put a downside on what should have been just sweet. I am so glad that I can be forgiven, and pray that hearts are healed who are wounded by me.

After dinner and all, we went out to see Bursa. It was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire, and is a pretty cool town. I liked the mosques, the bazaars, the walls, and the restaurant. We got some of their famous goat milk ice cream. I have certainly had better ice cream, but I’m glad I tried it.

Walking through the market in Bursa

In the hotel were a bunch of school age Turkish girls. So the students got BJ to come down, and then said “It’s Justin Bieber” and took their pictures with him. The Turkish girls went wild. They all whipped out their cell phones and took pictures of themselves with him, got his autograph, and swooned wildly. I guess they didn’t stop to think that JB wouldn’t stay in the same dive of a hotel that BJ was staying in. BJ has now been mistaken for JB in three different countries. Kinda fun. We liked Bursa. On the whole, it is a cool place.