Saturday, September 5, 2015

Students Arrive!

What a week! On the weekend we were going to do all sorts of things here in the building that are harder to do when it is full of students. But the day ended up being largely taken over by a sudden opportunity to go and get Kaleb and Alexia some retainers. It only cost us $475 to get them both! It also took up most of the day, but we got it done. We then were going to go up and have a paper airplane flying contest. This is where we make airplanes and fly them off the 5th, 7th or 7th floor and see whose goes the farthest. It is quite fun. But when we went up to do it, we could smell electrical smoldering, and some smoke was coming out of the lights on the 5th floor. We called security and they started to check it out. But the smell and smoke were so bad that our eyes burned and we felt a bit sick, so we canceled our airplane contest and just did some other smalls stuff instead. It turned out that the elevator was having electrical problems and it was seeping out through the light sockets.

On Monday I got everything for my class all ready. Julianne spent most of the day at school working things out with schedules, etc., It ended up being a bit frustrating because when she first got there they had locked the secondary school down as they tried to figure out what was going on with three cell phones that had been stolen that morning. So she just sat there for a long time. Then she needed to get Kaleb and Alexia to go get their finished retainers, but had a hard time locating them. In the end it all worked out okay.

That evening we finally had our airplane contest. On Tuesday we did a walk-through for the orientation walk we take the students on. We made sure everyone, old and new, knew where to take the students and what kinds of things they should teach them as we went along. It was my first time in the Old City since we got here, and it was enjoyable to be back and to spend some nice time with everyone. David was masterful and enjoyable leading us through this. When it was done Julianne and I stayed behind in the city and tried some different foods we had never had before and explored the city a bit. We found some open places in the Armenian section that aren’t usually open and saw some churches and homes we have never been able to see before. It was great fun to explore with her. We walked back in the heat and found that our conditioning has served us well, the walk was easy and enjoyable.

Jeff Chadwick got in late that night. He called me and it was great to be with him again! I sure enjoy working with him, I think he is so much fun and I learn so much from him. It really so wonderful to have him back. Early the next morning we went on our field trip prep. Again it was great to have Jeff back. We had some great views of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

View of Bethlehem

Close up of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem (the block tower at the top of the hill)

The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

The good news is that they have the mosque area of Nebi Samwel all cleaned up and even let us go on the roof again. That allows us to get a great view. When we went down the mosque was actually open, and they allowed us to take some pictures inside of the cenotaph (honorary burial) for the prophet Samuel that is built there.

Nebi Samwil

In the mosque at Nebi Samwil

The synagogue entrance at Nebi Samwil

They also have redone the entry to the synagogue underneath where you can access the Jewish cenotaph for Samuel. It was all very nice. We had a great time.
Later it was time to go get the students. We had a nice trip out, and then waited quite a while for the students to get there. Of course we are so excited when they do arrive, and we quickly gathered them all together and started loading them on the bus. For the most part it went pretty quickly, but after a while we got down to five that just weren’t showing up. We finally learned that one of them was searching for luggage and some others were waiting for him. He finally found it, and then we had everyone but one. That student is actually of Palestinian background, and we were pretty sure he was inside being questioned for a while, which turned out to be true. They did let him through eventually, and he seems to be a delightful kid who took the whole thing very well.

 By that time it was all very late. We had our little welcoming experience with them in the auditorium, and then got them to dinner, and then I got 20 minutes with them to try to get them all excited about doing the program for the right reason in the right way and ready to travel together in a way that would work out well. I feel like it went extremely well. We had planned on my kids meeting them there, but it had gotten so late that most of them were in bed. They did the same thing with Jeff Chadwick’s Near Eastern Studies course, then we took small groups on a tour of the center, and finally, around midnight, I was able to get to bed.

Early the next morning we took them on a tour of the city. I had nine with me and I think we had a really good time. I did take one wrong turn, but figured it out right away and it all worked out well. I think they are excited to be here, and from what I can tell they are going to be a great group. I am really excited to work with this group.

students on the orientation walk

We also had a meet the teacher kind of thing at the Anglican School, then more orientation, etc. Then we had a get to know you activity, and the students were so great with my kids. They highlighted them, played with them, and did all sorts of things to make them feel special and wonderful. I was impressed, by the end three students knew the names of all 62 students and all the faculty and family. It was a lot of fun, and eventually I was able to go to bed again. Things move pretty quickly around here and it gets exhausting.

Get to know you activity

get to know you activity

Get to Know You Activity
We had two hours of class the next morning, and I loved it. I felt like it went extremely, extremely well, and I am so excited to do things with this group. They were all there early, we had great discussions, I feel like they really got what we were talking about, and I feel a great spirit about this group. This is going to be a great semester!

I worked on getting more things ready for class, met with some students, had a quick lunch, and then met with my travel committee to go over how they will help me with field trips. This will also be a fun group, and I am looking forward to our field trips. My kids got home from school and we had some fun together. 

Then Julianne and I met with David Whitchurch in his role of District President. He called Julianne as the seminary teacher, and called me as second counselor in the Branch Presidency. That is the same calling I had last time (though I was also YM president, Scoutmaster, and for a while I was first and second counselor). I have known for a while that was going to happen, and am very happy to be able to serve the students in this way. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience last time, and I look forward to doing it again this time.

That evening we walked with the students to the Western Wall. My kids had a great time walking with them. We got there and I took my boys with me to get some English prayer books. A few students tagged along. We read some prayers about welcoming in the Sabbath and I was able to talk to my kids about how we can learn from them about how to welcome the Sabbath in our hearts. Then we went around to different groups who were singing and dancing to welcome in the Sabbath and they got an even better feel for how much we should celebrate the Sabbath. It was a great evening. We finally got home, and got some sleep.

Today, Sabbath, has been wonderful. Both Julianne and I have really gotten started into our callings. Elder Packer of the 70 was here today, and he bore his testimony about the inspired calling of the brethren he worked with. It was particularly meaningful when he spoke about President Nelson in his calling as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, since the last time there had been a meeting it was his father who had sat in that seat. I set apart about 12 people today, and had a powerful experience each time. It is wonderful to get those little glimpses of how our Father in Heaven feels about these people, and it fills you with love for them. We have had a lot of nice family time together today, and worked on getting Julianne all set up to teach Old Testament in seminary, and skyped with my parents and BJ. BJ seems to be doing very well, and has been making decisions and moving things along for himself very well. What a great growing experience he is having.

I feel so blessed. I am so grateful!

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