Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sun of Nazareth

            Today I watched the sunrise and the sunset on the city of Nazareth.  I love the spirit of this town.  I can’t really explain it but I feel a connection to the people here.  We have been staying at a convent for the past two days that has a rooftop view of the city.  I decided to wake up early this morning to watch the sunrise.  With scriptures in hand I headed for the roof, I can’t really think of a better way to start off a day. 
            Our convent is across the street from the Church of the Annunciation, which commemorates the visitation of the Angel Gabriel to Mary to announce to her that she would carry the Christ child. (Luke 1:26)  Nazareth was the hometown of Jesus.  He grew up here as a boy playing games with other boys in the village.  As I walked up and down the hills and saw the view of the valley below I tried to imagine what it would have looked like for him. 
            But things were not always great for Christ in Nazareth.  After his forty day fast in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil he was ready to begin his ministry as the Messiah and what better place to start then his hometown.  He read a verse of Isaiah talking the Messiah to which Christ said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” to which the men in the synagogue said, “This is not this not Joseph’s son?”  Can you imagine how crazy this situation must have seemed to the people of Nazareth?  Jesus, the boy next door, the son of Joseph the carpenter was claiming to be the Messiah.  They tried to throw him off a cliff for heresy but he was able to walk away and he left for Capernaum.  (Luke 4: 16-32)  It was never mentioned that Christ returned to the city of his youth after that.  I am sure not being accepted in Nazareth was a great source of sorrow for him.
            But I am also sure he is happy that there are many men and women now living in Nazareth, some who might even be the descendents of the people who rejected Christ, now proudly embrace his name.  They are the Arab Christians who live in this humble city. I felt very welcome among the Arab Christians. 
            Thanks to a friend I made at a corner grocery store I heard about the lighting of the Nazareth Christmas Tree.  After more then an hour of waiting and a missed dinner with the Nuns at the convent the tree was lit accompanied with a sky full of fireworks.  On that night I joined about 300 fellow Christians, myself being the only white person in the crowd, in celebrating the birth of our Savior in his hometown.  He may have been rejected here once but no longer, he watches over this city that I am sure of. .  After that some friends and I found a rooftop to watch the sunset.  I couldn’t help but feel a connection with Christ, envisioning him watching the sunset over the same hills.  
            From my friend at the corner grocery store to the lighting of the Nazareth Christmas tree to eating some really good shawarma I think I have fallen in love with this city set on a hill.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What are you all so worried about?

As my time here in Jordan comes to an end I am forced to look back and examine what I have learned from my study of Arabic.  My experiences here over the past four months have only confirmed the importance of persistence and the beauty of worry.  I have learned that over the past few years if you want something in life you need to persistently work towards that goal.  My most recent goal was Arabic.  I know I could study Arabic my entire life and never feel satisfied with my abilities. But I feel I have reached a benchmark even though the path of Arabic is endless.  I accomplished something that in the beginning I truly doubted if I strong enough or smart enough to complete.  It's a good feeling to have completed something you thought was impossible. 

Struggling to lose weight, getting into BYU, studying Arabic and other trials have taught me not to let hardships affect me negatively.  It's OK to worry, in fact it is a necessary part of life .  Worry is what drives me forward.  It is my motivation but you can't let the worry overcome you.  If you worry to much you become bogged down and you won't progress.  Too much worry can be debilitating, the right amount can be an impetus.  I think we all need a healthy douse of worry to push us forward.  If you're not worried about the future why would you do anything to change it?  

I have learned that when you are presented with a obstacle, don't freak out.  Take a step back, remove your self from the situation and analyze it, find the best way around it and then move forward with faith that things will work out.  Because here's the secret, they will.  

My sister reminded me of a scripture in 1 Nephi, "the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty . . . " or at least, quietly persistent. It's the combination of being worried and persistent at the same time that leads to success.

 I am worried about my future, but that is a good thing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Stairway to Amman

The city of Amman is built on a series of hills.  There really aren't that many flat areas.  Most of the time you are either walking up hill or down hill.  Because of this there are a lot of stairs here.  Here are some pictures of a few of my favorites.  Special thanks to my good friend Jesse who helped me discover a lot of these stairs.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Call to Hair

The past few days I have been feeling the tingling of my follicles, maybe it's the stress of Arabic or maybe my manly desires manifesting themselves but I really have been missing my beard more then normal.

Let us just consider for a moment all the great men who proudly wear or have worn the beard:
Abe Lincoln
Ernst Hemingway
Santa Claus
Iron and Wine
Grizzly Adams
Chuck Norris
Zach Galifianakis
This list could go one forever

I really miss my beard   

My beard and the Suleymaniye Mosque

"There is great truth in Alphonse Karr's remark that modern men are ugly because they do not wear their beards."
- George Augustus Henry Sala

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man”

-William Shakespeare

"Beards in olden times, were the emblems of wisdom and piety."
- Thomas Babington Macaulay

"A kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt."
-Spanish proverb

Leviticus 19:27 "You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard." (see even the scriptures support the wearing of a beard)

Beards are cool, I miss mine.  Just wanted all of you to know that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Photos from Jordan

I am pretty sure the Arab man who took this photo thought we were pretty weird, his face just screamed, "Crazy Americans"

There were many more cars like these in the Museum.  Life would be good as the King.

Arab Hipsters!!!!!

The city of Salt, formerly the capital of Jordan.

They even have "Wall Mart" here in Jordan.

Ajloun: My Jordanian Weekend

Mansaf after we had destroyed it.
My roommate made friends with a man named Mohanad at the University of Jordan.  Mohanad lives in Ajloun which is about an hour northwest of Amman.  Mohanad took us out to his families house to experience Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan.  Many times after I tell people here that I have eaten Mansaf they tell me that I am now a real Jordanian. 
Sunset over a Mosque in Ajloun
So we make it out to Ajloun by bus, we get to Mohanad's house and the adventure begins.  They lay down a sheet of plastic on the floor then bring out the Mansaf which is just a huge plater of rice with a whole chicken sitting on top of it.  We sit down cross-legged on the floor next to the Mansaf and then dig in with our hands.  The rice was so hot I could barely pick it up, but that didn't stop me from eating my own weight in Mansaf.  It's really good. 
View of Ajloun from the Castle
After the Mansaf we hit the town with Mohanad and his friends, Ajloun is in the hills and there is an old crusader castle on the highest one.  Our friends talked us in for free and Arab hospitality would let us left without then buying us each a few postcards.  People in Ajloun are not as use to foreigners as the people in Amman so we were quit the site walking about the streets at night, we drew a lot of attention.
The Castle
We had planned on returning to Amman that night but didn't realize that the buses stop running at a certain time, so we ended up staying the night with Mohanad and his family.  It was a night of little sleep, lots of food and Arabic dancing. The best treat of the night by far was the warm goats milk with added sugar. It was amazing.
Our beds for the night
I also had my first experience with a squat toilet , the added plus it was in the middle of the night. When I went to bed I could feel that I had to use the bathroom but I was really hoping I could just wait until we got back to Amman the next morning.  No such luck, at 2 a.m. I didn't have an option, I was going to have to use the squatter.  I could not find out how to turn the light on in the bathroom so I had to use the flashlight on my cell phone, there was a hole in the wall of the bathroom that went outside and I had no idea how to use this type of toilet, all while trying to not make too much noise because I didn't want to wake up Mohanad's family sleeping in the next room. 

This was a very enjoyable weekend and I felt like I really got to have an authentic Jordanian experience.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

            I look out the window of the small room where I am sit at the limestone buildings that surround me.  The room feels more like a prison. I think about jumping out the window and running away until I remember that I am on the fourth floor, that won’t work.  Guess I am stuck.  I reluctantly turn back to my computer screen, you see it’s the first day of my fourth month study aboard in Amman, Jordan and I am being forced to take a placement exam, which I already know will condemn me to be in the stupid class.  So what’s the point I tell myself, can’t I just cut my losses and get a falafel sandwich at the shop around the corner?
            I asked myself why I even started studying Arabic in the first place, I couldn’t answer that question(now sure I could now either), all I knew is that sitting in my 11th grade social studies class learning about Islam a spark was lit in the back of my head with an idea that said, “You should learn Arabic and study Islam.”  That spark grew for years until I was sitting in my prison cell blankly staring at this exam.  It was a computerized exam and I knew this heartless machine would show no mercy; it would destroy me.
            I felt an immense pressure to do well on this test because if I didn’t make into the “smart class” I wouldn’t learn Arabic and this entire study aboard would have been pointless, a wasted experience that didn’t benefit me at all.  Just as I was about to fall into full-blown depression a thought came to mind.  I have my entire life to learn Arabic; this experience is just one step on my road to Arabic mastery.
            I didn’t feel like I was in prison anymore.  I stopped worrying about the test.  I was able to accept my level of skill in Arabic, even if it was much lower then others on the program.  Even if I was to end up in the dumb class that was my level and my teachers would help me to rise from that level.  I thought I have the rest of my life to master Arabic; I can’t do it in these 4 short months but as long as I am better at the end of the program then I am now, I have been successful.
            Today in class my teacher talked about commitment.  He said that after about 5 years of marriage you start to wonder why you married that person and if you really love them but you have made a commitment to that person so you stay with it.  Once you get through that low point the love you have for that person is great then you ever could have imagined.  I have never even been close to marriage so I’ll just have to take his word for it, but I feel that is my relationship with Arabic.  I have made a commitment to learn Arabic, sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing and what my future holds but I know that if I hold fast to my commitment to learn Arabic I will come out the other side a better person whether Arabic has anything to do with my future or not.   

Monday, October 10, 2011

Life on Film

So I when home this summer and not far from this location at The Salvation Army I found a sweet Canon 35mm film SLR camera.  So I decided to post a few pictures that I took with the camera.

Out in the middle of nowhere on the way to my sister's house there is this old car and an abandoned farmhouse.  Every time I drove past it I always wanted to stop and take some pictures of it but I never had a camera until now.

Some people say that Eastern Washington is a desert and is ugly.....I disagree.
I was constantly looking over my shoulder while taking these pictures because I had to cross a barbed wire fence with a no trespassing sign in order to get to this spot.  I think it was worth it.

My good friends Brooklyn Johnson painted this......I have the coolest friends.

This man's name is either Bryan or Ryan, I can't remember which but he is the man in charge of the Folk Life Festival in Yakima every year(where is picture was taken).  I saw his amazing beard and had to ask him for a picture, he was more then happy to model for me.  I asked how long he had been growing his beard, he told me he started in 1975 but lost over half of it twice due to fire.  Campfires and birthday candles can be dangerous when you have a beard that long.  I have great respect for this man.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Exploring the Infinite Abyss

Well, I have given into the peer pressure of my roommates and have started a blog.  I have actually been thinking I needed to start a blog for a while now.  So here I go,  jumping right into it. My first blog. 

I feel that I need to explain why I choose to name my blog 'The Infinite Abyss'.  In the movie Garden State, Andrew is a young man who is lost in life, he isn't sure what he wants and is looking for something to make him happy.  One day he and his friends find themselves in some recently discovered caves.  In the caves, they meet a scientist named Albert, who lives in a boat inside the caves with his family.  His job is to explore and map out the caves, his own "private abyss".  Andrew asks if he ever gets lonely in the caves, Albert explains that he isn't lonely because he has his family and he has found what makes him happy, the exact thing that Andrew is looking for.

Albert explores the unknown for a living, but Andrew is the one who is lost in the void, fighting his way through to the other side to find his place in life like Albert.  As they are leaving Andrew turns to Albert and says, "Good luck exploring the infinite abyss", to which Albert replies, "You too."  Life is the ultimate 'abyss' and we are all just explorers trying to find our way through it, trying to find happiness. By starting this blog I invite you to join me on my explorations of the 'Infinite Abyss'.