Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jerusalem Observations

I wanted to write some things about Jerusalem that people wouldn't know unless they lived here. I won't call them "facts" though because I am not sure if they are. They are simply weird things that might be interesting that most tourists don't see:

1. About once a week the entire area around the Jerusalem Center smells like smoke. One time we saw a dumpster on fire so that they could pile more trash on top of the ashes of the old trash. This explains the smoke and tells you how dirty the streets of Jerusalem are.

2. Bread is sacred. If people drop bread on the ground (or cookies or even a crust of bread), someone else will come along and put it up on something so it is above the ground. I walked around today and actually saw this. Even in the nastiest of circumstances (because they litter a lot even though I have seen lots of trash cans around), pieces of old bread will be put up on a chair or tree stump so that some animal or other person can come and eat it.

3. Shopping is crazy. Things do not have prices. Even with taxis (called...phonetically..."share-roots") you have to barter for a good price. Most of the time people really scam the Americans (because it works) and if you get the shop keeper to actually give you your set price, you probably could have gone lower. It is pretty stressful and I try to avoid it all together. The key is walking away (thank you Russ Lee for telling me that) will ALWAYS get your price if you are willing to walk away. Also, the shops in the Old City are lining a sidewalk that is about 6 feet wide. It is very bustling and crowded. I am still scared when I go in there because most of the men look sketchy and pickpocketing is a big problem.

4. Mailing things is very expensive. There are customs to send things out of Israel. Even stamps cost about 2 dollars. My package I sent to myself cost 100 dollars to ship! And when I got a package from my parents, it had been completely opened and rummaged through.

5. The locals really can spot BYU students. Somehow they'll look at us and say, "Mormons?" and most shopkeepers really do give Mormons a better deal than most tourists because we are honest people and we dress modestly. We may not be able to openly talk about our religion, but we really are making a good impression on the people here.

6. The Dead Sea is really cool. Floating is an amazing experience that I think everyone should have. I imagine it is how astronauts feel. However, what they DON'T tell you is that it BURNS. I am not just talking about cuts. Somehow the salt gets into places you don't really think about and burns like nothing you've ever felt before. Some of the girls couldn't handle it. The guys were okay. (Use your imaginations) Despite that, the Dead Sea was still one of the coolest parts of the trip.

7. The Old Testament really is a lot more interesting when you can picture the places in your head that you are reading about. I still think the Book of Mormon is a lot easier to understand, though.

David and Goliath sling :)

8. I wish Russ were here, but I am still having an amazing time.

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