I am so glad to finally be here at the BYU Jerusalem center on Mount Scopus! Our journey here was quite the adventure. Tuesday morning Mom dropped me off at the Salt Lake airport, where I met up with the 50 or so other students on my flight to Phoenix, Arizona. (The other 30 had gone already on another flight.) In Phoenix, our flight to Philadelphia was delayed . . . then cancelled! Our group spent about six hours in that Phoenix airport as our group leaders (fellow students) talked with agents, called our BYU trip leaders, passed out meal vouchers, and the rest of us got to know each other a bit.
We eventually were shuttled to a nice hotel in Phoenix. I felt like I was on vacation - wonderfully comfortable beds, meal vouchers for the great hotel restaurant, shuttle service to the nearby pool and mall - with 50 other college students! I'm sure the hotel staff was terrified. It turned out to be such a wonderful group to be a part of. We came together so well. Our group leaders were wonderful; they kept in touch with the BYU trip leaders -who must have been working like crazy to get us to Israel in less than the week the airline told us to expect - and they kept us well-informed. We were allowed to use a conference room where we held meetings in the mornings, played name games and do-you-love-your-neighbor, and met for evening devotional. I was able to go with a small group to the Mesa, Arizona Temple and Visitors Center. We thought we would have to pay for taxis, since it was out of shuttle range, but a generous shuttle driver overheard our group and agreed to take us anyway. That was such a blessing and a wonderful experience. By Wednesday evening, we all felt like good friends.
We were handed new travel schedules Wednesday night. I believe our group was broken up into 11 smaller groups, all leaving between Thursday and Saturday. I was lucky enough to be one of the 12 leaving Thursday morning. We flew from Phoenix to Charlotte, to Washington D.C., to Frankfurt (my first time overseas!!), to Tel Aviv. With only slight difficulty - some cancelled tickets, lost luggage and such - we all made it out of the Tel Aviv airport, were greeted by a faculty member, and were bussed to the Jerusalem Center, where more group and faculty members welcomed us. I am still so exhausted, a little confused as to what time it is supposed to be, overwhelmed a bit by the reality of being in a completely new part of the world, and so, so glad to be here. "Welcome to Israel" - that's what the man next to me on the plane said as we finally landed.