- We ate out every meal. We had pretty fancy lunches and dinners - either buffets or multiple courses brought in by servers. Sometimes the meals were pretty good, but I think we all got a little tired of white french bread and pasta and rice . . . since that was about all that actually seemed edible at many of our meals. Dessert was usually either watermelon or strange little soggy cakes that seemed to have been drenched in some kind of syrup or honey. One night, when the main course was brought out, we were each given a plate with a whole fish just laying there. Yes, a whole fish. I was actually pretty proud of myself for getting most of the meat out.
- We stayed at a variety of hotels. They were usually pretty nice - one was right on the beach! (That was a pretty fun night - we had a beach bonfire and dance party!) Another hotel had a hot spring-fed pool. Most of us were convinced, however that "nice" by Turkish standards is a little different from "nice" by American standards. We still used bottled water to brush our teeth in the hotels and some people were convinced there were bedbugs. But the last hotel was incredible! Really posh, with a super nice restaurant, a couple pools, among other things (it was really fun to explore).
- We experienced Istanbul - an amazing city of both Europe and Asia, rich with both history and modern urban life. Here we saw some old monuments, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bizarre, the Basilica Cistern, and Hagia Sophia. I could go on about how incredible each of these is. . . the architecture of Hagia Sophia especially just boggled my mind.
- We took a boat ride through Istanbul. This was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It was so fun to be on the water, seeing the amazing city. I loved it!
- We saw the ruins of the ancient cities of Troy, Assos, Pergamum, Ephesus, Miletus, Hierapolis, Thyatira, and Nicaea, as well as the ruins of the Temple of Artemis. I don't think I had realized how many Greek and Roman ruins there are in Turkey. Really, I didn't know much of anything about Turkey before this trip. We stopped at many of the cities associated with Paul's travels, some of the Seven Cities of Asia spoken of in Revelation. I loved seeing the ruins. This was so incredible, so fascinating to me. I feel like seeing these ancient things has fulfilled something that I have longed for for much of my life. Some of the ruins were definitely, well, more ruined than others. Some, like Ephesus and Pergamum, were absolutely incredible. Incredible. And to think - to imagine - huge cities where we walked, the columns and stones erect and the buildings complete, roofed, and decorated, and inhabited, people - not just tourists - walking around the streets . . . these places must truly have been spectacular wonders.
- We spent a lot of time on the bus. Talk about a road trip! - I think we drove about all over the west coast of Turkey and back around to Istanbul. We saw city, coast, and countryside. (We also saw Robin Hood and Tangled.) Really, though, it was fun to be on a bus with 40 good friends and some amazing instructors. Each day we prayed, sang hymns, and heard the testimony of a classmate. Another highlight of the trip was listening to Brother Harper and Brother Skinner share insights from the scriptures, answer and expound upon some of our gospel-related questions, and talk about how they met their eternal companions (this was probably the most attentive our group was the entire trip).
- We had a wonderful sacrament meeting in Bursa (at the really nice hotel) on Friday night. Most kids were just in travel clothes - only the few guys who had been asked to help with the Sacrament had brought white shirts and ties. This was one of the highlights of the week for me. It was so neat to have that nice meeting all together. The speakers shared excellent messages and the closing hymn, Each Life That Touches Ours for Good, well paralleled the warm friendship that was felt. But the best part was how, perhaps more than any meeting I have ever attended, I felt like the focus was really on the Sacrament. Sometimes we get into routines or traditions and forget the true meanings of what we are doing, but in that basement hotel room on a Friday night after a long bus ride, 82 kids and their teachers and leaders enjoyed a sacrament meeting that really seemed focused on partaking of the Sacrament of Jesus Christ.
- We flew back to Tel Aviv last night and bussed into the Jerusalem Center around 3:00 a.m. (*** so tired!*** I couldn't even form a complete sentence for the lady stamping my passport at customs.) And now we're back home. Home in Jerusalem.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Our group got to spend an entire week in Turkey - a country that I hadn't really known anything about, but that I now love! We did and saw so many amazing things!