Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sorry for the delay....

It has been a while since I have posted, I suppose it has been pushed aside as the semester moves forward. It has almost been a month since my last post and there has been a lot going on. We have completed our course on the Israel Palestine conflict. We have had a whole range of speakers, including Palestinians, from Israeli's, we have listened to representatives from the Israeli foreign ministry as well as a representative from the United States embassy. If there is one overarching theme that I have learned from the course is that it is complicated.
Today, we had our midterm for Arabic, and it wasn't too bad. We have not moved much past the basics, but we have learned numbers, the time, days of the week, and we continue to learn new verbs. We are also almost completely through the alphabet. My handwriting may be better in Arabic than it is in English.
Yesterday we started the class on Islamic thought and practice, yesterday we only outlined what we will be speaking about throughout the course and today we discussed the beginnings. We also briefly discussed comparisons of Muhammad and Jesus. Our professor is a Palestinian Christian who grew up in Nazareth and studied at Cambridge University in England where he also became an ordained Anglican priest. We are very fortunate to have him as a professor.
I am still amazed at the different people I meet here. A few days ago I had dinner with a man from Ireland, he had Ph.D in theology. His dissertation was on studying small groups and their benefits for the catholic church. We discussed the need for those small groups for spiritual growth and accountability. He said this is something that has dwindled in the Catholic Church, and more people are just going to mass on Sunday without much interaction. I talked with him about my college experience and how I was trying to find a balance between community at college and also the actual community of Sioux Center. It seems to be very difficult to balance because Dordt is its own community. Interaction with the community of Sioux Center is therefore very limited.
At church two weeks ago I ran into a couple who had met and graduated from Dordt a while back. They were from Edmonton Alberta I think. She had actually grown up in Lynden and knew where Zillah was.
Another gentlemen and I are still going to a Soup Kitchen every Tuesday, and each time it seems as though there is something new that will surprise us. Two weeks ago we him and I went with one of the Jewish gentlemen there in the Soup Kitchen van, all we knew was we were going to a bank. The guy did not speak English, all he could say "do you speak Hebrew?" and "Bank." That was about the interaction. So Paul (the guy I work with) and I started to speculate what we were going to do at this bank, were we going to get a bunch of money and were were like body guards, or was the guy going to make us help him rob the bank, we had no idea. So we pull up to the back gate, and the gentlemen gets out and starts talking with the booth attendants. Then they start looking at us, it became very clear we were some sort of problem. They then came to the window and asked for an kind of ID. I didn't have anything because I had left it at the soup kitchen in my backpack, not thinking I would be going to the largest bank in Jerusalem. After probably 15 minutes, they had me get out and they wanded me. I had an apron on still, it was dirty and wet, so I looked ridiculous. Then they let us through the gate. We then get an old fridge and a cabinet out of the bank (I think they were renovating), loaded it in the van and left. As Paul and I say, never a dull moment at the soup kitchen.
The rest of the day also had its moments. The van we were in had a large bin of potatoes in it before. They had partially emptied it and then taken it out. When we got back, we had to take this large bin (it was like a plastic apple bin), and take it down the stairs. Everything for the soup kitchen has to be taken down stairs. So, six guys got on the bin, and we took it down the stairs. It was a tight fit. I almost crushed my toe, thankfully I did not.
This was not the last of having to move heavy items in less than safe ways. This week, Paul and I had to unload a palate of various dry and canned foods out of the van and onto another palate. Then with only a palate jack, we took it over to the front of the soup kitchen. This would have been easy if there was not a steep wet hill between where we unloaded it and the front door. So, six guys started to inch this thing down the hill, slipping practically the whole way. Everything made it, and then we had to hand carry it down into the kitchen. Thankfully we had a group of Australian Jews who had just graduated high school there to help us. I wonder what is going to happen next week?
I think I am starting to love this place more every day. I wouldn't want to live here, but I wouldn't mind visiting again. Today there was a downpour, with a little hail mixed in. I had to go walk in the rain, the puddles, and check out all of the water gushing every which way. While I was walking, there was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It was a downpour where I was, then off in the distance, towards Herodion, there was blue sky. There was a tinge of green on the ground because there has been a lot of rain here recently. It was gorgeous, I didn't have my camera, but some things are just meant to enjoy for a while.
Last thing, I will not be traveling to Egypt in March now because of the protests that started again in Egypt. So, the plan is to spend more time in Jordan and also go to Tunisia.
If you made it to the end of this blog post, thanks for reading and I appreciate everybody's prayers and support.


  1. Yay! So glad you checked in for we blog readers. Sounds like you are having some amazing experiences. Love from Aunt Pam

  2. Hi Phil,
    I'm so glad that you are having a great time, enjoying the sights, and experiencing "never a dull moment". It is really a pleasure to read your blog, since it makes me feel like you are sitting at our dining room table telling us about your experiences. I hope that maybe you can have a presentation on a Sunday evening and share some pictures, and more experiences. Greg and I have talked about that. We are praying for you, your time there, and your safety. I can't believe a month has gone by already. You will have to save your shekels for another trip there some day. I know that Greg would dearly love to return, since so much has been rediscovered in digs.
    God Bless,

  3. Phil,

    Sounds like you are learning some valuable things about the world and about how people and issues are linked and intertwined. Individually, you will have all sorts of fun interactions and meet hugely interesting folks. Then, the big issues are always there and they are more complex than we can imagine seeing them from the outside. Soak it all up and you will have learned things that cannot be covered in a book, no matter how excellent. Thanks for sharing your blog. I enjoyed reading today.