HELLO!! I hope everyone is having a super great day!!! If you’re not, I hope you can appreciate something from this blog post and have a better day!!
So, there were a few very interesting things that happened within the past two weeks, both good and not-so-good. So, I would like to share some of the good experiences first, talk about what I did, and then we will move on to the not-so-good things! (scroll down to the ** if you want to start from the not-so-good story)
So, last week I WENT TO EGYPT!!! It was amazing!!! I have so much I want to say about it. Basically, it was NOT how I pictured it at all, but it was BEAUTIFUL. From the textbooks I’ve read on Egypt throughout high school and the pictures I’ve seen of Egypt in the news, I did not have a good sense of what Egypt is really like; I expected the Nile river to be lined with reeds and papyrus, the Pyramids to be far away from any cities or towns, and everything to be very modern and clean!
I was very, very surprised when I got there because nothing was how I pictured it to be; The Nile is lined with rocks, streets, bridges, and some plants. The Pyramids I visited were only about 15 minutes away from the core of the city of Cairo. And, all of the buildings and houses I saw were in a very run-down state.
I stayed in Cairo for the first few days and we saw a bazaar in the center of Cairo, The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, The Egyptian Museum, Memphis (where Rameses II had a lot of statues of himself), many tombs and hieroglyphics, and a dinner on the Nile River where a man did traditional dances for us where he spun the entire time while twirling around plates and skirts…IT WAS SO COOL. (I will be editing and posting a video of this trip to my Youtube channel hopefully soon!! Youtube: Madison Dunne).
The Egyptian museum was also REALLY interesting!! They had such ancient and fragile artifacts, and many of them were not protected by glass or anything so people were touching them…but our tour guide said we were not supposed to touch anything (as is the rule in pretty much every museum…), but there was hardly any security monitoring the place. hahaha, so that was pretty interesting. We saw the Merneptah Steele, which is a tall stone full of hieroglyphics where the first mention of Israel as a people is engraved! It was amazing to see in person!! The Rosetta Stone should have been there too, but SO MANY of Egypt’s precious treasures are located in the Louvre, the British Museum, or in Rome…laaaame. OH! They also have an exhibit with all (or most) of King Tut’s treasures!! The reason we know so much about King Tut is because his tomb was built underneath another Pharaoh’s tomb, so his was never found in time to be raided!!
This only encompasses the FIRST FEW DAYS! We were going NONSTOP!! What I loved about this trip was being able to connect Biblical stories to historical events where evidence still stood as a testimony of their existence. Seeing structures that were even ancient to Moses when he came to Egypt was absolutely soul-shocking.
After those experiences, we flew down to the south of Egypt to the city of Luxor. Even though Cairo was breath-taking, I think I was in even more awe of Luxor!! We stayed at this super cute hotel that had a nice pool and view of the Nile right outside our windows! OH, AND HOW COULD I FORGET THE FOOD?!?! Egypt’s food is DELICIOUS! Their breads, pasta, ice cream, sauce/rice/meat combos, vegetable everything…IT WAS ALL GOOD.
So, while I was in Luxor, we saw the Luxor and Karnak temples…THEY ARE INSANELY HUGE and I felt such a feeling of power while being there…it is hard to describe. I also am SO grateful for my professors who accompanied us and the tour guide all day and taught us the Biblical connections to everything; these places had a much deeper meaning to me since I could understand the purpose behind such structures and hieroglyphics. We also went to the Valley of the Kings, where numerous Pharaohs were entombed. This is when they stopped building pyramids because they were obvious tombs and were raided too much, so they began to build them into hills. We saw incredible mosques and synagogues too.
We also took a sailboat, or felucca, down the Nile River to a neighborhood where we rode camels!! It was pretty surreal moment…I realized how absolutely amazing this whole experience is and how God works through other people to cheer us up. Why did I need to be cheered up? Well, here is the not-so-good news:
**Before we went on the feluccas, we went to a few destinations in the morning, including the tomb of Hatshepsut. Quick background story, cuz it’s super cool– Hatshepsut was pharaoh for a time and she disguised herself as a man to everyone because Pharaoh was never supposed to be a woman. She had all of her statues built portraying her as a man, and even had herself depicted on the walls of her temple as having a divine birth and therefore qualifying as a demigod herself. Her son, once he was old enough to reign, was so mad at her for faking everything that he took over the kingdom and had all of the fingers of her statues chopped off. This made me realize that a lot of things we may look at and assume are due to erosion, are actually purposefully chipped away or removed. There is another example of this in some of the scenes depicted within the Karnak Temple! There are some people who are purposefully chipped out of scenes, and others who have obviously been plastered over. This is how people changed history and erased individuals out of the minds of others–very interesting.
Anyway, I got way off topic and geeked out so y’all can educate yourselves cuz knowledge is power and these things are IMPORTANT!!! So anyway, back to the not-so-good news. We get to the tomb of Hatshepsut. We go through security. I get my phone out to play music, and my GoPro out to record. (I was making a music video for our class) I sat on the trolley-type thing that took us from the entrance to the tomb. I recorded some more while on the ride, and then got off. I catch up to the group to listen to the tour guide and–WHAAA?? My phone is not in my fanny pack. It is not in my backpack. It is not in my pockets…my phone was GONE. And so was the trolley deal. I ran up to my professor and told him what happened. He got some people to start looking for my phone and notify the police as well. I continued on the tour as I held back tears, and tried to enjoy the tomb I had looked forward to seeing in person for SO LONG. But, I got nothing out of it because my mind was racing, trying to remember where I had misplaced my phone. I couldn’t help but think about all of the videos and pictures I had lost…all of the notes I had taken on these life-changing places…all the voice memos I had of live music I loved to listen to so much….THIS SOUNDS SO DRAMATIC….but it was, folks. It’s not the phone that I missed. I could use my laptop for whatever. But those memories I cherished so much were now GONE.
I had faith that once I got back to the entrance, I laugh with the security guards about it, they’d hand me my phone, and I would say a prayer of thanks and relief before moving on with the tour. Nope. Not so. Not today. No one knew of it. My professors helped me lock my phone through Find My Phone, and we left. There are a lot more details that involve crying and friends *cough* Ana *cough* being there for me…but we’re gonna skip those details.
So, fast-forward: here I am again, on this camel ride, being reminded of God’s love for me. I pass children singing, neighbors laughing and eating together, kids racing each other on bikes, a four-year-old leading the camel behind me, trees gently blowing with the soft breeze, dirt swirling as the camels walked, my camel shepherd responding to my broken Arabic, light accentuating the details in leaves on trees, and the peaceful Nile river flowing right next to me. Life was still beautiful and life was still rich with blessings and joy. Sure, I had lost evidence of those memories, but I had at least LIVED them and they were imprinted on my heart.
I can remember one in specific. The day before, I went to this mosque that is dedicated to Mohammad Aly–He helped Egypt break free as its own state, so everyone loves him. Inside, there are hanging lights EVERYWHERE and carpeting and colors that really hit me hard as I explored the sacred house of prayer. As I admired its beauty, a group of Muslim girls ran up to me and asked to take a picture, so we took some pictures together. They were all SO beautiful and sweet. I walked around a little more, and then I saw this family smiling at me. I smiled back, and they asked if I spoke Arabic. I responded by introducing myself and asking how they were in Arabic, and they excitedly responded back! However, that is pretty much the extent of my Arabic skills so far, so we continued to have a conversation in broken English and Arabic, as well as a lot of hand motions and body language. We took a few pictures together, and then the mother handed me a stuffed camel. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to sell it to me, so I said I didn’t have money and handed it back to her. Then, she pushed it back to me and said “for you!!”. I hugged them and then they left. This was something small, but very significant to me. Everyone I had come into contact with in Egypt was very, very kind. I really admire their joy and kindness they share with strangers.
So, I reflected on this as well as many other experiences as I rode the felucca back from the camel ride. I was surrounded by good, supportive friends as well who approached me and sympathized with me throughout the next few days.
It has been frustrating still, but I have appreciated everything else that God blesses me with every day. In the end, I still have what’s most important.
A few days ago, a man messaged me over Facebook and found my phone. He refuses to give my phone back because he already sold it, but he is at least willing to send me my photos. It has been a long, creepy, confusing, weird, and stressful process communicating with him…but at least he is cooperating for the most part. It may not be unravelling exactly how I want it to, but God is at least blessing me with what I missed most.
I don’t really know where to go with this because the end of this phone story isn’t finished and I also didn’t want this post to focus so much on my phone…but whatevs. Since I’ve been back in Jerusalem, I have had three midterms and a lot of scripture reading to do so that’s why I didn’t post earlier. But I have been more aware of how God is working in my life every day through the people that surround me.
I have very mixed emotions for this next week because we will be visiting the Holocaust museum. After the visit, we will have a 99-year-old (he turns 100 at the end of this year!) Holocaust-survivor speak to us. He only speaks Hebrew and Spanish, so I will be translating, with a few other people, his story. I am so nervous but very humbled by this opportunity to learn from him and the wisdom he’s gained.
If there is one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that joy can still be experienced during times of sorrow thanks to Jesus Christ’s Atonement. Applying His Atonement to my life doesn’t always mean that I am experiencing it through repentance, or forgiveness. I also experience it through seeing others as God sees them. I experience it through having a greater hope for the future and focusing on what brings me true, lasting happiness, rather than temporary, materialistic happiness. I experience it through having joy in others’ accomplishments and joy when I am not so happy with my own experiences. I experience it through knowing there is always something good awaiting me in the future.
I hope we can all go through this life joyfully regardless of what happens. It is okay and necessary to mourn our losses and feel sorrow, because that allows us to experience an even greater joy afterwards. However, we should never let ourselves get stuck in a rut of sadness when we have Jesus Christ so eager to pick us up.
That is all for this week! Help someone out this week and focus on the joy it brings both of you! There is nothing better! Have a great week!!