Sunday, December 20, 2009
My family and I are staying in Guaymas for a week to do humanitarian work over Christmas! So far it has been lovely. We went to church today and felt an abundance of the Spirit despite the language barrier. Sweet people.
I miss Jerusalem terribly and mostly my peeps. Good to be distracted but sad to have no phone service!! I tell you what. You live with the same 80 people for four months and suddenly don't see them EVER. I'm having withdrawals. The only way to solve that will be to really get to work tomorrow!
Onwards and upwards!
Over and out.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Everyone around the center has referred to this week as the last leg of the race but on the contrary I feel like I am standing on the starting line of a 5K for high school cross country. I have a pit in my stomach and every particle of my will is directed against the urge to run and hide in the bus. But there is also an excitement. I've been training here for almost four months and though I am nervous I will throw my entire being into the longest race of all: real life.
As I feel so weak I am reminded of the parable of the mustard seed given by Jesus Christ:
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." Matt 13:31-32
We are so small and insignificant by ourselves but Christ is the light and the life. He has a nice plot of dirt, lots of water and plenty of sunshine. It a beautiful sybiotic relationship because we are nothing without him but he cannot grow a tree without us! He is waiting to plant us and nourish us and if we trust in him we will become something better than our wildest dreams.
There is a short video of my Grandpa Madsen's life and it starts out with his voice,"What you are is so much greater than anything you have yet done; it is incredible. And most of your problems arise not from overemphasizing that but from underestimating it. If you have not yet absorbed a sense of mission you had better open up your pores." Everytime I hear these words, which is many times while I have been here, I feel in my heart that it is true. Heavenly Father has BIG plans for his children. Each one has the potential to be great and if we look to Christ he will enable us to reach that potential.
I know God loves his children with an overwhelming, cosmic-blasting love. I get little tastes of it each day through my experiences. I know that though I am leaving is beautiful, sacred land behind, this love will remain in my heart. I know that my Redeemer lives and even know he speaks peace to my soul and I have the conviction to carry on in joy and faith!
Runners on your mark. Get set. Bang!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
I don't know where to start.
It all started in Kathryn's beautiful mind. She found out about a concert being given by the Israeli Philharmonic: Kurt Meiser conducting with Nicolaj Zneider soloing the Mendelsohn violin concerto. HELLO. We put our two heads together and made it happen! I've been looking forward to it for two weeks and when this evening finally arrived I had the perfect outfit: little black dress (compiments of Lizzie), blacks flats and my new earrings. We were accompanied by the sweet Whipples as well as Naomi and Gill Weinstein, who are Jewish locals. The Weinsteins know many of the musicians in the Phil and they took us back stage to meet some of them while they were warming up (amazing thing #1). It turned out that Kathryn and my seats were in the back row (do not distress) so we marched up to the front and waited till the lights dimmed. Lo and behold there were two GREAT seats in the fifth row, right in front of the soloist (amazing thing #2). The first piece was phenominal. Then a Greek god walked onto the stage...oh wait, it was Nicolaj Zneider! And would you beleive it, he was almost more enjoyable to hear as to watch. No, in all seriousness it was a beautiful interpretation. When he was clapped back for an encore (he must have bowed a hundred times) and quieted the audience and dove into Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Sonata no. 2, Sarabanda. That's when the real magic started. Doing an unaccompanied piece was his only option since the orchestra didn't prepare an extra piece. It is so challenging to hold an audience with solo Bach but he was captivating. It was so masterfully executed and extrememly inpirational. I once heard Robert McDuffie say, "Playing Bach is like stepping into a cool shower on a hot day." I couldn't say it better myself. The audience went wild once again and he was so gracious as he inched off stage.
The lights came on for intermission and Kathryn and I concluded that we might as well live up to our stereotype: brazen American. We marched back stage and found him. He was chatting amiably with another admiring fan and we just stood and stared. It was unreal. He was much taller in person. He graciously signed our programs, posed for a picture and wished us well in our own musical endeavors sending both of us off with a kiss on the cheek. But the fun did not end! We snuck up to the balcony where there were seats behind the orchestra which offered the perfect view of the brilliant Kurt Meiser conducting the Scottish Symphony without a score. As if that wasn't enough of a learning experience I learned a great lesson from my new friend, Mr. Znaider. While we were chatting with him backstage his assistant had been frantically searching for an extra violin part. He combed down his wild, sweaty hair (concerto playing really is a workout) tossed on a pair of reading glasses and inconspicuously set himself up a stand in the back of the first violin section. (P.S. soloists never do this.) It was so inspiring to see him play that symphony in the back of the section with the same passion and finesse that he played his solo, even though he knew that no one noticed he was there. That is truly the mark of a great musician and a person with integrity. He played, not for recognition, but for personal satisfaction and fulfilment. What a lesson to learn!
When the concert concluded, Naomi took us to the back once more to meet Maestro Meiser. Wow. Just...wow. Again, a gracious man. He is eighty-two years old and just underwent a kidney transplant. Even though he was so tired, he took the time to nourish us "seedlings". What a dear, sweet man. That is the sort of gracious attitude that I wish to engender in my career and through my life.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I took the day to be blown by the wind in the Old City and here’s what I got:
Best feeling: First stop, handing a plate of peanut-butter cookies to our new friend, Frater Pietrush (Brother Peter) a Franciscan monk at St. Savior’s. His face lit up and he was so happy to try “sweets American way.” Picture the friar in Disney’s Robin Hood and then give him a German accent. Too cute.
Best buy: Merimecko apron for $1.75
Best laugh: Louie (Palestinian-Irish man born in Ogden, Utah and now owns a little restaurant) said God must look at us and say, “Those funky creatures!” Maybe you had to be there....
Best Acquaintance made: David ben Kitty, the kitten who snuggled up to me while I was studying in the Austrian Hospice Gardens. I am waiting to see if he had any fleas that I made friends with as well. So far so good.
Best future outing: Omar at the falafel place close to Damascus Gate. He works at Hebrew University and gave us his number so he can set up a tour for us as well as introduce us to some of the Palestinian students there.
Best idea: taking my raincoat with me. It is suddenly Winter and we were rained on several times!
Best Photo: on its way!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
It's fall here and memories of costume-making and trick-or-treating have tenderly swirled in my mind all day. What I wouldn't give for some hot wassail and chocolate chip pumpkin bread! I hope everyone has had a great Halloween!
This afternoon I finally met some of our neighbors on Mount Scopus. Aya and her family live a short walk from the center and she invited Marni, Adri and me to come visit. Sher is thirteen and baby-sits all of her siblings and cousins which ends up being about eight little children. Her parents were out shopping so Aya entertained us herself by sitting us down and serving us green apple soda pop. Her sixteen-year old cousin, Sherin, showed up a little while later and went gaga over us. She wanted to know everything about American movies and music but it turns out she already knows lots more than we do! None of them can say “Molly” and so they just call me “Miley” which is great since they love Miley Cyrus and therefore think my name is amazing. I really hit it off with the six-year-old, Aseel, who got her hands on my Arabic phrase book and doodled “Aseel (heart) Molly” all over it. Nice little souvenir. Aya’s mom, Nuha, was delighted to find us in her home and invited us to come shopping with her in the Old City tomorrow. On our way back to the center Marni expressed how grateful she is for the past students in the program who acted in a way that paved our way to having these friendships. It is because of those students that they really trust us in that neighborhood. Let’s hear it for them!
Now I'm off to see what sort of costume I can devise out of construction paper and my limited wardrobe for the JC Halloween Party tonight! I'll let you know what I come up with.
Friday, October 30, 2009
It was raining today but nothing could keep us out of the city on our free afternoon! There is a big food market in West Jerusalem and on Fridays it is bursting at the seams with people stocking up for the Sabbath. What is it that is so charming about being on a busy street with people shouting on every side in a language that you can’t understand? I shouldn’t love it as much as I do. I did pick up on a few things. My favorite was, “Shalom la” which would be a literal version of “hello there.” Cute.
I stopped by a baker’s stand and placed a few pastries in a bag. I had just picked up money so all I had was big bills. When I finally shoved my bag in his face before the people around me (that’s the name of the game, no lines, just the squeaky wheel gets the grease) he declared, “Two shekels!” I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him my fifty-shekel bill. It was like, “Seriously lady?” After I offered an apologetic shrug and smile he unfurrowed his brows and shooed me off with my change, but he was smiling too.
Next we ran into Shimon, a young Hasidic Jew from New York studying in a Yeshiva here. He wouldn’t shake my hand because he refrains from touching any women outside of his immediate family. It was raining so hard so we stayed with him under the little fruit stand umbrella where he had set up a little box. He was yelling to the crowd reminding them to observe the Sabbath and wear their phylacteries. He told us too, but upon learning that we were not Jewish took it back. “Non-Jews aren’t going to be held accountable for not performing the mitzvot,” he assured us. It was great to ask him questions because he is our age, speaks great English, understands American culture and was really cool and articulate. When we asked him if there was one thing he would change about Israel he said a stronger state. As we bid him farewell two other Hasidic Jews came walking up the streets blowing a little horn to remind the shop-owners of the setting of the sun. I swear that place went from Times Square to ghost town in two seconds flat. It was incredible. We walked home in the dead quiet and I was reminded of Rexburg for my first time here. Idaho and Jerusalem: the only two places in the world where you can’t find a shop open on the Sabbath.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I had the special chance tonight to accompany Brother Whipple to an organ concert in the St. Savior’s Church with three other kids (his car only seats five). His Russian friend Katyana played a work by Messiaen. It was so thought provoking. She is Jewish but played of Christ so tenderly and convincingly to a bunch of Mormons in a Franciscan monastery. Most of the small audience was made up of Franciscan monks and since Brother Whipple performs and practices there regularly he knows most of them by name. Frater Pietra (Brother Peter) took the five of us up on the roof afterwards to see the city at night. It had rained during the concert and the crisp fall air mingled with a dewy freshness as I drank in the sight of electric Jerusalem. The window of a nearby Greek apartment was open and the simple tune of a recorder floated over the roofs. If I’d had my violin I’m fairly confident that I would not have been able to resist jumping down to the roofs and spilling Hasidic improvisations into the night air! Alas: some other time.
We came home to the Whipples’ apartment and discussed music and olive wood over thick chocolate milk. Does life get better than this?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
You start out with olives. Any olive will do. In our case they weren't even ripe but they fulfilled their purpose, which is? OIL!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Still sick today. Everyone went into to Tel Aviv to spend his or her free day on the beach but I opted to stay behind. I don’t want to be caught nauseated in the middle of a city. So today will just be a chill-ax day. Maybe I’ll finally get this blog updated!
Everything I eat seems to make me sicker but Sister Emmett dropped by some Gatorade and Tums and Sister Allen brought by an electric heating pad, both of which seem to be helping a bit. Thank goodness for surrogate mothers! Also, Brother Whipple stopped by with some world music for me to listen to. All these Middle Eastern modes and quarter-tones are fascinating! I’ll tell which bands end up being my favorite tomorrow.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
It was a wonderful Sabbath! We watched the rest of conference (sessions three and four) that were recorded from last week. Being half-way across the world makes it so much more meaningful when the Bretheren talk of their gratitude for the modern technology that makes a global conference possible. I feel blessed to be so far away and still receive words from the Prophet!
Nanny called me tonight! I’ve been feeling under the weather, some sort of stomach flu, and wouldn’t you know my grandma would call right away! She lived here with my grandpa in the late ‘80s and it was fun to exchange stories and update her on all of her friends that I have met. I have not met one person in the center that does not know Bapa’s name and doesn’t have a story of a time that his words or actions touched them! Nanny and Mom are coming to visit in November (when they have Thanksgiving Break) and they will be well cared for here, where so many love them!
I’m turning in early to try to get on top of this bug.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Classes ended early today and we are still banned from the city, so Kathleen and I went exploring in the library. We found a whole closet of music! We were like kids in a candy shop! I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed sight-reading and jamming. We just took up residence in the LRC and played music for four hours. My friend, Bassam, the head security guard, popped his head in to see what was going on. We played him a rendition of “Love at Home” and I showed him the picture in my violin case of Nanny and Bapa. He was here as a young man when Bapa was the Director and he had lots of stories to tell. It was such a touching afternoon. In Arabic “Bassam” means “Smiler” and so that is what we are going to call him now. He is a wise man. He reminded me of a truth that I have forgotten, and that is that the older we get the faster the hours, days and months seem to go, only because we grow accustomed to everything around us. As a child, time seems to be drawn out because every second, every breath and glance, are filled with newness and discovery. The key to a long, successful life does not hinge on the number of years we are walking on this earth but rather to the state of curiosity and constant learning in which we walk day to day. This is the explanation I will offer to my roommates next time they ask why half of the Jerusalem Center Library is sitting on our bookshelves!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Today I ran into Brother Whipple and he asked me if I would be willing to play Sabrina again for the Christmas Concert we are putting on for the community in December. I wondered if it wouldn’t be a little bit odd since it is not a Christmas song but he said, “Oh Molly, beautiful music is appropriate on any program.” Sweet man. He wants to tie families into the program and he thinks it would sweet if I would dedicate it to Bapa again, especially since so many community members knew him. “A nice tribute to the man who so many admire and love.”
I spent most of the morning helping the Okiishis with JC tours. In order to satiate public curiosity about what “those Mormons do up at that University,” we conduct tours almost daily. The service couples direct them and most of the time they run during our classes, but the Okiishis asked for help on Tuesdays. I get to welcome guests in and show them a movie of the center, after which we escort them into the gorgeous Auditorium for a little organ recital by Brother Whipple. Sister Whipple or the Okiishis then take them around the building offering little interesting facts and explaining the facility. Then, like an assembly line, I get to entertain the arriving group. I met some really interesting people! One couple, Lilia and Ruvi, live in a kibbuts outside of Netanya. I told them I’ve been interested in doing some sort of an exchange program with a kibbuts and they said that I would definitely have the opportunity to use my music, whether to perform regularly or teach classes for the children. Wouldn’t that be too much fun? They gave me their contact info in case I ever had questions. Though we are all bummed about being kept from the Old City, I’m learning plenty about the culture just from conducting tours. If you can’t bring the students to the city, bring the city to the students!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
We had such a wonderful talent show this evening! I only wish that members of the branch or community had been there to share in the spirit of music. I was completely blown away by the amount of talent we have in this center! There were pianists, guitarists, vocalists, duets, quartets. It was inspiring. I played the theme from Sabrina and dedicated it to Nanny and Bapa. The entire Madsen clan loves that movie so it only seemed appropriate for the first time I played it. My friend, Kathleen Finnlison, is a piano performance major at BYU and she was sweet enough to accompany me. We have been playing a lot of music together in our free time and it so nice to have an amazing musician to work with! We seem to be totally on the same page with our interpretations and then there is the fact that she plays flawlessly. She is definitely one of my blessings here!
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Today I was able to get out of the center and experience some of the Sukkot activities! There was a carnival in Liberty Park where people from all different countries were gathering to eat, listen to bands, get hair braids and stock up on al their hippie accessories. It was also the starting place of the Jerusalem Parade, celebrating the Israeli occupation. There was a flag for every country and people from each country were marching under their flags in support of a “united state.” The Americans invited us to march with them, but we had to refuse, for obvious reasons. If the center discourages us from wearing clothing with so much as a flag or the name of a city in the United States printed on it, I can’t imagine what sort of trouble we would get in marching in such a controversial parade under the United States' flag!
We walked along the parade route to check out all the different groups marching and ended up on Ben Yehuda street. I got my third cone of Aldo gelato (Ferera Rocher and Maplenut) and we had fun roaming around, trying to find a cord for Morgan's electric guitar (he's going to play in the talent show tomorrow). It was the first time my Hebrew really came in handy as we navigated between music shops, which was, of course, satisfying.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
There continues to be some tension in the Old City with the Jewish holiday, Sukkot, going on, so we spent the day in West Jerusalem again. I don’t believe that I have described the contrast between East and West Jerusalem yet.
Whoever says time travel is impossible has not stepped through one of the gates leading inside the walls of the Old City. You are pulled back a century with each step forward. The musty smells and dim light add to the atmosphere of antiquity. It seems that each shop has been handed down the family for hundreds of years and every brick and stone has a story. Most people, especially women, are dressed in the same style their ancestors were, excepting the squeaky new tennis shoes.
In contrast, West Jerusalem is like a modern European city. The visage of Ben Yehuda street speaks only of street performers and shopping trips with the cobblestones and Cathedrals serving as the only indicator of any history. They have all of the same clothing lines we do in America: Adidas, Puma, Gap, American Apparel, Hollister, and the list goes on. The demographic in West Jerusalem is overwhelmingly Jewish and many of these Jews have emigrated from European cities which just adds to the modern undercurrent.
You can find interesting people to talk to all over the city but I find myself rather missing East Jerusalem and the Old City. I hope we are allowed to go back, soon!
Saturday, October 3, 2009
We got watch conference tonight!! There was this buzz in the air all day in the center. I have never been that excited for conference, or been around people who were so excited! President Monson just said, “We welcome all those who are watching from all over the world, “ and I thought, like Jerusalem?! It was one of those “who would have ever thought I would be here” moments. I haven’t had any homesickness but I did miss my family today. I hope you guys ate a banana split for me, with an extra maraschino cherry! Because of the time difference they are recording the Sunday sessions and showing them after church next Saturday, so I get to draw this spiritual feast out for a whole week. How truly thankful I am that God’s Prophet is on the Earth today and that I can hear his counsel, even when I am on the other side of the world!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Today is Friday and all morning the Muslims are praying in the mosques. Although I do not understand exactly what danger that incurs, we have always been forbidden from entering East Jerusalem on Fridays until 3 p.m. President Brown said that they prefer to ere on the side of paranoia, which would be one explanation. Classes ran all morning but a group of us went to West Jerusalem in the early afternoon. We just explored the area around Ben Yehuda Street. West Jerusalem is well outside the walls of the Old City and it is considered to be the hip modern place to hang out. It’s mostly made up of clothing stores, art galleries, restaurants and ice cream shops. There are a few touristy shops but they are pricier than the merchants in the Old City and stingy on bartering. There were sukkot erected every block or so for the Jewish “celebration of the tabernacles” and the streets were full of young Jewish men carrying palm fronds, citron, and other ceremonial vegetation for the feast.
We spent the later afternoon walking along the Via Dolorosa reading the correlating scriptures with each station. Although most of the Stations of the Cross have been proven incorrect by archaeologists and historians it was nice to partake in that tradition to some degree, and reading the scriptures to remind us of Christ’s life is always an enlightening experience. The Chapel of the Flagellation and the Armenian Church are two little gems that we found along the way; beautiful stained glass. I will definitely be returning to them in the future when I need to reflect and meditate, which seems to happen often here.
There were fireworks in the neighborhood outside the center tonight! I heard them in my room and thought they were gunshots but when I went out on my porch to investigate I saw the lights of the fireworks. I looked with the assumption of finding violence but found instead laughing and hooting. What a remarkable contrast! It’s those moments that have the most profound effects on my mind. I just sat and watched the fireworks, feeling completely at home in this place where humans find peace in their own worlds; in those special little moments with their families and friends.