Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Grandmother's Intuition

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

Mountain to Muhammad

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!

Dear Brother Whipple.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Talent Show

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

Sukkot Parade

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!

Auntie Sam: all decked out and ready to rep-re-sent!

I felt like I was back home at the Freedom Festival!

If you look really closely you can see their black kipahs...

Taylor chats it up with the group from Mexico.

A mother playing with her cute little boy.

This little girl was really happy to get her cotton candy!

A yummy juice stand! If oranges don't tickle your fancy, try carrots!

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.

Monday, October 5, 2009

October 5

Ali Baba the Albino gecko!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time Travel

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!

Some little girls were playing with their
puppy on Ben Yehuda Street.

We went exploring in the Ethiopian section of the city, above Ben Yehuda, and found this little
gem of a church. We were the only visitors and we sat in there for an hour or so, pondering. The
way the sun was streaming in at that time of day was magnificent! The incense burned there had the most unique smell! The church was circular with icons and colorful prayer rugs in the middle. The dome was painted beautifully and most of the middle portion was pepto bismol pink!

This priest didn't speak a word of English
but he welcomed us in so warmly.
Such a sweet old man.

The beautiful sunshine.

Me! taken by Lizzie.

This was a little building off the courtyard of the church. There was
another priest doing bookwork in that room but I thought the
lounging cat was picturesque.