Monday, January 17, 2011

The End?

I have been thinking a lot about Jerusalem lately. I had originally intended to write one final post to summarize what I learned, how much I grew to love the city, goals for my future, etc. while I was still in Jerusalem or shortly after returning. It has now been exactly one month since I returned home, and despite having plenty of extra time during my Christmas break to reflect I find myself unable to put into words what I don't know how to put into thoughts. Every time I pause to write about the experience I realize that my thoughts and feelings are not fully formed. I have now concluded that my thoughts and feelings about Jerusalem will never be fully formed. I think that's the real beauty of the experience--it's never actually over. The things I learned and the places I went have become an active part of me and not nearly a thing in my past that will be buried with time.

There's a part of me that groans inside every time a friend innocently asks, "How was Jerusalem?" and I, knowing that they don't have enough time or attention span to listen to the detailed answer I would like to give them, reply with a simple "great!" or "incredible!" I worry that every time I give my one-word answer this complex, 4-month-long section of my life becomes cemented in my mind as a simple, one-word experience.

It's hard to communicate what I would like to about the experience. It was completely different than I expected. There are not enough pictures or words to describe how I've changed. But I know that I did. I like to think that I don't need to type out a bullet-point list to prove it, but that it will be obvious in the way I live my life. Maybe that's the biggest lesson I came away with. If people only know I changed because I keep insisting that I did, then I probably didn't actually change very much. Hopefully, the way I live the rest of my life will prove that I am a better person because of the things I've experienced.

And on that note, my friends, I would like to conclude this adventure.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

was simply delightful. Petra, crusader castles, ancient Roman cities, a polyandrous date, new friends from Lebanon, and of course, King Abdullah and King Hussein. The people of Jordan love their king and after seeing his face everywhere for four days I think I love him too.

And here's a final picture just for fun. It was actually taken in Jerusalem, not Jordan, but I love it all the same.

Welp, Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


To honor American thanksgiving this week, here is a list of ten things I am grateful for:

1. The beauty of the Galilee.

2. People who build churches with beautiful domes and good acoustics that allow people like me to have extraordinarily wonderful experiences.

3. Sunsets over the Mediterranean that remind you that your life is awesome, even if you are missing your last Galilean sunset.

4. Singing “O Canada” on a small boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee (picture pending).

5. People who are hypothetically willing to hold your hair back when you hypothetically throw up on the bus after hypothetically eating an entire chocolate bar and a package of cola flavored Mentos for breakfast.

6. Christmas decorations.

7. Having an appetite on Thanksgiving (picture pending).

8. Jerusalem flavored ice cream (vanilla, pistachio, halva, and white chocolate).

9. Eating shawermas to my heart’s delight.

10. Sister Killian. This woman is such a gem. My day is always better after talking to her.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fear of needles: conquered

Dear friends and family,
I thought that if I told anyone my plan to donate blood today none of you would believe me. In fact, I only half believed it myself, which is why I decided not to tell anyone until it was done. Anyone who is familiar with my past relationship with needles would have good reason to doubt my ability to actually volunteer my blood to be drawn out of my arm. However, I am here to tell you that I, Stephanie Lee, conquered my fear and donated blood today! Special thanks to Jake, who filled my form out for me while I cried, helped me document the experience, and organized the blood drive, to Sister Judd, who was an angel and stroked my arm and told me stories while I was on the bed, and to the patient nurse who dealt with my periodic sobs and shaking. For proof that I'm not lying, here are some pictures:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Sometimes I don't know if you're talking about antique jewelry or Jewry of antiquity..." --James Peter Grant

In case you were wondering, I am still alive, I am still in Jerusalem, and I still love my life. However, I now know more about the history of the Jews, the Old Testament, and the Pan Arab Peace Initiative than I ever knew their was to know. The past month has been both wonderful and stressful. I feel my sympathies being pulled in a number of directions at an increasing rate. It's an interesting experience.

Anyway, in case you think I do nothing but schoolwork, I have included some pictures to prove you wrong. Here are some highlights of the last few weeks:

The city after the first rain

After our last of 24 hours of class in 4 days, 2 (maybe 3? I don't remember) midterms and one paper, I was delighted to find out that it rained. Sadly it hasn't rained since. Apparently Jerusalem is unusually hot for this time of year and I can't decide how I feel about it. I miss fall weather, but I'm also not all that eager to return home to a pile of snow.

Dome of the Rock

After at least 3 attempts, I finally saw it up close!


Last week our group took a much needed break to Eilat for some snorkeling. Eilat is located on the southern tip of Israel. From the beach we could see Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I'm usually not a beach person, but everything is more fun when you have an underwater camera.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Fort Night!

Fort? Yes. Smores? Yes. Cool Runnings? Yes. Best night ever!

Olive Pressing

Being here during the fall has many advantages. One is that we are here for olive season. We picked a bunch of olives on the grounds, crushed them, and then pressed them for oil. This is me and Andrew by the press.

10/10/10 10:10 Party in the bomb shelter

We are always looking for reasons to celebrate, and the bomb shelter was made for dance parties. Please note the awesome shirt I bought in the Old City.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Here are a few pictures from Egypt. In order of appearance there is Sinai, THE pyramids, and the step pyramid of Joser. As you can tell, I am no longer afraid of looking like a tourist.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I'm back from Egypt! Unfortunately my lack of sleep and abundance of things to catch up on will force this post to be shorter than my Egypt experience deserves. Also unfortunate is that our internet connection at the center has been especially slow, so I can't even upload pictures if I try.

Our Egyptian adventure actually started in Israel. Our first night we stayed at a kibbutz about a half hour from the Egyptian border. We played in sand dunes and then had some nice meditation time in the middle of the desert as the sun was setting. No description will do it justice, so just trust that it was amazing! The desert experience was followed by a pool party and a barbeque where we ate hamburgers on pitas and sat on mats on the grass.

The rest of Egypt is kind of a blur, to be honest. I don't really remember what happened on which day, so I'm not going to try to get the timeline right and move on to the best parts. Here are some highlights:

1. The Pyramids! I don't think any explanation is needed.

2. Valley of the Kings. For some reason I was under the impression that this would only take about a half an hour, so I didn't bring my water bottle. Two and a half long, hot, and sweaty hours later, I was regretting my ignorance. Luckily when you live in the same building as your professor he starts feeling like your dad instead of your teacher, and you don't even think twice about drinking his water to prevent your dehydration. Despite the physical discomfort, this was one of my favorites. I absolutely LOVED seeing King Tut's tomb, and was a little heartbroken that cameras were not allowed and I couldn't take the "In Memory of King Tut" picture that I was dying to.

3. Waka Waka. Waka Waka will heal the world. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you should fix that. Look up Shakira's music video from her World Cup song, and then read the rest of this post. During one of the first days after getting to Jerusalem, one of my fellow students decided to make it his mission to teach everyone the Waka Waka dance. When I asked him why he liked the song so much, he replied with "This song healed the world. Can we please just let it heal us too?" We did. Since we were in Africa, we figured Egypt was the perfect place for our debut. We danced in front of the pyramids, in front of Hatshepsut's temple, and on the bus ride home. We shouldn't have done it at the temple, because dancing there is not allowed, but we forgot. Some security guards came to tell us to stop and get us all in trouble, but after seeing the video recording the head guard reacted by saying "Wow, that's amazing! How did they learn that?" and then he let us off the hook. An awesome video should be coming soon. And by soon, I mean not that soon.

4. Sleeping on the night train from Luxor to Cairo. It was fun, except for the part where we didn't actually sleep and it wasn't actually fun. And the bathrooms were really gross.

5. The Egypt museum. There's nothing quite like staring into the face of Rameses II. I loved the mummies the most, but the rest of the museum was amazing as well.

6. Shopping! That's a lie. Shopping was extremely stressful for me. I don't do well with people yelling at me from every direction and trying to convince me I want to buy their stuff. However, I had one delightful experience in the bazaar. In one of the shops, I found a ring that I really wanted to buy. The guy I was with wanted one for his girlfriend, and he bought one first for more than I wanted to pay. After my friend left, I turned to the shop owner and said, "I won't tell him if you give me a cheaper price." He insisted that no, the price is good for Americans. I smiled and asked Canadians get a better price. He gave me a big smile and pointed to his window where he had at least 6 Canada stickers. He told me about how much he loved Canada, made me take a picture with him in his shop, and then gave me a discount. I love Canada!

Welp, that about sums Egypt up. It's weird that Jerusalem now feels like home. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot just ended, so we got back in time to see a lot of cool things related to that. I'll save those stories for another time. Happy Sabbath!