My Final Thoughts

When I first imagined what it would be like travelingto Greece, I expected to be hit with a wave of culture shock and feel the pangsof homesickness. Instead, I have felt more at home than I ever expected.Growing up, I learned from my mom that you treat everyone as an equal, becauseat the end of the day we are all humans, no matter what we look/talk/act like.Back in America however, people are not treated equally. People decide how theyare going to treat you based on how much money you have, the color of yourskin, what clothes you wear, what gender you identify as, etc. Here in Greece,the way that people treat you is determined by the way that you treat them. Ifyou show kindness, you will receive kindness. If you show disdain, you willprobably receive disdain. For example, I know he has been talked about a lot,but the owner of Kékkos, Dimitris, has opened his arms to our entire class withoutexpectation of anything in return, and even was the inspiration behind my thirdtattoo. Being here has reminded me that there are people out there that do notcare about your appearances or worldly possessions, and that gives me hope forthe future.

A group of us at Kèkkos with Dimitris

One thing that I did not prepare for was how much Iwas going to love the cats here. For example, in Santorini my roommate and I“accidentally” welcomed a stray cat into our apartment. She was a very sweetcat who our classmate Kylie named “Puff”. All she wanted to do was lay on thebed and receive love in the form of pets. That is until 4 am rolled around andshe decided it was play time and my hair would be the perfect chew toy. Wedidn’t even have any treats for her and yet that didn’t stop her from wantingto spend time with us. In America, there are times when I will give my horsefood and scratches and when one or both of those things runs out all he does islook at me like, “did I say you could stop?” (I promise he loves me). I willalways hold a soft spot in my heart for all the animals in Greece that have noexpectations for us, but readily accept our love (and pets).

Puff enjoying the hotel bed

Greece also gave me something that I could have foundin America, but is still special nonetheless: true friends. My roommate Katieand I actually shared a class last J-term, but only started getting to knoweach other once we were put in a group together for this class. Since then wehave become very close, from watching sunsets together to sharing a bed with astray cat, we have condensed many memories into a short amount of time. I alsomet Danielle, who has been my “roast partner” on this trip (as we both enjoymaking jokes about each other and often congratulate one another when anespecially good burn is delivered). Had I not traveled to Greece, I would nothave bonded with these two and all of my other classmates as much in such ashort span of time.

Katie with her friend from Delphi

Danielle and I at the clock tower in Arachova

Overall, I have had a refresher on/learned so manylessons from Greece and the people/animals that I have interacted with whilehere. Dimitris has reminded me the power of kindness. Puff has reminded me ofthe joy that animals can bring. Hanna has taught me that your attitude around asituation can shape your experience. Peter has taught me that words have power,and what you say (and how you say it) matters. And lastly, Professor Finitsishas taught me that if you’re going to do something, you should do it with some flair.

I will always be so grateful for the opportunity tovisit this beautiful country, and I hope that I will be able to return in thefuture.

No wrong time to eat a chocolate croissant…

I applied for this program while studying away on the tiny Caribbean island of Trinidad, off the coast of Venezuela. I remember thinking how ironic it all was, the fact that I had only recently arrived on the island, and how I was already looking for my next adventure. But that if how I live my life, I get restless staying in one place too long, and so this trip has been the perfect set up for me. I can’t believe how much of this country I have seen in just a few short weeks! From the mountains of Meteora to the beaches of Rhodes; the sites I’ve seen will forever remain in my heart.

 

I have learned so much during this course, not only about Bronze Age religion and the history and mythology of Greece, but about myself…here are a few lessons I picked up during my time in Greece:

  1. If a small kitten approaches you in the rain, and climbs on your backpack…you should probably keep her.
  2. It IS possible to order a vegetarian gyro (they replace the meat with fries)
  3. Traditional Greek dance classes might turn into a Zumba hip hop class…don’t question it. Just laugh and follow along the best you can.
  4. When you finally arrive at a hotel with a working shower, enjoy it. Treat yourself to as much hot water and free shampoo as your heart desires.
  5. Beware of donkey poop (this mostly applies to the island of Santorini)
  6. There is no wrong time to eat a chocolate croissant.
  7. Emergen-C and hand sanitizer are your best friends.
  8. A free day in the city does not necessarily have to be spent in the city…hop on a metro and ride until you find sunshine and the coast line!
  9. Sleeping in a cave with no windows or lights can lead to the self-discovery of claustrophobia.
  10. Make connections. Smile at every shop owner. Pet every cat. Join in on every outing and excursion. Take in the sounds of the waves crashing, the smell of falafels frying, the colors of a sunset. Be grateful for each and every moment in this beautiful county.

 

 

 

Αδιο Ελλαδα

Greece has been an amazing experience for all of us.  We have learned and grown so much over the last month.  Our lives have been transformed by living and travelling in a foreign country.  We have learned how to communicate with others who do not speak the same language and we have learned how to care for ourselves in a new country.  We have tried new foods, seen new places, met new faces and made lasting friendships within our group and with the people we have met in Greece.  We’ve also gone through struggles, obstacles and strife together.  We’ve walked countless miles, climbed countless steps, battled the elements and soothed each other’s fears.

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My, oh my!  Look at all those steps to get to the top!

We all had a lot of fun on our trip, but there were a few parts that really touched me, and left a mark upon my soul.  Tonight I wish to look back and share some of the highlights of our trip (through my eyes) and give you once last glimpse of our travels through photographs.

The first of many life changes was the relationships that we developed along the way.  Of the development of our relationships with the people in Greece, the one that stands out the most is Kekkos café. The owners and employees there were amazing and treated us like family.  When it was time for us to say goodbye, we all gathered at the café and gave hugs and gifts.  Some of us cried.  We exchanged gifts – we gave some uniquely Seattle items, and in return we got t-shirts and delicious confectionaries (see video).

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Farewell to Kekkos

Another aspect of this trip that has changed me is the food.  I know that this may sound lame to most of you, but the food was sometimes a spiritual experience.  Fresh fruits and vegetables were around every corner, produce was grown in season, and the dishes we ate were crafted with love and care.  It is hard to say that you could have that kind of experience regularly in the United States.  Most of our food experiences were delicious and full of love.

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From Baba Ganoush, With Love

Once we had left Athens, we travelled to Meteora.  My transformative experience in Meteora is detailed in an earlier post – I discovered that I had an ontological experience at the monastery.  But on top of that, the rock formations and the blue sky were enough to take your breath away.  I still cannot believe that I had a chance to hike and take in stunning vistas.  I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like it again.

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One of many breathtaking views in Meteora

Then we went to Rhodes. It was there that I experienced most of my struggles.  I was struggling emotionally and mother nature seemed to match the way my soul was feeling.  However, there were some bright spots in Rhodes.  I was very touched by my class in an act of kindness they did for me and my family.  I was missing my son’s 14th birthday and I knew that it was just as rough on him as it was for me.  My classmates all decided that we should sing him “Happy Birthday” via video.  Dr. Finitsis decided that we should do this in front of a castle!  We took the video and sent it to my son.  He was sooooo happy to hear from me AND get a pleasant surprise from my classmates on his birthday.  (So thank you, truly, everyone!)

Another fun thing I got to do, was that I got to take a dip in the Mediterranean, something I have always wanted to do.  The water was cold, but not too cold.  Taking a dip in the crystal blue water was very cleansing.

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The ocean was so beautiful!

Of course, what is Rhodes without saying you visited the place where legend says the Colossus once stood?!  I just HAD to go visit.  Of course, it was stormy and the winds were howling, but that didn’t stop me.  I brought along Hanna and AJ and we trekked our way over to the spot.  We had sand pelting our face, rain blowing sideways, and the ocean was angry enough to crash over the walls and drench us.  We had a lot of fun making our way!

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Look at the wave come up over the edge!

After the storm cleared, we hopped on an airplane and flew to Santorini.  I have always heard that Santorini was beautiful; it was much better than I expected.

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The view from our hotel room in Santorini

A pleasant surprise for me was walking through the ancient city of Akritiri.  I was amazed at how large the archaeological site was and how little had been excavated.  I took my time walking through, imagining the ancient people living in their homes and roaming the streets.  I also took the tie to wonder and image what artifacts lie beneath the fine dust and soil of many millennia.

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A storeroom in the Akrotiri archaeological site

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An ancient paved path

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The entire class plus Laree at Akrotiri

We took a class photo while at Akrotiri, however the real star of the show is Dr. Finitsis (Thank you Kaitlyn, for the video!):

Then there was the bookstore!  Oh the bookstore!  For those who do not know me:  I could stay for days in a bookstore.  The smells, the sounds, the knowledge and imagination on paper, bound up and placed between two pieces of cardboard….It’s really amazing how much information and soul a bookstore holds.

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The Rent-a-Cat sign was the first thing to pop out at me at Atlantis Bookstore

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Classmate AJ getting ready to entire the wondrous world of books

This bookstore was unique; it was nestled below street level in a little corner, almost like something you would imagine in Harry Potter. Quotes were painted on the walls and ceilings, cute signs were sitting outside the front door, and old first editions of classics were displayed proudly at the front of the store.  I felt at home and at ease, but there was someone else who had a much stronger emotional reaction than I.

Peter really touched me by how excited, endeared, and enamored he was by the bookstore.  I could tell he was having the time of his life and that was amazing for me to watch.  His joy was infectious! (You can read all about it in Peter’s earlier post)

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Great books, rare finds

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Peter found a gem!

At sunset, our visit to Οια (in Santorini) came to a beautiful end.  (I don’t have any sunset pictures – I know, I know, I know…)  We rode the bus back to the hotel to pack to leave the next day.

Now we are all back in Athens.  We have one more adventure left before we head home: The Acropolis of Athens.  This is the big finale, and one site that I have been longing to visit all of my life.  I know this sounds silly, but I am sitting here wondering what sort of person I am going to be once the Acropolis is in my past, and no longer something that I am “looking forward” to.  Of all the transformations and experiences that I have had on this trip, will this one live up to my expectations and will it change me drastically?

I keep thinking about our preparations for this trip; how we were told we would come back different, transformed, changed.  I still feel like me, but looking back at all the experiences I have had, the friendships I have made, and the goals I have pursued and achieved, I can certainly say that I am a different me.  A better me.  And I think that all of us can say that.

A Plethora of Stray Cats

I’ve been a thinking for a while about how to write a conclusion to the experiences we have had over the past few weeks. The problem is, I don’t think that my writing skills can truly articulate and summarize this trip. Greece cannot be quantified. Greece, like many other popular destinations, is romanticized. But this doesn’t mean that it fails to live up to the expectations. It passes them with flying colors. But coming into this trip it was hard to know exactly what to expect because of the romanticization surrounding Greece.

Like I said, the islands are beautiful.

Arriving back in Athens after spending a week and a half on the islands was a strange feeling. Maybe it was a feeling of realization that our time here is nearly at an end, but it also felt like coming back home. I loved the islands, they were beautiful and full of rich history. But I think that Athens will always hold a special place in my heart. It was nice to come back to something that is both familiar and unfamiliar. We only lived here for 2 weeks, but that was enough time to learn the layout of a small portion of the metropolis and form connetions with some of the people here. It was a nice feeling to be greeted with an exuberant “welcome home” when we stopped by to visit some of our Athens friends the night we got back.

This morning several of us woke up before the rest of Athens and returned to the spot that I talked about in my first blog post, Areopagus. The six of us sat in silence and watched the sky turn pink behind the Acropolis and listened to the city come to life. The only sounds were those of the church bells and pigeons (okay, and some random guy that was yelling in the distance). I’ve always liked the liminality of sunrises, and though the sky didn’t explode with color, it was peaceful and perhaps slightly magical.

I didn’t take any photos at sunrise, but we got to experience what Homer described as the “wine-dark” sea.

We may never return to these exact places with the same people and perspectives, but these times are something that I will take with me. I am returning to PLU with a new perception. I know that it differs from the perceptions that my classmates have developed because we all come from very different backgrounds and had different experiences throughout this trip. Your perception is what you make it. But I know that this trip would not have been the same without the things that each person brought to it. 

In hindsight, the events of this trip feel somewhat like the plot of a book; complete with an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a bittersweet resolution. Life very often works like that, though nearly always ends up being better and stranger than fiction. This trip surpassed every expectation set by books, movies, and other people. I will always remember it as being filled with sunsets, ancient ruins, good people, and a plethora of stray cats.

One of the many stray cats we encountered in the islands.

Sad to go, but happy I came

Being away for a month was a daunting idea. I haven’t been away from friends and family for that long ever. I went to Fife High School, so PLU is only about a twenty-minute drive from my house. That was a big factor in me choosing PLU actually. I knew before I came to college that I wanted to do nursing, so I was looking at schools with a good nursing program. Towards the end, I was between Gonzaga and PLU…and obviously PLU won. The thought of being about six hours away from home and having to drive over an unpredictable pass was too much for me. Resulting in me choosing a university that allowed me to drive home at any time I please.

With all that being said, being on another continent for a whole month definitely freaked me out to say the least. I questioned if I was going to be able to do it for a very long time, even when we were in Athens. It wasn’t until around day three or four that I knew I could do it.

We were constantly focused on going to museums or temples or finding fun places to eat that I honestly forgot about how much I missed home. And once I got comfortable, I didn’t miss home, and I feel like I would be able to stay here for another month if I could. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to go back and see my mom and my animals (Hunter my cat, and Rondo my dog). That is the one thing I’m really looking forward to when we get back, but if this was a semester long study away trip, I would be able to do it.

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My cat Hunter

This trip not only taught me about the Bronze Age religions of this area, but also of how much more independent and capable I am. I thought this was going to be super hard and I might not enjoy it, but I absolutely love it.

Going into the nursing field, I will have the option to do travel nursing. That is where I can take assignments all over the country for a few months at a time. I knew that was something I had in mind but never knew if I would be able to leave my family for that long. But, after this trip, it gave me the confidence to pursue that once I become an RN.

Earthquakes and Tropical Storms

In my recent experiences, I learned it’s better to be prepared for the worst and expect to have patience through your events than to expect the best.

Now preparing for the worst when traveling to Greece, you’re probably thinking some light rain and maybe strong wind. For some reason, Americans seem to think Greece is constantly sunshine and beaches, when in reality it isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Greece is beyond beautiful still. In a recent turn of events, I now know preparing for the worst means earthquakes and tropical storms and having your three jackets soaked through for 12 hours. That’s not what I expected coming it, but I can easily say it was still so fun.

Watching the storm roll in at Rhodes


I’ve never been out of the country so I had no idea what could happen. In the end, it’s been an amazing and crazy experience. There were definitely downs but the ups trumped the downs.

I’ve never experienced an earthquake that I can remember, so feeling a 5.3 earthquake was super cool to me. Mother nature is a not force to be reckoned with! Not only did it happen once, but it happened twice. We also watched a tropical storm roll in and had to go on a few bumpy plane rides which really tested me. As someone who is afraid of planes, I can say I faced my fears and am proud of myself for it!

Overall, I’ve learned so much about myself on this trip and I would definitely want as many people to experience it as well. I am very thankful for this opportunity and it’s made me want to study away more in the future.

I’ll Be Back One Day

I have learned three important things in Greece that I will cherish forever.

First, studying away is an indescribable experience that has made me appreciate ancient religion and every place we visited more that I was ever expecting. As I was walking around Akrokiri, I couldn’t stop thinking how much more I appreciated the site having learned about it in class. I feel frustrated describing the connection I made because words can’t describe the clarity that has come from every site visit we had.

Before visiting the site, I knew Akrotiri was preserved from the volcanic ash and I knew the village was thriving from the connections it had to every part of the Mediterranean. When I saw the three-story building, beautifully crafted pottery, and a function sewer system, I knew I was looking at a special city. One of my favorite parts of the visit was how quite the entire class became as we took the village in. We are a pretty talkative group, but as we stepped into what felt like a different world, the only things I could hear was a bird chirping. It didn’t matter that it was raining outside, or the fact we were leaving Greece so shortly. All that I could focus on was trying to understand what life must have been like 5,000 years ago in Akrotiri.

Akrotiri

The second thing I learned is that I am capable of more than I ever knew when I force myself to step outside my comfort zone. It might seem insignificant, but I forced myself to eat the lettuce and tomatoes on every gyros. I am a shamefully picky eater and I would have pick anything green off my food in the states. In Greece, I didn’t let myself do so, and unsurprisingly I learned gyros are much better with tomato.

The last thing I learned is that gelato is an acceptable meal and must be eaten at least every other day. Luckily there is a store on almost every street so it’s hard to miss.

Oia, Greece

I am going to miss the special feeling of walking around sacred spaces from thousands of years ago. I am certainly going to miss the warm sun when I am in Washington. Most of all, I am going to miss the endless laughter and great memories with new friends.