Monday, September 26, 2011

southern greece



Mycenae.

Sunday, September 18th- Day 20

Today began our tour of Southern Greece! After meeting at the pier at 8:30 AM and taking a ferry over to Athens, we boarded our bus and set off.

The bus, first of all, was amazing. It was big enough that all twenty of us got two seats to ourselves and the seats were big, comfy, and soft. Even those of us who don't usually enjoy naps ended up nodding off on some of the longer rides and usually, I didn't even mind because it was so comfortable. Plus, our bus driver was really cool. On one of the first days, someone said calamari to him instead of kalimera and it made him laugh so much that he'd say it to us occasionally for the rest of the trip :) (kalimera= good morning, not fried squid).

We drove all day with stops at the Corinth Canal, Corinth's archaeological site and museum, and Mycenae, and then ended the day in Nafplion, where our hotel was located.

 Panos took us to a great local swimming spot as soon as we got there and everyone got in the water, even Panos and Ioana. The water felt great after such a long day. When we'd finished swimming, Panos found some sea urchins and cracked them open so we could taste the meat (which is a very expensive delicacy). It was small and slimy looking and tasted incredibly fishy. Some people really enjoyed it, but others (like me) couldn't wait to get the taste out of our mouths. Yuck!

After swimming, a big group of us met up for dinner in the square. Nafplion has such a great atmosphere. There weren't any cars or motorbikes allowed in the square, so there were lots of people walking around and kids playing soccer. The cafes that bordered it were all very cute and the one we chose ended up being great. I had moussaka, which is a Greek dish almost like lasagna but with eggplant and a hint of cinnamon/spice. It was delicious. Maybe the best dinner I've had in Greece yet!



Monday, September 19th- Day 21

We stayed in Nafplion for the morning and traveled up to the Fortress of Palamidi, which looks down over the whole town. It had an amazing view of the water and there was so much to explore that we didn't even get to see everything.

Next we went to Mystras, another castle, which is a couple hours outside Nafplion and near Sparta. We could see Sparta from the top of Mystras, but we didn't visit it because Panos said there's really nothing there to see and he didn't want to take the time for something so underwhelming. Mystras, though, was very cool. First we climbed up to the top and got a great view of the city, the other parts of the castle, and the hilly landscape surrounding it. Then, gradually, we all made our way down to the bottom. Again, there was so much to see that we didn't get to look at everything. Lots of mini churches, ruins, etc.

After a stop at the Olive Museum and dinner in Nafplion, we shopped more. I bought a cute floral scarf- my first souvenir/gift purchase of the trip! Then after a quick game of cards, I joined a group heading down to the pier. We sat and took pictures and just relaxed. Nafplion was so pretty and charming. I would love to go back someday.

Olympia.

Tuesday, September 20th- Day 22


A very cold, rainy day but we made the best of it. We explored Olympia, where we visited both the museum and site. Because of the rain, we didn't get to spend as much time there as we'd hoped. It was still very cool to see though, knowing it's where the ancient Olympics were held.

We headed to our next hotel next, which was located in Rio. After dinner and a walk, we took a little walk on the beach. Later, my roommate Alison and I were getting ready for bed when there was a rumbling and the bed started shaking. Really shaking too, rocking back and forth and everything. We thought maybe it was just some people running down the hall, but the next morning at breakfast, we found out it was an actual earthquake! And the first I've ever experienced, I think (if I felt one before, it was too small for me to feel/remember).

Delphi.

Wednesday, September 21st- Day 23


We visited the Trikoupis Bridge, Nafpaktos for a lunch break, and the museum and archaeological site at Delphi. It was really beautiful, with lots of mountains and pine trees that smelled like maple syrup. We spent some time there sketching and exploring because, thankfully, the rain stopped after we visited the museum. Afterward, we explored the shops in Delphi, played a few games of cards, and had dinner before heading back to our Delphi hotel.


View from the Temple of Poseidon.

Thursday, September 22nd- Day 24


We started the day with a long bus ride. We drove through a really pretty ski village, we drove through rain, and we even drove through a rainbow! Then, for a special surprise that wasn't on our itinerary, Panos took us to the Temple of Poseidon in Athens. We sketched, took some pictures, and then headed down to the beach below for some relaxation time.

This was our last day exploring Southern Greece. It was a fantastic trip though and definitely made me excited for future field trips!

The rainbow that greeted us back in Aigina.

Friday, September 23rd- Day 25


A lazy, quiet day in Aigina. A large part of the group went to Santorini for the weekend (I didn't go because I'll be going there with my mom when she comes to visit) so there were only a few of us left in the apartments. I skyped with my mom, e-mailed, and uploaded/edited my pictures from the trip.

One of the program directors found us some English DVDs, so we were able to end the day watching Friends and then Boogie Nights as we ate dinner.


Saturday, September 24th- Day 26


Another lazy day. Used the internet, read, went to the beach.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

mirror article #2


A Greek Weekend

A week ago, my roommate and I were standing on our balcony at around eleven o’clock at night observing some nearby festivities in an attempt to get a taste of the local culture here on Aigina. Our neighbors across the street were hosting an exuberant birthday party on their rooftop, which had been decorated with hanging lights and balloons. To our surprise, some of the neighbors began waving in our direction, beckoning us to join them. We refused, laughing, but after a minute or so we saw that one of them had emerged onto the street below and was now shouting up, insisting we to come over. With no reasonable excuse, we simply couldn’t refuse, and just two minutes later found ourselves on the rooftop we’d been gazing at so curiously before.
            The boy who invited us up, Kristos, and his family were incredibly welcoming and immediately bombarded us with questions, food, and drinks. They didn’t speak a lot of English and we can barely say hello in Greek, but we were able to communicate nevertheless. We only spent about twenty minutes there, but the party continued long into the night, complete with all the traditions associated with Greek people— dancing, plate smashing, loads of food, people shouting “Opa!”— and I know I’ll never forget it.
            These past two weeks in Aigina have been full of amazing opportunities like that one. Last Saturday, one of our professors invited us to her family’s house for an old-fashioned grape stomping as practiced in Greece since ancient times. With a fruity aroma in the air, we mashed the grape bunches with our bare feet and afterward, if we dared, sipped a little of the fresh juice. And this weekend, Aigina is celebrating its annual Fistiki festival, a celebration of the delicious pistachios grown all over the island. Last night there was music and dancing, tonight there will be a concert and reenactment of ancient water sports, and all weekend booths will line the waterfront selling scarves, jewelry, pottery, toys, and everything in between. And of course, pistachios are found at every turn. There are fresh pistachios, chocolate-covered pistachios, pistachio truffles, pistachio bread, pistachio ice cream, and even pistachio mojitos.
            We leave Sunday for our first class field trip, bright and early at 8:30 AM. The trip will take us all around the Peloponnese peninsula of Southern Greece including stops at Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplion, Sparta, Olympia, and Delphi. I’m growing to love our little island Aigina, but I’m so excited to see a different part of Greece.
This article appeared in a September 2011 issue of Drury University's Mirror newspaper.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

the third week



Sunday, September 11th- Day 13

Not a very exciting day. Worked on some homework and wrote a little. Read. It was nice to have some time for relaxation after so many busy days!


Monday, September 12th- Day 14

Another lazy day. After classes, I wandered around to some shops and took pictures of the island. Then I finished my book and made my favorite meal- a pita pizza!



Tuesday, September 13th- Day 15

I started searching online for how much it would cost to visit Munich for a weekend. I found some good prices, but the dates aren't lining up well with our schedules. I've still got my fingers crossed that I'll find something though!



Wednesday, September 14th- Day 16

Today I received a wonderful package from my parents! I'm so excited to get my hands on both the book and the peanut butter (picture above). They do have peanut butter here, but the cost is outrageous, and they do have books here, but none as potentially good as The Night Circus. I can't wait to start reading it!

After working on homework and studying Greek, I went for a walk at night with Brandon down by the water, where locals were setting up for the Fistiki Festival (a festival celebrating the pistachios grown here on the island). It should be a lot of fun!


Thursday, September 15th- Day 17

We had another quiz today in Greek. We had to spell out the numbers, fill in letters of common phrases, and do dictation. I think the numbers went fine, but the dictation was a struggle. It's just so hard to pick up all the unique sounds of Greek phonetics :/

I had my first Greek gyro! It wasn't a true gyro because the meat was from a skewer, not shredded, but it was still very good. For anyone who might not know, a gyro is a Greek hand food made of a pita filled with meat (I had chicken), tzatziki sauce (made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, and lemon- very yummy!), tomatoes, and sometimes french fries.

After dinner, a group of us went down to the Fistiki Festival, which was all along the harbor. There were lots of booths selling scarves, jewelry, pots, toys, etc. A few of us got pistachio mojitos and some others got pistachio ice cream and baklava. We all shared so that we could try everything. There was also traditional Greek dancing and singing. We had a great time!



Friday, September 16th- Day 18


Tonight we went out to eat for the first time in Aigina since the orientation dinner. I got "penne with chicken and rocket." Apparently rocket is a kind of herb/spice? It didn't have much sauce or flavor, but it was still okay and it was nice to have some protein! We all passed around our dishes too so that we could try everything and there were a lot of other yummy choices. If we ever go back, I think I'll order Lauren and Brianna's salmon pasta instead!

We went back to the Fistiki Fest for more walking/eating. I got the pistachio ice cream and it was delicious! There was also a concert featuring lots of young local bands. It was right on the beach and we saw more young people than we've seen this whole time on the island. Afterward, our whole group got together for a bonfire on the beach. :)


Saturday, September 17th- Day 19


I got up early to Skype with some friends (it can be hard with the time difference!) before doing some laundry and working on my next Mirror article. Also went to the beach with Brandon in the late afternoon, when the sun wasn't so harsh. Everyone's trying to get in beach time whenever possible because before long, the water will be too cold for it!

Before bed, I packed for Southern Greece! It's our first field trip and I can't wait :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

mirror article #1




Summer Days in Aigina

            It feels like summer will never end. Yes, classes have started, homework is due, and test dates have been scheduled, but when you’re living on an island with a view of the clear, blue sea from your window, the idea of fall is as foreign as Greece was to me two weeks ago. The sun beams bright overhead, fishing boats sway in the harbor, and the beach is just a five-minute walk from school. It’s beautiful. Definitely not the motivator I need to study for my Greek quiz tomorrow, but oh so beautiful!
I’m spending this semester on the island Aigina (pronounced eh-gee-na), which is just off the coast of Athens and accessible by ferry. Although we’ve only been in Greece about a week and only on the island five days, to me it seems like the people of Aigina do live in a perpetual summer. They can always enjoy a scoop of gelato as they stroll along the sand and most stores close everyday around two o’clock so the workers can take a siesta. They spend the afternoons relaxing on their little balconies or porches and windows and doors are often kept open all day, with little concern for thievery. Even the food feels like summer— fresh tomatoes, olives, feta, pita bread, juicy peaches, and lots of fish. The usual cuisine of a college student is hard to come by, as you don’t find any shelves stocked with ramen noodles or frozen pizzas, and there isn’t a fast food chain in sight.
Winter feels like nothing more than a dream here, though as I understand it, the weather does eventually turn chilly and when we leave at the beginning of December, we might even be pulling on our coats. As an avid lover of both fall and winter, I am looking forward to those cooler, breezy months. Because even if I can no longer go for a swim, I know that here in Aigina, even if the warmth fades, the feeling of summer never will.

This article appeared in a September 2011 issue of Drury University's Mirror newspaper.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the second week


The view from our schoolroom balcony.

Sunday, September 4th- Day 6


We began the day with brunch at our landlords' house. They live next door to Lauren, Cristina, and I and are very sweet. Everyone came, including all the program directors and teachers, and ate the meal prepared by our landlady. There were lots of unique little appetizer-like dishes. Some were okay, but I didn't really care for a lot of them (which was awkward, because I didn't want to seem rude and not eat them!). Everyone was really nice though and we had a yummy orange gelatin-type thing for dessert.

After that, we hopped in our swimsuits and headed to the beach! It's just a five minute or so walk from our apartments. There isn't any sand along the shore, just rocks, but once you get in, you can stand and there's sand beneath you, very soft and nice. The water is so beautiful and clear. Just gorgeous!

Then, we went to the mini-mart for some food. It's just down the street and almost always open, which is very convenient on an island with siestas. It has most basics so I was able to get some fruit, pasta, yogurt, and water.

This is where the day takes a bad turn . . . I was in the building working on homework and uploading pictures when I felt very suddenly sick. This was around 6 o'clock. I hadn't eaten since brunch, so I went home and ate a peach and sat on the patio with Brandon, but it didn't help. I was sick three times on the patio before we went down to Brandon's apartment so I could lie down. Sick at least 5-6 more times there. Then went to bed and was sick about 3 more times. Such a miserable night and threw up more than I ever had in my life. :(

The apartment.

Monday, September 5th- Day 7


Still feeling sick, I didn't go to the first day of classes. Panos was worried and offered to take me to a doctor, but I'd begun to feel a bit better by then. I think I had food poisoning, though I don't know what food it was. All I had was the brunch on Sunday and no one else got sick. According to some medical website I looked at, sometimes it can take days for food poisoning to show up after eating the culprit food. So maybe it was something I had in Athens?

Slept the day away before walking over to the building at night to e-mail and skype. Still felt weak and nauseous when I headed to bed.

Our school building.

Tuesday, September 6th- Day 8

Although I still felt weak, I didn't want to miss another day of class. We started with Greek, which was scary. Our teacher is crazy, but very entertaining. And since I missed the first day, she let me just listen. Everyone is in the same class (the 12 who have already taken Greek 101 and the 4 of us who haven't), so those who haven't had Greek have to catch up quick. I felt overwhelmed but just tried to get down some of the alphabet even though my teacher wasn't teaching it today (because most people are far past that). Instead she had people pronounce words, an activity which seems impossible to me when I can't even say the letters of the words they're pronouncing . . . I miss French!

Mediterranean Cultures was next and because our guest professor from Drury is Ioana, a biology professor, we'll be learning about Mediterranean plants. It's not a subject I'm very interested in, but Ioana's enthusiasm makes me more excited for it.

The rest of my day was spent e-mailing the professors of my online classes (Journalism Activities and Creative Writing- Nonfiction), trying to study Greek, shopping for an adaptor (the one I brought doesn't work), and reading.

It was rough going because I still felt very tired, weak, and nauseous, but still a productive day.


Wednesday, September 7th- Day 9


Greek class is still scary, but do-able. I studied a lot for our quiz (which is Thursday), in which we have to know all the Greek letters, uppercase and lowercase, their pronunciations, the order they go in, their names, and how to spell their names in Greek letters. It was difficult to study for (it felt impossible at first!), but I was pretty happy with my progress by the end of the night.

I spent most of the afternoon working on my first article for the school newspaper, the Mirror. I'd never written a newspaper story before, so it was a little nerve-racking. Hopefully it'll get easier as the semester goes on!

Aigina harbor.

Thursday, September 8th- Day 10


After our Greek quiz (which wasn't too bad) and Culture & Place, a few of us found a shop selling ice cream. I got Bailey's-flavored and it was delicious! We went to the beach again afterward. It was as beautiful and refreshing as ever (and amazing on a hot day like this).

Then we trekked to the grocery store for the first time! It's about 15 minutes away from our apartment. Far superior to the mini-marts around, the grocery store has a much bigger selection of food, so I was really excited to look around. I found a lot of yummy things that made me less worried about what I'll cook here in our minuscule kitchen. It was still very different from grocery shopping in America though.

Shampoo and conditioner were ridiculously expensive (4 E and 5 E each). Cereal is about 4 E. Meat was just generally expensive (even fish), so I'll be eating a lot of vegetarian meals. Produce, though, is pretty cheap. Bought lots of peaches and kiwis. Lettuce, however, cost a bit more than most veggies, so I had to pass on that. Bread is weird-- most of it is on the hard side, even the sandwich bread. Alcohol is very expensive except for ouzo (Greek alcohol) and some wines. For some things, like cheese, we couldn't read the labels at all so just had to guess at what to buy!


Perdika.

Friday, September 9th- Day 11

A big group of us traveled by bus to a beach on the south of Aigina called Perdika. It was pretty, but hard for both swimming or laying out. There were rocks, not sand, and getting out was difficult because there were rocks right beneath the ladder and some had sea urchins on them that were hard to see. There was lots of shade, at least, and places to sit. I got a bit burnt on my stomach and arms, but it was overall a nice place to spend the afternoon (though I think I prefer our usual beach).

After that beach, the group split up and Brandon and I headed back to the apartments. We went shopping and made pita pizzas for dinner-- delicious! Just toasted pita, tomato sauce, feta cheese, Greek cheese, and a little pepper microwaved.

Hypatia's adorable dog, who once ran away to Athens from Aigina!

Saturday, September 10th- Day 12

Our Culture & Place teacher Hypatia invited us over to her father's house where her family was stomping grapes that day! It was amazing. They had a big stone rectangle filled with grapes that you hopped into once your feet were clean and then stomped around. All of us girls tried it. The grapes were really squishy and smelled wonderful. All the juice drained out a pipe in the side. They also used a grape press to get even more juice. When they were done, we all tried a sip of the grape juice. It was very sweet and I just tried not to think about how many people's feet had touched it.

After, we had dinner at our teacher Ioana's house. It was scrumptious-- lentils, spicy greens, cheeses, bread, figs (my first try with them- they were very, very sweet!), olives, wine, etc.

When we got back, Lauren and I were on the balcony of our apartment talking. Our neighbors across the street were having a party on their rooftop with lots of people. They saw us on the balcony and started waving, so we waved back. Then they started beckoning us over and before we knew it, one of the guys who had been waving appear down on the street, smiling and telling us to come down. Knowing it would be a cool experience to see a real Greek family party, we went!

The guy was named Kristos and he was 25. It was either his sister or his cousin's party (I couldn't really understand him) and about 50 family members were there on the rooftop. They were very friendly, asking our names and where we were from. They offered us beer, which we refused, and wine, which we accepted, and kept saying we should eat (even when we insisted we weren't hungry). Finally, before he could stuff it in my mouth, I did have a bite of the chicken that Kristos's uncle (and our neighbor) offered. It was very juicy and delicious. Kristos's little niece, who was probably 2 or 3, danced a bit and people shouted "Opa!"

When I was going to bed, I could still hear the party very loudly and from my window I could see people Greek dancing, shouting "Opa!", and smashing plates. :)

Friday, September 9, 2011

the first week




Tuesday, August 29th- Day 1

After a long day of traveling (from St. Louis to Toronto to London to Brussels to Athens) including layovers, Canadian burgers, a frantic run through Heathrow, and our first experience being lost in a foreign country, Brandon and I arrived in Athens! It was a very long and tiring journey. I didn't sleep on the ride over, as much as I tried, but it wasn't too bad. There was a wide variety of movie/tv options and I got lucky with my seat-neighbor (she was also a college student, traveling to London to see her English boyfriend, and very nice). 

We were greeted at the hotel by Panos, the program director and guide, who gave us our schedules and room keys. After meeting my lovely roommates, showering, watching the sun set with Brandon, and taking some pictures (like the one above), I passed out on my comfy white hotel bed at 9 o'clock and slept soundly till morning. Best night's sleep ever! :)

At the top of Lycabettus.
Wednesday, August 30th- Day 2


We began the day by climbing a tall, tall hill in Athens called Lycabettus. Although sweaty and panting by the time we reached the top, it was a beautiful view. After that, the day was a blur of walking. Monastiraki, the Plaka, Panatheniac Stadium. Afterward, exhausted, the whole group took a refreshing dip in the hotel (rooftop!) pool.



Thursday, September 1st- Day 3


We explored Athens more-- the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum, the Parthenon, even Panos's (very modern and cool) apartment! Afterward, a group of us decided to hike up another of the hills. I can't remember the name, but I believe it began with "Papi-."Although I was tired and needing to use the bathroom, it was a wonderful view and we got some great pictures of the sunset.



Friday, September 2nd- Day 4


There was a metro strike today, but luckily we had Panos there to guide us around Athens still on the (very crowded and confusing) buses. We saw the 2004 Olympics Stadium complex, which was rather sad and empty, and sketched a lot. Afterward, we took a break in the Olympic Media Center (which has been converted into a nice mall) before heading onto the Cycladic Museum. 

Our wonderful apartment!


Saturday, September 3rd- Day 5


After navigating our way through Athens by both metro and bus with all of our luggage (those who had more than one bag were struggling!), we made it to the Piraeus port before heading onto Aigina, our beautiful island home, by ferry. Lauren, Cristina, and I lucked out as far as apartments goes. The whole group is in the same building, but my roommates and I got the only top floor apartment. It's beautiful and feels very Greek (as it should, it was decorated by our sweet Greek landlords). We have a little balcony and a few luxuries (an oven, a washing machine, a freezer).

It will still be heard to get adjusted to it though because it's just so different from what we're used to in America: we have no air conditioner, only fans; we can only air dry our clothes; we aren't allowed to flush toilet paper (it goes in the trash can); the TV has few channels and it's rare to find something in English on. For the three months we're here though, we're all excited to stay in our cozy little apartment. It's so cute and just down the street from the school building.

For our orientation dinner, we went to a restaurant on the waterfront. Literally, on the waterfront. There were tables on the sand and the water was just a few feet from my toes. There were eight courses of various Greek foods- Greek salad, feta cheese, two other strange but yummy cheeses, olives, anchovies (or sardines, I can't remember), lamb/beef meatballs, eggplant with marinara sauce, calamari, greens with lemon, etc. Yum!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

athens

We arrived in Aigina a few hours ago! I don't have time for writing now, but I'll leave you with a few pictures from Athens.





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