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.