The Corinth Canal is massive and connects the two seas, technically making the southern Peloponnese an island, although most consider it the mainland. Allowing for ships to pass through, it helped to cut travel time significantly and made Corinth a major city in the Roman Empire. After we marvel at the canal's depth and straight, narrow sides, we begin our way to the ancient city. On our way, we learn about the culture of the region at the time that Paul wrote his letters to these people to which we have access today. Women covering their heads had to do with a sexual cult of the day, but Paul is encouraging unity ("neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew, slave nor master" is referred to numerous times in the Bible) when he is talking to them about shaved heads or short hair or head coverings. We must be careful when we interpret letters written to specific people in different lands in different times from which we live. The context is simply often unknown to us in our free world today.
Only five percent of the ancient city of Corinth has been uncovered. Grape vines and orange trees dominate this area. The oranges are "new" from the east. The grapes have been cultivated here since the time of its heyday.
After learning about the medical problems of the day and the sacrifices (statues of thanks), we sit in front of the agora where the meat that was leftover from the sacrifice to idols was sure to be sold to the public. The bema where Paul stood before Gallio is just a few steps away. It seems that the church in Corinth was full of gifts, but perhaps they weren't using them in the proper way or for the proper glory to God. We discuss Aquila and Priscilla's exit from Rome and their meeting Paul here in Corinth. Their common occupations gave them common ground. We discuss Paul's ability to meet people using his skills - leather working could be used for tents for lodging at the time of the Isthmian games, sandals, awnings, and ships' sails. He had multiple opportunities to meet people and tell them of Jesus Christ. When God tells Paul not to be afraid and to keep speaking, this indicates that Paul was afraid and was at least considering going silent. God tells him to keep going. He tells us the same when we face our own uphill struggles.
We eat a picnic lunch at Acro-Corinth. Some of our group venture to explore the gated city above us. The view contains an open, turquoise sky with olives in numerous rows of grapevines and olive trees way down below.
Later we head to Nafplion to stroll the city streets in the evening just like the locals. The cafes are buzzing, the shops are welcoming, and the flowers are sadly losing their blooms but holding on as well as they can. Many students tell me it's their favorite town we've visited yet. I grin, "I told you so!"
The ancient Palamidi Fortress sits atop the city of Nafplion. We explore it first thing this morning, learning about war strategies of the day.
On our way to Mycenae, we are taught about this ancient civilization and hear stories of the people of that time. At the Beehive Tomb, we sing The Lord Bless You and Keep You to James. It is a significant time together. Arriving at Mycenae's entrance, we see the Lion's Gate at the beginning to the city. We talk about the palace of the king, the storehouses, the other houses of people, and the graves where they found the golden masks that we saw in the National Archeological Museum earlier this week.
Driving to Olympia, where we will begin our day tomorrow, was the afternoon agenda. After a lunch of our choice of beef, chicken, or pork, salad, cheese pie, and grapes for dessert, we pick up James' family. They will join us for supper and stay the night.
We had our girls' devotional time at sunset overlooking the hotel's outdoor pool and the beautiful hills of Greece in the background – olive trees, grape vines, and mountains surrounded us. We are each sharing a little bit of our journey; opening up about a piece of our life where God has helped us, through whatever form He knows that we need, is encouraging to all. Being His witnesses is what we are about.
Supper is too much food again, but smiles and laughter are seen throughout the room. The KINS class jogs down to the ancient Olympic stadium, a soccer ball is kicked around, and a handful go to bed early to fight off oncoming colds/sore throats. We must conquer - all in our own way.
Today begins with a tour of the ancient site of Olympia. These games were sacred events in honor of Zeus, starting in 776 BC until being outlawed in 393 AD, after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. We begin at the gymnasium, where the athletes would have trained. We step into the workshop of Pheidias, the designer of the statue of Zeus in the temple (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that stood in this area); he was also the designer of the statue of Athena that dominated the interior of the Parthenon. On the ancient track, HUGer Grady sprints to the finish line ahead of the rest of the race participants. The neighboring museum houses artifacts from the ancient ruins including statues, helmets, and wall art of the buildings
The village of modern day Olympia greets us with food smells, colorful buildings and blooms, and stores inviting us inside. After we feast on Greek salads, lamb chops, and gyros, we stroll around to see what gifts we can locate. I stop in my favorite store that sells face cream, soaps, hair products, honey, and olive oils - all made in Greece. The owner recognizes me and greets me with a smile and conversation. Their tourist season was busy, and she is ready for rest. It's a good problem. She asks when we will return again and gives me her email and suggests that I contact her beforehand so that she can be certain to open the shop. It won't be high season yet when we return with next spring semester's students, but she wants to make certain that she is available for us. Buying gifts for people makes me happy, and her store is so pretty; I have Christmas goodies stocked. She gives me a bottle of her family's olive oil as we leave with our arms full of her shop's products. Hospitality abounds in Greece.
We are on our way back "home" on the bus that is full of sleepy eyes. They'll get a nap and then stay awake too late tonight. Oh, the life of a college student. The sleep habits aren't ideal, but they form bonds that last a lifetime. They can sleep when they're my age. I was told today that we are making the students feel like a part of our family - more so than they were even told that we would, which makes my heart soar! Sweet words. That's the goal! Maybe if I tell them it's bedtime, they'll say, "Ok, Mom," and know that I want them healthy. We are trying to avoid stuffy noses and itchy throats, but not all of us are succeeding. Maybe I need to get my mom-voice turned up so that they'll REALLY feel like family! We MUST get healthy again this week back at the Artemis - our home-away-from-home for the first part of the semester.
Words by HUGer Abby C.
Greek coffee was an incredible and educating experience. Ms. Vicky thoroughly demonstrated how to make Greek coffee in a way that was fascinating to all of us listening. Still being early on in the trip, this experience came at a wonderful time to ponder on what the semester will hold. This experience changed my view from what can I get out of this trip to what we as a group can do to get the most out of this trip.
Ms. Vicky really pointed out how in order for the coffee to taste delicious the ingredients, sugar and coffee, had to come together above the flame and become one. Although she compared this to also being the secret to a good marriage, I thought about the similarities between the sugar and coffee and our group of people on this trip. Coming into this trip I was excited about the new friends I would soon make, but as I arrived an old fear of making new friendships came into my mind. Most people in this group had at least one friend coming onto this trip, but many friend groups remain at school and learning to mesh with a new group of people is difficult yet rewarding.
In order for this group to be everything that it can be, we have to be united, similar to the sugar and coffee in the process of making Greek coffee. We have to come together, as one unit, in order for us to thrive. Like sugar and coffee which by themselves are just pretty good, we are all the same, just pretty good on our own. But when we decide to bring all of our “pretty good’s” together for a purpose bigger than ourselves, the outcome in unimaginable. Luckily, this is not only up to us. While we have to use the opportunities given to us we also have a flame, The Lord, not only beneath us, but all around us who wants us to be united. He desires for his children to be one with each other in order for us to be one with Him. I love the works of The Lord, but one of my favorite things He chooses to do is His way of bringing people with different backgrounds, different viewpoints, and different mindsets to each other for encouragement, relationship, and most importantly for His glory. My experience with Greek coffee, reminded me of just that.
Words by HUGer Isabel. Photos by HUGer Brandi. Here's a special experience from earlier this semester...
Walking through the Markopoulo Market and interacting with some of the vendors was a
new and unique experience for me. During my time there and as I reflected afterwards, I thought
a lot about the farmers markets that I have been to in my life. There is a large one every Saturday
morning in my hometown, and it is a very popular thing to go to. Many of us go there to get
some breakfast, look around at the handicrafts, and maybe buy some fresh fruit and vegetables.
Although the basic idea of farmers markets in America is the same as that of the Markopoulo
Market, the ideas surrounding it and the implementation are very different. Through
experiencing the Markopoulo Market, I realized that markets in Greece are a lot more about
sustaining a living than markets in America. Setting up their booth at a market each day of the
week is their day to day job, not just something they do to get a little extra money. At first, this
observation made me feel sad that they relied on such an unpredictable means of getting money,
but then I realized that this may just be a very American way of at looking at it. I don’t know for
sure how these vendors feel about their work, but I bet that farming, creating wares, and selling
these products in this way is something they may feel very proud of. Perhaps their families have
done this for years and this is their way of connecting with family tradition. Perhaps they love
the sense of community participating in markets brings them. Even for the short time that I was
there, I was able to sense the feeling of community around me. These people work together to set
up a condensed place for people to buy everyday necessities, enabling the vendors to bring in
more customers than each could bring in individually.
As I thought through this way of thinking about markets in Greece, it reminded me of the idea that we all have a worldview that affects how we interpret everything we see. Oftentimes we forget this, but it is sometimes necessary to realize that different people and especially different cultures have a whole different view of the world than we do. When we do think about this fact, however, and make an effort to put on the worldview of another person, even if only for a few minutes, we can learn a lot about others and show them much more respect and love than if we assume our view is always right. I think that experiencing a Greek market has taught me that as I travel, I need to recognize that my view of the world is shaped by my upbringing in America, and that I will receive a greater travel experience if I can try to put on the view of the world that different cultures have.
We began Emily's birthday by singing to her, and everyone's eyes lit up when they spied the chocolate cake that accompanies that song here in Greece! After that, our Sunday morning called for prayer and singing in the bus as we began our day trip into Athens. Our driver said, "Heaven just came down to me. Thank you." This group can really sing. And they share their gift of song with me and everyone around them. The driver requested more songs, so we will sing for him on the way back from Athens. All people long for connection, and music provides that easily.
The Acropolis Museum sits below the real thing, and we tour that building first, as we prepare for the climb. The Acropolis is next; we learn about its architecture, its builders, and the patron goddess of the city. Even with scaffolding, the Parthenon reigns as the shining star at the top of the hill. It's cloudy today, but the sunset normally makes the Parthenon a golden hue, and I hope the students take time to glimpse this scene before they leave this country.
On the top of Mars Hill, my sweet-hearted husband helps our minds focus on Jesus and on what should drive our thoughts and purpose and actions. The Greek language helps us here, and we continually learn what the Father teaches us in His word. We share in communion up here and connect like we haven't quite yet. It's a special time together.
After some free time of shopping in Athens, we share some singing on the bus on the way back to our campus. Our driver thanks us and says, "Thank you. Paradise. Paradise on earth." Singing is a gift that we are able to give freely anytime. It lifts us up when we feel a fervent need to be close to God and even when we are not conscious of that need.
A pizza party awaits us back on campus, so I'll sign off now. These students can contemplate important ideas and can throw a rockin' pizza party when it's time. They're keeping us young.
HUG and HUF are combining forces like never before! The fall semester students are beginning their overseas semester in Greece and switching to Italy halfway through their time while studying abroad. These students will be able to live at two of Harding University's overseas campuses. Right now, HUF is preparing for them - getting classes perfected, working together by updating the villa that the school owns outside of Florence, and doing some team building with their staff. We Beasons in Greece will do the same after our precious-ones-already depart from us to go to the Shackelfords.
I consider this blog a gift to our students' parents, so enjoy these words as they guide you through your students' travels with us. Your not-really-kiddos-anymore are GREAT (usually) at posting pictures, but sometimes they are sparse with their verbal descriptions. Hence, this is my gift to you.
Before I start with the travel stories, let me thank you for sharing your students with us. This group in particular is quickly making efforts to become a family. They are being inclusive and kind to all and are setting solid examples for each other and us. Your molding them to do so shines! So thank you for making them who they are - delightful young people whom we are enjoying already.
Mountains surround us as we head north on our first out-of-town tour with this new group. Olive trees, grape vines, cotton, citrus trees, olive trees, rice, and solar panels are the "fields" we see. Fall makes me think of family stories, yummy food at special mealtimes shared with family I love, and football games together with fellow fans - all sweet and wonderful things from which we can learn good life-lessons. The fall season of the year has long been my favorite.
We share lunch overlooking a beautiful village nestled in the distance. Delphi is our first class of the day. We hear of the ancient oracle and culture of the day and God's working through His plan even there in pagan Delphi. After the Delphi tour, we drive further north and spend the night in Kalambaka.
Meteora's rock formations greet us as we leave the hotel. The word means lofty or elevated. I'll say. These rocks shoot up from the ground in a show of strength. It's unlike any other place I've ever seen. There are six remaining monasteries sitting atop the giant stalagmites that dominate the view. We tour one of them where monks still live and worship daily. The Orthodox church's walls are covered with paintings, dark in color from age and years of incense smoke, depicting the stories of the Bible. "Ornate" doesn't seem enough of a description.
Down the road, the Tomb of Phillip II, recently found around 1980, holds my favorite museum in all of Greece. We descend under the domed ground and admire the gold death crowns, the tombs, and all the things buried inside that are still intact. It's incredible.
Nearby Berea has a synagogue. We learn about the Jewish people in this area before WW2 while we are invited inside.
Aristotle Square welcomes us all to Thessaloniki upon arrival in the evening. Always a busy atmosphere, we join the square's guests and enjoy a trio of stringed instruments playing for the passersby.
Near where Paul met Lydia at Philippi, our favorite Greek guide and Christian brother James (your students will tell you how they've already come to appreciate our friend James) continues the story of Paul's and Silas' violent beatings in Philippi (leaving out none of the gruesomeness of this punishment used in their day), their imprisonment (including the conditions of the jails at that time - not sanitary after beatings leaving open flesh wounds, animals crawling, and more nastiness that makes us squirm and feel awfully spoiled), the singing of Paul and Silas after receiving such brutality, and the miraculous earthquake that opened the doors and scared the prison guard, which was a big deal; the man was trembling with fear - that's significant. A guard fell in humility and fear to his knees before Paul and Silas, asking what he must do to be saved. It was a quick conversion. Luke likes medical details, and we note that finally Paul's and Silas' wounds are tended to. James tells of the frightful realization that the Romans have beaten a Roman citizen. We ponder the seeds that were planted that day by Paul and Silas. We also discussed how scared that newborn church must have been since such harsh treatment happened to Paul and Silas; those new Greeks weren't Roman citizens; maybe this is why Paul didn't flash his Roman citizen card before the beating - to be an example for these particular people because Paul got the beating and the church did not. Paul continually shows a drive to move the gospel forward. May we have such dedication and determination.
We then tour the ancient site of Philippi together and learn even more about the culture and city of the time. What a rich day of learning we've shared.
The Mt. Olympus climb deserves a full post by itself! More on that adventure next time... Parents, please enjoy these blog entries from this special semester!
Harding University in Greece
HUG/HUF Fall 2017