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.