We don’t really have anything like the Porto Rafti Market back home in Decatur. I mean there are places to buy local produce, but it’s doesn’t have the pop up shop feel where it comes once a week on a specific day and that's when everyone goes out to purchase the food items they need. I loved the environment of the market, and the fact that we had to buy an item of food really helped give me a true experience of what it is like to interact with locals in this way. They were all so helpful and kind, which is something I really appreciated as I was nervous trying to buy oranges in Greek.
While we were at the market, I was thinking about how cool it was and how it was so different from back home, and I realized that this is just another way that Greeks develop community with one another. They grow these products and catch these fish and set up stalls for their products that line this one specified street, and they all do this together as a community. They share with each other and talk together, waiting to sell their products but are also ready to recommend the strawberries or oranges that the vendor two stalls down from them has brought to the market this week. They know each other and work together to sell their produce. They are a community.
When I am back in the states, I just go to WalMart, grab what I need, go to the self checkout, and leave as quickly as possible. It is not an experience filled with a lot of social interaction, and I don’t really give any thought to where the food that I am purchasing came from or the hands that tended to it while it grew. That isn’t an option here at the market in Porto Rafti. I was face-to-face with the people that grew these oranges and had the opportunity to show them that I appreciated their work through purchasing 2 kilos of the oranges they had picked from their own trees that very morning. Even though they probably didn’t think anything of it, the interaction we shared was important to me, and it is an experience that I will remember for years to come.
Guest blogger for HUG is my daughter, Ann-Clayton, whose blog is here.
Last weekend, we went to the famous Greek island of Santorini. It was so relaxing, with our group having no set schedule. The first day, my family and some students hiked from Oia to Fira, taking in picturesque views. At one point, I was wondering if I would ever arrive in Fira. The uphill trek was exhausting, so we took what my mom called, "nature appreciation stops." Crazy winds made me discombobulated! Finally, we saw the golden arches in Fira. Not kidding - we ALL ate and sat for a long time at McDonald's.
I loved exploring the hilly, stair-stepped streets of Oia, our home base for the weekend. Several places that I recognized from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants stood out to me. The house that Lena stayed in, the port where she met Costas, and the blue domed churches all made me excited to be right where Lena was in the movies!
Also in Oia, listed as number two on the "Europe's 10 Most Beautiful Bookstores" list, Atlantis Books is packed with first-editions of classics and books normal people can buy haha! It's easy to spend a lot of time in the cute little shop.
Since we were on Santorini in February, work crews were busy getting the town ready for the summer tourists. Painting houses and repairing tiled pathways, the men worked into the night. These guys use donkeys to haul tools and supplies to and from their projects, and the donkeys leave their evidence, to say the least. It was cool to see this behind-the-scenes action that tourists don't typically see.
Santorini is amazing, and I would recommend this island to anyone who travels to Greece for sure. Put Santorini on your travel list!
Near Athens is the most important land to the Greeks - the location of the battle at Marathon and the tomb of 192 soldiers who perished there when the Athenians beat the Persians. Standing around the model if the grounds where the war was fought, we hear of the protective armor and warfare of the day, the ships that were use in the Greek navy, and the story of the battle strategy itself considering that specific geography. We consider that if this battle had gone the opposite way, the course of history would have been changed.
The drive to Marathon Lake is pretty. Olive trees' silver shimmers on the roadside hills, and the cypress dark green shoots up into today's cloudy sky. We fill the restaurant quickly because the day is chilly. Students order cappuccinos and catch up on journaling. Someone pulls out a deck of cards. Fun chatter and laughs fill the air. A handful even catch a quick shut-eye.
Silas plans relays for us at the Marathon Stadium. We complete like we mean business and then take a lap around the track.
There's a special restaurant outside of the city that's owned by a cousin of a friend of ours. This traditional Greek taverna has tables lined up, set beautifully with bread baskets waiting for us. The salad might be the best I've ever had with feta and dill added to the greens, tomatoes, olives, capers, and homemade croutons. The tzatziki is definitely the best I've eaten loaded with chunks of cucumber, making it taste fresher than ever. Sausage is also brought to us. The potatoes taste like Grandmother's, and the main course choices are pork, chicken, or beef. A band begins playing and the locals begin arriving around 10:00PM, and that's when the party gets cranking. One student remarks that this is in his top five meals of his life. We're getting a good, healthy dose of family here at HUG. Family is what HUG is all about.
Students take classes designed to overlap each other throughout our HUG semester. Including the study of historical humanities, modern cultures, Bible, and communication, our classes are designed to run together. We present them as a plate of spaghetti and contrast that image with one of steak and potatoes; steak and potatoes go well together, but they are entirely separate things. Instead, our classes are purposefully molded together inside at the classroom lectures and during our experiential learning when we're out and about.
On our current Northern Greece tour, we make stops in ancient Philippi, Basilica of Saint Lydia, Aristotle Square and the agora and the Fair Gate and the Holocaust Memorial in Thessaloniki, the Tribute to Paul and the Jewish synagogue in Berea, and the tomb of Philip II in Vergina. At each site and during the bus rides in between, our favorite Greek guide, James, fills our ears and heads with information and images of ancient times. On top of our classroom time on campus, James explains the writings of the Bible in its original language and in its cultural setting. Opportunities for learning are abundant. We hear about a few language issues that have been mistaken in translation. There are Greek and Roman and Jewish nuances that we simply don't know because of our own distance from that world. The audience to whom Luke writes Acts is different from the 21st century American individual. Those people would have known these language and cultural customs and understandings that we must be taught. Sticking out to me today is the discussion of the Roman centurions in Jesus' time. These aren't just common Roman soldiers. There were leaders among the strongest army and government of the day. Their men were loyal to them. During mid-day, if a centurion said, "It's midnight," then his followers loyally reply, "The sun must be wrong." The centurions were highly respected and their word was held as truth. Therefore, a centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his daughter or a centurion who stated, "Surely this was the Son of God" carried a bit of weight in those times. I wonder how many people were influenced by Cornelius. I wonder how God uses those who, at times, think they are unworthy or incapable of being used to do His will because of their own sin or their own self-doubt. We need to refocus - not on ourselves - but on Him.
This semester is about stretching, learning, being open, being exposed to differences, challenging each other, and becoming sharper and more aware - of different people, different thoughts, different ways of living and loving those around us. May we all focus outward as we enter our semester studies and adventure around this world together, expanding our minds and hearts along the way.
Harding University in Greece