Before telling about the sweet field trip to Naxos, I first wanted to blurb about the Greek’s Independence Day (this past Thursday 3/25). Around 11 a.m. that day, school children of various ages paraded down the main beach street of Paros, the younger kids wearing traditional Greek outfits and the older ones wearing their school uniforms.
A few of us walked along with them, then stopped at the city hall, where 9 girls (between 12 and 15 years of age) performed traditional Greek dance! Really wonderful to watch…they wore dresses made with beautiful fabric and colors.
I didn’t have class until 5 p.m. that night, so we ate (I actually indulged in a burger finally…twas fabulous!) and read outside of a café along the waterfront. After class, we witnessed the continued celebration as people strolled through town carrying colored lanterns and beating on drums! So neat to experience another country’s day of independence…
Now on to the overnight weekend trip through the Cyclades to the island of Naxos!
What a trip…and what a spectacular island! Naxos is about twice the size of Paros and is located to its right. We hopped on the good ol’ Blue Star Ferry this past Friday and took about an hour ride to our new destination. Upon our arrival, we walked to an archaeological museum in Hora, the main port town. And then, lunchtime:) We stopped at a café to refresh ourselves with some tropical drinks (I got a marg…mmm) and also, some Greek salads. The sun felt amazing as we sat in lounge chairs outside and basked in it. Some others had moved on to go swimming (it’s getting to be so much warmer!), and we followed shortly after, walking along the port to a rocky beach.
Now it was time to venture up through town to our hotel, which had really nice accommodations. We all shared rooms…I was with Alyson, who goes to U of M!
After hanging out around the pool (which was not in use yet), we walked back to the port and out to the landmark of Apollo’s Gate, set upon a hill at the end of a small strip of land.
We were scheduled to be there at 6 p.m. just before sunset so a student could give a small presentation for our Historical Sites class. The walk up to the gate was very aromatic…we winded through paths lined with small yellow and pink flowers and various plant life. Everyone was taking lots of pictures from all different angles…we got some nice ones of the sun peaking through the gate and of us pretending to be hold it between our hands.
Before dinner, we sat at a café and ordered some of the best sangria I’ve tasted! It had fresh fruit in it and was just so smooth…and of course, like most bars, they set out potato chips and nuts for snacks. I was also thoroughly entertained as well because men’s volleyball was on big TV screens…it really brought me back home:) Almost everyone then met at a Mexican restaurant for dinner, where I split chips & cheese, a chimichanga, and a chicken quesadilla with a couple other girls…they were served with lettuce, tomato, and white rice! Interesting combo with the rice, but nonetheless, good eats. It was then time to barhop around the island and experience some Naxos nightlife on a Saturday night! We stopped at a place called The Olive Tree, which was adorable on the inside. We met a funny man named Yanni, and his sister, Ana, who spoke near-perfect English (she was such a doll…super nice). Then we met some of our group at another bar where we got to dance a little more…Naxos showed us a greeeeat time!
The next morning we left around 10 a.m. by bus to an archaeological site with the Temple of Demeter.
This may have been one of the most serene places I have been to so far. Time ceased as I sat and sketched a lone tree in the field off from the area of the temple.
The 360 degree view captured so much in the distance…countless forms of plant life, little villages, and the peak of the Cyclades, Mount Zas along with other smaller ones which all had a slight haze about them, making the experience even more surreal and timeless.
We traveled by bus again to a mountain village where we got the chance to explore and grab some lunch. A few of us ventured up along some mountain roads to get a better view. Along the way we spotted a white donkey and some small goats, who were quite scared of us (we almost split up a family!) We hiked our way back and bussed it to the Kouros statues.
Some of us continued the hike up a mountain through very thick and prickly shrubbery and steep rock formations…I wore sandals and shorts, which was not smart thinking on my part at all, as my legs got torn to shreds by the bushes! Yes, the cuts burned, but once we reached the top, the pain didn’t even matter or bother me…the view was so spectacular and breathtaking (this hike reminded me of my trip to Slovakia).
But, what goes up must come down…and boy was this a task. Loose rocks were everywhere, and don’t forget the thick shrubs filled with those darned prickers! Footing was pretty awful without wearing tennis shoes…but I survived and came out with some great battle wounds:)
Back on the bus for the final trip, I instantly zonked out from exhaustion and heat from the sun (zzz…). We did stop once to take picture of a huge marble quarry and great scenic view.
The weekend was coming to an end…we made it to the port, took the hour ferry ride, and returned to our home on Paros! It felt wonderful to be back in a now familiar area…a few of us went to our favorite gyro place immediately for some grub. Then it was just a night of unpacking and relaxation:)
But now it is back to school…projects and papers approaching like mad, but they are exciting ones at least! We have moved on to painting with canvas in Art Workshop…Sarah gave a demo in oil painting (turpentine is the devil…at least the fumes!). We did a still life project from the demo, then have a painting due next Monday (it can be of anything, but has to be lit solely by a candle). In film, we are trucking along with reading a book then watching the film…just finished “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” Next is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Aaaaand this week begins festivities for Easter, which is a HUGE deal over here! Pubic schools close for two weeks, church services run the whole week, and we are having a big dinner celebration on Sunday here at Jimmy’s Apartment, where Jimmy cooks us lots of wonderful food!
I hope everyone is enjoying this still! I’ll try to post more after Easter:) Muah to all!
While it has only been 3 weeks since I stepped foot on this beautiful island, I feel as though I have lived here for months. I have been keeping many of you up-to-date with pictures via Facebook but wanted to share more, mostly for the family that does not have FB. So here, I’ll try to begin to capture what it’s like to finish undergrad…through a study abroad program…on an island…yes, in Greece:)
Back to square one, I flew from Traverse City Feb. 28th to Chi-town to Frankfurt, Germany and finally to Athens, Greece. The 8-hr international flight was surely the worst…I was unable to sleep the entire trip, so I read some Malcolm Gladwell, listened to my iPod, and watched the in-flight movie, An Education. I did manage to sit next to an interesting, English-speaking fellow, whose name I failed to get. He informed me that he worked in the states as a radiologist who travels across the globe to lead lectures on his profession. Such a nice man, but after about a half hour of chatting, he dozed off for the remainder of the flight…
Upon arrival in Athens, I taxied it about 40 minutes to the hostels where other HISA (Hellenic International Studies in the Arts) students would be staying as well. Around 15-20 students were there for the two nights in Athens…I roomed with four other girls, where we crammed in to a tiny room with two bunk beds and one bathroom.
After suffering from jetlag and trying to get acquainted, we were led by a HISA teacher, Sarah, to the Acropolis, where a great deal of history was in store for us to experience. The paths leading us up were made of stone and marble, and we could not have asked for better weather to see the peak of city.
Now I was in for the fun part…ha. A 4-hr ferry ride from Athens to the island of our 3-month residency: Paros! The slight bout of seasickness and overwhelming jetlag vanished as I looked on at the approaching island. Luggage in hand with patient anticipation, the gate began to drop, and the landscape of Paros appeared. We were nothing but smiles…and a couple watery eyes on my part. The island was perfect.
We then walked along the beach to Jimmy’s Apartments, where HISA students stay in a private room, each with a balcony, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. Yeah, not too shabby I’d say. I never thought having a balcony with the sun shining through the windows each morning would be so fabulous. Mine is small, but it suits me well. Each room is completely different from the next. 32 students are in the program, with only 7 boys.
Also, HISA is a wholly independent study abroad program. Students came from across the nation, from California, to Arkansas, to Massachusetts and beyond. I actually met a girl (my neighbor here, at school, and back home!) who goes to Grand Valley, lives in Grand Rapids, and is from Cadillac! What a small, small world…
This brings me to my life on the island…
-FOOOOOOOD! Quite possibly the item that always cheers me up, and something to which I can NEVER say no. We began making communal dinners, usually comprised of a big salad with fresh veggies, fruit salad with cinnamon and honey, some sort of carb like pasta or rice stir-fry, and of course, WINE! I thought I was a wino before arriving here…but having a glass with every dinner is not uncommon.
-Moving forward with food, we have all discovered several gems of the island, including the Love Café (excellent pizza and brownie sundaes), the fresh fish restaurant (platters of whole grilled fish, and lots of grilled bread with olive oil and vinegar), Dodoni Café (seconds from the school where students and teachers hang out, eat, chat, and so forth), the coffee shop (wonderful filtered coffee), then right next door is the bakery (and oh is this bad news bears….they offer a huge selection of different baklava, loaves of bread, and pastries that are to die for!), and finally, the gyro joint…where you can get a gyro made to order right before you eyes for 2 euro. DELISH. I am craving one right now and I just ate…yikes! Also, tipping is not a necessity, as the service charge is included in the prices on the menu.
Aaaand, Greek salads don’t have lettuce! They are so fresh here, with only tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, olives, capers (sometimes), feta cheese, and olive oil and vinegar! So appetizing…
-I suppose now I can talk about school, the main reason for my being here…it’s about a 20-25 min walk from Jimmy’s to the school. But no complaints there, as the weather is about 65-70 degrees now, and the walk is along the beach! Passing the harbor where fisherman tend to their boats and walking inland through all the winding paths filled with small shops, you can always discover something new. But before arriving at the school, we pass the painting studio, where the art workshop classes are held, and where we are currently displaying our first projects (charcoal and still life drawings and triptychs hung on the walls much like a gallery). My other classes are held in the main room of the school, where class sizes range from 10-20 students.
-I am enrolled in Art Workshop (my main reason for choosing HISA, and the class from which I am learning the most…very hands on, first a demo, then time to use the studio after to practice from the demo), Philosophy (taught by our director, Barry Tagrin—a poet who is married to the cutest Japanese woman, Yuko…and I cannot forget about their precious daughter, Mona, who can make anyone smileJ), Historical Sites (a class that takes us on several excursions, including one to Turkey and other islands of the Cyclades), Film Studies (we read a book then it’s film adaptation), and Theory of Art (a combination of art history and personal opinions).
-After these 3 months, I can safely say that I have never been on as many field trips for school than I have here:) We have gone on some sort of new adventure as a group every weekend so far! The first was a Paros island tour, where we stopped at Kolimbithres Beach, which was filled with rock formations and unique landscape features. The water reflected all shades of blue and green.
We then moved on to Naoussa, home of the Venetian Castle and a breath-taking fishing village. We got to explore here, walking along the pier and throughout the shops and cafes.
-Our next adventure was to the Mycenaen Acropolis (and yes, there is more than just one acropolis…) and Monastiri Beach. This was the long, slightly painful-but-oh-so-worth-it hike. Here laid the true rock formations were…my legs/entire body ached a couple days after for sure. But we did break for our packed lunches. Sitting atop a grassy knoll and basking in the afternoon sun, I experienced quite a rest before our hike back. The sunny made me drowsy, but extremely calm. And I thought the blues and greens were spectacular at Naoussa, but wow, they seemed even more brilliant here. Again, another stunning day to go on a hike…in Greece…on an island…(sigh….).
-Just this past weekend, the group traveled in cars (we had been using a big bus for field trips) to the Byzantine Trail, then to Barry and Yuko’s Thapsana mountain house (which he built himself and is currently building another art studio for students!). Here we had a huge BBQ lunch, where we feasted on various salads, bread, baked fish and veggies, grilled eggplant, pork, chicken, burgers, and sausage. Everything was PERFECT! Except, we did not get to eat this wonderful meal right when we got to the house…we actually had to go out to a field nearby and gather small rocks from the dirt to be used for Barry’s construction projects. Just a little bit of hard work to enjoy the meal that much more:) I immediately cracked open a cold beer…mmm. And like every other meal, wine was offered…I love this place!
The house possessed so much character, with several different levels of space, and their amazing artwork displayed all over. The roof was a place to enjoy the food, chat, sunbathe, and get back massages:)
Sooo, here are just some random items of interest:
-Nowhere in Greece can you flush toilet paper down the toilets…the buildings are old and doing so may cause some not-so-pleasant things to happen…
-Cats are EVERYWHERE (and dogs too)!
-I have been told by several people that I have an accent, a Michigan accent. It came out when I said the word “dad” of all things. This is a sure sign of my distance from home:( But I found it sort of neat to have someone actually pick up on that!
Finally, I feel so blessed to be living and studying (if you want to call it that) in a place of such beauty…I hope this gives everyone a better feel for what I have been experiencing for the past 3 weeks away from home!
Much love from the Asian…xo.