Athens is a Shell in a Shadow

If you were to go back in time to fifth-century Athens, you would see a much different picture than you do now. Just as a shell was once full of life, Athens was prosperous, powerful, and full of beauty.

 

During this period, Athens was the center of economic growth, cultural creativity, political thought, and the ancient Western world. The idea of people thinking for themselves and questioning the norms was only just beginning to become a more acceptable part of public thought and with that, grand sculptures and masterful written works being produced on a regular basis.

 

Athens was the birthplace of democracy and housed many of the greatest philosophers of the day, such as Plato and Socrates. Athens flourished with its acropolis and agora, but only as long as they stood whole and complete. As time wears on and the Acropolis and the Agora fall into disrepair, Athens continues to become a shell of its former self. What once was the pinnacle of Western culture, art, and politics has now fallen to just a memory of where we were, not where we are.

 

The shadow that the acropolis casts upon current day Athens is a very clear metaphor, Athens today stands only in the shadow of what once made this city great. And as Greece races against time to preserve the Acropolis, it is also doing everything it can to maintain its own presence and relevance in the world.

 

Putting all their efforts into preserving their history keeps them from finding their place in the future. This isn’t to say that the beauty that once was is lost forever. There are incredible ideas that have been ingrained in their culture and plenty of contemporary potential for them to emerge from the shadows. Just as their patron goddess Athena found a new purpose as Minerva when the Romans took over, Athens must now learn to adapt and incorporate themselves into the 21st century.

 

An Ode To A Stolen Gelato

A haiku that is devoted to the seagull that stole my gelato:

An ice-cream once held
A thought ringing in my head
Never trust a bird

This incident sadly occurred on our last day in Venice. Within a few minutes of my initial purchase of a gelato, I was attacked in a fury while walking through St. Mark’s square. All I saw was a flash of white and suddenly the cone that had been previously in my hand was being ravaged by a flock of seagulls. It was upsetting but you needn’t worry, I returned to the gelato shop and purchased another and proceeded to St. Mark’s square with a renewed sense of caution.

Garrett

Impressions of Italy

When I think of Italy I think of really well fashionable people walking down the busy street rushing from one place to another. I think of designer stores and restaurants that serve mainly pizza and pasta which are just across shops that are filled with gelato of all the flavors your mind could think of. I quickly learned that this is not what Italy is all about. While in Italy, we stayed in a city in Italy called Paestum. This was a very unique and beautiful place that was full of life. It was in the countryside and it filled with lots and lots of green! My eyes almost popped out of their sockets as we discovered the beautiful areas in this city. The one experience that stood out to me is when I was with a group of friends and we cycled around the area trying to find a buffalo farm that some of the other students on the abroad had been to earlier that day. We cycled around the area for about fifteen minutes before we finally saw the sign of the buffalo farm. We were so excited as we rode inside eager to see where the buffalo mozzarella cheese that we had been eating was coming from. In the farm there were about a hundred buffalos, and their little ones were on the opposite shed. It was such a big farm and the workers there were so cheerful as they welcomed us in and showed us around. There was a little cafe on the side of the farm that sold buffalo ice cream! It must have been the best ice cream that I have ever had. The owner of the shop took some time to talk to us and he told us of how much he loved his job as he got to do what he loved. This part of Italy gave me such a different perspective on how I think of other countries.

By Olivia Budds.

I Can Barely Describe the Experience

It has now been  almost two weeks since we have arrived back in the United States and I have barely been able to describe my experience abroad to people who ask. When people do ask, I come up with the eloquent statement, “I can barely describe the experience.” Why is that? It’s not as if I have forgotten any of the amazing experiences I have had across the 3 countries we visited.  I have definitely not forgotten the fantastic people I have met and the delicious meals I have consumed. Maybe it is because I am utterly bewildered that my car is buried in snow and cannot describe the experience whilst digging it out? Wasn’t I just laying on the warm sand of Elafonisi beach?

The truth is, I can’t describe the experience. Wrapping my head around and describing what a transformative experience it was to me would take at least a 3 hour session of me flipping through every page of my journal and showing all my pictures of cute stray cats. I personally don’t think the people who are asking me how my trip was have the time for that.  Even then it would barely scratch the surface of what my experience was like.  For the people who will see my pictures and my artwork, they will obviously see that it was a beautiful and eventful tip that I enjoyed immensely. What they won’t see is that I now look at myself and the world differently due to the inspirational freedom our abroad allowed me, specifically through art and philosophy.

I personally would not have chosen to keep a journal if I went on this trip by myself. I definitely would not have thought of sketching the marble statues and the vases (so many vases!) every time I went into the museum. To me that would have sounded like unnecessary busy work. Admittedly, that is what I thought it was when I first got to Greece.  But hey, I still kept with it because I needed the grade.

Then one day I got it. I can’t remember which ancient site it was, but I remember sitting on a rock and taking in the landscape visually in preparation for a sketch. It was a beautiful location and ruins were awe inspiring. Then out of the blue I just felt I understood that ancient place. Not from reading the signs about the history (though I read those too), but from really feeling the place. The location, the ruins of a great temple, and the beauty still apparent from a civilization long gone. I never finished that sketch, but the visualization and the inspiration that came from that place is still with me. And that’s why I think this was an art and philosophy abroad. There would have been no other way for me to get so deeply moved without the intent of describing a part of the world through thought and art.  Due to this realization, I honestly think I will never again explore a new place without that mindset and that is a life changing thing for me.  The trip as a whole changed how I view the world. Though honestly, if you ask me how my trip was, “I can barely describe the experience,” is all you are going to get from me.

-Andrew Huddleston

Santorini vs. Samos: Two Sides to Greece

From visiting Santorini I was able to see first hand the effects of tourism and more specifically how tourism affects islands. Going from Santorini to Samos, a smaller, less-visited island, I was able to see the stark contrast between an island that has maintained it’s greek culture and one that has been taken over by tourism. Both locations embody the value that Greek’s put on beauty, which is evident through the gorgeous architecture, painted doors, and the beauty of the nature that surrounds those places. The differences lie in the pace of life. Santorini has a sense of urgency to respond to its visitors, while Samos is on Greek time, where you’ll not be able to go into shops from 4-6 pm due to nap time. While I loved seeing the beautiful architecture in Santorini, I’ve learned that some of the most beautiful and authentic places are places not promoted nor filled with tourism.

Samos was a place that I was extremely looking forward to, which is why I was pretty sad when the Mediterranean hurricane made us lose a couple days there. But we got to Samos eventually! After Santorini, I was in need of a quieter and more low-key place. I was expecting Samos to be the height of an authentic Greek experience during our abroad. My first observation of Samos was: oranges and blues, which are very happy colors to me, so I was immediately captivated. It lived up to most of my expectations, but one thing I’ve learned is that in a country which requires tourism in order to sustain its economy, you can never really hide from tourism. Most Greeks know English, most signs are in English, and most restaurants and shops are catered to tourists. Samos had similar restaurants and shops to the other places in Greece we had visited thus far, but there was definitely something different about Samos. It felt like home. Downtown Pythagoreio is quaint and small and this made it easy for someone like me, who has trouble learning directions and maps of new places, to know exactly where every shop and restaurant was. Another reason Samos felt homey were the relationships created with our hotel receptionist Penny, our tour guide Manolis, and a couple of the shop owners or waiters. One day Ashley and I went to a group favorite in Pythagoreio, Casa di Roma, and we found ourselves getting a long, unsolicited, spiel on all the life advice you could ever need from one of the waiters named Stavros. He also openly told us about how hard life is during tourism season, but how boring it is on the offseason. Another time on the same day, Laura asked our boat captain, Captain Andreas, about life on Samos, and he felt completely comfortable opening up to her about his experiences of finding bodies of refugees while on his normal fishing outings. These experiences made me feel accepted, welcomed, and trusted by the locals of Samos. If I ever come back to Greece in my life, Samos will be the most important place for me to go back to. I know I’ll always have a place there.

Samos and Santorini has encapsulated the quintessential Greek experience for me. They both have many similarities, either from the persistent restaurant owners convincing tourists to spend their money at their place or the beautiful waters that surround the islands. However, there was a stark contrast between my experiences between the two islands that on reflection has been enlightening. On one hand, the beauty of the Santorini cliffsides are incomparable and there is nothing like walking through the small streets of cities glowing in white and blue. But my enjoyment on Santorini came at the cost of mobs of tourists and capitalization on experiences that made it more feel like a time at Disney World and less a genuine time on a Greek island. On the flip side, Samos felt quiet and reserved but wholesome in both its natural beauty and its people. There were still tourists enjoying the beaches and exploring the towns all about the island, but there was a feeling of escapism that I had when driving through the small mountain villages or along the miles of coastline that gave me the impression of less of a tourist trap and more of the real Greek experience. This isn’t to say that I hated Santorini and in turn loved Samos, or that one was better than the other. I will always cherish my time on both islands, in the amazing people I have met and the fantastic memories I have made. Just the dichotomy between the sold tourist experiences and the genuine Greek experiences is a perfect description of Greece to me. I believe that having the opportunity to have both Santorini and Samos one after the other was perfect for the group to get a broad perspective of what Greece is, and allowed me to appreciate everything that we have been able to see and do during our times on both islands. I would recommend anyone to see both; if not for the picturesque views, then for the true Greek experience.

Area Group 3: Victoria, Makena, & Andrew

A day in Florence with Marina Abromavić

For most of the group the final day of the abroad was spent in Rome, but for some of us it was spent in Florence. A small group of 6 including myself decided to take a train into Florence for the day. Part of that group courageously went just for the sake of exploration and the rest of us were intent and curious to see a magnificent art exhibition happening at the Palazzo Strozzi. The show was titled “Marina Abromavić The Cleaner” which was featuring a retrospection of works created by, the one and only, Marina Abromavić. A figure who is highly revered as well as controversial in the world of contemporary art. She is widely known for her performance art that has been revolutionary to the art scene. The way she pushes her body, mind and creative expression to their limits is quite astounding.

The show contained over 100 of her works including; videos, photographs, paintings, objects and installations, all illustrating her career from the 1960 up until present day. There were also live reproductions of her past performances that took place at different times throughout the show which were fascinating to experience. Personally, I had not encountered performance art in this way before going to Marina’s show. I got the chance to be an audience member and at times an active participant in the performances. While interacting with the performances I experienced definite moments of discomfort as well as moments of deep contemplation and I left the show feeling thoroughly invigorated.

– Luci

Turkey

Turkey will make you forget all your worries and just live. In Turkey, you will run into some people who have hit rock bottom financially but will always afford to give to a smile and greet you as you pass by. As I listened to the call of prayer each day, I took this as a constant reminder to always count my blessings. It was a great privilege to be in the presences of some of the humble and God-fearing people. One of the guides who took us to some of the sites that we visited was a woman called Sevim. She was a Muslim woman who took us to a mosque and explained to us some of the Islamic practices. While we were in the mosque, one of the religious leaders came up to us and he welcomed us and handed out some Qurans and other texts about some of the misconceptions about Islam. It brought me to tears when Sevim explained that their teachings are solely based on love for your neighbor and the fact that if you claim to love Allah but cannot love your neighbor, it is a hypocritical act. This made me think really think about the similarity with Christianity and that the teachings are the same too. Sevim taught me that I should not only look but I should also see and feel all that is around me. This experience gave me such fresh eyes for when I am in a different country and even interacting with people who are from different backgrounds, religions or cultures.

-Olivia Budds

View of Turkey from the ferry to Turkey 

Putting what our short stay in Turkey gave me into words is a challenging task. We stepped off the ferry in Kusadasi and one of the first things we experienced was the warming greeting of the hotel owner, Aden, who welcomed us with open arms and one of the best meals we had all trip. From that moment on I felt this strong underlying love that was everywhere we visited and came from everyone we met. The staff at the Ayasoluk Hotel, most of which were family members of Aden, were so kind to us and so excited we chose to stay with them. They spoke with great respect and love for us and the area they live in. One of them was skyping with his family that he hasn’t seen in over a year because they live on the other side of Turkey and when he saw a group of us he jumped out of his chair and introduced us to everyone on the video as his friends.

Sevim Teaching us About Love 

Every time we walked back through the gate Aden said welcome home. That is what Turkey felt like. It was the first place where I didn’t feel like a costumer, or a tourist, but family. The day after we arrived we were off site seeing, going a million miles an hour. While walking from one place to another, we heard the call to prayer and stopped to take it in. It was the first moment of peace and stillness in that day. It was a reminder for me to see God in every situation and in everyone and how big a role faith plays in the day to day lives of the people there. We were surrounded by a history and a culture that the people of the area are proud of and protect every day. It was a blessing to experience  a love so free. Turkey will always feel like it was our home away from home and I won’t forget the kindness and love shown to us by all the people we met.

Children Cheering on Bikers 

– Emily Tippetts

It’s All in the Details

The ancient Greeks and Romans built many structures across Greece Italy and Turkey that are still standing; a testament to civilizations that were advanced and sophisticated. What I find most remarkable about these structures is the level of detail that can be seen everywhere you look. From the figure adorn pediments to the dramatic capitals of the columns the amount of craftsmanship that went into erecting the ancient buildings is astounding. I found that my favorite part about visiting each site we went to was hunting for the intricate details in the least likely of places.  Though weathered by time the majesty of the work created can still be seen and felt. The time and effort that went into these buildings left me in awe throughout our entire trip.

Emily Tippetts

Capitals at the Parthenon
Columns at Dydima
Porch of the Caryatids
Trevi Fountain
The Colosseum

The Arche Ousia is Love

In Selçuk, our guide Sevim a.k.a. Anne (Turkish for mom), took us to the local mosque. It only took a couple seconds of our group being in the courtyard before a man came out of the mosque and invited us in. He was very insistent on us coming in and it was obvious we were welcomed guests there. So, we proceeded and entered the church as soon as Sevim finished a briefing on the mosque. When we entered, we took off our shoes and the women in our group put on the provided scarves in a way that covered our heads and shoulders. We noticed two men praying alongside the chants of the man who invited us in. But this time the man wasn’t in the normal clothes he had on before; now he had on a cloak and hat. “Oh, it had been the imam himself inviting us into his mosque before,” I thought to myself. Our group watched the prayer session respectfully, which isn’t just kneeling down, it includes lots of movement—sitting down, standing up, kneeling again. Sevim, who is a practicing Muslim, laughed and told us it’s almost a yoga workout to pray in her faith. After the session was over, the men hugged the Imam. The imam disrobed to reveal his normal clothing again and came over to our group handing us each a free Qur’an and another little book of answers to FAQs about the Islamic faith. Sevim then began giving a little more information to us about Islam. She explained that her religion, is a religion based on Love (hmm sounds familiar, doesn’t it). She said they believe God is everywhere and is everything. As she continued, she began to take on a more frustrated tone and tears started streaming down her face as she said, “I don’t understand why you all think we are terrorists, when our religion stands only for Love.” Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crying too at that point. I couldn’t imagine the frustration of being labeled as a terrorist, just for practicing your religion. Sevim apologized for getting worked up and opened it up to us to ask any questions we wanted about Islam. And she happily answered.

In the next couple of days that we had left in Turkey, it became so clear to me that the Turkish people practice what they preach. First of all, Turkish hospitality is unlike anything else. The family-run hotel we stayed at treated us as if we were a part of their family and made sure we had everything we needed. They truly and deeply cared about us. Second of all, I got to witness a couple boys from the group get a haircut and shave in Turkey. The barber not only gave the boys a shave and a haircut, but also included a shoulder and arm massage (and let me tell you, these haircuts were for a much smaller price than anything you can find in the US). The barber took good care of them. Also, while we were there, a little girl waiting for her father’s turn came over to us and gave us some of her cookies to try. We thanked her and told her we loved them and about 10 minutes later, she came back over and gave us the rest of the box. These are only a couple of the many ways I was shown that the Turks are people who genuinely care about and love not only each other, but also complete strangers and foreigners.

During our philosophy classes, we talked a lot about the “arche ousia.” The arche ousia, by my understanding, is the one thing that sources all or that makes up everything. We explored many ancient Greek philosophers who each had a different idea of what the arche ousia of the world was—from Thales, who thought it was water, to Parmenides, who thought everything was one. From my time abroad in Greece and Italy, and especially Turkey, I’ve learned that no matter how different our beliefs or faiths are, there is usually that one thing that ties us all together. I think that one thing is Love. We all might show it in different ways, but we all understand the power it holds.

With Love,

Makena

“Reading our new books”

pc: Laura Cluthe