We are definitely making the most of our time here in Aigina. It seems like everyday tops the day before. We are so fortunate to be able to meet with such a variety of leaders in Aigina. Yesterday we met Panayotis Koukoulis, the former mayor. Mr. Koukoulis gave us an overview of the challenges of running an island where the population goes from 15,000 in the winter to over 70,000 in the summer. Infrastructure is an important topic. There is no water source on Aigina and all the water has to be provided by ship. In addition we discussed the governance structure and the impact of the larger Greek economic crisis on the island.
We also had a little fun as the students set out in teams to procure the fixings needed for cooking our meal last night. We’ve mastered tzatzaki sauce, Greek salad, and chicken with Mediterranean seasoning. Quite a good bunch of cooks, I think we are all looking forward to our real Greek cooking lesson on Sunday.
Today we met with Dimitris Katsaros, an executive with Kritikos Supermarkets. Mr. Katsaros shared the story of the company. We were so impressed by the employee, customer, and community centered focus it has. A very good example of the type of responsibility we have been reading about and discussing in this class. One of the most interesting things to hear about was their commitment to quality and service. The students had experienced exactly the type of employee-customer interactions the speaker described on their shopping trip the day earlier.
After this meeting we hiked to the outskirts of Aigina town to visit the Aegina Ethelontis (Aegina Volunteers) office. This volunteer group organizes food and cleaning supply deliveries as well as has a storefront where people can pick up clothing, toys, and household supplies. Interestingly, we learned that the Kritikos Supermarket is a regular donor to this group.
We had an opportunity to provide service to this group. Our team of students spent about two hours sorting and repacking clothing donations. Our students efficiently and effectively accomplished something that freed up time and space for the volunteers to work on other things. The group leaders were very appreciate of our help and showed us their hospitality and thanks with coffee and treats. We all relished a chance to participate in this community that we are quickly learning to love.
From here we hiked to visit Mr. HP Coulon and his pistachio trees. It is a very beautiful property and contains some historic houses and structures. We also learned about pistachio pruning, harvesting, and roasting. This land was where some of the first pistachios were grown on the island over 100 years ago. We are enjoying the pistachios here on the island. Hopefully, some will make it home to our family and friends….but no guarantees, a long layover may delete our supply! We will see Mr. Coulon again on Sunday when we do some trail restoration with the Anavasi Aegina (Hiking Club).
Our 30+ minute hike back along the coast line gave us some time to think about what a special day it was.