Saying Goodbye to Aigina….

Everyday brings a new adventure here on Aigina.

After our free days on Friday and Saturday, we gathered back together for a cooking lesson from the apartment landlady, Mrs. Thanopoulou. She first took us around town to gather supplies which included a stop at the butcher for fresh ground beef and to the grocery store for the perfect selection of cheese.

shopping

She prepared a wonderful spinach pie for us to munch on as we watched and helped her assemble pastitsio.

serving it up

It was delicious.  The perfect carbo-loading for the next day’s adventures.

Cooking Class

Sunday was a beautiful day for a hike.  So we joined the Aigina hiking club for about a 6 mile hike.  They had an impressive turnout of hikers.

Hiking group

The views were spectacular and the students had a great time, leading the pack most of the way.

Hiking trails webHiking view webHiking trails web 2

Our last day in Aigina found us completing our biggest project.  We planted a winter garden that will provide the Aigina Volunteers with fresh vegetables for their food distributions.

Gardeners 2 webgarden 4garden 3Planting Katie and Carly 2 web

The day also turned into an impromptu picnic as many of the friends we made during our time here stopped by to say goodbye.

Picnic at the planting web

We had our farewell to Aigina dinner last night and expressed our appreciation to Elena Delagrammaticas  and Becci Brandon.  We are so thankful for the help they have given us on our trip.

We will load on to the ferry this morning and head back to Athens for two more days of ancient Greek culture.  Then home to family and friends with many new memories to share.

Off we go exploring….

The next two days are what we are calling “Free days” everyone is taking a break from our studies and organized trips to do a little exploring on our own.  We should have a nice variety of adventures to describe.  One group with Brett Murray as their fearless leader is planning the “Tour de Aigina.”  They will be renting bikes and riding around the island.  Andrew, Emily, and Brett S are headed to the “Hot Springs” of Aigina with Eleni.  I’m headed going with Katie and Carly to the fishing village of Perdika on the southern coast of the island.  We will taxi there and after exploring take a leisurely 5 mile stroll back to town.  It should be a wonderful day.  We are hoping for 60 degrees and I think most are planning to at least stick a toe in the water today!

Walk 1

Yesterday we passed the 40 mile walk on my pedometer.  Those last few miles should have counted double!  We started the day with Ms. Photini Emmanouil a local forester, who took us into the forest of Aigina for some lessons on flora and fauna.  We saw one of the only springs and natural running water in Aigina and hiked a rocky(boulders) dry creek bed.

Hiking

We did a little team building as we climbed up the side of a mountain (well it probably qualified as a steep hill.)  I’m not sure who was more surprised I made it … the students or me!  We were in good hands.  For the last five years, Ms. Emmanouil has been leading groups of children from preschool to high school on these adventures.  But I must say when she told us she had an easier way down and then pulled the rope out of her bag…Courtney and I were a little skeptical about what was ahead.  No worries, she had a great technique for getting us safely down.  There might be pictures…but one of the caveats of the trip for the students is not posting pictures of me…until after I post their grades!  Haha!

hike web

We were very thankful for her guidance as she pointed out the various herbs.  Some of which we were familiar with such as sage and thyme.  Also, she gave us a lesson about our location on the island and even packed in treats for us.  Those apples she peeled for us at the top couldn’t have been more appreciated.

map web

hike apple web

While there we did some trash clean up.  As usual with this group they pitched in and got the job done right.

Hiking and Trash collection web

Back at the Drury Center we ravaged through 7 extra-large pizzas in record time.

The afternoon ended with discussions with Lizzy Koster, an expat from Holland, who has been living on Aigina for twelve years.  We talked with her about the challenges she faced adjusting to a culture very different from her own.  She is involved in community activities such as an annual beach cleaning.  As a web developer, she is able to live in Aigina and work with international clients.  We all had a connection to her because we had been reading her website in preparation for the trip.

Well the sun is shining and calling us to come out and play…so off we go exploring.

View from Alphia web

The midway point….

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.

Harbor 9 web

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.

Greek salad

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.

Clothes sorting 1 web

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.Clothes sorting 6 web

Clothes sorting 9 web

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).

farm

Our 30+ minute hike back along the coast line gave us some time to think about what a special day it was.

Walk web

Kalimera friends and families!

Yesterday we visited the Nunnery of Agios Minas to attend a ceremony honoring the Feast Day of Saint John the Baptist. The service began at 6:00 am, luckily for us though, we arrived around 8:15 am and stood the remainder service. Our feet were sore from standing only 45 minutes – we can’t imagine how everyone else’s feet must have felt! After the ceremony we had breakfast with the Priest of the monastery, Father Constantine, and funny enough he was from Saint Louis, Missouri. Father Constantine gave us great insight as to the situations in Greece and how it has affected the Church.

IMG_0795

 

A view inside the dome of the chapel.

After breakfast, we walked a little bit down the road to the temple of Aphaia. From atop the hill, the temple of Aphaia offered a panoramic view of the sea as well as the town of Aegina down below. Perfect place for a photo-op. The temple dated back to the early century 6 BC and the surviving 3rd temple was built around 500 BC. It was originally thought that the temple of Aphaia, was built in honor of Athena whose figure dominated the two pediments. However, later excavations found an inscription of the name of a local goddess, Apha (Aphaia). Making it clear that the temple was dedicated to Aphaia, not Athena.

DSCN0856

 

Later in the afternoon after we returned from the temple, we were free to continue our exploration of the town and food tour.

 

Brett and Phil

 

Our life in Aigina…

It is Sunday afternoon in Aigina.  We have already been to church, had coffee and some breakfast by the harbor, watched the traditional Ephiphany celebration, enjoyed our favorite gyro lunch, and a little downtime before heading back out to watch more of the town’s celebrations.

boys harbor web

Yesterday was a day of settling in and concentrating more on some of our class work and visits with speakers.  No blog post for me, as I spent time catching up on grading all the quizzes students have been taking on our readings.  Our course is on our responsibility in the global community at corporate, community, and personal levels.  We are reading Wayne Visser’s “The Age of Responsibility:CSR 2.0 and the New DNA of Business” in addition to sections of “Leadership for a Better World” by Komives and Wagner.  All our activities will fall under one of 4 categories:  Cultural Immersion, Community and Personal Responsibility, Global Responsibility, or Sustainability and the Impact of Global Issues on the Local Environment.

Yesterday after our walk around town…..

Harbor web

We visited with Ilias Kokkinellis of the group “Aegina Rising.”   He is working with a group of Aigina residents to bring about changes in the community and address some of the economic pressures being felt by many.  We will get to see one of his projects in action, the Christmas tree of wishes.  The town made a wooden Christmas tree where they hung glass bottles containing their wishes.  These bottles will be symbolically tossed to sea in a ceremony we will watch this evening.  This is part of the group’s desire to bring hope and unity to the community.

Bottle tree web

The group is also actively involved in preserving and sharing local seeds. The plans are to work on some form of community gardening.  One of our activities this week may work toward that effort, but we’ll tell you more about that later.  Volunteering, that we take for granted, has not been a traditional part of the Greek community.  The economic challenges is driving an increase in this type of activism.  The groups are learning new ways of promoting and organizing as they try and generate support for community service. It was a good discussion and set the stage for our time here.

Of course we have to update you on food adventures.  Some things we won’t be ordering again….small fried fish.

fishes web

Gyros, though, seem to be the go to food.  At 1.80 E each the students are regulars at the stand just a block from the apartments.

With today being Ephiphany we wanted to experience some of the traditional Greek religious ceremonies.  We attended part of a Greek Orthodox church service.  Of course we really weren’t aware of all the rituals but we were welcomed and coached by some.  We entered and exited as discretely as 12 Americans can when the only room is at the front of the church.  The students made me proud with the respect they showed for the service.  After church we had some conversation and coffee then watched another ceremony at the harbor.  The priests led a procession from the church to the harbor area where there is a brief ceremony which includes releasing a dove and tossing a cross into the harbor.  The cross is then retrieved by swimmers.  It was an event to see and it seemed like the whole town turned out for it.

Ceremony picture

So now a little downtime as I complete more grading and students continuing their reading in preparation for events tomorrow.  The weather has turned colder and rain seems to be in the forecast, but I think all enjoyed quiet afternoon to recharge.

Girls at harbor web

Arrival in Aigina

Aside

Post by Courtney Swan

Another exciting day in Greece!  I am going to take a turn at the blog post while Dr. Sronce uploads more amazing pictures of our adventures in Greece.

We started with a visit to Ancient Corinth and toured the archaeological site where St. Paul stood trial.  Faye, our tour guide, did a wonderful job of explaining the history of the site and pointing out some of the ancient artifacts including beautiful mosaics.

Ancient Cornith 2 web

In route to Corinth, we made a brief stop to admire the main canal that was very, very deep and narrow and Robin and I were more than a little relieved that none of the students were interested in partaking in the bungee jumping opportunity that was advertised everywhere.  We have such a great group!

Ancient Cornith web

We had lunch at the ocean’s edge and then boarded a ferry to Aigina.  If there were any doubts by the crew that we were from out of town we erased them by being the only passengers riding on the top deck for the whole trip across to the island.  As we neared Aigina, the sun was setting behind the hills and a group of dolphins were swimming in our wake.  A fantastic welcome to our home for the next several days.

Leaving Athens web

We were met by Eleni and Becci, the Drury staff on Aigina, and they lead us to the Drury apartments and helped us settle in before we headed to a family restaurant for some delicious Gyros and Slovaki.  We are all looking forward to tomorrow when Eleni will be giving us a walking tour of the town.  Good night for now (or good afternoon if you are reading this from the States).

Arrival at Aigina web

Acropolis…..and beyond.

What an excellent day!  The weather has been perfect.  We were warned that this is the rainy season and it could be quite chilly, but the weather today was perfect for a nice climb to the Acropolis.  Of course, our Greek guide, Faye, was a little concerned about the temperature and shooed me upstairs to bring along a jacket.  She is definitely providing us with some Greek perspectives and has been so very helpful.

We started the day at the museum and Faye gave us key information so we could better understand some of what we saw at the top.

Image

Climb to the Top

Image

The views along the walk were stunning

When we looked up at the Acropolis from our hotel, we were all were a little doubtful that we could actually make the climb.  A meandering trail and breathtaking views made it seem like just a casual walk…one with new delights around every corner.

Image

The view of Athens and how it completely fills the area between the mountains surrounding it is overwhelming.  It seems as if buildings are on top of buildings.

Image

The Parthenon itself leaves you speechless.  All the history we learned about it today made it even seemed more towering.  It surpassed our expectations.

Image

After appreciating the views and taking picture after picture we ventured down and then onto a hill across the way for another panoramic view.

Image

What a wonderful day….and did I mention the bakery were we had the flakiest cheese pie and pizza for lunch or the how the mother of our tour bus driver shared their Christmas treats -Melomarkarona cookies with me as I paid the bill.  Or Courtney and my well-deserved stop at the Greek yogurt shop on the way back to the hotel.

Image

We are resting now and doing a little class reading before we head out to try more traditional Greek food.

What a day!