997, 998, 999…

997, 998, 999! There are 999 steps straight up to the top of a mountain in Nafplion to reach an ancient Venetian fortress (and this doesn’t include the extra steps to get to the top of the fortress). Exhausting doesn’t even begin to express the trip. Imagine being on a stair master exercise machine that has be set on the highest incline and that you are trapped on this stair master. Your legs have begun to burn with the fire of 100 ant bites and then they turn to jello… and then you realize you are still another 500 steps from your destination! And I’ll be honest with you – I almost chickened out. There were only four of us that ventured to climb the mountain and being the smallest one (and a girl) I wasn’t about to be the one that couldn’t do it (after all, who am I to turn down a challenge?). So I continued to climb after the serious contemplation of just staying in the middle of the mountain until I died.

But when we reached the top my fiery, jello legs were no longer on my mind. I was surrounded by stone walls that had survived for thousands of years and as I climbed to the top of them I had a panoramic view that caused my jaw to drop. As I looked out at the view before us  was a periwinkle blue sky accented with dark blue mountains.  The small group of us ran around like kids who had found the fort that we had made up when we were five, posing for conquest pictures and speaking as if we knew what we were talking about as we wondered what each nook and cranny had been used for many years ago.

After a much easier walk down we all continued on our way back to Tolon to finish out the day and get ready for the evening… but my mind was still on the personal conquest I had made. I had conquered a mountain! (I need a t-shirt with this on it too!)

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1,2,3… JUMP!

Imagine standing on the top of a cliff. 35 feet below you is crystal clear turquoise water. You can hardly catch your breath, your adrenaline is pumping and you can hardly think a coherent thought… well you can only think one thought: I’m going to die. Then, from the crowd around you hear, “1, 2, 3… JUMP!!” This was the call from the TNCIS students as we jumped off of the rocky cliffs of the island of Idra.

It all began with a “3 hour tour” (sorry a little Gilligan side note). Well it was actually a cruise. We made our way to the island and I couldn’t believe my eyes! All around were white houses tucked into the mountain like candles on a birthday cake. We had a fabulous lunch on the harbor and made our way to the Mediterranean Sea; then the fun really began. Chet made a very cold and investigatory swim to find the depth of water beneath the rocks we were getting ready to leap from.  After a general, “I don’t think we’ll die,” we began to climb. At first we started at heights of 10 and 15 feet (the 15 footer was known as “The Big Rock”). As we leapt from the “Big Rock” we thought we were all that! Until these two Greek guys came and jumped off the top of the cliff (like 35 feet) into the water. Oh, and they didn’t just jump… they dove! So we climb to the top and decide the choice to jump was unwise and continued our afternoon jumping off the “Big Rock” and tanning. Then the boys decided they couldn’t be shown up and made their way up to the real “Big Rock.” After Remy and Jonathan took the jump it became a free for all. Well… not really, but a few brave souls took the plunge. Way to go Remy, Jonathan, Will, Logan, Chet, Claire, Marissa (after a 20 minute debate with herself on top of the cliff… while I stood holding the camera trying to capture an action shot) and me.

Let’s just say that the water was a cruel shock to the system after being in the warm and un-salty air. After our adventures the salt began to surface on our skins as we made our way back to the boat, each of us boasting of our bravery and valor (or rather foolish and reckless behavior).

Because I’m taking every experience for all it’s worth I can say, “I conquered the cliffs of Idra!” (We really need a t-shirt that says that)

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Every four years we experience the excitement of the Olympic games! But here in Greece the Olympics are more than just a sporting event, they were a spiritual one as well. During our time in Olympia we learned this and other facts about the Olympic games and their beginning. In fact, we even had our own event – a race on foot featuring both men and women. As we began our tour of the ancient site so did the smack talk. Some were simply silent while others were boasting of their abilities at the top of their lungs. We made our way through Olympia to the ancient track and the contestants lined up on the starting line (still there from centuries before). Excitement began to build as we all guessed at who would win and how the race would unfold. We waited anxiously for our two priestesses of poor sight (played by Mrs. Rouse and her sister) to pick the racing distance.  As the priestesses lined up several yards away the contestants took they’re starting positions. Judi confidently counted down, “3, 2, 1, GO!!” And they were off! Randy passed the turning point (going much farther than he was supposed to) and Drew was definitely injured (but no worries he’s just fine) and then it was over as quickly as it had begun. Two champions had arisen from the group of contestants: Logan Gross was the male champion and Marissa was the champion for the females. Logan was crowned by two virgins (played by Natalie and me) with olive tree branches and Marissa was given an apple by two handsome men on their knees (played by Thomas and Bronson).

It was a day filled with excitement, loss, and victory. In fact, Logan celebrated his victory all day – he wore that crown everywhere we went and told all those who gave him odd looks that he was a champion! It makes me wonder if being at the Olympics in ancient times was just as entertaining as our day in Olympia. I believe this will be an event that lives on forever in the minds of the TNCIS students.

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Who says rain has to ruin a parade?

As we began our visit in Delphi on Thursday evening we were able to explore ancient gymnasiums and wisdom giving springs (let’s see if that spring actually works!). But Friday morning came with quite a shock – rain. After all, we had been told it hardly ever rains in Greece. With many sad faces and umbrellas our group began our morning in Delphi cold, wet, and not as excited as we had been. Never the less we persevered! Through glistening and slippery rocks we climbed the mountain and continued to hike on muddy walkways to see beautiful ruins of the once religious city. The cool water was a change from the hot air and the cloudy skies were an unexpected contrast to the bright sun we had experienced only 16 hours before.
I am certainly not a fan of rain, anyone who knows me can tell you that, but I found that it was quite fitting. Thomas Foster says that rain is a symbol of rebirth and cleansing in literature and since literature is what I study that is the first thing that came to mind. I think the visit to Ancient Delphi and the idea of communicating with higher powers was refreshing for many students. Many of us thought of what we would ask an oracle. We discussed these together and came to know each other in new ways that really brought the group to a new place. We really used the time to make new friends and build stronger relationships. I don’t think the rain ruined our adventure in Delphi… I think it made the journey much more interesting and the completion much more fulfilling.
How many times can you say that you braved the rare rainstorms of Greece to hike to the top of the mountains to reach the site of Ancient Delphi? Not many. To know that you wouldn’t allow anything to get in the way of experiencing the home of so many before you and to see what has been for thousands of years is a great thing. If we had stopped because of a rainstorm (that left many soaked!) we wouldn’t have seen the mountains sparkle with water or the thin sheet of fog begin to appear before our eyes. Sure we were wet and cold but we were also in one of the most beautiful places known to man. So I say, “Bring it on!” There is no stopping me from experiencing Greece to fullest.

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Our Last Day in Athens!

Hello faithful blog readers! I hope you’re doing swell because we sure are.

Today was another day of exploring the ancient world of Greece. We began the day with our first session in class and quickly moved on to the Acropolis Museum. The Acropolis Museum is fairly new to Athens, opening in July 2009; and it definitely had that “new museum smell” (quote from Will Huffman). The museum is built above ancient homes found while they were building the museum’s foundation. So with glass floors to view ruins and glass cases to view items found inside we came to know much of the ancient world that the Greeks knew.

Many of the students made another trip to Mars Hill to really take in the site (the story of Mars Hill is mentioned in yesterday’s blog). Then it was off to a traditional Greek lunch at Buzaveivo Taverna. After Greek salads, spinach pie, and mousaka we had full bellies and we were ready for the long trek to the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion. The temple itself had been weathered after years of being on the shore but the view was far from decay. Everywhere you turned you had to catch your breath. We were surrounded by turquoise oceans that seemed to continue forever. Atop the mountain we were able to stand on the edge of cliffs (within reason – no need to worry) and experience the cool breeze floating off the ocean in a unique way that words can only begin to describe. No wonder Poseidon had his temple built there – the view was simply romantic, ideal, and majestic. I think our time spent in Sounion was the highlight of many students’ time here in Athens.

Quote of the day: “Joys come from simple and natural things: mists over meadow, sunlight on leaves, the path of the moon over water.” Sigard F. Olsen

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What a work out!

The adventure continues!

If anyone tells you that touring is easy they lied. Touring Athens is hard core! This group was really moving it today.

We began early this morning leaving the hotel at 8:30 AM. We boarded the metro and met our tour guide for the Acropolis, Dionysos (who happens to be the god of wine). We got our student tickets and headed toward Socrates’ Prison. Then we moved on to the Ancient Deme of Koile (this is the ancient road that led from Athens to the harbor). After our initial introduction to the Greek world we headed toward the Acropolis. There are no words to describe the enormity of this ancient site. We hiked up hills and stopped frequently to admire the scenery around us. As we continued to climb we neared the ancient entrance. Before us stood columns centuries old that had seen and heard more history than one could begin to imagine. We moved with the masses (which was much like it would have been thousands of years ago) into the center of the ancient site to view the Parthenon and Erechtheion. From these heights we could see the Theatre of Dionysos, the Odeum of Herodes and the entire city of Athens. Feeling small is an understatement of what one experiences in the presence of these inspiring structures.

After this inspiring tour we moved on to the Ancient Agora. On our way we passed Mars Hill (Aeropagus Hill). Megan and I stayed behind as the rest of the group continued so could really take in this site. Mars Hill is where the Apostle Paul shared the story of Jesus Christ and His resurrection to the Council after sharing his testimony many times in the city center. This historical event is told in Acts 17 verses 16 through 34 :

16While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. 19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

24“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

29“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

32When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33At that, Paul left the Council. 34A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Megan and I caught up to the group as they were exploring the Ancient Agora. Here is where many philosophers met to converse, citizens met to vote, and people of all kinds would watch the Panathenaic procession. After this the group met up with Judy to get directions to other sites and shops we desired to visit during our free time.

The group I was a part of when straight to lunch. I ate a Greek Salad (original, I know) at Mousses, which is an outdoor restaurant/café near the Ancient Agora. Then it was off to find Keramikos (an ancient cemetery). Unfortuantley it was closed when we arrived. So the split group split again and it was off to the Archeological Museum.

After a not so great experience on the metro (I think everyone except us was playing sardines…) we continued on foot and finally, after asking for directions a few times, arrived at the museum. Our celebration was kept to a minimum and we quickly jumped into the many statues and artifacts held inside. Just a note, do not pose in the museum (you’ll get yelled at!) On our walk home we stopped at a Greek bakery and purchased a few treats which pulled us out of our tired and achy moods. When we arrived at the hotel most of the students were changing into swimsuits and hitting the roof for an evening of fun in the pool!

Dinner was delicious once again! Tonight we enjoyed cheese pie, salad and fried fish with potatoes and broccoli!

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Welcome to Athens

Welcome to Athens! After long plane rides we have finally arrived at our destination at 10:00 AM!! With no time to waste we quickly dropped our luggage off at the Hotel Oscar and hit the streets of Athens to get a hang of the city. Our tour guide, Judi, did a fabulous job of teaching us how to use the metro system and taking us around town to give a feel of where we are and how to get from point A to point B.

All of the metro-ing made a hungry group even hungrier and we stopped for lunch and ate pork and chicken souvlakis (this consisted of roasted meat, a ranch-cucumber sauce, tomatoes, onions and french fries). Lunch was fabulous and almost everyone enjoyed it.

After lunch we began part two of the adventure and we were off to the metro again. After a few stops we walked through the museum that was made while the metro was being dug. As the workers began to reach underneath Athens they found the graves of centuries past. Archeologists had a meltdown and the crews couldn’t cease their work so the two compromised and formed a museum underground in the middle of the metro. So after exploring the metro we moved back up and toured the center of Athens. We stopped at the Catherdral of Athens (side – note: they will kick you out of the cathedrals if you aren’t “properly” dressed; “properly” means no shorts or tank tops… let’s just say a few of us weren’t welcome in the cathedral!) and went on our way back toward the hotel.

With rooms finally prepared we were able to settle in and hit the pool! After some time playing we cleaned up for dinner. We ate a 3 course meal (meat balls and rice, salad, chicken and potatoes, and veggies) at the restaurant in the hotel. They treated us to an unusual dessert of banana ice cream. To say the least it was fantastic and NO ONE went hungry!

After dinner it was off to bed to prepare for another busy day!

Quote of the day: “Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” Amelia Earhart

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Hello world!

Hello All!

I’m Rachel Christensen and I’m one of the Student Ambassadors for Greece 2010.

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