Day 13: I'm on a boat

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

Today was uh...boring? Our group was done with our work ahead of time, so we technically had "free time", except we didn't have anything to do/see, so we just got even more ahead on our work and took naps/watched TV.

Then we got to the boat! At this point was basically the end of our adventure in Athens - we were heading to Lesvos now. We were booked on an overnight ferry that would get us there. The room was pretty cramped, but really the main function of it was the beds.

Anyways, we ended up spending a lot of time on the deck just staring at the moon and talking. That's always fun. Too bad the chair lift never worked.

Day 12: Photos, photos, photos

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

Sunset from the Acropolis

Sunset from the Acropolis of Athens

We had to go on a "photo safari" - two photos of ancient Athens, two of modern Athens, and one that was a hybrid. We went to the old Polytechnic university buildings that were the site of an uprising in 1973. It was incredible to see the gates that were smashed by the tank, as well as all of the street art on the buildings. You could really feel that an incredibly important event had happened there.

After that we went to the National Archeological Museum that was next door to find our ancient pictures...except those were incredibly ancient. I enjoyed seeing all the different statues of Greek gods and historical figures, but after a certain point they all started to look the same.

The coolest part of the day was going up to the Acropolis in the evening. It had begun to rain, so most of the crowd was gone, and there was no line. The Parthenon is just as incredible as I've seen in every photo, and the view from it is fantastic.

My ancient and modern hybrid photo

My ancient and modern hybrid photo

We waited about 2 hours through the sunset and then a bit more for it to get dark and all lit up. Someone even set off fireworks on a nearby hill.

Also, one of my favorite xkcds is Ten Thousand. Yesterday I got to teach someone that the number of chimes in a striking clock is the number of hours it currently is. :D I was slightly dissapointed that wikihow's How to Read a Clock didn't explain how to "read" a striking clock.

Day 11: Rain rain, go away

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

But like really. It's not actually supposed have a high chance of raining in Athens...and yet it rained.

We had a tourist day planned, visiting the islands of Hydra, Poros, and Aegina.

Hydra was nice, it was lightly raining, but we went into the ocean to swim. The beach was basically non-existent, but it dropped off pretty quickly, so you could swim right away. After drying myself off, we started heading back to the boat while Zeus decided it was time to start pouring...soaking wet yet again. Oh well!

The sun came out for Poros, it was magnificent. But we only had enough time to go up to the clock tower, look around, and come back down before it was time to go.

We headed to Aegina with the storm behind us, had a beautiful time on the boat, and then got off at the island to go swimming. The beach was nice, except it was super duper shallow so you had to walk out 20 feet to be able to swim. Oh, and that storm behind us? It caught up and decided to drench us. Why Zeus, why???

And then in the evening, I got to have dinner and walk/drive around the city with Faidon, which was a a real treat :-)

Day 10: Meeting refugees and Athena

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece. Yes, I fell behind on blogging :/.

We hit the ground running in Athens, and the first morning, went to interview refugees in Victoria Square. Since we only spoke English, we looked for people roughly our age, assuming that the younger generation would speak English.

It's a small square, but we found 3 young men from Afghanistan. They fled the Taliban, and eventually ended up in Greece. They have refugee status, but are unable to work, and spend most of their day walking around the park, playing some soccer, and similar. They said they don't have a proper place to stay, and are often sleeping in the park. They were willing to do a video interview with microphones, as long as the camera didn't show their faces. The most frustrating part for me was when one of them told us he had a graduate degree in computer science - and yet he's unable to use his education to get a job and work.

We also talked with a few more young men, but from Syria this time. I have a text story for that, which should be published...soon.

In the evening we did a walking tour of Athens, saw the Modern Academy of Athens, and then the incredibly beautiful Panathenaic Stadium. Our tour guide finished with a somewhat lecture on being active citizens in the democracy, which I enjoyed. It's incredible that theoretically I'm walking on the same grounds that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle once walked on.

Day 9: Midpoint reflection

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

OK, we're not exactly at the midpoint yet, but this is a better time than never to start a reflection.

In total I think I've interviewed (in depth) with around 10 refugees/migrants, and about 5 people who work in support of them. One topic that constantly comes up (partly because one of my group members keeps asking about it) is that of mental health.

One thing that constantly amazes me is the mental toughness of everyone I speak to. When they describe the incredible horrors that they've been forced to go through, it's unnerving that they do so with a straight face.

I'm a pretty priviledged person, and I think I could probably survive the journey that they had to go through...but only due to my extensive experience and training in camping and wilderness survival. They've had none of that, and made it through.

As I mentioned earlier, they often look and act like their typical selves, but you get a sense that something is wrong. With one boy it was a strained voice, and with another it was the way he talked about his asthma (a very personal subject for me).

At the most recent center we went to, we interviewed a psychologist who served as an educator for the refugees/migrants staying there. She was more comfortable speaking in Italian, so our tour guide (actually the brother of the psychologist, but that's another story), served as a live translator. We'd ask the question in English, she'd answer in Italian, and then he'd translate the answer to English, so we could ask the next question.

She had unique insights into their mental health, but I actually didn't learn the most from her. When we started asking about how they're able to maintain their culture, our translator (mid-40s with children), broke down and started crying. We ended the interview then, but he had inadvertently impressed upon me a very important lesson: this stuff is messed up, and it's OK to show your true feelings.

I ended up quietly crying a bit in the car on the way back, and went to my happy place (Skittles and T. Swift) to calm down.

We're on to a new chapter now, hello Greece.

Sidenote: How did neither the Catania nor Athens airports sell Skittles?

Day 8: Ciao Italy!

Part of a series on my journalism faculty-led program through Italy and Greece.

Today was effectively our last day in Italy. Tomorrow we're flying to Athens, and will spend the rest of our time in Greece.

We went to see the Valley of the Temples, which, surprise surprise, is not actually a valley! It's on a mountain ridge, which actually makes for better views and sights than if it were in a valley.

My favorite part was probably the statue of Icarus. Yes, I know it's a modern creation, but it's still incredibly cool. And the juxtaposition of the Template of Concordia behind it was fantastic.


I have more things I need to write, but I need a bit more time to collect my thoughts, and it's already late. So hopefully I'll write them tomorrow (from Greece!). Ciao Italy!