Greetings! This post is by Dr. Katie Gilbert–I am one of the lucky faculty members who had the opportunity to join students on this trip. While Dr. Simmerman has been teaching the business course, I have been responsible for much of the service work. So, I want to say to all of the parents of students out there: Thank you so much for sharing your (adult) children with us on this trip! They have impressed me so much with their go-getter attitude, good cheer, independence, and willingess to jump into every task that has been given to them. They have made food in soup kitchens; planted a vegetable garden that will help to feed many families on the island during the year ahead (especially important right now during continued austerity measures); organized many, many toys and boxes to help the Aegina Volunteers prepare for a move to a new office; painted window edges and a large gate; packed bags of dry and canned goods that will go to families in need on the island; and bottled a tremendous amount of olive oil and laundry soap for distribution to families. We spent some of last night’s wrap-up talking about social change, how this trip has affected their own thoughts on how they can make a positive difference, and the ways they might become involved back home. I was moved by their reflections and honesty. My informal conversations with students have merged ideas about economic systems and structures, community and service, the possiblilities for a Grexit, the rise–and perhaps halting–of globalism, idealism versus pragmatism, (my own, sometimes meandering, thoughts on the variations in structures between Marxism, Capitalism, and Socialism) and more, and I have truly enjoyed learning from them as they share their own outlooks on and knowledge of the world. So, thank you again for sharing your offspring with us–they have made this trip a joy for all!
They recevied a well-deserved break this afternoon, and will have free time through the weekend. Our final group event took place this morning, on the Feast of the Epiphany. This day marks the official end of Christmas in Greece. It is also known as “Ton Foton,” which means “The Festival of Light.” In the Greek Orthodox Church, this day celebrates the announcement of Christ as the Messiah, and as the second person in the Trinity.
It also marks his baptism. So, the celebration at the port this morning involved…swimming! The Greek Orthodox Church performs “The Blessing of the Waters” in this event. After a procession and some singing, the priest throws a large cross into the sea. On the other dock, a row of young men dive into the water, and race to catch it.
The one who does so brings the cross to the priest and receives a blessing. He is thought to have a year of good luck ahead of him. Fisherman also receive blessings, and sometimes doves are released once the swimming and blessings are complete.
Afterwards, students dispersed and went on their own afternoon adventures. One group went to an archaeological site, The Hill of Kolona. It consists partly of a hill with one single column (in Greek, column is “kolona”). As this site (http://www.aeginagreece.com/aegina/pages/sights/hill_of_kolona_with_museum.html) explains the one column is the “last remnant of a Doric Temple of Apollo, which was torn down with others – because they were deemed idolatrous – in the 4th century AD.”
I went on a hike to vist an olive grove (Ancient Elaionas) containing trees that are over 400 years old. It was breathaking, with views like this one, that cover valley, field, and sea all at once.
Students are socializing at the center tonight, and planning more adventures for the next two days as they hike, bike, and walk about the island. Stay tuned…!
–Dr. Katie Gilbert, Associate Professor of Literature and Languages, Director of the Humanities and Ethics Center at Drury