02 Nov Greece 2017 – A briefing!
Ok now, let’s set the scene…
A diverse group of teens have gathered for the first time, in the Athens international airport. Tired and jet lagged with luggage in tow, they exchange hand shakes and nice to meet you’s when suddenly, they are gathered together to take the first of many (and i mean MANY) pictures.
Eventually everyone finds their place, the camera is aimed and ready, and CLICK!…..the Adventure begins!
We had a leisurely first week in Greece on a farm in the Peloponnese called Hopeland, where the wonderful people who hosted us cooked all of our meals (all of which were delicious!) and gave us some insight on life in Greece.
We had days filled with icebreakers and improv, and conversation on anything from being vegan, to being immortal! Between these riveting conversations, we explored the ancient cities of Nemea & Myceane, visited the town of Nafplio, the amphitheater of Epidaurus, and even spent a morning at a vineyard harvesting grapes.
We had and amazing time there and being on the farm really brought the group together. Which is good news, considering our next stop was Pelion, and that was a full days drive in a slightly small van named Jumpy. Now a whole day in a cramped van full of teens and luggage doesn’t sound like the most fun…but boy did we make it work!
We set out early with the music on, our spirits high and the luggage strapped tight atop our van. With everyone piling in and out of Jumpy like a clown car, we made many stops for coffee, snacks and even a hot springs.
So after driving all day, we finally arrive at our destination, the hotel Damouchari!
(fun fact, this is the hotel that inspired Mamma Mia!)
It’s the off season here on the mountain and we’ve pretty much got the whole place to our self’s, but unlike on the farm where we shared one room with multiple bunk beds, the hotel had much smaller rooms which meant breaking off into pairs and spreading out into separate rooms. Now a HUGE part of the project world school retreats is community, and sometimes, being spread out like that can take a toll on the flow of a community.
Luckily, PSW is run by two very amazing, and inspiring people, and if you’re reading this I assume you are familiar with Lainie and Miro. They really know how to create a community, and that is SO important on these retreats. So even though we we had separate rooms, we didn’t remain apart for long. Our days were jam packed with awesome activities that continued to bring everyone together.
Kayaking! Talk about teamwork.
Kayaking was only one of many activities we enjoyed during our stay, and everyday was a learning experience. We learned things like yoga, archery, pottery, Greek mythology, and much more. Another thing we learned while at the hotel, was cooking. We were responsible for all of our meals, and most of those meals had to be prepared in the small kitchenettes we had in our rooms….seems like a challenge right? Well it was, but that’s not a problem for this group of teens! So regardless of who was volunteering that day, everyone chipped in here and there. That sure made for a full kitchen, But also a kitchen full of fun! Cooking isn’t so bad when you have good conversation and maybe some music.
Now most of the retreat was spent at Damouchari, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. I can’t forget to tell about the last three days of our time in Greece, which we spent in Athens.
So lets say goodbye to Damouchari and make our way to the city!
Now if you ask me, Athens was the best place to be in terms of learning about the culture in Greece. Our group really got the chance to learn about modern day Greece, and how it ties into the myths. I couldn’t get over the contrast of the ancient ruins with the city spread out all around it.
We visited the Acropolis of Athens, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, and to top it all off, the Acropolis museum. All the while learning about Greek mythology and really trying to get a feel for the city and how the myths may have shaped it.
We even had a chance to explore Exarcheia, a.k.a, The anarchist zone.
Exarcheia is a neighborhood in downtown Athens Greece close to the historical building of the National Technical University of Athens. The Exarcheia region is famous as a home for Greek anarchists. It is a place where many intellectuals and artists live and an area where many socialists, anarchists, and anti-fascist groups are accommodated.
It is also where 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot and killed by police, which caused widespread rioting throughout Greece.
We spent most of the day walking the area, and even spoke to some students, but still only scratched the surface of what goes on in Exarcheia.
So, with our minds full of Greece’s fascinating culture and everything we learned there, we packed our bags and headed for the airport. It’s always sad when you have to leave a place you feel you only just arrived in, but it’s even harder to leave such a close knit community behind. Once arriving at the airport everyone collects their luggage and other personal belongings. We are back where we began, only this time, it’s to say goodbye. We exchange hugs instead of handshakes, and instead of “nice to meet you” it’s “hope to see you again”.
As everyone boards their flights I hope they think of what they gained rather than what they are leaving, and hopefully, of what adventures lay ahead.