I can’t believe tomorrow will mark one week since this journey began. In some ways, it seems like it has been the shortest week of my life; the fun, the friends, and the fellowship all make time speed by faster than the local Greek drivers. But in another sense, it seems like we’ve been here for a month. The relationships and bonds being made make it feel as if I’ve known some of these people my entire life.
The past two days have been just as marvelous and wonderful as the past days. On Sunday, we traveled back into downtown Athens. While there, we witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and bartered and bought in the marketplace.
Today, Monday, was a very appreciated day spent on campus. Filled with classes and chill times, these days are some of my favorites.
Students who are spending the Summer semester at HUG are returning from their free travel time, too, so campus is getting a little more crowded.
Sunday, June 14
We started the day at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider at Constitution Square in Athens. This is very similar to the tomb in Arlington, VA. We got to witness the pomp and circumstance that is the changing of the guard. It was very interesting and humbling to see this and realize that all countries have faced wartime hardship and sacrifice.
After the short ceremony, we got to spend the rest of the afternoon in the marketplace of downtown Athens. The marketplace isn’t one big building, but rather several blocks of Athens dedicated to stores and restaurants.
Greek music filled the air, along with an unusual smell or two, as we made our way through the narrow alleyways and peered into the shops to see what we might want to barter for.
I made several stops during our time in the marketplace, but I won’t mention any specifics because I don’t want to ruin the souvenir surprises for those reading back home!
I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet and talk with the local Greeks, but more than that it was so exciting to see the different cultures of Greece represented throughout these tiny stores and holes-in-the-wall.
The marketplace was so high energy, and you had to make sure you put a pep in your step and turned on your peripheral vision to not get lost, pick pocketed, or overwhelmed. It sounds like a bit much, and sure it was, but that’s part of the experience. I don’t think I could have fully experienced Greece without my time in the marketplace.
After the marketplace, we attended evening services at a local church in the suburbs of Athens. I’m not going to lie, I was dreading the service. I was so exhausted and my feet hurt. I was ready to be back to The Artemis and back in my tinny, top-bunk twin bed.
The service ended up being such a rejuvenation and encouragement, much to my surprise and arrogance. The preacher delivered the sermon about being the salt and light. Interestingly, he delivered it in English, his first time to do so.
I spoke with a local member of the church, and she became such a greater blessing to me than she knew she did. Her love for Christ, for the church, and for missions was so inspiring and beautiful. She had such a tight and understanding grasp of the commission of Christ.
Our visit to the church was proof to me that languages aren’t a barrier for Christianity. People of all nationalities, languages, and backgrounds are knowing and aware of the beauty of the cross.
Monday, June 15
Today, perhaps the most laid back of days so far, has turned out to be at the top of my favorite day list.
It was just a simple day with classes and five-star meals from Natasa. HUG students were returning and figuring out how they were going to make it living with 40 college freshmen. I think they’ll do just fine!
Our days on campus are always blessed with about 2-3 hours of free time. Today was no exception; in fact, it was a surprise because our free time rounded out to about 4 hours.
While all but four students headed down to the local beach, bakery, or bookstore, I made the decision to stay on campus. It was a tough decision. “Do I waste my time in Greece by staying on campus or do I make the most of my time while I’m here,” I asked myself.
I made the right choice, though. I spent the time relaxing and revitalizing myself and my soul because as extroverted as I am and as much as I love people, I have to have my alone time.
With the pool, dorm room, and lounge area all to myself, I made the most of my afternoon and took appreciation in slowing down a little in life – something I know I need to appreciate more.
Class ended early tonight, too, and I think I’m calling it a night rather early.
A couple of quick thoughts before I leave…
As I’ve spent my time here in Greece and watched how the country works and how the people work, I’m so struck by how blessed I am to live in the United States – and I think a great majority of the other students are, too. Sure our country doesn’t run like it should sometimes and sure we think our freedoms are being trampled on, but you don’t know the half of it until you travel somewhere like Greece where the unemployment rate is 25% and the number of vacated, desolate buildings just about outnumber those which house a business or family.
Am I geting homesick? No, but I wouldn’t mind some Chick-fil-A and a big glass of sweet tea.
Pray for us as we are traveling again tomorrow and for the relationships that are being shaped and molded among the students. Please pray, too, for the group because we are to the point in our travels where people are either having to wear their dirty clothes or figure out how to work a European washing machine – both of which I’m not sure are going very well.
Until next time, keep smiling.