Monthly Archives: May 2011

May 28, 2011 – Brauron, Marathon, and Rhamnous

This was my journal entry for an assignment in which I had to talk about the significance of two of the archaeological sites we visited, and the next was a description of something we had seen.
The museums at Brauron and Marathon held some very interesting and unique artifacts. At Brauron was the sanctuary of Artemis, which unfortunately was closed to tourists for archaeological excavations, and was the location of a temple, stoa with dining rooms, altar and a unique stone bridge over top of a small stream. The museum held a large arrangement of carved marbles, pottery, small children’s toys, as well as parts of the pediments with depictions of sacrifices to Artemis. One of my favourite pieces was a statuette of a small girl holding a rabbit. The pottery was extremely intricate from a variety of different periods. Some of the children’s toys struck me as odd because despite the materials to make them, they looked exactly like something out of the present. Brauron showed a lot of just every day life and contained a strong spiritual element. Marathon however was different, as it was the location of the war between the Persians and the Greeks. Some say that it shaped the western culture, for if the Persians had been victorious then our Greek influence would have been Persian. The museum held many statues and there was even a room with some Egyptian like statues and other items that we were unable to take photos of. One room contained a display case, which held some pottery and other items. The similarities lie within the pottery and statues. The pottery is always very intricate and each thing held a specific purpose. The differences however are within the purposes of each site. Brauron was a sanctuary that was devoted to Artemis while Marathon was useful for its military purposes as it is surrounded by large hills and is perfect for funneling an army inside.
I particularly enjoyed visiting Rhamnous. After not being able to visit the actual sanctuary at Brauron due to it being closed to tourists, and not being able to visit the fields of Marathon for the same reason, I was beginning to feel like I was missing out. We had gone through our day believing we had no time to visit Rhamnous and I am extremely impressed that we were able to do so. The site was absolutely stunning. A short hike down a steep, rocky hillside led us to the fortress. There were so many walls and the ground was littered with broken pieces of pottery. I found some very neat things, like some half broken pots, and some large chunks of marble with strange lines carved all over them. Another marble had a wreath in low relief. The view from the fortress itself was breathtaking. It sat on top of a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea. It is very easy to see how they would have chosen this place for their fortress as it would be very difficult for anyone to get near without them knowing about it. I ended up exploring quite a ways and off to myself which was wonderful. I went down so far that when I turned to get back up, I could not figure out how I made it down there in the first place! By the time I was back at the fortress, the group had left and I ran up the mountainside back to where the road was located. It was a hard run in the hot sun but I do not regret allowing myself to wander so far.
Unfortunately, my camera died and I was unable to use it for Rhamnous. Luckily, I had my iPhone with me and used that instead. I am not sure my regular has very good quality anyways and my iPhone did pretty well.
Walking up to the remains of the fortress at Rhamnous:
After I walked away and far this was a gate I had found apparently leading to the ocean:
Some random marble table I found while hiking off by myself outside the gate, my instructor said it may have been a game board of some type:
The view from the top of the fortress looking towards the bay:
A view of some of the remains of the fortress:

May 27- Arrival

The journey to Greece was a long one, a long flight, long wait in between airports, and long delays. I can’t deny the excitement throughout the entire event, but I am glad not to have to board another airplane for a month.  I arrived at the Comox airport just before 2:30pm on Wednesday. After several goodbyes to my mother and boyfriend, I finally checked myself in. I didn’t think it would be emotional, and was surprised when I almost cried watching my mother and boyfriend continuously smile and wave and mouth the words “I love you!” I left the airport and walked outside with the rest of my group towards a pretty tiny plane. It definitely was a little freaky and going up over the ocean gave me the creeps. The landing was gentle and we left London just over four hours later. Flying from Vancouver to London was a long and rather difficult journey. The plane was extremely uncomfortable, hot, and long. I barely slept as my legs didn’t quite fit and I was on the aisle with someone to my left, and the flight attendants cart consistently passing through to my right. Fortunately, we had our own mini TV screen and I was able to watch a couple of movies and even listen to some “meditainment” music. The turbulence at the end of the flight was disturbing and left me quite motion sick. Although I was not scared, I was very uncomfortable. At one point we seemed to drop a little bit and some girls in the back of the plane actually screamed! As we landed, the pilot came over the PA system and announced our plane had actually been struck by lightening. London would present itself in a very large, very confusing airport and an approximate eight hour layover. I ate at a funky little restaurant called the “Giraffe” and was able to nap for a few minutes on a couch. Our flight was delayed forty-five minutes, and upon boarding was delayed another thirty minutes. It then took us an additional twenty or so minutes to actually take off to the air. Athens was only a few hours from there and I was lucky to actually sleep for around an hour. We landed in Athens at 4:45am, and it was almost 6am by the time we reached the hotel in Vravrona.
Stepping off the bus in Vravrona, I no longer felt any exhaustion. I was far too excited and just wanted to look around. The smell in the air was indescribable. It was rich and flowery, but without the perfume smell. It was sweet and sensual and so very comforting. Our hotel, Mare Nostrum, was a huge complex of different style hotel rooms. The lobby sat at the top overlooking the Aegean Sea. The dining area was large and had a spectacular view. The spa was on a lower level and unfortunately I did not get to go in. Their mineral pool was just not in my budget and the massage I had been waiting for so eagerly would not fit into their appointment book. They did have an outdoor pool, which I sat around after having a large breakfast and sleeping for a couple hours. It was sunny but not hot as the wind had picked up, and after I had fully awoken I went for a walk through a neighbourhood with some fellow students. The view was spectacular, the buildings very unique. Something that struck me as unfortunate was the amount of garbage we encountered walking through the long grass on a hillside and into the street. We would stay the night at the Mare Nostrum and leave in the morning the following day.
So many of you might be wondering, how is gluten free in Greece? The Mare Nostrum was great, the breakfast was a huge buffet and I was able to choose from a large selection of fruits and veggies, raisins, scallop potatoes baked in massive amounts of olive oil, sauteed onions and mushrooms. The dinner was similar, a huge buffet and I was more then able to fill myself up. The rest of Greece however, may be a challenge.
The pool at Mare Nostrum:
 The view from the pool toward the resort:
The view standing outside the lobby looking over the Aegean Sea:
A few of us went for a walk up the road near the resort and this was a pretty amazing looking house:

Journal Entry #4 and #5

An unbelieving hectic week as lead to my fourth entry a bit late. I wasn’t as inspired to write my next journal entry as I have been previously. I am not sure of the exact cause, but realizing last week that I had two weeks to get everything together and board the plane probably freaked me out a little bit. In fact, I am still freaked out a little bit. Up until lately, I have had most things under control. When enjoying the few rare moments I get to myself, I would dream up all the things I would need in Greece and what it would be like. And then I would go out and purchase those items I did not yet have. But I have started to realize that there are many things I have not yet accounted for and time was running out to figure out what exactly those things entail. Thursday in class, my instructor Jim brought in his already packed suitcase. We had two weeks until our trip, and he was already packed and ready to go? What was even more astounding was the fact that his suitcase AND carry-on totalled a whole 24 pounds. How we managed to pack so light, I have no idea, as he is extremely well prepared. I suppose it is about being smart and choosing only things you KNOW you will need to wear. This will be a very difficult process for me, as I was a girl guide and always taught to “be prepared.” For me, a week’s worth of clothes does not seem like enough, although I know in my head that it will actually be too much.
I had decided that this weekend I would pack my suitcase and figure out everything that I need. Unfortunately, I also have hours worth of lectures to listen to and write notes on, a novel to read that I wanted to pretty much finish before leaving as the information will be very useful and it is not practical to bring on the trip, house work and cleaning to do, and not to mention, a full time job. Somehow, through all of this, I expect to have a social life and visit most of my friends and family before leaving them for an entire month. I realize I am shooting a bit high, because I do also expect to sleep! But I don’t think I can stop feeling panicky until I have packed everything that I have ready so I know exactly how much weight I am at and to see visually that I have enough clothing. I am a little sad after seeing Jim’s suitcase. It was very nice and had all the right pockets in all the right places. It was small and compact and looked easy to get around and keep organized. My own suitcase is more of a duffel bag with wheels. And while it is really cute on the outside, the inside really isn’t all practical. There is only a pocket on the front and it is not very big- I have a feeling many of my items will be getting lost within the bag and will result in me having to rip everything a part in order to find what I am looking for. Again, I cannot know this until I pack my bag and see for myself. This will just need to get done, tonight!

Anne’s english course has been dedicated to Greek plays, primarily tragedies. Monday, we had a small preview of the tragedy Oedipus, translated into English of course and put onto film. The story is an interesting one, one that I had thought not to ever have heard of. Upon learning more, I realized that the story was very familiar to me. A baby boy is abandoned by his royal mother and father, and instead raised by the king and queen of a neighbouring region. A prophecy tells Oedipus that he will kill his father and marry his mother, and so Oedipus leaves Corinth, where he had been living, and makes his way to Thebes. Along the way, he killed King Laius, unknowing he had been the king and his birth father. Oedipus then comes upon the Sphinx. The story of the Sphinx is the most familiar part of the story. The Sphinx blocks travellers and asks them a riddle. If they answer right, they get to pass. If wrong, they are killed. Oedipus answered the riddle correctly, allowing himself passage, and the Sphinx subsequently killed itself. For ridding Thebes of the Sphinx, the people of Thebes award Oedipus as ruler of Thebes and give the recently widowed Queen Jocasta as his wife. The prophecy had been fulfilled. What is interesting to me is that in all stories regarding prophecies and psychic visions that I have heard, it is because of the prophecy that the individual decides on a certain action, leading it to truth. If the prophecy had never been told, Oedipus may not have felt compelled to leave Corinth in order to protect his parents.
The next tragedy we would cover would be the story of Medea. Medea was a foreigner who had helped the hero Jason escape from her father, by killing his brother and chopping him into pieces, leaving the pieces behind as they escaped for her father to pick up and become distracted. Jason awarded Medea’s help by making her his bride and returning home. However, Jason would soon become dissatisfied by having a “barbarian” (foreigner) as his wife, adding further insult is the fact that she possessed witch-like traits. Jason announced he would marry another women and sent Medea away. Medea was very good at persuasion and convinced Creon, father of the new wife Glauce, to let her stay. She then convinces Aegeus to let her stay in Athens and later becomes his wife. To punish Jason, Medea murders both Glauce and Creon. In one scene, Medea is depicted having an internal struggle with herself, for she knows the best way to punish Jason would be to kill their two children. However, Medea needs to decide if she loves her children more then she hates Jason. In the end, Medea ends up killing her two children. While the story of Medea isn’t as known to me, it makes me wonder if the Greeks had any knowledge of mental illness. From Medea’s story, she sounds like someone who would be labelled as clinically insane. I feel somehow as though in medieval times, many supposed witches were also burned, and may have actually been hindered with mental insanity, mistaken for witch-ness. I am interested to learn more, both about the Greeks, but Medea’s story also, something I believe we will continue to learn about in next week’s class.

For now, I will just have to continue my homework, and pack my darn suitcase!

Journal Entry #3

Wednesday and thursday’s classes featured an in-depth discussion of the Theseus and the minotaur myth. Although I have taken mythology and am familiar with it, I definitely learned a lot more about it as I was unaware of how popular Theseus had become to the Greeks after his apparent slaying of the minotaur.

I was asked to write a list of expectations. While we weren’t told of what specifically, I think I can categorize between my course work and the trip itself. I’ve learned a lot lately not to expect too much, because it is too easy to be disappointed. I’ve also found that when you expect things, you focus too hard on what you want and there are other things that may pass unnoticed because of it. But my assignment is to focus on a list of expectations, and although at first I thought I would have only one or two, I’ve found myself consistently coming up with new ones.

1. My first expectation of the Greece trip is that I will miss my kitty so much that it will almost become unbearable. That cat is my life and I can barely stand to be away from her for only a few days. Her caretaker is going to have to get a skype account so that I can see my kitty on webcam!

2. My next expectation is that I will be hungry a lot. I like to snack and because of my extreme diet limitations, I am expecting that I won’t have as much to eat as I would like to. I could be completely wrong in this, but by expecting it, I’d like to believe I have accepted it.

3. I expect to learn a lot about myself. I have always had this dream of travel writing, and this is the perfect test for that occupation. Another reason I might learn a lot about myself is because of something I discussed in a previous journal, about being unsure where exactly ‘home’ is. I expect I might be closer to finding this out at the end of this trip.

4. I expect to get cranky and want some privacy. I am a very private person in need of a lot of personal space. I expect many long, hot showers to get some time to myself. I expect I will probably cry at least once during these showers.

5. I expect to feel a great deal of anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety issues my entire life and used to have a very hard time dealing with it growing up. I have learned many coping techniques and I am actually somewhat excited to find out how I will deal with being in a completely foreign place and not in control.

6. I expect to overcome my anxiety and have the time of my life.

7. I expect to be completely and utterly overwhelmed in a foreign place, with so much to look at and so much to learn. I could not be more excited to look at a wall.

8. I expect I will have brought at least one thing that was completely unnecessary. I am trying hard to eliminate all things that are not totally, one hundred percent needed.

9. I expect I will have eliminated something that I actually really needed, instead of something I didn’t need.

10. I expect to make new friends and learn a new culture.

11. I expect to experience some pretty bad language barriers, but I also expect to be surprised at how little language has to do with communication.

I am sure that with more thought, many more expectations could arise… but I’d rather not expect, so I think I should stop thinking about it.

18 days left!

Journal Entry #2

Monday’s class came quickly. I’m finding myself still very burned out from my last semester and adding a full time job on top doesn’t exactly help. I wasn’t sure what to expect for my very first anthropology quiz, but I promise to myself to do much, much better on future ones. Normally, I am very good at remembering things and studying doesn’t usually require much time. However, my brain is still so full from my classes that only ended last week, and the way we zip through the lectures doesn’t allow me much time to remember. I had one lazy class day, and I won’t allow myself any more.

The class had been very exciting, as my instructor Anne went over key terminology. What is the difference between a myth and a legend? This I am already aware of, having just taken a world mythology class. So far, I am finding a lot of repetition between classes. The next wasn’t as obvious to most, what is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth? This I knew right away. My interest in labyrinths started a few years ago before I really even knew what a labyrinth was. To be honest, the word just sounds cool. Finding employment at the resort, with it’s giant driftwood labyrinth on property, was a great coincidence that has allowed me to start understanding the concept more fully. I still feel that no one will know exactly what a labyrinth is until they walk one themselves. The concept of one single path in and out doesn’t seem to iterate into someone’s brain until they have experienced it first hand. Anne would continue our lecture by reviewing the differences between a journey, a pilgrimage, and an odyssey, and to relate these terms to our trip abroad.

At first thought, it is obvious that I am on a journey. Everyone attending this trip is on a journey, it just depends on how far that journey really takes them, how far they let it. A pilgrimage is where everyone breaks off, and an odyssey even farther then that. I would like to think I am combining all three into this experience. I know where I am going and the types of things I will see, and that is my journey. I am going with the knowledge that I will find something new, not only within other people but most importantly within myself. For so long, I have had some resentment for the people living around me and their utter lack of self. They seem to have no concept of others, no concept of something else. They throw their garbage around, insult someone for the way they look. I might not believe in a God, but at least I am aware that there is a stronger power to this Earth that in no way can we compare to. I am not sure if I am on a pilgrimage, I feel as though the trip is still too far away to tell. I’d rather not expect something and not find it. But an odyssey, I feel as if that is truly the purpose of this experience. However, it will not end once I am home from Greece. An odyssey is a lifelong event, something I will continuously take part in, as I do not yet know where my true home is. I know where I sleep and where I keep my stuff and the place that I want to return to after being away from. I know where I feel safe and where I like to relax and spend my down time. But since I was 16 I have moved about five different times (perhaps more I have lost count) and so my home is in constant change. I have never been away from this island, or this country for that matter, long enough to know if my home is a country, a house, or perhaps just a state of mind.

In this journal, I was asked to reflect upon change. It has been in the back of my mind while writing this entire time and still, I cannot describe it. I cannot see myself changing, I can only see the change after it has happened. Have I changed in my lifetime? Certainly. Is change always good? Depends on how you look at it. Who I was in high school is significantly different then who I am today. I do miss that person, for she was able to find a way out of the stress, become an individual, and be care free. But within being care free, she forgot to care. About herself, about the things around her. And while I miss being care free, I am happy now that I care. I believe that there is a good side and a bad side to everything. Whether it is in relation to change, or perhaps the recent death of Osama Bin Laden. While many celebrate, many are also in remorse. But the one undeniable fact is that everything DOES change and will continue to change, and so we might as well accept it, for the good and for the bad. Otherwise, we are stuck living in the past. Once home from Greece, I will reminisce in the memories of the trip, I will accept the knowledge and accept the fact that I am now, hopefully, home.

Journal Entry #1

   I could hardly contain my excitement waking up on Thursday morning. Sure, I’d only had one full day between semesters and that day was spent at work, but waking up on Thursday meant I was one day closer to entering the labyrinth. The class had been a busy one. I didn’t know what to expect but I sure didn’t expect to launch straight into the material. We began with introductions, which lead into a brief overview of the course outlines and what was to be expected during the courses. While I was aware that taking courses in college meant having a lot of homework, I was quite unsure as to what the Greece courses would look like. I was pleasantly surprised, a lot of writing, which I like, and some quizzes, which I can definitely handle. My instructor Dan brought up a power point presentation on the overhead projector, which took us on a brief and semi-visual tour of our trip to Greece. Each slide featured a picture of the area we were to visit and where we would be staying. While I had already gone over the itinerary and accommodations list previously, I couldn’t help but feel the excitement rise in my throat. Pictures of terrain and of temples flashed before my eyes, four-star hotels overlooking bright blue water. Up until that moment, I was feeling like the trip was coming up so quickly. Now, it could not come fast enough.

And then I could stop here. To continue writing all my feelings- both of excitement and apprehension, could fill at least 15 pages. 

To introduce my reasonings for embarking on this trip, I feel is necessary for my first post. I first heard about the Greece trip while in my sociology class first semester. As I was leaving, I noticed a poster on the wall. The word Labyrinth shone out at me and, given my interest in labyrinths and my workplace, I had to stop and finish reading. Not only was it a labyrinth theme, it was a study abroad trip to Greece. Smiling to myself, I left the classroom, imagining how great it would be to attend the program, but knowing I could never afford a trip like that. Months would pass and I wouldn’t think much of it, as I never noticed the poster again. At the end of the semester, I left the class once again, and the poster for some reason caught my eye. I stopped to read over it again, this time with a pang of regret that I wouldn’t be able to attend. Sighing, I left and went to my work, where I soon lost myself to helping guests at the resort and learning new things on the web. A short time later, I would receive an email from the college, advertising the trip. This was the first electronic source I’d seen, and purely out of interest, I clicked the link to learn more. As I read, I learned how affordable the trip really was, and my goodness, it included travel writing? Months earlier I had read about the travel writing course on the NIC website, upset that it wouldn’t be offered in any upcoming terms. And here it was- offered, alongside a trip to Greece, featured in theme with the labyrinth. I turned to my boyfriend and told him about the trip. Without even blinking, he told me to go. After hearing his support, I went to work and told my manager about the trip. Without even blinking, he too, told me to go. And now, after much financial planning, and through the support of my employer, family, and friends, I have begun my journey and without hesitation, entered the labyrinth.

~ Michelle

(c) Copyright 2016 - Searching for Sanuk, Michelle Leech, mexxlee.