Day 8 – “Back to Earth”

Greece has been overwhelming, in a positive way of course. There are hardly any words for the things I have witnessed and the moments I will not forget. Everyone always tells you that your Study Abroad experience is life changing (to some degree) but I did not realize how  right they would be! While my post is sure to be less entertaining than majority of my classmates due to the lack of beautiful photos and interesting facts, there is a particular moment I have wanted to share.

On day two of our journey, our quaint tour guide Faye shared a thought with us that I cannot seem to let go of: We need to get back to Earth. I guess it is appropriate that I get to blog on the day we did some old fashioned gardening. Anyways, Faye shared this thought while we rode in a big tour bus around the city of Athens with our eyes glued to the windows. She was discussing the all the turmoil in Greece, with much frustration in her voice. Her implication was that the only way for the people of Greece to get back on their feet was to go back to the ground that once provided them with so much life.

I have no good explanation as to why this statement stuck in my mind and heart. Maybe it is because I admire just how much of my life today is designed around the life of a civilization from the 5th century (and before). It would be devastating to me if this culture is not able to survive their current crisis. Or maybe, it is simply because Faye was right.  The next few days seemed to circle around her very thought.

We have the privilege of participating in a service project group with a volunteer group on the island of Aegina known as Aegina Ethelontis.


In sum, this group of ladies focuses their time to help over 100 families of Aegina with their basic needs along with tender hearts towards the island; they are involved in many clean-up efforts throughout. Our main project is to help them get on their feet… or keyboards… using Facebook as a way to reach out to the whole island and more in order to display their efforts and find additional helping hands. Monday we will present to them their very own Facebook page along with other suggestions. While this may not seem like a big deal back in the States, these women could not be more appreciative!

Our next effort was to work in a garden that was created by the preceding study abroad group from winter of 2013. The food grown in this garden is given to Aegina Ethelontis so that they can distribute it to the families. The next few photos are proof that college kids know how to do work!







Our next stop was to visit a new business in Aegina called Cool Greek Soap. The young business women and her partner lived in Athens but moved to Aegina to start this business because they realized it made sense to offer a product that their land could provide. They went back to the earth and created a truly, 100% natural product: Olive Oil Soap. The different numbers you see in the photo below are designated to many variations of olive oil, plant oil, natural fragrance, Shea butter, etc., that create soaps of different consistency and purpose. I am very certain all of us walked out of her shop with 5 to 12 boxes of soap in hand. If you’re interested in some soap, you can visit her website at The owner told us that the people of Aegina have been extremely responsive to this idea of going back to an item so dated. It is because she went back to earth, she was able to start a successful business during a financial crisis.


I apologize if you were hoping to find a post full of ancient temples, pretty sunsets, or perhaps another belly flop by Brad Hollenbeck. There are some thoughts a person just has to share. Oh do not be too sad, there will be ANOTHER belly flop coming to you soon. So stay tuned!

So in conclusion to this idea that has flooded my mind, I think it is important to remember that less can be more. We do not need huge skyscrapers to run a successful business nor do we need any government regulating our every step. If we can get our roots back by simply planting a few roots, maybe life can be simple again. That is something I certainly hope my friends here in Greece can figure out, before Faye gets a hold of them, and something I hope my friends back home do not forget.  Once upon a time, there was a life much richer than the one we have today because they truly appreciated the ground they walked on and all it could provide.

Thanks for bearing with me. I am going to leave you with a short rendition of Barry Mannilow’s song “At the Copa”, just as I promised Aliki I would. Aliki re-wrote this around the garden and it is all to fitting for my theme. I know my grandmother Betty will appreciate it, at least for the song it originally was.

“Her name was Lola

She was a lettuce

and with filly leaves so fair

she gave every salad flair.

They’d be in salad bars,

side dishes near and far

with thousand island


ranch style, french or with brochette.”



Day 7 – Cats, Cats, Cats

Walk around the Island of Aegina for a day, and it is impossible to not notice the large number of stray cats wandering the streets. Our friend Eleni even shared that they sell calendars with pictures of the cats of Aegina Island! Some of the cats we encountered were very approachable and others were a bit more skittish. 

This little guy was a tad on the timid side!

We’ve also noticed that some of the islanders even leave food out for the stray cats to feast on!

Besides the cats, though, we did see other things today! We took a bus ride up a mountain and visited the Sanctuary of Aphaia. Like many other things in Greece, it was beautiful.  We learned that the temple was used for worship as far back as 1300 BC. 

After our class and sightseeing was completed for the day, a few us decided to try out one of the frozen yogurt places on the island!  We enjoyed our delicous fro-yo as we watched yet another beautiful sunset.

Tomorrow, we will be helping the Aegina volunteers with their community garden and meeting a woman who makes olive oil soap, and the weather forecast for tomorrow looks good! It should be another great day here on Aegina Island!


Day 6- Sunny and 60

Finally a day we can fully enjoy the perks of not being in Springfield. Woke up to a beautiful sunny day and a temperature almost unheard of in January. That’s when you know your day is going to be great. Then you remember that this is actually a study abroad so of course we have to have some class. That’s right everyone we actually do have class at 9 am sharp everyday (but when in Greece do as the Grecian do, so 9:10 seems to be a more appropriate). Class today was filled with class discussion as well as some group discussion on “the age of responsibility”. 20140105_173846_resized 20140106_163408_resized After class we had a little break for grocery shopping (we decided to cook a group meal), eating, and for a few there was time for a little nap or a WiFi fix (we are modern citizens therefore we have minor WiFi withdrawals). After we were all refreshed we met up for a nice trip to the ancient Aegina ruins. Also it was a perfect time for some photo ops!!!


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One adventure down… on to the next! We ventured to one of the local lighthouses (a nice walk for some and a great run for others) for more pictures and for some a big check for their bucket list. Most all of the boys decided it was the best day for a dive into the Aegean Sea. For the rest of us, well we decided we would much rather be photographers than jump into freezing water. Facebook-20140108-091306 Facebook-20140108-091249 IMG_4750

This day could not have been any better. We ended it with an ocean-view sunset and some teamwork in the kitchen. We made a delicious Greek cuisine courtesy of Dr. Sronce and Dr. Waters. The rest of us should probably sign up for Iron Chef: Bread Slicing. Our feast was beyond filling. It consisted of four different types of breads, pita bread, tysiki, apple slices, fresh cheese, Greek salad, baked chicken, and more desserts than we could imagine.

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Today was a success.


Day 5 – Service Project Start

Today has been a rewarding day both mentally and physically. After waking up early for a group breakfast with the usual free offerings from a local Aegina cafe (restaurants in Greece almost always provide free dessert or other food), we went on a 30 minute walk to work with a local community service organization. This organization, Aegina Ethelontis, features an awesome group of volunteers who serve the Aegina community by taking in and distributing food and clothing to those in need. They also participate and coordinate local events to benefit the community and draw them closer together while working for the common good. We will continue assisting Aegina Ethelontis by further developing their social networking existence and capabilities which will help gain increased participation from the community.


We found a second or two to goof around and check out the amazing scenery as well.

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Today has been an awesome experience and another great day working with and learning from some great people.


Day 4 – Finally settled in…up and running!

Today was quite a relief. Having been the lucky guy with the lost bag (of everything), my first two days in Greece were quite overwhelming.  Wasn’t too ecstatic about the way things were going.  After our first group dinner (and a few shots of water after), my bag miraculously showed up at the Hotel Parthenon, and things were looking up. Way up.

After getting into Aegina, we all pretty much spent last night getting mildly acclimated to the area around our apartments and the Drury Center, and preparing for our first day of class of the trip; couldn’t ignore Blackboard any longer!

We started the day with a short class period, and then viewed a traditional religious ceremony at the waterfront. Following that, Brad,  Kristi, and I decided to go for a run on our lunch break, for both health and exploration of the island…and whoaaa, was it worth it.  We came across some really amazing views from cliffs above the ocean, and found access to some concrete decks at the water level.



The run left us all with an awesome feeling after finally settling into a pace here and having an idea of what to expect for the rest of the trip.  It was a great combination of stress-relieving exercise and curiosity-induced exploration, all leading to some jaw-dropping views. Not to mention, plenty of excitement for the places we’ve yet to find!




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