Friday, April 25, 2008

submitted by Samantha

THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Every moment of every day, life’s energy is coming your way. Take it all in and make it into something magnificent!

Well you could sure tell that the last day of the program had arrived. Morning meeting at 7am?!? I award a gold medal to Barbara, Elizabeth and Patricia for showing up! The reality that the adventure has come to an end, the last minute late night shopping, and the night cap may be to blame!

Some volunteers went in early today to witness the Easter church service which is attended by the school kids, then back to work teaching at the various schools.

After lunch most did their own things – packing, reading, kicking back. Evening coffee and biscuits together, waiting for the teachers to arrive. But unfortunately only one showed up – at least the others did make the effort to call the hotel and say thank-you and goodbye to the volunteers. The mayor had an emergency meeting, but sent via courier a gracious and flowery speech about the value and inspiration of volunteerism.

Greek music was played loud as Mille and Lia (Sam’s kids) led the volunters out by back door, and around through the front door dancing a greek dance in a line!! Great exercise.

After a dinner (B-B-Q), the volunteers were presented with a certificate and dvd of Gazi. A bracelet was give to Sam in appreciation of her efforts. She, of course, cried!!!!

After a last goodbye drink, it was off for some last-minute packing and little sleep as some had to be up at the crack of dawn for early flights!!

Thanks, guys, you were a great team!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

submitted by Tony

THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Per arova ad astra

Things motored along pretty much as usual Thursday.

We played musical classrooms again with no clear winner. A couple of periods went well until Val and I were asked to “say a few words” to a 6th-grade class. With no preparation, we were shown in a room of about 24 “exuberant” children, some of whom were actually in their seats. We prevailed, taking no casualities.

In the PM, some of us went shopping, others went “ruining”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

submitted by Val


The day dawned, as usual, with the hopeful sounds of our neighbor to the east – a hyperactive rooster cockadoodling from 4am through the evening, every ten minutes. We are tempted to purchase one of the many Easter hens in storefronts to keep him quiet.

Some of use went to work today, while others had the day off. Barbara and Elizabeth soldiered off to work; Tony went scuba-diving (ama – against medical advice since he tore a ligament in his shoulder with his fall last week. Like all men, he’s created a myth to cover up the truth of his stumbling fall and has told the boys at school he got it playing football. Playground news travels fast and gets twisted. (By next week Tony will probably be playing in the World Cup!)

Val, Eileen and Julie drove off in a zippy, red car rental – a Toyota Aygo – which cost 80 euros for 3 days. Destiny Ayios Nicholaos and Spinalonga—definitely worth seeing. A lovely city and Spinalonga has a fascinating history as it was last lived in by a leper colony disbanded in the mid-1950’s. Driving on the highways is easy, and the views are spectacular as you wind through the mountains. Don’t be afraid to rent and drive – there is really only one main highway that runs end to end. Adventuring off the main roads can be confusing, but always fun.

Patricia ventured off with her family to Reminthon where they were happy to witness a baker making filo dough The city is very busy and not a great destination for the very young, 3-year-old Julian. The organic farm was closed. Posted hours are irrelevant here. Museums and doctors close before hours, seemingly on a whim.

Tony returned from the watery depths, having had the pleasure of going down 30 meters to see a cave. Cool. Elizabeth braved it out alone at school, and conducted so many rounds of bingo that she’s taking Thursday off to recuperate!

Tonight we a have a night out on the town up at Arolithos for a Greek dinner and traditional dances.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

submitted by Julie

THOUGHT OF THE DAY: In learning to know other things and other minds we become more intimately acquainted with ourselves and to ourselves better worth knowing. Phillip G. Hamilton

Today started the last week here in Greece. Breakfast was at eight, and at 9:30 we all ventured off to school. Now that Margo and Nicole are no longer here, Val has switched schools and is teaching with Tony, Patricia and Eileen. She has now not only squeezed herself a spot in the fabulous four, but gets to ride on the fancy bus as well.

After yet another long day of teaching, Barbara, Elizabeth and I took a taxi into Gazi which ended up being very unsuccessful—I wasn’t able to exchange money at the bank and Elizabeth had no luck finding Eileen’s lost belongings. We all met back at the hotel where we enjoyed our sandwiches that Sam had made us. Thank god for peanut butter!

Most of us left after lunch to catch and bus and go to the aquarium, which ended up being amazing and well worth the long bus rides. Elizabeth stayed behind and had another lesson with Ersi. Patricia spent the day with her family in a village called Bali. When we returned to Iraklion, we all went our own ways. Val shopped around, Tony and Barbara went straight to the bus, and Eileen and I went on our own on a little adventure – an unintentional one.

After buying our bus tickets, we turned around to realize we were on our own. It took a couple of questions and wrong turns, but we finally found our way. We all made it back to the hotel in one piece and relaxed until dinner and our meeting at 8 PM.

For dinner we had pastisio, a team favorite, and of course salad and fruit. After dinner, ideas were thrown out for the remainder of the week, which by now we all know will end up being changed a few times before we set an actual plan. It’s 10pm and everyone has gone off to their rooms to get a good night’s sleep, other than myself who is getting the amount of humor out of watching Val trying to make origami, an unsuccessful octopus at that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

submitted by Barbara

The troop to Chania dwindled to a brave three: Barbara, Elizabeth and Eileen. A long bus ride but the scenery was spectacular with views of the sea, rugged mountains and groves of olive trees marshaled the landscape. I wondered at the great engineering feat that built the winding highway and connected each town with electricity and means of communication. I wonder if when archaeologists unearth this after many years, will we be praised for our creativity or will they laugh their heads off.

Patricia and her family visited two beaches and returned with a happy but sandy little boy. Val was still in lotus position when we returned by after a while we felt it did her some good. Tony, on the other hand, went into town and tried to emulate the male clans at the coffee shops, but was disappointed that they did not seem to accept him without dark glasses.

Oh, yes, there were many opportunities in Chania to guy gifts that might not be given to others. Museums and churches were also visited.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

submitted by Eileen

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

Now there are seven. Margo and Nicole left at 5 AM. A going away party was planned. Unfortunately, no one showed up. Television but no cartoons. Tony, Eileen, Barbara, Val and Julie went to Talos to see the town’s pride and joy – a two-story mall. Later, a conference was held to plan the proposed trips to Chania. Many alternatives were suggested but in the end we had done a one-eighty. Aside from the learned discussions of geography, Tony – on a more homey topic—announced that his laundry had dried. A round of applause for Tony.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

submitted by Margo

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Have fun, wage peace!

Well, the week has flown by quickly – too quickly. Tomorrow Nicole and I depart, leaving the others to rest up for another full week with the students of Crete’s primary schools.

Most of us are back to full health, except Tony, who is on the way to the local doctor for an x-ray of his shoulder. Wishing for good results.

Today, our fabulous four who teach at Ayia Marina had an excellent day. Many photos of students who have become familiar faces to us, fun conversations, some hokey pokey time, and lots of good English pronunciation.

Best story of the day was Tony and three boys who got so immersed in the photos on Tony’s computer they did not hear the bell ring or the other students run to the next class. They stayed glued to the screen, the desk and each other until the teacher came down and pryed them loose. Tony politely asked if they HAD to leave!

Back at the hotel for lunch of fried eggs, bread and soup, and fresh pears.

Plans for the afternoon changed several times, but finally a group of 5 decided on a trip to the nearby traditional Cretan Village called AROLITHOS. Beautiful and restful. Gorgeous stone buildings, lush gardens, decorative pottery, many cats, and a rooftop restaurant that offered stunning views of the mountains, valleys and sea. We left plenty of euros in the shops (linens and spices mostly). We re-grouped at the hotel for naps, email. Evaluations (Margo and Nicole only) and some relaxation.

Anticipating dinner at 7:30pm followed by Greek dancing taught by Sam’s kids. Some are planning to go out afterward with our stellar teacher, Ersi, from Ayia Pelagia.

Friday, April 11, 2008

submitted by Nicole

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Do the day, and let the day do you.

Things are finally sorted out so that wake-up and breakfast actually correspond with the school schedules. Most people get to sleep in, but the Agia Pelagio school still starts early!

School went well, and we ate Demitrius’ fine cooking at 1:30 greek time. Several people took the bus down to Heraklion to see the port (they ended up going to Starbucks …. IN GREECE!) and do some shopping. The rest stayed behind and lounged at the pool. For dinner we walkted to a Gyro placw with Sam and her kids and ate french-fry filled gyros.

Julia and Nicle left early so as to get a reasonable amount of sleep, and everyone else stayed for an unknown amount of time. Barbara has been throwing up, but by the end of the night she was feeling better.

Tomorrow, the group is going to the pottery and weaving place, and after dinner Sam’s daughters are going to teach us Greek dancing. Tomorrow is also the Herman’s last day! They are sad : - (

Thursday, April 10, 2008

submitted by Valerie

Even if you’re not a seeker, still, follow us, keep searching with us. Even if you don’t know how to play and sing, you’ll become like us; with us you’ll start singing and dancing.” Rumi

Sam had to wake up Dmitris when she arrived, so a very sleepy, sheepish Dmitris rushed to lay out our traditional breakfast of coffee, tea, nutella spread, biscuits, packaged croissant, boiled eggs, and unbelievably delicious and thick yoghurt.

At 7:30 Papa Antonios picks Nicole and I up at the corner. He is the headmaster of Agia Pelagia, the school where we teach. He is also the teacher of the 5/6 grades, and a priest as well with 3 children. While we wait to be picked up, we enjoy the fresh, clear air and quiet of the morning. If the red sands aren’t blowing in from Africa, we can see several low mountains surrounding the area. Driving up one mountain to reach the school, we follow the coast and weave in and out of towns along the way. The view to the sea is a spectacular blue, and sometimes a crop of white houses in the distance punches a hole of pleasure through the eyes. Here I find the cartoon thought bubbles that so often accompany touring, like “how beautiful” and “how picturesque” have burst from overload. Instead, there is a quiet, serene receiving of the beauty of life all around.

Papa Antonios waves to many as we roll along, most his former students since he’s been teaching for 20 years. This morning he stops and pops the trunk. Someone has flagged him down and is offering him a gorgeous cabbage.

After teaching from 8:30 t0 12:30, our day is done and Ersi, a part-time teacher of greek to immigrant children (Albanian, Frence, German), takes us home. Ersi is nervous and excited to be invited to speak to our group tonight about Greek myths, something she is passionate about.

At lunch we learn that everyone’s tired and not interested in traveling. A few of us walk into the neighboring town of Gazi with pastry and books on our minds. At the bookstore, we find Ersi whose friend works there. I begin to think of “Where’s Waldo?” as Ersi seems to pop up everywhere.

By dinnertime we can count many physical casualties: While Nicole is feeling better, she still has a fever; Tony has fallen painfully on his shoulder; Margo is getting a cold, maybe Julie’s cold.

Ersi joins us for dinner at 7:30, and over our meal we learn at least 6 different meanings of the simple word “ella.” Such a modest word meaning “hello;” but with varying intonations, facial and shoulder and hand motions can take on tender and threatening meanings like: “what?” and “what?” (like you can’t believe what you’re hearing); “are you kidding me?;” and when out with a sweetheart and used in a question form, “ella?” means “will you buy this for me?”

As for myths of Crete, we learned that the Island of Dia in clear view just north of Iraklion was created by a crust of bread, paximade. A giant was going around gobbling up islands when God decided this has got to stop. So God enticed the giant with this bread (apparently it’s gigantically good), saying if you catch this crust of bread you can stay a giant. If you miss, you become an island. Poor giant didn’t keep his eye (one?) on the crust.

Since we had seen Knossos on Tuesday, we asked about myths with bulls. Apparently the philandering Zeus came in many forms to seduce women, and came as a white bull to woo Europa. Poseidon was angry at King Minos at Knossos, and sent a bull as a gift while simultaneously casting a spell on his wife, Pacify, to fall in love with said bull. Their joyful relations produced the minotaur. After hearing all of this, soft-spoken Eileen observed “that’s a lot of bull” – the cleverest remark of the evening to which we all joyfully laughed.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Submitted by Elizabeth

Enjoy each day as a new beginning.

Several members had a morning holiday because of a prior scheduled school activity at one school, but the rest of us went out on assignment to the village and local schools.

Children in two classes at school were well behaved and enthusiastic. The more advanced students can handle simple conversation vs. the limited vocabulary of earlier grades.

Upon return to the hotel, we found that poor Nicole was not feeling well. A local prescription of Raki was rubbed on the soles of her feet, prescribed by Sam and Dimitris. We all hope she will soon feel better.

The rest of us got on the bus for a trip to Knossos, the site of several Minoan palaces south of Heraklion. A local guide accompanied us and gave an interesting tour of the palace remains from around 1450 BC. We appreciated the fact that we had visited the archaeological museum in Heraklion on Monday, as we could place a number of items in sites where they had been discovered. Wonderful reproduction of frescos decorated the palace walls. I especially liked the frescoes of the Bull at the end of the tour.

Following our return to town, we spent leisure time but then gathered in the hotel for a walk to the Windmill restaurant for a delicious evening dinner made up of various Greek appetizers which kept coming from the kitchen. Samantha included her children at the meal, who proved good conversationalists and the little one, Alice Jane, enjoyed the children’s area. There was no evening meeting and the after dinner libation of raki soothed the way to dreamless sleep.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Submitted by Barbara

One Day at a Time and Easy Does It – 12 Steps Motto

Everyone set out for 3 various schools after breakfast and pep talk from Sam. My school is a private kindergarten between Ammoudara and Gazi, where I helped school staff with a class of 4 or 5 year olds. A few knew some English but no conversational language and teachers that day didn’t speak English. I circulated among 5 tables and interacted with children, playing simple games or introducing myself with photos of my life. Children were active and delightful, and warmed quickly to conversing with picture aids. Class was from 9 to 1:15. They had tasks such as assembling a butterfly, coloring a spring picture, creating a collage of a sea scene.

Returned to hotel via bus, lunch, then the group took a bus trip to Heraklion with the entire team of 9. Problem solved around locating archaeological museum and finding chocolate specialty shop (an adventure).

Returned to hotel for late dinner at 8:30, meeting, summing up the day’s impressions (good, but some stress as it was the “1st day”). Planning for next day involved collaborating around the use of educational resources. Also, setting schedule for trip to Knossos in afternoon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Submitted by Margo

“Silence is golden, but duct tape is silver.”

Sunday morning at 10am we met for our official GV orientation with Samantha. Some jet lag still prevailed with those who had traveled far on Saturday. The traditional Global Volunteers orientation includes introductions, schedules, rules and policies, group goals and characteristics of an effective team. We also learned some really useful Greek greetings and phrases for the classroom.

The Group’s Goals were derived from a merging of individual goals – this very compatible group arrived at the following 4 goals to guide our time together:

1. mutual learning
2. explore new places
3. have fun
4. make new friendships

A healthy list of characteristics for an effective team included the following:

Samantha promised to teach us some Greek songs and Greek dance and we took a break for lunch!

The President from the Department of Education arrived to provide an official welcome and best wishes for our time in Crete. He also brought the list of schools we would be working at.

Upon his departure, Sam described the school settings and number of volunteers for each site. With some mixing and matching, we all received our assignments and instructions. Crates and boxes and bags full of teaching materials were unveiled and everyone fished through to select those items they thought would be fun and useful in teaching at each site.

The rest of the day was free for naps and showers and exploring the area. Some went into Ammoudara, a few ventured to Gazi and some stayed close to Hotel Handakas for the afternoon.

Dinner of lentil soup and cucumber/tomato/feta salad was served at 8pm. The social chairman, Tony, gathered everyone to discuss and map out some excursions for the week.

Alarms were set and anticipation of meeting the kids of Crete was foremost on our minds as lights went out for the night.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

First Day

Team April, 2008
Leader: Samantha, remote and wonderful Isle of Crete
Julie, Watertown, MA
Margo, Rochester, MN
Nicole, Rochester, MN
Valerie, Elkins Park, PA
Tony, Buffalo, NY
Barbara, Bethlehem, PA
Patricia, FL
Eileen, Toledo, OH
Elizabeth, Salem, OR

All nine volunteers gathered in Saturday, April 5th, at our Hotel for an official welcome and dinner.