Friday, May 18, 2012

And So It Comes To An End

It seems that I have drawn the difficult task of writing the last entry for our team.  It indeed seems impossible that this experience, so long anticipated, has now come to a close. 

Following the reading of the journal for May 17 by Cathy, we enjoyed a fine presentation by Sam on Cretan traditions surrounding engagements, weddings, births, christenings, and funerals.  We learned a lot.

Subsequently we tended to departure preparations – last minute laundry which, in spite of cool cloudy weather did actually dry, then packing, showering, reviewing the day’s lesson plans, and filling out evaluation forms.

Marty and Cathy enjoyed their final lunch at their favorite taverna and indeed the waiter did NOT have to take their order  -- he knew without asking: dolmathes, tzatziki, fried zucchini slices, white wine and Greek coffee.  And yes, AFTER the bill was settled came loukamathes and raki.

Students gathered at 5:00.  The little ones presented their two skits, and reviewed the week’s work with various games.  Cathy and the teenagers did word searches and scrabble.  Again it was lively and competitive.

Nikos and Maria came; Marty visited with them, asking them to share experiences from their childhood while Cathy enjoyed a final class with Paul, Irene, Suzanne and Dimitri.  Conversations were held in little groups all around;  there were many photos taken, and hugs shared, and good-byes said.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Unexpected Friendship

Another beautiful day in Amoudara.  What a beautiful sky – not a cloud in sight.

Marty met Sotiria, Eirini and Maria for their early morning walk.  Along the way, they introduced Marty to various herbs and how they were used in Greek cuisine.  Marty, in turn, helped them with their English.

Marty ventured out enroute to Knossos by bus.  Cathy stayed in Amoudara taking a stroll in town, dined with the hotel staff, prepared lessons and then relaxed by the pool.  She also did some translating for potential guests of the hotel.

Marty returned from her adventure and said it was worth the trip.  She was glad she made the effort.  An unexpected highlight was meeting a 14 or 15 year old young man with a skateboard at the bus stop.  Words exchanged were small at the beginning; however, during the bus ride from Knossos to Heraklion, the young man sat by Marty and asked “who is the favorite singer in the U.S. … Justin Bieber?  When asked what his name was, he replied “Yiannis” and a friendship developed.   He then took out his ipod and shared an earpiece with Marty.  He played small selections of music from Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Mariah Carey; and then, he played in its entirely “We are the world”.  Yiannis also showed  Marty where to exit for the continuing bus trip to Amoudara.

In the early afternoon, Cathy took the teenage students to Heaven where they enjoyed various sweet treats (crepes with ice cream; waffles with ice cream and chocolate syrup).  As a continuing teaching exercise, the students were introduced to a new game where one person says a word and the next person has to say a new word using the last letter of the first word.  The game was very competitive and at the end, it was a tie.

Marty did numerous games and activities (indoors and outdoors) with Aliki and Rafaela. 

Nikos and Maria were not able to attend this evening.  Cathy continued to teach English to the hotel staff..

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Memorable Day

The day dawned, beautiful as always, at Hotel Handakas.  Marty met Soutiria, Eirine and Maria for their early morning walk, Marty and Maria chatting while the two sisters pinched leaves off of trees and restaurants’ herb plantings, scrunching them up and handing them to Marty to smell, explaining in what culinary specialty they are used.

Cathy (henceforth known as our Greek Goddess), helped Karl pack, and we bid him adieu with good wishes for safe travels home and a speedy recovery.

Paul kindly gave Cathy and Marty a ride into Gazi town where they browsed in the shops of Markos and Artemis, Soutiria’s and Demetrios’ son and daughter-in-law.  Cathy purchased a Bodyworks t-shirt from Marcos, and Marty a little outfit for granddaughter Mallory’s 3rd birthday.  They enjoyed the hike back past Maria and Nikos’ house.  Gazi is a quiet, pretty town with nice shops.

Lunch was once again delicious: a fresh-from-the-garden salad (AND dolmathes from the garden’s grape leaves) and, oh yum, oh yum, tyropita (filo pastry filled with feta and kefalotiri cheeses).

The students arrived and classes began. Marty worked inside and outside with Aliki and Rafaella. Activities included vocabulary of clothing using sticker books, flashcards, and the clothing the girls were wearing.  Games were “Slam it” and “Jump the Line”  and the ever popular “Simon Says.”  Cathy enjoyed her session with her teenage friends, playing “Password” and using word searches.  The students are always very eager, involved, quick and competitive.

No lesson for the staff nor conversation with Maria and Nikos tonight, as Sam squired Cathy and Marty off to a wonderful evening at a restored mountain village/restaurant/gift shop/entertainment venue.  The meal was similar to what would be served at a wedding or other festivity.  The music and dance program was spectacular. Instruments were the lyra and bouzouki.  First there were traditional Greek dances followed by Cretan dances, with the dancers in beautiful traditional dress.  Many in the audience joined in.  It was a memorable evening.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

First Goodbye

Marty met Susanne, Irene and Maria for their daily early morning walk.  These walks not only served as a good form of exercise but an opportunity to learn more about the surrounding area and gave Susanne, Irene and Maria an opportunity to practice their English.

After breakfast, Cathy read Karl’s journal.  Karl was not feeling well and was resting in his room.  He later joined the group and indicated that he could not continue with the program because he had a reoccurrence of gout and was very uncomfortable.  Cathy made new air reservations for his departure.  Sam notified Karl’s wife that he would be returning home. Additionally, she notified the Global Volunteers home office in Minnesota of the situation.

Marty needed to change her air reservations to ensure an earlier arrival in Paris.  The girls ventured by bus to the airport.  Marty was successful in changing her reservations with a more ideal arrival time in Paris.  We took the bus back to Amoundara and lunched at our favorite taverna.  Again, we enjoyed dolmathes, fried zucchini, a glass of wine and Greek coffee.  The taverna treated us to loukomathes and raki – because we are now regulars.  They even know our order by heart—no menus needed!

The students arrived.  Marty continued to tutor Alice and Rafaella.  You could certainly tell the girls were really into the lesson.  Cathy played a game called Talking Cards with the teenage students.  This proved to be a great conversational game, giving each student different topics to discuss.  Later the scrabble game continued.  Anthony is still the reigning champ but Leah came close to winning.

After our teaching session, Marty met with Maria and Mr. Nikos for their English lesson.  Cathy met with the hotel staff continuing their English lesson.

The students bid farewell to Karl before he retreated to his room

Monday, May 14, 2012

Start of Week 2

It’s the start of the second half and the GV teams are scoring big time!

Following breakfast, journals for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were read.  Friday was business as usual.  Saturday covered the girls’ trip to Santorini.  A once in a lifetime experience.

On Sunday, the girls took a train tour to a Monastery and a small village.  They liked it so much they planned to do it again on Monday.  Karl prepared a Geography lesson to test the students’ knowledge of the world.  Other planning ensued.

Lunch came and went – first class!

We awaited the students with determination.

The girls returned from their tour raving about the friendliness and hospitality of the people in the villages.  More lesson planning and relaxation continued throughout the afternoon.

Students arrived.  Maria, Lia and Gabriella took the Geography test; Leah and Gabriella did rather well.  They all learned some Geography.  Scrabble followed and Gabriella was the clear winner!  Marty worked with Raffi and Alice on language skills.

Mr. Nick and his wife arrived and were met by Karl and Marty.  Cathy continued to teach the hotel staff English.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Day Trip

After breakfast, Marty went to the garden to see if she could help Demetri, but he was coming in for breakfast and the gardening will take place tomorrow morning.

Marty and Cathy did some lesson planning and then walked into town to take a train ride to a Greek Monastery and a Greek Village in the mountains surrounding Crete.  Our first stop was at the Monastery which overlooked the coast of Heraklion.  It was absolutely beautiful.  Many pictures were taken and the nuns at the Monastery were very welcoming.  It was so beautiful and peaceful – so much so that Marty and Cathy are planning to return tomorrow! 

The train continued its journey to the village of Rogdia. A delightful village with very welcoming and kind people.  They visited a small shop where the owner made her own jewelry and had many more offerings.  Cathy bought a hand made colorful salad bowl for her niece and Marty bought some ouzo to enjoy in July with her Greek sister-in-law – opa!

The trip was too short but memorable.  We returned to Amoundara, visited some shops and yes, made a couple of more purchases and then went to our favorite taverna for our favorite food (dolmathes, fried zucchini, and white wine).  Life is good!

We returned to the hotel, did some lesson planning, showered and did laundry.  We managed to get in a short nap as well.

Karl enjoyed a peaceful day and worked on a lesson plan.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Day Trip to Santorini

Marty and Cathy planned a trip to Santorini today.  Paul was kind enough to make sure they had an early breakfast before they departed for the bus.  Marty even got to use the umbrella she packed even if it was for 5 minutes.  The girls walked to the Dolphin Bay Hotel where they were picked up by the tour bus.

A 90 minute boat trip later and they arrived on the beautiful island of Santorini.  A tour bus took them to Oia where they had an hour to explore the area.  They loved the architecture, the blue domes, the churches, etc. etc.  It was especially interesting to find out there were over 600 Greek Orthodox Churches and 40 Roman Catholic Churches on the island.  Many are small chapels built and owned by individual families.  The tour guide also mentioned there are several “Name Days (Feast Days)” celebrated daily and if you happen to see one, feel free to join in on the festivities and food because everyone is invited.”

The grape vines are nourished by the humidity.  The vines do not need to be staked and appear as bushes.  The harvest is plentiful and the wine is extraordinary.  The early harvest is for table wine and the late harvest is for wine used in Church for Holy Communion (Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic).

The next stop on the tour was at Thira, the capitol of Santorini.  The view of the Caldera was spectacular.  Cathy and Marty browsed the shops and discovered a refreshingly beautiful oasis where they enjoyed and savored Ice Cream (Marty) and Greek Yogurt (Cathy) followed by a glass of Santorini wine – excellent!

The last stop was at the Black Sand Beach at the far end of the island.  Our day in Santorini regretfully was coming to an end.

We arrived back in Amoundara and decided to have a light dinner at a local taverna.  After a delightful meal of dolmathes, fried zucchini slices accompanied by tzatziki and some more wine, we were fully satisfied.  As an extra treat, the taverna treated us to a plate of loukamathes and raki.  What a delightful  and unforgettable day! 

While the girls were on the adventure, Karl remained at the Hotel and spent his day in the library enjoying the peace and quiet.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Another day in paradise

After Marty completed her early morning walk (7-8 miles), the team settled down to breakfast.  The journal was messaged and the day followed.

The free time beckoned the girls walk into town; they bought some jewelry and had coffee on the beach.  Karl retreated to the library and reviewed a book.  The team rested-up for a well proportioned lunch, completing some lesson planning along the way.

A heavy lunch ensured.  Then more free time for lesson planning, reading and news updates.  The afternoons are delightful.  Karl felt brave and took a shower followed by a “short” nap.  Marty and Cathy prepared games for the students.  We were all ready for the kids…were they ready for us!  Or how many words drawn from “encompassed”, Leah and Gabriella were tied at 51.  In Scrabble, Anthony (the defending champion) faced a challenge.  After a hard fought contest, he retained his title –“Champion of the World”!

Following the session with the students, Cathy continued her nightly English lesson plan with the hotel staff while Karl and Marty conversed with Nikos and his wife on language and geography.

The discussion that was planned on culture will take place next week.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Game of Scrabble

Marty set out in the a.m. before breakfast for a long, long walk – all the way to CarreFour  (4km each way).

Then the three team members met for breakfast and were later joined by Sam.  Karl read his journal. The team expressed their gratitude to Sam for a delightful evening at the taverna in town.

After breakfast, Karl retreated to the library, Marty worked on lesson plans and Cathy ventured out, taking a bus to CarreFour to get some euros.  She met Maria enroute who was kind enough to help out with a ticket. They rode the bus together and at the next bus stop, Sam got on the bus. One or more of us seem to keep bumping into Sam at a bus stop or on the bus!

The students arrived at 5pm.  Marty continued to tutor Alice; Rafaela couldn’t attend today.  Alice continues to amaze Marty with her ability to grasp English.  She is also teaching Marty Greek.

Cathy and Karl decided to work together with the high school students.  Karl interviewed Maria, using the matrix he developed for the other students.  Cathy created a game using the word “Gingerbread”.  The students had to write as many words as possible using the letters from the word gingerbread.  Gabriella won the game but it was a close call.

The competition continued with a game of Scrabble. It was competitive, animated and fun.  Anthony was the winner and tomorrow there will be a playoff to see if he can maintain his lead.  As an added bonus, Karl was introduced to the game of scrabble and we think he enjoyed it. 

After the Scrabble competition, Cathy tutored the hotel staff in English – a nightly event.  They are grasping English very quickly.  Karl and Marty tutored Maria and Nick.

All in all, it was a great day. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The greatest thing you will ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

The team met at 8:45 am for breakfast following another great night.  Sam joined us for the journal reading and “thought for the day”.

The morning included lesson planning, laundry and catching up.  Karl stayed in the “library” while the girls did their individual thing.  Both went swimming; chit chat followed, along with sunbathing.

Leah’s English skills are excellent, she thinks clearly and expresses herself well.  Sam has a daughter with good values and she should be proud.

Lunch was delightful as usual, followed by free time and planning for the arrival of students in the late afternoon.

We received three students at 5 pm – 2 teenagers and 2 8 year olds.  Cathy and Karl joined forces with the two teenagers.  We followed a similar path Karl held with Leah in the morning.  We taught until 6:45pm then addressed the prospect of dinner in a local restaurant.  Marty held court with her two little gals.

The restaurant was exceptional – food, service, etc.  All was superior and worth another visit!!

- Karl

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Begining of Lessons

Another splendid day dawns on Crete.  Following the breakfast buffet (oh, what is finer than to start the day with creamy delicious Cretan yogurt?) Sam led us in our team meeting.  We enjoyed Cathy’s journal of yesterday and her chosen quote.

Karl retired to the library, otherwise known as the pool patio to read.  Sam accompanied Cathy and Marty to a nearby travel agency to help facilitate their Saturday excursion to Santorini.  Success! It sounds like a grand day.

Reading, sunning, swimming, and catching up on laundry filled the morning hours.  Lunch was, as always, delicious and copious: Greek (well, of course) meatballs (keftethes), rice and fries delicately fried in pure olive oil, and oh, yum, Greek (most certainly) steamed greens in olive oil and lemon juice. The afternoon provided time to work on lesson plans.

I think I can speak for the whole team when I say that by late afternoon we were all eager to meet our students, to do what we had come to Crete to do.  At 5:00 the fun began, Karl and Cathy dividing up the group of teenagers (about 7) and Marty heading for the pool patio with 8 yr. old Alice and 9 yr. old Rafaela.  By 7:30 things were winding down, the teenagers heading out to other aspects of their lives and the little ones a bit restless after a day at school and then tutoring in English.  The atmosphere in the hotel remained lively ; Marty joined Cathy who was by this time helping Irene and Suzanne with useful hotel phrases, Karl conversing with Sam’s second oldest daughter, and Nikos plying Marty with frustrating riddles.

Dinner came along, as always delicious, this time more broccoli shreds (does that accurately describe this delicacy?) in olive oil and lemon juice, potatoes and (oh double yum!!) dolmathes accompanied by a fish entrĂ©e.  The lobby, which is truly more like a family’s living room, continued to be a lively place with animated conversations going on between  Dimitri, Terry, and others.    The youngsters, Alice and Rafaela, were given dinner, this after a full day of school, a couple hours of English tutoring, and homework.  In this atmosphere I think we all feel we have been graciously immersed in family life.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Life is Good

Our three member team met for our traditional Greek breakfast at 8:30 am. Our hotel hosts have been exceptional and we all commented on the pride they take in the facility.   All of us were well rested after our travels.  At 8:45 am, Sam, our Team Leader joined the group for a brief orientation.

There is no school today due to the Presidential Elections (voting took place on Sunday, May 6 and the schools have a holiday on May 7).  Everyone was anxious to hear the outcome of the elections but as of this morning, the results were not known.  Potentially, there will be another election if a candidate does not receive 50% of the vote.  With 36 candidates, a 50% majority may be difficult to achieve. 

Sam told us to expect two elementary 8 year old students and approximately 7-8 high school students.  The numbers could possibly change because there is more interest in participation.  Marty expressed an interest in working with the elementary level students.  Karl and Cathy expressed in interest in working with the High School Students.  All the team members are eager to work with the students. Sam indicated there may be another volunteer opportunity to work with battered women and abused children. Cathy was especially interested in volunteering for this group.  The Team members are flexible and eager to support all volunteer opportunities.

The team has a free day to explore out surroundings and to prepare lesson plans.

Karl retreated to the pool and continued to read his book.  The girls decided to venture into town.  First, they stopped at a travel site to find out about a trip to Santorini. Good news!  A great day trip to Santorini is available on Saturday.

As we waited at the bus stop, an attractive Greek woman appeared and I questioned her as to whether this was a bus stop.  The woman looked familiar and when she took off her sunglasses – behold, it was Sam!   Sam to the rescue!   She helped us buy tickets for the bus fare. We returned to the hotel and later enjoyed another feast which consisted of Greek Salad (fresh from Demetri’s garden) and pastitsio followed by fresh fruit.

Life is good!

- Maya

Sunday, May 6, 2012

First Day

Our 3 member team arrived safely on Saturday and after brief introductions and diner fit for Vikings, everybody turned in early being exhausted from travel.

No teachings on Sunday due to Presidential Election.  After breakfast orientation commenced, all gave a more complete introduction.  It was obvious we have a tight knit team.  After orientation, we enjoyed free time.

After orientation was free time.  The girls went to the beach.  Karl read.

In response to pleas, portions at dinner were less – but Sam has more work to do to get them down to size.  Conversation was lively. We were joined by Sam’s daughters, who are lovely.  Sam must be doing something right.

Some of the team retired; others awaited word on the outcome of the Presidential Election.