The past 2 weeks, Athens has really shown its true beauty to me and my fellow study-abroad students. I left Chicago where it was extremely cold, I said bye to my winter boots and clothes and little did I know 3 weeks later it would snow in a city that rarely ever sees snow. The weekend it snowed in Athens, I went to my Xorio (village) where all my relatives where anticipating this great winter storm to be arriving. It was so weird to me to see everyone getting so excited over something that everyone at home dreads. Finally, Monday morning hit and by now I was back home in Athens, I woke up looked out my window and I saw that snow had stuck to the floors and tree’s. Εven though it only snowed about a quarter of an inch it was extremely mind shifting to see this in a place that is known for its hot-tempered and sunny climate. On my way to school that day I saw fellow Deree students, swipping the snow off their cars and having mini snow ball fights. I guess now I can say I have experienced snow in Greece and that can be checked off my list!
All throughout my life I have been very involved in GOYA (Greek Orthodox Youth Association), since we have a very large Greek community in Chicago, we have an abundance of Greek Orthodox churches throughout the area. When I was in high-school I played basketball in the Greek league at my church, this was a way for me not only to practice my skills and play games against other churches throughout the metropolitan area but to be with my friends and look forward to having weekly Sunday games. Βasketball is something that I have always really enjoyed and since I was little my dad always had me in leagues so that I could learn a sport that he loved and is extremely good at. Fortunately I saw a flyer around Deree that was advertising the school trying to put a team together, I saw this as a great opportunity not only to play a sport I love and to keep in shape, but a way for me and my fellow study abroad students to stay connected and have something to do together weekly. Every Tuesday and Thursday me and around 8 girls from the program along with other fellow Deree students have practice with our coach. Deree in the past has not had enough girls to have a team, but now since we have arrived let the games begin! As of now we are practicing for a tournament that we have been invited to attend at the Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey from May 12th to the 15th. This is going to be a great opportunity for us as study abroad students to not only play basketball but to expect competition, rich cultural experience, and opportunities for a diverse social interaction. My roommates and I are extremely excited about this opportunity and we plan on practicing hard so that when we arrive we can represent our new found home and school with the utmost respect.
Since we are in Greece, last week we had the opportunity to attend a traditional Greek dance class. Since I have been Greek dancing since I was a little girl and have been extremely involved in Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society, these dances where something I could do in my sleep. I decided to go to the workshop with my roommates because I really wanted them to learn something that Greeks love to do and is a huge factor in our culture. The dances that we did where Kalamatiano, Balos, and Hasapiko. My roommates did and awesome job and I was very proud of them! Sometimes when you have never been exposed to a different cultures style of dancing, it can be hard to get used to it. Janelle and Kristen picked the steps and by the end of the workshop Kristen was leading the dance! Now that they are a little familiar with some traditional Greek dances, they can put their moves and steps to practice when we go out!
I am still loving Athens, as the days go by my love and passion for my culture becomes stronger and stronger. I can honestly say that every single person I have met in my study abroad program, I am in love with. We are all so different but each of us has something that is unique about one another, it intrgues us to get to know eachother more and more. Αs each week goes by I learn more and more about my new friends, I look forward to learning, experiences and loving these people more and more as our journey continues together.
“People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings.”
—Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Until Next Time–
XOXO Κατερινα Βασιλικι Γκροσσο