First of all… the word gyro is pronounced like Euro (as in the currency used by most EU countries). Not with a “g” sound like gy-row or g-euro or ger-o. Think silent “g” people! I should know – I went to Greece. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin! :)
There are no words to describe my time in Greece.
Except… amazing, awesome, rewarding, growing, and learning (so I guess there are words to describe my time in Greece).
The first thing people ask me is what was your favorite memory? And that’s an easy one – teaching my English class. I had never taught an English class before and honestly it had never crossed my mind to try. On Fridays the women on the team have a “personal ministry day”. Some teach classes and visit refugee homes and others spend time learning the language or volunteering with other Greek ministries. The week before I arrived my “host mother” introduced Emily to some girls who wanted to practice their English and… the class was born. I arrived just in time for the inaugural first day! We worked on verbs, pronunciation, and vocabulary. Although it was only 6 weeks long, the girls really improved their skills. And found a way into my heart.
Another question people often ask me is what was your favorite dish? Now that, is a difficult question. One that I don’t think I can answer indefinitely. The gyros, obviously, were amazing. There’s an ancient saying in Greece that translates as a gyro a day keeps the doctor away. Or maybe I just made that up to feel better about myself…
Regardless, I’ve made it my personal mission this semester to find authentic Greek gyros in the city. No, the SDR (student dining room) version doesn’t cut it.
I also loved Greek salad – minus the tomatoes. Would it be wrong for me to start saying that I have a food allergy to tomatoes? It would get people to stop harassing me about my dislike for the darn things.
Would you like tomato on your sandwich?
No thanks, I’m allergic.
And we’d all move on and still be friends.
One day when we were cooking at the ARC someone brought up manicotti and Donna, one of the team members and queen of the kitchen, told us that it was a staple in her home growing up. Her Italian mother would make crepes to fill with the cheese mixture instead of using noodles. YUM! I
begged politely asked if she would teach me her ways and Donna obliged. Believe me, once you use crepes you’ll never go back to boring noodles.
Unless you have a strange phobia of crepes. Then keep using noodles.
Since learning in Athens, I’ve made it several times at home and got rave reviews. But my family would never tell me if they didn’t like my cooking. They’re too nice. The real test will be if it stands up to hungry, ravenous, college boys who compare everything to mom’s cookin’. I can’t compare to mom’s cookin’!
But maybe the next time I make it I’ll snap some pics to show you how it’s done.
I also learned to make humus which is incredibly simple. Just don’t forget to add the tahini! Most people leave this ingredient out thinking it’s just chickpeas and seasoning. It’s not. Ask my mom.
One of the great things about staying in Athens was that when Emily and I had free time we could hop (figuratively, not literally) on the metro and within minutes be staring at the Parthenon, swimming in the sea, or exploring a museum. I’m sure this was a very different experience than my friends who did their internship in the middle of the bush in Africa. When those kids had free time I bet they slept. That’s what I’d do.
And how much sightseeing can you do in the middle of the bush in Africa anyway? I don’t think much.
Not that I have anything against the bush. I’ve been there. We’re tight.
One weekend we headed west to see ancient Corinth with some fellow teammates. I learned a lot about the Bible that I never knew before. For example, it is absolutely necessary to understand Greek mythology when reading the New Testament, especially the Gospel of John. Each of Jesus’ “I Am” statements are a direct rebuttal to the Greek gods and goddesses worshiped by many.
Demeter – Goddess of the harvest who presided over grains, the fertility of the Earth and the seasons.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” -John 6:35
Apollo – Recognized as a god of light and the sun.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -John 8:12
Pan – God of the wild, shepherds and flocks.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me….” -John 10:11-14
Dionysus – Overseer of the grape harvest, wine making, and wine.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:1,5
I also learned about Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. In ancient times, a person who was sick would go to the asclepeion, a healing temple, and pray to said god to get well. If he or she did in fact get better, they would commission a sculpture of the body part which was healed and display it on a pedestal somewhere in the city. In ancient Corinth hundreds of life size terracotta body parts have been recovered. These are the G-rated ones.
So now imagine the Apostle Paul writing to the church at Corinth, a city filled with dismembered body parts, these words (1 Corinthians 12:12-31):
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized byone Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.
And yet I will show you the most excellent way.
Um. Can you say goosebumps? How cool is that?!
And if you already knew this, please don’t rain on my parade. Thanks!
A couple weekends later, Emily and I took the train to Meteora (per the advice of Brent and Travis). On the edge of the small town of Kalambaka soar GIANT rock formations straight into the sky and on the tops of these bad boys are monasteries built between the 15th and 16th centuries. It is unreal. If you ever go to Greece PROMISE me you’ll go to Meteora. You won’t regret it.
photo credit - Emily Mueller
This is the view from our hotel – the main drag in town and the rocks in the background. Emily and I hiked 4 out of 6 of those suckers (and the miles and miles in between).
P.S. If you really do visit let me know and I’ll give you a GREAT hotel recommendation. And please note that the all caps was to emphasize how great and enjoyable our hotel really was, not to be sarcastic. It’s hard to tell sometimes.
Oh. Another thing people ask me is did you learn any Greek?
Nope. Nada. Zilch.
Ok, that’s not completely true. I can say hi (yasas) but that about sums it up. I did however learn some Farsi. Yay! I can say greetings and goodbyes, count to 10, the color green is saps, knock-a-she means coloring page, cardaste is craft, and chasp means glue. Can you tell I worked with kids a lot?
So there you have it, folks! My favorite highlights from Greece bundled up into one neat, tidy, little package. (If only! This is just the tip of the iceberg.) And if you haven’t already, make sure to read my previous posts from on the field for more juicy stories and pretty pictures.
Thank you for making this mission trip/internship/crazy-learning-experience possible! It truly could not have been done without your prayers and financial support. I’m blessed beyond words!