Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Day 10 - SMUS Greek Adventure ends where Democracy began!

SMUS said goodbye to Kyparissia as we embarked on our final leg of our Greek adventure. After a 3 and a half hour bus ride we arrived in the country's capital, Athens. We dropped our luggage at the hotel and went straight to the Acropolis where we met our amazing guide, Aristotle, (can't get more greek than that!). After admiring Zeus's temple and the gates of Hadrian we marched up to the Acropolis entrance and explored the Theatre of Dyonisus, Askeplion, Roman Theatre, Parthenon, Erecthion and Temple of Nike.

Fun Fact:
The Erecthion sits on the most sacred site of the Acropolis where Poseidon and Athena had their contest over who would be the Patron of the city. Poseidon thrust his trident into the rock and a spring burst forth, while Athena touched the ground with a spear and an olive tree grew.

The Acropolis was originally seen as a fortress to protect the city, but as the years went on it became a symbol to recognize the greatness of the godess Athena.  

The Acropolis museum was a neat place to visit as it is designed as a replica of the parthanon. ..It even parallels the actually building itself. We ventured through each exhibit as if we were in the parthanon itself. We learned all about the restoration process and how they are trying to bring back ancient Greek techniques when restoring these famous monuments. There is also a really neat lego creation of the Acropolis. See below.

Fun Fact: the design of the parthanon is an illusion. The most perfect building built by the world's most advanced civilization and even though we have been studying it for centuries we are still not sure how they did it.

We shopped the Plaka before taking the subway 2 stops back to our hotel. We enjoyed a lovely dinner with a view of the Acropolis.

The referendum occupied the conversation of the evening and as the ballots were tallied we waited anxiously to hear the results. Our hotel was 5 blocks north of Syntagma square and it was a surreal experience to think what we were watching on TV could be seen in the distance from our hotel. The question still remains as to what the future of his country looks like and we got to hear many different local perspectives. It was interesting to note that aside from the lineups at the ATMs, (where locals were taking out their 60 euro a day limit), there was very little evidence of referendum tension. 

Student Opinions below:

I learned that the referendum doesn't really confirm anything.  They can still make a new deal.

I learned that whichever way the vote went there were changes. No = possible collapse in economy. Yes= change in leadership- the PM threatened he would resign of the majority vote was yes.

I learned that most of the locals we met wanted to switch back to the drachma to help stabilize their economy.

61% voted no, 39% said yes. This will impact Greece a lot, they have to switch from the euro.

They chose not to sign the bailout offer, I think this will allow them to keep the Greek culture but will have an impact on the stability of their economy.

Lego replica of the Acropolis

Thanks Greece for another incredible adventure, your country has taught us so much!!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Day 9 - Ancient Messini

Our last day in Kyparissia has arrived, the 9 nights we spent here have flown by and have been full of enriching experiences for all. We said our final goodbyes to the Woodgate's and Yannis and then jumped on the coach to explore and learn about the town of Ancient Messini. We were met by our guide just inside the gates of the city. See below for the Student's recap of what they learned about this ancient town.

3 things I learned....

Alex Shirley
  1. I ran through two time eras...Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, when Wilson and I raced in the stadium. When the Romans captured this land they made it their own and the stadium was shorter and had a different structure such as the seating. The picture below shows the transition between the two time periods and civilizations.
  2. The population of Ancient Messini was 303.
  3. Athletes trained their bodies and minds. For example they spent time training for the physical aspects of boxing in the gymnasium and learned the fundamentals of boxing in the classroom. They trained and competed in their own games Messini in preparation for the most important games in Olympia.

Cindy Li
  1. I thought it was neat to learn that they have people actually come to the Agora ,(the market place),  and sell things like they did in Ancient Times.
  2. It was pretty neat how the archaeologists put medal tags on the stadium seats to mark where the seats belonged according to his research. He did a great job at re' creating the ancient sites.
  3. It was neat to learn that the amphitheatres still get used in modern times for TED TALKS and for theatre groups from the UK to come and perform famous Greek tragedies and comedies.

Tasha Norris
  1.  The walls surrounding the city were large and neat to walk through.
  2. The Architect * rebuilt some buildings and made it clear as to what was from ancient times and modern times. The newer parts were smooth and white. It was a cool contrast of old and new.
  3. I found it weird that they only had a few graves in the city wall for only the really important family. The rest of the civilization did not get honored the same way. 

Thomas Dansereau
  1. On top of Mt. Ithomi there is a monastery which as built in the 18th century and is still in use.
  2. The population of Ancient Messini was 303.
  3. The town beside Ancient Messini almost burnt down last summer.

Abby Lu
  1.  Messini had their own Olympics to prepare for the games in Olympia.
  2. In the stadium there were special seats for he priest of Zeal and 7 other offcials.
  3. The most important artifact found in Ancient Messini was the statue of Hermes, ( The messenger God and the God of Travellers), which is 2m high.

Wilson Ye
  1. The Theatre in Messini is one of the largest in Greece.
  2. I ran through two time     eras...Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, when Alex and I raced in the stadium. When the Romans captured this land they made it their own and the stadium was shorter and had a different structure such as the seating. The picture below shows the transition between the two time periods and civilizations.
  3. The poles outside the theatre were once underground and have roots wrapped around them.

Franklin Lu
  1.  Messini was once ruled by Sparta.
  2. The town is at the base of Mt. Ithomi
  3. The graves were all outside the city walls except for the important families.

Matthew Hart
  1.  Only important people can have their graves inside the city walls.
  2. They have a separate theatre for plays that specifically have to do with the God of Medicine, Askeplion.
  3. They had a fountain house to provide water for the entire city. The Cistern is 40m long.

Ms. McQueen
1. I learned that the Greeks valued a 50/50 split of body and mind when training for the Olympic games.
2. The stadium represents two time periods...Ancient Greek and Ancient Rome. The differences are visible and comparisons can easily be made to the stadium we saw in Olympia.
3. It is interesting that when they were excavating Ancient Messini the columns were wrapped in tree roots. Today you can see evidence of this imprinted on the columns.

Mr. Abrioux
1. I learned that one of the amphitheatres is still used today by school groups who put on presentations in the spring
2. I learned that Ted talks were recently filmed in the large amphitheatre
3. I learned about a family mausoleum at the far end of the arena where competitions were held. This was a rare location for a mausoleum as most would be located outside the walls.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Day 8 - SMUS visits the site where Greek Independence began!

Living the history of where western civilization was born continues as SMUS heads out for a day exploring Voidokilia Beach, Nestor's Cave, Navarino Castle, Pylos Bay and Methoni Castle.

The curve of Voidokilia seems to be traced like a giant Greek omega (the name means "cow's belly"). We often referred to it as mushroom bay!
The hike started at Voidokilia beach where we had a quick dip in the water and then took the path up to the Old Navarino castle, stopping at cave of King Nestor, (the ancient King of Pylos, who according to legend, used this cave as a haven for his cattle). We enjoyed the wonderful view of the Divari lagoon of Gialova, Navarino Bay and the Peloponnesian hills covered with olive trees before continuing on to the hilltop castle.

Fun Fact: The sheltered bay is referred to in Homer's Odyssey and archaeologists believe it was used by King Nestor as a port in ancient times.

Inside Nestor's Cave looking out.

Walking a section of the Navarino Castle Wall.

Louis gave us a mini history lesson on The Battle of Navarino as we approached the section of our hike that hugged the coast of Navarino Bay, (more commonly referred to as Pylos Bay). This battle was the most significant factor which led to Greek Independence. We ended the hike, grabbed some lunch in Pylos bay harbour and headed off to the next stop, Methoni Castle.

The main square at Pylos bay harbour where we stopped for a quick bite and some ice cream.

Methoni castle built by the Venetians after 1209 at a strategic location, on a rock penetrating the sea and is separated from the land by an artificial moat. We explored the grounds inside the castle walls and climbed the tower of the mote. We unfortunately could not check out the pyramids or tunnels because the site closed soon after we arrived. More on Methoni Castle.

Mr. Abrioux and Mrs.Vincent walking the castle bridge.
Walking out to the watch tower!
Franklin's the King of the Castle!
This was our last day with the Vincent's and we unfortunately had to say goodbye after returning to Kyparissia. Next and last excursion before heading to Athens is Ancient Messini. 

Greece Trip Update

We are winding down our time in Kyparissia and getting ready to go to Athens tomorrow and then back home on Monday. Overall, it has been an incredible trip with an impressive range of activities and experiences for the students ...and the chaperones! It's easy to see how passionate the people are here about their country, its history, its natural beauty, and the uncertainty of its economic future. We have been lucky to have four people/groups responsible for this extraordinary cultural and service trip: the Woodgates, our local 'host' family who have been invaluable both helping with the leg work before our arrival and accompanying us several times during our time here; Yannis, the head triathlon trainer, tour guide, and raconteur, who proudly showed us so much of his native country; the Vincent family who took time from their busy schedule to return to Kyparissia to join us for five days of our trip - and whose love of life/adventure is infectious; and, most importantly, to Riley McQueen who would not give up in making this first SMUS trip to this part of the world a reality. Just over a year ago she spent over a month here with the Vincent family and saw the potential in initiating a SMUS trip combining several important elements of Greek culture, history, and some service in helping out a local club in need of some support. The photos give you a snapshot of the breadth of experiences we have all had. In reality, for many of us, it will hard to say goodbye tomorrow morning. But Athens beckons as too the reality of being here on referendum day! We do indeed go for the full tour package!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Day 7- Kyparissia Castle, The River Neda and a Greek Evening Beach Party!

The students all received their letters they wrote to themselves and from their parents at breakfast this morning before heading out to the Old Town of Kyparissia to check out Kyparissia Castle and the ruins inside its walls, a really neat amphitheater is still in tact, (it dates back to 1205 BC).

Fun Fact:
The Castle of Kyparissia is also known as the Castle of Arcadia, which is the medieval name of the town. More about the Kyparissia Castle.

The Second attempt at The River Neda was a spectacular success! Zeus did not even think of visiting us this time, (being the God of thunder and lightning he prevented us from our river excursion yesterday).

After our short explore we headed out to The River Neda to begin our trek along one of the only few rivers in Greece that still offer an environment untouched by human activity. Yannis told us the myth of the River Neda, beginning with the fact that it had been given a female name, in honour of the nymph Neda, a deity of the waters. Neda, according to the Greek Mythology, had bathed the infant Zeus in the river Gortynios (Lousios), together with the nymphs Theisoa and Agno. Yannis led the way down this majestic river towards a neat network of caves and ending at the platania waterfall. He was keen to clear out the branch and tree debris that had fallen into the base of the waterfall and we had an impromptu service activity! We moved a few trees that were waterlogged and required all hands on deck.

We enjoyed a well deserved picnic on along the banks of the river before heading back to Kyparissia and then over to Yannis land for a very authentic Greek evening with Greek musicians and all.

The atmosphere was Greek to a tee, the food, the dancing, the socializing and the emotions. Everyone was so pleased to have the Canadians see their part of the world and share with us the amazing things they have to offer. All the students received a gift from Yannis, a Greek CD and some hand made magnets. 
Kyparissia Castle

The River Neda Trek

The caves at the River Neda

Impromptu Service... Go SMUS Go!

Play time in Yannis spectacular backyard before the dinner festivities begin.

Beach Games - Around the World by Matthew V.

Not a bad spot to have a daily debrief meeting.

Yannis leading the dancing line

Cindy providing some of the evening music. The Greek and Canadian kids took turns playing for the group.

Abby showing us her piano skills!

the coolest trip ever!

It was so fun to be on the Greece trip. Although the day before yesterday we biked while it was hailing, it was so fun! We went to the river and the waterfall yesterday, and it was so fun and so hard to walk in the water. But it was so fun and I hope that I can do it again.
By the way, I want to thank all the adults and teachers that helped us and planned our trip. It is so fun and I don't want to leave soon. 

The Best parts of Greece so far...

Greece has been a bit of an up-and-down trip so far(well, mostly ups). So I decided to list the best and worst part of the trip so far.

The Best

The activities - All the activities that we have done so far have been awesome. They all had amazing sights to see and it was incredibly fun to do them.

The people - Everyone is very nice!!

The food - The food tastes amazing, and I have never had to eat something I did not like.

Swimming - Much better here, as the water is nice and warm.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Day 6 - Temple of Apollo & a visit from Zeus

Canada was celebrated in Greece with a visit to the central Peloponnese, to visit some incredible hillside villages, ancient monuments and to cycle a stunning 10km from Appollo's Temple to the River Neda.

The first stop of the day was to an open theatre at the top of one of the valley peaks. Yannis taught us   the myths and the history of this area. Our next stop was the Temple of Appollo.
We were told the area Vasses (ancient Bassae) was always a sacred place, host to numerous temples. The region’s name means "little valleys". The mountainous Peloponnesian land creates a magical landscape and at an elevation of 1.130 metres, stands the temple of Apollo Epicurius.

Fun Fact: Appollo's Temple was the first of the great monuments of Greece to be recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1986.
After exploring the temple we embarked on a 10km cycle down to the River Neda. Midway through Zeus paid us a visit and we had a impromptu picnic inside the 3 vans we had following us on our cycle. Zeus said his goodbyes after a half hour and we finished our cycle. At the bottom Yannis showed us another ancient site, Athena's temple and what remains of the Ancient city wall.

Fun Fact: back in ancient times locals would decide where to build their home based on where their donkeys and goats would decide to sleep. The ancient Greeks felt the animals were more strongly connected to the earth and therefore created better energy... its the Greek feung shui. Now science is used to decide where to build.

Our River Neda walk was postponed due to another visit from Zeus, so we headed to the NOKY pool, for some swim time before dinner. The Woodgate's and Yannis joined us for dinner and we all got a chance to express our appreciation for how much they have contributed to the success of this trip :)

After dinner a big game of fresher and capture the flag was initiated and the kids played up until the very last moment before it was time to head off to bed.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Thomas' Greece Visit

I have been in Greece for five days now and I am really enjoying it. I have done a variety of things including training and learning how to do a triathlon, visiting Olympia and running on the first Olympic stadium constructed thousands of years ago, helping and learning about turtles, and the list goes on. I still have many more fun activities to do later this trip which I'm also looking forward to.

Update: From the Girls

Hello guys, 
It's Abby here so as you may have all have learnt, I have learned to ride a bike although there still is a bit of an issue of trying to get on it. I had an awesome tutor named Yannis and thanks to him I can actually ride a bike without someone holding on to me but down hills are still pretty tricky and we're getting there. I would just like to say it's been an amazing trip so far and as of today I got to see Apollo's temple and swim. Overall it's been an amazing day and I look forward to tomorrow's adventure.

Hi everyone,
It's Cindy now. I've had a lot of fun here. We learned many new things throughout our trip. There are so many amazing things to see and do all around Greece.  I cannot wait until we get to go and walk along the River Neda tomorrow. I am so glad that I got the chance to come along on this trip and experience everything. Thank you to the teachers and all the locals like Patrick, Heidi, and Yannis for all of the help that they have given us.
Hi it's Tasha it's been so amazing thank you for giving us this opportunity. Abby and Cindy have already said all of the things that I would like to say, so I will simply finish of with a thank you to everyone that helped to make the entire trip possible. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Day 5 - SMUS Service links Canada & Greece

After a morning of cycling 3km through the Elia Forest to a beautiful spot on the beach, (400m from the River Neda delta),  SMUS contributed a large portion of their evening to painting the railings of the NOKY training facility to help out the club and community to get their facility back to its original state. Earlier this season the NOKY club dedicated an hour each night after training to scooping out the thick layer of silt and dirt at the bottom of the Olympic sized swimming pool. The kids of the club ages 4-14 all pitched in without one sigh of complaint...goes to show the significance and crucial importance this club and facility have within this community of Kyparissia. and  The local newspaper showed up to run a story on how these two communities became linked.
It has been a neat experience participating in aspects of the triathlon club, which is no doubt a key part of his town. The SMUS students have been given a taste of the triathlon training and has definitely added value in regards to the cultural exchange aspect of this trip. 

Next up is Temple of Apollo and the River Neda walk with waterfalls and caves.

Patrick and Cindy finished off the mural, looks fantastic!

SMUS helped to paint the railings of the facility fence to make it look sharp and new again.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Day 4 - Ancient Olympia & Triathlon 101

SMUS did some time travelling today all the way back thousands of years ago to the year 776BC when the first Olympic Games were held. We entered the UNESCO site of Olympia and toured the old grounds walking the same sacred path the Ancient Olympians once did...beginning at the gymnasium then past Zeus' temple, Hera's temple, where the Olympic flame is lit and finally by the hall of victors and the hall of shame and into the Olympic stadium.
The most outstanding building would have to be the 5th Century Temple of Zeus, which contained the 12 meter high statue by Phideas, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, (removed to Constantinople by Theodocious & destroyed in a fire).
We entered the stadium as SMU-LYMPIANS, (play on the word SMUS and Olympians), and entered ourselves in the shortest running event of the Ancient Olympics... 1 length of the stadium. Matthew.V was the victor and unfortunately had to settle for a prize of a bagged lunch and a Hi-five instead of an olive wreath.
Fun fact:
There were not only atheletic events, (foot races, wrestling, discus, javelin, long-jump, horse and chariot racing, and a type of boxing called pancratium), but also writing, poetry and history readings, plus business transactions and treaties were made between leaders of city-states.
After a quick lunch break we continued on to the museum across the road which contains the 4th Century BC statue of Hermes by Praxiteles, plus a number of other finds from the excavations including the Nike of Victory  by Paeonios. According to Olympic legend she used to come down from the sky to hand a palm leaf to the winners.
After the museum we hopped back on the bus to kyparissia, (1hr long), walked up to the village for an ice cream challenge and some explore time. We have not made it up to the old town yet but are hoping to do so soon.
Our evening began with a triathlon training session with the NOKY club, 5:30-7:00pm. So proud of the students they went into it with open minds (only needed a tiny bit of coaxing) and 150% rose to the challenge...a few were convinced the training was done after the warm up, which was followed by a short swim lesson and race of chosen distance, (in the ionian sea), a 20min bike, and a 10min run. So impressed with the effort by all of them as was Yannis, (the triathlon coach). He gave major cudos to a few of the students.
Cindy rocked the swim, her competitive swimming days may be coming back!
New skills learnt:
Abby rode a bike solo! Yannis gave her another short lesson and next thing you know there goes Abby with no assistance:) way to persevere Abby! 
We enjoyed another delicious dinner overlooking the ionian sea, which included some zumba music in the near background...Our dinner reflection conversations often involved pauses for "a bust a move" at the table moment.
The students all had a post dinner card match of cheat which after an hour evolved into some arm wrestling...It was uplifting to see the laughter and the enjoyment they were having in each other's company, (both the SMUS and Vincent's).
Tomorrow begins with a trip to Elia forest for a cycle and some beach/water sports in the ocean, and a service afternoon painting the NOKY pool to get it back to its original condition. There is also a mural to be painted, (already designed and sketched on the wall), which entails both the SMUS and NOKY crest with hands linking them. This is going on one of the main pool walls and has been designed by Patrick Woodgate, (one of the local Greece trip planners).
Posts tomorrow will be by some of the students so stay tuned!