Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Breaking Bread and Boundaries

It seems as if all travel plans contain necessary lists and itineraries along with extensive packing and preparing for new climates, language barriers, and different cuisine. The program here in Chania is much the same, we have daily schedules of classes, lectures, blocks of free time and weekend excursions, each designated to help immerse us as American students into the culture of Greece. The importance of each scheduled activity is monumental in allowing for me, personally to get acclimated and understand why the culture and style of living here is as it is. Each day begins with breakfast, scheduled from 7-8, where I have grown accustomed to 'kalimera' and goodmorning hugs and kisses from Cleo and Ava, the women who cook for us throughout the day. After breakfast we proceed to class, which I had long dreaded being that I am not a polysci major. But, participating in class discussions and witnessing the capability of the classroom to be extended even to lunch at the beach, has allowed for me to really immerse myself in the subject and grasp the themes at a much quicker pace. Following classes, we are awaited in the dining room to a never fail feast of the many different tastes and dishes of the Cretian diet. The table in the dining room is at best, a long wooden fold up table that can easily be taken apart if needed. But, the 'table' is something I will take from this trip and carry through the rest of my life. Spending time at the table with my previously unknown classmates has turned each of them into friends and valued individuals in whom I find that I have learned more about the world than in a history book. Passing the bread around this group of unique individuals from all different walks of life never fails to bring a smile to my face because of the fact that a place so different from home could unite us more than ever with our peers. Long after the food has been devoured and the plates have been cleared, our conversations carry on into the dark of the night and we fight our bodies need for sleep in order to stay engaged in that one last point of debate. I have never seen the classroom extend farther than the desks at Emmanuel, and maybe its just the nature of polysci, but whatever it is I truly commend the ability of this force to bring us together as students in any setting. Only a week and a half in to this experience, I already am reflecting on the experiences and memories we have made together. Experiences such as cheering on Michel, a weary swimmer, as he jumped off a rock into the ocean followed by cheering and clapping has truly turned some of my peers into my family. I now understand the importance of studying abroad and know that it is not just to learn the subject at hand, but to learn the importance of relationships and human interaction that sometimes gets lost in environments that breed uniformity. As I'm writing this, I'm looking out over the courtyard and watching 5 individuals that were strangers just two weeks ago, giggle and laugh as they try to do yoga poses and stretch out sore muscles from the hike of Samaria. The spirit, happiness and light I have seen resulting from this experience is one I'll never forget, along with some of our greatest group made songs and melodies (no matter how out of tune they may be).

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