Here's the latest from Greece...(April 6, 2016)
Our last day in Nafplio we climbed over a thousand steps up to the Palamidi fortress, built by the Venetians in the early 1700s during one of their occupations. It was a gorgeous day, and we huffed and puffed our way up the stairs with the best of 'em.
Arrived on the island of Crete at the crack of dawn this morning after an overnight ferry ride from the port city of Piraeus, near Athens. Our time in Piraeus was a heart-breaking and at times nerve-rattling experience, as we began the 3 hour wait for our ferry in close proximity to one of the large refugee encampments. Conditions for the thousands of Syrian, Afghani, and Iraqi migrants there have deteriorated and we've been told that tensions are running high; though with the exception of being somewhat intensely reprimanded by a woman in a language I (Lisa) didn't understand for attempting to be a photo journalist and discretely take a photo of a man in the camp playing a guitar, we didn't witness any hostility. Photography is tricky business, not my forte, and although I had the best of intentions, I crossed a line. I thought she was going to take and destroy my camera, but I stayed as calm as I could and attempted to communicate to her that I intended no disrespect and would put my camera away. Though I was somewhat shaken, I can completely appreciate where she's coming from. We rather quickly relocated our group to a fast food restaurant across the busy street. Both Dave and I felt caught between our roles as steady and vigilant trip chaperones and our own mounting sense of overwhelming sadness.
As of today, the government has begun moving the refugees from Piraeus to another location, described in some reports to be a type of detention center. Many are frightened and refuse to leave. Syrians are more likely to be granted asylum than Afghanis or Iraqis, which is generating additional tension between the groups.
And yet within the chaos someone has set up a makeshift hair cutting station and children can be seen playing with improvised toys.
Our five student travelers have been extraordinary. After an absolutely sublime student-prepared feast of local chicken and fish (barbecued outside by Harrison, Reese, and Jonathan), Greek salad, and roasted potatoes (eaten on our patio overlooking the Mediterranean Sea), we had quite a long and thoughtful debriefing session, and it was one of those occasions when I think both Dave and I (the adults) felt utterly humbled by the beauty and depth of their youthful insights. We all spoke of dignity and the fact that we were seeing people that, had the circumstances been different in our own homeland, could be any one of us. The students all seem to appreciate having the opportunity to experience and reflect on something so "real" and relevant, in the sense that the crisis is unfolding at this time, in this place. This is the largest refugee crisis since WWII, and future students will undoubtedly study the repercussions of this crisis in fifty+ years much as these students have studied WWII. The juxtaposition of the ancient past and the in-your-face present has been a welcome one and has inspired much spirited conversation. I imagine that Richard and Debbie and the students in France are experiencing noticeable aspects of a changing Europe as well.
In addition to our evening check-ins, the students have been doing some impressive writing, which we'll be sharing at our presentation to the community on May 6th. All in all, the students are coping well, being respectful, asking challenging questions, and at times resorting to playful silliness the way we all tend to do when we need to decompress. The trip continues to be an inspiring, eye-opening, and sometimes exhausting experience, and we're all working well together.
Tomorrow we visit the archeological site of Knossos, widely considered to be Europe's oldest city.
That's all for now. Stay tuned for more photos.
With our deepest gratitude,
Lisa and Dave