Last Day

Today was the last day of Team Greece’s incredible GPS trip; enjoyable in its own right but marked somewhat by a vague sadness.

The Greece team rose relatively early and ate breakfast at our hotel before spending the day exploring Athens, with special attention payed to the Acropolis. We started our day by walking to the Acropolis Museum, and enjoying a guided tour of some of the artifacts recovered from the Acropolis and the surrounding area. For many students the tour was a refreshing return to Freshman Humanities; the artifacts and statues we saw reflected many of the artistic concepts and historical realities we learned about. After touring the museum, the group hiked up the the Acropolis itself. Students got to explore some of the raised city center, in addition to taking photos and admiring the incredible view of the city.

After descending from the Acropolis, the entire group enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant in the Old Town, and then had the afternoon free to shop and explore around the hotel. Everyone met back for dinner at the hotel in the evening, and went to bed early for an extremely early flight tomorrow.

Saying Goodbye and Back to Athens

We started our last day in Samos at 7:30 A.M. The breakfast was delicious (as always) and prepared us for the long day ahead! After an hour, we headed back to the Archipelagos Institute for a few more activities. We were then split into three pre-made groups to mix the typical groups up. We participated in three interactive workshops:

Workshop 1: We walked along the beautiful Aegean while learning about the preservation of deep-sea habitats. We learned about the importance of seagrass and algae for maintaining life in the seas. They act as nursing beds and food, respectively, for invertebrates and fish that live amongst them. In order to have functional food chains, we must continue to work towards this problem through replenishing lost resources and conservation.

Workshop 2: The groups sat down with leaders of the Institute to discuss plans to promote their sea-saving agenda. Ideas ranging from an Instagram/Snapchat account, merchandise line, and reaching out to local Greece schools stuck out the most to the leaders. However, they challenged us to see how we can make changes in Culver. This was especially effective because it allowed for us to commit to real changes on our campus. Whether that is using reusable mugs rather than the Dining Hall’s Styrofoam cups, looking into it conservation as a senior service project, or just “plogging “ (picking up trash while jogging with friends!), we all want to bring what we’ve learned about conservation back to campus.

Workshop 3: Here, we got to collect microplastic samples and listen for dolphin noises in the water. After driving to a nearby dock, we spent an hour on the water. The first half of the time was dedicated to collecting surface level microplastic samples. Between the three different groups, we collected more than twenty pieces within ten minutes of being on the water. This hands-on activity added a level of reality to the issues we’d heard so much about. The second half, we listened for sea noises by placing a basic microphone underwater. Many just listened to the sounds of the sea but, a few lucky ones heard the sounds of dolphins.

After our workshops, the Archipelagos Institute prepared us a scrumptious meal yet again. We had gyros, french fries, rice, and greek salad for lunch. Afterward, we had an hour to roam around the site a bit. We spent the time skipping rocks, reading, and just enjoying the overall atmosphere. This time was completed with a ton of goodbyes to our new friends. The mood was light and jolly as we traded Instagrams and emails. We then headed to the airport to take a short flight to Athens.

The flight was short and so was our transit to our newest hotel. We had a little time to freshen up before our dinner in the hotel. While many of us were all dressed up, we enjoyed the pasta, pork and rice, and a pecan pie. Following dinner, we enjoyed a walk in town to get (handmade) ice cream and window shop at the Plaka for an hour. We then returned to the hotel to get rest for our early morning Acropolis tour tomorrow!

-Sobé Uwajeh

Back to Samos!

Today was another great day for the Greece GPS team.

This morning, we ate breakfast at our hotel on Lipsi before boarding the same ferry that had taken us to the island. We all enjoyed the unexpected opportunity to say goodbye to some of the students we had made friends with before; a number of the students stopped by the ferry on their way to school.

After boarding the ferry, the group settled in for another five-hour ride to Samos. We again used the time to help the experts of the Archipelagos Institute survey local marine life and pollution; recording data about dolphin and marine bird sightings in addition to trash and boat frequency.  The highlight of the trip was two dolphin sightings; those on the upper deck got to watch Common Dolphins playfully follow and jump around the ship.

Once the ferry arrived in Samos, we met our bus and traveled back to the Archipelagos Institute’s main base. There, we had lunch, reviewed the results of our beach cleanup, and listened to a series of informative presentations regarding microplastics.

After leaving the Archipelagos Institute, the group enjoyed free time in Samos and a dinner at the hotel, enjoying a delicious meal and the opportunity to swim and go shopping in town.

 

 

9.8 Miles, Meeting New Friends, and More!

Today was one of our most eventful days on the trip. We had an early morning wakeup call around 8:00 and enjoyed a nice breakfast in the café beneath our hotel. After our breakfast, we walked up roads on the island to the high school in Lipsi and met all 42 students. Although some of them did not have the best English skills, we introduced ourselves and showed them where we were from on a map. With the translating help of their school principal, Savas and Rylee were also able to tell them a little bit about CMA and CGA as well. Once the Lipsi students learned that the Academies had more students than they had inhabitants on their island, they were amazed and also intrigued. At first, they were rather shy and reluctant to talk to us, but they eventually started practicing their English in conversation while teaching us some Greek too!

Accompanied by the Archipelagos Institute, we then left the school and began our trek around the island. The weather was rather poor– 55 degrees, rainy, and incredibly windy– and very abnormal for the typical sunny months in Lipsi. Few stayed behind in the hotel, but the majority of us made our way over the island terrain with the Archipelagos Institute for an hour-long “walk” (which has since been renamed a “hike” upon the completion). The Institute has been working to build a marine sanctuary for marine mammals such as dolphins in captivity or injured sea turtles and monk seals. They bought a secluded, abandoned building to renovate, turning it into a veterinarian clinic for the animals, supply rooms, and an office space. They still need more donations and funding to complete the project, but their plans excited us all. In addition to the trash polluting the oceans, animals in captivity and in the wild are suffering as well. We learned that dolphins in places like Sea World and other entertainment parks are starved, distressed, lonely, and exploited for a profit. Some of these captive animals even hold their breath long enough and kill themselves. Although this is incredibly morbid, they shared some harsh realities with us while at the sanctuary but juxtaposed them with their passionate beliefs for positive change in the future. We were thrilled to be a part of their journey and all became far more aware of our own impact on the environment. The weather improved throughout the day, but the water was too cold and rough to go kayaking like we had originally planned. However, the hike ended up being incredibly fun, and we all continued to bond with one another.

After a rocky, tailbone-bruising, and tiring hike back to town, we traveled a total of 9.8 miles and walked up approximately 125 floors (1,250 ft)! For those of us who found the energy, we went to the school once more to socialize with the students. We learned more Greek and taught them English and trendy American dances while they opted to show us some traditional Greek circle dancing. We also played co-ed basketball, volleyball, and soccer games with them, took many selfies and pictures, and laughed quite a lot. This experience with the Lipsi students taught us that language barriers can be overcome and we are alike despite our radically different locations on the globe. They made a very big world seem small, and we were all greatly appreciative of the time we spent with them.

Once we made our way to a restaurant and ate a yummy dinner consisting of salad, pasta, and bread, we were left to venture around the town. (Side note: this trip has included an incredible amount of carbs. We seem to find foot-long baguettes everywhere, wheat rolls, white bread slices, bakeries, and pretty much any other kind you can think of.) Anyway, we split up throughout the town in groups, socialized with one another and the Lipsi students again; it’s certainly a small place! After regrouping for the night, we headed off to bed around 10:00, eager for our ferry boat ride back to Samos tomorrow morning.

*Unfortunately, our pictures have had trouble uploading due to wifi connectivity issues as you can understand. We will post these once we find a better signal. I have managed to attach a picture of the landscape, but if you’re interested, here is the link to the Archipelagos Institute that includes some group photos of us. Thanks for your patience!

https://www.facebook.com/Archipelago.gr/?ref=page_internal

Let’s Go to Lipsi!

We started off the day with an optional run at 7:00 A.M.  Then those who decided to sleep in met us at breakfast at around 10:00 A.M.  At 11:00 A.M. we departed for the Samos Museum where we got to enjoy some ancient artifacts found beneath the city.  At around noon, we got to roam the area to shop and grab a bite to eat.  At around 2:30 P.M. we hopped on the ferry for a five-hour ride to Lipsi (the ferry was supposed to be leaving at 1:30). Led by our friends at the Archipelagos Institute, we were instructed on how to conduct marine life surveys from the deck of the ferry. On the boat, two groups split the time for the jobs we had to do. Every hour, pairs of partners on both sides of the boat looked for dolphins, the other looked for trash, and the last spotted birds flying around the area. We arrived at the island at around 7:00 P.M., enjoyed a nice meal of traditional Greek appetizers and gyros at 8:00 P.M., and then had a final bed check at 10:30.

-Jack Callahan

Marine Life in Samos!

This morning in Samos, we woke up to a beautifully clear sea and cool breeze outside our hotel rooms. After eating a traditional Greek breakfast in the hotel around 10:00, we ventured over the hilly landscape of the island to the Archipelagos Marine Institute. Upon our arrival, we met a wonderful group of conservationists who were all skilled and extremely passionate about saving the marine environment—specifically in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. We listened carefully during an orientation about the Institute’s work, the challenges it faces, and its overall mission. Secondly, we were informed of the different types of species commonly found in the area such as dolphins, turtles, and whales and how to identify them. After playing a card game that was similar to Spoons, except it involved dorsal fins, the Institute treated us to a Greek lunch.

Once lunch was over, we headed down to the shore for a beach cleanup. The group leaders split us up into three groups where we were tasked with collecting as much trash as possible; the team that collected the most trash in one hour would be the winner. We found all sorts of trash, including plastic bottles and caps, shoes, tires, rope from fishing nets, glass, and other random things. After filling twelve huge bags with garbage as a group, we learned about the dangers all of the rubbish inflicts on the surrounding marine life. Fish ingest the macro and microplastics, other animals are strangled in the rope, and some are cut by glass. Not only does this affect the marine life itself, but it has a greater impact on humanity when we eat the species. Even after our hard work, the group leaders told us that the small section of the beach that we cleaned will most likely be full of trash again tomorrow. However, although our effort seems small in the grand scheme of things, every effort helps to mitigate the dangers of ocean pollution.

After returning to the hotel for a lovely dinner of chicken, rice, a vegetable stir fry, and bread, most of the Greece team headed into downtown Samos to do some shopping and hunt for ice cream! The nighttime views of the city lights and the ocean were beautiful, and yes, we did enjoy ourselves (a lot, to be honest) in a pastry and ice cream shop.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to Dean Rasch tonight, as she must return home to due to an illness in her family. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you as you travel and for your father as well, Dean Rasch. We love you!

Exploring Athens and a Ferry to Samos

 

The journey to Greece for the second group was rather straightforward. We arrived at the Athens airport around 1am local time. After a quick bus ride to the Athens hotel filled with sleepy eyes and energetic Heads Up players, everyone quickly unpacked and went to bed, anticipating tomorrow’s tour. The next morning, the Greece team was officially reunited in Athens. With a quick breakfast ranging from omelettes to pastries, the team set out for a panoramic tour of Athens. We had a very knowledgeable tour guide that brought us to places most will only know from history books. Some of these places included The Panathenaic Stadium (where the first ever Olympic Games were held!), the temple of Zeus, the temple of Hephaestus (his temple is the most intact and still standing to this day), the Academy of Athens, and the Roman Agora. After enjoying the panoramic tour of Athens with stops to take pictures, the team took on Greece by foot with a walking tour of the Plaka – one of the more well-known parts of Athens. Filled with modern restaurants and ancient ruins, each student was greeted with new sights, smells, tastes, and sounds. Our group learned that several new buildings were torn down to uncover the ancient ruins that sunk below ground. Students were able to see buildings such as ancient churches, a meeting place, and a court. With more pictures gathered onto our phones and cameras, we headed to a traditional Greek lunch filled with, Spanikopita (spinach pie), Melizano Kaeftedes (eggplant dish), Horatika Salad (Greek Salad), Tiropita (Feta roll with honey), Stifado (lamb and potatoes), with a nutty banana bread and vanilla ice cream for dessert. With full tummies and long conversations with anticipation for the upcoming week, the group headed back to the bus for a drive down to Piraeus Port (the oldest port in Greece) for a 12-hour ferry ride from Athens, Greece to Samos Island. From card games, to books, to Netflix, and views from atop the ferry, many students found ways to unwind and enjoy the unique beauty that Greece provided. With some turbulent waves towards the end of our excursion, everyone arrived safely in Samos at 2:30am local time. A short bus ride to the Gagou Beach Hotel and a beautiful balcony view of the beach delighted students. Everyone exhausted from the travel, went to bed in hopes of helping the upcoming day arrive quicker!

-Karinna Kanach