Friday, June 20, 2008

Updates from Greece

One week ago today, I put my 12 year old on a plane to Greece. During the program meetings, the leaders had told us that the best way to talk to the kids while they are gone would be for the parents to call the kids. They said in the past some kids have had problems using calling cards and it has caused stress. We have a copy of their itinerary and know that they should be in their room by 9:00 every night. So, we sent her off without any way to reach us and told her we probably wouldn't call until Sunday. That way she could enjoy her first full day in Greece and she would be able to talk to her Dad on Father's Day.

Saturday morning around 7:00 we got an email from the point person of the phone tree. She had talked to the leader. The group had arrived safely, had just finished lunch and were headed to the beach.

Sunday after church we went out to eat for Father's Day and then hurried home to call. After some problems with calling internationally via my cell phone, we finally got through. She was so excited about everything. She wasn't able to sleep on the plane because the seats didn't recline far enough. The food was good - mostly chicken and pasta. The desserts were fantastic. The beach was ok. Gifts had already been bought for mom, dad, and brother. They had been to the Parthenon and she had taken lots of pictures. Oh, and "we get to ride donkeys in Crete". We asked her when she wanted us to call again. They are on several overnight ferries getting from one island to another, so we decided I would call again on Wednesday.

Greece is 8 hours ahead of us so I would have to call from work. About 1:15 my time I called. The hotel said that their group would not be back to the hotel until after 11:00. That meant I needed to call again around 3:00. And when I did I got the following message "all international circuits to the country you are calling are busy". What????? So I kept trying and finally got through. It was about 11:30 their time. My daughter answered the phone but sounded like she was asleep. She said they had just gotten in bed. Since I knew she was tired I asked how she was doing with money and she said fine (she still had over half of what we sent left). I asked when she wanted us to call again. She told me to call on Sunday so she could talk to everyone. And she reminded me that "tomorrow we get to ride Donkeys in Crete". I can't wait to hear about the donkey ride!

In the meantime, we recieved a few emails from the leader regarding their activies.

From the Leader:

Hi everyone-= this will have to be quick! Breakfast is nearly over and we board the bus to do our sea turtle project...anxious to hear what that entails! We are in Crete...and let me just say, I am not sure what I really knew of Greece to begin with, but I never realized how dry and dusty and mountainous it is...just thought of the blue water with the white buildings I think! It is strange that the 2 mix so well! The bouganvilla bushes are enourmous and geraniums grow 4feet tall, while hibiscus plant trunks are the diameter of a softball!

We are staying at this amazing villa in Crete that has an enormous pool- they went swimming yesterday afternoon. It is a great set up with very tasty food...many are beginning to venture out and try new things on buffets...kudos to Alexander for eating so many new things and encouraging others! He is a trooper!

Yesterday we hiked a LONG way up the mountain to the Dicteon Cave where legend has it that Zeus was born...pretty amazing cave- and I have been quite impressed with Innerspace Caverns...this one was a million times more! It was hot hot hot outside, and very cool inside. Everyone was amazed!

Update from a parent who spoke with the leader because she couldn't reach her daughter:

Hello everyone,I just spoke with Miss Rachel at the Lavris Hotel. It was about 11:30 PM Greece time. I had called her because I had been unable to get an answer in Michaela's room. She said that they had just had bed checks, were taking their showers, and packing up to check out in the morning. She then asked me to forward an email to everyone with the following information.

Miss Rachel mentioned that for any parents who were having trouble reaching their kids, they could call them again in the morning when they wake up around 6:30 AM Greece time (10:30 PM Texas time tonight). They are checking out after breakfast in the morning around 7:00 AM. They will be on an overnight ferry tomorrow night and then on to the Pavlina Beach Hotel in Peloponnesus on the 20th.

The kids had a great time today. After their excursion to learn about the local endangered sea turtles, they learned and performed Greek dances with the locals (lots of documentation with pictures and videos), and went for a swim at the beach. They didn't make it back to the hotel until after 10:30 PM.

Miss Rachel said that they did get to do a couple of unplanned activities in the village today. They were invited off the street into the home of a local couple that were bakers that wanted to show them how they made phyllo dough and baklava. The bakers wanted to sell them lots of baklava, but, Miss Rachel was able to get tiny pieces of baklava to taste for just 1 euro each. It was worth it, she said, for it was the best baklava she had ever tasted, made fresh on the spot!

They also got to visit with a local Greek Orthodox priest in the community who shared with them information about the Greek Orthodox church. He did a wonderful job conversing with the kids in his broken English, and the kids had lots of great questions to ask him. What a way to experience the local culture first hand and go with the flow!

The kids are getting to have different roommates. Everyone is getting along so well! Miss Rachel said that when they have to get in groups of four, with at least one boy in each group, they have no problem forming a group immediately. Everyone is becoming best friends!

So, it seems like they are having fun and experiencing the culture first hand. They will be on another overnight ferry Saturday night and will be in Italy when we call on Sunday. I think on Sunday they get to see how various cheeses are made and get to taste them as well. That should be fun.

I had hoped that things for me might slow down while she has been gone, but that has not been the case. I did get in a "mock" triathlon on Sunday with a friend from church who is doing his first triathlon this Sunday. And I've managed to do some kind of workout every night this week, including swimming two nights. Saturday will be a rest day for me. I actually get to sleep late (well, late for me) because I don't have anything to do except go to a baby shower at 2:00. I'm not going to workout because I have a triathlon on Sunday, so hopefully it will be a relaxing day.


Shauna said...

That is so cool. I'm so happy for Madison! You are a brave mom. I'm sure it's hard to have your 12 year old half way around the world, but what a great experience for her! You really are "teaching her to live without you." That's great! That's what you're supposed to do! :)

Grandma J said...

It sounds like Madison is having the time of her life! I've never been to Greece, but I've been on European ferries to Paris and to Venice,and they are a whole different experience...good ones.
I'm dying to find out what kind of gifts she bought you guys.