Two of my teacher candidates from CCGA are coming to see me! When I first heard about the Fulbright, I could not imagine doing this without sharing it. I asked all of my students if anyone was interested in coming to visit. After getting lists of folks, there ended up being two who had the time and the interest to come. “Ivy” and “Jennifer” are teacher candidates, about to graduate and about to face their own classrooms. They are coming to visit during their spring break, and neither of them have ever been out of the country. I feel responsible to keep them safe, show them education in a foreign country, and help them get impressions so that they can share with their students.
“Understanding the world today has never been more important. Much of that understanding comes from what we learn in school. Students look to their teachers for knowledge about a world that is not yet part of their own lived experience. By spending time abroad teachers gain fresh perspectives that deeply enrich their students’ learning and global awareness.”- GEEO.org
Dear Ivy and Jennifer,
I’m getting so excited about y’all coming! It will be fun to share this- and to be amazed at how similar and different it is… Here is the schedule and some random thoughts.
Ya’ll leave on Sunday from Jacksonville. Connect through Atlanta and then a long flight to Paris. Charles de Gaulle is tricky- LOTS of walking. You will go through the passport control line here in Paris. We accidentally got in the EU line- which is for the European Union. You should get in the non-EU line- and they are not very nice about telling you that you are in the wrong line. When they ask, do NOT SAY that you are studying here- they will want to see your visa. Just tell them you’re on a short vacation. They should stamp it and send you right through. Depending on circumstances, you might have to go through security again- it’s a long line and it’s a tight connection. Everything IS marked in English, you just have to keep following the signs. It looks like a bunker. Just get through Charles de Gaulle. It is NOT Paris, except that the women in the airport look spectacular.
When you land in Athens, you will walk a distance and collect your luggage, you do not have to go through passport control again. After you collect your luggage, go through the doors marked NOTHING TO DECLARE.
Monday- 4:30- I will pick y’all up at Athens Airport right outside of the Nothing to Declare doors. We will stay at the Holiday Inn near the airport that night.
Tuesday- We’ll go to Acropolis via the X95 bus. The Acropolis– where I cried on the steps at the power of being at the beginning of Western Civilization. Leave bags at hotel. Come back and get them. Catch the X93 bus to the KTEL bus station. Catch the 4:00 bus to Patra. Arrive Patra 7:30pm. Go to Hotel Castello apartment where I live.
Wednesday- Go visit schools with me and Dr. Dimakos (he’s my sponsor here) a school for children with special needs and an impoverished “regular” school. A teacher just got written up for having a first grader stand up in front of the class and say “I am nothing. I understand nothing. I am trash”. In front of the class. Parents are up in arms. Emergency PTA meeting. It may have settled down, but it was an interesting place to be a teacher last week. A teacher’s desire to take out their frustration on children is universal, I’m afraid. So is good teaching, as well! I hope to show you the good part of teaching…
Thursday- Work with me on research in the morning. Coding responses- yay! That afternoon, there is a lecture on something about Greece in English for Erasmus students. Erasmus is a program for university students where they can study in another country for a short while. Most colleges are free to students in the EU- they just have to get in. There are limited slots and everything depends on their high school exit test. I’m in a “Learn Greek” class with two girls from Italy, a boy from Portugal, and a boy and a girl from Hungary. The class is in English- which means that they are translating from Greek to English to their native language back to English back to Greek. They already understand better than I do. Last Tuesday, after sitting there for two hours, and getting lost after one hour in, I felt very stupid. (Note: Now is NOT the time to tell me you know how I feel…!)
Friday- Help me present in a class in which I am coteaching (NOT what I’ve taught you is coteaching). I chime in speaking English every now and then. Dr. Dimakos talks in Greek, and although he is very gracious at including me, I try to look like I know what he’s talking about (Note: This is again NOT where you tell me you know how I feel!). We’re going to be presenting on ADHD and anxiety, something you know a lot about at the end of your program. However, this is for students who want to be teachers- so bring examples and stories about children. And speak slowly. They have studied English since first grade, but are not used to speaking English. Also, they do not hear the difference between Southern and “regular” English- we’ll see if they can hear Jessica’s accent!
Leave for Delphi on the 12:40 bus. Arrive Delphi 4:00ish. Stay at the Amalia Hotel. .
Saturday- Tour Delphi- the “Center of the Universe“. Maybe the Oracle will speak to you!? Catch the 4:10 bus to Athens. Spend the night at the Holiday Inn.
Sunday- Up bright and early to catch your plane back! The longest afternoon EVER…
Just so you know- there is a Worldwide Caution out for US Citizens. I was concerned until I read it- and it covers Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Truly, the whole world- there are no specific alerts or warnings. We will be avoiding large crowds and not be stupid. You DO stand a much better chance of being killed by a cow, Tylenol, or taking a selfie than a terrorist. Greeks love Americans- we bring money, which they desperately need. And they are just incredibly hospitable and kind. They really will try very hard to help you! Almost all Greeks, especially the younger ones, speak some limited English. Do NOT be freaked out if you hear about the advisory… it’s just a precaution. And yes, terrorism is a threat. Just like tornadoes are at home. You know one could come, but they don’t directly threaten us often. Just don’t be stupid. And pray a little- just because. Many Greeks look Middle Eastern, but Greeks are Greek Orthodox Christians and they are way more upset at the threat than we are.
Jet lag is a real thing. Greece is 7 hours ahead of home. I have found that for me, I cat-nap on the long flight and basically hit Greece exhausted. Eat a light dinner, drink TONS of water, and fall in bed. Bed time at 9:00 is 2:00pm at home, so convincing yourself to go to sleep is hard unless you’re exhausted. Getting up at 7:00 am feels like getting up at midnight, so that alarm clock is rough! Only if you’ve had some solid sleep that first night, will you be able to survive it. Water and sleeping on their schedule makes it go away.
What to bring? Clothes, shoes and a smallish suitcase you can haul around on and off of busses. The weather is almost exactly like it is at home- although this week is chilly. There is snow in the mountains behind me. Normally 60s and 70s with lows in the 50s. LOTS of walking. I walk to work every day- which is a mile uphill. And back for lunch and to visit with my mom. And back up the university again. And back to the apartment again. I’m walking on average 5 miles a day.
Regarding clothes- there is much less emphasis on clothes here. Many Greeks do not have dryers and many will handwash and dry in the sun. My laundromat is a half mile away, takes five days to clean things- so I’m learning to handwash and re-wear things. Students wear what students everywhere wear. Black leggings and tunics. Teachers wear comfortable clothing as well. Because of the horrific price of gas, most people use cars only for significant reasons, so there is lots of walking and lots of public transportation. Those who do drive do so very fast, or very slow. After watching my husband drive the two lane road (due to a highway expansion project) from Athens to Patra, I decided that we would all die if I drove- so hence the use of public busses.
I’d advise you to bring what I’m pretty much living in- A pair of jeans. A pair of black stretchy, knit, pants/ leggings. Underwear and socks for every day (although these can be washed out). 3-4 long-sleeve t-shirts. 1 cardigan sweater or sweatshirt. one pair of walking shoes. You will not wear cute shoes. You can buy an umbrella if it rains. No one appears to wear dresses except the elderly and the professional business women. A scarf to wear if it’s cold, you’re in a church and want to cover your head, or just to dress up an outfit. No swimsuits- too cold.
The food is yummy! The desserts are even better.
If you have any extra room, bring toilet paper. Their toilet paper here is non-biodegradable, so you have to put your used toilet paper in a trash can next to the toilet. I now carry wet wipes with me and I’ll have some for you. It’s the one part of this adventure I’m having a hard time getting over. Busses? Fine. Walking? Fine. Handwashing clothes? Fine. Language? Fine. Bathrooms? Not fine.
Any questions? Looking forward to it!!! Remember, kids are kids- no matter where you are. The immigrant children will break your hearts…