Teacher Professor

March 1, 2016

Xenia – Welcome

Filed under: Uncategorized — Teacher Professor @ 4:28 pm

Peter Paul Ruben – Jupiter and Mercurius in the House of Philomen and Baucis

Greeks are known for their hospitality.  In some cases, this can cause problems, such as when they welcome refugees that other countries will not help with.  Their hospitality is more than mere courtesy- they even have a word for it- Xenia- which, according to Wikipedia, is the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home and to welcome guests as friends. The tradition dates from the times the gods walked among the people and they never knew if a god was going to appear and be hungry.  Clearly, this is similar to the Bible’s admonishment in Hebrews 13:2- Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hospitality is important to Greeks.

I have been the object of this warm welcome during my first week- this xenia- and it has been so appreciated.

At Work
IMG_0128IMG_5061I was given an office. An office with my name on it, and a note that read, “Welcome to the Department of Primary Education, University of Patras, your new academic home for the next few months.”

IMG_5060And not just any office … An office with this view – taken, literally, sitting at my desk. I hope I can get work done. Phoenicians sailed there. Romans sailed that sea.The Ottoman Turks and Venice fought there.  The Germans and Italians bombed there.  The Greek War of Independence started there.  Right there.  And I get to look out at this blue, blue body of water and admire it- like so many have for thousands and thousands of years.

IMG_0273Dr. Ioannis Dimakos introduced me to his Special Topics class. And, he asked me to “speak Southern” to them and I pulled out my best “Y’all’s” and drawls.  Unfortunately, I don’t think they could hear the differences that are so particular to the Southern US and my poor jokes fell flat. They smiled at me kindly, however.  They would not want me to feel unwelcome.

Welcome Dinner

IMG_5090On Friday night, Dr. Ioannis Dimako invited me for dinner at his apartment.  His wife, a full-time second grade teacher with two small children, put together this dinner. And, dessert.

And brought out her “dowry” of tablecloth and napkins – hand embroidered with roses. And her crystal and silver liqueur glasses.

IMG_5084That were filled with Notos Tentura – a local Patra muscatel wine mixed with cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  It is an amazing taste and I am bringing back as many bottles as my suitcase can hold.  This is local welcome.

IMG_5091Tired, replete, a little tipsy and full of good Greek welcome, I found my way home.  And resolved to be as welcoming back.

For the true lesson of Xenia is not just the expected hospitality of the giver.  There is an implicit contract that the “givee” will value the welcome, not take advantage of it, will work to help the giver of the welcome when they need it- and will welcome the next traveler they may meet.  It is a wonderful example of the Golden Rule, “pass it forward”, and the development of a community.  Can you imagine if we all welcomed each other with Xenia? This world – and schools – would be places of welcome and celebration.  I am honored to join the community of the Department of Primary Education at the University of Patra. (And I really, really want the recipe for the lemon chicken!)

This blog seeks to entertain you, seeks to educate you, and most importantly, seeks to make you welcome.


  1. love it. So you are staring at the Corinth Canal? You are right. A crazy amount of our history started right there. You are in the Peloponnesus! Thucydides and the Peoloponnesian War, The Spartans! Agamemnon! Troy! All of it! Oh my. I feel faint.

    Hospitality- the suitors broke all the rules of hospitality when Odysseus returned to Sparta disguised as a beggar and they treated him badly. He wasn’t a god, but was under the protection of one, Athena.

    In the plays of the ancient Greek tragedians- you know some seriously bad stuff will happen when the laws of hospitality are broken. And I think our tradition of communion is related to that ancient tradition of hospitality. It wasn’t polite to ask someone’s name, much less their story, until after you had invited them in and fed them. And for the stranger, he/she could know they were safe once they had eaten with the host. …

    The Odyssey begins with Odysseus recounting his tale- of the Trojan War and being lost for 10 years- in the court of the Phaeacians- they don’t ask his name until well after the food and song. The Phaeacians are the example of how the laws of hospitality should be honored, and the example of a good king. The suitors, however, are more of the example of what not to do.
    Issues of hospitality bookend the Odyssey- an extremely important theme in one of the most important pieces of literature of Western Civilization.
    Polyphemus, the cyclops- another example of terrible hospitality.

    Anyway, I’m just babbling out of excitement for you! I’ve spent so much time in Ancient Greece, but only in books, plays and epics. With Homer, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. So sad to think, that when you and I visited there just after high school, I didn’t have the good sense to appreciate it the way I could now.

    Oh, but I think I could dig up photos of us in Capri!!!!!!! Oh my. Can you tell I’m excited for you!

    All the best, La

    Comment by Laura Belknap Calley — March 1, 2016 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

  2. oh! er, and of course our word xenophobia comes from the same root word as xenia. so cool.

    Comment by Laura Belknap Calley — March 1, 2016 @ 7:00 pm | Reply

  3. Claire, trust me there will be more opportunities for dinners at home while you are with us in Patras. Laura, the view from Claire’s temp home is that of the Achaian gulf, not the Corinth Canal. Just across this small piece of water is the town of Nafpaktos (aka Lepanto), a beautiful little place for quick getaways. And we haven’t been to the Achaia Clauss Vineyard, the oldest in Greece.

    Comment by Giannis Dimakos — March 2, 2016 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

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