Since our arrival on Tuesday, we have had three long and busy days. It is hard to believe that our time in Greece has already come to an end! We have all enjoyed the generosity and hospitality we have received by everyone we have met. On Wednesday we started the day by touring the Acropolis with our wonderful tour guide, Eleni. When we had finally hiked up to the Parthenon, she explained to us that not only had it been a temple for the Greek goddess Athena, but was converted into a Christian church under the Byzantine Empire, and later even into a mosque during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. It was extremely interesting to learn about the ever-changing role of the Parthenon in the history of Athens. Later that day, we toured the Acropolis Museum and had the opportunity to meet with students and a professor at Hellenic American University who were a part of a class studying immigration.
The next day began with a meeting with the Chief Economist of the Bank of Greece, Dimitris Malliaropulos. He gave a presentation giving a brief history and explanation of the economic crisis that began in 2010 as well as what the government has done to get the country back on its feet. Then students had the opportunity to ask any questions we had concerning the economic state of Greece, the effects of the adjustment plans to increase Greece's financial stability, as well as the effects of the economic crisis on their response to the refugee crisis. He tended to use the economic crisis as explanation for why the country was not more responsive and effective in providing aid to the influx of refugees coming into the country a few years ago.
We then met with a journalist at the Kathimerini newspaper, which is comparable to the New York Times in the U.S. based on its respected reputation and credibility. This journalist has been covering stories on immigration and the refugee crisis in Greece for the past several years. He provided interesting insight into the country's response to the unprecedented number of migrants entering Greece. Later that evening, we were given a tour of the Khora Center, a social services agency providing assistance to refugees, which is based in the Anarchist district of Athens. They provide various workshops including language classes and legal assistance to those seeking asylum status, as well as providing daily meals. The influence of anarchist ideology was apparent in the structural organization of the center as they had no hierarchy and are divided into several autonomous working groups that reach decisions on their own, and provided a unique approach to serving others.
Lastly, today we traveled to Cape Sounion, which is about 40 minutes outside of Athens. We first met with a nun at a beautiful Greek Orthodox monastery on a hillside with views of the Aegean Sea. We then toured the Temple of Poseidon that sits on a mount which is surrounded by the sea on three sides. We then stopped for lunch before walking to the coast where several students got their feet wet in the Aegean Sea.
Our time in this historic city has been extremely informative and enjoyable. Now just as we have gotten used to the mild Mediterranean weather, we are off to Paris early in the morning!
Αντίο (Goodbye) Greece, bonjour (hello) France!