Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Magnificent Sights and Friendly Faces in Greece

by Liyu Lei

The study abroad group in front of the Parthenon
I am Liyu Lei, and I am studying renewable energy concepts in Greece. This has been an awesome program that has given me the opportunity to learn about renewable energy including solar, wind turbine, hydro-power, biomass, and geothermal energy, as well as travel to Greece!

The Greek financial crisis was dominating the news in the couple of months prior to my trip. My family and I worried about safety during my study abroad trip. When we first arrived at Athens, we had to find our way to the University and to some historical sites. Surprisingly, I was never rejected by anyone when I asked for directions. I still remember clearly the experience we had on our way to the Acropolis. Professor Zahos’ friend, George, volunteered his time as our tour guide. We were supposed to meet at the entrance of the Acropolis at eight-thirty. However, we were still struggling with the directions at eight o’clock. While we were looking at the map and trying to identify the streets, we heard a voice belonging to an old man: “Do you need help?”. He not only helped us find the correct route on the map, but he also walked about 15 minutes with us to our destination. Although we were still a bit late, we were so lucky to meet him. After this experience, I felt safe! Even today, I can’t remember how many times I have received assistance: people helped me pick up my wallet when it dropped to the ground, people reminded me to zip up my purse, and people gave me a hand when I got lost. Although I may not remember their faces, I will remember their smiles, so pure and sincere.

Despite the financial crisis that has afflicted Greece’s economy since 2010, Greeks love living their life. Compared to the United States, their living style is quite relaxed. They regularly go to work from nine in the morning to nine at night. During the summer, some stores are required by law to close from two-thirty to five-thirty due to hot weather. They call this period “quiet hour”, during which no noise is allowed inside resident buildings.  Many stores are closed on Sundays for church and family activities.

Greeks are famous for their liveliness. Although Greek women follow the tradition of cooking for their household nearly every day, they also like to spend time eating, drinking, and dancing at night with their friends. Whenever you walk down the street at night, you see many Greek adults chatting at the bar or restaurant, sharing their daytime experiences with one another.

Hydra Island
Today, Greece still maintains their tradition of folk dancing, which attracts audiences from all over the world. Dance often plays an important role in the life of a Greek. Through it, they express their feelings about everyday life. They dance during religious festivals and ceremonies, and one can find folk dance performances in Athens easily. I saw a wedding party in Delphi, where the bride and groom danced traditional Greek dances that were combined with modern dance as entertainment for the audience. It seems to me that Greeks have adapted modern dances in order to add diversity to their traditional dances.   

Odeum of Herodes Atticus
Greece is famous for its historical sites and very blue seas. The Acropolis is the one historical site that we cannot wait to visit. Thanks to George, we learned about the mythology and history of the temples, such as the Parthenon, Athena Polias, Propylaea, and Erechtheum. In order to better understand Greek culture and history, we took a four-day classic tour. We went to Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, and Meteora. Although they are ruins today, I could see their past glory from the magnificent architecture. There are numerous beautiful islands in Greece. The sea water is bluer and calmer than you can imagine. You should not miss it!

This article is one in a series of blog entries written by University of Illinois students who were selected to travel to Greece to participate in a four-week Renewable Energy Concepts Study and Cultural Tour, provided by the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES). Tour participants embarked on technical field trips, cultural excursions, and collaborated with students from the Agricultural University of Athens and the University of Thessaly in Volos to solve real-world engineering problems. This program is partially supported by the European Union Center through a US Department of Education Title VI grant.

Liyu Lei is a junior studying Food Science and Human Nutrition. She chose her concentration in Human Nutrition because she is interested in understanding the relationship between food consumption and human development and health. She currently lives in Chicago.

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