I did not sleep Tuesday night. My parents and I drove to the DFW Airport at 4am. We went through the checking in process and then tearfully said our goodbyes. With no lines at security, I made it through in a little under 5 minutes from passport scan to pat down to putting my shoes back on. It was so easy and stress free, and for that I am thankful. I got to the gate with 2 hours to spare before loading. Believe me, with all the nerves consuming me that 120 minutes crawled by. I met my plane mate, Zack. We got to know each other, I got some breakfast, and then we boarded to plane to Newark, New Jersey. I slept for a few minutes on the plane and spent the remaining time talking to a nice woman from New York who kindly pointed out the Manhattan skyline through the fog during our landing. So now I can officially say that I have seen New York... This is the beginning of seeing so many new things!
When we landed in Newark at 10am we found our next gate and met our sponsors, the Thompsons. We were the second and third students to arrive in Newark, and all that remained to do was wait for the next 29 people to arrive. During the layover I had the opportunity to meet and get to know several new friends. I immediately hit it off with a few people and we had a great time talking about all the random things that come up in long airport conversations. I am very thankful for the bonds we formed in those hours sitting in New Jersey.
I boarded the plane for Athens at 5:45pm Eastern time. My new plane buddy, Jill, and I watched the Social Network as soon as the plane took off. During the middle of it we were served a chicken and rice dinner with a side salad and roll. I will not knock the airplane food, because I was starving and too tired to even care it it was good. As soon as the movie was over I fell asleep. According to my plane buddy, I fell asleep in the embarrassing way: head back and mouth wide open. Attractive, I know. No matter, it was worth it because I slept through the entire 9 and 1/2 hour flight. I woke up 30 minutes before landing feeling much more rested than many of my fellow Huggers (Harding University in Greece... HUG). We landed in Athens at 10:15 (we are now 8 hours ahead of y'all in Texas). We breezed through the passport stamping line, baggage claim, and customs. No one was searched and we had no problems. Once outside then airport we were greeted by the directors of the program, Mike and Beth James. It was so good to see them! I am definitely going to enjoy this semester with them. After boarding a charter bus and driving a quick 15 minutes to the small port town of Porto Rafti we pulled up in front of our home away from home, The Artemis.
The Artemis is the property that Harding bought in the 90s. It used to be a hotel for the tourists who flock to the area in the summers. After the economic downturn Harding bought it and changed a few things to make it a beautiful mini-campus. I am on the third floor living in an apartment with Victoria. Our balcony (yes we have a balcony) looks out over the front entrance of our campus. We settled in and unpacked everything. Then Fofi, our HUG cook, made the group lunch. We had a short info meeting about how things work around here and the rules. Then we had another info meeting about job opportunities. I signed up to be a Tea Time helper. My partner, Amanda, and I set out tea, coffee, snacks, fruit, and sometimes baked good every night at 9pm. It is fun and easy because we get to hangout with everyone in the dining room and play card or just chat. I have a feeling I will love having this time every night. After our meetings and tour of the Artemis we took a walking tour of the town of Porto Rafti. Everything is in Greek! It is a bit overwhelming to look around and not recognize anything (except the Ikea right by the airport and the Shell gas station down the street from us. We have learned several basic Greek words for common phrases. If I read them now I wouldn't be able to recognize them, but I do know how to say a few things... To say hi and goodbye you say "ya-su", thank you is "effhharisto" with the emphasis on the "sto", my name is spelled Really weird because they don't have a B in their alphabet. I will download the pictures I took later when we have some free time tomorrow. The best part about the walking tour was seeing the Agean Sea. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been, and I am looking forward to seeing so many more things! I can't even describe the beauty. Another cool thing about our tour is that there are street dogs that roam the area, and whenever HUG students are here they act as guard dogs. They walk along side of our group and protect us from other dogs, cars, and anything else they deam a threat. Right now they are sleeping at the entrance to the property and we are told they will stay there until the day we leave.
After exploring for a while and eating some delicious ice cream at a shop just down the block we went back to the Artemis for dinner, and a relaxing night watching a movie and playing cards. After tea time I headed up to my room where I am now writing this entry and I just got off of skype with The Mallorys :) It is 12:15am Friday morning as I write this. I am about to go to bed and rest up for a great day tomorrow. We will head to Athens in the afternoon and see the Parthenon and Mars Hill. Wow, I can't believe this is what the next 3 and 1/2 months will be like.