Final PGS Assignment — Reflecting on My Goals

In our pre-course meetings for PGS we were asked to complete an assignment listing out our personal goals for the program. Now, at the end of the semester, we have been asked to reflect on those goals. Below, I am going to recreate my list and reflect on each item as I go along. The list will be in black and my reflections will be in orange.

Personal Goals

– I want to challenge myself to abandon my crutch of English as my only means for communication. Whether this means reaching proficiency in Italian, or learning how to convey meaning in the absence of words, I want to find my way through these uncomfortable situations.

As I look back on this goal, I think I have managed to reach some amount of success in achieving it. I have certainly not reached any degree of proficiency with Italian–that component was unreasonable–but I have begun to understand the importance of having at least a passing proficiency with a language. In Bordeaux, I had the opportunity to use some of the French I learned in High School; it wasn’t perfect, and I forgot a lot, but I made it through without any major issues. Throughout this semester, I have had opportunities to use the Italian I have been learning in class. A crowning moment for me was last week when a car stopped to ask me for directions and I was able to understand (they were using very simple words), and give (again very simple) directions. Even in those moments where I have not understood, and I haven’t known what to say, I think I have gained enough confidence to deal with ambiguity and try my best to convey meaning. One final thought, this semester has taught me the importance of actually becoming proficient in other languages. Though I wasn’t able to accomplish that goal during this semester, it is a life goal, and one that I can continue to work on.

– I want to become more cultured with respect to food, drink, music, art, architecture, and a number of ‘categories’

I think I have come a long way during this semester towards achieving this goal. I have learned much about food traditions, the importance of high quality ingredients, and the value of locally produced foods and drinks. I have learned much about wine, partially through my own experiences trying wines and partially through my interactions with the Wine Group. I have learned some about art and visited a number of museums during my travels. I have learned about music through my attendance of musical performances (including the opera at La Scalla) and through my interactions with the Music Group. And, I have learned about Architecture thanks to my interactions with my peers in the Architecture program and through my travels, as well. I have learned about more ‘categories’ than just these, however, and I think that it is this fact that I am most proud.

– I want to interact with ‘locals’ and learn more about their perspective on the world and our country

I was able to accomplish this primarily through meeting with two locals, Gea and Igor, on a weekly basis. While the purpose of our weekly meetings was to help Gea improve her English speaking skills (though I thought she was excellent from the beginning), the meetings turned into a co-learning experience that often included conversations about differing perspectives on countries and groups of people. Gea and Igor helped to expand my horizons and show me how much more I should be doing to be a truly active citizen of the world (and citizen of the U.S. for that matter). I have had other interactions with locals throughout my journeys, as well, and each has provided its own gems to reflect on. I am happy I was able to have some success in reaching this goal of mine.

– I want to interact with the incredible group of professors coming over to teach the modules both in and outside the classroom. I want to be involved in intellectually stimulating conversations that challenge my beliefs and help me to become a better individuals all around.

Reading this goal now, I think that I have absolutely achieved what I wanted to achieve. I have not only gotten to know each of the professors who have visited, but I think I have made a number of friends as well. This semester has been the first where I have ever really interacted with my teachers, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. I have had intellectually stimulating conversations (and intellectually frying ones as well), but I have also had personal conversations, and I will cherish these just the same. I do think, however, that my original goals was incomplete because it failed to account for all the interactions I have had with my peers. PGS is an incredible and diverse group of people. I have been surrounded my extraordinarily intelligent individuals for a whole semester, and the conversations I have had, and the friendships I have formed, have been just as valuable as those with my professors. Each person who has contributed to this program is incredible in their own way, and it has been an honor to have been a part of such an amazing group.

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The Remains of the Day

Two weeks ago, Nikki Giovanni had us watch a movie called The Remains of the Day. Afterwards, she had us write ‘the end of the story,’ as told from the perspective of one of the main characters. I cannot guarantee that everyone has seen the movie (though I would highly recommend watching it), so here is the link to the IMDB summary of the plot. My narrative is told from the perspective of the Butler, Mister Stevens, and picks up right at the end of the movie. It may be difficult to differentiate between the various speakers and the internal thoughts of Stevens, but hopefully it is not too difficult to follow the story I have created. Here are the remains of that day…

The Remains of the Day: Mister Stevens

I close the window and turn. Mister Lewis stands in front of me, paused, as if in deep thought. “Stevens, what do you think of the progress of the house?” What, indeed. “Sir, I should think that the restorations are progressing quite well. The house should be most agreeable by the time Mrs. Lewis arrives. It shall bring me great pleasure to serve you, Sir, and the Lady.” Glancing over his shoulder, Mister Lewis replies, “Thank you Stevens, it will be a pleasure having your help around the house. Well, I shall let you return to your work.” Yes, my work. I should return to that. “Thank you, good sir. Please let me know if you need anything.” Mister Lewis exits the banquet hall, probably off to his study, and I stop for a moment to gaze out of the window. My thoughts stray for a moment to pigeons. I wonder what it might be like to have the freedom of flight. Oh, to soar throughout the sky, no ties to the earth; Mister Lewis is certainly a gracious man to have let that pigeon free. Just before I retire from the window to return to my duties, a recall a conversation I once had with Mr. Benn: In my philosophy, Mr. Benn, a man cannot call himself well-contented until he has done all he can to be of service to his employer. Of course, this assumes that one’s employer is a superior person, not only in rank, or wealth, but in moral stature. Maybe, Mister Lewis shall set me free, too…

I walk through the house observing the work of the underservants as they go about cleaning. Occasionally, I stop to provide direction. Slowly the house is being resurrected from the gloom of the past. Slowly, the layers of dust are being peeled back. Slowly, the silver, and brass, and gold are polished so that they might gleam again in the cabinets and on the wooden bookshelves. Slowly, the grime is cleaned from the windows, allowing pure light to illuminate the house. Slowly, indeed, the house is being resurrected from the gloom.

The day progresses and turns to night with the setting sun. Dinner is served to Mister Lewis, and then I allow the staff to dine. It is not proper for us to eat before our employer. It is our duty to wait on and for him. I watch the kitchen staff clean up from the meal, and I hear one of the call bells ring. Walking into the hallway, I see it is the bell from the library, so I set off to attend to Mister Lewis. When I arrive in the room, Mister Lewis is seated in a chair with a book in his hands. “Stevens, have you done much reading?” Do I tell him I read? No, I think not. It would not do to bother him with my hopes and dreams. “No, sir, I wouldn’t think it proper with so much to do around the house.” Mister Lewis nods, “Ah, it’s a shame. There is so much to be gained from reading, so much to learn from the stories of others. I wonder what people might write of my story, when I am gone.” And what would people write of me? “I should think it would be a wonderful story, Mister Lewis.” “I would hope so, Stevens, I would hope so. Listen, do you think you could help me with the garden tomorrow? I would like to walk through and make some decisions on what to plant.” Back to work, it seems. “It would bring me great pleasure, Mister Lewis. What time would you like to begin?” “After my morning coffee would be fine. Thank you, Stevens, that will be all for tonight. Have a good evening.” The end of another day. “Thank you, sir. Good night.”

I reach my quarters, enter, and lock the door. When I reach my chair, I slump down, taking the weight off my feet. I wish for a basin of warm water and some salt to soak my feet. But it will not arrive. Sighing, I reach over to my table and grab the book I am currently reading. I grasp it to my chest, hold it close to my heart. Yes, Mister Lewis, I do read. I read stories of love because I have none. For a moment, I allow my thoughts to drift to Miss Kenton, and I feel a tear forming. She once said that she was a coward for not quitting when I released those two Jewish girls, but it is I who am the coward. I have been too afraid to embrace anything other than my role as butler. I was too afraid to embrace the possibility of love with her. I try and live my life with stoic resolve, but I know that it has led me astray. I cannot ever have Miss Kenton back. I cannot ever absolve myself for having served Lord Darlington. But maybe I shall find my redemption in working for Mister Lewis. I might die as my father did, a slave to my work, but maybe my words to Mr. Benn were not in vain. Mister Lewis is a superior person, a man of moral quality, and through serving him I may be redeemed. I place the book back on the table; I do not have the heart to read from it tonight.

Crawling in to bed, I close my eyes. Tomorrow I will wake up and help Mister Lewis with the gardens. I will continue to serve him in restoring the house. I shall do the same the next day and the day after that. My life will go on. What will people write of my story when I am gone? I shouldn’t think they would write very much at all. But maybe, maybe, they will mention that I was a man redeemed. A man, who despite all his flaws, was able to serve goodness at the end of the day…



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Orvieto Orange Tuff

During our trip to Napoli with Dr. Bob Bodnar, we (PGS) learned about the geological origins of the area from a volcanologist, Dr. Paola Petrosina. One of the most common volcanic deposits she discussed was called Neopolitan Yellow Tuff. Deposits of this rock type can be found all around Napoli, and it was commonly used a construction material for buildings in the area. In doing further research on the origins of Neopolitan Yellow Tuff, I came across this PDF. The author, Helen Brand, places its origin roughly 12,000 years before present as part of the second period of ‘Post Caldera’ volcanic activity in the Campi Flegrei. While the prevalence of Neopolitan Yellow Tuff became somewhat of running joke in our program because of the frequency with which it was pointed out, I would later come to better appreciate the importance of having studied such volcanic deposits.

After our week in Napoli, we were free to leave for our second period of spring break. I first traveled to Ischia with a small group of my classmates. Ischia, itself, is the product of volcanic activity, and we were able to visit the Sorgeto Hot Springs, which are heated by magma deposits under the island. After Ischia, I traveled with Ariel to Assisi. We decided to take a day trip to Orvieto, which Dr. John Dooley had recommended to us as a place to visit.

Orvieto is located on a plateau-like hill and was a wonderful place, providing beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The town is on the tentative list to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and, during our visit, we decided to go a tour of the Orvieto Underground. The tour promised to visit a few of the hundreds of underground, man-made caves in the plateau. As Ariel and I were entering the cliff-side at the start of the tour, we glanced at the walls and roof of the opening into the cliff. Something about the texture and composition of the rock triggered a sense of deja-vu. I remember leaning over to Ariel and saying something like, “This reminds me of Neopolitan Yellow Tuff. I wonder if this was a volcanic area.” She responded by saying that she had been thinking the same thing. Two minutes later, the tour guide started off by explaining that the plateau on which Orvieto had been built had volcanic origins, and that the primary rock type was tufa (tuff). Thank you, Dr. Bodnar and Dr. Petrosina. Needless to say, we felt quite smart for having correctly identified the type of rock and thus the implications about its origins.

Dr. Knox, during his introduction to Europe at the beginning of the semester, said that you only see what you know, and he couldn’t be more correct. Throughout the semester, as our breadth of knowledge has grown, I have begun to see more and more connections between the lessons we have learned and the places we have visited. There was something quite rewarding about taking this lesson from Dr. Knox and applying it to knowledge learned in Dr. Bodnar’s module but experienced during personal travel time. Is this what it is like to become more ‘global’? I don’t know. But, if nothing else, making these connections reflects my personal growth and development as a traveler and intellectual.

At some point during the rest of the tour, I came up with the name Orvieto Orange Tuff (the rock is orange in color rather than yellow) to commemorate our successful identification. However, my exploration of Orvieto’s origin did not end with our initial discovery. I decided to try and learn more about the volcanic system that created the plateau on which Orvieto is situated. I discovered that plateau of Orvieto Orange Tuff is located in the Vulsini Volcanic Complex and was possibly a by-product of the caldera collapse that led to the creation of the nearby Lake Bolsena. (Here is some more info on Vulsini). Having learned about the probable source of the tufa rock, I wanted to see if I could locate a geological map of the Lake Bolsena caldera area and match it with a Google Maps image. I had relative success. Here is a link to an image of Orvieto via Google Maps, and this is a link to a PDF containing a geological map of the caldera (go to page 9 — it also helps to rotate the page 90 degrees clockwise). The legend of the map even has Orvieto listed, though I was not able to located the corresponding letter on the map, itself. If you look at the Google Maps image, you can see that the ridge line on which Orvieto is located corresponds with the outer extent of the Volsini Volcanic District.

Closure, at last. I have traced the origin of Orvieto’s geology, and though I do not know for certain that my conclusions are entirely valid (for I am not a volcanologist), I am proud nonetheless for having tried. Throughout this semester, I have been challenged academically and intellectually as each new professor has added another lens through which to view the world. As the final weeks in the program go by, I hope I can continue to make connections between what I have learned and what I experience, and that I can further develop the ways in which I view the world. For now, though, I will continue to keep my eyes open so that as I wander I may see what I can see…

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All Hell Breaks Loose

Three weeks ago, UDP Dr. Bob Bodnar arrived to teach us about volcanoes and society. In one of his last lectures before we left for Napoli to study volcanoes in person, he used a phrase in passing that set a light bulb off in my head. The phrase was “all hell breaks loose.” Now, I’ve never really thought about the origin of that phrase before, but after the week’s worth of lectures on volcanoes, I was curious to see if the two were related. Dr. Bodnar in one of his introductory lectures had talked about how in ancient times, volcanoes were believed to be entrances to hell. Eruptions, whether explosive or effusive, could therefore be seen as Hell ‘breaking loose’ from the earth (in my mind, at least). An article from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the USGS describes a similar viewpoint from ancient times and cites an example from Virgil‘s Aeneid, which places the entrance to Hell in the Phlegrean Fields near Napoli. (Coincidently, we traveled to the exact spot where the entrance to Hell was said to be and descended to the waters of the river Styx…)

Standing at the Entrance to Hell

After researching the origin of the phrase, however, I discovered that the phrase Dr. Bodnar used colloquially was actually slightly modified from the original, “all hell broke loose.” The phrase is in fact from John Milton‘s Paradise Lost. It appears in Book IV, Line 916. I’ll reproduce the line in context below:

But wherefore thou alone? Wherefore with thee

Came not all hell broke loose? (Lines 915-916)

I found a blog, titled Sparsely Sage and Timely, by David Mitchell that provided (what I think to be) a good summary of the line and it’s context. “In Milton’s poem, the angel Gabriel asks Satan — just before kicking him out of the Garden of Eden — why all the other inhabitants of hell hadn’t broken out of the underworld and accompanied him to the garden: ‘Wherefore with thee came not all hell broke loose?’” Given this description, the meaning, or at least use, of the phrase has shifted over time, and, its origins clearly do not lie with volcanoes. Nevertheless, I still think that the phrase works well within the context of volcanic activity and the beliefs of the ancients.

The more I stop to think about the origins of some of our phrases, the more I realize how much history is hidden away behind them. Language changes and adapts over time, and definitions and meanings that once were prevalent may not be the ones in use today. As a student, but more importantly as a user of language (as we all are), I think it is important to stop every now and then and think about what it is, exactly, that we are saying…

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Genovian Adventures

So a few weeks ago, myself and a group of us PGSers went on an trip to Genova to watch an international (futbol) friendly between the U.S. and Italy. The U.S. beat Italy for the first time in 78 years, but the day (and night) in general were filled with adventure. At roughly 2:00 am while I was sitting on a bench next to a playground in the middle of Genova, I made a list of all the things of note that happened during the day (and night). I’ve decided to replicate the list in lieu of writing a narrative because I think it will provide something different for the blog. Explanatory comments might appear in parentheses () as necessary…

  • Sketchy in Monza (a station we transferred at on the way to the game)
  • Dove lo stadio
  • Bought U.S. Flag outside stadium
  • Great seats in U.S. section
  • Boca’s tackle = awesome & hilarious (and by hilarious, I mean so blatant it was amusing)
  • Dempsey scores goal (2nd half)
  • See De Rossi play; #10 was short & oddly proportioned (#10 is Sebastian Giovinco, I just looked it up…)
  • Ole U.S.A. cheer
  • U.S. wins game 1-0
  • Use of Italian (for directions)
  • Search for bars — > found bar: food, music videos, South Park in Italian
  • Walk towards beach
  • Found D’oh! (another bar, Homer Simpson themed) — > extremely nice people, lots of food, offer to spend night, Penny & the dogs, good drinks, shots & free shot, crazy Italians
  • Find beach & take picture w/ America sign
  • Meet and talk to Carbonieri — > Wes and the rooster pic, picture with officers, bad beach, bad Principe, officer’s military service, suggestion of park to stay in and directions for bus to the station (the Carbonieri stopped in the first place because a group of 10 young adults wandering around and generally looking lost attracts some attention at 1:30 in the morning)
  • Walk to square and discover PLAYGROUND — > play & frolic & climb & have fun

After I finished my list, I joined the others in huddling for warmth under the playground (which was boat-themed, and I believe called the Adventure Ship…). When the time (5:00 am) came for us to walk to to bus stop where we could get on a bus to the station (Principe) we climbed out and went on our way…we had class that afternoon.

PGS Representing at the Match


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A True Student’s Tale — Caught in the “There and Back Again” Flow

So between all the travel and work of the past month, I’ve neglected my blogging duties — one of the realities of a traveling student’s life is a lack of time for such things, I suppose. As a result, I have posted a lot of content that has been building up and just hasn’t made it up. I’ve tried to preserve the chronology of events, so some of the posts may be ‘hidden’ back in the blog — incentive for those with some free time to explore!

One new ‘feature’ I’m going to try and maintain is the ‘Timeline‘ page I’ve added to my blog’s banner. I’ve been reflecting recently that amid all of the wonderful stories of what people have been doing, it has become harder (for me) to distinguish everything that has happened (for/to me) during the semester so far. As a result, I’m going to try and create a log of everywhere I’ve gone and the big ‘things’ that I’ve done. Hopefully it will help to fill some of the gaps between what I actually post about.

Though I still have a few things in the works, a majority of the new content is up. I’ll try to be better about posting consistently, but with another extended journey looming in the near future, who can say…

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PGS Assignment — The Importance of Communityship

I recently read a blog post by Francis Gouillart titled, “Leadership sucks.” The post is a response to an article by Henry Mintzberg titled, “The Last Word: Rebuilding Companies as Communities.” The main point behind the article is that there is an over-emphasis on leadership in organizations and an under-emphasis on community building. Mintzberg suggests that organizations should moves towards a balance between leadership, communityship, and citizenship in order to strengthen organizations and encourage a greater sense and manifestation of corporate social responsibility (CSR). As part of the assignment, we have been asked to ponder how our specific article/post can relate to our own experiences with leadership or serve as a model for how we can act (or not act) in the future.

Personally, I find many of the expressed ideas appealing. Despite the fact that I am a business major, I find sometimes find myself at odds with ‘pure’ business motivators. While I understand drive and motivation for profit, I support the idea of the triple bottom line rather than purely profit-seeking business ventures. Much of this focus ties in with the ideas and values of CSR. While I have supported CSR and the triple bottom line, I had never given thought to the internal requirements and prerequisites for these corporate focuses. This post and the associated article provide me with new insights on how to introduce such focuses where they had previously not existed.

While organizations need some leadership, they also need a sense of community and a sense of direction. While not every organization can actively foster such a community, I think that organizations should seek to incorporate a much of this philosophy as possible into their organizational cultures so as to encourage CSR and an emphasis on the triple bottom line.

With regards to my own personal experiences with leadership, I believe that I can use some of these ideas in the organizations I am involved with at Virginia Tech and hopefully in my future work environment. As an individual, I should seek to find a balance between leadership, communityship and citizenship with my colleagues. This could be through encouraging team-building events, focusing more on relationship building within my organization or team, or through exercising good followership in addition to good leadership. Additionally, I could try and create a collaborative atmosphere by encouraging suggestions for improvements in the organization and developing my active listening skills when communicating with my peers. I should also strive to be a servant leader if put in a position of power — placing my peers and my cause ahead of myself.

Thomas Jefferson once commented on power by saying, “I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.” I think this quote ties in nicely with the Gouillart post and Mintzberg article because it supports the notion of ‘just enough leadership.’ Organizations can gain more power and thusly better serve the good of society if communityship is allowed to grow. We should strive to support this balance between leadership, communityship, and citizenship so that our organizations might have a better chance of embodying the values of CSR and the triple bottom line.

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All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

I have recently discovered a site for reading poetry, and I stumbled across this poem by Tolkien that I really enjoy. References have been made to the title in songs such as Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin and Family Business by Kanye West (both great songs). I thought I would share the poem with you all.

All That is Gold Does Not Glitter

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

— J. R. R. Tolkien —

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Next Stop: Greece

The second part to our extended break included adventures in Greece, primarily in Athens. Following a day long lay-over in Milano (after having flown in from Bordeaux), we (PGS) flew out as a group to begin this second part of the journey.

Rather than try and chronicle every event that occurred while we were in Greece, I’ll try and list the major places we visited along with whatever comes to mind.


— ** Aside on Athens ** —

While Athens had quite a bit of press because of the violent riots that occurred on the Sunday before we arrived (we flew in on Tuesday), I never felt unsafe during my travels there. I won’t pretend there wasn’t an undercurrent of tension in the city, but the atmosphere ‘on the ground’ was much calmer than I had expected given typical media reports on the situation. We even visited Syntagma Square where some of the rioting took place and life seemed to continue as usual. The lesson: not everything the media describes is as ‘sensational’ as they would make it out to be. Healthy skepticism is generally advisable.

— ** End Aside ** —

While in Athens, we visited a number of locations, including the Acropolis, the Agora, the Plaka, and the Areopagus. I’ll take time to mention each of these places individually:

Acropolis: The Acropolis is the location of the Parthenon, an extremely historic and impressive building. I found the Acropolis in its entirety to be more impressive than the Parthenon simply by itself. The views from the ‘high city’ were incredible, and I could easily understand why such holy buildings were built in that location.

The Parthenon

Agora: I enjoyed the Agora for a number of reasons, but mostly because it was center of ancient Athens and I could not help but wonder which of the great historical figures I have studied had also set foot on that ground. Seeing the ruins of buildings set my imagination ablaze, and I have continued to relish thinking about what it must have been like to walk around the area when it was in its prime.

Looking out over the Agora

Plaka: I had never heard of the Plaka before our trip to Athens, but it was a vibrant part of the city and our adventures there provided some of the most interesting experiences of the trip. The Plaka lies in the shadow of the Acropolis and is home to a number of shops and restaurants. We spent most of our nights wandering through the Plaka searching for a place to eat dinner, an exercise most effective in large groups because of increased bargaining power for deals. Personally, I had never experienced shopping or dining in a place where it is culturally acceptable to haggle and bargain for prices, but I am glad I had the opportunity to experience this alternate way of conducting business. Not all prices are set in stone.

Stairs to the Areopagus

Areopagus: The Areopagus is a large, rocky outcropping near the Acropolis. While its purpose changed over time, it hosted a variety of governmental functions throughout the history of Athens. The steps leading up to the top are extraordinarily weathered and slippery, but I could not help but think (again) of which historical figures had also climbed them. The view from the top was stunning, looking out over the Agora and city beyond.

The Areopagus and Athens

Delphi: Delphi was the home to the Oracle in the times of ancient Greece, and while visiting the ruins, we climbed ‘The Sacred Way’ up past the treasury of the Athenians, and the rock of the Sibylle, to the temple of Apollo. We also walked up to the theater which looked out over the valley and provided an incredible panoramic view. It was hard for me to truly appreciate what it must have been like to tread on that hallowed ground, but I was in awe of the site nonetheless.

The Temple of Apollo

Hosios Loukas: On the way back from Delphi, we stopped at Hosios Loukas, a Byzantine monastery located on the slopes of Mount Helicon. The paintings and mosaics inside the church itself were incredibly beautiful. Vibrant blues, golds and reds radiated through the darkness from the ceiling and walls. Just as beautiful as the architecture and artwork of the church was the view of the surrounding valley. Though our time there was limited, I was impressed by the reverence and tranquility of the monastery. I have visited a number of holy places this semester, and Hosios Loukas was one of my favorites because of the scenery and serenity.

Hosios Loukas

Corinth: We only stopped for a short while in Corinth to admire the canal that bisects the Peloponnese from mainland Greece, but our time there was eventful. While standing on a bridge over the canal (the water was roughly 300 ft below us) and watching a tug boat pull a barge through the canal, an earthquake struck the area. The bridge shook dramatically and we later found out the earthquake had a magnitude of 4.1 on the Richter scale. Despite the beauty of the vibrant blue water, it was nice that the bridge held so we didn’t have to plummet down to see it up close.

Canal at Corinth

— Picture Interlude —

Looking out over the Ruins of Mycenae

Mycenae: Visiting the court of Agamemnon and passing through the Lion Gate were special moments indeed. I read the Iliad in the summer before 9th grade for World Civilizations (World Civ to us students), and I was enraptured by the stories of the heroes of old. Standing in the ruins of one of the central figure’s palace, therefore, was surreal for me. I was equally stunned looking out over the countryside that must have been a part of Agamemnon’s land. It was beautiful. (As a side note — I walked down a dangerous set of stairs in complete darkness to see the cistern that provided the court with fresh water; I thought myself to be descending into the Mines of Moria — a fun, yet frightening, experience.)

Ascending from the Mines of Moria

Epidauros: The theater at Epidauros was possibly my favorite place we visited. The theater was acoustically perfect; after running to the top of the stands, I could still hear people talking in normal voices from the middle of the orchestra. The knowledge and skill required to construct such a theater is incredible (especially given that there are many indoor venues built today that require microphones because of poor acoustics). As always, I am impressed with what the ancients could accomplish. While at the heater, we performed some of the choral lines from The Furies (by Aeschylus). Though I never enjoyed being in plays in school, I had a lot of fun standing in the center of the orchestra with my peers performing lines as the ancients might have done.

Beautiful Epidauros

My adventures in Greece were wonderful, and, through them, I have rediscovered my passion for classical studies. There is much to learn from ancient Greece, and I will never forget our travels through the country. Beauty and history, together in one place, coupled with personal growth: priceless.

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Wines in Bordeaux

Here’s a list of wines I tried during my travels in Bordeaux. I am missing a fair amount of information (and maybe a wine or two), but this should give a general idea of what I sampled:

– Un vin rouge de Blaye

– Château  Tour Leognan 2008 (vin blanc)

– Domaine de Valmengaux (vin rouge)

– Château la Fleur d’Arthus 2004 (vin rouge)

– Château du Taillan: un vin rouge, un vin blanc, un vin rosé

– Château Maucaillou 2008 (vin rouge)

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