It’s All Greek to Me

Greece…oh how I miss you already. It was bittersweet saying goodbye but might I tell you how amazing it has been to sleep consistently in the same bed, my bed, for more than four days straight. Sometimes you never know how much something means to you until you’ve left it or it’s been taken away from you. Leaving home at the time was pure excitement! There was going to be so much to see, so many memories to bring back and so much to process. Thinking back upon the many different areas we visited utterly blows my mind. We traveled all over; from Athens to Corinth to Crete to Rhodes to Kavala to Philippi to Thessaloniki to Meteora and lastly, to Delphi. What an understatement it is for me to say that all of these places left such a beautiful imprint on my heart. Some more than others, but an imprint just the same.

18664388_484085458590136_5225333604158931236_n      When we first arrived to Athens after a solid nine hour flight, needless to say, some of us were particularly restless and feeling slightly miserable due to the lack of sleep. Patience was tested multiple times on this trip, but what a blessing it was to work through them. I learned more about myself during those three weeks then I have over a span of a year. We spent three nights and four days in Athens and this was such a wonderful place to explore! I loved walking around the Flea Market, as well as in the Plaka. In fact, the Plaka is where I did a majority of my last minute shopping for friends and family. Even though Athens was my least favorite city of Greece, there are certain areas that just pop. Such as the Parthenon and one of the many, many Acropolis ; “acro” – meaning highest point and “polis” – meaning city. Thank you Dora (one of our tour guides) for your never  ending laughs and explanations of the Acropolis. Athens was a very busy place to be and coming in to this area, I almost felt as though I was interrupting the city. Everyone knew exactly where to go and what to be doing on that specific day. I suppose that’s part of being a tourist. Oh! and speaking of tourists, boy did we ever look it. Before we left for Greece, we discussed in one of our meetings how to blend into the culture and camouflage our foreignness. That goal wasn’t quite accomplished as we walked around the streets in our group of thirty with our head sets on and our stopping every couple of minutes to capture the breathtaking views everywhere we looked.

The V I E W S. They are definitely missed. Waking up in my little quiet neighborhood in Darnestown (my hometown), is so different and something to get used to. How I miss the islands, especially Lindos, Rhodes. Oh my gosh, were the views ever so breathtaking. Some of us girls got up at 4 a.m. just to watch the sunrise. Yes, it was early and the taxi ride down there going about 140 mph was terribly frightening, but man, was it ever so worth it. God is good and He is beautiful. I always thought of God’s sky as His canvas. He paints whatever He wills across it. Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

18813945_487403414925007_2222673593795165849_n“You’re going to be so jet lagged when you get back” they said. “You’re going to sleep through an entire day when you get back” they said. Well that sure did NOT happen. I just woke up the next day at around 8 a.m. (our time of course) and carried on with my day as if I had been home for weeks and weeks, which yes, did seem a little odd thinking back on it but I suppose that was just my way of getting back into the swing of things. Sometimes people will say, “oh you were only gone for three weeks, you won’t experience much culture shock.” But if I’m being honest with myself, I think I did/have. Waking up the day after I had arrived back home to the States, I was extremely confused and almost became panicky.

“Where was everyone?” “Am I safe?” What am I doing here?”

I was safe, and I was home. It was just something to get accustomed to again, just like it was going there in the first place; and as Makayla would always say: “it’s fine, everything’s fine.” Love and miss you girl.

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I cannot begin to express my thankfulness to Dr. Skinner and to Reverend Dr. Mr. Putt and the Mrs. Dr. Putt for taking us on this once in a lifetime journey to Greece and putting up with all of us. I know that at times (or most of the time) we could have been quite a handful. I went on this trip to gain a better understanding of what it means to integrate myself in a completely new culture and ended up walking away with more than I could have ever hoped or dreamed. Even though I wasn’t taking this course for theology credit, I grew so much in my knowledge of God and my relationship with the Lord. There is something that’s purely surreal about walking the very paths that the Apostle Paul walked. Furthermore, to see where Paul was held prisoner as we saw in Philippi, essentially made the Bible come to life before my very one eyes. That place will always be close to my heart.

When we were on our way to Rhodes, the Makayla’s and I began to discuss some rather controversial issues that we felt were prominent in the church today. Such as, predestination vs. free will. Which was the true? Do both exist? If not, then why are there accounts of both in the Scriptures. Going a bit further, what about witnessing to unbelievers. If they have never been exposed to the Gospel at any point and time in their life how can they be saved? How is that fair for them to be sent to hell for something they weren’t even aware of? These were/are such difficult questions. Seeing how were in the airport waiting around for our flight, we thought it might be beneficial to ask the professors questions. So that’s just what we did. These professors were all so wonderful might I just say. I loved hearing the different viewpoints between them. They were all so encouraging and supportive of what we asked. They never made us feel stupid for what we thought or questioned. I specifically remember Dr. Skinner and Mrs. Dr. Putt emphasizing the importance of love and how influential love can be in someone’s life; particularly those that don’t know the Lord. That has really stuck with me. Thank you.

Another memory I recount took place in Nafplio. This little city was absolutely the cutest place we stayed in my opinion. I wished we had stayed there for more than one day. However, we had the majority of the day to tour around on our own which I appreciated. I will miss our countless bowls and cones of gelato. So delicious! This little area was quaint, quiet and had so much character to it. It was beautifully adorned with flowers that draped over the sides of the apartment homes and stores. A couple of us girls did our daily bit of window shopping, stopping in occasionally to speak to some of the store owners. They were all so polite and talked a great deal; always asking where we were from, what we were studying and what our aspirations were to be when we finished school. These conversations are dearly missed but forever cherished.

nafplio      While some of us spent our evening shopping in Olympia, me and a couple of the girls stopped in this one jewelry shop admiring the handiwork and craftsmanship of the owner. He was asking us questions about school and the States and I remember seeing how emotional he got when we would tell him how beautiful his work was; and indeed it was. I picked up this one ring (because I have an unhealthy obsession) and asked how long it took him to make it. He said it took him about sixteen years! How insane is that. This man gave remarkable advice too. He said, “just remember to study what you love, because if you do, then you will end up loving the work you do later on.” What a gem that man was. He was the perfect and pure example of his advice.

Goodness…there is so much more I could write but I would end up writing an entire book if I did that. The last thing I wanted to mention was the friendships I walked away with. I developed wonderful friends on this trip and it amazes me to this day to think about how close we all got in the span of just three weeks. How thankful and blessed I am to be a part of these people’s lives now! I remember on the bus ride back to the airport in Athens we were all sitting together and talking about how crazy it was that we hadn’t met or even seen any of each other on campus and how exciting it was going to be to go back to school and be able to hang out. I can’t wait to partake in more adventures with you ladies! I miss y’all so much.

Greece, I miss you with all my heart. Maybe I’ll get another chance to see you again. I certainly hope so. Thanks for reading :)

~Eliese Bjerke

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