Friday, July 28, 2017

Farewell to Greece, Ancient Monuments, and the Wine-dark Sea

As I prepare to leave it seems hard to imagine the next stage of my life away from the hustle of Athens, the tasty tavernas on every corner and the sea a short and tantalizing trip away. When I first learned that my university – York University – had a Global Internship Program, I leapt at the chance to travel and live abroad again. When I learned that an internship in Greece was available, I was even more excited. Here was a chance to experience the culture, cuisine and history of a place I had studied for several years and only dreamed of visiting! Three months, thousands of photographs, and many new friends later, I can truly say that fond memories of the people, the insights I have gained from this unique cultural heritage and charm of this nation will remain with me always.

At the Canadian Institute in Greece, I was responsible for several tasks. One was the daily upkeep of the hostel and welcoming of new guests – which allowed me to meet other students and researchers from various universities across Canada. In addition to the hostel, I also handled the incoming new library and research materials, tried to resist the urge to read every new book, and completed the organizing, cataloguing and storing of all materials from previous Institute colloquia. Also, I digitized, catalogued and stored the items from the Institute’s archives – giving me the hands-on opportunity to trace the CIG’s history from the beginning to the present. Preparing for and assisting with the Institute’s annual Open Meeting along with the Fellow, Keven Ouellet, was a chance to see an accumulation of the finds and activities of the Institute from the past year. This internship also afforded me the chance to attend various lectures hosted by other foreign archaeological institutes in Athens. My first two months were happily spent running from a lecture on hidden inscriptions on black-figure vases, to one on numismatics to another on ancient warships! I was also able to meet many Canadian professors and interact and become friends with many students here in Greece to attend classes or conduct research.
Living in Athens and interning at the Canadian Institute meant I was able to take advantage of the many museums and historical sites within the city. Numerous trips were made to the Areopagus, the Acropolis, The Tower of the Winds, the Panathenaic Stadium, Lykavittos Hill, as well as the Acropolis Museum, the Museum of Cycladic Art, the Benaki Museum and the National Archaeological Museum. I was also privileged enough to venture outside of Athens on my weekends and evenings, which led to several adventures in Piraeus, Sounio, Aegina and Nafplio to name a few. The length of my internship here afforded me time not just to see, but also to research and contemplate the significance of each place I was visiting. A few days in the former capitol, Nafplio in the eastern Peloponnese, taught me about the rebirthed Greek state between 1823 and 1834, and seeing both the Temple of Aphaea on Aegina and the graffiti of Lord Byron on the Temple of Poseidon in Sounio were learning experiences of the most remarkable kind!

In addition to the wonderful sites and monuments at my fingertips in Athens, one of my favourite things to do was just wander the streets of the capital city. Around each new corner I would find some new and beautifully-painted example of Neo-Classical architecture, some quaint family-run cafĂ©, or park inhabited by elderly gentlemen playing invested games of backgammon. I am thankful for the opportunity to have these quiet moments in Greece, where despite my sorely-lacking spoken Greek and my Canadian passport – I felt at home. The music is something I will remember this time by, from listening to global artists perform at the Athens Jazz Festival, to local bouzouki players, to the humbling and magical experience of listening to the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic play at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus! I am grateful to York University for the opportunity to travel to Greece – the summer I have spent here has been enlightening, informative, and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is impossible for me to leave Greece without saying that I am anticipating the moment I return!
Cana Fallon
York University intern, summer 2017

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