This week, I attended my culture class in Heraklion and it proved to be the most interesting so far. The students are all in the Erasmus program, which is the European exchange student/study abroad program for EU countries. This week, all the students in the class presented about their home countries, which yielded some pretty fun discussion. I learned about Lithuania, Slovakia and Hungary, all of which I now having a burning desire to visit! As for us Drexelites, we were not so general-information in our discussions. Per the professor's request, we got pretty specific…well, those of us that participated. Natasha presented her home country of Nepal and spoke about Nepalese mythology and religion, which was interesting and certainly different than anything else discussed. Stephanie happened to forget about the presentation and therefore deferred talking about Singapore until next class session
. Liz attempted to dodge the presentation entirely by not attending class; however, little does she know that she will be called upon first in the next class as she is a native English speaker. 'Me?’ you ask. Well, per the professor’s request (he is an archeologist by trade), I focused my presentation the great complex that is the Smithsonian Institute. Since I live near and have worked in Washington D.C., I have been to many of the Institutes’ museums in the city. However, in preparing for the presentation, I learned several new things about what I have always referred to as ‘the Castle’. Perhaps the most dismaying realization about the Institute is that in their complex of 19 museums (17 in DC, 19 in NYC, and they own the National Zoo) only 1-2% of their collection of 142 million artifacts is ever on display at one time. This means that there are vast warehouses and storage centers containing untold treasures- both fascinating and mundane, ancient and modern - that the public will never see! It is a bit sad really. Anyway, I look forward to hearing about the other nations in our next class two weeks from now. They will be France, Italy, Poland and of course, whatever Liz decides upon.
Since the trip from Chania to Heraklion is about three hours one-way, I have arranged to stay in Heraklion with Natasha and Stephanie when I visit for class. This arrangement is nice because I get to spend more time exploring Heraklion, I get to relax a bit, and I get to hang out for a while with my fellow Drexel students, all of which are good things
. Recently, Natasha and Stephanie moved out of their hotel and into an apartment in the center of Heraklion. They have a nice place that overlooks the ancient Church of St. Peter as well as the water. They also have two flat mates, Nadia and Elisa, who are PhD students from Italy. They are also incredibly sweet. On Wednesday night, the five of us went for a walk around the Venetian fort, which is a two kilometer walk that separates the inner harbor from the sea. In the day, it is beautiful. As you stand on top of the wall, one side is the city and the port, lined with small fishing boats as well as the gigantic ferries, and the to the other side the Mediterranean spreads out in front of you like a giant blue lawn. During the evening, the city and port are lit up, but all that can be sensed from the open sea is a cool, mild breeze blowing inland.
On Thursday, during the morning while I was waiting for Natasha to finish some work, I was online and happened to realize that today was the official lighting ceremony of the Olympic torch! I also found a link to watch the live broadcast online. It was an incredible ceremony and the dresses of the women and men as well as the poems they were saying were beautiful! I don't know if I will ever see it again, but I hope so! And now I can say that I have watched the lighting of the Olympic torch at Olympia.
One popular conception about Italians is that they love to cook and that they are good at it. In the case of Nadia and Elisa, this is very true. On Thursday evening, they taught Natasha and me how to make homemade pizza! Now, I don’t like pizza; as a college student, it is my least favorite thing to eat. However, all that changes when you bring two Italians to a kitchen in Greece, and indeed, this was unlike any pizza I have ever had
. First Nadia made the dough (from scratch, of course) and let it sit for two hours. While she and Elisa passed this time with chores, some work and a siesta, Natasha and I eagerly babysat the dough, watching it rise in anticipation. Once it was ready, the Italians began kneading it and rolling it out for the pans. Lacking a proper rolling pin, we used a bottle of wine that we had bought to go with the pizza for dinner. While possibly unconventional, it was certainly effective. Natasha and I each rolled out one pie; we baked four in total. Both Nadia and Elisa found our enthusiasm amusing, but then again, they made Italian pizza all the time and I don’t recall the last time I ever made a pizza. Anyway, each of the four pizzas was different. Three had tomato sauce with various toppings (ham, mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, etc) and the fourth (the night’s favorite by far) was a white pizza with fresh cut cherry tomatoes, slices of parmesan cheese, and fresh spinach leaves. Yum!! During dinner, I told Nadia and Elisa that they were welcome to visit me anytime!!
Natasha and I concluded the evening by attending the local movie theater to see the new blockbuster Avengers
and Friday morning saw me headed back to Chania.