Sunday, December 25, 2011

A look back at Greece

Veronica, Abigail, and I have just returned from a nearly week long trip to Greece. I have decided to tell about this trip in one post. I have also decided to put all my photos in an album so that those who would like to look at them, can do so easily. You can find a link to these at the end of this post. There is just too much to try and put in individual posts. And this way, those of you who are interested, can quickly see everything. And those of you who aren’t, can just come back tomorrow for a new look into our lives.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I woke up at 3am. I didn’t have to get up until 4am, but when you wake up at 3am, or at least, when I wake up at 3am knowing I have to get up at 4am, the list of what I have to do mounts. My head spins. Sleep moves far away from the forefront of my mind. And the fear of not hearing my alarm or it not going off, mounts. (This despite the fact that I was assured Veronica had set a back-up as well.)
So I got up. I took my time. I got ready to go. JB didn’t stir. The boys didn’t either. Only Scrubs took a moment to rub his face against my legs and leave remnants of his fur for me to remember him by.At 4am Veronica woke up. At 4:30am we scooped Abigail out of her bed. At 4:45am when picked up Stebbs with the van, and at 5am we parked our van outside of the gate and meandered through it where our bus was waiting to take us to the airport in Adana, about twenty minutes away. (JB told me that later that day he took the boys out in the stroller on a “scavenger hunt” to find the van. They loved it!)

I think there are around 35 or so people on this trip. Run through the chapel, Ch Boulware is leading the group spiritually. His assistant, Catherine, is there to take care of the little details. In Greece, we met up with a bus driver and tour guide who would be with us throughout the duration of the trip. We also had a Turkish guide who came with us from Adana. Her name is Nevin, and I thought it was very noteworthy that she is the owner of her tour group and only likes to travel with chapel groups – because the groups are always so kind and well-behaved. That really says something! I’m proud of us Christians when people tell us something like that!

The chapel actually paid for the majority of this trip. All we had to pay was $150 plus a tip to the driver/tour guide. All meals were also covered. What an incredible blessing this trip was. It was definitely worth getting in line at 6:30am the day the tickets came available in order to get a spot. The flight via Istanbul to Thessalonica was uneventful. Abigail was an all-star. No issues at all.

In Adana, a man accidentally left his cell phone in the security line, and I was able to track him down, and, in Turkish, tell him that I thought he left his phone behind. There was a moment of confusion since, in hindsight, I used the word for “over here” instead “over there” but he got the idea and thanked me in Turkish and disagreed that my Turkish was not very good, which I always say just to make sure people don’t think I actually speak the language well. (Since I look so Turkish and would blend completely otherwise – ha!) I was pretty proud of myself to be able to communicate something outside of my normal conversation topics (children, weather, where I'm from etc.). I have really not met very many people on Base who have attempted to learn the language. When you are here for such a short period of time, it seems pointless. But even though – come summer – I may never use this language again, I don’t regret the time I invested. It has made my experience and the experience of my family and friends a lot better.

We were in Greece by lunchtime. And after a quick pit-stop at our very nice hotel, we were off on a tour of the surrounding areas.  We toured Thessaloniki seeing the city walls, Ossios David monastery, the arc of triumph, the castle, Agia Sofia church and the holy Demtrius basilica and crypt. By 7:00p we were back at the hotel. We had a wonderful buffet dinner at the hotel, with more American-style food than Greek. (This was fine for all of us since we are living in Turkey after all and don't get much American food at all.) Greeks traditionally eat much later than we are used to. Lunch is often between 1pm and 2:30 and dinner, for Greeks, at 9pm. They pushed it back to 7:30 for we Americans -- thank goodness. 

Veronica, who was still a tad under-the-weather, went back to our room with Abigail while I attended a group Bible Study. It was wonderful to talk about all the things we had seen and to reflect on our time there. We also took time to share our own personal “alpha and omega” (beginning and end) stories. To read about the places we had just walked was incredibly powerful.
I came back to the room to find Abigail and Veronica sound asleep. I was in bed by 10pm – later than I would have liked but worth the adventure.

Monday, December 19, 2011
Abigail is an all-star sleeper. 8pm down. 6am up. Glorious. There was no place to bathe her however. The sink was way too small. The tub had jets on the bottom which would be quite uncomfortable to lay on. So Veronica and I came up with a plan. I took a shower. Then I called Veronica. She handed me a naked baby. I bathed said naked baby. Then I called Veronica and handed her wet and clean naked baby. It worked great. I think this will be the norm on the road for us.

I took Abigail to breakfast while Veronica went to find Starbucks. That girl and her Starbucks. When in Rome … Veronica still needs to do what the Americans do … when it comes to coffee.

One of the great things about only having one baby and 30 some teenagers/adults is plenty of people to help hold the baby. In fact, while I am writing this on the bus in a word document, another gal is holding and playing with Abigail. It’s wonderful to have a huge village helping me and Veronica. Casey and Stebbs are big helps. There are also two other gals that I became friends with shortly before this trip: Brittney and Laura who have gladly held her whenever I needed someone.

In addition, Abigail is IN LOVE with one seventeen year old boy. Not sure how I feel about this, but James is currently rocking her world. There are seven teenagers on the trip. All wonderful kids. I especially enjoy watching James and his brother Tristan. They are two years apart, and I can’t help but wonder what kind of relationship Isaac and Elijah will have years from now. They have a younger brother and sister well, and imagining my family all grown up is bitter-sweet.

If Abigail is playing with James and the other teenagers, we have come to realize that she goes a few minutes beyond the time that she should take a nap. All of a sudden she’ll start screaming uncontrollably, and we have realized that she is having so much fun, she doesn’t realize she is tired until the point of no return has set in. At that point, a pacifier and mom can quickly rectify the situation.

My boys were never good sleepers away from their beds. I am realizing that third child Abigail is going to need to be more flexible. I have been working with her to get her to fall asleep in my arms. Or in Veronica’s arms. Or in the Moby. And she is great at it. I hope I can continue this for many months to come as to make our life more flexible. 

Another digression is THE MOBY. LOVE THIS! I have used the Bjorn in the past, and it is great for short distances, but The Moby is way more comfortable and keeps the babe much closer to my body which she likes. Abigail and I are both fans.

Anyways, back to Monday. At breakfast, Abigail got a little cranky. I gave her a pear to suck on and she was in heaven!

We spent the entire day – from 8:30am until 6pm on and off the bus but on the road. We travelled to Philippi. On our way there we drove by a lion statue of Amphipolis. From ancient Amphipolis we were able to see the ruins of the Agora, a Macedonian tomb, and the water cistern. Once in Philippi, we were able to see the sites where the apostle Paul came and worked, establishing a strong church. This was the church he sent a letter to -- Philippians. Of all the churches Paul founded, probably none was so near and dear to him as the church at Philippi. We saw the spot where Paul was most likely imprisoned. We saw tons of historic ruins dating back into the 4th century BC. Can you even fathom how long ago that was?

We also got to see the place where Lydia was baptized. I am not sure what it is. I think it’s the fact that we almost named Abigail … Lydia … in celebration of the first Turkish convert to the faith. I just find myself drawn to her and her story. Her devotion to the faith. We toured a beautiful church near the river that Paul baptized Lydia. And Ch Boulware gave us each a blessing – water from that river on our foreheads. I don’t find myself moved very often. But I was moved by this experience.

I do not, for a moment, forget how unbelievably lucky I am to see Biblical history come to life. I know not everyone can do this. I know many of you cannot. I hope you take the time to view my photo album. To see the places I went. To try to see history for yourself, through my eyes. I am constantly thinking of how I can best bring the things I have done back to the people I love who are so far away from where I am right now.

Greece is, believe it not 97% Christian. It’s actually Greek Orthodox to be more specific. (Greek Orthodox believe in the Trinity but do not believe that they are 3 in 1 -- this is the major difference from Catholicism.) This is incredibly encouraging that the place where Lydia was converted still adheres to the faith of Christ. It is often disheartening when we realize that the Turkish country, where so many of our early Christian “saints” first walked is now over 99% Muslim. There is relatively no Christianity in the country. But to see Greece, a bordering country and only a short distance away, still living for Christ, even if in a very religious way, was encouraging. 

We learned so much about Greece from our tour guide while we travelled around Thessalonica and Philippi. There is so much that the information is starting to float around my head, and leave before it finds a place to land. But a few interesting points that have stuck with me:

  • Greek joined the EU in 81. This is when things became more expensive.
  • In 2000, things became three times more expensive when they went to the Euro.
  • The temperature right now is chilly (about 30 degrees at night and 50 degrees during the day) but it snows very little in the non-mountainous areas of Greece.
  • That being said, 80% of Greece is mountains!
  • We really enjoyed eating Meze-style lunch. They just brought plate after plate of food to be shared amongst our table. Yum! It’s similar to Turkish but quite different as well.
I also wanted to share some of my Bible Study notes as well.
Sunday nite notes: (Ch Boulware)

  • Paul’s three main trips were to Philippi, Thessalonica, and then the Corinthians. We started our tour with his second group: The people of Thessalonia.
  • Paul was here in 49 AD. He wrote 1st and 2nd Thessalonians in 51 & 52 AD. He visited again in 56 AD.
  • Paul planted a church with Simon and Timothy but was then forced out of Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a major military and commercial port. There were 200,000 people there at the time – the largest city in the Macedonia area at that time. Paul often used the analogy of ships and ports – because this was a port town and the people could relate to this.
  • Paul left and sent Timothy back to check on the people. Timothy said they were good but needed help with (a) escatology ... end times ... and (b) Christian ethics. Pagans viewed death with great horror. Timothy and Paul were trying to teach them to have faith that they would rise again. Would we travel that much by foot for Christ?
  • Paul had these books written by his scribes. But Phillipians 3;17 was written by his own hand.
Monday nite notes: (Lawrence Hicks)
  • Book of Philippians – visit to Philippi
  • Lydia and her family were the first people on the European continent baptized into the faith. We got to see the place where she was baptized. There was a beautiful church near the spot as well. We were given a blessing by Ch Boulware there as well.
  •  Touching these places brings the Word alive.
  •  We saw the prison where Paul may have been held. It was so small. What he was willing to do for the faith was amazing. We never ran into the persecution that these people did. Would we be willing to do what he did?
  • This book was written by Paul telling how he loved and missed everyone. Paul went through Philippi twice and had found memories of the church there. Philippians 1:1-6 “I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
  •  “12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,[b] that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” God gives all of us a platform in life to share our faith. Folks know there is something different about Tim Tebow. Do they know there is something different about you? It doesn’t matter how “small” what you are put over is. God asks you to do it and to do it well.
  • Do you wonder if Paul was trying to influence himself to do more? Sometimes writing something down encourages you to press on.  
  • He was in jail for approx. three years. He was being guarded by the elite soldiers. Paul was great at relational ministries.
  • We don’t forget we are US citizens. Do we forget we are citizens of heaven?
  • We are often the worst to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Tuesday, December 20
Today we drove from Thessalonica and stopped for the night at Kalambaka through Berea, at the base of the Meteora monasteries. We enjoyed a spectacular five up to visit Meteora. Collosal symmetrical gray and reddish boulders sustain breatakingly beautiful monasteries perched high above the ground. First built int he 14th century by monks seeking isolation and salvation, they were accessible only by ropes thrown down from above.
The day was primarily spent on the bus with many stops along the way, primarily at two different montestaries. I got out at the first one, but during the second one, I opted to stay on the bus and let Abigail sleep. Bible Study was cancelled for the evening, and I was so blessed that the hotel brought dinner to my room instead of requiring me to eat with the group so that little Abigail could go to bed on time. I roomed with Stebbins on this evening in Kalambaka.

Wednesday, December 21
We left our hotel in the morning and headed to Delphi. We toured an indoor museum where we saw relics as old as 1400-1500BC! Can you believe that? Then we toured the open air section where we got to see the Sanctuary of Athena. We visited the sanctuary of Apollo, the treasury of the Athenians, and an archaeological museum.
One funny thing. The tour guide has a deep Greek accent. In fact, she sound just like the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Not the depth of her voice but the way she says things. I thought she was saying the century of Athena. So I turned to Ch Boulware and said “What is a century?” He crinkled his nose and said, “100 years.” I didn’t mean that kind of century. I meant the century she was talking about which was actually a sanctuary.

We finally pulled into our hotel in Corinth at about 5pm and had a few hours before dinner.  I roomed with Stebbs again, and during this time, I got a fantastic migraine. Ugh! Thank goodness my doctor hubby had sent me with some good meds for this. Abigail went to sleep. I went to bed. And I woke up in the morning feeling great – Praise the Lord.

Thursday, December 22, 2011
On our way to Corinth, we drove over the biggest cable bridge in Europe. Our bus driver played the Olympic music at this point as it was where the Athens games were held. We saw the Agora, the Temple of Apollo, the Roman Odeon, the Bema and Galilo's seat. We drove along the spectacular Greek coastline to reach the Corinth Canal. We stayed that night in Athens. We got to see the Parthanon. Wow!

Friday, December 23, 2011
On our way to the airport, we toured Athens some more. We were back home by 4pm. In the airport in Istanbul, I overheard a couple, in Turkish, talking about me and the fact that I must have played basketball. When I responded in Turkish that I understood him, his face turned so red, and we both had a good laugh at my (and his) expense. It was really funny.

Here are a few videos from our trip:

Here are some photo albums from our trip:

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