29 April, 2013

Adventures in Greece, Part 1

IBEX has its own version of spring break where the students are allowed to leave the country and explore the world (but mostly just Europe heh). Me, Sarah G, Lexi, Sarah S, Elizabeth, Bryant, Taylor, and Jaden decided to go to Greece for our travel break... aaaand it was the best decision ever :) We spent 9 days traveling around the country and fell in love.

There was soo much to get done before we left for Greece. I made it to bed by 11:30pm thankfully. Unfortunately that 2:30am alarm came too soon, and by 3:15am we were boarded into the van that would drive us to the airport. We arrived and after some interrogation (Israel is very suspicious of its visitors), we were given the okay to proceed to check our bags. By 5am I think I finally became coherent and a sufficiently functioning human being (I’m the farthest thing from a morning person).

Breakfast time! Taylor, Jaden, and I shared a large cheese pizza... hahahaha. Dunno what it is about a fresh baked pizza that early in the morning.. but it was everything I dreamed of and more.

7am came and we boarded our flight. We landed on the island of Cyprus and explored the mall-like airport for a little bit before boarding our next plane to Athens.

By 12:30 we made it to Greece. We were so excited!! We grabbed Metro tickets, hopped on, and exited at Larissa.

We walked with our luggage through the streets of Athens for a few blocks and found our cute lil hotel. It was love at first sight! We got our rooms and took a two hour break before heading out for an early dinner.

TIME FOR FOOOOOOD! Hunger overtook our lil traveling bodies. Walking through the streets of Athens was slightly intimidating for me at first because, well, it’s kind of sketchy. Greece doesn’t have much money right now and it shows—so many buildings are very run down. We stopped at a typical Greek restaurant and were THRILLED to eat some new food (our meals are verryyy repetitive in Israel).

We thought we’d dive right into the culture by ordering a lamb head. 

Bear with me as I write more than usual on this post. This next story is too significant to leave out haha.

As we were sitting there, a non-English speaking man motioned to Sarah G & Sarah S to get their backpacks off the backs of their chairs and put them on their lap so that they wouldn’t get stolen, further confirming my suspicion of being in a pretty ghetto area haha. The rest of our food came and it was great! During our meal, this little girl came in and mumbled something trying to get our attention. I assumed she wanted money or something. She moved on from our table and went to the next doing the same thing before the server at the restaurant told her to leave. We finished our first Greek meal, paid, and were ready to leave. Lexi stood up and told us she can’t find her purse. So, okay, maybe someone has it, right? We asked the guys, nope. We checked our backpacks, nope. After frantically searching, she said the words we dreaded to hear, “I think someone stole my purse!” We were trying to figure out how could have happened. Lexi’s purse was by her feet and she was closest to the window, aka she would have the hardest purse to snatch, but Elizabeth’s purse was laying out on the floor out in the open. So why would Lexi’s get stolen and not Elizabeth’s? Our best guess for the thief was the guy who was sitting behind her. It could have definitely been him because we were distracted and excited during our meal..you know how that goes. We talked to the restaurant owner to see if he has any information about the guy. He didn’t, but he offered to replay the security tapes. The video recording played and we watched only to be left totally and utterly speechless. The little girl I mentioned previously had found her way back into the restaurant, walked behind Lexi, picked up the purse, and walked out like no big deal. This lil gypsy girl was so young and small that Lex's purse was literally dragging on the ground as she exited the restaurant. No one saw it. Not any of the eight of us or the workers in the restaurant. Lex's reaction to the video was among the greatest things that could have been said at the time.. "This is the gayest thing I've ever been a part of." hahahaha. We didn't know what in the world to do next, so we broke up into groups and began to search the city for any leads. After awhile and no luck, we met back up and made our way to our hotel.
We all gathered in Lex's room and ate our weight's worth in peanut m&m's, chex mix, and oreos with peanut butter, playing games and then praying for one another.

At this time, what happened lost its sting and we began to laugh pretty hard about it. Like, it breaks my heart that I didn't think to record on my phone the video of the girl grabbing the purse. I have never seen ANYTHING like that in my life. Don't think I'm being insensitive when I say this, because Lex is totally on my side on this... it was theeeee funniest thing in the world. What are you gonna do, cry and throw a fit and ruin your whole Greece vacation?! No. Instead we saw the humor in it, and most importantly, God's hand throughout it all. The moment before leaving the hotel, Lex randomly decides to take her passport out of her purse. While eating, Lex has her phone on her table, which she never does. Not to diminish the pain of losing cards and money, but things could have gone so much more south if her passport and phone were stolen too. And this was a time where God allowed us as a group to come around Lex and love on her to death. We assured our girl that everything would be taken care of as far as money goes--we all covered for her. This was a crazy way to start our Greek adventure, but one of the greatest things about knowing Jesus is that we understand that this life is temporary, the money in Lex's purse wasn't hers anyways, and sanctification through trials is one of the most loving things God can do for His children. So, no joke, by the morning we had totally gotten over it. I speak for Lex here too, honestly. It was a done deal--we left it behind. It did not affect the rest of our trip whatsoever, except for our reflections on what God taught us through it and the numerous times we broke out in laughter when we thought about what the crap kind of situation it was hahahaha. So if you see Lex, I know you're trying to help when you get that sympathetic look on your face, place your hand on her shoulder, and say softly, "I'm so sorry for what happened." But please don't. She is so far over it. Jus laugh with her about it, and definitely try to learn from her remarkable example about how to deal with a tough situation and how to look at it with eternity in mind :)

In conclusion, it was clear to me that I literally had the best travel study group. These people are so full of love, kindness, patience, and most importantly, these people have a heart for God. I knew I was in for the greatest week ever because of who I got to spend it with.

Day 2

We woke up early to catch our morning ferry to the island of Santorini. It was nice to leave Athens for awhile, so that when we explored the city again, we could give it a second chance ;) The lady who ran the hotel packed us sandwiches for lunch since we would be missing breakfast.. so nice!

As I type this, it is sooo hard to not include every single funny incident. I'll do my best to only write about the significant ones, but I'll say this... though at first it seemed odds were against us, God was nice to let us board our ferry hahah. A big thanks to our group for working so hard to get the information for the tickets and also to Kansas for being..well, Kansas (suuuu-WEE!) :)

So.. we made it!! We were pleasantly surprised when we got on the ferry..it was basically a cruise ship. We grabbed our seats and prepared for our 8 hour ferry ride.. hahaha. Thankfully, none of us got seasick! it was a really nice experience

The ferry stopped every now and then to unload passengers and freight.

We continued to pass by the beautiful Greek islands

We arrived at the port in Santorini around mid-afternoon. Ohhh my word it was BEAUTIFUL! Haha we were sooososososo excited to be there. The owner of our hotel, John, picked us up at the port at no cost. He is among the greatest everrrrrrr.. such a classic Greek islander ;)

We stayed in Perissa, which is RIGHT next to the best beach in all the island. We had two apartments and lived in the cutest lil complex.

After unpacking some things in our rooms, the sun began to set and it was time to eat some delicious food!! We rented ATVs for the next four days--our main transportation :)

So, we set out for the first time to explore Santorini :)

Stopped by the grocery store to grab some breakfast stuff

 We continued down the island as the sun went to sleep. I was driving the ATV so I only got this one photo, but at one point we turned the corner and had a seriously amazing view of the sunset over the ocean and it was most beautiful sight I saw on the island during my entire stay. Soo sad I have no photo to show for it, but it is something I'll keep locked in my head for the rest of my days!!

Day 3

After a good night's sleep, we girls woke up to a fantastic Kansas breakfast. I had bacon for the first time since leaving the States :D! Much love to our guys for cooking for all of us. They are the best!

Our plan for the day was to explore the island til bed time basically. We got our backpacks ready, got on our four-wheelers, and began our adventure :)

And then all of a sudden we saw a glorious giant yellow building that had angels singing and dancing all around it. Sup Mexican food, it's been too long (2.5 months to be precise!!) Our plan was to eat there for lunch for the next day and the day after that :) hehe

Hahahahahah. All the yummy Greek food went straight to my chin ;)

Stopped on the side of the road to make this.. go to IBEX!!!!!! if there is anything you do in your entire college career, it should be this program. I'm serious. I will forever stand by that statement.

Lunch time. I'm telling you, Greek food will change your liiiiiiife!

We made it to Oia, the tip of Santorini and inargubly the most beautiful part of it! You know those Greek postcard-esque photos you've seen sometime in your life? Ya well I got to witness it WITH MY OWN EYES! Like, the city legitimately looks like what it did in my wildest dreams haha. It. was. so. cool.

No doubt this was one of the most spectacular views. Such a beautiful island. We came back after a few hours to watch the sunset from here

We continued to find new cool places. We covered so much of the island this day. It was the greatest

Heading back to Oia to see the sunset :)

We hung off the top of a wall to watch the sun disappear behind the Mediterranean Sea

Soo.. basically our first three days in Greece were wonderful. We couldn't wait to see what the next six days held for us. It was evident to us right from the beginning that God had His hand over our trip, and that remained true throughout the rest of it.

Stay tuned for Adventures in Greece part 2 and 3!!! :)