Thinking About Greece In America

I have fallen behind a bit on the blog — but given the fast pace of the summer 2010 Semester At Sea voyage it’s not too surprising. Anyway, backtracking a bit to Greece.

Greece is a gorgeous country with so many connections to life as we know it in the USA. The day that we arrived I tagged along on an FDP (field directed practica) with Professor Patterson’s classes (he teaches courses on philosophy and speech-making). We visited the Agora , the ancient marketplace situated below the Acropolis and  then Plato’s Academyin Athens.  These are the sites where Western rhetoric, philosophy, and democratic leadership were born.

It was an incredibly hot day but a silent reverence prevailed as we made our way through the ruins. The students took turns reading excerpts from a few of the great speeches. As I listened to the ancient wise words, sailing from the lips of 20-year old Americans, my hands found their way to the ancient ruins the we were sitting on and around, the bits of columns and the parts of statues scattered everywhere. They were warm under the hot sun and smooth, like bodies almost. And as I listened to the speeches it felt to me that the old stones were alive somehow — that the spirit of democracy that took root here lives on. And it does.

The next day I joined another trip and headed off to a Mykonos, an island about four away from Athens by ferry. It is a traditional Cycladic village, complete with the white houses with blue wooden doors and balconies. It was an overnight trip organized by Semester At Sea — and the best part was that I made a new friend (and quite possibly found a mentor for my ongoing American Mestizaje photo project) in Professor Nancy Fairly, an anthropologist who has studied Africa (Ghana mostly) and African Diaspora.  In the fall, I am planning to spend a month shooting  in Astoria (Queens) and the Bronx in New York City — reported to be among the most ethnically diverse places on earth today.  I had a lot of questions for Nancy — and we spoke at length about America, sitting in various  seaside cafes around Mykonos, looking out at the timeless Aegean Sea.

As usual, here’s a link to the official Semester At Sea slideshow — see/hear about the archaic smile and Greek dancing:

http://www.ise.virginia.edu/video/A10/greece.html

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