As I knew it would, my time in Greece flew by much faster than I would have liked. Two weeks was not enough time in my opinion! I would have loved to stay an extra few weeks with the people in my class. I made so many amazing friendships during my time in Greece and shared memories I will never forget.
In my last post, I discussed some activities we did in Athens where we spent our first week. The second week of the trip, we visited 2 amazing islands; Peloponnese and Spetses. These islands are not very far from Athens. Peloponnese you can actually drive to because it is connected by a dam. To get to Spetses, we took a boat to from Napflion in Peloponnese. These islands were amazing. The beaches, scenery, and people were all absolutely amazing. The water was crystal clear, fairly warm, and calm. We went swimming most days, where the salt nearly dried out my skin entirely (2% of the water is salt!). It was such a great feeling to be so buoyant in the water and relax as I floated over the small waves.
Aside from really enjoying my free time, we had great lectures that really put our experiential learning into perspective. We were lucky enough to have a lecture at the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Napflion. There, Dr. Labros Sidossis taught about the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle, with its important components. We learned about the geographical area and how it influenced crops and diet. We also learned about the importance of non-exercise physical activity; how to engage in such activities, and the physiological benefits of moving throughout the day. One of the most important facts of the lecture was the emphasis on practicality. No one, not even all those who live in the Mediterranean, practice tradition Mediterranean lifestyle. Globalization is shaping our cultures each day. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important to observe how traditional ways of living influence overall health.
To become further engaged in traditions of the region, we had the opportunity to visit a winery and distillery. In both locations, we learned about the individual processes of making the two most famous and signature drinks of the country; Saint George variety wines and Ouzo. It was fascinating to learn and taste the drinks of Greece and I greatly appreciated the process in which they were made. I particularly liked these topics, as they were the key resources of information for my final presentation for the class. I, along with 3 other classmates talked about alcohol consumption in traditional Mediterranean lifestyle, compared with current trends of alcohol in both Greece and the US.
It is recommended by the food pyramid of the Mediterranean diet that no more that 1 glass of wine for women, and 2 glasses of wine for men per day be consumed. Though there is still much debate in the medical community about the roles of alcohol on health, there are a few things we know for sure. Alcohol, especially red wines, contain antioxidants, which help rid the body of harmful free radicals. Wine also has psychological benefits, making the person feel more relaxed and open to conversation. The foundation of the Mediterranean pyramid consists of non-exercise physical activity, and conviviality. Having a single glass of alcohol among friends and family at a meal increases the likelihood and fun of conviviality. There are some benefits of alcohol, but in moderation.
The biggest takeaway I have learned not only from being in the Mediterranean, but from my wonderful professors and assistant staff, is that everything (nearly everything) is okay in moderation. My professor suggests that we recommend trying every kind of food, because in order to eat everything, it implies moderation. Having a well balanced diets incorporates a biodiverse diet. It was fun and interesting to try foods and feel the benefits. I woke up each morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day, a feeling I had not had since the beginning of the spring semester. There really is a profound connection between the foods we eat and how we feel. I had always been a believer that food is medicine, but now that I have practiced a healthy, balanced diet, I truly feel the effects. Moderating everything, along with eating foods packed with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, really made a significant difference on my sleep, energy levels, and overall happiness.
I have learned more in the past two weeks than I could have every anticipated. I was guided by the most amazing professors and staff that encouraged experiential learning!
I am currently in Santorini vacationing. When I return to America, I will be sure to include more detailed experiences of my excursions, along with pictures. I am still having issues with the internet!