We can safely assess that the first week of this inaugural program has been successful. A very rigorous daily schedule, which included six hours in-class, guest lectures, events, after-hour discussions, daily beach and nature excursions and certainly a Cretan diet. A diet that has been delivered to us by two very wonderful and motherly ladies at the Institute of Cretan Studies, and a diet whose political dimensions we discussed at two off-campus events. At a SYRIZA political event, a representative of the leading party in the polls, discussed EU Common agricultural politics and the Cretan Diet dimension. On Wednesday, we visited with Dr. Alifierakis, a leading cardiologist, who advanced the medical benefits of the Cretan diet, and how such an emphasis could help the health as well as the economic standing of local farmers, who are desperately searching for a niche in a global market.
The classes have been rigorous and demanding especially for the nine students that are opting to study Greek through an additional course. The homework and readings have been heavy and have accompanied many to the beach and during late-night sessions. Everyone has ventured off campus either to visit a local coffee shop, pick an orange or an apricot from a local farm, go for a run or a bike ride or even get a haircut. We have been welcomed by the local community warmly and we have provided a much-needed positive note to the local society at a time when this sunny country, which usually matches people's natural disposition, is experiencing uncharacteristic melancholy and dejection due to the economic crisis, that's all around. The twelve Emmanuel College students and this program, has been positive for this local community, and the appreciation is shown to the students at every turn.
On Saturday morning, we crossed the Gorge of Samaria on foot, which is 13 km, but the total distance walked is 18 km! We started from an elevation of 4100 feet and eventually ended at the beach of Agia Roumeli at the southern side of the island, facing the Libyan Sea. A number of students claimed that they could see Libya from there, and they will now claim that they understand African politics!
However, my favorite part of this program thus far is the vigorous discussions that I overhear during dinner, or the students that I'm asked about the issues and topics that we review in class and follow on this island, in this country in the region of cross-roads at a time of crisis.
More to come, as we have a late start to our Sunday and excursion at the beach of ancient Falasarna.
On Monday we will visit the mayor of the local municipality, and have a chance to ask questions regrading the Eurozone and the effects of the crisis upon local municipalities. On Thursday we are visiting the NATO base at Suda, and we are awaiting the arrival of Professor Martin and Professor Kulich, who will lecture and make presentations in the program, later this week.