Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to the Future

True story: part of the trip I was most excited about prior to departure was today's destination: the Oracle of Delphi! I've read my whole life about the Oracle, and had a vivid image of what it would be like. A sure recipe for disappointment, and true enough, it was nothing like I'd imagined.

It was a million times better.

Basically, the town and temple of Delphi are located on the most gorgeous hillside on earth, overlooking the Aegean Sea. My initial reaction was this:

Delphi is related to word dolphin, both from the Greek word for womb. Delphi was also known as omfalos, the bellybutton of the world (we saw the rock that was the 'bellybutton' too- check the photos!) In short, Delphi was the center of the world,  and I can tell you- it felt that way. It was an amazing feeling.

Then we went to  the site of the oracle. Indescribable. Luckily,  you can see for yourself!

While at the theatre, my friend Claudia, a grad student in ancient Greek,  recited the first lines of the Illiad, a very famous epic poem/song/story about the Trojan war. In Greek. She recited from memory in Greek.

THEN we went to the museum where they put all the cool stuff they dug up at Delphi. And we saw the COOLEST THING. Watch:


Delphi, we had far too little time together. I'll be back.

Oh, and students, I got YOU a present there. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

video issue

should be fixed. let me know if they still don't work, though we may not have internet tomorrow.


Finally got my photos uploaded to Picasa. You can view them here:



Acropolis Now!

Acropolis Now!
Wednesday morning- we were up and out the door to be the first ones at the acropolis. Acro- meaning top- and polis- city- yup, up a hill we hiked, to be rewarded with gorgeous morning sunshine on a spectacular view of the city of Athens and the most famous ruins in Greece.
So, can you guess who Athens ' patron god is? Well, Athena, of course. And the acropolis is all Athena, all the time. The Temple of Nike (yup, like the shoes, goddess of victory, pronounced nee-kee) guards the entrance, but Nike is either a handmaiden of or just a different aspect of Athena, goddess of battle and strategy. (Fun fact: the Nike swoosh is a Greek lowercase N, for Nike.)

Going through the arch, we have a temple to Athena dedicated to ritual worship on the left. On the right, a little building you may have heard of called the Parthenon. Down below, the Theatre of Dionysos, where the first Greek plays were held as part of the Festival of Athena (more on this Thursday, when I get to actually go there instead of just see it from above.)

(again, pics coming.)
Oh! What's that? You want to know more about the Parthenon? Fair enough.. Video #4.

Get Me to the Greek

Greek Isle #1: Aegina (The g is an h. Dunno why.)
The isles of Greece are, if Aegina is any indication, gorgeous. Mamma Mia the movie does not lie. We drove to the center of the island, to a gorgeous mountain top, to see this lovely ancient temple, where I shot video #3.

THEN we went to this lady's house for lunch. So the reason we went to Aegina was the trip leader, Professor H, met this lady, Eleny, at a lecture in DC last year, and Eleny said 'come visit!' Greeks are famous for their hospitality and it is not uncommon to be invited in by strangers, but Professor H explained we'd be a group of 30.

(Pics coming- technical difficulties.)
“No problem!” said Eleny. (Imagine inviting 30 strangers over for lunch!) And so we found ourselves in a house on a hill, overlooking the sea and the hillside, eating gigsande beans and tzatziki and pistachios (Aegina is famous for pistachios.) The sun shtone down, we watched the sea, and Greece seemed a fine spot to spend a day, or forever.

Drama Unplugged

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The theatre of Epidouros is an incredibly well-preserved Greek theatre. Unlike most of the 
Ancient things we've seen, it was neither ravaged and redone by Romans nor destroyed by earthquake or Persian marauders. Mostly, it got lucky because it is in the middle of nowhere, because Epidouros was a health center- a combo spa/hospital.

I know what you're thinking. “Um, why did the hospital have a theatre?” The ancient Greeks believed that sickness affected your mind as well as your body, so you had to heal both. An evening at the theatre consisted of watching 4 plays in a row- 3 tragedies, which allowed you to reflect on human flaws and be moved by sadness to tears, and then a very silly, slapstick comedy, usually involving satyrs (half-man, half-goat) to induce uproarious laughter. After laughing and crying, the satisfied, exhausted, empty-yet-full feeling they called 'catharsis.' (A word we use today!) Catharsis restored your mental and emotional balance that was critical to health.

(When my mom talks about balance some people call it 'New Age nonsense.” It's not! It's at least ancient nonsense!)

Here's my first video, live from Epidouros!

After the video, I went and stood in the center of the orchestra and recited a little “To be or not to be” It was CRAZY. The second I spoke- it was electric. I could literally hear/feel my voice connecting with every seat- somehow you could hear it simultaneously where you were and everywhere else. Like a microphone, but more- magical. HOW did the ancient greeks, with only math and stone at their disposal, make an auditorium infinitely better than any performing space I've ever been in? Food for thought.

Here's a video  the back of the house (Greek for seats - auditorium) of illustrator/author Ashley Bryan. Sound issues due to my camera, not actual acoustics.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A few photos

The Acropolis at night, from the roof of the restaurant

Canal through the isthmus  to Pelopponesus (spelling? no idea.) I love saying isthmus.

I am a column!

Mediocre Roman ruins in Corinth.

You don't need to know latin to read this!

Agamemnon's tomb, supposedly. Agamemnon, right.

Mycenae was mostly fun because I got to hike a little. See that circle? It used to be filled with gold. 
So yesterday morning we went to Corinth (you know, like First Corinthians? From the New Testament? Me neither.) Then to Mycenae. ooh- gotta run or I'll miss breakfast- more tonight.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Greece: 1, Susan Cooper: 0

Bad news first: Like LadyGaga, The Prime MNinister of England, and you, Susan Cooper is not here. The really bad news: she WAS here, until 5:30 AM. I missed her by 7 hours.
The mitigating factor: she had to leave to go to a memorial service in England, which I'm guessing  is for Diana Wynne Jones. Even I can admit  that
A) Diana Wynne Jones (another of my favorite authors, very funny  and clever, author of the Chrestomanci  books, among others) death is more sad than my missing Susan Cooper..)
B) If I'd been invited, I'd have gone too.
C) I got to sit next to a Newbury Award winner (the award for best children's book) on the flight to Athens, which ain't so bad. (Her name is Suzanne and I think her book is Shubanu but I may be misremembering.)
D) A Caldecott winner (best picture book) recited a poem before dinner (his name is Ashley Brian. He was AWESOME.
E) 2/3 of the people on the trip are on the Caldecott or Newberry committees. There are way more Children's Lit people than Greek Studies students. Several of them have promised to introduce me to SC when we get home- fingers crossed!

Anyway, trip was smooth, ate tasty honeycake, saw the acropolis from the restaurant's roof  .but too tired to figure out how to post pics tonight. Vast majority of attendees are retirees with hearing aids but there are 2 other young teachers who seem cool and 2 grad students. So though I've been called 'kiddoo' already, I'm not the only one.

Tomorrow: Mycenae!

Friday, April 15, 2011

While I Am Thinking Out Loud

My excitement over my ridiculous vacation should not overshadow my wonderful real life. Today I was incredibly moved and inspired by the massive numbers of my students who celebrated Day of Silence. Silence has never been so joyful, so unified, and so powerful. I have never felt so surrounded and cheered by such a caring community, many of whom I then got to discuss community with during Community Block (how timely!). I then had a hilarious choral rehearsal where only a quarter of the people sang, and THEN had a crazy awesome graduation chorus rehearsal outside due to my students sounding so smokin' they set off the fire alarm. A very good day. Real Life, I am going on a date with Vacation but my heart belongs to you.

Greece Countdown: 1 Day to Greece

For those of you bewiledered as to why I'm going to Greece at all, the short answer is "Inexplicably the Newton Public Schools and Brandeis teamed up to offer a classics class in Ancient Greece for teachers, and part of the class is we're required (I know, poor me) to go on a 2 week tour of Greece. Who exactly this class is aimed at besides me, your friendly former Classics major, remains a mystery, as the only other Newton teacher taking the class is my friend Mme Langlois, who I connived into taking it with me based on promises of beaches and baclava.

Besides us, people going on the trip include:
Doug, Mme Langlois' husband
Susan, the head of the Cambridge Public Library
Connie, the frazzled but very nice lady whose job seems to be to send a lot of email to us
Profesor H, the smart professor who doesn't talk much
Professor O, the professor who cries a lot
Some people who took the class last year and didn't get to go to due to Icelandic Volcanos
Some people taking the class online, including...
Susan Cooper. The author of The Dark is Rising.

I don't know how many times you've read Harry Potter, but I promise you, I've read the Dark is Rising more. I used to have dreams about it. It's set in Wales, which is the primary reason that last summer, for my 30th birthday, my family went to Wales.  You may not know who Susan Cooper is (I was highly dismayed, upon going to two different bookstores, that only one had ANYTHING by her, and that was a giant compendium of all 5 Dark is Rising books that was way too fat to be enticing or carryable) but to me she is a GIANT celebrity. I have been alternating between totally freaking out about meeting her and being totally certain that she is going to bow out at the last minute, because really the idea of going on vacation with Susan Cooper is like the idea of Lady Gaga showing up at a Bigelow band concert- preposterous.

I have thought a LOT about meeting Susan Cooper and not much about actual Greece. My ideas about Greece fall into 2 categories: 1) D'Aulaires' book of Greek myths, the only book I read enough times to actually memorize and 2) the island in the movie Mamma Mia. You would think that my class would have expanded my views, but so far, not so much.

The other thing I've thought a lot about is Passover. This will be my 4th international seder, the previous 3 being the Stonehenge seder (people definitely thought we were druids and took a lot of photos), the Swiss seder (chocolate eggs for the seder plate!), and the Swedish seder (where we got to act out the plagues.) But this is my first ever seder without my family. Which will be weird. So Susan Cooper better be prepared to sing the 4 Questions.

OK. I really do have to pack. Next post: from Greece! If my predictions are correct, Mme Langlois and the God Apollo and Susan Cooper and I will be singing "Dancing Queen" on a sandy beach in fewer than 48 hours. I can't wait.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Thank you to EVERYONE who auditioned- I am SUPER proud of you. Auditioning is very scary and you are all awesome for being brave enough to do it. Some of you are GREAT singers but this one tiny snapshot of you was not how you usually sing. Auditions like this are unfair that way. There's no doubt in my mind that any one of you could sing any of these solos- but this is based on how you did sing it, today.

Soloists, please see me tomorrow if you are in school.

12 Years Old- Jen G
Pressure Mounts- Robin
Roll Along- Jen and Robin

I Want A...
Dirtbike-Julia S
Kill- Julia A
Mustache- Natalie T
Wonderbra- Kirsten

How Can I...
Spanish- Katharine Z
Track- Jane
Friday- Julia A
Crack- Jackson

I'm Becoming A Man, v. 1- Peter
I'm Becoming A Man, verse 2- Jackson
One Day it gets better- Sonia