Thursday, November 26 was Thanksgiving and also the official end to my classes this semester. I spent the afternoon attempting to make my family’s famous stuffing recipe and headed to Maia and Aga’s for my first Thanksgiving away from family. It was one of my favorite nights of the semester. Allison and Maia made everything wonderfully festive with nameplates, candles, a thankful tree, and so much more. Everyone came together and laughed and ate (most of the food was edible). It was an amazing way to end classes before everyone settled down for finals. It also was evidence of how far we’ve all come since August 30. These once strangers are now some of the kindest and most inspiring people I’ve had the opportunity of meeting. Looking around the table as we all shared what we were thankful for, told stories, and cried from laughing, I realized how great friends we have all become and how fortunate I am to have been able to spend Thanksgiving with my little Arcadia family. To add to my list of gratefulness, a few hours after dinner, I left to see the #1 place on my bucket list: Greece!
I spent 10 days in Greece where I went alone: the longest time I’ve ever gone somewhere by myself. I was excited to have no true agenda, to sit on the beach, take island cruises, and walk among the ruins. I started my trip in Athens. From there, I was able to take tours to Corinth, Mycenae, Nafplio, Mykines, and a cruise to Poros, Hydra, and Aegina. During my cruise, I was able to see the sunrise and sunset from the sea, talk about a breathtaking experience. After 4 days in Athens, I headed to Santorini. I spent most of my time on the beaches and ports, taking advantage of having 65 degree weather in December. I walked down and back up the 600 famous stairs of Fira and made the 3 hour hike to Oia to witness the world’s most famous sunset. I think I took more than 100 pictures of the sunset during my trip, it was just too impressive to pass up.
A friend of a friend studying in Athens recommended a bookstore in Santorini called Atlantis books and I spent a good part of an afternoon browsing the shelves and reading the notes written all over the walls. I ate Greek yogurt in Greece, in addition to tons of seafood and lamb. I discovered that frappes (the best coffee drink on Earth) are Greek so I had an excessive amount of caffeine with my breakfast. Because it’s the off season for tourism in Santorini, I had an entire beach to myself one afternoon and was able to get a tan in winter. On my last day in Santorini, I met a very charismatic woman who told me she decided to have an “Eat, Pray, Love” moment and quit her job to see the world. I wish I would have had more time to talk to her because she had some great stories to share. I ended my trip with 2 final days in Athens to say goodbye to the Acropolis and Syntagamo Square. The square is one of my favorite places in Greece because I loved being able to people watch and it was all decorated for Christmas. Santa was even there to take pictures with kids.
At first, it was very strange to go everywhere alone, but after a day or two I got into a routine. It was the most peaceful 10 days. I went on walks, drank frappes in the square, made significant progress on my reading bucket list, and met a lot of interesting people. I met the kindest couple from Australia who were just finishing up a 9 week journey through Europe in celebration of retirement. They were on a cruise with me and we spent the afternoon together eating pistachio ice cream and admiring the sea. They invited me to visit them in Australia, so now I have a new trip to plan when I get home. I am grateful for the experience and the ways I grew during my time alone. I have a 3 day gap when Julia and Audrey leave Barcelona until I meet my family in London and it is comforting to know that I am capable of surviving foreign cities alone.
Now, I am back in my apartment preparing for my last two finals and making sure everything is in order because I leave in 11 days. Yesterday, I had my goodbye Christmas party with the kids I have been tutoring this semester. It was the best and the most heartbreaking hour. I have become so close to my 3 boys and I am going to miss them more than anything else about Ireland. To add to the goodbyes, tomorrow is our Arcadia farewell dinner and the last time we will all be in the same place. Endings are a strange feeling. It does not feel like we will all be moving out and leaving Ireland soon, but it has crept up on us and I’m not sure that I’m ready for this semester to be over. But, it is still too soon to think of saying my final goodbyes; there are still tests to take, Christmas concerts to attend, and a final trip to plan with Julia and Audrey.