What Athens in Greece…

The Parthenon, Temple of Athena

Positive Psychology’s long-awaited week-long study tour to Greece has finally arrived (and sadly, ended).

Why study Greece? Aside from it being, well, you know, Greece…

  • To gain a more nuanced understanding of Greek traditions, values, religion, climate, politics, national wealth, and culture, and their connection to well-being via interactive guest lectures and cultural activities
  • To compare traditional western and eastern concepts of well-being

Sunday: customarily a day of relaxation for the typical Greek, devoted to two key aspects of life: food and family.

After commuting from home at 2:30 am, to arrive to Stockholm’s airport at 4:30 am, to catch a 6:00 am flight, a food tour of Athens was a well-deserved first cultural excursion for all of us.

While stopping at four traditional Greek tavernas for what seemed like an endless supply of small and delicious dishes, we had the opportunity to walk through some of Athens’ historic neighborhoods and discuss the meaning of sharing meals together in Greek culture.

The last stop on our food tour and the most mind-blowing dessert I’ve ever tasted in my life: Loukoumades, Greek mini-doughnuts

By the end of the day, we had to roll ourselves back to the hotel on our full bellies. You don’t even want to know how much feta cheese and olive oil I consumed.

Views from the rooftop of our hotel

Monday

An interactive guest-lecture and an introduction to culture, values, and positive coping strategies with current challenges in Greek society.

A happy mid-lecture accident: our first full day in Athens landed on Greece’s Independence Day parade

Coming from Stockholm, sunshine and 65°F = SUMMER. But for the people of Athens, quite used to a Mediterranean climate, this is still winter. Needless to say, we drew numerous eyebrow furrows and jaw drops while walking past bundled and zipped up Greek people in our flip-flops, dresses, and T-shirts.

After wandering the city a bit on our own and getting happily lost in the hills of Athens, the class regrouped for authentic Greek folk dance lessons.

Dora Stratou Dance Theatre
Cheers from some of our Positive Psychology folks over dinner

Tuesday

Showing off our “you smile” bands

A hands-on look at the incredible work of the non-profit child welfare organization, The Smile of the Child.

Here, we focused on the program’s work with traumatized children to build strengths and resilience after early-life traumatic experiences.

We learned about the organization’s extensive areas of operation with children in need and participated in interactive group sessions to discuss the psychological support offered.

Next, we had our much-anticipated tour of the Acropolis.

Touring our way up to the top

There was actually a storm plotting its way over to us, but we managed to race it (and beat it) to the top of the Acropolis. The result: being able to capture the drama of both sunshine and rainfall in one shot (see below).

Views from The Acropolis of Athens
The Erechtheion
Feeling like Greek statues at the National Gardens of Athens
Clearly it was a strike-a-pose type of day

Wednesday

A visit to the Diamond Way Buddhist Center. We listened to the powerful fundamental elements of Buddhist philosophy and its parallels to well-being, followed by a guided meditation and discussion.

Diamond Way Buddhist Center

Free time to hit (and climb) up the city.

Views from the Areopagus
It’s also just about the best seat in the house
Failed jump shots in front of The Prison of Socrates

Thursday: A ferry trip from Pireas to the island of Aegina, which is famous for growing some of the best pistachio trees in the world.

Though this was our most unlucky day weather-wise (around 55°F with wind and rain), we had an awesome time touring the island a bit to focus on mindfulness, nature, and well-being while munching on pistachio products (nuts, ice cream, butter, granola bars — you name it, they had it).

Cathedral of Saint Nectarios
Temple of Aphaia, founded circa 500 BC
Sadly, I did not have the guts to strip down and dive into the Aegean’s Saronic Gulf in the current weather — maybe next time

Friday: presentations and a final wrap up.

Our main project for the week was to interview local people in small groups throughout our excursions as well as in our free time. With this, we explored what contributes to meaning and happiness in relation to the well-being of people in Athens.

What’s there to say without turning one blog post into the length of five?

Even in the face of a great economic crisis, there’s a reason why the question “if you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?” merits the answer “I wouldn’t.”

philotimo

(n.) lit. “love of honor”;

An untranslatable Greek word and a complex array of virtues that encompasses honor, dignity and pride — the ideal actions and behaviors, hospitality, bonds and responsibilities between each other.

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