Thursday, June 30, 2011

Greek cruisin'

On Monday morning, June 20, the HUG group boarded the Calypso cruise ship in Athens and set sail for a four-night cruise around the Mediterranean. Dr. Cliff and Mrs. Louise Ganus accompanied us on the trip which made the trip even more special for all of us. (Chancellor Ganus is a former president of Harding University).

Our first stop was in Mykonos, a small Greek island where the buildings are painted white twice a month. We mainly just walked around and enjoyed the beauty of the island and did some shopping.

The next day we sailed to Kusadasi, Turkey, early in the morning and toured Ephesus where Paul once roamed and established a church. The ruins were in much better shape than what we had seen weeks ago in Corinth. It was especially neat to sit in the theater where people had shouted "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" for two hours, an event initiated by those who profited on the worship of Artemis and saw Paul's teachings of Jesus as a threat (Acts 19:23-41).

In the afternoon we sailed to the island of Patmos where there the Apostle John had been exiled and where he wrote the book of Revelations. We visited the Monastery of John the Evangelist and the Grotto of the Revelation. We ate dinner with the Ganuses that evening and got to know them much better.

The next day was spent in Rhodes where we swam at a beautiful (although very rocky) beach in the morning that was near where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood. After lunch and naps, we visited the old part of the town where we found a playground for the boys to burn some energy. Ethan made friends with a Greek boy, and the two of them played ball for a while.

On Thurs morning we arrived in Crete and toured the Minoan Palace of Knossos, home of the legendary Minotaur.

In the afternoon we sailed to beautiful Santorini for a very quick trip. Becky and Ethan rode a donkey up the long path (599 steps) to the top of the island as did all of the HUG students. Braden and I took a cable car to the top along with the Ganuses and Steven. We walked around and admired the beauty of the island and did a little shopping. Note to self: Great place for an anniversary some day. We arrived back in Athens early the next morning.

We really enjoyed the cruise. The boys loved sleeping in their own bunk bed on the cruise ship and eating hot dogs and jello for lunch. They also were the center of attention since they were the youngest kids on the cruise... the cruise staff were constantly smiling at them and playing with them.

We are now back at the Artemis and are on the second half of our trip. We've got a few weeks straight of classes and one big trip to Israel coming up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Braden sleeping

It's Father's Day, and Braden's gift to me was a 5:45 wake-up call so we could watch the sun rise together. It's hard to believe that a kid who so easily falls asleep could be the same the kid who wakes me up way too early on most mornings. Just for fun, I thought I'd compile all my photos of a sleeping Braden while we've been overseas. Enjoy.

He was sleeping so well that I left him in the baby carrier.

Historic ruins? Boring!
(Photo by Mike James)

Sometimes Braden falls asleep while eating and twirling his hair.

Not quite asleep, but a cute pic.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Peloponnese and Egypt

Since my last update, our HUG group has now toured the Peloponnese and Egypt. The Peloponnesean tour was four days, and we saw Corinth (and many sites related to Paul's ministry), Nafplion (the first Greek capital), Mycenae, and Epidaurus. The trip concluded with a visit to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The original starting line is still present (below).

After a few days back in Porto Rafti, we headed out to Egypt for an 11 day tour. It was quite intense because of the amount of time we spent each day touring, the amount of time traveling by bus and train, and the very hot and dry weather. Probably the most restful time we had was at the Cairo Movenpick hotel which was incredibly beautiful and had a wonderful pool (below).

For most of the HUGgers, the best part of the trip was seeing the pyramids. The pic below doesn't really capture the immensity of the Giza pyramids which remained the tallest of all human-built structures until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England in the 1300s. It also doesn't capture the incredible heat... it was around 110 degrees outside!

We also saw the Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, Memphis, and Sakkara. After a night train to Aswan, we took a cruise ship up the Nile River to Luxor, a four day excursion. Along the way, we visited the Temple of Philae, the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam, and the Temple of Edfu. We also took an incredible half-hour long ride on the back of a camel to visit a Nubian village. Ethan loved the ride, but Braden never made a peep... I'll assume he enjoyed it too, despite the 110+ degree weather.

In and around Luxor, we visited the Necropolis of Thebes which included the Valley of the Kings, the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, the Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Luxor. Then we took a long bus ride back to Cairo (arriving at 3 am!) where we visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, the Citadel of Salah El Din, the Mohammed Ali Mosque, and a few other sites.

We then took another long bus ride up to Ismailia where we stayed the evening within sight of the Red Sea. The next day we drove through the Land of Goshen and headed to St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula, following the path of the Israelites as they fled Egypt in the great Exodus.

That evening we stayed in the Hotel Catherine Plaza, and all the students woke up at 1 am in order to climb Mount Sinai and have a devotional service as the sun was rising. Becky had unfortunately become quite ill, and I stayed behind to help with the boys. (At some point during the trip, about 3/4 of our group became sick; the boys and I were thankfully able to avoid it.)

The next day we visited Saint Catherine's Monastery were we were given a personal tour by an American who has lived there for about 30 years. The chapel is built around what many think is the original burning bush that Moses encountered when God told him to go back and lead the Israelites out of slavery. The bush is quite amazing; it's totally green although it has no water source.

After the visit, we finally headed back on a very long and hot bus ride back to Cairo and flew back to Greece the next day.

Despite the sickness and the heat, we really enjoyed our time in Egypt as did most of the students. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. Everyone was very kind to us, especially to the boys who probably had their heads rubbed by at least 50 different Egyptians! We are, however, quite thankful to be back in Greece where no one haggles over the prices, no one charges you to use the toilet, and you can drink the water from the tap!