Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Whole New World

We have arrived in Ahmedabad, India. After making our early morning flight out of Athens, we flew to Zurich for a four hour lay-over, and then onto Delhi. We arrived in Delhi at midnight and quickly made it to our hotel. The Ashok Country Resort was a really nice break in our travels. We were able to sleep in, enjoy a late morning buffet, and watch some Olympics before heading to the airport around 4pm.

Once at Delhi's Domestic Airport, things got a little interesting. We were greeted by airport security right when we got out of our car. Apparently you need a ticket to even enter the airport, which we didn't have, so they ushered us over to the Spice Jet booth located next to the airport. Their system or printers must not have been working, because they handed us this sheet of paper that had less on it than what we had in our hands. It was, however, enough because the guards let us through! Hilarious.


After long lines, lots of cutting, and crazy buses, we departed Delhi and arrived in Ahmedabad around 8pm. We were greeted by Heather (a fellow KJWW engineer) and our drivers, Gemar and Shailesh. Thankfully all our luggage arrived as well! We then headed to Gormos for a delicious dinner. Afterwards we settled into our apt, where Heather showed us around. Here are a few pics of the place, upon request! Anyone is more than welcome to come visit if they want!
view from the front door
our living room and one of the bedrooms
the dinning room, three of the bedrooms, and stairs to the roof.
our kitchen


rooftop

the view

Monday, August 25, 2008

SItes of Athens

Athens was the perfect stop on our way to India. It was great hanging out with the Sanners all week. We did quite a bit of exploring this week in Athens. The Sanners were able to help show us some of the top sites to visit:

The Temple of the Olympian Zeus:

Angora(the marketplace):




The Olympic stadium: The big daddy of them all is the Acropolis, which features massive remains of impressive stone/marble structures built more than 2000 years ago. In these pictures, you can see lots of scaffolding and construction equipment – the restoration and renovation of this site is a never-ending process. As a structural engineer, it was interesting to read how knowledge of building materials and processes gained during the course of the 20th century shifted the means and methods of restoring these sites – approaches once thought to be the best the middle of the century turned out to corrode more quickly, requiring much of the work to be done over yet again in recent years. With this in mind, I’m amazed how well they were preserved over the previous 19+ centuries, and how they were even built in the first place. I’ll now interrupt my rambling to let the pictures do their thing:




In front of the Acropolis was a small hill of slippery marble rock. Atop this hill, contemporarily known as Mars Hill, was a flat area known as the Areopagus where the city’s philosophers used to gather for deep discussions and the exchange of ideas. In the first century, Athens’ philosophers invited Paul, the 1st century’s greatest missionary, to come share his “new teaching” with them. We could easily imagine him speaking.


Here is his recorded speech from Acts 17:

“Men of Athens, I perceive than in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympics: Athens 2008

Hello, readers. We arrived in Ahmedabad last night. However, we still have to catch up with our reports and pictures from the flurry of goodness that was Athens. So, for the sake of chronological order, the next couple posts will still be with a Greek focus, and we'll write a few things on our first week in India sometime later.






Above is a photo of the Olympic Stadium built in 1896 and revamped for the 2004 games. This brings us back to our first Athens post, when I mentioned Brett’s and my personal mano-a-mano mini-Olympics. I am sure at least 3 or 4 of you are anxious to know the results. So, rather than post anything meaningful, I'll commit this post entirely to our attemps to boost egos through athletic competition. We had time to do four events, and I took gold in the swimming, reported previously. Here are the results from the other three events:

60-Second Push-up Limit
This was the strength portion of the quadrathlon. We flipped to see who went first. Brett had a piece of paper, and said, "This side's me; this side's you." Brett's side landed face up. However he thought that meant he got to choose who goes first. I thought it meant he goes first. Perhaps overly confident, I conceded. As you can see, it may have made all the difference:

Gold: Brett (42 push-ups)
Silver: Alex (41 push-ups)

Playground Obstacle Course
This event was contrived to be a test of all-around ability, requiring agility, speed, strength, athleticism, and wits. We each had two attemps at the course, with our individual best times determining the winner. Jump out of the thingy, over the other thingy, weave the swings, tightrope the seesaw, up the rope, down the slide, up the ladder, through the thingy, down the steps, off the black mat. Brett took it - and currently holds both the OR and WR for this event.

Gold – Brett (35 sec)
Silver – Alex (38 sec)

100m Dash:
This was actually our second event, but perhaps the most anticipated. Brett was talking all kinds of smack after I defeated him in swimming, and feeling quite confident of his ability to win the 100m Dash. We also invited an additional participant, Peshrau, to take us on. Take a look:

video

Gold – Alex (13.7 sec)
Silver – Peshrau (13.8 sec)
Bronze – Brett (19.5 sec)

Final Medal Count

Alex – 2 golds, 2 silvers
Brett – 2 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze
Peshrau – 1 silver

I think that officially makes me the winner overall, though Brett may argue that since Brett’s friend Peshrau wasn’t an official member of this competition, so that would give Brett a silver in the 100m dash. In 2012 we will have a rematch and in the meantime, I’ll be training for the gold medal sweep.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The ARC

On Tuesday Brett took us to visit where he spends a good portion of his days, at Helping Hands’ Athens Refugee Center (The ARC). It was Tea Day at the ARC, which meant that about 40 gallons of hot tea was handed out to hundreds of refugees, to enjoy while watching videos, having fellowship, and taking language lessons. There are many refugees that stop and/or stay here in Athens. Right now, most are coming in from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, but many other countries as well (we also had conversations with men from Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia, and Rwanda, to name a few). At any given time, there are several conversations through the room, in Arabic, Farsi, Greek, English, and other languages. Most have come across the Mediterranean to flee their countries due to war, the perils of poverty, or their governments exiling them. Many wish to make this just an entry point in their journey to another European city, but often find it hard to get or stay anywhere else. At The ARC they can find meals, clothes, showers, language training, and other general assistance for starting a life in Athens. Furthermore, Helping Hands offers several other facets to its ministry. For more on this, probably explained more sufficiently, we’ll direct you to Brett and Kristin’s website for an overview and links to related stuff. We were greatly encouraged to see this ministry in action, even if only for a day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Island of Aegina

Alex and I took a day trip out to Aegina this week. We left early in the morning and took the train about an hour to the city of Pireaus. Once there we bought some boat tickets out to the Island. It was about an hour ride on our boat, the Flying Dolphin.


There we rented a four-wheeler to tour the island for the day. What a beautiful day it was! We managed to drive around about half the island, which took us a few hours. It was a bit hard to know exactly where we were going, but we enjoyed the sites along the way. We made a few stops to grab some lunch (Greek salad and some fried shrimp),


swim in the ocean,

and do a little shopping. We of course had to pick up some pistachios, which Aegina is famous for. It was a really fun day trip!


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Arrival in Athens

We arrived in Athens a couple days ago (Tuesday). The flights were pretty standard. Except for once when we hit some turbulence and were jerked upwards out of our seats, then caught and returned by our seatbelts. A couple seconds and a couple screams later, everyone was fine. Also, Kirstie lost her luggage - the outcome of a baggage handlers' strike in Brussels. But it arrived the next morning.

Highlights of Tuesday: seeing the Sanners and meeting the youngest one Sofia. Sofia is a cute little 7-month-old girl... understandable with Kristin as her mother, but perplexing when you think of Brett. We'll throw some pictures of them on here later. So far we've had a blast hanging out with our good friends!!!... so far. They treated us to a Greek feast at a local outdoor restaurant on Tuesday night (picture below), and have been fun and generous hosts in every way. In the picture, Sofia is on the left drinking the 7up.




Wednesday we spent the afternoon at the beach. Apparently, every day in Athens is beautiful with sunny, clear skies. Exhibit A is below. We swam in the Meditteranean Sea and relaxed on the beach.


This was also the site of the first event in Brett's and my mano-a-mano heptathlon. Or pentathlon, perhaps... TBD. Anyway, in the spirit of this week's Olympics and being in the home of them, we decided we will take each other on in a few events. The first event was a 30-meter freestyle swim. A sprint for most; a marathon for us. I went all Lizak on Brett and rode his wave on the way down, saving my energy. He came hard out of the turn, but at about 20 meters, Brett was dog paddling and I had plenty left in the tank. As I glided past him, he tried to jump on my back and drag me down, but I don't know if he did this to cheat and try to win, or because he was almost drowning and hoping I would rescue him. Anyway, with about 5 meters to go I shed him off and slapped the hand at the finish line for the gold. Stay tuned for future events... we think they may be a 100-meter dash, some sort of middle-distance (400m or 800m) jog or speed-walk, a long jump, some sort of strength or throwing competition, and perhaps a couple more as we are inspired. To make excuses ahead of time, however, I injured my toe on a giant rock in the ocean during an exhibition race with one of Brett and Kristin's co-workers Carolyn.


Wednesday we also had some fun walking through Athens streets, riding the train/subway, and eating another gyro (delicious). This week, most people in Athens take vacations, so the Sanners tell us the city is relatively calm compared to its typical atmosphere. There are still a great number of tourists and we have crossed paths with a wide mix of people from countries around the world. In part, this is due to the high number of immigrants into Athens, but also just that it's a pretty sweet place to visit. Anyway, it's a good place for people-watching.


Here are a few pictures from today's tourist stops (most notably the Acropolis), with more pictures later accompanied with commentary on ancient and modern Greek culture and our personal reactions to these.



Sorry for the mid-riff exposure on this last one... we'll try to keep this blog a little more family-friendly in future posts.

alex



Monday, August 11, 2008

We're off!

After a short stay in LaGrange, we are leaving out of Ohare today at 4:30. We will have a short layover in Brussels, and will arrive in Greece tomorrow. We will be in Greece for a little over a week.