Over the past few days we’ve had several of the students sharing their thoughts and experiences, but there are a few things that the students won’t mention that are important to bring into focus for everyone back home.
Three days ago as we started to explore Sicily by visiting Erice and later that evening in Trapani, the students were coming to grips with travel in a foreign place. The land is different. The language is different. Even walking across the street is different. Somewhere around the evening of the second day, that initial apprehension swings the other way as the students start to feel like they have mastered their new surroundings. The real question is whether they can find the happy medium.
How fortunate it is then that Dr. and Mrs. Pollio designed the second day’s visit to Segesta and its theater. While sitting inside the theater high up on a mountain top with a spectacular view throughout the valley, Mrs. Pollio spoke to the group about Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and theater. These two domains of Dionysus may seem unconnected, perhaps the product of some even-more-ancient sycretism among early Greek ancestors. But there is a connection between these two things that makes Dionysus’ place among the chthonic gods (as Kate mentioned in an earlier post) clear.
The importance of wine and theater were central to health for the Greeks. They added wine to their water to help purify it. Theater, in this case tragedy, offered the Greeks catharsis from watching the human experience on stage. Theater and wine are just two examples of the benefits of civilization- working together to achieve more, being a community. Mrs. Pollio emphasized the importance of “thinking what is beyond ourselves.”
Our Odyssey 2017 community is developing as well. Faced with an assignment of locating certain aspects of the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina, the students found themselves navigating throngs of tour groups while walking on the narrow catwalks above the beautiful mosaic floors. As the groups completed their assignments and gathered outside, one of the staff members stopped Dr. Pollio and said he could not believe how politely our students worked their way through the site and the interest they showed in the history of the villa (I think he actually said he couldn’t believe they were middle school students that didn’t race through the walkways and get rambunctious). So there it is- a perfect example of working as a community to think about what is outside ourselves and achieve more.