I first became a part of the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project in 2009, when I was looking for a field school in Greece and I stumbled on the University of Alberta History and Classics page and found Kallithea’s fieldschool website. At the time, I was an undergrad at the University of British Columbia and I had not yet declared a major. After my first season working in Thessaly, I fell in love with the region both at the academic and personal levels. Except for one year, I have been coming back to Greece to participate in the Kallithea project every year since my first field school.
An integral part of being an archaeologist in Greece is learning to build relationships with the local community. Being one of the few Greek-speaking members of the Kallithea project, I’ve gotten to know the locals more than most of the team since my first Kallithea season in 2009. I’ve spent many afternoons sitting at the lower taverna chatting with the old men in the village, most of whom are shepherds. Last week, a sheep wandered into the soccer field and one of the shepherds asked me to chase it out, which was quite fun. In the same soccer field, I often play soccer with the little kids from the village, around 3-12 years old. The kids are quite good and it’s rather sad how very rarely I am able to score goals on them.
As far as I know, I’m also the only member of the team who has ever gotten a haircut from one of the villagers. The only barber in the village is an older man named Grivas. It was rather scary at first because the haircut took place in an old shed and his methods weren’t entirely orthodox. I’ve also braved a second haircut this past week and I am actually quite pleased with the result.
And very close to my heart are the Papadopoulos family who run the taverna where we eat dinner every night. Litsa, the matriarch of the family, is my favourite cook in the universe. This one time, in 2013, she tried to teach me how to make papoutsakia (eggplants stuffed with ground beef and béchamel) in her kitchen. The way she cut the eggplants should be considered an art form. Her husband, Babis, is deceptively good at foosball, and always enthusiastically asks us to play with him after dinner. Their son, Ilias, not only takes care of us during dinner, but is also a great teacher of Greek dances. His nephews, Mitsos and Marios, are also very good friends of mine and it’s been a great pleasure watching them grow up over the past few years.
When I first applied to the field school, I was expecting to learn about Greek archaeology. I did. But I also found a second home that has been a joy to return to almost every year since then. I would say that the relationships I made in this village have been the most surprising result of my participation in the Kallithea field school. Narthaki was a presence in my life in key transitional points of my education: starting from my undergrad, all throughout my MA, and now at the beginning of my PhD. To say that Narthaki enriched my academic career would be nothing short of an understatement.