Leaving the confines of our homes seemed at first to be a somewhat intimidating experience since some of us had never been away from home for more than a day or two on our own. Our trip consisted of visiting and residing in Athens for a couple of days to get acclimatized to the European life and eventually we would set out for a duration of three weeks to live and work at the Kastro Kallithea Archaeological Project in the village of Narthaki in Thessaly as part of the archaeological field school. This small rural village seemed at first very unusual for us to live in since many of us had no previous experience with the local language and we obviously stood out from the rest of the surrounding population. The looks that were given to us by the locals in the village were at first somewhat concerning since it was a small game of “spot the tourist” but after a short consultation with the many teacher’s assistants and Dr. Margriet Haagsma herself, we were given some knowledge on the language as well as the proper cultural etiquette.
The villagers asserted a lot of importance on the level of politeness one should give the children the adults and the elderly. Unlike our North American ways of living, individuals within the village kept it very polite, said hello to each other and began small talk conversations, something we were clearly not used to. Some of us caught on very quickly while others took some more time to get used to but in the end, we were able to represent Canada as a country of quick adaptation and as respectful of other countries as much as possible since we were in effect the guests residing there.
Another important thing that was noteworthy was the level of traditional customs that the villagers asserted. By North American standards of freedom to do what one wishes to do with their body, it took some adjustment to successfully abide by those rules. Men were not necessarily allowed to show their boxer linings while women needed to cover up a little more. The elderly generation of the village constantly put their best shirts and suits on to impress the younger generation as well as give an example. While we were split into gender groups where the women would live in the gymnasium and the men in the soccer shed, it was not considered appropriate to enter either or if you were of the opposite sex. You could only remain in the vicinity and stay around for a couple of minutes without causing too much disturbance.
In fact, the experience proved gratifying to the most of us since it gave us an understanding that Narthaki relied on a sense of tradition in order to properly function and help each individual out rather than rely on individualistic North American customs. Each villager knew they could count on each other at any time for help if need be. Hopefully this experience gave each and every participant in the field school the ability to interact with their surroundings rather than keep the interaction to the minimum because it sure helped us three to understand the importance of a community!