Monday, June 27, 2011

Fire and Ice

Mt. Etna - what magic lies on top of its dome. Fire boils deep in the cone and ice forms a winter scene inside the craters. It is a setting full of contrast - an ever changing landscape that draws out emotions from deep inside that erupt with a power much like that of the volcano. Many of the students have relayed facts about the volcano itself; others have talked about the emotional release a person feels when he is above the clouds. I was very intrigued with the plants and examined the ones that struggled to survive on the lava beds. The plant with the red flower is the first to peek its head out (usually eight to ten years after an eruption) with the yellow plant following close behind. Trees usually appear after 100 years. Although there was a mild eruption this May, most of the lava flow we traversed is from the 2002 eruption. Thus, the landscape is still very barren with a smattering of flowering plants - almost like walking on the moon. After our guide led us down into a volcanic crater, he took me aside and showed me a plant that was surviving even though it was feeling the direct blast from an active steam vent. Amazing! Equally amazing is the journey we took down the mountain. Not necessarily the journey of hiking down, but the journey of friendship. Midland parents, you would have been proud of your students. Like true Mustangs they formed a bond that was amazing to behold. It became a journey of making sure that everyone finished the hike. When altitude sickness or aching joints made the journey tough for some, others fell into place to offer an arm for support or to pick up a backpack. Looking out for self became less important than the group's best interest. The power of the mountain led some to openingly share emotions and fears they had kept hidden. The topic of conversation quickly turned to the opportunity that had been given to them by their parents. They felt undeserving of the sacrifices others had made that allowed them to travel to Greece and Italy. I assured them that working multiple jobs, taking out loans, and putting your children first are part of being a parent and providing experiences for your child. We talked about "paying it forward" to their children and grandchildren. Giving future generations the opportunity they had been given - the opportunity to experience the world. When you see the souvenirs made from volcanic rock, remember it's much more than a reminder of where they been and what they have accomplished; it's a symbol of who they have become and where they are going. May the power of the mountain live within them always, Karen Wells
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Adventure Details

Duration 15 days
Destinations Athens
Focus Biology
Earth Science