April 2017: Reflections on an inspiring week

A personal account of our week’s journey with the Dutch volunteers

It is Sunday evening and I’ve just returned home after 8 days full of work on the trails, planning a unique stay for our Dutch volunteer friends, their local travel arrangements, tools, lunches and dinners, their guides in the various island locations where they will work. Despite feeling exhausted, I am overjoyed and so very moved by the fact that once again we outdid ourselves to welcome these lovely people to Andros. We were moved and I believe they were too…

These days it is primarily nature in Andros which steals one’s heart…how can one describe the unbelievable range of colours and hues of green, the colours of the flowers, the blue of the sky, the smell of the orange and lemon trees in full bloom, the wildflowers, the crystal clear waters flowing everywhere… How can one fail to be in awe of the wonderful, centuries-old, work of Andros’s farmers carved into the scenery… drystone walls, threshing floors, farmers’ bothies, chapels…how lucky we are to live here, if only we would realise..!

The garbage we saw scattered in some areas looked so out of place amidst all this beauty…this was one of the very few grey spots which our visitors witnessed…

Yet it is the people of Andros that make all the difference. They were the ones who made the most powerful impression on our visitors since they welcomed them with a most generous and open heart, enveloping them in warmth and beauty… I know that each person who contributed to this trip cannot but have a limited perspective shaped primarily by his or her involvement. Those of us however, who were fortunate enough to be able to see the journey in its whole… all the pieces of the puzzle having fallen into place…we were able to yet again appreciate the immense accomplishment of the people of Andros…I wish I could let each and every one of them know just how valuable their contribution was…

Perhaps the least I can do is provide a brief narrative of each day, although my friend Vangelis Loukisas has already recounted every day of the journey. However, looking back, reflecting on the whole experience has its own merit.

φωτογραφίες : Ineke van Lint, Νίκος Παρασκευόπουλος

φωτογραφίες : Irene, Christy, Margreet, Helen, Cecil, Frank, Frits,  Λέανδρος Πετράκης, Νίκος Παρασκευόπουλος, Βαγγέλης Λουκίσας, Όλγα Καραγιάννη

The following people in the area of Ydrousa graciously extended their hospitality:

  • Kokkinis Bakery who donated the volunteers snacks on the two days they worked in Ydrousa
  • Katakilos residents, the Katakilos Cultural Association and the Katakilos Mayor who first welcomed our Dutch friends to an Andros village and provided the unforgettable lunch at the Cultural Association’s premises in Ano Katakilo, Thomas Peppas, Giannis and Dimitra Kaisaris, Katerina Katsiotis, Andrew Mexis, Peter and Marianna and the Gregos tavern who helped prepare the delicious food,
  • Nikos and Lia Avgousti with the help of Erietta and Panos Georgiou and Joyas Mill in cooking the meat offered by the Tridimas butcher shop in Gavrio. Their skill and warm hospitality made for a delicious meal offered to the volunteers on their second day of work in Ano Gavrio.
  • AB Vrettos supermarket in Batsi who donated snacks and other provisions required to prepare the lunch at the home of Nikos and Lia Avgoustis
  • The Antiquities Council which granted permission for the opening of the Museum of Paleopolis and Panyiotis Koulouris who did so for the volunteers to visit it on their last day on the island
  • The En Gavrio café who offered a farewell drink to the Dutch volunteers prior to their departure
  • The Eftychia café who also wanted to treat the Dutch volunteers to drinks on the last day, despite the fact that we were not able to take them up on their offer for lack of time!
  • The Andros Routes friends who offered bottles of fine wine to all Dutch volunteers and wish to remain anonymous

φωτογραφίες : Irene, Christy, Margreet, Helen, Cecil, Frank, Frits,  Λέανδρος Πετράκης, Νίκος Παρασκευόπουλος, Βαγγέλης Λουκίσας, Όλγα Καραγιάννη

The following people in the area of Chora graciously extended their hospitality:

  • Krisilias Bakery who donated the volunteers snacks on the first day of their work in Chora
  • The Kairios Library people who gave us a guided tour of the Theofilos Kairis Library
  • The Cultural Association of Menites and its Board members Despina Hatzoglou, Katerina Vareli, and Eleni Papadopoulou who graciously welcomed our Dutch friends to the Association’s premises offering coffee, tea, and pastries.
  • Andros Routes volunteers Nikos Paraskevopoulos, Joseph Papadopoulos and Vangelis Loukisas who helped us transport the volunteers and their tools on the first day of their work in Chora
  • Skalakia Restaurant of Hariklia Daniolou and Vangelis Loukisas who offered a delicious dinner on our friends’ second night in Chora
  • Popi Regoukou of Stella Pension who donated snacks for the volunteers on their second day of work in Chora while she also helped with the volunteers’ transportation, as did Erietta Papaioannou and Panos Georgriou.
  • Andros Routes volunteers Nikos Paraskevopoulos and Joseph Papadopoulos who also offered snacks to our Dutch friends on their second day of work in the area of Chora
  • Efi Raptaki who offered a delicious meal to the Dutch volunteers after she had taken them on a tour of her lovely farm in Livadia on their second day of work in the area of Chora
  • Mikra Anglia S.A. who allowed the viewing of the film by the same title and the Film Club of Andros where the film was viewed by the volunteers on their second day of work in Chora.
  • The Panachrandou Monastery, senior monk Evdokimos, father Aetios and the younger Evdokimos who offered the volunteers a guided tour of the monastery and treated them to coffee and local sweets.
  • The Cultural Association of Aladinou who:

-offered the Dutch volunteers snacks on their third day of their work in the area of Chora

-offered a lavish lunch to our Dutch friends on that same day in the Associations premises in Aladinou with the invaluable help of Georgia and John Pipergia, Froso and Andrew Tiniakos, Marina Tzioti and Jacob Kourtesis

-opened the Foros cave especially for our Dutch friends and offered an interesting guided tour with the help of Froso Kaladami

  • Louis Loukisas, a plumber from Fallika who helped us with fixing the pipe that was accidentally cut while cleaning a trail (we work but we also make mistakes!)

φωτογραφίες : Irene, Christy, Margreet, Helen, Cecil, Frank, Frits,  Λέανδρος Πετράκης, Νίκος Παρασκευόπουλος, Βαγγέλης Λουκίσας, Όλγα Καραγιάννη

The following people in the area of Korthi graciously extended their hospitality:

  • Irene Robou who donated the volunteers snacks on their fourth and fifth day of work in the area of Korthi
  • The Sea Satin Nino restaurant who offered a lavish meal, prepared by its excellent chef Dimitri Gigini, to the whole team of volunteers
  • The Lithodomi restaurant who also offered an excellent meal to our Dutch friends. It was lovingly prepared by Eleni Zacharioudaki while Nikos Psommas orchestrated with zeal the small closing ceremony of our friends’ journey
  • Eleni Kourtesi, creator of “Soap by Eleni” who offered a special box of her beautiful soaps as a gift to the Dutch volunteers. Eleni also took part in the farewell lunch in order to meet the volunteers accompanied by her husband Makis Kourtesis
  • Tziotis Pastry Shop who offered local sweets of Andros to our Dutch friends, courtesy of Anthony Tziotis
  • The women’s association “Agromelissa” who offered a local sweet made of oranges and freshly gathered chamomile from Korthi to our volunteers, courtesy of Chrysa Papaioannou
  • Our group who offered commemorative Andros Routes t-shirts to the volunteers
  • Municipality member Yiakoumis Skordos who came to meet the volunteers, bought them drinks of raki and once again invited us all to his home in Tromarchia, although unfortunately we didn’t make it as we had no time
  • Nikos Psomas and Dimitri Zannes who helped with the transport of one of the volunteers from Korthi to Gavrio since she had to leave a day earlier than the rest of the volunteers
  • Giota Laoudi of Nicolas Hotel who graciously offered the volunteers dinner on their last night before their departure

Throughout this amazing journey, our friend, the heart and soul of the Andros Film Club, Vangelis Loukisas with his camera, his drone, and Perla…took pictures of us, made videos of us, spoke to the people in the villages as they all know him, carried us and our tools innumerable times and spread his positive and creative spirit all around us…We are grateful to him and so admire him!

Our friend and fervent supporter of our efforts Achilles Klisouras drew a special commemorative diploma depicting the volunteers working on the trails of Andros and used calligraphy to record each volunteer’s name on a diploma. They were all awarded to our Dutch friends during the closing ceremony. Kudos to the artist!

Our volunteer friends left our island to fly back home on Sunday. Beautiful people, kind-hearted, some still professionally active in the private and public sector, others retired. All of them were sensitive, clearly inclined to offer their help both in their country and abroad. Irene, Christy, Cecil, Helen, Margreet, Frank and Frits…they moved us immensely…by their presence, their hard work, their generosity, their interest…We hope to see them back on our island soon…

Read their kind words which accompanied an envelope of 140 euros, their generous contribution to the trails maintenance which they presented us with prior to their departure…

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