The airplane door, as I walked out into more than a new place, a new experience, a feeling of readiness and unknown

My passport, stamped by a woman talking on the phone, half paying attention, as my excited energy knocked it back through the window, laughing at myself, focused instead on everything I could not yet imagine but was about to walk into

The arms of students and teachers I’d just met but already felt a connection with, one I only anticipated deepening

Our mouths, laughing as we explored Athens, closing around the unfamiliar shapes of Greek words we repeated as a friendly young woman served us cappucino freddos and helped us learn about this language and this city

Our eyes fixated on a play in words we did not know. Our hearts moved by an ending in a physical expression of love and pain that transcended language

The curtains of the bus and our eyes to beauty we then and even now could only seem to grasp with the open-ended question “Is this real?”

The bus door as we set foot in this town too picturesque and unfamiliar to grasp, seemingly too beautiful to be real

And then before we knew it, kind villagers’ arms and doors to their homes, as they welcomed us in, treating us every day with joy, warmth, kindness, and connection, giving us the greatest gift of making space for us in their world, allowing us to belong

All of which was epitomized by:

A kind man’s heart as he shared with us his work, his life, his home, stories of his family – letting this be translated, letting us in

His arm outstretched toward us, showing us his strength, his forearm, muscular from hard work milking cows, at once an “up close and personal” aspect of his livelihood and a symbol of safety and protection

Then, a door to another room – cozy, secluded, private, protected, tucked away in his wall. Where he stays if he needs to be with the cows overnight, as we understood through translation

But, an act of sharing something private, an opening, a welcoming, a taking by the hand and saying wordlessly “here, I want you to know more” – an opening of doors far beyond this little wooden one, an invitation into a home – a gesture that surpassed language, did not need translation, spoke to us on a far deeper level

Later, opening up to each other, opening a notebook, opening a question: what was the most memorable for you that day?

And amidst a long list of important reflections and invaluable memories, we could not deny the significance we all felt – viscerally, beyond words – in this moment, an epitome of the openness, the sincerity, the welcome, the sharing we have found here together in this beautiful place full of wonderful people.

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