Kohala Spring Trip to Greece & Italy 2016 and my experience


Steven Pagano, Reporter

During spring break, a few lucky Kohala High School students had the opportunity to travel to Greece and Italy with a company called EF Tours. I was one of them. We left on March 13 from the KOA or Kona International Airport around 10 O’clock at night. We then flew to LAX or Los Angeles International Airport. Then from LAX, we flew to JFK International Airport. From JFK, we flew to Heathrow International Airport in London. Then after that, we finally caught our last connecting flight to Athens, Greece, after waiting a couple hours in Heathrow because we missed our initial flight. The whole time we were flying, we saw a couple sunsets and the sunrises while in the air.

Then we arrived in Athens. We met up with the other schools that joined us on tours. There was us (Kohala High School), Kihei Charter School, and Capital High School (the school from Idaho), and one student from Alabama (didn’t get their info). We immediately met our tour guide, Alexandra. She was fun, informative, and very loving throughout our whole trip. On our bus ride, we rehearsed some basic phrases like Ya su (hello), KalimEra (Good Morning), and OPA! (kind of like hooray). Right after we left the airport we headed for our hotel: Hotel London. We got all of our stuff unpacked and waited for dinner. Our TVs were super small and they only had 1 channel in English, which was BBC but we changed to a different channel where we watched Greek soap operas and had no idea what was going on.

The next day we checked out Athens and went to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, Acropolis of Athens, and the Plaka district. We had a little bit of free time in Plaka so me and 3 others went to this cafe where I had the best ham and cheese crepe in the world so far. We then wandered around for a little bit longer and started chanting. This guy walks up to us and starts speaking Turkish then he pauses, switches to another language, then pauses and switches to another language, and finally speaks English to us and we explain we were speaking Hawaiian.

That night, we went to a Greek evening out where we watched performances while we ate some of the best food Greece could offer with a bottle of Coke. The performances were off the hook and very entertaining. However, at the end of every performance, we had to shout out the word “Opa!”, which I explained earlier in this article. It got kind of old after about an hour or so but none the less was still entertaining. More towards the very end the performers needed people to join them on stage and there was a bunch of people from the Idaho group that went up and no one from Kohala so I went up and represented us. What I did not know at the time was that it was a belly dance off. I went on stage, along with some of the kids from Idaho and followed the instructions of the initial belly dancer and belly danced my but off in front of both schools. You might see that in this years yearbook.

The next day we woke up and headed to Delphi. It was a long bus ride over there but the view was incredible. Along the way, I started to play my music out loud very softly because I didn’t want to irritate people if they didn’t like my music. I heard one of the people behind me say “I swear I’m hearing Nirvana” I didn’t reply. Then I switched up to some My Chemical Romance, this time, I played it a little louder and the person behind me was getting a little crazy because they thought they were hearing things. Finally, though she (the person sitting behind me) jumped up and over my seat and caught me playing music. For the rest of the bus ride, I was just playing my music and she was supposed to guess the songs. She got most of my songs correct even when I remixed them and sped it up to make it sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Thought that, that was awesome considering that no one listens to the kind of music I listen to over here. Also, right before we got to Delphi we saw snow! I started to get all over excited and I’m sure people were getting kind of irritated at me.

When we got to Delphi we got an awesome tour guide. According to legend, Delphi is the centre of the world. She pointed out a whole bunch of things that I would’ve never noticed if we were just there without one. Delphi was attacked countless times so some of the structures were worn down. The coolest thing that the guide showed us to me was that people would write in contracts into stone. The contracts could be for a variety of things. Our guide was also telling us Delphi was home to hundreds of statues but were taken by Romans. Delphi is built on the side of a mountain so I and some others hiked up it. It was exhausting we stopped so we could get a picture. It wasn’t my phone that was taking the picture so I put it on the ground right next to me. Right before we were going to take a picture this French lady stepped on it and broke it. I was pissed and didn’t know how to communicate with her. So I just stormed off taking my broken selfie stick with me. It was freezing cold and I was losing my breath so I took my time walking up the site. By the time I got to the top which had a stadium which was built around the 5th century BCE we had to leave. Right after that we headed to a museum right next door. The Delphi Museum had a lot of statues in it and was very interesting. Once we left we went to get lunch at this restaurant that was really close to a cliff. I got a really interestingly tasting lasagna. Then the waiter came and brought out desserts I was so full I couldn’t even order one but another student (not gonna share their name) ordered like 5 desserts and was pounding them.

Later in the day we finally got to our hotel and I have to say it was so much better than our last one. Later that day I went and had some fun with some of the Maui students and one of the boys from my group and we explored the town. We went to a chocolate store and talked to this guy about politics. We went into this deep conversation about Donald Trump. After that, we went on this little €.50 rides and man I swear they lasted like 10 minutes. Then after that, we headed back to the hotel then went to sleep.

The next day we went to Saint Stephen. It is the biggest monastery in the world. It was really cool because it is in a unique location. You have to walk on a bridge to get there because it is separated from the rest of the mountain. They had a certain type of dress code for the woman there but I didn’t have to do anything. We went into one of the two cathedrals and I have to say it was incredibly detailed. Even the roof was very detailed with numerous paintings. I had a hard time concentrating on our guide because I was too busy taking in the sights. When we exited we went to a lookout and gained the attention of some 3rd graders and we took a few pictures with them. After we left we went to go get lunch, I and the people on my table went and shared our plates family style. I just got a regular spaghetti but it was really good I have no idea what kind of cheese was on it but it was awesome. Then I tasted some of my friends beef stew which was off the hook and got full so I stopped eating.

The next day we left and headed to a town nearby. While we were driving there we were like a couple feet away from snow literally. I was getting over excited again and some people were trying to control me. We tried to stop because the some of the Maui group has never been in the snow before but couldn’t find an area so we just kept driving. When we reached the next town we saw the world’s “smallest” gas station. We got to go to a mansion. When we got there the first thing I notice was that there was a fountain that had fresh mountain water pouring out of it. It was still cold and man did it taste good :). The mansion on the outside looked so small but on the inside it was really big. The mansion really looked old and gave you a picture of what it’s like to live in those days. After that we pretty much drove to Igoumenitsa and caught a ferry to reach Italy.

On the ferry, I was really expecting to get seasick but it didn’t happen. It was really fancy and was like a floating hotel. I and the rest of the boys headed for our rooms. When we entered I couldn’t breathe the air was so condensed. I felt like I was suffocating, But after a little bit, I got a little more used to it and went to sleep.

The next day we woke up and got breakfast. After we ate we sort of just explored the ship a bit. It was very interesting considering that I’ve never been on a ferry before. It had a pool but was going under construction so it was drained out and had workers, working on it. I met up with other members of our group and just cruised with them right outside of the lounge. After that, I pulled out my tablet and we played charades. I kept trying music categories and failed at them. Towards the afternoon, we finally arrived at Ancona.

Once I set my first step on Italy I shed a tear of joy with the realization that I was finally here and that I even got to go here. Once we got to our bus we drove towards Florence. On our way there we stopped to have dinner. We had a 3-course meal, Pasta, chicken, ice cream. Then we got back on the bus and started heading to Florence again. We got there at night so we just headed to our bedrooms. Ours was huge (and this is coming from someone who travels with 8 other people). We got four beds, a huge bathroom, and a decent patio. I took a whole bunch of videos of the town just from our patio and sent them to my family they were so jealous; especially my little brother Dominic. I went to sleep after that.

The next day we drove to the main part of Florence. We took a tour of all around Florence. We saw the Duomo, Basilica di Santa Croce, Piazza della Signoria, and the Ponte Vecchio. After the tour, we went to explore on our own.

I was just talking story with the rest of the guys group and made friends with one of the kids from the Idaho group named Sean. So I branched off with him and then we branched off to go find some of the Maui group. We found them and stayed together. The first thing we did together was going to this hole in the wall restaurant. I got the cheapest thing there which was a pesto pasta it was only €6 and then got a pizza for all of us to share. It took awhile but when I got my pasta I was satisfied it was the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life. It was so much I couldn’t finish it and the waitress wouldn’t let me leave without finishing. So we all just split the pasta on all of our plates to make it look like we ate more. Next thing we did was check out a fountain of a hog that we checked out earlier. It was The Bronze Pig of Florence it is said that if you rub the pig’s snout and put a coin in its mouth and if the water washes the coin out into the grate then you’ll be sure to return to Florence.

Later on, we went to this store that was like a Hot Topic and we were all like “where in Italy but we’re gonna buy American stuff?” Everyone bought contacts but me because I didn’t want to so my friend from Idaho bought some for me so I’d have to wear them. I eventually put them on and wore them the rest of our free time. Everyone was looking at us like we were crazy because we all had contacts on. The next thing we did was check out this candy store that had a wall of running chocolate flowing down on their wall called Venchi.

After we had to head back to our groups and meet up at the halfway time. I went with the Maui group because I couldn’t find my one but right after the Maui’s meeting I caught up with mine. The next store we went to was a restaurant/Record Store called Move On. After that, we went to another store and bought some posters. They were only £5 each which if you think of it would be double over here. I bought 2 Beatles posters and an Alice In Wonderland poster for my dad because he loves the Mad Hatter. For the rest of the day in the city, we pretty much just walked around doing nothing. Then when we got to our hotel I just went and played games with my friend from Idaho and two of the students from Maui down in the library.

Early in the day we packed up and headed to Rome. We checked out the Colosseum and checked out how interesting it was. To think that this building was around 2,000 years old and that it was in that good condition. We could even see some of the original plaster that was put on it. One thing I wasn’t expecting was that the inside of the Colosseum wasn’t flat it was filled with walls in the middle it wasn’t just ground. Our guide was saying that gladiators would fight against other animals in there everywhere from tigers to bears. After that, we visited the Roman Forum right next to the Colosseum. At the end of the day, we visited the Trevi Fountain which was built in 1732 and shoots out a total of 2,824,800 cubic feet of water a day. It is said that if you turn your back to the fountain and throw your coin over your left shoulder into the fountain it will guarantee a return trip back to Rome. At the end of the day, a Roman Catholic Charity called Caritas sweeps the coins and makes about $1.26 million annually and distributes it amongst the needy.

On our ninth day which was the last day for the Maui group we checked out Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The first place we checked out was Sistine Chapel. It is home to two of the world’s most famous paintings one of them being Michelangelo‘s frescoes from 1508 to 1512 and “Giudizio Universale” or “The Last Judgement” that was done at a much later time from 1536 to 1541. Honestly, the artwork in there was so amazing and it’s just one of those things that you’d never see in your life then wham you’re there. I had a hard time walking around because I couldn’t take my eyes off of the ceiling.

After we left Sistine Chapel we went to St. Peter’s Basilica. It finished construction in 1626 after 120 years of construction. It was in plans to be built multiple times but it was only until Michelangelo took over in 1547 when he was 72 that actual progress happened. Michelangelo simplified the original plans and made plans that would eventually become his greatest architectural achievement, the dome. He never lived to see it built, though, left the rest of the work to be done by Domenico Fontana. The next thing we did was visit the roman catacombs. To this date, they have found 20km of tunnels explored. It was a really fast visit and were only in the actual catacombs for like 20 minutes.

Later in the afternoon I and my Sean hung out with the Maui kids that we hung out with in Florence. We played charades and talked story. I bought a couple things for back home. I got a snow globe, a bookmark of the pope for my brother, and an expensive necklace. I got disconnected from the group I was hanging out with so I regrouped with some of the Kohala kids. While we walked around after awhile we were screwing around and messing with these guys trying to sell us stuff by talking pidgin and they couldn’t understand what we were saying. When we got back to our hotel I hung out a lot with the Maui kids along with my Idaho friend because it was their last day. We played more charades and basically tried to have as much fun as we could before they left and we did. When I got to the room I immediately went and took a shower. My roommates told me that while I was taking my shower one of the Maui kids came to talk to me but left because I was in the shower. Right after I got out I just jammed some music and knocked out. My roommates never told me that someone stopped by. They said that they came back again but I was knocked out and all spread out on my bed and they tried to wake me but couldn’t it was like I was in a coma. On top of all that I was snoring really loud and they said you could hear me from the halls of the hotel which were really embarrassing.

Early in the morning I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep. Only when it was like 4 I fell back asleep. I felt bad that I never got to say my goodbyes. One of the other roommates woke up as well and told me that one of the Maui kids that I hung out with came by when I was in the shower and when I was knocked out. Later in the morning when everyone else got up we ate breakfast and headed to Pompeii. My Italian lineage is actually from around Pompeii area but a little closer to Naples which we drove past on our way to Pompeii. It was storming when we arrived. The rain just kept dumping and dumping. Everyone had their ponchos and umbrellas out and I was just getting super wet. I didn’t care I loved it. The rain even tastes different than what it does over here. The whole area was pretty flattened down because of what happened when Mt Vesuvius went off in 79 AD. Our guide was saying that the eruption wasn’t primarily lava, it was primarily ash, 40 feet of it covered Pompeii. He also said the people didn’t necessarily die from the weight of the ash but from the gases that were in it. He also was telling us that Pompeii was a hot spot for the economy and that people from all over the Mediterranean sea would come there. After we checked out the Sorrento region then ended our day.

On our last full day in Italy we went to Capri. After driving on steep, curvy, and narrow roads to get to our destination we finally got to a place to be dropped off. Me and some other people went on the Seggiovia del Monte Solaro which is like a one chair ski lift to get to get to the summit of the island. At the summit you could see the whole island. After that I took a bunch of pictures then we left to go back to Rome to catch our flight home next morning. Once we got to our hotel for the night some of the other roommates decided to make a “Welcome to my crib” video. After that whole thing, we went into a group meeting and talked about the whole trip as an experience and how it will live on in our memories forever. We also found out that we had to get up at 2 O’clock in the morning the next day to catch our flight.

Here we are 2 O’clock in the morning getting ready to leave. I only got like 3 hours of sleep and I got all the others up in my room too. We left almost immediately afterwards. When we got to the airport all the lights were on but no one was there. We said goodbyes to all our Idaho buddies and bid them their farewells and til we meet agains. Then we head towards where we were suppose to be. We were waiting til like 6:30 then someone eventually came. It was finally like almost 8am when got to our gate and since I had internet and free time I Facetimed my family. I told them I was coming home finally! We got on our 4-hour flight to London then we got on a 10-hour flight to Los Angeles and on our way we flew over Greenland and Canada. It was hard to see because they were covered in snow so I had a hard time telling if that was land or just the clouds. When we got to LA I went to Dunkin’ Donuts and bought 2 ¢89 hash browns. I didn’t have any more Dollars just Euros otherwise I would’ve bought 10 because they were so good. Then we got on our 5-hour flight to Kona and left. Right before we landed we flew over the south side of the island and saw lava glowing. When we finally got to landed in Hawai’i I was really sad rather then happy :'( the trip was over and our now it was time to get out of vacation mode. It was hardcore pouring rain when we got there. Waterfalls where pouring off all side of the roofs. Once the doors opened to the luggage claim I saw my mom. And got my luggage said goodbye to the rest of the group and went home. That was literally the longest day of my life.

This was an incredible experience that I will never forget. It has taught me and shaped a more appreciative view of the world for me.