A Virtual Odyssey

By Ms. Pollyanna Penguin


On the 10th of December, annus 2021, I participated, along with my fellow students, in a cultural exchange involving a paideia (learning) with students in Greece. The cultural exchange between Universities was about elpis (hope) via a concordance of knowledge. I selected a topic that linked the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games with the evolution of the St Kilda Penguin Colony. Penguin’s because they are indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere’s southern oceans, with the 1956 Olympic Games being the first of the Modern Olympics to be held in Australia and indeed the Southern Hemisphere. The Melbourne Olympics took the games to the world for the first time[1] and a breakwater built for the Yachting (off the St Kilda Pier) created a home for our Little Penguins. The concordance of this odyssey is the link the between the Ancient Olympic Games, the Great Southern Land, Little Penguins and their journey home. The cultural exchange via story telling, a ‘virtual’ oral tradition, was therefore one of hospitality, but the encounter was also one born of necessity as a result of the Covid_19 Pandemic restricting the world of travel. Filoxenia hospitality, the feeling of welcome, the love for the foreigner was the similarity between the Universities as we shared our stories, with distance and language being the barriers.

Gone Fishing (St Kilda Breakwater)
Photo Cristina Ceddia 18th November 2017 ©

I really enjoyed the poetry of this exercise in antallagi (exchange) as I find the Greek Language soothing to the ear and senses. A fine understanding of the meaning of what was being said was lost on me because I do not understand Greek. But I understood the sentiment and our experience could only be enhanced with a meal followed by festivity of music and dance. The Antagonist of our tour was the tyranny of distance so Zorba was reduced to a ‘waddle’ of virtual perception. I was left with a longing of more; the hospitality was not without hunger and thirst. I was inspired by Northern Greece and curiosity beyond Athens.

Ned and Zorba dance….
(Dancing the Sirtaki) By Theodore Paterakis 2004 ©

A virtual tour is reliant on technology and language. I felt the inequity of ‘belonging’ to a land of recent colonisation whereby our indigenous people have been pushed to one side. I feel the strong national pride of the Greek students as being superior to our transplanted multiculturalism. Diaspora is a word of Ancient Greek origin ‘dia speiro’ meaning to sow over.[2] Australia is a land of scattered people and scattered language compared to the much stronger language and cultural values of Europe and its indigenous populations. The Greek students we engaged with were more formal in their approach and their language skills innately superior.

From the ‘periodeia’ the two main concepts of interest to me was the Mythology of Mount Olympus, Epic Verse and the journey home. This is why I elected to share, in some small way, the epic adventure, of the Ancient Games of Mount Olympus, journey to the Great Land of the Holy Spirit and blend the mythologies of Olympus and Country. It is my hope to write a small educational book for children, translated into other languages, that explains the odyssey of the littlest Penguins finding home and colonising a man made structure via i thalassa.

Stair Penguin (St Kilda Breakwater)
Photo Cristina Ceddia 20th December 2018 ©

[1] Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games Britannica https://www.olympic.com.au  > games > accessed 18 January 2022

[2] Diaspora, Social Science, Britannica https://www.britannica.com > accessed 18th January 2022.

Feature Pic – Loutro Crete Greece and the Mediterranean Sea – Photo Cristina Ceddia 28th October 2016 ©