Mad Dash in the Traffic Pass

I kinda wanna start this post off with just a couple pictures of our dorm.

Quaint, yes? Speaking of quaint, I broke a cup yesterday in the most glorious fashion. I suppose I’ll have to buy another one, otherwise our homemade dinners will lack an adequate number of utensils. We’ve only had a few, dinners that is, in our dorm, but the ones we’ve had were absolutely kick a**. The explicative was necessary to relay the amount of awesome in those dinners, compliments of Mary, Nicki, and Charlie (my roommates). I helped too of course…with cutting tomatoes, cheese, and bread. Hey! At least I did the dishes after we ate, and cleaned up the kitchen.

 

I took these pictures with my small Canon, so the quality lacks a bit. Still, this was from a dinner Charlie made, which was some spaghetti and meatballs along with a caprese salad. Delicious is an understatement.

As is simply saying that the driving here is insane. I’m sure that those of you who have been to some part of Europe can understand what I’m talking about, at least a little. For one, there are almost no stoplights to speak of, nor are there many crosswalks. So basically you have to J-walk everywhere and have the skills (and luck) to not get hit. Some people are nice enough to slow down for you, but mostly these little cars zip up and down the streets like little electric go-carts. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the chosen irritation of today (now yesterday considering I didn’t have the resolve to finish this up last night).

If I had to take a crack at why the driving is so (for lack of a better term) crazy, then I guess I’d say it’s because of the rather narrow roads and complete lack of parking facilities near stores and other public places. However, that can only explain a part of the situation, because the drivers themselves rarely signal for turns or stops. I can’t decide whether they’re absolute pro’s, especially when in regards to the parallel parking onto sidewalks, or utterly insane…maybe it’s a mixture of the two. Or maybe their driving somewhat reflects the Greek  identity, meaning that…hm, well, I don’t know what I really mean by that. When I can formulate a response, I’ll continue this line of thought make make better of it.

Otherwise, this was a completely uneventful day.

Adio~

NO! Wait, I have to mention the juice here! The fruit in this country is tastier than nearly any food I’ve ever had before, which explains why their fruit juice is to die for. I wonder if I can somehow get a carton of it past customs…?

The Bite and Other Spectacular Features

It may have occurred to some people that I didn’t blog yesterday (Pop). That’s because we are allowed breaks every once in a while, dear Father of my Father, and I was not really inclined to blog about an otherwise uneventful day. But I will tell you, if you must know: yesterday was Charlie’s birthday, so Mary and I got up rather early and trekked down to the bakery in order to get some pastries for breakfast.On the way back (because I really wanted an apple), we hit a small veggie/fruit stand, and despite my adamancy (is that a word? Whatever), the man there gave me the apple for free. I thought this was mighty nice of him, especially considering how ridiculous I was trying to relay what I wanted through interpretive dance.

Anyway, Charlie loved the pastries. We took the Metro again to visit a few sites for our reports, which was nice in a small group because we could stop frequently and observe our surroundings. The graffiti we saw (which, might I add, is all over Athens. All over) was particularly interesting, pretty much because some of the illustrations were a little more intricate that the ones in our neighborhood.  I can’t decide whether I think it’s beautiful/awesome, or irritating. When we first arrived in Athens, it made everything look incredibly intimidating, because I (personally) negatively associate graffiti with gang activity and hoodlums…wow, I sound like a stuffy 70 year old woman. Spectacular. Well, I did, and I thought that all the scrawl was more or less a mess along all the public buildings and whatnot.

It made me uncomfortable, seeing it along nearly every wall, around every corner. But, the longer I stay here, the more I look forward to discovering more. I’ve been told that a leading reason behind the graffiti is the unstable political status of Greece (of which we all are somewhat aware, I’m sure), in which case the graffiti stands for the anarchical frustration simmering behind the wibbly wobbly political and economic structure. In fact, quite a bit of the graffiti actually consists of political statements.

 

Oh! We ate at this lovely place called Mpongatsadiko…oh dear lord, I’m sure I translated that wrong (Mπουγατσάδιkο)…aaand I’m pretty sure I still spelled that wrong. The script on the napkin I kept is a little hard to read. Regardless, I got this spinach pie thing that was utterly delicious, and only cost approximately 1 euro. I think the correct spelling is Μπουγατσάδικο …which means I was right! YES! Moving along, it was cheap, good, and had a gorgeous interior that reminded me of a fairytale-esque eatery. It was in the Plaka, near the Metro station.

On the way back, we girls spotted an extremely attractive policeman, and as we walked by him, Charlie (being Charlie) asked if he spoke English. After he said yes, she proceeded to bluntly tell him that he was hot. And then calmly walked onwards. I think this might have been the highlight of my week.We finished off the day by eating at an Irish pub called The Silly Wizards (Link: The Silly Wizards), which has the absolute best nachos and chicken I have ever tasted in the short entirety of my life.

Today, on the other hand, was simply classes and a quick lesson in traditional Greek dance, which was fun…verily!

The Metropolitan (Cathedral) in Plaka

The Parthenon…and Really, That’s It

So today (technically yesterday…just roll with it) we went to the center of Athens, and therefore the Parthenon. It was quite the walk up, as it is everywhere in Greece…and not much really happened other than that. We took a small tour of the town area, and ate at a dainty restaurant with all sorts of Greek dishes, served in the Greek style as well. That basically means they put a bunch of plates around the table, a little of everything, and everyone picks off a bite or two from each.

Wait, while we’re on the topic of restaurants, I’d like to mention how much I hate the drinkage system they follow here. Complimentary water at most places, yes, very ritzy. But then you order your drink, which consists of s single bottle and empty cup in which you can pour said drink. This means no automatic refills, no fountain sodas (which I have a sick obsession with). I’m having the worst time remembering this whenever we go out to eat, so I end up chugging whatever I have, which of course leaves me with the choice of either buying another drink, or going without it through lunch/dinner.

I won’t die from this. Don’t mock me, I know this pales in comparison to other cultural shock issues I’ll probably be experiencing. But this is a Katie-Awareness thing, and I am hyper aware of fountain beverages. I haven’t quite figured out why this is, but I think I might go with the assumption that most sodas are probably imported, so you know…waste not want not and all that. I haven’t been to any other part of Europe, but I’ve been told that the non-fountain drink thing is all over. Maybe from the importation thing, or maybe because the idea behind it is more of an American pastime that never carried over.

Mary and me on the Metro

Side view of the Parthenon

Mary and me at the Parthenon

 

Brief tidbit: today in class (yes, classes started) the professor (British, might I add) mentioned that the pieces of the Parthenon are nearly all replicas due to the damage from smog to the actual remnants. The real parts are stored away, which makes the whole experience a little less captivating. Another worry is that all the grindage from tourist’s feet are wearing down what’s left of the Acropolis, which is a valid issue. It makes you wonder what’s more important: the tourism industry, which supports most of Greece’s economy and requires the Acropolis to remain open; or preserving Greece’s history, which would require reduced exposure but still requires funding from, probably, tourism.

 

Delphi and Turkish Delights

I would like to dedicate this post to Mary.

Mary purifying herself

So today we visited Delphi and a monastery (Osios Loukas). The mountains were beautiful, we were so high up (it kinda reminded me this panda movie I watched as a kid…The Amazing  Panda Adventure). On the way there, we stopped at a store selling lots of different pastries and other good-looking stuff, among which I spied some Turkish Delights. You have to understand, I’ve never tried a Turkish Delight, and they just look so yummy in The Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t buy any, though, ’cause it was still breakfast time and we were about to for hiking in the hot sun: not exactly the best recipe for a good time. At Delphi we took a look at the temple of Athena and Apollo, both of which were nothing more than rubble and rocks (pretty cool rocks, but not nearly as exciting as the mountain view). We also took a stroll through the town nearby, where I bought my cousin (Tori) a souvenir I’m sure she’ll enjoy. We also ate at a nice mountain-side restaurant.

Purifying myself before the trek up

Me and Charlie sitting on some ruins

The walk around Delphi was quite laborious, albeit fun with all the great company. It was nice to cool off with some frozen drinks before we hit the museum. After we left, we ended up at the monastery. I really think it was the most beautiful out of all the places we visited, even Rhodes. The architecture and the murals were…for lack of a more accurate way to express my astonishment, breathtaking. The way the sound echoed in from the outside, the birds chirping and the wind  breezing through, was a little otherworldly.

Some of the girls had to wear skirts (provided by the monastery) if their shorts were above the knees. Inside, besides the artwork and candles, were the remains of a saint (not sure who), which was particularly interesting, more or less because of the beautiful casket that held him. I can only recall one particularly uncomfortable moment…and that would be using the bathrooms at the monastery. They were pretty much just holes in the ground, and my less-than-graceful self had a moment of derpism trying to utilize said facilities.  These kind of toilets (Turkish toilets, as it were) require squatting on a flat surface, which may seem scary to someone used to the raised commode, but it’s actually pretty hygienic because only your feet touch the toilet (or so some sources have said on other blogs). Which leads into my next point: throwing used toilet paper away rather than flushing it.

I, being used to the usual mode of American waste disposal, am highly uncomfortable with this. Getting over it, yes, but still not completely used to the dangers of traversing Greek bathrooms. I think this method is utilized because of the pipes here (maybe?), but I wonder why the plumbing isn’t just adjusted considering all the yuck garbage they still have to process.

Now that I’ve put this unnecessarily large photo just above, I’ll close this post with mention of that Turkish Delight I previously mentioned. Once we got onto the bus to go back to the dorms (Mrs.) Dr. Kaplan announced that she’d bought some, and that she was going to pass it around for everyone to try. Lemme tell you, I was so pumped. So pumped. I told my friend Mary this, and waited impatiently for it to get to us. As we were waiting, I jokingly said how funny it would be if I absolutely hated it…which I did. She thinks it’s hilarious; however, I am verily disappointed. A dream has been tarnished, forever abandoned and left in the ruins of Delphi.

A moment of silence.

Adio~

Washing Machines and Peanut Butter

I attempted laundry yesterday, and let me just say that it was a trip. Not like the Wizard of Oz, where there’s a blatant yellow road to follow with comrades in arms. No, it was more like Finding Nemo, where you have no idea where the heck your going, and your destination is extremely questionable.

First problem: finding out which machines are washers and which are driers. They all looked the same, really, and (me being me) I didn’t notice the vague directions pasted on the wall. I got the washer part down right, after inspecting the inside thoroughly, but the drier was a right mess. I threw my clothes into an unknown device (which I’m pretty sure was a steamer or something) that pretty much just soaked them some more. This, of course, pinched a few nerves and made me really worried about whether my clothes were going to get ruined from all the rough-housing. The metal ones I ended using were in English, but the designs of the other ones all looked the same, unlike the varying proportions of the laundry machines I’ve used at home.

 

These were fairly small. In fact, they were very small, which can either be accounted to the fact that, well, they’re just small models, or that the Greek’s conservation of water extends to even their appliances. It already does so for the toilets, which have varying flush cycles depending on the amount of water needed to get the job done. Why not washing machines? Well, I suppose the size can also be just for the convenience of space as well. You also have to turn the power on and off to use it, as well as turn on and off the lights in the room and other hallways in order to conserve energy. We discussed this today, that the energy restrictions are due to Greece’s lack of natural resources, and that the importation of coal, oil, etc. starts to get expensive after a while. Also, Athens is squeezed into this valley, and holds 2/3 of Greece’s population, so water distribution would of course be sanctioned. Hence the conservation bit.

Oh, and the peanut butter issue. I’m pretty sure it’s official: there’s no peanut butter in Greece. I know I won’t die or anything, but I gotta say, I’m craving a PB sandwich like crazy. I’d imagine that might just be because PB is an American thing, because I haven’t heard or read much of anything that explains it’s absence here.

Adio~

 

Yia Su, Rhodes

First thing I’d like to say: I’ve never had more fun with such a great group of people (I’d say girls, but despite the rather miniscule percentage, there is still a male population). Everyone’s been so bubbly and courteous, and I think I’ve gotten along pretty well with the groups I’ve meandered around, too.

But man, I really don’t know where to start. No wait, I know: the horrid plane ride over here (it’s all your fault, Nicki). That plane was not meant for sleeping, I don’t care what anyone says. There was not one comfortable position I could get into, and the stewardesses must have swallowed desert beetles before boarding. Honestly. Moving along, it was bad, and we really didn’t get to sleep until we left our stuff at the dorms and got onto the ferry (aka cruise). Not gonna lie, the fact that absolutely everything was in Greek when we got off the plane was a little really intimidating. It was also sorta cool though, like when you find a coke bottle in Spanish or a candy wrapper in Japanese.Just on a larger scale.

 

The coast of Athens

On the boat

Also on the boat

Near the Rhodes harbor

 

So in a synopsis of the first 24 hours, we were all tired. Once we got to Rhodes, we visited Lindos and the Acropolis there. I’m pretty sure that was the most I’ve ever sweat, save for any of the cross country meets back in High School. It was beautiful there, the water off the rocks was pretty much as blue as the Gulf (and probably bluer)…or blue Jello.

See what I mean? I was dying to dive right in, especially with it being noon and all. Once we got back to the hotel (Which was pretty nice, but had some major pitfalls. Such as no AC unless you pay 6 euros for 24 hrs of use), we went swimming at the (rocky) beach and ate at a very nice restaurant called Mezes (Link: Mezes), which I enjoyed thoroughly.

I think I’ll skip over the nitty gritty and just say that the next few days consisted of chilling, exploring the Old Town and it’s architecture, as well as dancing at a very nice restaurant, karaoke, and getting completely lost. The aforementioned ‘very nice restaurant’ was a place called Blue Lagoon (Link: Blue Lagoon), where the singing was wonderful and the ambiance was extremely festive.

At Mezes

Dancing at Blue Lagoon

We also squeezed Filerimos and the ancient city of Ialysos, Valley of the Butterflies (aka Moths), Ancient Kamiros, and the archeological museum of Rhodes all into yesterday (Tuesday). Very nice trip indeed, but now we’re back in Athens, and with that comes actual school work.

The genus Panaxia (Quadripunctaria Poda) from the Valley of the Butterflies

Mural at the archeological museum

The intimidating part was communication, and not seeming so completely inept. I didn’t know whether I was being rude in certain situations, whether through speech or mannerisms, but that was definitely a source of discomfort. Being in Rhodes, though, sort of provided a cushion to the whole speaking Greek thing, more or less because some of the menus, signs, etc. were in English. And quite a few natives could speak it fairly well, so exchanging different pleasantries went smoothly, as did absorbing Greek phrases. So basically, the intense discomfort I felt after immediately arriving in Greece (carefully hidden behind the awe and excitement) whittled away during our time on the island. It’s also helpful that I’m surrounded by people I relatively know (and am getting to know), so that I don’t really have to deal with stressful situations on my own. I hadn’t assumed much of anything before the trip here, mostly because I hadn’t really tackled the thought of language in daily life; however, simple things such as saying ‘thank you’ and ordering at a restaurant, as well as following directions, are all situations where I need to know how to read and translate the language. Which, so far, I’ve adequately covered with body language. We’ll see how this goes throughout the rest of my adventures.

The internet here leaves much to be desired, so I’ll just wait until I get home to upload more photos. Maybe I’ll just dedicate an entire post to it.

Slainte, or I guess since I’m in Greece now, Adio~

P.S. This will be edited over the next 24 hrs, so expect changes

Cause for Confront

Well, I thought this was. I mean, there’s five days left, and I need to make an address to the reader, sort of like what everyone else is doing. I’ll skip over the point of this blog, more or less because it’s covered under the About tab. However, I will go ahead and give my greetings and salutations to whoever is reading this, whether it’s family, a friend at home, or a friend also going abroad.

Sure, I’ll follow the curriculum that is the backbone of this blog, but I’m hoping to also add a bit of my own thoughts and humor. Maybe even add a cooking page, just for kicks (because I’m most certainly going to burn something at one point or another). Oh, and of those who are reading this that are on the trip, please (please) ignore the other blog under my account. That is purely for my own whims and whatever, but I’d like to keep multiple blogs under one account. It’s easier for me that way.

Tangent: I went and saw Yanni ( Yiànnis Hrysomàllis) Live a few nights ago with my cousin. If you don’t know who he is, or the relevancy of him to this post, here:

Yanni is a Greek self-taught pianist, keyboardist, and composer.Yanni has since performed live in concert before in excess of two million people in more than 20 countries around the world. He has accumulated more than 35 platinum and gold albums globally, with sales totaling over 20 million copies (Wikipedia).

He’s from Kalamata, Greece, and is quite the looker for his age. Here’s one of the songs he played:

This video is from 2004, but it’s the same song. Oh, and if you happen to be wondering who the amazing violinist is, his name is Samvel Yervinyan (basically the best violinist in the world).

Here’s a newer clip:

 

I’m not a very funny or witty person, so I think I’ll stop here.