My World’s on Fire, How ‘Bout Yours?

So apparently that heat wave finally got here. It’s a bit toasty here, to say the least. Besides that, my computer is on the fritz and won’t play videos on Firefox. Anyone have suggestions? Well, I guess I’ll have to take it in when I get back home.

Mary and I went to a Karagiozis performance last night, which is shadow puppetry. Ever see the newest Karate Kid? It’s sorta like the scene where Dre kisses that Chinese girl, though with a Greek twist. Here’s a bit of information on what it was we saw:

Link: Karagiozis

It was a lovely little place with lots of children, and though we didn’t really know what was going on, we could gather the gist of it through gestures and when people laughed. It’s interesting how people spend time with their children here as opposed to America. I’m just going with personal experience here, but recreational time back home, more often than not, is spent in front of the TV. I know a few families who bring their children to park’s and such, but that’s usually before dinner, some time throughout midday. Moms typically let their children play on their own while they sit and chat with friends or read a book, and in the evening, children either watch TV, play video games, or (occasionally) go over a friend’s house.

Through my own casual observations, I find it to be a little different here. For one, parents still bring their children to the park (Plateia), albeit around 7-8pm and later. The people here seem very active in the, what we consider, late hours of the evening (anywhere from 7 to 10pm), and this includes the children playing at the park. There are social and age groups distributed throughout the Plateia, from Tweens in neon tights and striped shirts, to old men arguing over the economy. I tried asking myself why these groups are out at such a time, in such a social setting: perhaps it has to do with the siesta (nap/rest time) that they have from 2:30-5pm, making them rested for whatever may come in the hours of the evening. Perhaps it’s because Greek culture naturally has multiple social elements and strong roots in relationships, in the cohesive community atmosphere.

Whatever the case, this is vastly different from where I come from, as previously stated. Children are also brought into the adult social gatherings at a rather young age, are included in conversation and considered, if not equals, then at least contributing members.

Snapshot of a shadow puppet at a store

Charlie made us a fish dinner, with a side of mashed potatoes and broccoli. All from scratch

Some guy Mary and I spotted on the tram

We also went and saw Spiderman at an outdoor theater, at some cafe-like place. I definitely like indoor theaters better, at least for the experience. But then, in a place like this, I could talk during the movie and it wouldn’t really bother anyone. If anyone cares, I give the movie a 6.4/10 for various reasons I’ll cover in my other blog at one point.

Like Marble

What is the American culture based upon? What influences daily interactions, catchphrases, pop culture, and ritualistic habits? Are they derived from the American evolution, from our cohesive North American maturation from colonies to united nation, or were these aspects of daily life carried on from the many countries from which we Americans all hail from?

Or is it a little less complex? Perhaps our behaviors simply originate from the last two to three hundred years, everyday conduct and expression built upon recent pop culture. Whatever the case may be, it is most certainly different from that of the Greek way of life, which consists of strong mythological and historical elements. There’s something guttural, bewitching, and enthralling about the stitching of ancient Greek history and mythology that weaves in between modern life, in both decorum as well as landmarks.

Though Greece may have choked streets, car exhaust and littered sidewalks applying a thin but notable veil of city filth, and other modern necessities that are much akin to American cities, it has something that is absent from my life at home.

Power.

There’s a taught line, in fact many lines, that extend throughout the homes and monuments of this country, stringing together both past and present in a culmination of something beyond just the physical of this world. It joins together the banal, corporeal entanglements of life and the fathomless reaches of the human imagination, or maybe the metaphysical depending on your set of beliefs. It’s a land that is both divine and not, because it holds what is most human and transcendental in nature. Greece is made of so much land, rock, dirt; yet, it contains mountains that brush against the sky in kinship of the elemental unity of the Earth.

And in the way in which Greece interacts with life, so too does it interact with death. We were just discussing the way in which the typical Greek burial is performed: The body is immediately buried, and after three years it it unearthed and the bones are cleaned. If the bones are indeed rid of flesh, then they are put to rest; however, if the case is otherwise, the family member must find the remaining unsettled attachments of the deceased and resolve whatever may be left unfinished. The bones are reburied, and the process repeats until all that is left is clean bone.

This, so different from a typical American cremation or casket burial, distinguishes the Greek vision of death from the American. I mentioned this as an example, though a fairly heavy one, as to the almost reverent nature of this culture. It’s close, deep, and so very spiritualistic.

Simpler cultural tidbits also reflect this, such as the way in which meat is sold and bought. The carcasses of the animals are put on display, chosen by the customer and treated before their eyes. The evil eye, a well known accessory to the tourist, trails back to just one of many Greek superstitions of greed, envy, and a ritual in which to protect oneself from such negative feelings.

I haven’t traveled much of anywhere, not even in the States, but I feel as though Americans are missing something vital in everyday life that this country exudes in every pore of its being. Perhaps it has to do with its longstanding history, maybe the religious influences of so many time periods. Whatever the reason, Greece is inhabited by a spirit, a spirit made of flesh and bone and so much more that I can’t possibly begin to describe.

Is it because America is yet so young? We have a very strong culture of our own, but there is a difference that sets off the balance between here and there. It could be due to the mixture of cultural fusion, so many people from so many places. They mix and mix, diluting the singular identity that the Greeks respect so much.

Well, what do I know? This is my best attempt at describing my experience here so far, my best at trying to compare just what I’ve seen while roaming the winding streets and rolling stairs of this city and country.

Greece, I think, is like marble. Recrystallized carbonate minerals, a crystalline stone and shining rock molded into the antiquity of this culture that relays skill, labor, spirit, and history. It’s marble because it shines, in the most simple and yet radiant way possible. And it retains the shape of its creators, and love of its people.

Blather

I hate the electricity here. Out of all the differences in facilities, from toilets to AC, the overall electricity maintenance bites. I feel like there’s a chipmunk or some other kind of rodent scurrying around between the walls, chowing down on all the wires and snickering at the unfortunate chaos that ensues in the various dorms. Something like this comes to mind:

There’s actually rolling blackouts here. Most of them are scheduled, so it’s not too terrible, but isn’t that inconvenient? In terms of groceries going bad, it’s not a big worry because of the way shopping here works. The closeness of markets makes it so people can do daily shopping, the rather small refrigerators attesting to the amount of groceries usually stocked up on (i.e. not many). It seems that the people here also rely more on open windows and doors as opposed to the AC, another energy saver for reasons aforementioned in a previous post. So food going bad and AC isn’t a big worry…well, isn’t that about all we rely on electricity for? Cooking should be considered as well, but that can be easily managed (a hurricane veteran speaking here).

When I think about all this, I guess I can see why the ‘inconvenience’ of blackouts really wouldn’t faze Greeks. And, in a roundabout way, I think they sympathize with the reasons behind the majority of the blackouts, which includes protests supporting other working classes (such as the transportation system) and other political/economic catalysts. I also wonder if the heat has anything to do with the electrical surges. There’s supposed to be some heat wave strolling along (beginning and mid July usually packs some intense heat here in Greece, or so I’ve been told).

The lack of blogging for the past three days is more or less in effect due to the lack of anything really happening. It’s basically classes…classes….work for said classes. I’ll end on that note.

Temple at the Agora

Lauren bought some dessert. Can’t remember the name of it, but I think it was Bougatsa.

God of the Sea

I’m tinkering with the date this is being published, so technically it’s being written on the 7th, but all the events I’m about to mention went down on the 4th. Got it memorized?

We went to the Temple of Poseidon and to the beach, sort of relaxing in comparison to everything else we’ve been doing. Mary and I, just about as soon as we got off the bus, headed to the edge of the cliffs where the Temple resided and climbed down the rocks to the water. We couldn’t actually jump into it because of all the sea urchins, but we were pleasantly surprised to see the Kaplans climbing down as well. My initial reaction was more or less “Mary, you are the sand and stone! Hide yourself!”, but it was utterly unwarranted. Apparently some previous students did the same thing, and I just sorta spazzed for no reason. Typical.

Pottery remnants that Mary and I found at the excavation site

It was cool walking through live excavations on the way back to the bus, and seeing all the pottery just scattered along the dirt. Once we left, we ate lunch and headed to the beach, which was at a club called Mojito or something along those lines. It was nestled in a little bay, where we climbed the rocks and jumped into supremely salty water. The Mediterranean it a salt bath, you have been warned. Caught a starfish, laid out in the sun, and bought some super fresh fruit juice. Plus, it was Jimmy’s and Ellie’s birthday, so later that night we had a little party and lit sparklers once it got dark out.

On a side note, it’s cool that so many structures here are still made of marble. Makes sense considering how practical it really is: it reflects the natural light that filters in through windows, making indoor lighting unnecessary during daylight. It also keeps things fairly cool, even in the brunt of a scorching sun.

The Burnout Inferno

So…tired…windmill…powering cities…ughhh.

The gist of this, if you haven’t caught on, is that I’m running outta fuel. I’m beat, worn out, spent, running on fumes, knackered, bushed, bone tired. Not so much from schoolwork or anything, but just from everyday chores and the trips with the Kaplans. All the walking, talking, cleaning, observing, and absorbing is wearing me thin, and I was really happy that today ended up being very, very chill. Mary and I watched a little bit of Rome and Game of Thrones before heading out to class. Yesterday was all classes, and nothing happened other than taking notes and food shopping.

Instead of cooking tonight, though, we went out to eat (yet again), and a piece of Greek culture caught my attention today just like it did when we first arrived. The dining here works a bit differently, meaning that the check usually doesn’t come unless you ask for it…and sometimes that can take a while. This is so unlike American dining, where the check comes immediately after the waiter/waitress knows you’re finished eating. We’ve discussed this in class, that the dining here is more of a social tool rather than a mode for eating: the food comes second while the conversation with family and friends comes first. This is primarily concerning cafes, but restaurants are also used in this manner. Even the type of furniture relays this aspect, most places having more couches and coffee tables rather than chairs and high tables.

Our art history professor at a rather awkward moment

Ah, and there was a little soccer match after our pot luck last night. I decided to edit a bit of the footage I got: enjoy.

Siesta’s Not a Fiesta

We went out and visited Corinth, Mycene, and Nauplio yesterday, along with a friend of the Kaplan’s who lives in Corinth. She gave us a condensed tour of pottery and sculpture, along with basic architecture. What’s more, though, is that she invited us into her home and served us tea, lemonade, and homemade corn/apple bread. There aren’t many houses in Athens; instead, the streets are crowded with apartments stacked upon one another. One reason for this is because Athens is a city, the capital in fact, so taking up vertical space is just about the only way to go with such a miniscule amount of land to house 1/3 of Greece’s inhabitants. Another explanation lies in Greece’s familial peculiarities, meaning the way in which the Greek family interacts with one another. In most cases, families tend to stick together, living nearer to each other than most American families are comfortable with: this means that the apartments serve as a multilayer home for different branches of the family.¬† I certainly wouldn’t want to live this way, but I can see the appeal of it to a family-based culture.

Anyway, since there aren’t many houses in Athens, it was cool to see one out in Corinth while we snacked on the bread.

Angela snacking on an orange

Afterwards, we climber more mountains and looked at more rocks, carefully stalked deep into a cave thing, ran through a museum (or at least I did), checked out a tomb, and finished the day off by the sea. There was a castle by said sea, one which we drove to rather than climbing 999 steps (or something like that).

Tholos tomb in Mycenae

A little captain?

Photobombing…sorta

While we were by the ocean, I persuaded Mary to jump in the water by the bay with me (what can I say? The ocean was calling). Nicki, Hannah and Chase did as well, and we were soaking wet all the way back to the dorms.

Today was less traveling and more of just…whatever. After Jimmy gave his presentation on the Agora downtown (which was very well done), the girls and I headed for home with hopes of picking up some groceries, which we were in desperate need of…but there’s this thing, you see. Most places are closed on Sundays, including all of the stores we hunted down on the way back. In fact, store times also close during siesta time everyday, which is from around 2-5:30. This time slot is reserved for relaxation and naps, which can either be extremely welcoming or horrifyingly inconvenient. Most of the time we just work around it, which is easy to do because the bulk of our classes are during that time anyway. It didn’t work so well for us today, obviously, and it makes me eternally grateful for the accessibility of nearly anything back in the US.

At the same time, though, this whole practice of taking time out of everyday life to enjoy oneself is somewhat novel, and, even more so, respectable. Of course most Americans couldn’t take this kind of time for themselves and enjoy it, because our ideals provoke us to utilize every second of our time in attempts of accomplishing something. Or at the very least, dedicating ourselves in the pursuit of something.

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…?