Closing

It was my intention to come to Greece with one mindset and leave with another. I’m not sure what I wanted exactly, only that I desperately needed this change, and that I thought that traveling abroad with complete strangers was going to initiate it. I think now, looking back, what I wanted was an independent, self-sufficient attitude that would allow me to not only communicate better with others, but also help me continue relationships and obtain a better, more informed perspective on something more than just myself. And now, as the me leaving the foreign country I had such high expectations for, I can say with a self-assurance I certainly didn’t have before that I’ve left with what I came for, and more.

Through interaction with locals, other foreigners, as well as the other students traveling with me, I’ve come to understand something about relationships. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from, and therefore, who you are. You can be something that goes completely against someone else’s regards, and still, if you have the nerve and wit for decent conversation, friendships, or bonds at the very least, can be established with a little bit of work. Language doesn’t have to be a barrier, not unless you want it to be. Despite the fact that I can’t speak even a bit of Greek, I was able to befriend a baker, two grocers, and my professor, who, though not Greek, is from a place unlike my home, which could have easily been a barrier between him and me.

These friendships allowed me to cross a line that divided me from my comfort zone and something I had yet to experience, which was happiness stemming from relationships of not only a different culture, but also age group, profession, and all around understanding of a society in which I did not live. I was able to immerse myself in a place I did not understand, and through understanding it, I am able to see past the boundaries of my limited interests and lifestyle.

This trip, despite it’s wonderful enchantments, has not changed who I am. It’s merely added to what I already was, and in that, has made me a more rounded person. It was not just the trip itself, but all the people who traveled alongside me. In fact, they made just as much as difference as Greece itself, and I can’t even begin to understand how to thank them for the friendship they’ve given me.

This is my last post, so on an ending not…

I HATE NUTELLA.

Never again. NEVER. There is such a thing as too much Nutella, and I have been there. BEEN THERE.

And with that, I bid adieu.

(I also dedicate this last post to Maria. Only a couple more days!)

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Don’t stANd, CEase and assist

I danced for quite a large chunk of my childhood, so it’s a little interest of mine. I was snagged by the topic of dance here, and how it’s a personal expression of emotion rather than an art to entertain. This concept…it’s really not so different from American dance, or dance from any country I’ve taken a glance at. I feel as though dance has always been used for expression, whether in groups or a singular person, from ballet to kabuki.

But the amount of reverence held in regards to the dance certainly does fluctuate. I was told a story about how a fight broke out because a man clapped while another danced, insulting the dancing man’s self expression (I believe that’s what he did. Either that, or a began dancing along side him, I can’t remember which). In the midst of the fight, the impeding man was killed.

A little extreme, no? Perhaps it has something to do with the display of masculinity, of power in Greece and how important it is to exude such control.

 

You’ll Feel a Slight Pinch

One of my Roommates (Charlie) decided she wanted to get her nose pierced while we’re here. So, basically on a whim, I decided to get one of my own. Not a nose piercing, of course, but I did get my cartilage  done. It was interesting how they went about doing it.

I have 6 piercings already (all ear, chill Pop) and so I’ve been to a couple of different places to get them done, all of which used piercing guns. However, this place (Berlin Tattoo: Berlin Tattoo) used an IV-like needle. The guy stuck it through first, then cut off the tag part, and then removed whatever material it was to insert the earring. I looked up piercing methods, and it looks like it was just a standard needle method:

The customary method of body piercing includes the use of a needle. It is one of the oldest and easiest techniques and is practiced due to its simplicity and effectiveness. These needles come in different sizes, lengths, thickness and shapes to suit individual requirements. Needle piercing is done by hand or with the help of a needle holder with which it is pierced into the body and left there. Then it is gently removed and the jewelry is forcefully pushed into the incision made. In most cases, the thickness of the needle is more than the ornament’s for which the piercing is done. This is because it gives sufficient space for the ornament to move in and out of the hole and a lot of room for the piercing to heal and also prevents the formation of a fistula. (indobase)

We were talking to the guy there, and he insisted that this method is the best, especially over the guns. Why? He said that it’s not only more precise, but also safer and cleaner. He didn’t explain why, but we also didn’t really ask, either. So…I decided to look it up. This is one answer that I found:

The mall piercing booth, and stores like Claires, uses a mostly plastic gun, which cannot be autoclaved (the plastic will melt). Also the gun is used over and over again. Swabbing the gun with alcohol is usually not enough to get in the nooks and crannies and icky stuff will linger in there.

So basically the gun can’t be properly sterilized, which makes sense. There are several piercing methods, some utilized and some not depending on where you go. I think the reason why I’ve yet to experienced anything other than the gun is because I’ve only gone to places like department stores. Not tattoo parlors. Anyway, it was an enlightening  experience and the people there were very nice.

The Dog Days Are NOT Over

So some dogs chased Charlie today. She went to pet it (which really wasn’t a great idea, but he DID look sorta nice) and he basically growled and chased her a bit. There are a lot of stray animals here, primarily cats and dogs and especially dogs. Most of them are sickly looking, mangy, and definitely not owned by any singular person. What I mean by that is that some of these dogs are owned communally, by neighborhood. Some have collars, some don’t, some are friendly, some aren’t. There was one that followed Mary and I as we came back from shopping one evening. He had a collar on, and he didn’t snap at us, so we decided to feed him a ham sandwich and give him some water. We see food and water laid out here and there, presumably for dogs like these.

But I mean it when I say there are a lot of dogs. Why? We discussed this briefly in one of our classes, actually. The Greeks don’t spay or neuter their animals, more or less because they view the suppression of one’s sex to be demeaning. It’s against the culture, so in this case, the animals run rampant. Unfortunately, though they may view this suppression negatively, they feel just fine leaving poisoned food out to take care of the overpopulation, or so I remember hearing.

This is just another vast difference from the States, where spaying and neutering is an extreme commonality in just about every household. We still put animals down, particularly the stray ones, but I view the our population control factor as more…maybe humane isn’t the right word, but efficient certainly is.

…I feel as though I sound like some government official from a futuristic Sci-Fi flick.

Broken Things

I haven’t taken any pictures of the city yet. There’ a reason for that, actually: it’s not very pretty. It’s greasy and grimy and it smells funny. Like car exhaust and electrical surges and too many people. But you know what the best part is? It’s the exact same as any other city just about anywhere…not like I’d know, considering I’ve never been to a foreign city before. So let me reiterate. Athens is just like any other US city, which is dirty and overcrowded.

It was my first time in the actual city part of Athens when we went to the National Museum for our Antiquity class. It’s funny because you go from city-slicking Greeks to Tourist Fiesta by the time you hit up the museum area, which is adorned with people people from China to Britain. We’ve been twice now, and today it was unbearably hot. A dry hot with no wind, which makes it feel as though fire just might catch in between the oxygen molecules just from the friction of you moving against them.

It doesn’t work like that, I know, but the hot air even scorched my throat from a measly half mile walk. There is a difference in kinds of stores here in Greece, though. There’s more bakeries, more butchers and other specialized food stores…and of course everything is in Greek. The Museum is nice enough, lots of pretty broken pots and marble.

Don’t visit it unless you really like pottery and history. And broken things as well.

Shot Down on Sunday

I’m feeling Dursley-eque at the moment. Similar sentiment, wrong connotation. If you ever happen to visit Greece, keep in mind that a lot of public places are closed on Sundays, especially if you have to go grocery shopping like us. Unfortunately were barred from most food sources that didn’t include a waiter. The kiosks were available, but that can only supply so much (like chips, ice cream, milk, beverages, and candy).

So why are all these places closed? Same reason why places close in small towns in the US: it’s a holy day, a day for God. At least, that’s what I’ve been told. I did a little research on my own (very little) and I saw that a few people mentioned a law of some sort that made it illegal for most any shops to be open on Sunday. I don’t know why that is, because the link I tried to hunt down was broken. It might be illegal because of the religious connotation, which makes it so only florists, bakeries, restaurants, and kiosks are open.

This is certainly different from the States, Heaven knows what kind of riots would break out if the soccer moms couldn’t stock up on Gatorade for the rest of the week. The US is built to cater to convenience as it is, and such a religious notion is lost among the throngs of multiculturalism that the States house. You might see stores closed on Sunday in a small town, probably near the Bible Belt, but that’s about it.

We wanted to pick up ingredients to make brownies, so it wasn’t a big deal, but it sure sucked to walk all over the place in hopes of finding at least one open market. I wonder if the Greeks have considered opening up Sunday, especially with their economy in mind.

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.