Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Culture Shock

1.) No one cares - on the plane back home I sat by an Austrian couple. They did not talk to me and when I tried to talk to them and they gave very shot answers. They were uninterested in everything but themselves.

2.) Airport Officials\Workers - They were helpful and efficient. They gave you straight answers. They told you what you needed to know.

3.) Post Office - There was NOT long line of people waiting to pay their bills. They were fast and efficient.

4.) Misbehaved dogs - The dogs are friendly and interested in everyone and everything around them. They want you to pet them and they will jump on you. They are not superdogs.

Monday, May 17, 2010

All Nighters

We left Pagrati at 4am (Athens time) on Monday morning.
The bus was long, everyone was tired from the all nighter that was in the process of being pulled. The chatting slowly decreased into silence.
We left Athens at 8:10am (Athens time) on Monday morning.
We arrived too early, so we couldnt check in. Sitting, chatting, waiting, watching. I finally get up to the counter and after getting my way out of having to pay for my second bag walk through boarder control. Ya-sas Greece!
We arrived at Heathrow at 10am (London time) on Monday morning.
Heathrow is a busy airpor on a regular day, but today (the day before the month long strike) it was insane. We waited in lines and went through all sorts of security. We finally made it to the gate. My name was called over the loud speakers, I go up. I was choosen to be apart of a random extra security check. GREAT. They went through all my stuff, and could not repack it - very annoying. Then I got the pat down, and everything was checked. Finally I made it on the plane, just in time to find out that the plane had mechanic problems. After nearly an hour delay of fixing the plan we make it to the runway ... where again we are waiting for other planes to take off. Goodbye Heathrow!
We left Heathrow around 3pm (London time) on Monday.
The flight was long. I sat next to a really fat ethnic man who snored. It was terrible! I had kids behind me. But I was able to stay away for the most part.
We arrived at JFK at 6:15pm (Eastern time) on Monday.
We arrived as my connected flight to MN was departing. SO much for making it home in one day ... sleeping at the airport ... or not
I arrive in MN around 11 tomorrow morning!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy (Late) Mother's Day







Pictures taken with Mom is mind. Love you. :D

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 5th Riot Video

This video was taken when we were standing near the gardens. It was when I first noticed the fires on Stadiou and right before the police were running towards us.

video

May 5th Riots

All day, I was listening for the roar of the demonstration in Syntagma. But life went on as much as normal as could with all the strikes in Pagrati. Paul, Drew and I left for Syntagma around 12:30 and didnt hear too much until we had walked nearly through the National Gardens. As we exited the garden, walked through the Zappio parking way we saw the dark blue buses - yes, we would see action today.
We made it to the main road that leads directly to the square. There we met Communist protestors, mostly from the party of P.A.ME parading in the street with their flags on 2x4 planks of wood. Yes, itwould be good. The situation had escalated beyond the belief of the Greeks. For years, they have been saying (and been told) that things would get better ... but now thier dreams were being crushed by the IMF's imposed (DEH, in Greek) austerity measures.
We slowly mingled our way to the center of the the demonstration. When we arrived, nothing was REALLY happening ... a lot of disorganised chanting. The chanting became loud, everyone was repeatedly yelling "sfegies" and we saw the reporters rush after the re-enforcements. A group of Greeks were trying to make thier way through the police lines.
The Greeks trying to break police lines.
They didnt make it. It resulted in much bashing with batons, kicking and a teargas bomb or two thrown into the crowd. The Police quickley re-established themselves on the stairs. Things began to quiet down for a while - makes sense, it take a minute to recover from the teargas. Then the police started sending re-enforcements to the stations infront of where we were standing. Uh-oh... never good. Then I began to notice that the chanting was becoming louder, and closer to me ... finally it was at our backs, the police to our front. CRAP! We were trapped! If the Greeks decided to rush the police, we would be caught in the choas. We quickly moved closer towards the National Gardens, stationing ourselves directly infront of Parliament.
Before we moved, when the police were sending the re-enforcements.
BOOM ... BOOM!!! Syntagma Square quickly filled with smoke from the teargas, and people were fleeing towards us. We began to run for cover to the metro, when we realized we might get caught there. Bad idea... again we headed for the garden.
After we had moved to the center, when the teargas when off in the squar.
But stopped about 150 feet from where we had been, at the end of the tram line to continue observing. We were safe from the gas, people were assembling here ... no what would happen? BOOM ... BOOOM!!! Again tear gas went off - this time right in the spot where we HAD been standing. The crowd was in uproar, the police in frenzy. We stayed where we were ... The Greeks began to attack the police stationed at Parliament. A young Greek man, went up with a 2x4 stick and attacked the police. Then everything on hand began to be thrown ... empty and full water bottles, metal stuff, flares, stuff on fire ...


We moved to where the picture was taken, on the side walk to the right is the garden (though the gate was closed). More tear gas. Police running from all sides. It was then that I looked past Syntagma square towards Omonia and Panepistamou ... black, billowing clouds obstructed my expected view. There was a fire on Stadiou street... perhaps it was the bomb, I dont know. I thought that I didnt hear it right as I was leaving ... but it is hard to be sure.

Then all of a sudden, all the Greeks back into the street, I look behind me... SHIT! The riot police are charging towards us. We dart in front of them to the gate to take cover ... I thinking that if we really had to we could climb the fence ... They run pass us, seeing us sitting as bystanders. But we were behind them (never seek protection from the police ... add that to the list of things to remember when at a riot)... empty and full water bottle were thrown at them (and therefor us), paper, beer and pop can ... garbace everthing. What ever missed them or rickashayed off thier shields we were fare game for. I curled up into a sitting fetal postition, ready for whater was going to hit me, when Paul stood in front of me bending over. He blocked a can of something that would have hit me. We then dashed with a couple of other Greeks into the gardens and made out way home.

Rioting 101

a few pointers I have picked up on ...

1.) Proper Appearal: Always wear clothing that will be comfortable for the weather, but that also covers enough of the body for protection and at the same time will help to blend. For women, a scarf is necessity because it will protect you from all the smoke in the air from the fire and from inhaling the teargas.
2.) Once at the demonstration\riot always have the police in your vision. Be aware of thier movement at all times.
3.)Once the teargas is dispatched and the police are entering the scene, DO NOT run away, that only makes you look guilty. Walk away quickly perpendicular to the direction of the police and masses or to the closest safe haven.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not as it Appears




As CNN spreads choas and fear around the world with extravagant claims, the truth is much harder to comprehend. On Saturday, my roommates and I were out and about all over Athens ... along with all the tourists. At least the four of us, had no idea of what was going on.


Greece's situation is beyond my understanding, but I understand what the Greeks themselves have told me. The wages are being cut ... to less than 700 euro a month!!! That will not even pay for an apartment, let alone food, clothing and other necessities. And the governement wants to take another months wages out and raise taxes.

The people are suffering ... taxation, paycuts, strikes interupting daily life. The politicians are not ... last week every member in Parliament recieved 5000 euro to buy NEW laptop computers (they also received a paycut ... but still!)!
If you ask any Greek, the real riots and insanity hasnt started yet. The burning trash, protesting and destruction of the public area, ect this is apart of normal society. It WILL become bad this summer. The masses will be forced into all sorts of craziness, because of the harshness of the measures. I am glad but also sad that I will not be able to witness these events.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Greek Food Festival

On Thursday, I met with some classmates, friends and my Modern Greek teacher Ourania to go to the Greek Food Festival! It was a great time ... 2 hours of sampling wine, olive oil, cheeses, olives, Greece delicasies and snacks. What more could I ask for of a Thursday night?
(A woman kneeding bread. It was so tasty!!)
Emily and I are in love with Ourania! She is amazing!
... while I could have asked for nothing more, Greeks had one more surprise. Cretan dancing. It was fantastic! The traditional dress, music and dancing had everyone in merry spirits - many "bravo"s were shouted and lots of clapping.


video

Friday, April 30, 2010

Three Week Mark

As the semester boils down I am more and more antsy to return home. When I embarked on this journay over a year ago (that is when i decided to come) I had no idea what would happen or how I would change. I had no idea, how much fun I would have and how many experiences I could cross of my to-do list.
My very close teacher Nikos (he is my ancient Greek teacher) has been telling me every class about how much I have changed and grown. How "Greek" I have become ... he just laughs when he compares the girl that he met in September. I am glad that my growth is visible, but it makes me nervous about how well I will fit back in at home. I will have to reacquint myself with people, we all have changed and grown ... it is what happens over a 9 month time period. Will my freinds and family think that my changes are for the best or worst ... ? Before I was always early, heaven forbid I was ontime, because someone else's watch could be fast and then I would be late (but not really?). I still show up early but it is for myself now ... like to use the internet ... otherwise I show up on time. I have even been late a couple of time!!!
My friends and I always joke about how our standards have significantly lowered since we arrived ... so true! Never would I shower or sleep in have the places I have ... but will that make things awkward when I get back and dont care about that stuff .. will it make other people uncomfortable?
OR, what about my church family? I have been surrounded by liberals for nearly 9 months, I have had the comfort of few conservatives ... I know that my views have relaxed. I am ok with that, will they be able to accept that?

I enjoy who I am. Quiet, fun, slightly more reserved than normal...

When I came here, i was coming to a lot of unknowns. It is funny because now I am going home to many unknowns. I remember it was hard when I came home for Christmas break last year, it was weird to see my family in a groove that didnt involve me in everyday life. It will be even more exaggerated now, I havent been home in nearly 9 months... what changes will have taken places? Changes that they didnt notice but will be a huge deal for me? Another unknown is Michael, we left never having been apart for more than a few weeks at a time, and have been forced into a long distance relationship .. how easy will it be for us to convert back to normal distance relationship? I welcome being able to see him - I miss him like a crazy - but at the same time ... it is almost scary.

Three weeks, so much time to absorb the last bits of Athens. Not to mention I am spending a few days in Rome. I am so excited. I have so many plans, so many things to do, people to see. I will finish this strong, the way that it is supposed to be. And then I will be welcomed home with open arms.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Check It Out

I entered a scholarship contest where you blog about your trips.

http://www.travelbigo.com/contents/16605-Spring-Break-on-Greek-Islands/preview

Keep your fingers crossed! :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Visiting the Poet Sandal Maker

The "cool" thing to do when you come to Athens is go to the Poet Sandal maker. I finally went to see him on Saturday afternoon. :D

It is a cool thing to do because he makes the shoes and then customizes them to your feet in the store.
(The shop window.)
(Shoes were hanging everwhere, from every surface!)
I walking in and looked at all the designs available. I choose Doric style, as you can see it is a piece of leaver that goes over my toes and then the arch. They are so comfortable ... one of the most confortable shoes I think I own!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mount Hymettos Dig Site

Going to my Athens On Site teacher Stravros's archaeological site started off as just an extra credit project, but it turned into being out final and a written letter of reccommendation.

We (Maria, Liz, Stavros and I) met outside the Arcadian center at 10:00am for our hike up the mountian to his find. We took a short taxi ride to the base of the mountain and then began the ascent. It was a warm morning ... I wasnt sure if I was going to make it up ... and we were hiking on a partly shaded path.

After reaching a dead-end on the path, we took a small path through itchy and pokey plants we ended up in a largest of the Roman quarries...
You can tell that you are passing a quarry because you will see something that look like this ... Mt Hymettos is known for it blue-ish marble.

After resting in the shade of the quarry, we set out again on a path that Stavros had marked with red paint. It had even more itchy and pokey plants ... but we finally came to the "Dragon's Cave". It is called the Dragon's Cave because of the size of the giant rocks. It is a megalithic structure, built right onto the side of the mountain. It was so cool. Inside he had found a transportable alter.
(The roof of the structure with the peak of Hymettos in the background ... sorry, I just noticed it is sideways.)

(The view through the main doorway. )



Stavros is not sure exactly when the structure was built. There are two theories ... the first is that it is pre-historic from when tribes used to live on the Mountain. The second (and the one that Stavros believes) is that it is from 480-460 BC when Persian were enslaved by the Greeks and put to work in the quarries for Perikles projects.
Stavros also found two more, but they are only remains. After WWII, during the revolution the Communists hid on Hymettos. The Britts bombed it and the two building were probably destroyed then, he thinks this because he found metal shards that are remains of a bomb.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Santorini

Santorini ... it is the first image that most think of when we hear the about Greece. The white cycladic houses with blue shutters and doors. The white churches with the blue domes and primary color stained glass windows. While there IS so much more to Greece Santorini does have a great amount of beauty to inspire.

Emily and I embarked on our adventure friday morning ... and after the nearly 8 hour ferry ride we finally arrived to Santorini. After hearing some unsettline news from our beloved roommates (who were staying in Athens) we were whisked off by our unhospitable pension owner to Kateralos, a small town about a half hours walk from the main town Fira. (Although when we booked the pension we were under the impression that it was on 10 minutes walk.) Although our pension WAS ONLY 20 euro a night (10 euro a person -- cheap for anyways especially Santorini) we were disappointed with the room. The bathroom was grimey and the shower didnt drain right ... the floor was always wet. It was a serve yourself pension to say the least.

The first night we decided to test the public transportation to see if we would need to rent a car. So we headed over to Oia to watch the famous sunset. The town was very pretty and picturesque - the sunset was disappointing the clouds blocked everything. We caught the last bus back to Fira and ate dinner. Then started the long journey back to the pension... but we hadnt actually walked into Fira from the main road so we walked out of Fira on the wrong road. We were completely lost in the middle of no where along a highway, in the pitch dark. It was terrifying. All we could think about were the terrible stories we had read in Cosmo about girls being abducted, raped and killed in this situation. Needless to say we fueled our own terror. Finally we got home ... took our disgusting shower - the kind where you feel like you need to take another one because you took a shower.

Saurday we had planned on getting up early but that didnt happen. We caught the bus to Kamari to go and see ancient Thira. We arrive to find out that the only way up was to walk up and our book told us it was a 5 hour round trip hike ... so we decided to take the different route. A local guy told us about a church that was about half way up the mountain, behind the church was a cave that had a nartural spring. He said that it would be fun and easy - but really who should trust the Greek when they say "easy". we climbed up the gravel path to the church, it took about 45 minutes but it was just after noon and the sun was hot and the air humid. We were the only ones on the path (and the side of the mountain), Emily said "its so hot, lets just take off our shirts" so we did. It was great, the breeze on out backs. We finally made it to the cave, it was so cool and the water was so refreshing. We gathered some water in Emily's water bottle and then headed across the mountain to Ancient Thira. We arrive to ancient Thira hot and sweaty (after redressing) we entered and took in the amazing sight. The town was amazing and the view beyonf words. We looked over the cliff side onto the black shore.

We only hiked for like 3 hours but we were exhuasted, we hadnt planned on doing that much hiking and hadnt brought too much water (half liter each). We spent the rest of the day recovering in our beds. Later for dinner we had the most delicious Chicken soup ... really it was beyond words.

Sunday, we rested on the beach. We lotioned up and layed out. But we still were burned. the back of my legs are a nice pink (trust me the 8 hours on the ferry back was no fun). And then went to explore more around Fira.

Monday out ferry was leaving in the early afternoon. We packed up our stuff and then explored the country side a little. It had rained in the morning but within a half hour of stopping the sun was out and if I hadnt known it rained I would have never guessed.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Parliament Visit

As we were sitting outside the Parliament building we were nearly "marched" over by the gaurds. Eleni (our teacher) jumped out of the way last minute.
We took a small tour through the galleries of the building. Then we went to a smaller version of where Parliament meets. Paul, Emily and I sat in the communist section ... which I thought fitting since Paul and I are "members" of the party. (Paul is a member of the Italian Communist Party and I am of the Greek Party.)
This was a picture in the gallery. I loved the Turkish - Bristish clothing ... it was from the Turkish occupation.



Monday, April 12, 2010

Panathenaikos Championship Game

For the Greek Championship Game, Panatheniakos needed one point to win and had two games left to win - they the victory was in hand without doubt. Theo, Danis, Emily, Suzy Ben and I went to the game together.

As we entered the stadium, is sounded like we were entering a war zone. Fireworks, flares, smoke bombs were going off like crazy, the Greeks were celebrating the emmient victory.
The game started off great withing the first couple minuntes, Panathenaikos scored a goal. The crowd went wild - the team songs played the chants flowed back and forth across the stadium. The fireworks and flares were lite and thown into the field. A thick haze covered the field, so much that we didnt even realize at first that they started playing again.

Panatheniakos scored a second goal just before the end of the first half. Second half nothing happened on the field ... but throughout the entire second half security began to surround the field waiting for the end of the game. At the end - the crowd rushed the field - security close behind. The congregated on the field and celebrated.
Emily, Suzy and I bought knock-off jerseys. Go Panathenaikos!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kolonaki, Athens

Diesel understands ... and doesn't lie.
Oh boy
(Under it says: Unfortunately, we only sell jeans.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Good Friday Celebrations

Around 21:20 everyone began to gather in the main πλατεια near my apartment. Maria, Suzy and I went out with our candles, not too sure what would happen, but excited to participate. People sow started to light the candles, and groups help light other groups. We eventually worked up the courage to ask for our candle to be lit too. Then we waited ...

Eventually we noticed that a large group of people walking up the street towardds us with candles. As they neared us, we saw the large crucifix and litter they carried. They also arrived in the πλατεια and we waited ... From the opposite direction a second large group came with candles, also carrying a cross and litter (both more ornate). They began to approach eachother (it looked like a fight was going to break out to me) and then as then met, the Παπασ began to speak. Afterward the separated again going in opposite directions.
We followed the second group, we walked up the stree to a second πλατεια and a church. Outside of a church they began to sing-talk. Not exactly sure what but it was interesting.
Maria, Suzy and I with our candles back at the apartment.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring Break Naxos: Days Five, Six and Seven

On Monday we ate breakfast at an overpriced cafe and then went to do out shopping. We stopped in a very cool glass shop and trust me if fund has permitted it between the four of us we could have bought every thing in the store! Then we went to beach, the weather was nice but not nice enough to go swimming - and we didnt have out suits. But we waded in the crystal clear water, the sand looked like it had been raked - like in a Zen garden. We layed out on the beach, and I developed a nice farmers tan.
After eating some ice cream we went back to Pension Sofie to pick up our stuff and wait at port for the ship to come. We ate Choco-Banana crepes for dinner and boarded the ferry around 11pm.

We arrived into Amorgos around 1am on Tuesday morning. We were picked up by out pension owner and taken to the pension. We all hoped to pass out, but the room was so cold that non of us slept very well. The next morning we had a cab drive us to the other side of the island (I know that sounds outrageous, but it is a VERY small island and it took like 30 minutes and long cost 25 euro -AND the bus wasnt running since it was the "holy" week before Easter). We checked into Pension Amorgos.

The port of Katapola.


After checking in we went to get lunch "to-go" from the backery and grocery store and layed out on the beach. We ate lunch and relaxed. We had bought some wine to have with our bread, olives, cheese lunch but needed to chill it. So we stuck it in the sand with the waves lapping at it to keep it cool. We later opened it using a bamboo stick - very impressive I know. :)

After laying out we all got tan\burned. Mine was pretty impressive, to give you an idea ... when i was in the nude it look like i was wearing a white bikini. It was pretty ridiculou, except for when Kristi gave me the "camo tan" I have never look so silly. We explored Katapola (about the size of a small town in the middle of nowhere in a midwestern state) but that didnt take long.

On Wednesday we decided that we would see the sites of Amorgos, but we did not realise that the guide books time estimations where for cars. We had been walking probably an hour (all up hill, honestly) when we were trying to decide if we should turn back. Then a car came our way, I stepped in front of it to stop it and asked if we were going in the right directions to the ancient Minoan civilization. Luckily for us, he spoke perfect English (and we later found out he was American). He said we were only about a mile away, but it was all up hill - did we want a lift? My first time hitchhiking and in Europe!!!
The view from where we were picked up.

He told us about the island as he drove us up to the site, then he dropped us off and we parted. About 2 minutes later, I saw a gorgeous view and went to grab my camera from my back pocket ... uh-oh ... it was empty! It fell out of my pocket when we had hitch hiked! FML! FML! FML! Curses of all curses! Terribly upset, I have no more pictures ... the site was pretty cool though. The foundations still well intact. I am pretty sure that it was not open to the public, but no one was there and the sheep had over walked the fence so we went in and explored. As we began the descent down we saw the white van dirve back up, with my camera! All I could do was thank God! And thanks to me, we got a ride back down! :)
Tuesday morning, out ferry left Amorgos as 7am and we arrive in Athens at 3pm. It was a long trip.




Spring Break Naxos: Day Three

Day two of renting to car, we drove around the northern half of the island. On our way out of town we saw alongside the highway these odd cement things ... I called them Prometheus's jacks.

Maria, Emily and Suzy sitting on the "jacks"

Off we went, stopping many times along the way to admire the view and strech out legs. We were not exactly sure where we where, but some how right around lunch time we ended up at the Kouros - our main attraction of the day.

Again, it was weird to think that the main sculptor porbably thought his work in vain, but really because it had been abandoned it was saved from so many tyrranies, occupations and frenzied peoples.
Next to the Kouros, was a small town. We were lucky to find an open taverna and had a delicious lunch (Greek Salad, Stuffed Burgers, Spaghetti with Village Sausage, Tomatoes and Cheese and to end a special island treat of sweetened Sour Cherries in a syrup). Then we drove down into town and digested on the beach and rocky shore.

The violent waves on the rocky shore.
Afterwards, we continued to drive, with no specific destination in mind, just enjoying ourselves.

During the drive we found a windmill that we could go up to and examine more closely. It was cool to be able to look at how the old windmills worked - it reminded me of the scene in Aristocats when the cats go around on the windmill with the dogs in the motorcycle chasing them.

Spring Break Naxos: Day Four

Sunday, we explored more of the town and went to the museums. Walking in the labyrinth of the castro was fun. and held great views of the city and bay below. The Acheaology museum, was full of Cycladic art - the vases with Mycenaean octopus and the homogenous grave statues. It was a nice day, and we spent much of it just walking around enjoying ourselves.

A view of the beach from the main entrance of the castro.
The Catholic Church.
It was cool that they had a Catholic Church, since most Greek are orthodox. It was very pretty and glistened in the sun.