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.

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.