You know you’re (back) in Greece when…

It’s a new year. It’s the season of resolutions, reminiscing, and reinventing. It’s about time for me to write a “You know you are in Greece when…” (or for me, “You know you are BACK in Greece when”) list of sorts. So here it goes, my first post of the year, enjoy.

You can’t flush the toilet paper. Blame it on the ancient pipes, blame it on the water pressure, blame it on wanting to make taking out the trash the worst experience ever–whatever it is, that’s the rule here in Greece. We’ve been told, “don’t flush the toilet paper… unless you don’t like the person whose house you’re visiting, then go right ahead, clog the toilet.” Gross.

They will take you in with a smile and hug. With a few exceptions, Greeks have been overly hospitable. And the majority of the people who learn I am American respond very pleasantly. I can’t sing enough praises to all those who have taken me in for dinner (George and Lena), treated me to a cup of coffee and good conversation after only meeting me for a few minutes when I needed directions (Gianna), warmly allowed me to stay at their house while visiting northern Greece (Auntie Olga, Chris’ aunt), invited me over to carve Halloween pumpkins (Lillian and Despina), and had me over to watch ESPN-America to help ease my homesickness (George). So to all of these wonderful people, and the many others, who have made my experience thus far a delightful one, εφαριστο πολι!! (thanks a lot!)

There will always be treats. It may be a name day. It may be a birthday. It may be to say thank you. Or it may be just because. No matter what the reason, Greeks are sure to always have a sweet treat from the local bakery around!!

Poo Poo is a common phrase. Or you are startled by your cab driver yelling “Poo? Poo? POO?” when you get into his taxi, until you remember that he is asking you “where” you want to go. (Now imagine how fun it is to say “Where is the toilet?”)

If you need something done in 3 weeks, tell them you needed it yesterday. No explaining necessary. That’s just their way of life.

Cut in line. The idea of waiting in line–well, it’s a foreign concept to them.

They don’t know what Halloween is… and don’t find it funny when Americans go out dressed in costume. We attempted to celebrate Halloween by going to an Irish pub dawning costumes such as cowgirl, emo kid, french painter, sailor, and a few others. Well, upon arriving we quickly noted that there were only two other people in the whole bar dressed up. We also noted that there were two bartenders. The bartenders were dressed up for Halloween. I think you get the picture–we looked like the help. People stared. It was awkward. My original thinking was that even if other people weren’t dressed up than I would at least have a good conversation starter. Ya know, we would look like the life of the party…or so I thought. No one spoke to us. No one.

You have to turn on the hot water switch 10 minutes prior to your E.T.S. (estimated time of showering). And your shower head is hand-held.

“Be there at 6pm” means leave your house at 6pm. Although I don’t know where you would need to be at 6pm. Everyone is napping at that hour.

Nothing is open on Sundays. Literally, nothing. It’s worse than the siesta time I alluded to above. Out of groceries on a Sunday? …order Dominos.

There are a lot of blondes. I know what you’re thinking, “What?! I thought this was a ‘you know you’re in Greece when’ type of list?!” Well I guess I should have said there are a lot of FAKE blondes. We aren’t talking a few sun-kissed highlights here and there. No no, apparently the bleached out look is trendy. This Anne Hathaway trying to go Marilyn Monroe. So yea, despite the number of “blonde” Greeks, I find that I still stick out like a sore thumb. (or should I say like a sore toe-head?)

There is no hummus, baklava, or grape leaves. Ok so you can occasionally find these things. Very rarely. But contrary to popular believe, these a Turkish foods not Greek. In fact Allyson and I convinced the two Greek teachers that we went to Istanbul with to try hummus for the first time! What Greek foods have I been enjoying then, you may wonder… GYROS GYROS GYROS. Mmmmm they are scrumptious. There are certainly a fair number of other tasty foods as well, but I’ll omit them in a effort to keep you from salivating any more than you already are.

Well I think that is about it for the list. At least so far. I’m sure I will come up with a whole lot more to add. Heck, I do have 6 more months here after all! Now go enjoy some American luxuries for me: peanut butter that doesn’t cost 9 dollars for a tiny jar, a washing machine located indoors (did I mention our washer and dryer are outside? Oh, well, they are), American magazines in English (feel free to send me some!!), and many many more.

Oh and the final thing I can’t seem to  find in Greece… these wonderful people I spent Christmas with (Brady & Beth, you were there in spirit). Feel free to send me some of these along with the magazines:

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January 18, 2010. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The holidays…

A quick post to wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS and very HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

My holiday break is being spent with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and 15 month nephew in Park City and Chicago, with a quick stop to cheer on the Cardinal at the Sun Bowl in El Paso! (if you are one of my friends who will be there, I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU!!!)

I hope everyone is having a wonderful time with family and friends. Be on the lookout for my blog to resume at the beginning of January when I return to Athens. In the meantime, go drink some eggnog…I’m off to hit the slopes!!

December 26, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The inedible Turkey…

Thanksgiving was a bit, well, different this year. The day began with my normal routine: wake up, put on my work clothes, and make my 5 minute trek down the hill to the school. Upon entering the college counseling office I was greeted with two things often found there: sweets and personal statements. But today, the ratio was off. Lillian, the head counselor, brought in some treats for us, as well as brownies to be sold at the Thanksgiving Bake Sale! I began editing essays as usual, but the day was sprinkled with a few more fun activities than usual. I was able to sneak off for two of the Thanksgiving celebrations going on in the theater. I saw two adorable 8th graders present on the different ways people celebrate holidays of thanks around the world, as well as a hilarious talent show put on by one of the two high schools. The high school did their own rendition of America’s Got Talent, calling it “Athens College’s Got Talent,” with prinicipals acting as judges. Acts included: two boys break dancing, a group of girls dressed up and singing “Dancing Queen,” a few guitar players, and a ballet dancer. I was both impressed and entertained. It was so fun seeing the kids outside of the classroom setting! After the lively day of school, it was off to the airport for our three day weekend. Allyson and I had been invited to Istanbul by two of the teachers from Psychico College. It was a spontaneous decision to go-we found €65 tickets round trip just a week before Thanksgiving.

Our trip started with a bang…literally. While waiting in the Istanbul Airport for our fellow travellers to arrive (the two teachers, Nancy and Maria), Allyson and I were not about to let our guard down. “You are going to Istanbul with a group of only girls?!” “Always hold your purse close to you.” “You are going to really stand out with blonde hair.” “Don’t carry too much cash.” “Remember the movie Taken!!” These were all phrases we had both heard. Needless to say, when we heard a crash, saw men running around near the airport customs line, and were already alarmed by how many police officers were carrying around large guns, we were not about to stay put where we were waiting. We couldn’t tell what all the ruckess was; all we knew was that if something were to break out… we would be in the direct line of fire. We discreetly scurried away from the scene and hid in duty free–fine, this hiding location may have been some what intentional. Now don’t worry, nothing too terrible happened. Apparently it was not some sort of threat or bomb scare. Rather, some scaffolding had fallen on a guy who was sitting near a construction area; they ended up carrying him off on a stretcher and the airport went back to normal. “Welcome to Istanbul!” we both thought.

Day One:

We woke up early and took a boat tour along the Bosphorous. This tour included an hour stop in ASIA!! (part of Turkey is located in Asia…making half the country Asians and half the country Europeans??) We then got coffee in Asia during which we could hear the call to prayer coming from the mosque right next to us. Later we ate lunch/dinner at a very authentic Turkish restaurant.

Our night activities were my favorite part of day one. First we went to see the Whirling Dervishes. This was a lot of fun and very interesting to see.  I never realized that it was such a religiously tied practice though; much of the demonstration included bowing and praying. And I will admit, I was a bit disappointed with the spinning speed. Nonetheless, the twirling men sure were graceful and fascinating to watch. Next up… BELLY DANCING. No no no, I did not belly dance–We went to a belly dancing show. There were belly dancers, knife throwers, folk dancers, and a man playing an old Sultan, oh my!  We watched the show at the top of Galata Tower, an old prison turned restaurant, while we enjoyed all you can eat fruit and wine. Highly recommended to all who visit Turkey. There is also a dinner option.

Day Two:

On the second day, we started the day exploring a small bazaar we stumbled upon. I bought some apple tea, pomegranate tea, and some cinnamon sticks our new friend threw in for free. Boy was that 5′ 2″ Turkish man energetic. He ran around his little store haggling with customers and weighing out tea. We asked to take a picture with our new friend and he jumped at the chance. I don’t think anyone has been so excited for a picture before!! After hitting the bazaar, we visited the major sites of Istanbul: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi. While being an popular tourist site, the Blue Mosque, built in the early 1600s, is still an active mosque. It is technically called the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Topkapi is the palace where the various sultans lived during their reign. It has now been turned into a museum. Finally, Hagia Sophia (seen in this picture) originated as an Orthodox Church.  In 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinole, which is curent-day Istanbul, the church was converted into a mosque. Hagia Sophia is the most visited site in Istanbul. It was fascinating to see the religious identity crisis still existing in the mosque–there were Christian murals covered with hanging pendants bearing the name of Islam’s Allah.

Everything was beautiful. I think the most striking part for me though was not the magnificence of the architecture or the beauty of the interiors. It was the moment when, inside the Blue Mosque, I turned around to see the “women’s section” in the back.  Apparently the women are forced to prayer in the rear of the mosque, even behind those touring/visiting the mosque, while the men go to the front in the large area roped off from visitors. For some reason, that really hit me hard.

After the sites we enjoyed a nice, traditional Turkish dinner, during which Allyson and I tried “Testi Kabab.”  Yup, that’s right, it we chose to try a dish called “testi kabab” and boy was it delicious!! We were told by the owner that this dish is cooked in a ceramic pot, lit on fire in front of you, and then cracked open- how could we not try this!!! The best way to describe it would be to call it  a chicken stew of sorts, mixed with vegetables. They served it with couscous and I highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Turkey.

……………… ………………

We finished the night off with drinks at the 360 club, a swanky bar overlooking the city. There were people dining as well as enjoying cocktails, and at about 11pm the experience was complete with  an aerial fabric performance. Yup, right there in the middle of the club/restaurant, a women gracefully swung and twirled from a sheet of fabric hanging from the ceiling. What a way to cap off our last night in the city!

Day 3

Before heading off to the airport, we poked around the city a bit more. First we went to the Basilica Cistern. I would have to say this was my favorite site. It is like descending into another world that you shouldn’t know about. The cistern is deep underground and filled with water. You walk along bridges while the sound and smell of water droplets can be felt all around you. We then finished off the day with another small bazaar by the Blue Mosque where we did some shopping, met friendly (and some not so friendly) shop keepers, and sipped apple tea.

Now, you may have noticed that a very important part of Istanbul is missing from our list of activities… the Grand Bazaar. Don’t think we simply forgot this major site–sadly, the bazaar was not open while we were there due to the observation of a large religious holiday being celebrated.

Finally, I will admit that going to Turkey with two Greeks added a, well, interesting aspect to our trip.  It opened up my eyes to the fact that many Greeks still feel a divide. We were constantly hearing about what things were really Greek (according to them, pretty much everything) and they wouldn’t join us in touring the Blue Mosque. Apparently they “didn’t want to take their shoes off.”  Also, I don’t think we would have ventured over to see the Church of St. George  had it not been for our Greek friends. According to them, “this church is to Greece what the Vatican is to Rome.” It is a Greek Orthodox Church located in the heart of Istanbul, which is, according to them, a very very big deal considering the past of these two countries.

Overall, it was a wonderful trip. While I was turned off by how dirty and overcrowded it was in many places (and disgusted by the many men blatantly staring and making cat calls), I would highly recommend it to others!!

Keep checking back for more pictures… I will post some in the next few days (when I can go somewhere with faster internet).

December 6, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The engagement…

While Allyson and I were busy  skipping around  Istanbul and drinking apple tea for the three-day weekend this Thanksgiving holiday, we were informed (thank you facebook for working across countries) that MOLLY AND ANDRE GOT ENGAGED!! To refresh your memory, Molly is the returning teaching fellow this year. Why did she decide to spend another year teaching in Greece?… well, I’d say her boyfriend, excuse me, fiance I should say, played a role. Andre is from Brazil but now living in Greece, which is where they will both continue to live after they are married. The happy couple  met last November and are now engaged to be married in the States this upcoming summer! My favorite part of the story: While Molly has met his family, Andre has yet to meet hers (with the exception of her sister)–so when he called Molly’s dad to ask if he could marry her, it was the first time they had spoken!! Thought you might enjoy this bit of “fellow gossip.”

December 1, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The luck of the Irish…

I must first make an addendum to something I claimed in one of my previous posts… the Cliffs of Moher is officially the windiest place I have ever been. Cape Sounion was nothing in comparison.

The Cliffs of Moher are a famous site in Ireland, near Galway specifically. Allyson and I just got back from a trip there. We had a five-day break for “Ohi Day” (translates into “No Day” in English and it is a day remembering the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas’s rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini on October 28, 1940). It is sort of considered Greece’s second Independence Day.

But anyway, you may be thinking… Why Ireland?? Well that is a great question. Allyson and I had been brainstorming where we wanted to go over the break: London, Paris, Scotland, and many other European countries were in the mix. Then, while out one night in Gazi (the hip, young neighborhood we usually go out in downtown) we found our inspiration. We made friends with a group of twenty-somethings on vacation from, well, I bet you can guess… Ireland! They were on vacation following graduation from their PhD programs at the University of Limerick. This got us thinking about making Ireland our destination. We looked up flights, found cheap round-trip tickets, got in touch with our new friends, and off we went!!

After a long, frustrating, and very tiring airport experience (spent the hours of midnight to 5am in the London airport), we made it to our destination. Our plan was to spend one night in Dublin, followed by one in Galway, and then 3 more in Dublin. This was my first time staying in a hostel and I was pleasantly surprised! Allyson did a great job finding Barnacle’s, the hostel where we stayed in both Dublin and Galway (I highly recommend it). Our hostel was located in Temple Bar, a famous area in Dublin, and right next door was the pub we seemed to frequent a few times during our trip, fittingly named “The Temple Bar.”

We made some interesting and widely varied friends during this trip. They were from all over: Poland, Connecticut, Ireland, San Francisco, Sweden, and South Africa. Our new friends from South Africa even extended an invitation to host us during the World Cup… now if only tickets weren’t so darn expensive!

As I mentioned, our first day was spent in Dublin. We dropped off our bags at the early hour of 7am, got coffee at a little cafe, and walked around the city until we could check in. And boy did we walk. Our self-guided tour began with Grafton Street, weaved through St. Stephen’s Green, and ended at O’Connell Street and the James Joyce Statue.

After meeting the other two girls staying in our hostel room, we settled in and took a much need nap. Once we woke up, Allyson and I wandered down to The Quays Pub and ate the best fish and chips I have ever had!! (my drowsiness and extreme hunger may have contributed to this opinion, but I am still quite certain they it was the best I have ever had). We then hit the town, making it as far as… The Temple Bar. What can I say, we were exhausted. Once at The Temple Bar, we seemed to enter a game of what Allyson likes to call, Dating Roulette. After we each ordered a beer (never order a German beer in Ireland, people WILL make fun of you), the guys began rotate in. They would come up to us in groups of two or three, we would crack jokes about Lucky Charms, beer, and potatoes, talk for a bit, and then the next group of Irish speakin’ gents would step in. I thought I was on MTV’s Next. We later learned that The Temple Bar is a popular tourist destination, thus explaining why the local guys appeared to be rotating around to meet as many foreigners as they could. We were extremely entertained.

We woke up bright and early the next morning to take a bus over to Galway, on the west side of Ireland, about 3 hours from Dublin. The drive was beautiful, full of lush, green countryside, cows, sheep, and well, more countryside.  Once reaching Galway, we dropped our bags and explored the city. Galway is a bit smaller than Dublin, with many cobblestone paths lined with pubs and shops.

Allyson and I couldn’t leave without getting claddagh rings, worn with the heart facing out to signify being single and the heart facing in if you are taken. The crown represents power, the heart represents love, and the hands represent knowledge.

Later on that day, after a nice day of exploring the city and eating turkey and cranberry sandwiches (we have yet to find roast turkey or cranberry in Greece, making this quite a treat), Colm, one of the aforementioned Irish friends I met in Greece, was nice enough to drive up and meet us in Galway. He and his friend Rob showed us around town. It was so fun getting a local’s perspective! I think the highlight of our night out in Galway was the private party they took us to in the attic of an Irish restaurant. Sounds sketchy, but it was such a neat experience! Should you ever find yourself in Galway looking for places off the beaten path, I can now point you in the right direction. They also taught us the “correct” way to drink a Guinness (make sure you drink just a bit of the head with each sip!).

Following our night out, Allyson and I had planned on taking a bus to the Cliffs of Moher and then down to Blarney Castle in Cork. To our delight, Colm was kind enough to offer to drive, since he was heading back to his house in Cork anyway. After a few wrong turns and more breathtaking countryside, we reached the Cliffs of Moher. You can see a few more pictures of the cliffs at the end of this post.

After snapping a few pictures and nearly being blown away by blustering winds, we decided it was time to warm up with some lunch, so Colm took us to the best little Irish pub!! There is absolutely no way we would have stumbled upon this place otherwise, and I tell you what, that Irish stew was amazing!!! Best I’ve ever had!! (ok ok, so this was my first time in Ireland, but you’re going to have to trust me on this one) It warmed us right up. Once our stomachs were happy, we were on our way. Colm drove us back through the Burren (known for its stone walls weaving throughout the country side) and down to Cork, where he is from and where the famous Blarney Castle awaited us. The car ride was full of Irish jokes (read: Allyson trying to get him to say “yer after me lucky charms”), questions about Ireland compared to the US, and listening to the Manchester vs. Liverpool football match. (It’s official, I have converted over to calling soccer “football” and football “American football” What had Europe done to me??)

We made it to Cork after about 4 hours of driving. We successfully made it to Blarney Castle, home of the Blarney Stone… 10 minutes after it closed. It was such a bummer! We peaked around the fence trying to catch a glimpse, but to be honest they keep that castle pretty well hidden! Looks like Allyson and I won’t be coming home with the gift of gab, which you are said to receive if you “kiss the blarney stone.” Too bad, looks like another trip to Ireland is in order!

From there we said goodbye to Colm and took a bus back to Dublin. We spent the next few days celebrating Halloween (they seemed to start the celebrations about a week prior to October 31, which was nice because we came home to no Halloween celebrations at all in Greece!!!), taking pictures, sightseeing (St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, and Phoenix park, the largest urban park in Europe), going into crypts at St. Michen’s Church where we touched an 800 year old corpse for “good luck”, becoming certified whiskey tasters at the Jameson Factory (seriously, we have certificates…I’m available for hire), and taking more pictures.

All in all, it was yet another fantastic journey. We made new friends, heard awesome accents, ate delicious Irish stew and fish, and got a taste of an overall wonderful culture. I truly fell in love with this country. I already want to go back.

Enjoy some of my favorite photos from Ireland:

November 1, 2009. Uncategorized. 1 comment.

The theater…

Allyson loves theater. Allyson was a theater minor at UCLA. Allyson would not stop talking about Singing in the Rain. “It’s coming to Athens! It’s coming to Athens!” she would say to anyone who would listen. Should I listen to her ask me if I wanted to go with her 20 more times or should I just break down and fork up the 32 euro for a ticket? The choice was clear… after finding a hidden little ticket office in an apartment-type building near our house, we were on our way to a fellows-night-out at the theater. But in all seriousness, I was excited. I do enjoy the theater, and what better place to see a show set in Los Angeles than in… Greece? Well, we considered that a minor detail. The show was performed by a London-based company at a very nice theater about 10 minutes from our house, in Neo Psychico (we live in Palio Psychico, or “Old” Psychico). Despite the occasional British accent slipping through, the show was excellent and  Allyson, Stephanie, Chris Shukla, and I were glad we went. We even ran into a few of the teachers from our school at the show, and I must say, seeing teachers outside the school setting is still weird… even when you are now one of them.

Going to the theater in Greece was much like going to the theater in the US, with only a few differences. Here were the highlights, some not surprising, others quite striking:

1. We went on the opening night. The significance of this detail was lost on us, until we walked into a mob of paparazzi pushing and shoving us aside. Upon this startling entrance, I turned to my right to see one of those photo-shoot back drop things set up like this was a red carpet event. Photographers were everywhere trying to get a glimpse of the hotshots walking through the “VIP” entrance, taking there 13.5 second stand at the back drop for a picture or two, and then moving on with their body guards. One women turned and asked me in Greek who the celebrities were. She quickly learned that I don’t speak Greek when I said “I’m not sure, I’m from America” and she replied “Oh, haha, ok I really wonder who they are” in English before she ran off. I thought this was the last I had seen of her, until she reappeared, told me it was “Alexandropolou Mitriakiopolous,” or some variation there of (it could have been Dimitris Papaziglou for all I know, I couldn’t understand what she was saying, Greek names are impossible!!) and ran off again. Although, I do remember she said he was a famous singer. Looks like I need to brush up on my Greek popstars.

2. They started the show before everyone was seated. To be honest, you may get a better understanding of what it was like if I were to say “before anyone was seated.” Now don’t go thinking that they began the show before the time written on our ticket… rather, they began about 40 minutes late! And yet, there were still hoards of Greeks yet to be ushered in. Suffice it to say, Greeks are not known for their punctuality.

3. There were NO LINES FOR THE BATHROOM AT INTERMISSION!! This baffled me. I was dreading the long line awaiting me, and was shocked when I able to walk right into a stall. Upon exiting the ladies room, I looked around the theater to see where everyone had gone. I knew I had seen hundreds of people get up during intermission. This was a mystery that must be solved. Low and behold, I thought to peek outside, and there they were… hundreds of Greek socialites enjoying a cigarette (ok, maybe not hundreds, I’m not good at estimations).

4. People left before the curtain closed. In fact, people started leaving at the beginning of the final song. I guess they wanted to beat the rush, but it was a real shame. This was no baseball game. Wait, what am I saying, never leave a baseball game before the final pitch either! But I digress. I felt bad for the performers, but apparently in Greek culture, this is an acceptable thing to do. Very interesting.

5. They sang the famous line, “I’m singing in the rain” in Greek!!

October 20, 2009. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The “swine flu break”…

I was able to go to Santorini and Ios, two of the most famous Greek islands, during mid-October when almost all the schools in Athens were closed for a week due to swine flu. Santorini is by far the most beautiful place I have ever been. I ventured there on a 9 hour ferry (!!!) with Kristin, Elyse, Molly, Claire, and Allyson.

Our trip got off to a bit of a rocky start when we checked the beds of the first hotel we were going to stay in, and discovered that things were, well, let’s just say not as clean as we would have liked… but after arguing a bit with the owner to get our money back, we successfully found a very cute, quaint hotel to stay in and were on our way. (thanks Lonely Planet!)  We spent a night in Fira, the main city of Satorini, and then spent the next three in Oia.

I think I took more pictures on this trip than I have in my lifetime. While we were there, we rented a car and saw/did the following things: the black sand beach, the red sand beach, an ancient city on the highest point of the island, rode what I still think was a pirate ship over to the volcanic island, toured the volcanic island (still active!), went wine tasting at a winery over’ooking the sea, RODE  DONKEYS from the old port to the top of Oia (like in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which was filmed in Oia), I went cliffdiving off an island you have to swim to from the port (probably about 15-20 feet, nothing too high, one of the guys we were diving with tried to get me to go up like 60 feet, I said no way! but I have included a picture from when he did it), and finally, we explored around the cute little shops.

After Santorini, Claire, Molly, Allyson and I hopped over to Ios. It is about 30 minutes from Santorini. Ios is a smaller island, known for it’s crazy nightlife. We caught this island on the tail end of high season so things were a bit calmer (I think we were all thankful for this). We spent our time making new friends (5 guys from Seattle who know Shoshana and Olivia!), laying out on the beach, and being denied vespas when we tried to rent them (apparently you need an international driver’s license or motorbike license… personally I think he just had it out for us because we were females). Overall it was a wonderful trip. Hopefully I’ll get to do it again when spring/summer roll around!

Next up… Allyson and I have a trip to Ireland in the works. I’ll keep you posted.

Flip though my favorite pictures from our Santorini/Ios trip:

October 9, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The early adventures…

We have have a lot of time to travel on weekends and breaks too, and everywhere I have visited has literally been paradise. So far I have been to Aegina (previously mentioned), Syros (a small Greek island with few tourists), Delphi (the site of the ancient oracle and “center of the world” according to Zeus), and Cape Sounion (The Temple of Poseidon).

Syros

Syros was one of are first trips. I went with Kristin, Molly, Elyse, Claire, Amelia, and Chris Shukla. Why Syros you might ask… girls in water syroswell we missed the early ferry to Paros we intended to catch, and Syros was the cheapest ferry that was leaving in the next few hours. This lack of punctuality was such a blessing in disguise! Syros was gorgeous. It is a smaller Greek island not often visited by tourists. We spent two nights in an adorable blue and white hotel, and three days laying by the beach. While we were there, we were welcomed warmly by some για γιασ (pronounced yia yias, meaning grandmothers) sitting on their porch at syros yia yiassunset.

It is very common to see grandparents relaxing on their balconies and saying hello, but these two were especially cordial. We “spoke” with them a bit (in broken Greek and English) as they fed us Turkish candy (it reminded me of mochi, Bess you would love them) and biscotti… they later insisted we take bags of these treats home with us. Yum!

Delphi

Delphi was another fun, and very last minute trip. I arrived home from work one Friday, to find Chris Duffy, Claire, and Kristin saying pack up if you want to go to Delphi with us! Next thing I knew, after packing in a mere 10 minutes, we were off. The four of us took a 3 hour bus ride to this ancient city. According to Zeus, Delphi is the center of to world, which he discovered after releasing two eagles in opposite directions and finding that they collided at Delphi. If you ask me, it depends on where Zeus released the eagles, but I’ll let someone else bring that up with the King of the

Delphi naval

Gods himself.  For this reason, there are several “navals” at the ancient site of Delphi. The stone statues represent the bellybutton, the center of the human body, just as Delphi is the center of the world. The statue is said to be good luck if you touch it, so we did as we were told, no point in risking it!

Delphi is also the ancient site of the oracle, who was found at the Temple of Apollo.  People would travel from far off lands to speak with the oracle and to receive a prophecy from her. The oracle was always a middle-aged woman, with a new one replacing her when she passed away. Archeologists later discovered the likely source of these prophecies… toxic gas fumes were released from the ground below where she sat. Basically, she was high! http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/08/0814_delphioracle.html No wonder they were replacing the oracle so often! While we were there, we also saw the ancient Temple of Athena, ancient gymnasium, and did a 20km hike!! The hike was awesome. We followed the ancient path people used to get down to the sea, which wound through olive groves and a small town. And I must say, the fresh fruit we ate from the trees along the way was delicious.

Cape Sounion- Temple of Poseidon

Cape Sounion has been my favorite place on the mainland of Greece thus far. This is the location of the Temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea. It is also a very important site in regards to Greek mythology. It is said that Aegeus waited at the top of Temple of Poseidon at sunsetCape Sounion for Theseus, his son, to return from Crete. Theseus had gone to Crete to slay the Minotaur. Aegeus told his son to show white sails when he returned to signal that he had been victorious and survived. If Theseus had failed and died, they were supposed to show black sails.

For one reason or another, Theseus forgot to set the white sails.  His father, Aegeus, saw the black sails and overcome with grief, jumped off the cliff and into the sea a difficult task.  This is said to be the reason why the sea below is now known as the Aegean Sea.

On a much lighter note, Cape Sounion is hands down the windiest place I have ever been! It is the southern most tip of the Attica peninsula in Greece. The bus ride there took us about an hour and a half… and was BEAUTIFUL!!

Pictures from Delphi, Syros, Cape Sounion, Santorini, and Ios for your enjoyment:

October 3, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The logistics…

I am loving Greece so far. The teaching fellowship is going wonderfully. Many of you may be wondering what exactly I am doing, where I am living, and why I keep posting pictures from around Europe on my facebook page. Well let me use this post to explain the logistics.

As you learned in my first post, I am working at Athens College. It is said to be the most prestigious private school in Greece, producing CEOs, famous writers, and high ranking politicians including a prime minister.  Technically, the school is broken down into two separate “colleges,” Athens College and Psychico College. Don’t let the term “college” confuse you. In American educational terms, they are two, private K-12 schools. The middle schools, or “Gymnasium” consists of grades 7-9 and the high schools, or “Lykeion” consist of grades 10-12. These are located on the campus that I work and live on, along with beautiful basketball, tennis, soccer, and aquatic facilities . The elementary schools are off campus, and three of the other teaching fellows commute there.  For more information on Athens College, click the links below.

http://www.athenscollege.org/html/history.htmor

http://www.haef.gr/index.php?LANG=en

Here are a few pictures of the campus:

Tennis facilities Aquatic Center

Benaki Hall- the main school building

I work for both colleges, Psychico College and Athens College. I work two days a week in the Office of U.S. University Admissions and Counseling (located in the Benaki building pictured above) and three days in the Library. In the counseling office I read personal statements for kids, help then with random questions about schools, and teach an SAT course for juniors once a week after school. In the library I teach a Research and Information Skills course to 7th graders. They come in with their English class once a week and I get to teach them that period. They have already given me 4 classes to teach by myself and assist in several others. Talk about getting thrown right into it! It has definitely been a blast so far, and I learn something new every day.

Also, nearly everyone at the school speaks English, which is obviously nice. I’ve even been able to talk to those who don’t a small bit… each morning one of the school janitors, an adorable little old man says, “Good Morning Κυρία (this means miss, mrs. or ms.)! How are you?” (that is the extent of his English) so I respond in Greek, “γειά σας κύριε! καλά, ευχαριστώ! εσείς? (that means “Hi Sir! Good, thank you! And you?”… and that is just about the extent of my greek). It does get annoying when the kids start whispering in Greek in class and I can’t understand them though!!

Finally, there are 9 other teaching fellows in the program, ages 22-26. Most just graduated. They are from Brown, UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlottesville, UCLA, MSU, Furman, LMU, Smith, and Yale. I live with 5 of them in a house on campus (Allyson, Chris Duffy, Chris Shukla, Kristin, and Stephanie) while the others are living in apartments off campus. We each have our own room. So far, life is good!

Pictures of our humble abode:

DSC00552Our House (my window)

October 1, 2009. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The beginning…

Galaxy Bar at the Hilton HotelI have been in Greece since arriving with my parents on August 23rd… and I don’t think I have stopped moving since stepping off the plane. After a nice flight (during which the adorable Greek speaking flight attendant gave me her number so that we could get coffee next time she was in Athens. She also offered to give me some Greek lessons, but only in exchange for marrying her son… not so sure about that one.) Anyways, after the flight we dropped our things at the hotel and poked around Athens. The picture above is from the rooftop restaurant and bar of our hotel. We ate dinner and admired the Acropolis, which you could see from the roof and in this picture.

In the next two days we played the part of the ultimate tourists. We climbed up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon and the many other breathtaking temples, theaters, and ruins. They were absolutely stunning, despite a large portion being restored and covered with scaffolding, as was the view of Athens. I never realized just how large the city of Athens is; it sprawls out as far as the eye see, ending at the base of the hills surrounding the city. The heat was a killer on the way up, but the experience made the hike well worth it.

We also took a ferry from the port of Piraeus to the island of Aegina. Aegina is beautiful. It is the closest island to the mainland, being only 30-40 minutes form the coast and it was full of beach-like shops, Greek restaurants, and winding European alleyways. Despite being warned by locals that Aegina has felt the impact of being so close to the mainland and has become much more urban than other Greek islands, I was still quite delighted with the experience. Retirement party

The two highlights of our day there may have been during lunch…and both involved old men?  The first was the Greek wedding reception we thought we had stumbled upon.

However, after further investigation, we discovered that the noisy people spilling onto the street were the result of a retirement party. Retirement Party

In honor of his retirement, the old jeweler was selling all gold for half off! (sadly no purchases were made on our behalf).

The second highlight was when a little old Greek man hopped up onto his chair at a table near us, started dancing, and yelled “Opa!” several times when an accordion player came up to play at his table. Of course I caved and convinced my dad to give the accordion player a euro since he had created my first “Greek” experience!

Opa!

The day we went to Aegina was the same day I moved my things into my house at the school as well as my birthday! It was so nice to be able to share my birthday with my family, rather than brand new people, in a brand new house, in a brand new country. With that said, my parents and I said our goodbyes that afternoon, I hoped on the bus, and went home to meet my new roommates. Only a few had arrived up to this point, but those who were there, Chris, Chris, Stephanie, and Allyson (all my roommates but one) went to dinner with Molly, the returning teaching fellow living in one of the apartments (four fellows live in the apartments off campus and six live in the house on campus). Molly took us to a great restaurant in Gazi, a hip neighborhood downtown. They kindly treated me to a delicious Greek dinner, wonderful conversation, and excellent company. It was a birthday certainly unlike any other, and one I won’t soon forget.

The next few days were spent unpacking, running errands to Carrefour (like a big Target!! it’s awesome!!), getting cell phones, and exploring the city. Once we finished these errands, all of which took much longer than one would think, considering we speak very little Greek (read: absolutely no Greek), during the weekend days, we began our orientation. Our orientation consisted of learning the structure of the school (there are basically two schools joined together, Psychico College and Athens College, to form the Hellenic American Educational Foundation — the middle and high schools of each are located on the main campus where I work and live, while each has it’s own elementary school campus located about 30 minutes away.) So anywho, we learned about the structure, a tid bit as to what we would be doing (each of the 10 Fellows has a separate placement, I’ll talk more about mine later…), we made reading packets for the English department, and we talked about which islands were a must see. That was the moment when I knew I had landed the dream job for a recent college grad… we were talking about where to vacation during our work orientation. I’m ready for a great year.

September 10, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.