Monday, January 25, 2010

Coming to you live from Athens, Greece! Eftihidou 16, Pangrati to be more specific (and yes I can even pronounce all of the words in my address as of today...I think). Life in Greece has already been crazier than expected. The last thirty six hours exist only in a blur of orientation activities, settling into the apartment, and the faint memory of the disgusting breakfast of wildly over-salted ham slices that enveloped what I think they were calling a mushroom omelette. There was also a surprising chickpea parsley concoction.

We were all seated in generally the same area on the plane and were thus able to bond over British Airways' blatant oversight on the breakfast issue as well as plan a few goals for the semester in Athens (re: bar crawl in togas through out central athens leading in to a similar adventure in Rome after a little trip on the ferry). It might sound ugly American and in retrospect it doesn't really make any sense at all, but it helped us get through the plane ride. I also watched "The Hangover". Overrated. I'll discuss this with anyone that would like to defend it at a later date. Sleeping didn't really happen on the flight from JFK to Athens (they try to trick you by serving dinner, turning the lights off and turning them back on for breakfast in 2 hours, yet those of us who were awake really just wanted some peanuts. They didn't have any--I asked). The flight from Heathrow to Athens was essentially uneventful except for the unexpected frisking I got at security. When we got to Athens, the Arcadia staff greeted us and guided us to the bus that would drop us off at our respective apartments. The apartment is (well, will be) a lovely experience once we get settled in. We each have our own bedroom, although one of my roommates--Maria--and I have connecting rooms separated by our wardrobe closets. Last night was a bit of an adventure when we woke up to discover that the door to our balcony (the one that gifts us a lovely overlook of the acropolis!) door does not stay shut. At all. Which means cold wind blowing into our rooms allll night long. It is COLD in Athens right now! The door is getting fixed though, and I'm hoping/expecting that will make a huge difference.

Also, when we learn how to use the showers, that will also be helpful. One has to turn the water heater on about 30 minutes before getting in the shower and even then it is a little temperamental. Also, one must hold the shower head and lather simultaneously. I'm sure both of these bathing related skills have a quick learning curve and we will be used to it before too long. (Stop reading this paragraph now if you don't want to hear about the toilet) We will also get used to not flushing any toilet paper down the bowl! Not kidding! I don't know if anyone else is as shocked as I am, but seriously! Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) goes in the trash can and then we take it out a couple times a week.

All of these quirks about the apartment, while a bit disorienting and inconveniencing, also remind me of the fun involved in figuring out how to master the ways of another culture. I'm sure that before too long all of these eccentricities will become second nature. In fact, I may continue the no flushing toilet paper rule in the states. It could be a revolutionary idea.

I have no idea how to navigate around the city, shocking, I know. We are also being constantly followed by stray dogs. Some of them tried to follow us into the grocery store yesterday. Things were yelled by various people, and although I speak very little Greek at this point (yet I do know how to say "I speak a little Greek"), I can say with a hefty amount of confidence that they were not too happy with us. I did get some delicious Greek yogurt (yes Grandmom, I did mix in some strawberries!) and oregano potato chips which I foresee becoming a dangerous addiction.

Apart from our adventures around the city exploring our neighborhood ("Pangrati" in English, "Pagrati" translated correctly from Greek), we have been overloaded with information about Greek customs, public transportation, and other useful yet overwhelming tips. I think everything will start to make a whole lot more sense once I have to start doing this on my own. My roommate Kaite has been a huge help to us in this department because she was here last semester, as well.

We went to the museum of Cycladic Art yesterday--our first cultural stop of what promises to be 4 months of ancient cultural glory. The Eros exhibit was on display, and you can all rest assured that this was unlike any other museum experience in my 20 years of existence. There was an entire room devoted to male genitalia. Point conveyed. Moving on. OK, but seriously, it was an amazing museum--even just regarding the actual building itself and the walls/ceilings. And they had several good looking Greek security guards to whom I constantly uttered "Yassas!" (Hello.) One of them kept passing through the penis room (not sure if that is the technical name for it, but it seemed to fit our descriptive purposes) and giggled at me and one of my friends Kendra who probably spend an inordinate amount of time assessing the artistic intention of each piece.

After bonding over our windy apartment, my roommates and I have become a nice little unit. We cooked dinner together in the apartment last night and have been traveling to and from orientation events together and hanging out. Today was my roommate Nicole's birthday and we went out to this little taverna which is known for giving students a "10 euros all you can eat" kind of deal. It was unbelievably delicious and so quaintly Greek that I think I may just have to move in. It is situated near the Olympic Stadium, which is also incredible. Also had my first Greek salad today. The combo of real Greek feta and real Greek olive oil is almost too much to handle. Don't judge me for my disproportionate enthusiasm; it is a true treat. But the moral is that the experience was fantastically authentic and I anticipate that we become frequent visitors that have to roll each other out of the taverna each time.

Earlier today, we attended our first lykke: an outdoor market that sells clothes and household goods and the freshest produce known to man. We were given free tangerines (I think that's what they were) by one of the vendors and it was quite delicious. The whole experience of the bustling, sprawling marketplace proves to be one of the most authentic and fun things about the city of Athens. I respect a city whose old ladies with their shopping cards will trip me and push me over to get to the olive stand first. That is true commitment.

We have also been attending our Greek language intensive classes this week, which means three hours of listening to Apostolos' (my teacher) spectacular Greek accent and getting to practice and build up my Greek vocabulary. Some of it is so confusing! A lot of their letters resemble ours, but have completely different functions. For example, the Greek "v" is actually pronounced like the English "n".

I must get to bed now because we have to be at Arcadia for a long day of orientation activities. I'll be grateful once my time is more my own and we all settle into the routine of class and what not. And when we are not all showering at the same time because of that pesky "wait 30 minutes for the water to reheat" rule. Oh, and if you forget to turn the water heater off, apparently you get electrocuted.

Goodnight! Kalespera!

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