Tuesday, March 16, 2010

THIS IS SPARTA ( in a british accent)

(Kaite, Emily, Suzy and Me....and yes we are in a bed of flowers)

So, I owe you all a big apology for not keeping up with this blog. I must admit I have been very busy with recovering from my trip to Meteora, recovering from my trip to the Peloponnese, getting ready for my trip to Thessaloniki, planning my spring break island hopping (Naxos and Armorgos here we come!!) planning our trip to Rome, planning our trip Crete, planning our trip to Santorini, and lets see I don't think I am missing anything......oh yes, and school work.

Sparta! When you think of Sparta do you think of the film 300? Or maybe buff men walking around, carrying shields and swords? Or my personal favorite, Gerard Butler screaming "This is Sparta" while carrying me off in his gorgeous arms whispering sweat nothings to me in a British accent! So now that you have that amazing or disturbing image in your head let me just tell you that Sparta is, well...History!

I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Peloponnese for about five days, well it was mandatory and even though we were on vacation we still had lectures everywhere we stopped. If you have a map handy pull it out! Sparta is about a 7 hours away by bus, it is in the middle of Corinth (Historically more important than Athens, though that is a whole different blog story) and Athens. I must say all the hype surrounding Sparta really forms a picture in your head of what it is like. However, as a history major I try to keep a open mind and not rush to judgments, history is all too tainted. History are complete works of fairy tails that transpire from a single point of view. I try to doubt everything, so I can make my own decision. Yet it's flippin SPARTA, how can you not have some sort of romantic view. So my roomies and I were super stoked to say the least! We might have been rein-acting 300 in our apartment days leading up to the big trip. So it was a bit disappointing that when we arrived, it was well, like any other city. No ruins to be seen, no huge statues, no buff Spartans killing each other off in the square. It was a normal town with grocery stores and restaurants, schools and pet shops. It was as if history never existed.

Ok so there always has to be traces from the past in whatever form. Sparta does have ruins on the edge of the city in a fenced off area. Like in every town there is an acropolis (acro=top, polis= city, so a city on the top of a hill). The acropolis lie in ruins, barely any stones are on the top of the hill and personally the hill is a bit pathetic. The only thing that remains is the skeleton of this once military focused city. What was once arguable the most powerful city in the world, is now in a heap of marble and limestone. What has been uncovered are plain clay pots and few weapons. It is a vast land full of olive trees hiding the once sprawling city. The roads have long disappeared. What remains of the original buildings are scarce, most of the material is scattered around the world in museums if lucky, or used as another building. Looking back I guess I should have expected the disparity of the historically important city. Historically Sparta was good for one thing: soldiers. Spartans bread killers at the age f seven the boys would be sent of to military school where they would grow up fighting killing each other as they progressed in their education. Everything was communal, food living spaces, the women. Spartans were either soldiers or women, specialties did not exist. The lack of archeological evidence is spares do to the nonexistent economy there was no trading of goods because goods didn't exists potters or sculptors were non existent therefore making pots was not a specialty so remains of pots never existed. There was no monetary system therefore with the lack of goods and money trade was impossible. Though strong in the military sense it was inevitable that the Spartan culture would ultimately collapse leaving only legends that can not be verified. What is left is the mystery that history always provides. What is left is plot of land with little ruins. To me Sparta is perhaps the greatest society in which little is known or will ever be known.

Its pretty rad to realize that I actually was in SPARTA I have been there and would go back in a heartbeat......"THIS IS SPARTA"!!!!!

PS. I love emails and mail, hearing from people back home is pretty rad. So if your super board I would LOVE emails or letters!
PSS I just learned about one of the Coolest women in history her name is Hypatia and she was amazing! I think she must have been one of the smartest women in history and I think I just realized my greatest female historical icon! I will tell you more once I have gathered way more info and read up more about her! Senior paper topic ....I think yess!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Mushrooms growing in our shower.........FML, story of my life.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Train From Hades!

I am an adventure fiend, as well as an adrenaline junkie. Personally I do enjoy the time-to-time “dumb stunts” that tend to get me in a bit of a pickle. I do seam to walk into predicaments, in fact the greatest compliment any one has ever given me is “you pulled a Lucy” after my greatest idol Lucille ball, that yes got her-self into some amazing situations. In fact, looking back I pulled quit a few doozies that could put Ball to shame, and which have resulted in numerous talks from the parental unit as well as thinning of my piggy bank. In fact, I pride my self in how I actually get myself out of those situations. This trip has been an opportunity to get myself in some interesting situations to say the least, but I have a particular experience that will forever be ingrained into my innocent mind for the rest of my natural life.

Trains, when I think of trains I like to picture my self on the Hogwarts express with a handsome person next to me…preferably Daniele Radcliffe, but any British person would work. Of course with my luck I landed my self on the train straight from Hades, in fact I am 100% sure that I saw Satan driving the train! Instead of getting wasted for Carnival, my roommates and I decided to go meditate at the world-renowned monasteries in the mountains in Meteora. Booking tickets on the midnight train sounded like a great idea, 11 euro, heck that was cheaper than the Mimosa I had last night. But of course the gods had something else planned for us…FML! Lets just say I would rather watch all SAW movies in a graveyard with Palin, Bush Cheney and Rove then have got on that train. Like any horror story it started out peacefully, innocent passengers on a train going to monasteries, seriously what could possibly go wrong? Lets play a game I give you scenarios and you guess what the train offered…if you guess correctly you win.

Scenario A. People smoking weed in the corridors

Scenario B. People offering you weed…for a price of course, 50 Euros for a joint…. hells no.

Scenario C. People mating/having sex/doing the “no pants dance”/ fucking/whatever you want to call it, in the bathrooms

Scenario D. People going at it in the halls (refer to scenario C)

Scenario E. People offering you to have sex with them for money

Scenario F. People shooting up in the halls

Scenario G. People shooting up in the bathrooms

Scenario H. People doing lines in the bathrooms

Scenarios I. Creepers snorting other unidentified substances

Scenario J. Creepers grabbing at you and staring at you

Scenario K. Cigarettes all over the floors

Scenario L. All of the Above

If you answered Scenario L you win, you can now pay for my intense shock therapy, because that trip just landed me 50 years on the couch.

I have never been so freaked out in my life, I am a rash person who rarely over re-acts (no comments please.) But as I feverishly wrote my will to my parents just in case I died on that fucked up train, I realized that I am never going to ride a train again…. forget Daniele Radcliff and the Hogwarts express. I was offered overly priced drugs, while at the same time mistaken for a prostitute, while I almost got stuck with a needle. I am not really sure what this says about me, of course my brother and sister (aka Liz) might find this humorous, but I didn’t think I fit the drug/prostitute profile…. in fact I though I fit a completely different profile, I mean I am sure if it weren’t for the whole atheist thing I could pass as a nun…. well maybe. Forget adventures, next trip I will hire a donkey if I have to. The only way you are ever going to get me on another train is if I’m unconscious. There is no moral of this story, in fact my advice is to NEVER take a train anywhere when it’s dark, especially in Greece unless you into sex, drugs and moving vehicles, or have a death wish. The only thing that I learned is that my greatest fear is no longer ants, but now trains…. all I can say is FML! Dear god, story of my life.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Homesick, the longing for what is familiar missing whats back home. I am starting to feel the dreadful disease that plagues most students when they adventure abroad.
1. I miss my parents
2. I miss my brother
3. I miss hot showers that last longer than 5 minutes
4. I miss dryers
5. I miss flushing toilet paper down the toilet
6. I miss the US exchange rate.....everything is soooo expensive
7. I miss my cupboard full of Lysol disinfecting wipes
8. I miss my stainless steel 12 cup coffee maker ( Emily I want it back as soon as I land)
9. I miss my
Dirt Devil 110000 Reaction Dual Cyclonic Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner
10. I miss my chubby dog who is at my heels 24/7
11. I miss my plump cat who is most likely sleeping now
12. I miss not having to worry about what water I can and cannot drink
13. I miss not being afraid of being hit by an off-roading moped... driven by some 60 old grandma
14. I miss my friends who keep me in check and are always there for me
15. I miss the turtles and sharks at work...not the crabs and fish
16. I miss my Nissan Altima....Parental Unit Please don't give it to john!
17. I miss my Rossie board, and the hills which I frequent when I am stressed
18. I miss cable.... have not watched TV for a month on Saturday
19. I miss my GWSS classes
20. I miss feminists!
21. I miss liberals
22. I miss a queer community
23. I miss my I Love Lucy DVDs....how the hell did I forget them??
24. I miss washers...I am not good at hand-washing clothes
25. I miss my hair straightener
26. I miss my pillow top bed and my hypoallergenic pillow
27. I miss Punch Pizza...or just pizza in general!
28. I miss seeing Kaela's face every morning
29. I miss Kaela telling me I am late for class because I slept through my alarm......again
30. I miss coffee that is less than 3 euro for a small cup
31. I miss my shower
32. I miss cleanliness and sanitary bathrooms
33. I miss playing video games with my brother (not the video game part but being with my bro)
34. I miss smoking hukkahs with good company
35. I miss the lakes...and falling through the Ice with Liz (even though I thought I would never want to experience that pain again)
36. I miss St. Joe....hmmm never thought that would ever come out of my mouth
37. I miss Bo Dids! ....though, Baklava is ssoooo much better here
38. I miss going into a buildings and not having to check if its a brothel
39. I miss using public transportation and not seeing people shooting up, having sex, selling drugs and offering to pay you for sex.....very long story, possible next blog entry?
40. I miss Pandora.....it does not work outside the states... I have no music!
41. I miss watching Friends every morning with Kaela while we procrastinate actual going to school
42. I miss Meredith's facial expressions in GWSS and Legal Hist.
43. I miss having my own room....and bathroom

Yupers, I am homesick.......I think a trip to the chocolate store is in order.
Peace, Maria

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Class in a museum..sounds good to me!

"To understand history we must first understand how things are in reality; we must investigate on our own. That is why you left your family, friends and everything familiar." Stavros Oikonomidis (my history professor)

I must admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of school, the institutionalized structure of school made me despise many aspects of it. I am a free minded person, I need adventure and freedom to learn. To learn outside of the
classroom..... well I strive. To have the ability to freely immerse my self into creating my own education is as precious as the strength I garner from my family, friends and teachers I have had through out my life. I must admit that the past year and a half has been a tough journey trying to find and embrace my identity, I so desperately needed to get away. College is when you find yourself and figure out the ropes in life, so studying abroad was always a must for me. For the majority of my life I felt constricted and closeted (in more ways than one.) By slowly coming out and discovering who I am or who I can be, I have felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders, being here for only two weeks I can feel this wave of change and opportunity I have never felt in my life.

Class is the polar opposite of school in the states, classes are interactive and stimulating.
Rrarely is class ever held in doors, we are constantly on site, exploring and doing hands on activities. Fridays is devoted to field trips out of the city where our teachers take us on day trips, we listen to lectures while sitting in the middle or ruins, in a cave or in a coffee shop. The professors believe that you simply cannot learn from a text book, instead we hold shards of jars or listen to stories about mythology. I have never bounded to class salivating for the information our professors feed us. For the first time we are given creative control of our education. We are expected to get out and explore, to learn on our own. In class we are expected to take photos as well as keep a blog, take notes, draw pictures and keep ticket stubs, napkins and anything else that could help us embrace what we are learning. My note books are not filled with irrelevant doodles on the margins, but instead I have pages of stories, notes and drawings expressing what I have learned. Our classes are small about 10 people each, and I am finally surrounded by 50 history and classics majors who all inspire to go into similar fields as me. I finally have history nerds I can bond with and have heated debate on which episode of Histories Mysteries is the best. We have discussions on what artifact we would steal from a particular museum and all agree that museums are our drug of choice, because when we are surrounded by artifacts we all get an enormous high.

This may be a surprise for my stats professor dad, for the first time in my life I am interested in math and science, and how history is a huge part of other disciplines. We are encourage to question everything, which is something I embrace. I am the first person to tell you I am the most stubborn and honest person you will ever meet. I love to question pretty much everything. I also fully embrace my way of looking a
t things from sexuality to politics, here I am able to use my views and look at history the way I see it. I am not told what to think, I believe that the majority of schools are institutionalized, and embrace the social norms. Society teaches us to categorize everything and society teaches us how to look at something. I am fortunate that my parents endowed the support to look at things my own way and encouraged me to try everything and make mistakes. My parents love and support me no matter what and encourage my education, every aspect of life is a learning experience, even when I over-draw my checking account.... for like the tenth time, or crash the car while rocking out to cities 97. My parents never got really mad, but instead gave the "learning though experience lecture"....and yes, I am glad they did.

So here, everyday is a learning experience and I dont need a classroom or text books. I have made a few mistakes since I have been here....I might have walked into a brothel with my roommate thinking it was a gym and filled out an job application (yah its a long story) or ended up in the red light district when trying to navigate the subway system, but beilive it or not they are experiences I really would not give up.

Until my next installment, Peace

Monday, February 1, 2010


At a very young age I knew what I was going to do with my life, I would go in the back yard and create my own archeological dig sites. I would be fascinated by historic sites, I would read books about women in history and I wanted to be them. I always knew I was an independent and strong women at a very young age. I would go on adventures, only these adventures would be in the woods near my St. Joe home and I would be back in time for dinner. Here I am, years later on the adventure of a life time, its just that I wont be home for dinner, well not until June. I realized last night that I am actually in Greece, and I am now adjusting to live like a Greek. Here I am in the most amazing place on earth doing exactly what I wanted to do when I was little, of course back then when I was digging up my hamsters grave for the twentieth time, I never thought I would have the opportunity or the courage to leave what is safe and familiar, to leave my family and friends and have an opportunity of a life time.

Greece is everything one would imagine and more. The landscape is gorgeous, imagine what heaven looks like to you and double that. The people are beautiful and very helpful. And the weather....well its not Minnesota!

If you have heard the expression that Greeks eat healthy, then you believed a lie. I can feel my arteries clog with the goodness of deep fried cheese. Pure olive oil coasts my lungs and the coffee is pure gold dripping down my throat. I know my doctor would have a heart attack if she knew what I was happily consuming. Wine is a staple and topping the morning off with a shot is encouraged. Every meal is served with bread that is swimming in oil, while it is frowned upon if you don't eat every piece of food. And gyros, well they are the most amazing substance your body will ever get, its my new drug of choice. And please don't insult the Greeks by asking for a lamb gyros.....they don't exist in Greece. Lamb gyros are an American take on something that should never have been altered. But make sure you do ask for extra fries on your gyros, because that is a staple.
The markets have every kind of food one could want, the pallet of colors is so overwhelming, who knew that there could be forty shades of red and orange. The food is so fresh and the smell wafts miles away. Fresh fish flop around on salt next to barrels of olives, that share a stand with the greenest lettuce you could see. Miles of stalls line the street with Grecians of all ages, holding and smelling the goods. Its as if you won the food lottery, when you surround yourself with food you realize that your life span has just shorted, but who cares, no where else in the world can you choose from 100 different kinds of olives, while at the same time buy wine in water bottles and load up octopus. I never had any respect for food. Yes... I try to eat locally and buy at farmers markets and try to live my food crazed life like my dear role model Melinda who happens to be the greatest foodie in Seattle. Yet, in the first five minutes at the market I felt connected with the food like never before. Luckily for me the market like everything else is pretty close to my lovely Grecian apartment.

Transportation is amazing, even though everything is in walking distance if you feel lazy and have no desire of walking off the pound of butter and cheese that is a staple every day for a Grecian, hop on a train, trolley, bus, or subway. Transportation is cheep, convenient and very clean.

Lucky for me, my four bedroom and two bathroom apartment is close to everything. I can take a morning walk and pass by the first Olympic stadium, turn a corner and pass the acropolis, while hit up the archeological museum as well. Our apartment is the biggest apartment, shared between four of the greatest women I have ever met. Emily Bulter hails from New Mexico, we share the same sarcasm and facial expressions, and hit it off instantly. Suzy is from Boston and is the fashionista of the group. She has the greatest sense of humor of any one I know. Nicole is the elder of the group, at 25 she hails from Chicago. Katie is my fellow Minnesotan, she had been in Greece for the fist semester, so know the ways of the Grecians, and shows us the ropes. We both go through getting made fun of by the others because of our "Minnesotan accents," which by the way we don't have. We all get along great and do things together all the time, for knowing each other for only a week we all realized we have a very special friendship, and we have already talked about how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to each other.

Pangrati is where our apartment is located, along with school. There are shops every where selling anything you could imagine. Unfortunately, our apartment is located over a chocolate store, a bakery, sunglasses store and a shoe store..... oh dear god what a disaster. Coffee shops line the streets and sell booze at all times of the day....don't worry mom and dad I am not turning into an alcoholic. coffee is a bit expensive and drinks, well pregaming is the best plan since a beer will set your back 8 euro which is a little more than 10 bucks. Cover charges are also pretty outrageous, try going to a club where it is normal to pay about 20 American dollars. But there are some great places to hang out for free.

Museums are free on Sundays, which is great because everything else is closed. We had the chance to visit a very popular exhibit last week .....erotica in ancient Greece, very interesting to say the least, you also had to be older than 16 to enter,(need I say more.) There is never a dull moment, and this city literally never sleeps.
Arcadia center is located five minutes from my apartment, its the hub of all activity on the program. The center is where we attend most of our classes and where we do a lot of activities. The program has so many fun-planned excursions, including wine tasting, movie night, cooking classes, day trips and learning how to grocery shop in Greece. My classes are very different from American classes, we have Greek class every day for three hours except on Saturdays and Sundays, which gets a bit overwhelming. But we are learning Greek fast and when you leave you are almost fluent, because they drill you hard. Like many, blurting out Spanish happens frequently in class. Which is odd, because I wasn't that great in Spanish to begin with, yet all my Spanish is flooding back to me (Adriana would be proud.) Most of my classes are taught on site in museums and on dig sites, which is so rad. Classes are about ten people, and because every one pretty much hangs out with each other I know everyone.

The past weekend we spent time in Nafpoli, on the coast of Greece. It was such an amazing trip, everything about it even the long coach ride was exciting. Nafpoli was the capital of Greece at one time, it is a small fishing village where everyone knows everyone else. The pinnacle of the town is the fort on top of the mountain which has over one million steps ....and yes, at 9 am on Saturday we climb every step. Great view from the top, yet bottle oxygen would have been a great treat once we actually reached the top. We also toured the oldest distillery in Greece, at 8am having a shots of booze really wakes you up. We got a day to explore the city on the coast, I ended up exploring with my roommates and about ten others, it was pretty rad. our group of 50 met up at a local restaurant where we dinned on everything Greek, and gained about ten pound each.

Our leaders are amazing, and I know that they really care about their jobs as well as each of us, they take interest in everyone. I feel very comfortable talking to them if something does come up.

I am defiantly learning the ropes of Greece, for example I actively participate in a great tradition called the siesta, which is a necessity when supper is at 9pm and clubs don't open until 1am. My roommates and I have had many of a bonding experiences, from getting lost to sitting in the bathroom hand-washing our clothes, to trying to get internet in our apartment, which only works in one bedroom and in the bathtub....and yes, we have had bonding experience in the bathtub while on the internet.

Well, as much as I would love to keep talking and telling you all about my adventures this is a blog and not a short story. I am safe, happy and having the time of my life. Though, I do miss my family,friends,hot showers and normal plumbing, I would not give up this adventure for anything.

When I was little digging up my backyard I would never have guessed that years later I would be in Athens on real archeological sites digging up their history.
PS. Hopefully there wont be a long time in between blog entries.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Twas The Night Before My Greek Adventure......

So my journey will begin tomorrow, bright and early. My bags are packed after days of procrastination, too bad I cant lift them. I am set to go to Greece, the ancient city of Athens, where democracy and some say civilization started. For a history major, Athens is a playground of knowledge and opportunity. My journey starts flying out of JFK to Heathrow (watch out Daniele Radcliffe I am in London,) then off to Athens. It is more than 40 hours of travel time; Athens is eight hours ahead of MN. I will be residing in Piagrati, a section of Athens, my apartment is shared between four other American students, we are in walking distance of the Acropolis and the best part is we have a balcony that looks over the Acropolis! Jackpot! I am so excited, and at the same time extremely nervous, I am not really sure what to except, my Greek language skill is zero so that makes me even more nervous, but I am banking on the best. This is an amazing experience that I want to begin right now! I know very well that I am going to miss my parents, my dog and my best friend; who happens to be my little brother. Its time for me to be on my own in a totally new place where I can be independent and grow as human, plus brush up on my Greek History.

Luckily for you, because this is a blog you are free to read this or not…. don’t worry, no hard feelings if you pass up my thoughts and experiences! Hopefully my horrible spelling and grammar skills do not deter you and hopefully this reminds you of ME! Again, a blog is like an electronic diary, knowing my luck with diaries this will be much of an undertaking, so bare with me. Any questions, comments or concerns (?) are openly welcome! Keep me posted!

Best, Maria