Monday, February 1, 2010

Athens.......









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.
Peace,
Maria
PS. Hopefully there wont be a long time in between blog entries.

4 comments:

  1. I love how all Minnesotans claim they don't have an accent yet we all get crap for it... Greece sounds amazing and your writing makes me laugh! Keep throwing back olive oil!

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  2. It was a true joy reading you blog today, Maria. It sounds like you are doing great. Did you really try to dig up that hamster that many times in the back yard? Remember that we used sleepytime tea boxes for the coffins?

    Your experience so far sounds amazing. I am salivating over all your wonderful food descriptions. I haven't checked out my email today so you may have written there too. I was at a workshop in Des Moines, IA this weekend without an computer access. Does your phone work in your apt. yet. I hope we can skype this weekend. Give me a time and John and I will be there. Love you-Mom

    Keep the blog coming-we love it!

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  3. Awesome writing and great pics!!

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  4. While my little girl, I must say I am very jealous and wish i got the sit in the bathtub with you to get internet. have fun, be safe

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