Monday, March 28, 2011

I Think That All is Well

Been Here for a while now…

So, we’ve been here for over a month and I can’t say that I have fully grown use to the swing of things here. I can say that I am more use to the layout of the city. I haven’t gotten lost recently which is a great thing, I think but then again I’m only really going to palaces that I’ve been to before so there is no way I can get lost. My Greek has remained the same,I believe and that is mostly in part to the people. Whenever I try to ask a question or say anything in Greek to anyone, they know right away that I don’t speak Greek so they throw back some English at me. Personally I think it would be an odd conversation if I say something in Greek and they say something in English so I throw Greek back at them. I don’t usually know what to do then so I give up and talk to them in English because most of the time their English is better than my Greek. I can say that I have gotten used to the fact that I am here in foreign waters. I am used to the fact that when I walk up the narrow hills (my cafe muscles thank them for that) the words that I will hear are not English, and I no longer freak out about that. On the bright side of things I can identify some of the words in their conversations that I over hear which I call an accomplishment because before coming over here I was very worried about the whole different alphabet. The only real issue I’ve had with the langue is at the grocery stores and I’ve been navigating that pretty well now if I do say so myself. Well, I don’t believe I have much more on the subject of living here and if I don it I don’t know how to put it in words that sound non clichĂ© so I’m signing off before things get bad.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Holy Monks, Batman

Hercules Bathing … Sweet (Thermopylae)

During the bus ride I must admit I was not too keen on traveling, mostly because I was tried and it was early in the morning (for me at least). When getting off the bus in Thermopylae we were herded into a museum where was watched a 3D, entirely in Greek movie about a battle between the Spartans and Greece. I didn’t really retain much of this information because A) 3D hurts my eyes and B) I had trouble hearing our teacher translate it to us. Later, we learned that the museum was newer and didn’t yet have its English subtitles which would have been greatly appreciated by me and the rest of the group I’m sure. I did enjoy the interactive parts of the museum, though it was all in Greek, I felt like I was five again. Everything was brightly color and I found myself thinking, “Gee, what does this button do.”

Once out of museum we took a roughly five minute bus rides to the see where Hercules went to recover from his most “strenuous” task. No, friends it wasn’t a battle with a lion nor was it his tango with the Hydra. No, it was the ladies. Apparently Hercules was given fifty virgins, after completing his labors to dot, dot, dot, cause that’s what they did in the olden days. He impregnated forty-nine of them and let the last one be a Priestess for his temple. After playing the hokey pokey for while, he was tired and wanted to relax, so he took a bath Sadly, he was not in waters when we arrived.

Friends in High Places

We got to Meteora in the afternoon and rested for a bit before going to dinner. I sat next to Ioanna and Yannis, which would have been perfectly fine if A) one of them wasn’t insisted on me trying everything and giving my too much so that my plate of covered in food I refused to eat and B) the other wasn’t nagging me about good table manners. That wasn’t the most important thing about Meteora though. In Meteora there are Monasteries on top of very tall cliffs. (On a side note, just so you all know I DO NOT HIKE EVER). Climbing up the monasteries was amazing, yes I was winded half the time and had to wear God awful skirts but the hike was well worth it. I don’t know how else to describe it except for beautiful, I almost cried and I am not a crier.

Let’s Asks the Gods (Delphi)

There were so many questions I’ve been meaning to ask someone but I was too afraid of sounding like an idiot or maybe they wouldn’t know the answer or even worse it may be wildly inappropriate. Where was my Oracle when I needed one? Answer, apparently in Greece. At Delphi there is a virgin Oracle, or at least the all the Oracles started out being virgins but because of a virgin shortage at the factory (women started getting lose and frisky) the Oracle no longer needed to be a virgin. People would come with offerings from all around for a chance to ask the oracle a question. I didn’t actually ask a question … maybe I should have but I defiantly didn’t have something like a giant gold bull to offer her. I did like looking at the theatre of Delphi, it wasn’t has big as the ones by the Acropolis but just as gorgeous.

This part does not deserve its own section but I feel the need to mention in it so here goes… has anyone seen the movie Troy? It was okay from what I can tell. The dialogue needed some work but then again I was barely listening. I was cracking joked with Kendra as the boys watched it intensely on the ride back to Athens. I have come to the conclusion that the only reason a girl may enjoy this film is because of the actors, which Kendra and I referred to as Hot Guy #1, Hot Guy #2 etc. So I think I’m going to write a screenplay for Troy 2. Here’s the tagline: “Just when you thought they couldn't get any hotter, they ate their vegetables and did: Troy 2, It's getting hot in here so take off all your skirts, (More men, More Skirts, More Hotness."

Easy Alliteration: Monks at the Meteora Monasteries

Anyone who understood the reference I made in the title of my first post may have an idea of my love for James Bond movies…so imagine my excitement when I learned we would be visiting the monasteries featured in the film “For Your Eyes Only”! Even though my visions of rappelling up the sides of cliffs—or even using the baskets they used before stairs were built—never came to fruition, it was still an awesome experience. Misty weather and eerie quiet combined to make a perfect setting for viewing the Byzantine art and breathtaking scenery of the three monasteries we toured. The whole place exuded an atmosphere of mystery and timelessness.
The monasteries were all similar in purpose and design, but each had unique features that set it apart from the others. For instance, Egypt and I were made to wear these super classy shapeless skirts at every monastery, but they all featured different designs! The last one was so stylish it could have been mistaken for a tablecloth at a funeral.
As far as the actual monasteries were concerned, the first one we visited (Megalo Meteoro) was the largest and had some interesting displays and exhibits about its history. At the second monastery, we met someone in the process of becoming a monk who talked with us at length about the church and the Greek Orthodox religion. The third monastery, Agia Triada, was the smallest and quietest. We enjoyed walking around on the grounds outside the church and admiring the view of Meteora below.
I’d like to say we zip-lined down on the cable car wires and ended the day sipping vodka martinis (shaken, not stirred)—but I think our slightly more realistic hike back to town and stop at a cafĂ© for Greek coffee was equally lovely.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Delphi Trip

Our Delphi trip was a blast we got to see so much so quickly that it was difficult to wrap my head around it. In a perfect scenario the weather would have been a little bit better but unfortunately we can’t control that… Illanna was the best tour guide we could have ever asked for she is the best! She took us to the mountaintop monasteries in Meteora, which were, mind blowing with the views and location of them. How did they build those? I still don’t know but they have been standing and operating for centuries. We also got to see the baths of Hercules, the location where he allegedly came to bath after he was done with his tasks. It was right near the location of the battle of Thermopile and the hot gates better known from the movie 300. The site of Delphi itself was an absolute hike it seemed like we drove through 10 different mountain ranges to get there on these small roads that if the bus were to make one minor jerk it was game over for all of us (thanks Janny) Anyways, the site itself was incredible to say the least, pictures can not do it justice. We hiked all the way to the top and saw the temple of Apollo and where they would allegedly consult the Oracles. Once we got to the top we had a footrace in the oldest stadium that I have ever stood in. Afterwards we hiked down and made our way back to Athens.

Spring Break

Wow, What a Spring Break! Steve, Sam, and myself got to enjoy an experience that was unlike anything that I have ever done. Our journey started on Friday afternoon where we got into the Athens airport, which has a very strange setup. For some reason they thought that it would be a good idea to put all of the restaurants and bars before the security checkpoint…. So when we got to our flight two hours early we were stuck twiddling our thumbs in an empty airport terminal (not a complaint, just an observation) So we boarded our flight and headed to Amsterdam with a 2 hour layover in Munich, which has one of the nicest airports I have ever been in mainly because they serve German beer which is the very best in the world.

Once we get to Amsterdam it came as a complete shock, even though it shouldn’t have, that everyone and I mean everyone was riding around on these tall goofy looking bicycles. We walk back to our hostel and get situated for the night living in a room with 17 other people could not have been any better because to our surprise there was not one person that snored. It was more like a morgue in that sense but nonetheless it was a great experience. The city itself was overpriced and very touristy, especially in the parts we were in. it was really nice to see so many English-speaking people because there are very few in Greece and it was a nice change. So while we were there we hit almost every tourist spot and got a great feel for the city if we were to ever go back. In our 4 days there we saw the wax museum which may have been the highlight of the Amsterdam portion of the trip because the figures looked so realistic that it was a little bit bizarre. They had political figures from Ghandi to JFK to Winston Churchill they also had actors such as Nicholas Cage and George Clooney and they had famous artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso (both of which museums we saw on the trip.) The Anne Frank house was breath taking because now I am able to put the story with the location and get a better picture of what really happened there. The Heineken factory was another highlight of the trip, it was interesting to learn how they brewed the beer and that the recipe has not changed in all of the years of its existence. So more or less those are the “highlights” of the trip and then we moved onto our next stop, Barcelona.

Spanish culture is awesome! The woman who ran our Hostel was like a mother figure and this time we only had to share a room with 7 people, so that was nice. There is so much to see in Barcelona but the highlight for me was the Sangrada Familia Cathedral. If you haven’t heard of it google it and look at it. It is the most remarkable cathedral I have ever been in and/or seen and construction isn’t expected to be done for another 19 years. That’s right, this cathedral is expected to be completed in 2030 which seems like a long ways away especially with how far it has come already. In this church there is a GIANT center room where you feel like an ant. We met up with Josh there and we took a tour of one of the towers that runs on a lift and you have a choice whether to walk down or take the lift back down. We decided to walk and thank god, the views of the city on this clear day were great. So we are walking down this seemingly endless spiral staircase which Robin (who counts steps—it’s like an OCD thing) would have had a field day with. The architect who designed this Gaudi, spent the last 40 years or so of his life designing it.

Other things in Barcelona that I enjoyed were the cheap prices of everything; it was quite different from Amsterdam in that sense. It had a much more home feeling and was not crowded with tourists. I would love to go back and see all the things that we missed. Our last 2 days were relaxing ones, we spent the majority of the days sitting on the beach and taking in the sun that we hadn’t seen in the month prior. All and all it was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life and I will not soon forget the amazing times that we had. I am happy I took a lot of pictures and got to experience all the things I did, I would not trade my Spring break 2011 experience for the world

Spring Vacation

Spring vacation, during this spring vacation i stayed here in Athens due to budget reasons. All was not so bad. Other then getting pickpocketed my very first day or vacation everything else went well. I went down to peraius near the docks and looked at the ocean and all of the very expensive yahts and boats. I seen atleast good 10 million dollars or so yahts that were amazingggg! I wish i had money like that to just spend on a boat! HA. Monday night i went down to the Athens sports bar wich is a classic place that i have been going, to meet fellow americans that are also on spring vacation and also too meet some new faces. Monday was trivia night at the bar and i made a few quantences there some from new york and arizona that i spent some time with. We were to busy talking and getting aquanted that we did not do soe well on the final results of the quiz. The rest of the week i kind of stayed aorund the house did not do much. Had to budget what was left of my money for the week since i have no wallet or any way of getting more money. I got bored so i cleaned my whole apartmeant because in a week or two we might be having some quests of fellow class mates staying. Thursday night was another big night at the sports bar it was karaoke night. No i did or do not sing i just like going down there because there are alot of people. It is funny seeing people be so outgoing when there is alcohol and music alike people dont give a dam how bad they sound. I met a group of like 10 students who are traveling and also staying in greece so after the sports bar i hung with them for the rest of the night. Or until 2 a.m or so. We went to a pub called james joyce pub, it was packed unlike usual because thursday was also st pattys day. So it was a good time hands down. Friday night i went to HAU to watch drama practice that some fellow greek students had, after i was invited to go out with them, they decided to go to Gazi ( Gazi is a big area with alot of higher class bars and pubs around) You usually have to dress nicley or atleast have a girl with you to get in. Well luckily i had both ;-). We went to a highclass club called candy bar. It was a good time 15 euros for admission and you get a free drink. It was well worth it. When we left the club it was around 4 oclock in the morning. We went to a smaller bar to meet one of the greek students friends who was working. After that it was like 6 oclock and i was out of money. It was a long way home from where i would have had to gotten off at the metro so a greek classmate said i could stay with them. I was glad because it was 7 oclock and i was exuasted. I slept until 3 the next day and then went out again around 9 for some coffee with a few friends sat night. I went home after that. Thank God i did becuase i was so tired i slept most of the day sunday. A kid that i met at Sports bar was coming back from one of the islands and he needed to stay some where for the night so i offered my place. he left bright and early this morning to catch a train to italy. I will hear from him soon or maybe go visit him in canada some day where he is origanaly from. Well that was my spring vacation other then my wallet getting stolen it was a good time. Well until next time this is Zman over and out peace!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

5 weeks in!

It has been around 5 weeks now that i have been in athens. The experience so far is unreal, and yet alot more to come. This last week has been pretty cold i think the people back home in M.A have the same weather. It was snowing the other day! i did not expect that. (i thought i came out here to get away from the cold and snow) last weekend was the carnival. My class dressed up along with some HAU studinds who held the carnival party for us. The party was great besides the misfourtune of someone accidently spilling wine on my costume. But i just look back and laugh. Next week is spring vacation alot of my classmates are going to new amsterdam, and barcolona. Me, i am staying back at greece. Probabaly will meet up with some greek classmates at HAU and go out and have a good time. I am deffinatly looking forward to other trips later on next month. The last one was a great experience so i imagine these will be too. Well got to go do homework before spring break. This is zach skinner reporting from athens greece with the latest updates peace ya all!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Return to Athens

It has been about 4 years since I last visited the great city of Athens with my parents in the summer of 2007. I remember being a complete tourist only wanting to see the ruins and had little to no interest in the actual modern city. Now returning to Athens I was introduced to a city I'd never truely seen before. While on the ride from the airport to the Sina apartment i was taken aback by the smount of graffiti that coated the city. The next shock was the level of poverty i had never expected. It seems all to easy for us as Americans to simply ignore other country's problems and stay within our own bubble but once out of that bubble life is very different. However after these initial shocks I have really begun to enjoy Athens and see past its rough exterior and focus on the day to day beauty of the city.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Greece Monkeys

In early January I was subject to a knee injury which required surgery. I soon learned that I would need to go to Greece two weeks later than everyone else. I was relieved that after such a strenuous ordeal I was finally able to make the trek over on January 23rd, about 2 and a half weeks later than everyone else. Not even my trip over was without issue, there were huge riots in Athens on the 23rd and as a result my flight from London was delayed almost 4 hour. After waiting 2 extra weeks to make the trip an extra 4 hours was hardly a burden. Regardless I finally made it to Athens and the city has only surpassed my expectations. Athens is expansive extending for miles in every directions. I understood Athens was a big city but the scale of it is quit larger than I imagined. Drivers in Athens carry a slighlty different personality than American drivers. For instance, on the way back from the airport I took a cab. I could of swore I was in a nascar race the way this driver was banking around corners at incrdible speeds. This drive was a little scary yet strangely enjoyable. In Athens car drivers very rearly yield for pedestrians, instead people must wait for redlights and opennings in traffic in order to cross. They also are very expressive drivers as they almost never hesitate to use there horn even when they are stopped at red lights. The Athens culture will no doubt take some adjusting to get used to, however every day I feel as though I have a better understanding of there culture. The Greek alphabet is hard to read and as result its difficult to order if there is no English translation. Also the two weeks prior to my arival I was able to comunicate with my friends via skype. They made me aware of the warm and sunny weather they were experienceing and I was very much excited to escape the new England winter fo some warm Spring weather. Unfortunatly it apears that I have brought some of that weather with me because it has been for the most part cool rainny and cloudy every day. I gues Ill just have to be patient as it is winter in Greece just as it is at home. Anyways Im releived to finally be here in Athens experienceing something that im sure I will be able to take with for my entire life.

Man, Was I Wrong About Athens

As the days came closer to my departure for Athens, I really started to think about what I was going to get myself into. What kind of a city/country am I going to be living in for 3 months? I have only heard so much from relatives and friends who have experienced the Greek life but I myself had done little research on the city. Pretty much all I knew was the economic crisis in Greece and the protests. My first reaction as I was in my cab heading into the city from the airport was how close all of the buildings were to each other as well as how many people flooded the streets. Athens is a crazy, fast paced city. I can not stress it enough, you really need to look both ways before crossing the street! I also have noticed the obscene amount of graffiti filling the buildings of the city. Although my Greek is not so good, I can look at it with the assumption that a lot of these spray painted words could be a form of non-violent protest. With that said I have met a lot of passionate and interesting people since I have been here. I have met not just Greeks but people all over the world, all of which are very friendly and free spirited. It leaves me with a great welcoming feeling. It is crazy knowing that I have been living in Athens for already a month keeping in mind all of the museums/areas of Greece we have been to and experienced. We have been so busy but it has been a "good busy". With that said I feel very privileged and it has been an absolute joy studying abroad here in Athens. Until next time!
- Sam "The Man"

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

At the start

Getting to the Greek

So the flight from New York to Boston was in a pencil of a plane and the flight was late because of some crew member but I made it to Boston on time. I was the first one there then shortly followed by Kendra (Texas).

Kendra and I sat next to each other on the 6 hour flight to London when I dosed of for about an hour then dinner came. My options were beef and pasta; I thought the pasta would be the safest bet so I took it. It was lasagna (edible). The desert was a mix of apple crumb cake and cheese cake (GROSS). I ate the salad which I thought couldn’t turn against me but it did. The tomato squirted me. Hit me square in the chest. Stained my blue head phone hoodie (and I lost an ear piece). While on the plane I watched The Social Network and grew increasingly upset with the characters as time went by but it was a good movie. The best part of this flight was that as I was boarding, I handed the crew member my ticket and he pulled me aside and said. “You’re in trouble young lady.”

“What?” I said very confused like because I didn’t sit yet.

He repeated, “You’re in trouble young lady.” I raised my eye brows and he clarified. “You know there’s a crisis in Egypt.”

“Oh, ha ha,” I said dryly escaping to my seat.

Fact of the day: Everyone who works British Airways is British.

While landing in London my ear felt like they were going to bleed off. When we get the second check point to get our connecting flight we find that someone screwed up Kendra’s and mine bags. They were not going be on the Athens flight with us. We had to go to baggage claim and reprocess them all in an hour…. We did it. The flight from London to Athens was four hours and I was reading for most of them until they decided to serve us breakfast. The eggs were barley eggs, the ham was salty and the sausage was gross. I ate the yogurt and OJ. Then my eyes was burning because I was crazy tired but I couldn’t sleep on the count of those loud British men. And that Joe passed out in the seat next to me and my now leaning on my shoulder. We land, my ears pop again.

My Life in Ruins

Then later at the baggage claim when landing in Athens the women asked me if I was coming for Cairo. People these days. I realized soon enough that people in Greece can’t drive. Usually it’s just the taxi but they all can’t drive. And the streets are nonexistent. They barley have room for one person let alone two.

We took power naps and headed out to eat. We ordered a bunch of appetizers to get the Greek feel of things. I didn’t eat the meat. I had a dip was up made from yogurt. One made for chick peas, fired zucchini (didn’t like that) and fired cheese (very good but way too salty). In the city of Athens there are a lot of stray cats and dogs. The place we were eating had a tent type roof so cats were coming in and running around eating fallen food. One ginger cat coming in was on the roof ledge and he got scared when the door opens so he started to back up too quickly and fell, it almost hit Sam on the head. (Poor Kitty).

View from the top:

On a Sunday Kendra and I sent out to buy some bread at the corner bakery. Little did we know that most everything was closed in Athens on Sunday. Who actually listens to that Sunday being the day of rest stuff. Apparently the Greeks do. So we went for a walk instead. We climbed up the side of a small mountain and sat on its side from the top of that mountain we saw the Parthenon. Now we didn’t know it was the Parthenon then, we argued about it. I thought it was the Acropolis and Kendra said the Parthenon. We later found out that we were both right. The Parthenon is the name of the building and the Acropolis is the name of the whole area around it. If you Google image both, the same image comes up.

It’s All Greek to Me

I not sure what I thought before arriving in Greece but I do know that I’m learning something new but Greek culture every day. I think the thing that hit me the most was that I could understand people’s conversation. I mean I knew that I wasn’t going to heard English but I guess that fact didn’t really think about it. It was a little difficult to get around but I think I have learned how to use a map well enough to survive and I’ve learned to interoperate their arm flailing.

The European version of San Francisco

I am a New York, so I walk a lot that’s not the part that we odd or should I say hard, it was the fact that it was all uphill which I was grown accustom to.

They’re All Named Kostas and Yannis

In Greece when I child is born it is a tradition to name the child after their grandparents. So for example, if your grandfather was named Stavros your name would be Stavros or if you are female, Stavrola. I feel I like every time I turn around I heard the same names. So far have meet three men named Stavros and two named Yannis.

It Taste Like a Little Slice of Heaven Wrapped in Rainbows and Happy

I do not think that I can get over the pace and the amount of food that shows up on table. Just image sitting at a table for a meal, but this table is not just any table it’s a table in a little place called Heaven’s Corner, where the food doesn’t stop coming. You’re like a kid in a candy shop. “Oh, this looks good and what about this.” By the time the fourth plate to share has arrived you are way pasted stuffed and there is STILL more food (and let’s not forget the wine) on the way. You may have been done eating long ago but you will be sitting there for at least another three hours talking about everything from West Side Story to buying apples.

More To Come

A View to a Killer Beginning

It’s hard to say what I like best about being in Greece. Really, how can one decide between great people, great art, and great food (the top three in my book)? It didn’t quite sink in how utterly awesome this would be until our third day in Athens. The whirlwind of travel—i.e. multiple flights and no sleep—had culminated into a slightly jet lagged, generally disoriented, and undemanding Sunday morning that Egypt and I decided would be perfect for a walk in the park near our apartment. We climbed up a small, rocky hill and turned around to find ourselves suddenly looking at a panorama of the city, Acropolis dominating the distant landscape.
This is what it means to be in Greece: five minutes from where I live is this view of an ancient architectural dedication to the Gods that still manages to command your attention after thousands of years. My roommate and I go every other day to the bakery around the corner for another loaf of fantastic bread from Ioanna (the woman we have decided is our “Greek mother”). There are 14-plus bookstores in the 15-minute walk between apartments. Class is a series of field trips to museums and historical sites both in and out of the city—I don’t think I’ll ever get over how much cooler it is to see something in real life that I had before only admired in books. We continue to learn (often the hard way) how massive and sometimes confusing the city of Athens actually is. Every time we go out with the whole group, it’s an experience of culinary delectation and even better company. I came into Greece expecting a meal and got a banquet…in some cases, literally. It’s all uphill from here!


Back in the fall semester, when the idea of spending my spring in Athens first presented itself, it still seemed like nothing but a distant pipe dream. Now that I am finally here though, it is just too surreal. I did not have many great expectations coming into this whole experience. However, there were definitely a few aspects of the city that really surprised me, such as all the stray cats and dogs constantly roaming the streets (which for the most part are surprisingly well fed), the widespread abundance of kiosks, and the aggressiveness of taverna owners in the tourist areas of town.
With this said, I did have a few expectations coming here, and for the most part, they were right. The food is great, the wine is delectable, and it is quite hard to find an unattractive woman here (not to mention our stunningly beautiful language teacher whose presence we were fortunate enough to be accompanied by).
In short, coming to Athens was one of the best, if not the best, decision I have ever made in my life. I expected to have the best three months of my life here, and so far, I am not in the least bit disappointed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Welcome to Greeced Lightning!

Before I go any further, credit must be given where credit is due. Kendra Watenpaugh provided the name for this blog (even though we wanted to call it Homerotica -- much to Stella's chagrin).

For the next few months my students and I will be providing both a travelogue of our experiences as well as a set of guideposts for future Pierce students fortunate enough to, in Homer's words, sail the wine-dark sea.

As it stands, Greece's contributions to Western civilization cannot be underestimated. (One can scarcely imagine where we'd be today if they had fallen to the Persians.) But at the same time, Greece today is an exceedingly fragile and economically vulnerable country.

But this is starting to sound too serious! This blog is a place to have fun, let loose, and convey the joy for life epitomized by Zorba the Greek -- and, truth be told, most Greeks. We should be sitting in tavernas, eating mezes and drinking ouzo -- and we will....

We'll start, though, by discussing our mis-preconceptions (in other words, what we thought we knew before we got here and what we've learned in the past two weeks).

Thanks for coming along for the ride.