Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Greece is on Fire

It seems only write to blog on the issue of the riots while I am sitting in my apartment awaiting updated information on what tonight is going to look like. As most of you have read, a 15 year old boy was shot and killed by a police officer on Saturday night. This boy (Alex) and a group of his friends were allegedly throwing rocks at the cop car. As Alex threw a petrol bomb the cop shot him. Things quickly turned from bad to worse. Protesters took to the streets that night, torching stores, pummeling banks with windows, and battling with the police. My roommates and I had no idea any of this had happened the night before because we do not have a TV or internet in our apartment. So, we went to Ermou street on Sunday to get coffee and go shopping. Little did we know that over half the stores (shopping district of Athens) had either been torhed or had broken windows. About 10 minutes after we walked around and checked things out we got a text message from our school saying to avoid the area we were standing in as well as 3 other parts of Athens due to large protests. At this point we were watching the police department file out of their vans with their riot gear in hand. Needless to say, we decided to head home.

We still had no idea why the massive destruction had happened until people started getting phone calls from their parents asking if they were ok and explaining what had happened. Rioters continued to clash with the police throughout Sunday. We went to class on Monday only to be dismissed early because things we escalating. Monday night has been the worst so far. They torched the city's Christmas tree, destroyed downtown Athens through fires and smashing storefront windows, and lighting anything and everything on fire.

Our last day of classes for the semester was canceled today due to the boy's funeral. Things are expected to be violent tonight again. We walked downtown this morning to where the city's Christmas tree stood and checked out the damage. It is extensive but not as war zone like as they are describing on CNN. The cities outside of Athens that are seeing riots as well as just as badly destroyed. We also learned last night that Greeks in other European cities were taking the Greek consulates and burning their own flag. They want to mark their solidarity with the youth protesters in Greece I suppose.

So Why? Why such a violent reaction to the death of a 15 yr old. Well it is more then that. This is the straw that broke the camel's back so to say. Greeks are furious at their current government and the economic situation. There cost of living has risen (as it as around the world) while wages have stayed the same and unemployment keeps growing. Also, in the youth say the cops are a bunch of "pigs" because they get away with whatever they want. In essence, they see the police and the government working hand in hand and not for the betterment of Greece.

What now? Everyone is really unsure as to how long these protests will last. Many have said that if the current PM calls for early elections next year then things will clam down. However, many have also said that if Greece calls a state of emergency and brings in the military things will get much much worse very quickly. Greeks still reference the military junta that ruled for 6 years as if it was yesterday. They drove their tanks on to the college campus in Athens and killed about 40 students. Since then universities throughout Greece are aslyums.. no police officer is allowed to enter university grounds. This has its pros and cons. Pros it is a way to contain protesters and con--the faculty at the universities have called for a 3 day strike so students are basically just storing ammunition in their safe haven.

The poor kid and his family. Their heads must be spinning over all of this. I'll keep you all posted on my situation. We are having a town hall meeting tomorrow to answer any and all questions / discuss what happens if things do not get better by the end of the week. We shall see.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Perspective Change

With less then two weeks (13 days to be exact) left in Greece I have began to think..not about my memories but about my perspective. I entered this completely foreign country 4 months ago unsure if I was going to like it let alone be able to live in it for a whole semester. I wanted to go where I knew no one (patterns repeat themselves). Yet, when I got here I was unsure if I would bond with the people in my program.

As life in Athens has become less foreign and more like 'home' these worries and concerns have faded. I have made some great friends, people I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. We have this amazing shared experience that no one else really quite gets. When I recount my trips and my weekends exploring around Greece it is these people I will recall. It is strange to think that 4 months ago Leslie and I sat next to each other on a plane knowing nothing about each other and now we are great friends. Life is funny like that.

The people of Greece have been wonderful. They are a very proud people with a very storied past. Their perceptions of outsiders is somewhat understandable when you learn their history of being conquered numerous times. My encounters have been nothing but positive. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that I'm a student. They respect that you are in their country, learning their history. It means a lot to them.

What I'll miss.. the people we have met along the way. There are to many characters to mention (Anthony, Rony, Old Irish, Tom, Maria, Alexo, the Professor, the Marines, Eddie & co, little man, etc). Each one of them has impacted my time here in Greece all for the better. Some have opened my eyes to parts of Greek life I would have never known existed without them. For that, I am forever grateful. I'll miss everyone's hilarious anecdotes on their cultural mishaps. Understanding that older Greek men have no qualms about urinating on a side street is just part accepting the culture right? I'll miss being talked about in front of in a language I still do not fully understand. I always wonder what they are saying...

I'm going to miss a lot of it. It is the first time I have ever lived in a major metropolitan city. Public transportation in winter park is non existent. I've enjoyed my first city experience but I'm not sure if its for me. Their is always something going on and something to do and see but space is limited..sometimes its nice to not be pressed so close to the stranger next to you on the bus that you can see their pores. Eh just a thought..

Most of all I'm going to miss the traveling. I saw so much of Greece, which was nice because you do not get the "beautiful" impression from living in Athens. Santorini is magical, everyone should go once in their life. The Peloponnese is just this lush mountainous area where the air is clear and the streets are quite. It is the polar opposite of Athens. Crete is one of coolest places I have ever been too.. hiking down a gorge while the sun beats on your back and the rocks make you feel the size of an ant..just amazing. Egypt was shocking on so many levels. As a woman it was a real interesting experience. Not being accompanied by a man was wrong, which is still an idea I can not wrap my head around. Historically it is so rich. So, it was worth the awkward cultural exchanges. Istanbul was my favorite, hands down. I would go back in a heart beat. I feel in love with Italy when I was in Rome. It is a country that I will be back too numerous times.

All of these places I have gone and people I have met seem so vast when I look back on it. With each trip there is another story. Within those there are a dozen that stick out. It is strange how you enter a new stage in life unsure of what to expect and when that chapter comes to a close you look back and wonder when it is you actually adapted and stopped seeing this new chapter as new. I am not sure when that exactly happened to me but it definitly did. I feel at home here. Greece is a place I will visit again. Hopefully come and stay for an extended holiday and just enjoy all that this European / eastern / ancient country has to offer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Where Have All The Tampons Gone?

Ok, so I was telling my mom about this paper that I wrote for my ethnography (a fancy word for cultural anthropology) class. Our second paper we had to write on something about Greece that was bothering us so I chose Tampons. I am posting the paper because I feel like e-mailing to all my friends and family might be out of context. In this respect if you're not interested you can simply skip this entry (as I am sure Chris and Conor will do). No worries boys, this is more for the girls then it is for the guys. Enjoy.. I hope it gives you a good laugh. I have thought of maybe using it to apply to grad school.. thoughts?? I am sure it would have to be an all woman's college with a touch of feminism, but hey whatever it takes right? : )

...When prompted with the question, “what’s bugging you?” about Greek culture, there are a few distinct things that come to mind. I am working through my disgust for cigarette smoke everywhere. I have also gotten over the fact that my debit card is virtually unusable when it comes to purchases. However, there is one issue that I can not seem to overcome.

Every month, like most women ages 14-60, I experience a week long period of menstruation. My issue is not menstruation in itself because lets be honest, I do not really have choice in the matter. It is part of being a woman, like it or not. My issue is with Athens and even Greece at large, hostility towards tampons. During my first week here in Athens I found myself wandering the aisles of the Extra grocery store in search of ever elusive tampons. What I found was not my prized possession but instead shelves upon shelves of sanitary napkins.

I was surprised by my discovery. Growing up in the United States, my only other point of comparison, there is an entire aisle dedicated to women’s products. This includes a multitude of products with many different kinds of tampons and sanitary napkins. Whatever your menstruation pleasure, it has found its way on to the shelves of a typical American grocery store or pharmacy.

Leaving the grocery store behind, I took my quest to the nearest pharmacy. To my delight the woman at the pharmacy showed me right to the tampon shelf. This is where the second part of my issue with Athens hostility towards tampons comes to a head. Tampons are only sold in small twelve packs and the majority of the time they only carry Tampax regulars.

I am annoyed not only by the lack of variety provided but also by the inconvenience. It is not out of my way to go to the pharmacy but it is unnecessary to have to buy multiple twelve packs, when I know bigger boxes exist. Also, I would not have such an issue with the lack of tampons in Greece if the same prejudice was accorded to sanitary napkins. This is not the case. Those who use sanitary napkins have a distinct advantage. They get to choose from different brands and styles, while I do not.

So, what is the deal? After speaking about my conundrum to three different groups of Athenian women, I have come to understand (partly) what is going on. My first stop was the pharmacy. Choosing Kolonaki square as my target destination, I entered a pharmacy right outside the square with a handful of questions. Maria, the pharmacist, informed me that “young girls like to use tampons during the summer months and when they go on trips.” Maria also said that older women see tampons as “foreign, funny objects”. While this classified who the tampon users were vs. the non-users, it still did not offer me any insight in to why they are so elusive. When asked to delve further, Maria said “they are just not as popular, so we do not carry them as much the other products.”

My next inquiry was a group of three young women ages 22-24, who I approached as they enjoyed their late night gossip session at one of the many cafes in Pangrati square. All three shared a similar opinion to Maria, agreeing that it was more acceptable for women their age to use tampons. Angela, the most outspoken of the group, even offered further proof of older women’s distrust of tampons. Speaking in regard to her grandmother, Angela said, “When I began menstruating my mother told my grandmother and the next time I went to visit her, she handed a package of [pads]. She sees tampons as dirty, saying they are bad for your body.”

Angela and the other girls could not explain the reasoning behind ya-ya’s thinking tampons are “bad for your body.” There only explanation was a basic “that’s just the way it is” here. My only thought was one of religious connotation. Some women do not use tampons because they believe that nothing should enter the vagina until they are married and consummate their marriage with their husband. The Greek woman gave this explanation some thought and said “Oxi. They just do not like it.”

Seeking another opinion on this issue, I looked to a Rony. A male, whom I know has a sister and has been in serious relationships in the past. After looking at me quizzically for a minute or so, he opened up. While, Rony has never purchased feminine hygiene products for his sister, he is fairly certain she uses tampons. His sister is in her early 30s. Rony has bought products for his past girlfriends and says that while most use tampons, some have asked him to buy sanitary napkins. He also noted that since he dates women who are usually “10 years younger” then him, that could also be a factor.

It seems to me that I am at a crossroad between the traditional and the modern. Maria’s comments about young girls using tampons during the summer and on trips suggest that tampons are still not the norm. The traditional being that which is followed by the older women, seems to still have an effect on the younger generation of today. My opinion is that this relates back to familial relations. Family life in Greece is of the utmost importance. The relationship between grandmother and granddaughter and mother and daughter is much more intimates that is within the United States.

Puberty and sexuality are topics covered within the school walls in the United States. While parents are encouraged to have a conversation with their child about their sexual health, one would be hard pressed to find how many times this actually takes place. Sometimes, that relationship does not even exist. While estranged parent-child relations are not the norm for every child in the United States, it is fair to say that familial relations are not as strong as they are in Greece.
It is my belief that the closer the family, the more traditional beliefs are valued and kept alive. Example: Angela accepted her grandmother’s kind gesture and classified it as “the norm.” She knows that most women in her family prefer to use sanitary napkins. That is what she grew up learning about. As a result, she has incorporated both tampons and sanitary napkins in to her routine. She uses the traditional and the modern interchangeably.

This explanation provides valid reasoning for why there is little variety. It also explains why the shelves are stacked from floor to ceiling with sanitary napkins and not tampons. However, it still does not explain the small package. Why only twelve?
My only explanation for the small boxes as the solo option is Greek culture. Yes, that is a broad statement so let me clarify. As I mentioned before, there are whole aisles in grocery stores devoted to these products in the States. America sells convenience (think Sam’s Club). We (Americans) crave one stop shopping. The same is not true in Greece, where it is quality over quantity. There is a different cultural mentality. An average American woman would hate to have to go buy tampons every time she had used twelve of them, where as the Greeks do not mind. Daily shopping is not seen as an inconvenience but rather a part of their daily routine. If you run out, you just go get more. Simple enough.

What I originally viewed as a mere annoyance has turned in to an interesting cultural study. I was surprised to hear that age determined which feminine hygiene product Greek women were likely to use. Part of living in a different culture is adapting to the ways of that culture. Prior to living in Greece, I had prepared myself to be open to all changes, ones that I knew would happen and ones that I did not. However, to be honest, tampons are the last thing I would have thought I would have an issue with. So, yeah it bugs me but I am slowly realizing that “that is just the way it is.” I am sure I will laugh at the irony of it all when I walk in to Rite Aid or CVS for the first time back home. Plus, in the end, change is a part of life.

Greek Thanksgiving & THIS IS SPARTA

This past week America celebrated its pride and glory holiday..the Native Americans and Pilgrims shared a feast and the world was at peace...or at least that was the case in history class until middle school. Spending my first Thanksgiving outside the confines of the States was interesting. My fellow students were annoyed that we had class. Eh I was impartial. It was the first and only time I will be in school on Thanksgiving but it was not like I was missing out on the preparation of the feast. It is not as if my family was down the street waiting for me to get done with school. Anyway CYA had a Thanksgiving "lunch" feast for us, complete with sub par pumpkin pie, a GIANT American flag, and Coca Cola (which I am still baffled by). They did a nice job of decorating and making it festive but its just not the same as sitting around the dining room table in Downingtown and solving the world's issues :). My family was appalled when I told them that we did not have mashed potatoes. In fact, I think every Irish person in America cried a little for me over that. Other then our Thanksgiving lunch the day was uneventful. I got to Skype with everyone at my house for the festivities and Kaitlyn (who since it had been so long since we heard each others voice we talked forever...much needed). We went to the Irish pub that night and Tom, a self described "pure blooded" Irish man who owns the pub, wished us and I quote "a happy Thanksgiving, whatever that is."

The next morning I left for my last CYA field trip and sadly my last traveling I will do while I am abroad. When I told Chris I was going to Sparta I could almost see his face light up, reminiscing on the movie and the classic line 'THIS IS SPARTA'. No worries Chris, it was repeated numerous times throughout the weekend. Probably every time we disembarked from the bus. The area of ancient Corinth (think St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians) was our first stop. It was the commercial hub to Sparta's military dominance. They made money and led sinful lives (according to Paul) while the Spartans waged war. The Acropolis of Corinth was this really cool castle like structure built in to a mountain. Virtually unconquerable unless the opposing army just starved out the population, yikes!

That night we went to dinner in a town outside of modern day Sparta, which you would interested to know was rebuilt right on top of ancient Sparta post-Ottoman empire. Saturday we climbed to the top the fortification that was Mystra. It was occupied by so many different groups that there are numerous different style of architecture represented. The one Church was visited was still an active nunnery. I think this is the reason that all the cats we saw were well groomed and looked healthy. Nuns love cats. Then the rain started...pouring buckets. Needless to say no one was happy. Our 3 hour on site tour got cut short and the history lessons got shorter and shorter as we moved throughout the site. Like the Acropolis of Corinth, Mystra was built in to a mountain side and literally expanded down the hill. The view from the top was my favorite part because it overlooked all of Sparta.

Tonight I getting an introduction to Lebanese food..I'm intrigued.

Monday, November 24, 2008


This past weekend Leslie and I ventured to Roma and I fell in love with it all..the people, the food, the sightseeing, the wine, and the shopping. Granted if I ever live there I would be broke and 800 pounds. So a weekend was too short but a lifetime might be unhealthy.

Leslie and I took the X95 bus to the airport on Thursday because the Athens metro workers decided to go on strike. Only in Greece can the entire city's metro system just not be open for 48 hours. Anyway, we took the 1 1/2 flight to Roma and got in around 2:00 PM. The Roma airport is like a huge shopping mall, filled with all sorts of top Italian designers. We arrived at our hostel after a 20 minute train ride out to the termini, or main station. For my first ever stay in a hostel I would say it was decent. I have nothing to compare it to. It was clean, we felt safe, warm bed and shower...so all good I guess. Plus, our guard dog was a German Shepherd mut..always cute.

We took a power nap and then headed out to do some sightseeing and grab something to eat. We hit the Trevi fountain first, which was gorgeous at night. It was packed with tourists. I can not imagine being their during the height of tourist season, crazy. The fountain was sooooo much bigger then I had expected. After the fountain, we headed to the Spanish steps, which is the place to see and be seen. At the top of the steps is a small little Church that overlooks most of Roma. The next level is filled with painters and sketch artists. I bought this cute 8 x 10 watercolor from one of the local painters. I am such as patron of the arts.

As we made our way down the stairs we encountered so many college students. Everyone seemed to be there hanging out and just catching up. Starving, we headed down one of the side streets and found this cute little restaurant. When we walked in the owner was teaching his waiter how to Italian how to dance, so good Italian food, wine, music and dancing. A perfect intro Italian culture. After dinner we did some more wandering and landed at some little gelato place. Absolutely delicious. Enough said.

The next day we awoke and headed to Vatican City. We started at the Vatican Museum where we spent a good portion of the day. The museum is HUGE. Every ceiling is covered, the paintings are huge, tapestries of the Last Supper..just sooo much. When we finally got the Sistine Chapel I had been looking up at the ceiling for the last hour. The Sistine Chapel was unbelievable in so many ways. First, if you think about Michaelango actually painting that..artistically and logistically, amazing. Next, all the different languages of everyone standing in this room looking at this painting. It transcends ethnicity, language, and cultural boundaries. After the museum we headed in to Vatican City square and got in line for St. Peters Basilica.

The only time I have ever seen anything like St. Peters was the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. This blows that away. Once again every inch of the ceiling and walls are covered. The tomb of St. Peter is memorialized towards the front of the basilica and the altar itself was so detailed. There are sculptures memorializing many of the different Popes spread out along the walls, along with smaller altars and sanctuaries along the sides of the basilica.

We grabbed some lunch..veggie pizza..mmm and headed to the Colosseum. It was closed for the day when we got there but that didn't stop the Caesar impersonators from asking us if we wanted pictures with them. Who knew there were so many Caesars? We decided to head back to our hostel shower and get ready for round two. We hit an earlyish dinner at this cute little restaurant up the street from the Spanish steps. As we ate, a street performer serenaded us and the rain came pouring down.

After dinner we headed back to the Spanish steps to meet up with the group for the pub crawl. Every night in Roma, at 9 PM you can meet at the Spanish steps, pay $20 Euros and go on a pub crawl with usually all other American college students studying abroad. I do not know who thought of this idea but bravo...it is a great time. You get to drink as much Carlsburg beer or wine in as you can from 9-10 at the 1st bar and then the next too you get a free shot upon entry. You also get a t-shirt (everyone loves a good t-shirt) and pizza. You end the night at a club and can stay there until the doors close. Leslie and I met people studying in Florence, Barcelona, London, Paris, etc. We also met guys in the U.S. air force who were stationed in Venice, not a bad life. Except they were in mortuary services, so I guess that kind of has its draw backs. Anyway, it was just a fun way to go around Roma with 40 other people you had never met before. All Americans, Brits, and Aussies.

After a long night we awoke the next day intent on making the most out of our last full day. We hit the Colosseum first. It is just ginormous haha. The fact that gladiators fought until their death in their blows me away. What it would be like to be in the nosebleeds up there, intense. Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine, which reminded me a lot of the Arch de Triumph in Paris. After that we perused the Circus Maximus, where the public games were held during the Roman Empires.

We were craving some shopping at this point so we hit the stores below the spanish steps...prada, gucci, escada, louis, armani, united colors of benneton, etc etc. We did a lot of window shopping for the top name guys and girls but we actually found some decently priced shops further along the street. Needless to say, we enjoyed ourselves. You can't leave Roma without clothes right? That would be a sin : )

Our last dinner we went to the Trevi Restaurant where the wine was delicious, the food was even better, and the Tiramasu was heavenly. (See this is why I would be 800 pounds). Our last stop was a little cafe where I got more wine and Leslie got the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It was like a melted chocolate bar...mmmm.

We got back to our hostel and had to pay. Upon paying the owner came to our room and brought us shots of Limon Cello. He makes its from scratch and yeah we could tell. That stuff was strong. But his hospitality just sums up the Italian people in general. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. It could have been that we were young college aged girls but I think a lot of it had to do with that we weren't a big tour group. You get to know the people better in smaller groups.

Our flight Sunday was early and we had to hustle to make our plane. Due to not knowing the train schedule we got to the airport with an hour to spare. We made it to our gate with 10 minutes to spare before boarding time. No worries, it was all worth it. I can not wait to go back and see more of Italy...Florence, Tuscany, Naples, and all the other little villages in between. I could have spent weeks getting lost in Italy...love Roma. One day I will be back!

Monday, November 17, 2008


This past weekend I took one of my last field trips with CYA. We spent Saturday and Sunday in the area known as Delphi, which is about 2 hours Northwest of Athens. I was with my Athletics class because Delphi is the last of the four sites of the Panathenic festivals. We stopped in the ski town of Arachava for a quick snack and some sightseeing. The town reminds me of small New England ski towns, very picturesque and one main street. The stores were mostly bakeries and fur stores, which sold David Crockett like hats. Priceless.

We drove about 30 minutes to the site of Delphi and spent about an 2 hours at the ancient gymnasium and temples. The gym in ancient athletics was used more as a warm up and cool down area then as a place of heavy lifting. Anyway, after we checked in to our hotel which looked out in the Arcadia mountains, I met up with my professor to go on his voluntary hike.

The EU has put together a hiking trail that connects all the countries of the EU. In essences you should be able to walk the entire EU on these trails. So, we took one of the trails up to the base of the mountain to get a good look over the valley and the archaeological site. It was just nice to be breathing clean air and not have the sounds of blaring car horns filling your ears. Plus the view was spectacular.

The town of Delphi is nothing more then a two street tourist town so there is not much to do in terms of exploring. We had dinner at a local taverna and got hot chocolate afterward. On our way back to the hotel we passed by some traditional Greek dancing in one of the local tavernas so we stopped and watched that for a little.

The next day we spent on site from about 8:30-1:00. We started at the stadium, where we were bombarded by Asian tourists who ended up video taping one of my classmates as they were giving their presentations. Weird. Anyway, we got to see the ancient stadium, theater, treasury, and temples. We also visited the museum and saw a charioteer figure.

The trip was enjoyable and probably my favorite of all of the athletic sites we visited. Olympia was just too big with not a lot of the structures preserved. It was cold at Delphi but thats ok.. I know I soon will be back in my Florida sunshine!

Rome in 3 days...!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


I just re-read my last entry and realized that you can totally tell I was writing while multitasking. I apologize that some of my sentences do not make sense. i.e.--convinced by rony that this was going to be the best movie i had seen in years, i decided to go. also, typing up the dog is supposed to prevent the penis from interfering with competition not the other way around.

...i figure you guys get the gist most of the time : )

"I'll Meet you at the KFC"

This past Thursday was the international release of the new James Bond movie. Convinced by my friend Rony that this was going to be the best "movie I had seen in years." Apparently Greeks love James Bond. Anyway, Leslie and I meet up with Rony at the KFC because according to him "all Americans know where the KFC is." Gross on so many levels. The movie was surprisingly good. Interesting note: You bye your tickets for an specific seat in the theater. Hence, why Rony wanted to wait until the late showing so we could get "good seats." Also there was an intermission.

Got home at 2:30 AM and got up at 6:30 AM to make it on the bus for my trip to Olympia. Needless to say, I slept the whole bus ride. This trip was with my athletics class. We got to see 3 out of the 4 sites of the Panhellenic festivals. AKA: we got to see where the major athletic festivals were held. Our first stop of the day was the site of the Isthmian games (2nd in importance to Olympics).

The Isthmian site was small and not really well kept. We did get to see the ancient starting gates, extremely intricate system that is too complex to describe here. Need a picture for it all to make sense. Our next stop was Nemea, which is actually really well kept.

We got to see the area where the athletes got changed aka disrobed. All athletes competed naked in ancient times. There was also a special way that the penis was tied back to the body so it would interfere with competition. I will not go in to the whole explanation but if you would like further detail google "tying up the dog." After we went through the changing area we walked through the tunnel the athletes took to enter the stadium. This was my favorite part by far because you could still see the inscriptions that the athletes etched in to the walls with their javelins and so forth.

The stadium at Nemea is still used to this day to reenact the ancient Olympics every four years. So, there were still lines in the sand from earlier this summer when people came and "competed". Also, at Nemea were the bathing areas where the athletes used to go to cool down in the sweltering summer heat.

After a quick box lunch, we headed out on the bus to a small town called Lagadia. It is this little town that sits in the rolling hills of the Arcadia mountains. It was just this really picturesque fall town. I have not experienced fall in about 4 years so it was extra special for me.

Back to sleep for another 2 hours until we arrived in the town of Olympia. The town of Olympia was created for two reasons: tourists and archaeologists. There was not much to do in the town. A former Olympic torch runner, turned jewelry store owner invited us to sit and have tea with him. So, we sat and had tea as he asked us about living in the States. He loves the States, has been there 11 times. He wanted us to take a picture with him so we did that and then booked it to dinner. Oh yes and his mother was sitting in the jewelry store when we walked in and she told us he was drunk so not to pay any attention to him.

After dinner we caught Obama's press conference (beauty of staying in hotels is we got to watch tv aka CNN). Awoke the next morning to pouring down rain. Dressed in my rain coat, several layers, and scarf I trekked off with the rest of the group to the Olympia site.

We spent a good amount of time in the museum where most of the remaining statues now remain. When we got out to the site the rain had stopped and the sun tried to make its way through the clouds. In 6 hours on site we saw everything; the Palestria, the temple of Zeus, the stadium, the workshop, and nero's house.

Overall, the trip was interesting but I can only handle so many archaeological sites. I enjoy the time away from Athens and getting to see other parts of Greece but I am so much more interested in the culture and the people then what used to be. Hence, why the drunk jeweler is one of the defining moments of the trip.

Next week...Delphi.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Istanbul: Muslim Country with a Western Feel

Another late night flight, we arrived in Istanbul at 6:30 AM. We got to the hotel only to find out our reservation had been cancelled. After getting in touch with our travel agent, come to find out she moved us to a different hotel. Unable to check in, we stored our luggage and headed out. Istanbul was nothing like Cairo. Clean, pretty, and very New England fall feel… Istanbul quickly became my favorite stop on the trip.

We first visited the Blue Mosque (similar in style to Muhammad Ali’s mosque). The domes are blue, hence the name. The inside is so ornate every inch of the walls covered in different designs. Here we saw a sign for a woman’s only section. It was built during Ottoman control and is the national mosque of Turkey

After that we visited the Hagia Sofia. Originally a basilica built by Constantine in 60 AD. It was converted to a mosque in 1453 when Constantine was conquered by the Ottomans.There are two remaining symbols of Christianity displayed in the mosque. Both of which depict Jesus.

Our last stop of the day was the Topkapi Palace. Filled with gold, jewelry, thrones, ornate outfits, tiled rooms, and intricate ceilings it was the home of the Ottoman sultans from 1465-1853. Mostly used for entertainment and state functions it housed up to 4,000 people in its heyday.

We headed back to Old town for lunch where we sat on cushions and watched people around us smoke their water pipes. After that we did some shopping in old town. Turkish hospitality is something you encounter a lot when you shop in Istanbul. Shop owners invite you in for hot tee or cider and usually bring multiple items to you as you sit and observe. Unlike Cairo and Alexandria, where I did not feel comfortable walking around by myself, Istanbul felt extremely safe to me.

Our dinner was typical “Turkish hospitality” in that after our delicious meal the owners came over and asked how things were. They then offered us fresh fruit, chocolate cake, and some Turkish tea to top it off. We headed to an Irish pub down the street from our hotel (it is true they are everywhere) and had an Efes (Turkish beer). The dark Efes was good but the light one tasted like Heineken. It was nice end to the evening. Once again the only females in the place, we watched the soccer games that were on and rooted for whoever seemed to be in the majority.

The next day we went to the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. Much different then the one in Cairo, this one was covered and more modern. Found pretty much the same items in that bazaar as we did at the one in Cairo. Never the less, still fun to wander around and bargain with people. The men working the different stands (never saw a woman at any of the stands) would call out to us to entice us to come in. We got everything from “hey spice girls, to the lovely ladies of sex and the city, to Charlie’s angels”. Also, everyone seemed to think we were Australian because apparently the Aussie’s travel A LOT. We have met / ran in to Aussie’s everywhere we have been both in and out of Greece. They do not quite compare the number of Asian tourists but then again no one does.

As we were leaving the Grand Bazaar it was noon on Friday, which is high prayer time for Muslims. We were literally almost run over by the number of men flocking to the mosque right outside the bazaar. It was like something out of a movie. The call to prayer came and suddenly swarms of men flooding towards the washing station and then the mosque. We obviously stood in amazement / culture shock and watched this all unfold.

After a quick lunch we jumped on the metro and headed towards the new part of the city. My advisor at Rollins lived in Istanbul for 5 months so when I told her I was going she recommended visiting this new section of the city. She said one street in particular “would blow my stereotypes about a Muslim country out of the water.” Needless to say, I had to check it out. A completely pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants. We saw everything from a 3 floor NBA store to Puma, to Nike, to Starbucks, and so much more. Everyone was dressed in very chic western style clothing. Not what you expect from a country where two hours earlier men were flocking to the mosque.

However, I will say that Istanbul was the most liberal of the three cities we visited. There were very few women in head scarves and even fewer in full burkas. It was this strange yet interesting mix of east and west. Other funny stories from Istanbul are on our last day in the city Liz, Fabi, and I were waiting for Leslie and Teplyn when these two guys approached us. Assuming we were Australian they asked us if we like Istanbul better then Australia. After acknowledging that we were from the states, they both said “we don’t like America.” Now, to be honest with you, I was expecting more of this sentiment. This was however; in all the time I have been abroad the first time anyone has ever said that to me. I mean I have encountered tons of people who dislike Bush and love Obama but nothing as blatant as this. Unsure how to respond I just said “That’s OK”. And then 5 minutes later they invited us to have tea with them, which only confused me more.

The only downside from the trip is that we all (in varying degrees) got some kind of stomach / intestinal bug from the food in Egypt. I felt so awful our last day that I felt like I was getting the flu. Although, I’m glad my body held up until the last day because I would not have wanted to miss a single day.

Cairo: 25 million and Growing

The 5 of us squeezed in to a taxi and headed to our hotel. On the way to our hotel, the taxi driver asked me to speak to his friend on the phone. Thinking this was just like a novelty thing since I speak English, I said O.K. The man on the other line spent a good 10 minutes trying to convince me to stay at his hotel. I actually became frightened that our taxi driver was going to take us to another hotel. Thank goodness he did not. We come to find out later that this is common practice, as the taxi drivers get a kick back from more low class hotels for how many tourists they bring in.

It was dinner time by the time we arrived at our hotel in Cairo. So, after grabbing food we just wandered the streets around our hotel. We ran in to a wedding celebration that had spilled out in to the street. Women of all ages were singing and dancing around the bride, who was surprisingly wearing a white wedding dress. This is a new trend with more modern Muslim women.

With Leslie’s parents now joining us, we headed to the Pyramids the following morning. Our tour guide, Heba, was a woman. She had spent 4 years at the university to get her “tour guide” degree. In Egypt, it is a very well respected position, especially for a woman. The Great Pyramid was our first stop. Built for King Khufu, it is the only one of the original wonder of the world that still stands today. It is about 5,000 years old. There are two other pyramids (slightly smaller in size) that sit on either side of the great pyramid. One is for King Khafre and the other for King Menkaure. They represent 3 generations.

We chose to go inside Khafre’s pyramid. You would think for something so massive that the entryway they take you through would also be massive. Not the case. We crouched down into about a 4ft high entry and head down at about 45 degrees. You make it down this brutal staircase to stand up for 30 seconds and then head up another one. I got to claustrophobic because there was no air down there that I turned around at that point. If you went further you would be able to see Khafre’s sarcophagus. Interesting note about those that built the pyramids—they were not slaves but instead average citizens. Also, pyramids are shaped the way they are because their main god was the god of the sun and the sun’s rays come down in the shapes of triangles.

Next, we saw the Sphinx. His purpose was to be the guardian of the Giza plateau. He is huge! We spent a good deal of time taking so pretty funny pictures with him so be sure to check those out. After that was went to Saqqara, which was the royal neocroplis for the old kingdom of Memphis (capital of Egypt during the time of the pyramids). Saqqara contains the step pyramid of King Djoser. It was built in the 3rd century and precedes the pyramids at Giza, making it the first pyramid made out of stone instead of mudbrick.

Our last stop of the day was Memphis as it has been classified today. It was founded in 3100 BC by King Menes. While most of the city was pillaged by foreigners we did get to see the colossal statue of King Ramses II and the Giant sphinx at Memphis (2nd most famous sphinx). For lunch Heba took us to a traditional Egyptian place. They are big in to mezes, which are small plates of different foods for everyone to share. We had eggplant, potatoes, grilled vegetables, lamb, and chicken. Plus, we got to try all these different kinds of dipping sauces to go on our homemade pitas. They brought us fresh fruit at the end of the meal and I got to try guava for the first time. Very good. Kind of reminds me of honeydew. Oh and another typical Egyptian thing is hibiscus juice. Good stuff.

After a full day in Cairo I was able to make some interesting cultural notes. Women dressed just as conservatively here as they did in Alexandria. There are no traffic laws. I have only seen one stop light. Also, having Leslie’s Dad with us made a difference in how we were treated on the street. We at dinner and then walked along the Nile, just experiencing the city some more.

The next day we headed to the museum of Egypt. We got to see King Tut’s display, which was just more gold after gold. It is one of the few, if not the only, tombs never robbed. Tut was mummified and then placed in 3 different tomb encasings, one fitting nicely into the previous one. He had jewelry to die for and a chariot covered in gold. King Tut did OK for himself. We also got to see the mummy display. Real mummies of Kings and a few (not many) queens that have been discovered were on display. Most of their bodies are still wrapped but you got to see their faces, hands, and feet. Sidenote: there was one mummy whose information read “overweight female with bad teeth.” How would you like for that to be your legend? We also got to see some of the animals that were mummified. Most common were dogs and baboons. Though, there was a pair of mummified alligators (gross!) on display.

Our next stop of the day was the Cairo tower. During the 1960s the U.S. government gave Egypt money to buy arms. Instead, the president at the time decided to take the money and use it to build the Cairo tower. Overlooking the whole city, we went up right before sunset. It was cool to see the modern buildings and then be able to see the pyramids off in the distance. It also showed you how smoggy and dirty Cairo really is… our pictures were sub par.

Best dinner of trip was our dinner on the Nile. We picked a restaurant along the water that evening. Ended up being a really good seafood restaurant, where you choose your fish from their display. I got blackened grouper and this cinnamon-y tasting rice. Also, had mango juice, which you could tell was fresh because it was thick and smoothie-like.

On our last day in Cairo, we visited the Citadel and the Bazaar. Within the walls of the Citadel lies on of the most famous mosques, the mosque of Muhammad Ali (once a prominent leader in Egypt). We were asked to remove our shoes (common practice) and we, as women, were asked to wear these big cape like deals that covered us from shoulders to the floor. The mosque was breathtaking. The chandeliers, the ceiling, the domes, the paintings…all so ornate. It was built to model after the Blue Mosque, which we saw later in Istanbul.

There was a military museum on site that I ended up wandering through. While I could not tell you much about the museum itself because it was not very interesting and definitely too long, I do think it is worth noting a quote I read while inside there. It said, “Faith in God, Victory or Martyrdom.” Just made me think.

Our last stop of the day, was the Grand Bazaar. Everything from water pipes (hukas), to silk scarves, to pyramid key chains, to traditional tunics; you name it you could find it at the Grand Bazaar. I (obviously) purchased some things and had a good time playing the bargaining game. I offered a guy ½ a price for his scarf and he told me I was crazy. I walked away and he agreed to my price. I was like now if only I could walk in to banana republic and do the same. Hmm…

Random Observations that caught my attention:
1.there was a card in each of our hotels that told you which way was facing Mecca, so you could pray in your room
2.there was a mosque in the Cairo airport
3.the language schools are considered the best in terms of education
4.we were proposed to numerous times, even collectively (Muslim men are allowed to have up to 4 wives)
5.so many police (carrying semi-automatics), yet do very little
6.girl who was studying to be a tour guide approached me while I was at the museum as a means to practice her English
7.culture clash: man in traditional Saudi grab checking in to the hotel while the woman next to him, also checking in to the hotel, was wearing spandex cheetah pants.

Alexandria: "Welcome to Egypt"

Arrived in the Alexandria airport (4 walls and a roof) at 3:30 AM. We quickly jumped in a cab en route to our hotel. After sleeping for 5 hours we got up ate and set out exploring. Our first stop was the library (biblotechque) of Alexandria University. It is one of the coolest building architecturally you will ever see. Plus, on the walls surrounding the building there are inscriptions from all the different languages of the world. We tried to go in to the main part of the university’s campus but the guards stopped us.

Our next stop was a Coptic Christian cemetery. Similar to the Greek Orthodox cemetery we visited in Athens, most graves are family graves. Plus, a lot of the bones are dug up and put in “bone boxes” instead of being kept in the ground. We headed in to the Church next to it, St. Georges, where the kid’s choir was practicing. Just like the Orthodox every inch of every wall on the inside of the Church is covered in paintings. We opted for dinner at our hotel’s rooftop restaurant. The food was amazing and the view of the city was spectacular.

Day two in Alexandria we got in to what turned out to the longest cab ride of my life. Not an official taxi driver, this man took us to the ancient catacombs, Pompeii’s pillar, a “modern” day Bazaar, and Farouk’s Palace. The catacombs were interesting because you got to actually go down in to them and walk through the old tombs. They have only recently been discovered so there is still a lot of work being done on them. Pompeii’s Pillar was like a smaller version of what we would end up seeing in Cairo. The coolest part of the site was the underground “library” that we got to walk through. The taxi driver then proceeded to interrupt our no’s as a yes to going to this bazaar. Inside a strip mall, he took us to a jewelry store. We later read that these kinds of drivers get a kick back from the stores for bringing tourists through. He made money off of me but oh well. Farouk’s Palace was gorgeous. You could not actually go inside but you got to walk around through the gardens and take pictures.

After dinner we went to grab so dessert from the café at our hotel. This waiter ushers us in to the bar area and tells us we should sit and enjoy because his “lady friend” is going to be performing. Within the next 10 minutes this woman dressed in a short skirt but belly dancer like top starts singing for us and about 10 other men. We begin to realize we are the only women in the bar and are unsure of our place in the situation. So, we finish our dessert and head out unsure if we were supposed to be there or not.

Overall, Alexandria was interesting. It was a nice introduction in to Egyptian culture. I am glad we went there before going to Cairo so we had some idea of what to expect. The women wore very conservative Muslim garb. Most were full burkas and if not then they had head scarves on and their arms and legs were completely covered. We felt out of place with our hair showing.

We got our train tickets from Alexandria to Cairo (population 25 million) and looked down to realize the ticket was in Arabic. I headed for the office of the station master in hopes he could help us. He was so excited to hear that I was American because he had just applied for his green card and was wondering if I could help him in any way. I was so taken back that this man not only could speak good English but he could write it as well. Uneventful train ride but very lush scenery. Oh yes and should mention that the Egyptian pound was 5 for every $1 USD. So, our 1st class train tickets cost under $10. If only Amtrak was that cheap…

Saturday, October 18, 2008


So a few things I keep forgetting to reference in this blog.

1. THE PHILLIES ARE IN THE WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!! Being as I am expert in baseball after this summer, one can only assume my heartbreak of not being to watch the games. I just checked the world series schedule, all the games take place while I'm in Egypt and Turkey. I'll have to figure something out.

2. The Marines were a bust. I've had more fun with the Greeks and British that I've met.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Molly Malones, Soccer & Greek Cemetery

This week has been an interesting one thus far. It is only Friday so I am sure there is more to come. There are a few things worth noting. Monday night Liz, Leslie, and I were invited to go watch the James Joyce (our Irish Pub) soccer (football.. whatever) team play. They are part of a pick up league and there team is a hodgepodge of bartenders and customers. The goalie is a 250 pound Greek man who loves Guinness. He's not so good at stopping the ball but ya know minor detail.

Anyway, Rony, the bartender from James Joyce who we have befriended picked the three of us up. We headed to another Irish pub, Molly Malones, for a quick drink before the game. Molly Malones was nice. Much more low key then the James Joyce. It was in a completely different section of town that is more foreigners who live and work and Greece. Rony obviously knew everyone. Everywhere we go its always like that. So we left the pub for the game, which was held at what I would call old basketball courts that had been converted in to mini soccer fields.

The game was fun. James Joyce lost to a much younger and more athletic team but according to the goalie "its alright at least we enjoy ourselves." Rony and Tom (the owner of the James Joyce who also plays on the team) were not as easygoing with the defeat. According to them the other team got lucky. That always how it works right?

Tuesday night Liz was invited to grab "a quick drink" with this British man George, whom we had met a week earlier. Not wanting to go by herself, Liz invited me along. We met George by the Polytechnico (University of Athens) and grabbed a beer at this really cool bar. It was definitely a much younger crowd then the James Joyce. More college students, Greek obviously. George is a consultant, used to be a professor and spends his time between Athens and London. He invited us to the garden party he is hosting. Date to be determined.

Also on Tuesday my Ethnography class went on an outing to the 1st Cemetery of Athens. This is where all the famous people in Athens are buried. Anyway, we had just spent an entire class discussing Greek Orthodox death rituals so that was the reason for our visit. Nothing like anything I have ever seen in the states. Everything is in marble and the graves are not marked by a simple headstone. Some have Greek style temples (huge), some have statues, some are hand carved by famous sculptors. Graves are elaborate to say the least. Plus it is common practice to visit your family grave once a week to keep the space filled with flowers, plants, oil, candles, etc. You do not feel like you are in a cemetery as you walk through the grounds.

Later that evening I went to a Greek Orthodox mass as part of my religion class. Umm no one goes to Church except the widows. The scripture is read in Ancient Greek so not even the Greek people understand it and the inside of the Church is mind blowing. Every inch of every wall is painted..depicting religious scenes or just asthetic. There are pictures of icons all around the Church and it is common practice that when you enter you kiss the icons. Oh yeah and the widows who do attend mass talk the whole time. That would not fly with the nuns. We were not allowed to speak in homeroom an hour before we even had mass. Overall, mass was not very interactive. The priest read and chanted but there was no participation by the congregation.

All for now.. met some U.S. Marines last night that work at the embassy. We're supposed to go out with them tonight. We shall see.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Argolid: Field Trip to the Peloponnese

Leaving for our second field trip on Saturday morning was not a good move on CYA's part. Everyone went out Friday night and was not functioning at maximum capacity until Saturday evening. Anyway, going on three hours of sleep because well that is just how things turned out, I boarded the bus to the Argolid.

Our first stop on Saturday was in the town of Epidaurus, which contains the sanctuary of Asklepios. It is where people came in ancient times to be healed. The structure was large enough to act as a really old hotel. People also traveled to this site because there was a gymnasium on the site where athletic competitions took place. What is really cool is the stadium, which is almost completely in tact, has such great acoustics that you could be sitting in the top row and hear someone rip a piece of paper on stage. We know, we tried.

After a decent CYA box lunch experience we left for Tiryns, the site of a Mycenaean fortress. An interesting site that just showed how military obsessed the Mycenaean people really were. Plus, you can not beat the view from the top of a fortress that overlooks the city / countryside beneath it.

We checked in to our hotel in Nauplion, the first capital of Greece and headed out on a walking tour of the city. We got the brief run down of important political figures and saw some of the more well known structures of the historic city. Nauplion was my favorite part of the trip. It is where we stayed for the weekend so we had plenty of time to explore the shops, the best gelato I have had to date, and experience a smaller city. It is what you think of when you imagine old cities in Europe with the small side streets, the hand painted store front signs, a common square where everyone congregates for their evening coffee. Much more my speed then Athens.

We had the evening free so I met up with my roommates for dinner and gelato. We did some window shopping but called it an early night because none of us had slept the night before. Sunday morning our first stop was the Argive Heraion, or better known as the Temple of Hera. Three tiers high, the site offered a breathtaking view and even more history. Used to offer sacrifices, the temple was a major point of civilization.

After climbing around the temple we got on our bus only to be dropped off 5 minutes later. We were headed out on a 2 1/2 hour hike to lunch. Along the way we were going to visit ruins along the side of the road and take the original Mycenaean road. The hike was beautiful. We left the paved road and headed in to the mountains, where we wound our way up and down through the valleys. Our trusty professor got us turned around twice so what was supposed to be 2 1/2 hours turned in to 4 hours. Despite the mix up, it was worth the walk. We overlooked the lush greens of the valleys and got to breath clean air (which does not exist in Athens). Plus, it was so much better then being on a bus for that long and it was nice break from the archaeological ruins. A nice way to check out, clear your head and just enjoy the journey. We came down the mountain with a great view of palace of Mycenaean. A cool head shot that most people and no other groups from our program got to experience. Oh and another note about the air, as we were hiking the trail as well as the greenery was filled with olive trees and thyme bushes. So, the whole atmosphere smelled of fresh Thyme..wonderful.

At the end of our hike we did eventually eat lunch at a cute little taverna. I got stuffed tomatoes, which were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I am loving this Mediterranean diet, so much fresh food. That evening we ate at one of the little tavernas in Nauplion. Fabi and I split stuffed vine leaves, delicious. I got mussels in wine sauce and rice, also memorable. After our very filling dinner, we headed back to the gelato place (obviously : ) and then just took our ice cream and sat on the steps of the church in the main square. We watched the kids play an intense game of soccer, couples stroll hand in hand, and just kick back and enjoy the atmosphere. Perfect end to an exhausting day.

Monday morning we headed to the Palamidi fortress. It sits at the top of the city of Nauplion. Situated on the water, on side looks down on Nauplion and the other two out to the sea facing Argos and Astros (two other adjacent towns). The Palamidi was last occupied by the Turks, who had over taken it from the Greeks. They slaughtered massive numbers of civilians and even built a prison on site, which we got to walk down in too. I had to squat in order to get down in to it and that was only the entrance, you still had to go down another level. Basically these people being held were a good 3 feet underground. Scary.

Our last stop of trip was the famous site of Mycenae. It contains both grave circle A & B, which are our mains sources of information on the Mycenaean. Complete with a massive courtyard, hundreds of rooms, a Temple to Athena, Artisans' quarter, and the infamous lion gate. (See Pictures). The first thing you see when you arrive on site is this grandiose entrance of two lions on either side of a column. This is a large stone structure that shows a connection with the near east. It is a way to show prowess and decoration, nothing else. To end our tour of Mycenae, we got to walk down in to the ancient cistern. About 7 people at a time we took flash flights and headed down the slick steps (probably about 5 ft underground) in the pitch black. When we eventually reached the bottom we all turned off our flash flights and stood in the darkness. Probably the darkest place I will ever be.

All in all a great trip. I liked it better then Crete, mostly because I really enjoyed Nauplion. Next weekend is my last weekend in Athens until finals weekend. I will be either traveling for pleasure or for school from now until finals, which is exciting. Time is flying by faster then I would like. I am hoping May 2009 does not get here as quickly...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cultural Observations Thus Far

Before delving in to some of my more insightful cultural observations I’m going to recap the concert. Check out the pictures and if you’ve got Facebook you can check out the videos I posted of some of the R.E.M songs. Anyway, the concert was a great time. MTV was launching a specifically MTV Greece channel, hence the free promotional concert. With the main MC of the night being an American VJ, most if not all of the commentary was in English. In fact the only Greek spoken was done by the first singer, C: Real, who is a Greek pop star. Other then that, no Greek was spoken.

So, the concert opened with C:Real who the Greek teenagers around us seemed impartial too. They were not standing up and singing along, more just listening to her as background music. After her came Gabreilla Cilmi, who seemed semi-popular with the crowd. She is a 17 year old Aussie superstar that has some big hit at the moment. Next up were the Kaiser Chiefs, a rock band from the U.K. The crowd loved them. The pit was going nuts, especially when the lead singer decided to climb the stage frame and perform while hanging on to the metal frame. R.E.M was last and definitely the most well received. For the first time all night the teens around us were on their feet singing along and dancing. This is obviously totally different then any concert I have been to in the states where you stand from the moment the main act comes on until the end of the encore. Anyway, seeing R.E.M. perform was just a really cool experience. I am not a big fan but I do know their hits (It’s the End of the World, Losing My Religion, and Man on the Moon), all of which they played. All in all, a great night.

O.K. so my first cultural observation comes to via my Catholic / American upbringing. Here in Greece, the Greek Orthodox Church works very closely in connection with the State government. There is no official separation of church and state. Thus, religion is a part of public education and the clergy are even paid by the state. In fact the two are so intertwined, that Greeks often associate being a Greek citizen with being Greek Orthodox. The official numbers are somewhere up to 95% of the Greek population is Orthodox. There is a growing number of Muslims in the country as well as in Athens, yet due to the Orthodox strong hold Athens is the only major city in the EU that does not contain a Mosque.

Anyway, a few years back there was a huge uproar over including a person’s religion on their I.D. card (similar to our drivers’ license). Up until this point, one had to include their religion on their card. The law was changed due to pressure from the EU, but not without a huge uproar in the Church. The Church argued for it, saying it was a way to keep track of how many Greek Orthodoxy’s there were in the country. Those opposed simply said it was a means of profiling.

This leads to my next observation, one of race. Greece is currently experiencing a large immigrant influx from Albania. These individuals are highly discriminated against and most often described as criminals. From what we have been told in class and from my own observations, Greece as a country has never had a conversation about racism. Unlike in the United States, where we have grown up talking about it in school, in the media, with our peers, such things have not yet happened in Greece. For example, when we met the Canadian model, Anthony the other night, we were with the Greek guys we had met previously. Anthony introduced himself to us because he heard us speaking English. When he extended his hand to the guys we were with they refused to take his hand. Feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable, I waited until Anthony excused himself to ask the Greek guys why they refused his hand. Their response: “you can not trust the blacks”. When I asked my anthro professor about this in class this morning the only connection she could draw was to the Albanians.

I understand that immigration is a big issue here, as it is in the States. However, I would say that America is more “politically correct” when it comes to racism. We have learned and in some cases are still learning from our past and because mainstream society today does not accept it. Since there has never been a national conversation about race there is no political correctness.

When we asked Anthony about it at the beach he said that in the both times he has been to Greece he has experienced it about a handful of times. He did say that earlier this week he was stopped by the police when he was walking home and asked to show his passport. It strikes me as odd that in a country that is so liberal, compared to America, that there is not a great sense of acceptance.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Irish Pubs: International Meeting Centers

This weekend has by far been the most fun I have had since arriving in Athens. We stayed put for the weekend because of the bad scheduling of our doctor appointments for our visas but it was probably a real good choice.

Thursday night we (liz, fabi, leslie, and I) made our way to this Irish pub, James Joyce, that everyone keeps talking about. We arrived to find a packed house, good music, and a friendly crowd. After ordering our beers, we were approached by a street vendor selling roses. He handed us each a rose, compliments of the gentleman down the other end of the bar. Smooth moves haha. We made our way down to say thank you and strike up a conversation. Of the group of 4, 3 were Greek and 1 was British. The British guy works at the British embassy in Athens. Anyway, they seemed to know the bartenders so we started our night of free drinking. We left the Irish pub and proceeded to bar # 2 where these guys also seemed to know everyone. It was fun just to go out and meet no-CYA students or other Americans for that matter.

Friday we went to the Hard Rock Cafe to watch the VP debate that they had recorded from the night before. Hosted by Democrats abroad, the top 2 floors of the hard rock were packed with Americans and Greeks. Of the young people there, most were female. It was just an interesting dynamic..to be in a foreign country and listening to other citizens opinions of our government. Joe did really well and Palin , well just does not seem intelligent to me. How bout Joe's response about Chenney abusing his VP power while in office? He was so heated!

Sad news: Friday night, our one roommate was walking home from another apartment and was mugged. Three guys, about our age, took her bag and shoved her to the ground. She was pretty scratched up and her head was cut open. She filed a police report and all but the likelihood of anything coming of it is pretty slim. Still scary though. Definitely shook us up because it is one thing to be robbed but another to have 3 guys come at you from behind while you are by yourself.

Anyway, Saturday we met up with our friend Anthony, a Canadian model we met out the other night. He is in town for a week doing casting calls and all by himself so we invited him to the beach with us. It was a gorgeous day and the sea was relatively warm. Saturday night we planned to meet back up with Anthony but his phone died so we headed up the street to the James Joyce, where we had planned to meet him. Anyway, our Greek / British guys were there again. We had a beer with them and then headed out to this dance club with the bartender from the pub. It was very different then your typical American club. A drag queen was dancing on the bar in her skimpy pleather outfit. Lots of techno tunes, less hip-hop but a cool experience none the less.

Tonight we are going to a free MTV concert being put on at the Olympic stadium next to my school. R.E.M. is playing along with a few other bands and it looks like its going to be a pretty sweet setup! Also, we're going to the Argolid next weekend so I'm looking forward to that! More later :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Island of Crete

Let me first preface this entry by saying, Crete is the largest island in Greece. Way back in Ancient times, the Minoan civilization developed and thrived there. It was a completely different civilization then that which developed on the mainland of Greece. Also, because of its position it was dominate power in the Aegean. Ok, enough with the history lesson. Though it will help you appreciate the pictures of our trip because we spent most of our time exploring Minoan ruins.

We arrived in Crete via overnight ferry. I bunked with 3 other girls who are alphabetically right next to me. That was cool because the 4 of us had never met. Anyway, our first stop once in Crete was the town of Heraklion, which also happens to be the capital and the 3rd largest city in Greece. We took a walking tour of the ancient walls, which was basically to show us the Venetian dominance of the culture. My tour guides; none other then Nigel Thornberry and his wife Stephanie. Sidenote, Nigel read us limericks during our extensive bus travels and wore a safari hat while on site.

Next we visited the Palace of Knossos, the most famous site in terms of Minoan history. It is comprised of more then 150 rooms, multiple courtyards, the oldest road in Crete, etc. This was supposed to be the big horrah of the trip and it turned out to be a downer. There were soooooo many tourists that it made the experience much less enjoyable. Anyway, we had lunch in a cute town of Archanes, which is known for their wine. So obviously I purchased some.

Our next stop of the day was the cemetery of Phourni. What used to be a barb wire fence surrounding the grave site, turned in to a full fledged metal gate since last year when CYA had been there. So, we did some breaking and entering and hoped the fence.

After spending the night in Heraklion, we headed to the town of Eleutherna, where we visited a hellenistic fortress. It sat on top of the town, so we got to overlook the city, which was really cool. We visited the University of Crete's ongoing archaeological site to see actual skeletal remains of the people wiped out during the massive earthquake in 365.

We left Eleutherna for a small town called Margarites, where we had lunch. Known for their hand crafted ceramics, most of CYA spent a good deal of money on a lot of pottery. Our next stop was an old monastery. It resembled the Alamo in style and architecture and was just a gorgeous place to see. I had to put my skirt on over my shorts so as to not be showing too much skin.

We spent the night in a really cool town called Rethymnon, which sits right on the water, has a cape cod esque jetty, and lots of good seafood restaurants. They are known for their homemade thyme honey, which I tired. Delicious. This was probably my favorite town that we visited in all of Crete because of its shopping and size. Athens still seems so big to me.

On day 4 of our exploring Crete we visited a Venetian fortress. It was used by the towns people if the town were ever to be under siege. There was also a mosque on site, which was built originally by St. Nikolas as a church. Next, we visited the town of Aptera and explored its ruins, as well as its heavy Roman influence. There were huge Roman style baths and cisterns, as well as a monestary on site.

With the afternoon free in Chania, we new roommates from trip and I went to the fresh market, where we ate lunch across from the butcher. Lovely. It kind of reminded of Nassau with all the touristy stuff in one main area. After that we headed to the beach, which was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. Had dinner by the beach that that night with my roommates and a few new people.

The last day of the trip was my favorite. All of CYA (160 strong) met at the top of the Agia Irini Gorge and spent the morning hiking down the gorge. It was an 8km hike, which they deemed about 4.8 miles. The weather was perfect. We carried our backpacks because at the end of the gorge we were headed to the small town of Sougia. It took us about 3 hours to complete and we spent of the rest of the afternoon on the beach.

Crete was interesting, not just the ruins or of the daily field trips but the modern culture. We were approached by Gypsy children about 5 times offering to sell us trinkets. I have never seen this in Athens but do remember it from Paris. The landscape is covered with mountains and everything is still green here. So, to say it was picturesque is an understatement. I also liked Crete for the social part of it. CYA did not do a good job introducing us all to each other so I got to meet and spend time with people I had never met before, which was cool. It also made seeing my roommates (during our gorge trek) that much more fun because we all had different experiences to bring to the table. Lastly, I have found my new favorite breakfast ... Greek yogurt and honey. I have been living off of Greek yogurt but tried it with honey on this trip and well I am never going back.

Planning on going to area known as the Peloponnese this weekend to explore one of the old towns, which we have heard is really neat.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Broken Toilet, Drunk Americans, and Great Food

This weekend I opted to stay in and around the Athens area. One because there is stuff I still want to explore around the city and two because our whole school is leaving for a week long trip to the island of Crete this coming Tuesday. So, it is a fair trade off.

Thursday our toilet broke, along with our shutter, and our oven. Needless to say CYA is not very happy with us at the moment. It has been fixed so no worries there. However, the toilet deserves further mention. The Greeks do not believe in putting your used toilet paper in the toilet. They fear that the old pipes will burst and it will literally be a shit show (… I know I am so funny). Well, being as since the time I was potty trained I have been told that toilet paper goes only in the toilet this has been a difficult cultural adjustment. Mostly because I just do not even think about it. As a result, my roommates and I spent the better part of Thursday running back and forth to campus to use the bathroom. We are slowly adjusting to putting our used toilet paper in the trash can. Hey, at least its better then what Chris encountered in China.

Thursday night we decided to find the Irish pub that everyone keeps raving about. Sidenote: Greece is much more of a café or club atmosphere, there are very few what we would deem “bars”. Prior to going out we decided to all try the famous Greek drink, ouzo. Personally, it was OK but not something I would drink on a consistent basis. It tastes like black jelly beans aka Mom would love it. So we were unsuccessful in finding the Irish Pub but instead found a quasi Greek bar called 7 jokers. It was a fun atmosphere, stayed for awhile and then decided for a change of scenery.

We left 7 jokers and ending running in to a group of Americans who were there on business. They were a few years older then us and their company was paying for their “training”, which for some reason was taking place in Greece. I did not get the whole story because they were quite intoxicated. Anyway, after hooking up with the Americans we ran in to some Germans. The Germans joined our quest to find a new bar and so we wandered. I stopped to ask a Greek where the closest bar was and he proceeded to take this an invitation that I wanted to go to a bar with him. The other Americans and Germans continued on as my roommates and I were being offered a ride to go have drinks with these Greek men. After profusely declining the ride we decided to end our quest and just head to the crepe place up the road.

Friday, myself and two of my other roommates went to the fresh market to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies. It put Winter Park’s farmers market to shame. I went with the intention of buying fresh fish but unfortunately they only sell them as whole fish...scales, heads, tails.. the whole nine. This not only creeped me out but I also have no experience in gutting fish.

Saturday was blah and rainy so I did homework, how awful is that ..doing homework in Greece? On the upside, I probably had the best meal I have had since I have been here, for dinner that night. Combining all things fresh from the market we had corn on the cob, an awesome salad, baked eggplant, and some watermelon for dessert. Speaking of food.. I have become quite fond of the bakery up the street from us. Yesterday I bought what look like mini éclairs but are better.. filled with what I liken to chocolate mouse and have this delicious almond flavor. Na-Na… you would love them. My intention is to stock up before I leave.

All for now… I am really looking forward to Crete. It is apparently a really rustic island, with a lot of cultural history. Sidenote: they did tell us that people in Crete love guns…like for instance their child gets baptized; they shoot their guns in the air, wedding, soccer game … same thing. Should be interesting.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Santorini = Heaven

Prior to my roommates and my departure to Santorini on Thursday night my one roommate (leslie) and I felt the need to do a little exploring. We had heard of this street that is closed off and just shops. Pure shopping at its very best. No worries, I may get lost driving from Downingtown to Warminister but where there is shopping, I am very much on top of my directions. Anyway, we found the prized Erimou street and did a little window shopping and purchasing. I will be returing to Erimou when I receive my $100 deposit back for my books at the end of the semester.

Anyway, we took the metro to the port Thursday night and got on our 10 hour long ferry ride to the island of Thira, or as we know it, Santorini. We reserved deck seats, that to the best of our knowledge were literally on the deck of the boat. So, we came prepared for the worst only to find that deck seats are actually a couple levels below the deck and are actually comfy airplane like seats. Just another cultural mishap. The ferry was actually really nice.. a dumbed down cruise ship if you could picture that.

Needless to say none of us slept in our "comfy" seats. We willed ourselves to stay awake for sunrise, which I must say was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced .We went on deck around 5:30 AM to watch the sunrise over the island of Santorini. Awesome. We pulled in to port, grabbed some breakfast and waited for our pre-arranged driver to arrive. Two hours after we got to port we arrived at our hostel (which is 10 minutes from the port). Greek time is not Kylene time, yet I have not had a major anxiety attack yet. I just opt for walking instead of waiting.

We dropped our stuff at our hostel, changed in to our bathing suits and headed towards the red beaches. A 10 minute walk from our hostel, which was located in the town of Akrotiri, we followed the crowds to the beach. You'll see in the pictures the amazing red cliff that this little strip of stone beach sits within. We went swimming in the Aegean Sea and just enjoyed the sun for the better part of the day. Soooo many people from all over the world. There was a German couple to the left of us, an Asian couple in front of us, Greeks behind us, and some French and Aussies a couple chairs down. Oh yeah, mostly all couples in Santorini and enough jewelry stores that if you forget to buy your engagement ring while you're there then the Greeks have failed in their marketing.

We left the beach, showered, changed and grabbed a quick dinner at the restaurant across from our hostel. I ordered fish and somehow I got a whole fish.. like with the eyes and body and all that good stuff. Note to self.. need to learn words for food a.s.a.p. We then took the bus (old coach buses) to the capital of the island, Thira. When you think Santorini you think Thira. The shops, restaurants, and houses all on the cliff looking out to the volcano. Basically gorgeous. We grabbed dessert at on of the cafes overlooking the water and then made it just in time for the last bus back to Akrotiri. I ate Baklava with homemade vanilla ice cream...probably one of the best things I have ever eaten in my life.

Determined to further explore Thira in depth, we awoke the next morning to homemade breakfast at our hostel (pays to go to family run places!) Climbing back on the bus, we headed to Thira for a day of shopping and exploring. We visited the Archaeolgical Museum (only in Greece are students allowed to enter all Museums and hisorical sites for free..sweet deal) which contains the remains of the site of Akrotiri. In brief, the town of Akrotiri is being excavated becasuse after the volcanic eruption however many years ago it is one of the few sites still in tact in terms of housing. It is the equivalent to a modern day Pompei. The site was closed when we were there but we got to see what was already excavated. We visted a wine museum.. a complete bust but found out dessert wine is not for me.

After our visit to the wine museum we headed back to Thira and found a Irish pub (murphys) where we grabbed a beer and watched the soccer game. Speaking of beer..Greece has a very limited selection. Its either Heineken, Amstel, or their Alpha beer.

We ate dinner at a rooftop restaurant and watched the sun set over the volcano. Beautiful. Overall, I did a lot of shopping and saw some of the most magificient views ever. I would definitly venture back. Unfortuantely, most of the island shuts down post-Ocotober just because of weather and lack of tourism. So, that just means I will have to come back again another time!!

Enjoy the pictures!!! http://community.webshots.com/user/kdey387

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fabric Softener

You should all be happy to know that I have made friends with my local convenience store owner. I asked him his name in Greek. I have no idea what he said but that is besides the point. So, I have mastered hello, what is your name, nice to meet you, excuse me, and thank you. No worries, hopefully I will learn more. You ask yourself, why don't I teach these phrases to you via my blog. Well, see I spell them like they sound so I'm sure I would confuse you just as much as I confuse myself. My whole reason for going to the convenience store was to buy laundry detergent and I was on such a high from speaking to my new friend that I ended up buying fabric softener. I did not realize this until after I loaded my washer and started it. So, my clothes smell nice but I am not really sure they were cleaned. Oh well, at least I did not buy dishwasher soap like some other kid today. The washer was overflowing with bubbles, people were cursing in Greek, and I was just ya know enjoying my fabric softener haha.

Anyway, this past weekend was a lot of fun. We saw stomp Friday, climbed the hill in our nice dresses and everything to get there. They were awesome and the view was unbelievable. We spent the night in Kolonaki which is the posh "see and be seen" hot spot in Athens. So, we drank Sangria and ate crepes (not Greek, but still very much delicious!) On our way home we watched the changing of the guards at Parliament, got hit on by the guard supervising the transition, and got to take our picture with one of the ones on duty. So serious.

On Saturday we took the metro to the port, realized we had gone to far to get to the beach, got back on the metro and found the beaches. It should have taken us about 45 minutes but with all our mix ups it took us about an hour and a half. No worries because the beach was gorgeous and we got to swim in the Mediterranean!! Women topless, men in speedos, and what I call a drag suit but I guess could also be known as male booty shorts? Anyway, I posed the question that since being topless on the beach is culturally acceptable what happens when you go to the beach with your family? Do the rules change for husbands and mothers in law, dads and daughters, sisters and brothers? Just curious.

Yesterday, I ventured out to the post office. I got lost (naturally) but eventually found my way to this tiny little side street. It remind me more of a clerk of court office then a post office but anyway I walked in unsure of where to go or what to do so I stood back for a couple minutes before realizing I needed to take a number. I did, paid for my stamps and tried to give the woman my post cards. She refused them and told me I had to place them in the mailbox outside. Just a different way of doing things I suppose. Speaking of mail I got my absentee ballot today. I have voted and will be mailing my ballot back sometime soon! This is especially exciting since this is my first presidential election!!

All for now...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Possibilites Are Endless

At the conclusion of the my first week in Greece, I must say I am overwhelmed. There is so much to do and see and plan to see. I do not really think I will be able to wrap my mind around the fact that everyday I go to class I can see the Acropolis in the distance or the fact that my school's cafeteria sits right next to the old Olympic stadium.

Last night my roommates and I went to the open air theater that sits right at the base of the Acropolis to see a flamingo dance show (aka poofy dresses). It was breathtaking. With the stars of the night as our sky and the Acropolis 100 ft away from us all lit up, I could not ask for anything better. Tonight we will be going to Likavitos theater, which sits at the top of a hill that overlooks all of Athens. Stomp is performing there!

Before the show last night my roommates Liz and Fabi headed out to explore the area of Plaka, just west of our town (Pangrati). Fabi bought hand made sandals from the most well known shoe maker in Athens. We explored the market and ate dinner at this tiny little cafe that sits on the cobblestone road at the base of the Acropolis. It is interesting to see the many difference in culture that are prevelant throughout Athens. On one hand you have the very old small cobblestone roads with traditional Greek food. But just down the road at this market there are stores filled with so much of America's culture. There was a whole store devoted to every day hip-hop clothing, a restaurant with a menu completely in English, and better yet we passed an Applebees on our way to the shoe maker.

I met my first Athenian yesterday. I went to run around the track at the top of the Olympic stadium because my body was in need of working out. Anyway, I met a guy named Nick (my father is convinced that everyone in the country is named Nick thanks to the movie, my big fat greek wedding). so only typical that the first Greek I meet is named Nick. Anyway, we talked about Obama and how he hopes for the everyone else in the world that he becomes our next President. That is probably the 4th or 5th time that I have heard from people who live in Greece that if "you're not voting for Obama you shouldnt be allowed to vote."

Other updates are my roommates and I are planning a weekend in Santorini next weekend. We were told it is "THE" island to see and that this time of year would be great for it. I am sure I am leaving out critical other details but these are the big things that have happened in the last two days.

pics have been updated..

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

So I have survived orientation aka lots of talking. But it has only filled my head with so many more things I would like to do. Here is the list as it stands..
1. Spend a weekend in Rome
2. Visit the island of Santorini one weekend
3. Visit Istanbul sometime for some amount of time
4. Go see a show in the open air theaters
5. Visit all the major archaeological structures in Greece
6. Take Greek cooking classes
7. Go on every field trip imaginable that CYA offers
8. maybe a weekend in Cairo?

That is where the list stands for now. Some of these goals are easier said then done. CYA offers plenty of weekend trips as well as field trips from our classes. Santorini is a short ferry ride away. Italy, Istanbul , and Cairo could be a little bit more challenging. \

As far as the archaeological sites go.. I've seen the acroplis from a far (i get to go there with one of my classes). Oh plus there is an open air theater that does performances at night that sits right next to the acropolis..I am definitely going there! We explored the National Gardens where the Zappeion building sits. It is building where Congress is held. We also visited the Temple of the Olympian Zeus. I have posted pictures on my webshots page of what my apartment looks like, the churchs we have visited, as well as the 2 sites I mentioned above.

I am taking my crash course on Greek and while the alphabet seems wayyyyy confusing I am picking up key phrases and sayings. Tonight CYA has scheduled a taverna dinner for all those interested. Of course I am going. We will split between different tavernas throughout Athens and get to eat with professors and administration. Next week, the President of our program has invited all of us to join his family at a garden party at his home in one of the Athenian suburbs.

Classes start tomorrow and I think the game plan for this weekend is to maybe hit the beach and then go on a hiking trip up this pseudo mountain to one the most spectacular views in Athens.

http://community.webshots.com/user/kdey387 (link to my photos)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I Have Arrived

Day 2 of oh so many...Sunday afternoon I said by to the family and hopped on my plane to Greece. My flight had about 30 other CYA students on it and we all seemed to congregate in the waiting area at the Philly airport. People are from all over the country, some have never left the U.S, others have been all over the world, and most of us know no Greek..typical Americans ; ).

Anyway, I ate tofu on the plane...U.S. Airways is classy like that. Not. haha. Tried to sleep but with a combination of nerves and restlessness I think I probably slept for all of 2 hours. Arrived in Athens to find out the girl I had set next to on the plane was actually one of my roommates. I have an apartment about a 5 minute walk from our campus. I share one bathroom and a small kitchen and living area with four other girls. But we have a gorgeous blacony and it is very authentic.

Yesterday and today have just been about checking in and getting books. I'm going to the crash course on Greek today because I need to learn some basic words and phrases. Tomorrow is orientation with all those fun ice breakers and the important info and Thursday we start class. I'm taking The culture of Modern Greece: An Ethnography of a society in Transition, Ancient Greek Athletics, Religions of the Middle East, and The Monuments or Greece, where we get to do alot of on site learning.

Last but not least there are more Anthro majors here then I have ever encountered in my life. You all would be astonished that more then just me exisits in the world of Anthropology!!!! More later..

Saturday, August 30, 2008

And We're Off

I have never had a blog before so I feel as though I am writing a continuous e-mail to a bunch of people I know and some I do not. Anyway, I have spent the past week wishing I was starting my fall semester of senior year (gasp!) already. The day has almost come. Right now I'm packing and re-packing and packing some more. We have to bring two sets of sheets and 2 towels. Well, that is not really conducive to all my needed clothes and accessories.

I have officially set up my skype account and presently own my own headset. You could only imagine what I will look like talking in an internet cafe with this secretary like device around my head. I will be sure to take a picture of that.

Part of me is sad that I will the fall semester of my senior year with the people I love at Rollins. Yet, I know we have one last horrah aka spring semester. I'm excited to meet new people from all over the U.S. and see what life in Eastern Europe is all about. My hope is to travel a good bit while I am there. Obviously I want to explore all that Greece has to offer but I would love to go to Istanbul and Rome. They're my top two for now but I'm sure the list will grow shortly.

Ok, important matters to attend to. Last minute mother/ daughter bonding at the nail salon : )

Next time I post, I will be in Greece! That is so awesome!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy all my post throughout my semester abroad. I am going to link my pictures through a different website and post it one either. I made it so everyone can comment so feel free, I would love to hear your thoughts!! Bon voyage.. (need to learn how to write and say that in Greek)