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 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 :)