Tuesday, January 26, 2010

First Exploration of the Acropolis

At the top of Areopagus Rock by the base of the Acropolis, Overlooking Lykavittos Hill (where we climbed to the top the second night in town), January 23, courtesy of Joyce Chun

Wow, so little time has passed, yet SO much has happened! I guess I will just have to keep up with the blog more often as to not bore you with the long posts necessary to capture all of the details.

Our dinner party turned out to be a ton of fun, and quite delicious. We made pasta with a sauce from fresh tomatoes, garlic, spices, and wine, a salad from feta, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, and mint, and had lovely cheese, bread, and wine brought over by the guys. Our apartment does not have a very big sitting area, so we ended up converting the double room into an extended living room for the night. Sadly, halfway through the meal, we were informed that the trip scheduled for the next day had been canceled due to weather (either the cold or rain, we weren't sure). However, we found the silver lining and continued to hang out, be merry, and play games late into the night.

At the dinner party (L to R): Mike, Joyce, Liz, Jimmy, Kate, Me, Melissa
January 22
After waking up to a woman singing and accordion music being played out on the street the next morning, I looked out and found it not to be cold OR rainy, in fact, quite the opposite! However, it was too late for the program to return to the original field trip, so we made our own. A large group of us ended up grabbing lunch and hiking all around the Acropolis (see pictures below) and into the surrounding area. We were unable to actually go up to the Acropolis and Parthenon due to the bizarre visiting hours they have. After a beautiful day of hiking, and a warm up at the new Acropolis Museum, we headed back to our respective apartments to get ready for our first "clubbing" experience in Athens. Apparently, it is hard to find a place where people actually dance, so after going to a chic bar and a place with older sketchy men, we decided to go back home in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently, clubs don't get "hopping" until about 4 in the morning... a bit too late for me to stay up!

The Acropolis from Philopappos Monument, January 23, courtesy of David Schneller

All of the hiking girls, top of Philopappos Hill looking west onto the Mediterranean Sea, January 23, courtesy of Joyce Chun

Yesterday, I had my first Greek hospital experience. After all that we had to go through to get our original visas, they only last three months, so we have to apply for extended residency. Not only do we have to pay more, but we also have to get tested for TB, which includes a shot and a chest x-ray. Luckily, I ran into other students from CYA on the way to the hospital, so I did not get lost. Lots of waiting, a quick poke and x-ray, and I was on my way. Now let's just hope the reading goes well tomorrow... Also, on the way to the hospital, we used the Greek public transit for the first time. Even though we had been endlessly warned, one of the students was pick-pocketed. It's a good thing I was clutching to my purse for dear life.

Roomies getting ready to go out (Liz and Joyce), January 23

The final excitement of the day happened back at the Academic Center--I got to learn how to do traditional Greek dances! No, there were not any "Opa"s going around, but after working our way up past the first five dances (specific to different parts of Greece) we got to learn the dance everybody thinks of... to the music from Zorba the Greek! This one was my favorite, because though the initial steps are basic, we learned different flourishes on them, and had to speed up our dancing as the music got progressively faster...not easy when everybody is connected together in a circle.

Roommates in front of the Acropolis and Theatre of Herodes Attiucus, January 23

If I can experience this much of Athens within a week, I cannot imagine what else I will experience on this four month venture! However, fun and games will be slowing down a bit, as classes are starting to get harder.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Back to School

Sunrise outside of my plane, somewhere over the UK
Today is the second day of classes, so by now, everybody will have had their first class for every subject. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have all of my classes essentially back to back: Aegean and Ancient Greek Art and Archaeology taught by a British woman who grew up in a Greek village while her famous parents were off on archaeological digs. She is very excited about what she does, and is very knowledgeable in her subject, and I am excited to learn more about archaeology, especially since 80% of the classes will be held in museums around the city. Then, I have Ancient Greek Athletics, which may sound silly, but is going to be quite an interesting. The British professor will be showing us how integral athletics were to the ancient greek society, how politics played a part in the Olympics, how sports marked changes in age, and how it was used as a form of training for war. I also had my first day of Modern Greek! It's so enviggorating to be able to finally read signs and know how to say simple things like good day (sounds like Kali-MAra) and thank you (ef-ka-ri-STO). The professor is Greek, and seems to be teaching the language in a different way than most language teachers I have had in the past--maybe it'll make a difference in how my ability to retain it. The last class of the day was Ancient Greek Mythology and Religion taught by the same professor I have for Art and Arch. She has a great sense of humor and is excited to tell us "the juicy bits" involved in all of the myths. I have already signed up to do a presentation in a few weeks on the deity Artemis. Work already!

Apparently, every day there is a farmer's market in one of Athens' neighborhoods, and one just has to go out and find them. For us, it's quite easy: both of the neighborhoods that College Year in Athens (CYA) students live in have farmers markets every Friday all morning until siesta. This morning, I went with two of my roommates, and we wandered the three blocks stuffed with oranges, fish, greens, herbs, persimmons, olives, and tomatoes. Even in comparison to France last summer, this market shows the more vegatables and fruit in one place than I have ever seen in my life! We weaved our way through little old ladies gossiping, friends shouting to each other, venders trying entice shoppers with their great deals. Planning mostly for ouor dinner tonight with the roommates and a group of guy friends, we were able to find juicy tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, zuccini, potatoes, sweet strawberries, oranges, and lots of olives. Can't wait to eat!

Kate and Joyce in the Market after receiving free clementines

A chilly, rainy day at the Market
Tomorrow, I'm going on my first outing with CYA. The students are being split up to travel around Attica (the peninsula that Athens is on) to various archaeological sites for the day. I think my group is going to Amphiaraion and Marathon.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Safe and Sound, without sleep

View from the top of the hill, Kolonoki, Athens

Welcome to Greece!

Or at least, that's how I felt as the plane from Frankfurt slid through the mist and fog to show a vision of rocky mounds tossed about in the sea. Okay, a little too poetic, but it was really beautiful. I made it to my apartment alright, but none of my roommates were there, so I made my way to the Academic center and got lost for a good hour. We have a great flat in the neighborhood closest to where our classes and meetings are, but it's the farthest away (only a 10 minute walk or so) out of the other apts. The six of us fit into four singles and a double with a spacious kitchen and comfy sitting area/living room; quite a lot bigger than I expected. My flat mates are nice; We all get along, and are becoming closer friends now that we hang out more. Joyce goes to Brown and is from SoCal, Melissa is from Iowa and goes to Pomona, Kate is from New Jersey and goes to Rutgers, Christine goes to Emory and is from Maryland, and Liz is from Texas and goes to Notre Dame. Quite a mix of personalities, schools, and backgrounds!

Partial view of my messy room; Goes out onto a balcony which I share with another single room and the double room.
Pangrati, Athens

These first couple of days we have been meeting new people from all over the country, listening to what the program hopes to attain, and eat and drink wonderful Greek things! Yesterday evening, after the President gave his talk, I went with a couple of my roommates and some new guy friends out to dinner in Kolonoki (the wealthier neighborhood where other students live), proceeded to their apartment to meet their other roommates and some of the girls who live across the hall from them, and then all of us climbed to the top of the huge hill (quite a hike!) to look at the city all lit up below us. It was beautiful! At the top of the hill there was an a quaint old church and, as we had joked that there would be, even a little restaurant! We then made our way down to a different part of Kolonoki to a cross between a street and an alley (without cars) to enjoy a drink and conversation for awhile. However, because this neighborhood is wealthier, drinks were quite a bit more expensive than those in other parts of the city, and much more than they would be in the states.

Roommates (L to R): Christine, Joyce, Liz
Pangrati, Athens

Roommates (L to R): Melissa and Katie
Pangrati, Athens
Also, there are stray dogs EVERYWHERE! They're not threatening at all, and if you pet them, they will follow you and "protect" you from cars, motorbikes, and other pedestrians. There are two dogs specifically that follow us around and make sure we get home at night.

Classes start tomorrow! It'll be nice to get into a routine and find out who else has the same class. There are only 130 of us (25 guys, 105 girls...), so it should be pretty easy getting to know everyone!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Though many of you know by now, I will be studying abroad in Greece this semester. The program (College Year in Athens) will be housing me in an apartment building with 3-4 other students from the States in the center of Athens where I will be taking classes for 4 months. The aim of this blog is to keep you informed about where I will be and what I will be doing while abroad.
For centuries, people have been traveling to Greece, traversing war zones, dangerous seas, and encountering numerous diseases. Luckily, I do not have to deal with these hazards in present day, so they turn all of this trouble into getting a visa. Obtaining a Greek visa is quite a bit harder than would be expected for such a small country. It even surpasses the difficulty of gaining entrance to countries such as France, England, and Germany. However, despite the FBI criminal background check, fingerprinting, giving up bank statements and W-2 forms, and traveling to the Chicago consulate, I had my passport given back with my very own Greek visa a week before I was supposed to leave.
Next thing on the agenda: Packing. How DOES one pack for 4 months in luggage small enough to haul on a 2 week voyage from Athens to Paris?