Thursday, September 07, 2006

first week in Athens

my first post is going to be pretty long, so here it is in sections. I also will have pictures as soon as I put them on my computer, promise!

I am rooming with Liz Wakfield who was supposed to go to Israel with me this summer. I am glad to be living with her, I think we suit each other nicely. There are nine of us from kzoo, all girls and one guy, I've never seen some of them before in my life, believe it or not (with a school as small as K). They all seem very nice! I have 4 roommates, all girls. We haven't really hung out yet, but I do like them and think we will live together well. I live in Kolonaki which is a very rich part of town in the center of Athens (kind of "villagey" if you are familiar with NYC). very trendy people and places but very very expensive. Our apartment, however, is not as nice as the neighborhood. It's not nearly as nice as the apartments that the other "K" kids have, which are located 2 minutes from the school in Pangrati. but, I do have a very nice balcony, air conditioning (it is hot, HUMID I love it!) and a wood floor. Kolonaki is a good 20 min walk up hill from the academic center. I like it, though, because I've already seen more of the city than the Pangrati group. There are lots of nice resturants, coffee shops (which always--unless your in starbucks (they are TAKING OVER THE WORLD)-- also serve beer and wine etc.) there are two grocery stores very near my apartment which sell normal grocery store things. they close at nine, but most businesses are only open for part of the day, and the schedule for that alternates every other day... no one knows why, except that they close during siesta time. There is a cute bakery next to my building owned by a very cute elderly couple who do speak English.

In the center of Kolonaki is Kolonaki square. At the center of the square is a short coloum for which the area is named. All the streets save the major 4 lane roads are very narrow and everyone is on death missons riding mopeds and little cars. I can totally see why they stress the danger of riding mopeds, and I am glad that Athens is a "walking city." There is also a tram connected to cables like in San Fransisco and like there were in New Orleans, and busses, both of which I have yet to figure out. The reason that I said "I hate marble" is because just about everywhere I go the stairs are marble and the floors very slippery. First day of orientation I had a frappe (cold instant coffee made with water and foam on top) in my hand and cartoon slipped when rounding a corner. not nice. This happened more than once, god help me when it rains. The reason that I said "There are dogs" is because it was suprising to find that there is an army of stray dogs and cats roaming Athens. They are very tame, and friendly and look well kept, somehow. Strangley, all the dogs have collars on. I really don't understand this yet. I love that there are kitties here... and the come when you coax them!

So yes, there is a school called CYA, which is actually called D.I.K.E.M.E.S, which stands for International Center for Hellenic & Mediterranean Studies (in Greek). I has it's own buildings (2) with classrooms, a caf, etc. It is VERY small, though. There are about 10 perfessors, I'd say, and 137 students. (2.3 women-1 man). Most are from America, but there are 3 English students that go to school in Scotland. You can see the Acropolis from a balcony on the third floor, it is beautiful and unreal. The staff and professors are all very approachable and nice. We will have school feild trips (like in the good old days, eh?) to Crete for a week and class feild trips to other places.

"Supposed to Go to Israel"
The hardest thing so far for me and I know for Liz, too, is that our introduction is: "Hi, I'm also Lizz from Kalamazoo college...yes well I was supposed to go to Israel, but..." and then we have to explain the whole unfortunate series of events again. I've been trying not to talk about it, but it is kind of a topic that comes up a lot and, one that people are interested in knowing more about. There are are also two other people who were to go to Israel that ended up here other than Liz and I. I'm loving it here so far, but that it always a downer when it comes up every two seconds.

changing of the gaurds
So Liz and I were feeling pretty bummed about Israel again, and were walking back to our apartment to get ready to go out with the people who were also supposed to go to Israel (anticipating more depressing conversation) when we came across the changing of the gaurds at the tomb of the unknown soldier which is on our way. There are serveral posts, and we asked a sort of back-up gaurd if there was some sort of cycle or if they always are on the same posts. He said "yes, of course" and waved us away, but then came over to us and started talking. His name was Nick, and we ended up spending about forty-five minutes with him. He took our picture with one of the soldiers, and I felt bad, becuase it seemed like we were being stupid tourists, and it was wierd talking about this guy who was right in front of us but couldn't move or talk to us . So I asked Nick what the soldier's name was so I could thank him in Greek. Costas was his name, and then Nick had us say a word that was supposed to mean "only one month left of service," or something like that. But when we did, this gaurd that is not to move, speak, or blink burst out laughing, and we realized that a) we just said something profane and b) this gaurd thing is not as stiff, important and official as we all think. When it was time for the gaurds to change again we said goodbye to Costas and he said "bye-bye girls." I couldn't believe it. The gaurds with the pompoms on there toes, white tights, long tassle and useless riffle are considered the best of the best in the Greek army, and are, but they are not the ones defending an empty tomb, the guards like Nick, who have the real guns, are. They have eight months- one to learn the jig during the change, and one month at the end where they become the actually guards. Then they vacation on the party island of Mykonos and later find real jobs.
It was nice to make a Greek friend and learn a little something about the culture. This made us feel better.

first night out
We went out to eat with Adam, who was one of the guys who were going to Israel. We looked at our options in Kolonaki, and out of all the resturants we passed, we accidentally chose an American one that served burgers and stuff. It was too complicated to leave at the point we realized, so we got some appitizers and then walked down towards the metro station and Acropolis for drinks. among the people we were meeting there were some of the K girls, suprisingly, and we got some ouzo, which I like. There was (among others) a guitar player, a very happy drunk man, and a very old woman who looked like my grandfather. The got us to dance and taught us how. It was amazing. The old woman was thrusting her hips like I have never seen before and dancing on tables! It was so fun, but time got away from us and we didn't make it home until FOUR in the morning! (so much for getting over jet lag). This was a tuesday night in Athens. EVERYWHERE we went there were people still sitting at cafes smoking and drinking on our very long walk home.

It was quite an experience. I dont think I could handle staying out that late again in the near future, however.

Last night CYA professors took all who wanted to go out for dinner at a taverna. We went to one called the Black Cat. It was nice to talk to the profs, meet new people. The food was all fried or meat filled, so I didn't really think much of that, but overall, it was fun. Then my mom called, and I was so relieved that my cell phone actually works for that sort of call. If anyone wants to call me, it is free for me! but not for you...

This Sunday I am going to go on a hike with a Greek hiking club up Mt. Thitikis Pateras in Attica. I have no idea what or where that is. so, wish me luck, I'm sure I will live to tell of it.


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