Random musings

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
Trip End May 26, 2011

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Flag of Greece  , West Macedonia,
Saturday, April 9, 2011

So as I mentioned before, the other day went for a trip to Kastoria with the girls & guys. Actually it was quite a team, as we went with three cars. The girls from the Erasmus office, we, foreign students and the officials (I know that sounds silly - a young woman two other guys) made up the team, rounded by the Erasmus office attachée of the Kastoria branch. The university there has a very nice and new building, without the iconic graffiti on the walls. We were given a tour at the end of the day, which I really enjoyed.

The primary reason for which we went up there was to make a presentation about the Erasmus programme and have a leisurely day off. Just as the presentation started, I was asked to hold a short speech about my impressions and recommend the programme for the prospective attendees. Now that was a surprise! :p Although I was (I'm sure visibly) nervous at the start, as I started to speak, the audience showed an interested complexion and some of them even started to smile. That gave sufficient confidence for me carry on talk calmly and cool. After introducing myself, I explained how I ended up in Kozani and that I was very glad and merry with the welcoming. And that I am grateful for the people here. Afterwards I pointed that that no one should skip this possibility because it is a wonderful opportunity to meet new people and their cultures, from a front seat spot. And although it may seem difficult sometimes and the situations one might encounter, as well as coping with homesickness can be difficult and challenging, in the end it is an unique experience and it is absolutely worth it. And (almost) free, of course.

After the presentation we had a dinner at a lakeside restaurant, where we had a good time, which included a birthday cake!

Back in Kozani, we sat for a coffee in a rooftop garden. It was a really neat place, very relaxing and not crowded. The centrepiece of the stage was a huuuge hammock. I drank a cold coffee, which goes by the name of frappé here, notwithstanding is essentially different from the European frappé, which is commonly known as milkshake, or the American latté, which is ometimes called hot frappé. Greek frappé coffee is a cold coffee, made of espresso, sometimes milk, water and ice-cubes, having a thick foam on the top. I think it is very delicious, though most foreigners don't like it, they say. In the end we said goodbye to A., a very cheery and everhappy girl, who was going back home to Crete for good.

One of the French guys gave me a book, Percy Jackson, which is apparently a Harry Potter or Inheritance-style book, bearing Greek mythological motifs. I haven’t started it yet, but I am sure it will be a tough test for my tender French, which I haven't practiced extensively in a year...

We had sparkling sunny weather this weekend here in Kozani and I went for a couple of strolls. Back in the accommodation, I read a bit about the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.

It is amazing, we cannot even imagine, let alone comprehend what just happened there. Firstly, as a fact, we must state that was the single most powerful earthquake the country of the rising sun has ever experienced (according to Wikipedia) It is the fourth strongest measured earthquake on Earth (9.0 compared to the 9.2 Sumatra 2004) Reading and watching what the Japanese nation did in the month following the earthquake is beyond imagination. Probably you’ve seen the pictures of completely rebuilt highways and railways in a couple days circling the Internet… Japan is a nuclear nation, with 61% of energy (before 03/2011) produced at nuclear power plants. Of the nation’s 55 reactors, 9 were affected by the seism, spanning across three plants and 9 prefectures. All of them needed to be taken offline, and according to Japanese officials, the 6 reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi won’t even be restarted. They are struggling with high radiation levels and reproof instead of help of the international organizations, which consider that Japan is a grown up boy and has to handle its problems alone. And it does. In fact it shows the world again, why is it there where it is. I think that if this kind of earthquake happened in a conurbation of similar size, they would have simply given up and run away, as far as possible (New Orleans, eh?) But they didn’t. One reporter asked a Japanese worker why don’t they move south. The answer was a simple, yet firm question: What would happen if all Japanese went South? Or the workers of the Fukushima plant, who already knew the tsunami was coming, yet they remained on their posts despite the evacuation orders…Unfortunately, the disaster happened nonetheless…

So, as an immediate result of the earthquake, 40% of the heavily industrialized country was left without electric power, including the world’s largest city Tokyo, and the emergency fuel generators and reserve thermal plants just couldn’t cope with the high energy demand of the capital. The steel mills and foundries started to be providers instead of consumers, using their private power plants. And then the population of the Kanto region pledged themselves to voluntarily reduce (and in some places even give up) daily electricity consumption, so that the capital could have stable electricity. And when asked why, they justified by stating that Tokyo is much more important and has priority over other "insignificant" areas (1 million Sendai) and the nation’s leaders there need the conditions to make their correct decisions to ultimately combat the situation! I think that presently this would not have happened in any of the world’s sovereign states. Including the most advanced ones (maybe in China, by force). Japanese have so much faith in their government and their leaders so that doing their obligations or giving up electricity of goes without a question. They don’t lament. This is a thing that we, Eastern Europeans can NEVER understand or even imagine that such kind of thing exits. (We always lament. It's easy) And you know what, that is the REAL power if Japan. Discipline and loyalty. No other country has that. Have your ever thought about that this small archipleago of only 377.000 sqkm and 150 million inhabitants has the GDP of China, a country of 9 million sqkm and 1.5 billion people, and had had it for a decade? Kimi ga jo va, Nihon!

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