My big, fat Greek adventure!

Trip Start Aug 19, 2013
Trip End Dec 13, 2013

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Flag of Greece  , Attica,
Friday, November 1, 2013

The reason I've waited a week to write this entry is because I'm still in the process of forming my opinion about Greece. It's sooo different from Italy! My perception of Athens so far is so confounded with my experiences in Italy. I want to say that it seems less exotic than Rome, but if I had come here first I would be completely out of my element! Although I feel like a more experienced traveler and I knew the challenges that awaited, I still have had to start over! Over the past week I've been working on getting my bearings, finding food, and adjusting to a new apartment. Once again, the little things are the hardest!
The thing that throws me off the most is--surprise, surprise--the alphabet!! I'm not going to lie, seeing street signs marked with symbols is really scary!! Language has never been easy for me to learn and I feel quite hopeless at this point! In my mind, I have to translate Greek twice: the symbols into our alphabet, and once into our alphabet, translate it into English. How do these people think of those symbols as words??! Once again, I feel humbled. Someone made up our alphabet and before I learned it, it was meaningless. There's no right way to do things...just different ways!

My first impressions of Greece:
1. It seems like a more liveable city than Rome. The touristy area is very condensed and the rest of the city is modern (somewhat). It's a lot quieter than Rome. The streets are wider and there seems to be much more breathing room. All the buildings are white with balconies.
2. It reminds me in some ways of Minnesota. There are trees, grass, and forests (we live right next to a national forest) all over. The people here are very "Minnesota nice". Everyone is so hospitable! Many people will stop on the street and ask if you need help if you look lost, and I've never seen happier store clerks! I feel very welcomed in this country. Going along with that, there is more cultural diversity accepted here. Movie theaters have movies in English (with Greek subtitles) whereas in Italy there are American shows with Italian voiceovers (how dumb!). There are familiar brands here--which is saving my butt in the grocery store! They have Starbucks, Domino's Pizza, and TGI Fridays. How homey!!! Of course, if an average American visited Athens, they would probably not think it's similar to the U.S. But because of my experience with exoticism, and the fact that I'm focused on home as my next destination, I'm noticing the parallels between Europe and home.
3. The food is AMAZING!!! I was expecting to like the food in Italy more than here, but I love it here too! I've gotten several 2 euro Gyros which are delicious (and cheap) and they also have bakeries everywhere with yummy pastries :)

So, what have I been up to over the last week?
I arrived last Friday, a week ago exactly, and got settled in our apartment quick then went out for a gyro and went apartment hopping. In Rome we all lived in the same building on different floors, which was a great way to get to know each other well! Now we are in 7 different apartments (5 or less people in each) which has been really nice. I love our apartment! It's quaint, which is what I was expecting of European apartments. I have my own room which is pretty spacious, and each room has its own balcony. Our kitchen is small but it's working out well! I love how clean the apartments are in comparison to our Rome one, which was eternally disgusting. Also, as I've said already, it's really quiet which I love! I'll expand on some of our challenges later :)
On Saturday we met at school (which is 5 minutes away--SCORE!) and quickly dispersed in small groups to accomplish a picture scavenger hunt. It was fun at first, but 4 hours later we were exhausted and sick of being lost in Athens. We had some lunch then went to the grocery store and got a couple of things. It has been surprisingly successful so far for me, although challenging of course! That night we had a group welcome dinner. It was fabulous! The food was served family style which was fun because it felt so homey!
On Sunday we had our first group excursion! Already! We got on our coach bus and drove to Sounion, the southern tip of Attika, the part of Greece Athens is in--about an hour away. It was a beautiful beachy day for us :) I swam in the Aegean Sea!!! Woohoo! Then we went to the top of a hill where the Temple of Poseidon is and watched the sunset. Beautiful!!
Monday was a national holiday: Oxi day (when the Greeks gained independence from the Italians) so we had the day off. We went to the parade of honor students, then walked to the Acropolis! :) It was a really great day!!
On Tuesday we had orientation and started classes. Our time this week has mostly been consumed with classes. In Greece we will have classes more frequently for less amount of time each, but overall more class time. I'm not sure how I like my classes so far. I have a lot of homework already! The best part of the day is that our lunch is included! We get so much delicious food--it's awesome!
Yesterday as you all know was Halloween. It's not a holiday in Greece but we had a Halloween party of course! Our group was extremely creative with our lack of supplies. :) I dressed as a character from the game "Guess who?" To be honest, it was one of my favorite Halloween's of all time! We had a blast! :)
Tomorrow we have an excursion to several Greek Islands: Poros and Hydra. On Monday we will have a cooking class! It'll be great fun!!

Challenges I've faced that are laughable (for your entertainment):
--after using toilet paper, we have to throw it in the garbage (ewwwww)
--our apartment does not have a toaster or microwave
--we don't have a laundry machine here; the closest one is at school, so we have to haul our clothes a whole 5 minutes away. Life is rough. ;)
--my theology professor has both a heavy Greek accent and lisp. We struggle to understand her.
--we have a bathtub; not a shower. We also don't have a shower curtain. Luckily we have a mobile shower head, but still the bathroom gets soaked every time we try to shower.
--we weren't sure what kind of supplies were going to be provided for our apartment. We don't have towels for the bathroom or kitchen and we had one roll of toilet paper. We thought we would be told in orientation what kind of supplies would be provided (I even asked and she only said sheets and towels). At that point we had completely used all of our toilet paper. We were all quite concerned and forgot to communicate with each other. 3 girls bought toilet paper! At the end of the day we had about 36 rolls of toilet paper. To make things worse, the maid that came the next day offered us about 8 more rolls of toilet paper. AHHH the communication issues!!!

Well, that's all for now. Make sure to enjoy your "little things." Whether they be the microwave, shower curtain, or alphabet.
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