Yes, yes, that title is accurate and referring to this weekend, and I did arrive in Athens way back at the end of August. But, due to all the required, optional, extra, and self-arranged trips, this has been my first weekend in Athens itself.
It was quite nice, and for anyone else thinking of doing the same thing, yes, I recommend travel, but I also recommend you get to know your own place before going to explore some other new place.
I don’t know if anyone other than me remembers or cares, but here’s the answers to the questions I left for myself last time I posted:
Answer 1: My ten-hour layover in Newark was not as productive as I intended for it to be, but it was as productive as I needed it to be, so it turned out alright.
Answer 2: It took me until getting up and getting in line for the overseas flight into Athens, but I finally spotted a CYA tag on the backpack of a girl who I thought might be one of the other CYA students, but I hadn’t been sure until I saw it. I had put both my tags on my suitcases, but, really, I should’ve put one tag on a suitcase, one tag on me/my carry-on, and just used a regular tag for the second suitcase.
Question 3:Honestly, but sadly, I do not remember what I first had to eat, but I know what I am most happy to have found: sour cherry & sour cherry flavored stuff. That’s sour cherry, as in a different type of cherry, not as in the same way that ‘sour watermelon’ is a thing by adding sour powder to normal watermelon flavor. It is so good! So much more flavorful than normal cherries, and I have always been a cherry fan, so that’s saying something. And way less artificial than maraschino cherries, as much as I love those in their proper place, too, i.e., on top of the whipped cream in my milkshake : ). But sour cherry juice and sour cherry pop and sour cherries themselves in my frozen Greek yogurt = Yum, Yum, Yum!
Alright, back to my most recent, and first, weekend in Athens.
I spent Friday doing laundry and other chores and calling home(some of that at the same time) because no classes on Fridays, and I needed to do laundry.
Saturday, Sarah, her host mom, and I visited the New Acropolis Museum for the English tour of the temporary exhibit on emotions, which was both shorter and more interesting than I thought it would be. Then Sarah and I wandered around for the rest of the afternoon, getting lunch at Athens’ Hard Rock Cafe (a chain she introduced me to), exploring the area around the Agora, and finding that frozen Greek yogurt place with lots of yummy toppings (including the best one: sour cherries!).
Sunday I set out again, on my own, to find some monuments and their original locations for various projects. Didn’t find everything I was looking for, but in the Kerameikos, I did find a mother cat with four tiny kittens nestled just out of arms’ reach behind the crowd-barrier-chain in some of the ruins, and a bunch or tortoises, one of which, while I stood there, just walked straight towards me, not caring, sniffed my boot, and crawled around me on his own expedition, apparently.
Tips for living in Athens (or any new place, really):
Wander Around! Go places, but also go find places without having a destination in mind. Once you find the places you like, then you can plan trips to go back again and again. Or maybe you find it so much fun, you just keep exploring.
Don’t Be Afraid of Public Transport! Maybe you have never used it before, maybe you have misgivings based on how sketchy you think it and/or the other passengers are, or maybe you have been told by locals or program leaders how sketchy it/the passengers are.
Use your own judgement in that last case and take a friend or five with you, and keep your wits about you, as you always should, but in the case of the other two, give it a try. If you’re nervous, take a friend with you. You can push each other’s limits or borrow the confidence of a veteran public-transit rider, but whatever it takes, do it. It is really not as scary as you think it is, even if you get lost.
The first time I took the bus by myself at night, I got totally lost, and my phone battery died, so I couldn’t even look up where I was. Crazy night, that, I walked back a station and took the same bus to the same stop a second time before I realized it was the end of the line, and that I had totally missed my transfer stop I-don’t-know-how-much earlier along. That was back in the first or second week of being here, and I can’t be 100% sure, as I had no idea at the time, except that it seemed to be in the middle of the city somewhere, but I think now that I ended up around Syntagma Square. Eventually, after asking random Anglophone tourists to borrow cellular devices, which didn’t work, because theirs didn’t work here, were also dead, and/or were back at their hotel room, I found a taxi (I’ld ridden busses before, and trains, too, but I’d never called or hailed a cab before, so I decide to walk up to one of the ones parked along the street and hope for the best). I had to rely on my basic Greek and the driver’s basic English, but I knew the neighborhood I needed to go to (Pangrati), plus one big landmark that everyone knows and no one can miss (Kallimarmaro – The Panathenaic Stadium, and yes, it is literally impossible to miss, even in the dark, as you can see it from the major road that runs in front, it’s white and glows, and it’s so big it even shows up on Google Maps). As a result, I didn’t end up at my door, but I did find my way back to a part of Athens that I knew and that was close enough to my apartment to make it back.
So Go Get Lost! It’s good for you. You have to rely on one or both of the essential survival skills for an Anglophone in a non-Anglophone country: learn the local language/learn to say what you need and to use what little you know to say what you need(this all counts as one skill) and/or learn how to spot your fellow English-speaking tourists and ask them for help from the mutual bonds of being fellow foreigners in a new city. Also, reciprocate the favor, when possible, if anyone ever asks you for directions and you know how to get there. Aside from the benefits of practising these skills, you can find all sorts of things when you get lost, not least of which is a new path so you don’t get lost later when you really need not to. That being said, don’t get too lost. Keep in mind one or two big landmarks that you can always ask for, and keep your phone charged because Google Maps is your best friend. Even without data, with the GPS signal on, you can see roughly where you are on the map, and usually which direction you are facing. If you know where you need to go, or have that place marked on the map (do that first thing before you leave wifi!), you can find a way to get there, and check on your progress, even if it won’t generate directions for you without wifi or data.
Wow, that was a lot to dump, but that’s what I have found most helpful so far, both in Athens, and all the places that my weekends have taken me.
Question 1: Will the mother cat and kittens still be around when I give my presentation at the Kerameikos, or the tortoises, or will there be other distracting animal life then?
Question 2: With midterms approaching this next week, and as often as I keep intending to do it, will I ever get around to organizing all my handouts and other papers?
Question 3: How will I manage to crack my fully-shelled (or, Amelia Bedelia style, ‘unshelled’) walnuts without a nutcracker of any sort?
Hopefully I will have answers to these questions (and better new questions to set at the end) next time I end up posting. Until then, go get lost, even in your hometown, and see what you can find!