Toto, We're Not In Rindge Anymore!
Athens, Greece is not at all what I had expected it to be. I will have to admit that going into this trip I had not learned much about the area or the culture whatsoever. Yes, I had learned a few things about the Acropolis, Ancient Greece, and the greek mythology that has continued to be a large part of the Greecian culture, but I had no real idea of what to expect in coming here. I had thought in my mind that I was coming into an area that was "underdeveloped" compared to the good old USofA, and found myself to be completely wrong. I am currently residing in the center of Athens, Greece where about 4 million other people live, which makes Athens about three times bigger than New York City. Athens is spectacular to look at whether its during the day or at night where the city lights glisten all around you.
Now my complete first impression of Athens was one that I can reflect upon now and laugh at but at the time I was displeased with how things had turned out. September 2, 2008 was the day in which we landed in the airport in Greece, and I had proceeded to wait for about ten minutes to claim my luggage. When I finally saw my suit cases I quickly grabbed them, but since I packed 3 months of my life into them, when I had lifted them I unfortunately was unable to put them down gently and accidentally slammed one of the suit cases on my pinky toe which had already had a cut on it from a previous incident. The luggage had re-opened the cut, which surprisingly did not hurt all that much but when I had looked down, my toe was gushing blood. No one had any tissues or napkins on them so I figured it would stop bleeding soon enough. Once everyone grabbed their own luggage I looked down one last time at my foot before we proceeded to walk, and noticed a pool of blood on my flip flop underneath my foot. Every time I walked it splattered a little bit and I was trying my hardest to not have a trail behind me so I walked as slow as I could. Apparently I looked suspicious to the security people and I was questioned in Greek what my purpose of being here was and why I had so much luggage, but I could barely communicate with them which made me feel extremely uncomfortable. I tried to handle the situation of the foot that was bleeding profusely for absolutely no reason as best as I could because I did not want to make anyone wait around even longer in the airport for me to fix it.
As I finally got outside a taxi driver named Jimmy ripped my luggage away from me and started walking fast towards his car yelling for me to follow behind. I was shoved into the small taxi car with Dom in the front seat, luggage in the backseat and Misty and I squished into one seat. Our driver was extremely nice, and was talking to us about places we should go and places we would be better off staying away from. He drove us around the city for a little bit before he dropped us off, unloaded our bags, and parted ways. As we stood on the street we were looking around for familiar faces of those who were joining us on this excursion, but to our surprise no one was around. We sat on the street for about 30 minutes with no cell phones or money and proceeded to ask people who were passing us where we were and if we were at all on or near Sina Street. Everyone shook their heads no and told us we were not on the right street, but they did not know what street we were on, or how to get over to Sina Street. Fortunately because I had looked so many times on where the two apartments were, I was able to figure out that our taxi driver had dropped us off at the apartment where our professor and his family lives, and I remembered that they were on the first floor. Dom and Misty went into the apartment complex on the first floor and picked a random door to knock on. Luckily the first door they chose was the correct one, and Jill had greeted us, grabbed our belongings and let us into their apartment to figure out what to do next. We then sat there and decided we were going to get a taxi and make our way over to Sina Street, but to add to my stream of bad luck, none of the taxi drivers would pull over because they saw all our luggage and didn't want to have to deal with it. Angry, exhausted, and hot, we decided we just wanted to get to our new home and could no longer wait. We hauled our way all the way to Sina Street which by foot is about a 20-25 minute walk but with all our luggage it was a bit more of a struggle. Finally I arrived to Sina at about 7-7:30pm panting, with a bloody foot and about 140 lbs. of luggage.
The next few days we found ourselves just exploring places to go and trying to submerse ourselves in the area, meet new people and figure out our way around Athens. The views are absolutely spectacular, the buildings are beautiful, and the weather is fantastic. The people I have met here so far have been nothing but gracious, helping us understand the culture a bit more, and teaching us how to say certain things in Greek, all of which have told us to call them if we ever wanted them to show us around.
Although I started the trip off a bit rough, I have grown to love being here. It still is a lot to take being that I am from a small town in Connecticut and my experience with cities has consisted of random day trips here and there throughout my life. The driving here makes me extremely nervous because its the type of driving where it is every man for himself and no one really follows the rules. Pedestrians don't have a right of way unless there are just no cars around (which never happens). The sidewalks consist mainly of a slippery tile-like texture where I always feel as though I am going to fall, and my roommate Lauren has already done so.
History is all around me here in Athens. I go to my rooftop and to my left the Acropolis stands lit up at night overlooking the rest of Athens, and then to my right I can see the highest point in Athens lit up shining down over me. I still have to tell myself where I am because right now it feels as though I am just going with the motions but still haven't registered where I am and how lucky I actually am to be here.
I have one more unfortunate event that happened to me here so far which I feel is important to mention because if anyone was planning to come to Greece it would be beneficial to them to learn from my mistakes. On our trip to the beach last Saturday I was standing on the sidewalk waiting for the Tram to come and get us. I was standing there tired of holding the Coach wallet that my roommate Lauren had lent to me to hold my money and ID in so I took my backpack off and put it in there. I got on the Tram, put my bag down as I took a seat and noticed that the backpack had been unzipped and the wallet was no longer in it. Frantically I got up and thought that I had forgotten to zip my backpack and that it had fallen out, but then realized that I wasn't home anymore and that people pickpocket anyone they see as an easy target. I sat there and almost cried but tried to keep my composure and not make a scene. Someone had watched me put the wallet in my backpack and exactly where I had placed it and without me realizing stole it. It sickened me because the person was probably sitting on the tram with all of us watching me sit there searching for it. Be extremely careful with where you place your important personal belongings. Luckily I had not kept any of my credit cards or Passport in there, so it could have been worse, but just be careful.
All in all with a few bumps along the road in figuring out how to adjust to being somewhere new, I absolutely love it here and recommend anyone thinking about studying abroad to go ahead and do it. Athens, Greece is a place of rich history all around you and it is truly an unforgettable experience. I cannot wait to see what else is going to happen and will keep everyone posted!