Monday, June 4, 2012

the last few days...

My last few days in Greece were absolutely amazing. Yes, I had to study for finals but as I mentioned in a previous post, my finals weren’t to difficult and last-minute cramming could still get me an “A” on the exams so I was set. All of us Americans became expert crammers if we weren’t already crammers before. See the pick below, 10 minutes before a Greek exam:

Anyways, besides studying for exams, I had some fun little excursions and whatnot with friends. Kelsey and I went to the Museum of Photography here in Thessaloniki that’s right on the water at the port near downtown Thess. The museum was very small but we still enjoyed looking around at contemporary local photographs. One artist had taken old antique cameras and changed them into other objects such as a turtle camera, a boot camera, etc. She had just glued or taped other found objects to the camera and then photographed them with a normal camera. Interesting. There was also some video art. Kelsey and I sat and watched three videos that were all playing at the same time next to each other. One was of a guy trying to start a four-wheeler, one was of a port worker standing by the sea, and one was of a guy in a parking garage getting his dog to “sit and stay” despite the big bone a few feet in front of him. Kelsey asked me what I thought they were about, since they all seemed random but they were purposefully played at the same time and placed in sequence, so they were obviously in conversation with each other. It thought that it had to do with being unable to move, with feeling forced to be at a standstill. Not sure about the port worker though.. maybe stuck in the crisis, unable to move forward professionally? Who knows. Anyways, it was a nice day and after the museum, Kelsey and I laid out on these super comfortable bench/chairs outside by the water and relaxed for a bit. We had walked all the way from PapaK to the museum so we were tired and we enjoyed the sun and each other’s company. Kelsey walked back to PapaK by herself and I stayed downtown to wait for my dinner plans which I had made with a couple of people in my English class. I sat on a bench in Aristotle square all by myself and reflected for a while. I’ve been working on my Fulbright proposal and personal statement and man is it hard to write in such a manner, raw and real, vulnerable yet strong, honest yet not over-the-top. It’s a difficult balance and I’ve been working on draft after draft. Ergo, I decided I wanted to use my hour downtown to write and reflect. I got 2 sentences down before I was approached by an African man selling bracelets. Africans and Moroccans are everywhere in Greece, soliciting goods such as sunglasses, bracelets, wallets, purses, etc. I was thinking earlier about how I write them off quickly and say: “oxi oxi oxi” (no no no), yet I know that if I was traveling with my father, he would have conversations with them and would give them warm smiles and chat with them. I decided I would pull a “dad” move and talk to this man who had approached me. I asked him where he was from, what he was doing in Greece, etc. I ended up asking him if he was happy. He brushed the question off saying, yes yes. But I said, tell me more. We ended up talking about how he’s not that emotionally happy here, he can’t find work and he is frustrated with what he was doing. It felt good to have such a conversation with a stranger. Those are the kind of situations I love, when strangers open up to me and seek comfort and/or guidance from me. I endeavor to be approachable and available for solace advice. Thus, such a situation as that which occurred in Aristotle Square made me very happy. After a 30 minute conversation, he tied a bracelet on my wrist and said, a gift for you. I was touched and thought he was giving me a gift since we had bonded and had such a great conversation. But no. I was wrong. He then asked me for a “donation for a festival” as he looked from my eyes to the bracelet multiple times. Obviously, the “donation” wasn’t optional. I was bummed, I thought he was genuinely grateful for our discussion. Maybe he was, maybe he just needed money that badly, who knows. I gave him 2 euros and headed off to my dinner.

Elisabeth is from Canada and is about 40 years old and goes to the American College of Thessaloniki with me, she’s in my Women in Literature class. She is a fascinating human being who lived in more countries than I can remember. I love listening to her stories about partying in Chile or driving around northern africa. She’s wild. We had planned this dinner and she brought her 16 year old daughter with her, Alex, who is gorgeous and very intelligent: she speaks 5 languages fluently! Meredith, a fellow American, also joined us for dinner. We ate outside at a quaint little restaurant and had lots of delicious food and swapped stories. But mostly we all just sat and listened to Elisabeth. She really enjoys talking and sharing her stories and we all enjoy listening. I hope I live a life half as interesting as Elisabeth. She has so much “know-how” and is so adventurous and takes a million bajillion risks! I can’t even fathom attempting to do some of the things she has done! Wild, wild, wild. She ended up treating us all to dinner, which was far to sweet! And she even dropped us off back at our flats. So kind!

The next day, Melissa, Adrienne, & I all went to the White Tower and hiked up to the very top of it. The White Tower is the supreme hang out spot for night and for day. But it’s also a big-deal historical monument. Every floor of the tower is dedicated to an area in Thessaloniki history. I learned about water irrigation and churches and the ottoman rule and lots of other interesting things. And even though it was an overcast day, the view from the top was still beautiful and I loved being up there. It was on my “bucket list of Thessaloniki” so I was happy to check that one off the list!

After the White Tower Melissa and I got Chicken Souvlakis and did a little last minute shopping and then headed back to PapaK, only to turn right around and come back downtown a few hours later to go on the Reggae boat. During the summer months, lots of the clubs shut down and the summer clubs open. Not only do summer clubs open, but the party boats also start running. The party boats are boats that are themed and sit on the water by the white tower and go out for half hour rides. You’re welcome to sit on the boat as long as you like though, sipping coffee or cocktails. Me, Melissa, Katherine, Meredith, and Michelle all went on the Reggae boat. We all ordered mythos and enjoyed some reggae jams and watched a guy with dreads rock out in the corner and wondered if they paid him or gave him free beer to be there to give it a more “authentic” feel or if he just really liked to be there. Maybe a mix of both? Anyways, the boat was sweet. We chose between the Reggae boat, the Viking ship, and the Pirate Ship and I definitely think we made the right choice. The Viking ship looked more..intense and less up-beat and fun and the pirate ship wasn’t running that night so that one was taken straight outta the running. I might have cast my vote for the pirate ship if it had been an option though.

The next day, Thursday, was the last day of finals for me and for a lot of people so 20-30 of us Americans headed to Halkidiki for a beach day! We went to Kalokratia, which is the closest beach to Thess so a round trip bus ticket is only 7 euro compared to 15 euros roundtrip to Alex’s beach house that I visited a few weeks ago. It was a gorgeous day and the water was warm enough to swim in. For dinner, we had a huge family dinner at Olive and Lemon, a good last dinner for all of us. We had dwindled from 50 Americans to 30... people leaving every few hours. It was getting pretty emotional. The dinner was awkward, we all feel like we’re just waiting to go to the butchers and we’re in this limbo state of being in Greece but mentally being back in America already. It’s a strange feeling to be pulled in two places at once. The food was delicious though, as always. We all drank lots of wine and cheers our cups again and again and again. I was very happy to return to Olive and Lemon one last time, all together.

On Friday Afternoon I met Maja downtown to get coffee on the water. And while I was waiting for her at the white tower, I heard some voices behind me through my headphones that were speaking english. I turned around and saw two girls sitting in the grass, after .8567 seconds I recognized them! It was Jay and Rosie!!! The same Jay and Rosie that I met in Prague! SAY WHAT!?!? They are the two girls from Australia that are traveling europe for 5 months by themselves and I met them in Prague and Jay came out to dinner and went out with all of us a couple times. But how in the hell could I bump into them in Greece, when I met them in Prague, and they are from Australia. The world is just far too small and far too amazing!

After hugging and talking and all that jazz, we parted and Maja and I got Freddo Cappucinos on the water and talked and talked and talked. I'm so comfortable around her. She is so warm and wonderful. She has such great energy, very bubbly and talkative. She's a great listener too. She loves disney movies (Ariel is her favorite) and she loves techno music and jazz music too. She's one of a kind and I love her to death. We sat drinking our coffees for the proper 2.5 hours and then we walked around downtown window-shopping and going into a handful of cute (but expensive) boutiques. It was great to get some girl-time in with her :)

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