Thursday, December 6, 2012

saying goodbye

It's strange sitting here, looking at my empty room with my entire life for the last 4 months packed into a suitcase and duffel. My fan is clicking as it turns, as it always has and the sun is streaming through my balcony door. I hate seeing my room here devoid of my things, my pictures, my presence here. It feels so strange. So strange.

It's hard to imagine leaving this room and this city behind-- all the memories, all the friends, all the lessons learned. As I get on that plane in just a few short hours, I realize that I'm setting foot on it as a changed person. I am not the same person I was four months ago.

Greece has taught me many, many things. To sit for coffees and dinners for hours on end, enjoying relaxation and friendship. Greeks put family and friends first in their lives. Everything else comes second to their relationships. I've learned the value of going to small bakeries and markets, of making friends with the people who work there. I've learned to cook, I've learned to clean, I've been more independent here than I ever have been before. Again, I've learned to be myself. It's a lesson that we learn again and again and again in our lives. It's not a lesson like tying your shoe or don't touch the hot stove, the kind of lesson that you learn once. Being yourself is an art. It's not something you learn to do once and then you know it for life. You need to be reminded constantly that you are who you are and that is who you should be.

I'm leaving behind quite a trail of friendships that I truly hope are strong enough to withstand the thousands of miles that separate us. It's terrifying not knowing if I will ever see these people again. Even if I return to Thessaloniki in a few years, who knows if all the friends I've made will still be here. A lot of my friends are Albanian or Serbian, they will have graduated school here and headed back to their countries. A lot of my friends also want to go live and work in other countries because of the status of Greek economy. So who even knows if my Greek friends will be here if I return. Goodbyes have never felt so final before. When I said goodbye to my friends in high school or my friends at summer camps, I always had faith that I would see them again, it was never goodbye; it was always see you later. But here, I can't be so certain. And I hate that feeling. When I traveled to Romania a few years ago, I felt the same way, that the goodbyes had more finality to them and it was equally as unsettling feeling ripped out of people's lives so violently. But in Romania, I only lived there for 2 weeks, part of a volunteer group. It was nothing compared to 4 months of doing everything with these people, seeing them every day. It's a much stronger level of goodbye.

I know that the memories I've made here will stick with me forever. I still vividly remember arriving here in Greece and arriving to my building and my room so late at night. It's such a strong memory. Some of the memories I've made here I've actively made an effort to cement them in my mind: my arrival, dinner at Efi's, being on the beach with George and Maria, being surrounded by my Greek friends at my goodbye party at ICE. There are certain memories I will refuse to let go of.

This is more difficult than I expected. It's more difficult than I ever imagined. I'm one of the last American's to leave. There's only four of us left and two of them are staying here all summer and one is sticking around for another ten days. So, I'm the lone traveller.

After 4 flights and 28 hours of travel, I'll be home at my mother's house in Iowa with my kitties and my couch and my family and friends. I know that it is time for me to go home. I feel it in my bones. But I also feel a new tug in my heart as well, the tug to come back to Greece. Who knows when I'll get the opportunity to come again, but I think it will be sooner rather than later. I can feel it.

With Love,
With So Much Love,



Mammy's is the local crepe shop that is the most popular spot for us study abroad students. I go there at least once a week and for my last and final meal here in Greece, I'm going to go there. Gregoraki owns the shop and his fiance, Christina, works there daily. I have become exceptionally close with both Aki and Christina. I've gotten to know the other staff there, Fotis and Lila and others, but they are not there nearly as often as Aki and Christina, so I'm closed to them two. Aki means "little" in Greek, they tack it onto names or words to make things smaller, cuter. Like Dog is pronounced "Ski-los" but you say "ski-laki" to say little dog. Ergo, his name is Gregory but they call him Gregoraki or just Aki. I like it.

Anyways, everyone at Mammy's speaks perfect english and they are all Greek so it's great to have them understand everything I say but to also push me to speak Greek and to answer all of my questions about the language as well. I usually get White Chocolate, Strawberry, Banana, Cookie, and Coconut crepes but sometimes I get savory crepes as well, with Chicken, Gouda, Corn, Green Peppers, and Red Pepper Feta spread. I don't know why I capitalized all of those nouns, but I did. The crepes are amazing and are definitely worth the 3.20 euros they cost. But I don't go there every week just for the crepes, I go there for the friendships as well. Whenever I get a crepe, I sit there for around half an hour just talking with Christina and Aki. I learned all about how Aki and Christina met and about their relationships, about where Christina went to school, about Aki's brother. It's been great to be part of their lives. They invited me to go to their weekly Sunday morning BBQ's with them, but I never was able to make it. I was supposed to go with them to the Exploritorium with them this Sunday morning but I had already made plans to go to Halkidiki so I had to decline. They are such great people. They are planning a trip to NY to visit some friends they have made from a previous group of ACT Americans. Since their crepe shop is a 3 minute walk from PAPAK & because they give us a student discount, and because they speak english, it's quite quite popular.

Mammy's held a "going away" party for the Americans & all 50 of us went over and feasted on delicious crepes. There's a picture below depicting the feast.

I got really close with Christina and Gregoraki, they became wonderful, wonderful friends of mine and cried the hardest saying goodbye to them. I miss them very, very much.

The amazing staff at Mammy's!

How was I EVER that tan?

the owners -- Aki & Christina -- oh how I love them

a giant tub of Merenda #typical

crepe ingredients

mammy's crepe party 

my schedule from greece

I just stumbled across this in some long-lost folder on my desktop. I think it gives an interesting look into just how busy every weekend is for a study abroad student.

Weekends in Greece

Feb 4-5 - Trip to Vergina/Castra Walls
Feb 11-12 - Relaxing weekend
Feb 18-19 - Ioanna and Meteoria
Feb 25-27 - ISTANBUL

March 2-4 - Shoo and Taylor and Andy Visit (arrive at 1:45 pm on the 2nd and leave at 15:10 aka 3:10 on Sunday) Archaeological museum visit
March 9-22=Documentary film festival
March 10-11 -  Trip to Portaria 
March 17-18 - Relaxing
March 24-25 - Jenna and Emily Visit & Dinner at Efi's on the 25th
March 30-1 - Trip to Athens and Delphi

Spring break - April 7-22 to Rome--> Amsterdam--> London--> Prague-->Budapest
April 28-29 - Halkidiki

May 2-6 - ISLAND TRIP! (Santorini & Mykonos) 
May 12-13 - Daphne's pool party
May 19-20 - Halkidiki with George & friends!
May 26-27 - Study for Finals 

June 4- Fly home!