Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day 30

Thursday morning I went and picked up my security deposit from the school, and then headed downtown with Siggy for our "Tourist Day." We decided to devote the day to being tourists, starting by riding the sightseeing bus around Thessaloniki and ending with souvenir shopping down by the White Tower. Later, I went shopping for a birthday outfit to wear out that night to the W with Rachel and Anastasia. We spent 5 hours downtown, and I left with two dresses, a belt, and a headband. When we got back I started getting ready for the night, and helped curl a couple other girl's hair. We went to the W and had a great time. We didn't leave until 5:30 am, which seemed strange because it did not feel like 5 1/2 hours passed by.

When we got back, Casey and I decided to go get food at the 24 hour food store that is about 20 minutes away. We made it about halfway there when Casey (the one who actually wanted to go get food) decided she didn't want to walk anymore, so we gave up the hunt for food and just went home. 

Day 27-29

This week was exam week, so we really didn't do anything exciting. Monday was review for both classes. Tuesday I went to the Archaeological Museum for my art history class, which was really exciting. I saw many pieces we discussed in class, and having prior knowledge of the creation and importance made this opportunity all the more exciting. Wednesday we had our exams and after those I was both exhausted from cramming and excited to be done. We went out to celebrate that night at Pulp, the coolest little bar we went to during the semester. 

Day 26: Canyoning

This was the worst experience of my life followed by the best day I could ever imagine. I went canyoning on Mt. Olympus with a group of 14 other students from the program and the two guides. Entering the canyon and repelling, jumping and sliding our way down sounds amazing right? The decision to go was a no brainer.. and then I get there and realize that I have to climb part way up the mountain in order to do the fun parts of the trip. Why I ever thought I could handle climbing a mountain I will never know. Somehow, I made it to the mouth of the, I will never quite know. Then I struggled into a wet suit and roughly 20 minutes later I was all set to go. 

We followed the river all the way down, sliding and swimming when necessary. The first segment of the trip was walking over slippery rocks, trying to keep ourselves from falling over and over again. We quickly established a no judgement zone encompassing the entire mountain because it was obvious from the start that this would be an embarrassing day. 

The first obstacle we came to was a 20 repel. They told us this would be the most challenging repel that we would face because it was very uneven and there really wasn't much of a path. I was freaking out while waiting for the people in front of me to go. I cannot fall backwards onto my bed, let alone suspend myself in the falling position as I climb down a cliff. When it was finally my turn I realized my fear had subsided and I was more excited than anything. As I started repelling, I realized I actually enjoyed it rather than fearing it. I guess it was because my hand was behind my back holding me suspended where I was, so I was in control. 

The second obstacle was a 15 foot jump. The area we were jumping into was kind of narrow, so they gave us strict instructions on how to jump and what not to do. Really it was common sense: jump into the center and keep your arms close to your body so you didn't smack the walls. This jump, being the first, took everyone a little more time. Everyone stood and prepared themselves before jumping. Everyone, that is, until my turn. I climbed up on the rock, listened to the instructions, and then went for it. When I came up everyone was staring at me and cheering about how I was a champ for not even hesitating. Everyone's stories about that day included my fearlessness. 

The next obstacle you could either jump off a 30 foot waterfall, or slide off the natural water slide. I knew there were only two water slides, so I opted to slide since I knew I would have another chance to jump. When our guide asked who was first my hand shot up just as everyone else pointed at me. I was so excited, I couldn't even wait. I went as soon as he said I could and it was an amazing thrill. The slide was short and steep, and then you just dropped off and fell about 25 feet. It was a bit of a shock because I was expecting more of a slide but was so much fun anyways! 

Later on we had a choice between an easier repel down a rock cliff-side or to repel straight down the waterfall. The guide said the waterfall path would be more difficult because the waterfall was slippery and would beat us up a bit. Hearing this I made the only rational decision there was... I went down the waterfall. At first I was doing good, and was doubting what the guides had warned. About halfway down I experienced exactly what they meant. I hit a slippery spot and lost my footing. My natural reaction was to grab onto the rocks, but then I realized I wasn't holding on to the rope that was keeping me from falling another 30-40 feet, and quickly grabbed back before I fell completely. I couldn't get my footing, so I slid down until I was able to stand back up and repel correctly the rest of the way down. 

After this I jumped and repelled multiple times, and climbed my way back to the bottom of the canyon. It was such an amazing day, I still have a hard time believing it actually happened. 

Day 24-25

So Friday and Saturday really weren't that special. I spent these days writing a paper for my art history class.  I decided to do it on facial reconstruction using ancient art as a reference for superficial characteristics. Unfortunately I missed the Sani Jazz Festival, which I was told was absolutely amazing. I wish I would have been there, but all I could do was blame myself for procrastinating. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Days 23-27

So here is another week post. I swear I am not getting lazy, I just haven't had a lot going on outside of class because of the quizzes, tests, and papers. Monday I had an exam and Thursday I had a quiz, so I spent the week studying and doing homework.

Wednesday night I went out to celebrate the last night for one of the girls in the program. Chloe messed up her foot and had to go home early, so we went out to dinner. We took the bus downtown with Tanya (my RA), got off and practically had a city tour in order to get to this place. And not the pretty, center of town... No we took a tour of what in the US would be considered the sketchy streets you wouldn't go do in the daytime, let alone at night in the dark. But, being in a city that hasn't had a mugging or murder in the past 10 years, it is completely normal for people to walk these janky backstreets. It was so hot out (97 degrees) that by the time we finally made it to our destination, no one really marveled at the hidden treasure we had entered. We walked down side streets and back alleys for what seemed like at minimum 20 minutes and emerged in a large circular opening lined with different taverns and the entire center filled with tables for the customers from all of the taverns to mingle. It was an amazing sight, but as I stated before, it was so hot, none of us really admired it for how unique and intriguing it was.

Thursday reached a temperature of 102, and with the humidity and other factors, the heat index was almost 120. Right after school I went to the mall to enjoy some air conditioning, food, bowling, and we finished the night off with seeing Spiderman. Siggy found it amusing and ironic that Spiderman is one of my favorite superheros even though I am terrified of spiders. The theater was packed, and everyone talked through the entire movie. I was so irritated by this rude behavior in a theater until I realized the five of us were the only ones who had to actually listen to the movie. It was in English with Greek subtitles, so the rest of the theater already had to read the screen, so why should they be quiet? Once I realized that it was entertaining to listen to them. They would yell out random English phrases, and cheered during scenes that would bring a tear to the eye of most Americans. It was such a culture shock, but made the whole experience memorable.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 21 & 22 Chalkidiki

So Thursday night we went for Italian food which was amazing!! After that we just hung out at Alex's beach house playing this game that gets super confusing really quick, but was a lot of fun.

Friday we got up around noon and went to the beach for the day. Instead of packing up and just going to an open beach like I am used to, in Greece you go to a beach bar where they have umbrellas and chairs all set up and you buy a drink to get a chair. You can buy the cheapest drink they have and the chair is yours for the whole day. And with your drink (I got a Frape which is like a cold coffee but much more scrumptious) they bring you a water, and snacks. They gave us fruits, including kiwi which is my favorite. The water was great but you had to get past the rocky shallow water area to get to the soft sand. I spent the whole day laying out reading and swimming when I started to get to hot. I ate a gyro, or half a gyro to be more accurate.

Around midnight we went out to a bar for about an hour or so, then headed to Club Pearl. Pearl was by far the coolest club I have ever been to. The ceiling opened in the center so it was an open air club, but would close every once in a while for a laser light show that accompanied the music. It was amazing to watch, although slightly dizzying with all the flashing and darting of the lights and lasers.

Saturday we got up around one, which seems late except we didn't get home until 5 and didn't go to bed until after 6. Alex and Gogos (Guys from the program that take us out to experience the city and nightlife) took Heather and I to a seafood restaurant to try some new foods. I ate (and actually enjoyed) calamari, mussels, and octopus. It was the strangest meal I have ever had full of the most unusual textures I have ever tasted, but it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed every minute of it, and I cannot wait for my next food adventure.

Days 17-20

Okay so I wasn't being lazy, I just didn't have anything to talk about. I had an exam on Monday in Art History and an exam on Wednesday in Greek so I spent Sunday through Tuesday studying like crazy. Wednesday (4th of July) we celebrated by going to a Mexican restaurant, El Burrito, then onto a Reggae boat ride where we played with sparklers, which we were all excited for until we realized they lost their appeal back when we were 10.

Thursday we left for Chalkidiki for the weekend. We crammed four of us into Alex's car and drove for an hour to his beach house. Not fun.. but the beach was worth it. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Days 14-16: Trip to Corfu!!!

Day 14: Travelling to Corfu

So most of Friday was spent in the bus on the way to Corfu. After 3.5 hours on the bus, we boarded a ferry that would take us to the island. And by boarding the ferry, I don't mean getting out of the bus and walking on like normal. Oh no, our bus driver drove us straight onto the boat. Even for the cargo ferries, this is not usual. It was both terrifying and exciting at the same moment. The food on the ferry was really expensive, and the sub I got was stale and gross...won't make that mistake again.

So we get to the hotel, which looked pretty sketchy from the outside. The Corfu Holiday Palace is the definition of "don't judge a book by its cover." It was a really nice establishment. We were assigned a bungalow, which scared me to death. A bungalow? I was picturing a tiny wooden shack with a thatched roof that leaked even when there was no rain. Boy was I wrong. Way wrong. It was gorgeous. There was an upstairs and a downstairs, both floors had a full walk in closet and bathroom with a large tub that my mom would kill for. I stayed on the top floor and had a king size bed to myself, and an air conditioner that made my room so cold I could barely get out of bed I was so cold. It was amazing.

After settling in I went swimming in the Ionian Sea. Our hotel had an elevator type thing that would take you down the drop off to the beach. There was a jetty a ways out and a platform that jutted out into the water that we jumped off of to get in. We decided to jump off the rocks in the jetty for fun. We kept egging the others to jump and drew attention from the    Europeans who were enjoying the beach at a much lower decibel than we were.

At 9 pm we went downtown to explore and shop. Casey decided we (yes, we not just her) were going to get a fish spa treatment done. For those of you wondering what that is, we willingly stick our feet into a take of minnows and willingly let them eat us alive. Okay, a bit on the dramatic side, but seriously, they "nibble" at your feet and eat the dead skin. It is also supposedly good for circulation and other health related things. Anywhoo.. I allowed fish to eat me. It was horrible. If you know me you know I don't like fish, and I don't like anything touching my feet. Guess what I did... put the two concepts I don't like together! Why did I think that was a good idea? Oh yeah, I didn't. I just allowed myself to be roped in. Never again.

Day 15

Saturday we went to the Achilles Castle, home of Elisabeth, Empress of Hungary. The castle was beautiful, and I am sure I would enjoy it if it wasn't so unbearably hot. Elisabeth was very interested in Greek mythology, so her house was decorated with many traditional and mythological pieces from the Greek culture she was immersed in.

The streets coming down from the castle were terrifying. Most Americans couldn't tackle these tight U's in the road in small cars, let alone a tour bus like we were in. Our bus driver was a champ. He navigated the smallest of roads and the tightest turns I have ever seen without breaking a sweat.

We went shopping downtown again, and this time I managed to buy almost all of my gifts to take home, along with a dress for myself. It was a great day. I also haggled with a cab driver for the first time!! I was so proud of myself. Although, he didn't put up much of a fight, but I still did it.

Day 16

Full day of travel.. such a long day.  That is all. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Day 12

There are a few very important things I have learned in class so far:
 1) Nobody likes Athens except Athenians. Everyone I have talked to talks about Athens as if they were      talking about something disgusting and unmentionable. According to the locals here in Thessaloniki that I have talked to, Athens believes itself to be better than other Greeks because of the rich history, just as the Ancient Athenians believed they were superior.
 2) Christianity ruined everything. Artifacts, buildings, ideas, practices, lifestyles. Bottom line, Christianity destroyed Greece.
 3) And lastly, Greeks really did start everything. Art, language, architecture... ask any Greek and they can tell you about its Greek origin. This isn't really impressive until you take courses that shows you proof of the Greek origin.

After school I went to the market to get a few groceries. I found what I needed which was really cool because I could read the containers, not that I understood them. I got in line after this older woman who was obviously on her own time clock. She had bought her groceries, and by the time I bought mine and the woman behind me bought hers, she still hadn't finished bagging. In Greece, you bag your own stuff at the register, and the counter is very small so you need to work fast so your stuff isn't in the way for the next person's food. (The cashier will continue with their order even if your stuff is still sitting there.) SO this woman didn't finish bagging until the woman after me paid, so I as stuck awkwardly between the two, waiting to have room to bag my groceries. Everyone was staring, which I am used to since I am quite obviously an American. Long story short,  awkward moment in the grocery store.

We went to Pulp again tonight. It was a lot of fun, and is definitely my favorite place to hang out. Tomorrow Kostos is taking me to get my phone. This should be interesting... I am riding the bus from school all the way downtown to meet him. He told me the stop to get off at, but from prior experience I have come to realize that Greeks do not give very detail instructions, which can make this confusing super quickly. Hopefully I make it!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day 11

This morning we decided to get up super early to go to the open air market down the street from us. I ended up with 4 hours of sleep and we walked all the way down there to find out that "open at 7" doesn't mean the market is open at 7.. It means the vendors get there at 7 and are not ready to sell anything until after 7:30. Since I had to be back to get ready for class, I didn't actually get to shop, but it was really cool to see the set up. 

I am starting to understand the time table of Thessaloniki and am loosening up. I am so used to being punctual back in the States, so living in a city where time isn't much of a factor has been a huge challenge for me. The stores open and close as they please, and the city is dead from 3-5 pm everyday for siesta, or rest. At first this go with the flow vibe from the whole city was a turn off, but now I can't imagine life any other way. 

After school, Casey and I decided to catch the bus to Kentro, which is the center of downtown. Yesterday we were told the bus from school takes us to the stop in the center that we already know, but just like the rest of the luck I have had so far it did not. We ended up way past the center of town, and had to find our way back to the area we knew. We were hungry, so along the way we were also trying to find food. Of course the one time we are looking for food we cannot find anywhere to a city known for its food. Finally we found Goody's, which is Greek's version of "American fast food." It was really funny.. they had an American style Greek Gyro, which everyone seemed to be eating. It seems absurd that being within walking distance of multiple Gyro places at all times in the city anyone would choose to eat the poorly made gyro we eat in the states. Safe to say I will never eat at Goody's again. I am surrounded by the best food I have ever tried..There is no way I will waste another meal on American food. 

After walking a while, we finally figured out where we were and made it to the main pedestrian walk downtown. Right in the middle of the town there is a huge walkway lined with little stores and eateries. Everywhere you look there are ruins of old temples and castles, and beautifully built byzantine churches that are still in use or have been converted into museums. It is such a change from the cities we have back home.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day 10

So today was pretty normal... went to school, got off on the wrong bus and ended up at a different bus depot than last time, and then ended up downtown from 8 until 1:30. I tried Greek Pitza (Pizza) which was so much better than what is served in the US. 

After dinner we went to a small bar called Pulp Bar. Casey and I decided to try Ouzo. Bad life decision. It was horrible.

 But our new friend Konstos helped us find a different drink we would like better. I ended up with a Strongbow Cider, and our entire group had a shot called a little cappuccino. It was a great night!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Day 9

IT RAINED!!! It hasn't rained here in three months, so this is actually pretty great news. Today was pretty chill, but we went to the movies. I have decided that next time I want to go to the movies I might as well just fly here to see it. It would probably be cheaper than going to my local theater. For the price of one ticket back home I paid for my taxi fare, movie ticket, a small popcorn that rivals the large bucket back home and a pop. Crazy.

I decided (just now, about midnight here) to do some laundry. The washing machine here looks like the little toy washing machine I had as a kid as part of my play house. So to save time and money, I decided to try washing them the old fashion way in the sink. I now know why the washing machine was invented. I should probably clean up the puddle of water in my bathroom... 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Day 8

Today was freaking hot. We went to the beach and it was 97 degrees. I put on sunscreen 4 times and sat in the shade and I am still burnt. Not fun...but the beach was really nice.  

I cannot believe I am saying this, but I miss my frigid house. It is after midnight and it is 82 degrees in my room. Gross. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Day 7

Yeah, about day 6... Started off as a normal, almost boring day. Not real exciting until we went to the summer W, an open air bar on the outskirts of town. Casey (roommate) was turning 22 at midnight so we decided that we would party hard for it. Here in Greece drinking is a social experience that does not end in a hangover like it does in the US. But naturally, being American after a few drinks we decided to show the locals "how we do in America." Pretty sure no one asked to see how we socialize but at least they were able to laugh at how ridiculous we get. So I drank way too much, and ended up walking down the street with Casey to get hot dogs at 4 in the morning. By the way, if you are ever in Thessaloniki and just happen to want a hamburger at 4a.m. don't do it! Bad life choice right there.

I slept most of today, so not much to say. I went and watched the Germany vs. Greece soccer game which was so much fun. We lost, which was really disappointing, but it was an amazing experience. It seemed like everyone was down by the boardwalk watching the game in cafes. I actually enjoyed a televised soccer game! Great ending of the day. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 5: Funny Story Kind of Day

SO today was the first day of classes. This should be an adventure, right? Guess that the 12 greater gods decided that I needed some excitement for my day. So I went to my classes which were so much better than any course I have had in the US and my five hour break between classes was a bit dull, but with so many of us all chilling there it wasn't too bad. Now, ACT provides a free shuttle to campus in the morning, but getting back we are on our own. We have two choices: take a taxi (split four ways is less than 2 euro) or take the public bus (.90 euro, but you have to switch buses part way). Being the economist and adventurist I am, I decided taking the public bus would be a great way to save money and get to know the city. Bet you can see where this story is going... So my roommate and a girl named Disney (for reals, no joke) got on the bus and were talking to a gentleman who helped us figure out the stamping so we wouldn't get fined for having no clue what we were doing. We almost missed the stop to switch buses, but right before the door closed my roommate noticed and we got off. Close call, right? So then we are waiting for the next bus and I ask if we are supposed to cross the street to the other stop and they both agreed we didn't, and even though I was pretty sure we should cross, I decided to finally listen to my mom and pretend I didn't think I was right. Worst timing award goes to me for deciding to listen to her finally, since I was right this time and we rode the bus all the way to the bus depot since the bus driver didn't speak English. Luckily a different man at the depot spoke English and was very nice to us, telling us it happens all the time and we were not the first to do this. So we sat there for a few minutes waiting for the next bus to leave to take us home. An hour and a half later we finally get home. But wait, my day gets even better..

So then Casey (my roommate), Rachel (new friend) and I were hanging out playing cards and I was sitting on my bed. So background info, when I got here I realized my bed made a lot of noise when I sat on it, or laid on it, or shifted. Pretty much the slightest touch made so much noise that it can be heard outside of our room. Being surrounded by college students, it sounds kinky... yeah not really what I want to be known for. Anyways, I was sitting on it earlier playing cards and talking and all of a sudden, the bed broke and the mattress fell straight down into the frame. I screamed, then laughed cause it was freaking hilarious, and other students came to our door to see what the loud thunk was. Yeah, so I went from the kinky sounds at night girl to the girl who's bed broke...neither of which I would like associated to me. Oh well.. it ended with us yelling Opa! and drinking some terrible wine. Pretty sure I will never forget tonight. =]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 4

Today was our trip to Vergina, which is a small town about an hour and a half away that is home to the royal burials. The tombs are underneath this small hill, and I actually got to see the large, square structures that King Phillip II and other members of his family were buried. It was amazing to get to see the structure itself that held all the artifacts instead of walking through a normal museum that shows pictures of the archaeological site. After the tour we ate at this little restaurant and I still cannot believe how much food you get. The plates seemed like they just kept coming one after the next. It is sad to think that after today I will not be eating like that anymore since I will be on my own for food instead of the program taking us out everyday for the best of the best.

When we returned to Thessaloniki I went exploring, trying to find a store with a hair dryer and a straightener. It is much harder than I thought it would be. On top of that everyone was staring at me, which I actually didn't mind. I figure if they stare at me I can look at them and the awkwardness balances out. I decided to embrace the awkwardness and now I say "ya sas" (hello) to everyone who looks at me. I think I startled a few people because they didn't seem to expect me to address them in Greek. But most people seem to like when I greet them as they pass.

I also went to the supermarket and bought some groceries, which is difficult since I didn't know what half the stuff on the shelves were. But I bought a lot of stuff, which was pretty heavy and while I was standing, struggling to hold my basket this little old woman came up to me and very sweetly gestured for me to sit the basket on the ground while I wait in line. Yeah, I know... I felt pretty dumb having not realized that option for myself. Anyways, moral of that story is I want to adopt her as my pseudo yia yia because she was really nice and absolutely adorable.

Oh, and I also went outside with a couple girls to the orange tree across the road to see if we could get an orange off of it. Pretty sure the tree is there for decoration, not to pick fruit from but we were going to try since, you know... its dark out. No one will see us. Yeah, that was dumb. We stood there staring up into the tree at an orange way out of reach while people walked past and looked at us like we were crazy. Oh yeah, we are great at blending in.

Finally found a negative about Greece.. There are a lot of bugs. And I am getting eaten alive. Top of my 'To Buy' list: BUG SPRAY

Monday, June 18, 2012

Day 3

Today we had orientation, which sounds awful but was a lot of fun. The staff at the college is much more relaxed here than I used to. They took us out for dinner and we sat around drinking wine and I even learned a traditional Greek dance. After dinner (a 2 hour experience, not a just a meal) the group went to a bar nearby for drinks. It was a great night!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Day 2

Well the flight from Philadelphia to Munich didn't go as well as planned. We left an hour and a half after scheduled and had 20 minutes from the time our plane landed to the time our next one took off. Luckily we were able to get through customs and onto the plane in time. Soon after getting to the housing I went and experienced my first Greek meal, a chicken gyro. It was amazing! Later I went for a tour of the city with some of the other students, then branched off and went for a drink with a bunch of the girls. The waitress gave us each a free shot (probably because between the dozen of us we spent enough to cover it anyways). Then we went for a walk on the boardwalk and I bought loukoumades. Sooo delicious :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Day 1: Travel

I can't believe today is already here! So far everything is going fairly smoothly despite the delays. My first flight was in the tiniest plane I have ever been in and that was the sketchiest plane rides I have ever been on, but it was a fun adventure! Now I am about to board the largest plane I have ever been on for the next segment of my journey. Munich here I come!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

T Minus 18 days Until Departure!!

Well, only 18 days left until I fly halfway across the world to my new home for five weeks. Not going to lie, it has not been an easy trip so far. This program is new to Central, so I was essentially a guinea pig. I found out the hard way that there was a lot more to studying abroad than I had thought. But with determination (luckily I am a very stubborn person) I faced down each issue and came out on top with a little help from my wonderful parents. Now everything is set for me to go, and I have nothing left to do except worry about what I am supposed to take to wear... Something I will worry about until I arrive.

I just found out who my roommate is. So far she seems pretty normal and cool. Should be an amazing trip!! Now I have one last obstacle to overcome...waiting out the next two and a half weeks.

Monday, April 2, 2012

This summer I am studying abroad in Thessaloniki, experience that I still have to pinch myself to make sure I am awake to believe is really happening. I decided to blog about my experiences so I will always be able to look back and remember all the wonderful experience I have had. So I planned on starting a blog a week or so before going just so I would know what to do.. but why wait until then? Half the experience is what happens before I even leave the US. So here goes. The story of my summer abroad starts now: