Mass Riots

Athens and much of Greece has erupted into mass violence in response to a police man shooting a 16 year old kid a few nights ago. To us Americans, this is a very strange reaction. I can't really explain it to you other than murder is rare in Greece, so when a police kills a child, the reaction is huge. Also, ever since the military dictatorship back in the 70's, Greeks hate the police and government. The anarchist and communist movements in this country have taken this oppurtunity to escalate violence way above the normal. Downtown is ruined. Shops are broken into, buildings and cars burned, tear gas hangs in the air, fire bombs, loud explosions, helicopters in the air, etc etc. I was caught in a large demonstration the other day, but I managed to get away safely.

There isn't much more for me to say, other than I am completely safe in my apartment and in my neighborhood. Check CNN and BBC for photos, since I am not leaving my apartment. Again, I am safe and fine!

For my Thanksgiving break, which was too short, I went to Rome. I had an amazing time there, though it was a very long weekend and incredibly tiring!

We left on Wednesday night around 8.30 PM. There was a strike at the airport earlier that day and many flights were canceled, but thankfully we lucked out! We took a cheap European airline called easyJet. You get what you pay for I guess because they were always late, sometimes up to an one or two hours, and they were very incompetent at their jobs. Plus no complimentary drinks or food! Not even water or peanuts! Total rip off! The seats are first come first serve so we got stuck to less than savory people numerous times, and the seats do not recline at all. All in all, I hate easyJet.

Anyway, we arrived in Milan that night only to find out it was incredibly cold! Athens was about 60 degrees when we left while Milan was probably around 20. It was a total shock to the system. Our layover was all night, and after a futile attempt to find food in the airport, we eventually found semi-comfortable couches next to the McDondalds and attempted to fall asleep. I really only got about 4 hours that night. Next morning we hopped back onto easyJet, once again late, and arrived in Rome.

Rome wasn't that cold, but we immediately started to walk around and sight-see. Really, there isn't much to say. We went to Trevi fountain, walked past Coliseum and the Forum, and eventually wandered back to our hotel. It was Thanksgiving so we decided to try and treat ourselves nice. We went to wine bar where we got some decent wine and some strange food. I had strips of buffalo meat while the girls had a strange lasagna. We decided from then on to go to cheap pizzerias or small restaurants instead of fancy stuff.

The next day we went on a tour of the Coliseum. Again, not much to say other than I was incredibly ecstatic to be there. However, it was rainy that day so we spent the rest of our time in the Vatican Museums. There is way too much stuff to see there! We were there all day and didn't even see half of it! Mummies, Greco-Roman pagan statues, Renaissance pieces, etc. It got very boring and repetitive after awhile and I only wanted to see the Sistine Chapel, which was at the end of the mass amounts passage ways. The Sistine Chapel was pretty, but not really my taste. It's a little weird, but I was glad to have seen it. The most famous part of it, with God touching Adam, is a very small painting, which surprised me. I figured it would be huge! Anyway, that night we wandered around the Spanish Steps and then went back to the hotel.

On the third day we went on a tour of the Palatine hill and the Forum. Actually, I never got to see the Forum because we woke up late and the girls didn't really care. I was a little irked, but whatever. But then they didn't even want to go to the catacombs with me! I opted to skip St. Paul's cathedral for the catacombs. I took a bus outside of the city and wandered around the Via Appia, of which I had learned about from Latin class in high school. I think I prefer traveling alone. I get to do what I want. The Via Appia was beautiful and the catacombs were very impressive! But I couldn't take any pictures of it. I was in a tour group of a few annoying old Americans who were very loud. That night we met back up with each other. The girls weren't able to get into St. Paul's because the line was massive, and they effectively did nothing. I made the better choice it seems.

On my fourth day I again went by myself. Nobody wanted to go to Pompeii with me!! It was a two hour train ride to Naples followed by a 30 minute metro ride, but I would do anything to get there! I got up at 5 AM and hoped on the first train to Naples. Napoli (Naples) is ugly. Very ugly. And full of dirty, shady people. I felt like I was going to get robbed or jumped at any second. I attempted to find a metro, but there were few signs and the people were not nice. An hour lated I found out that I didn't want to take the metro, I wanted to take some other train that I cannot spell for the life of me. The whole ordeal was incredibly frustrating, I would have thought there would be numerous signs for Pompeii, being that it is a huge tourist destination. But instead I found nothing. It was horrible, plus the metro sucked there anyway. But once I got to Pompeii I was care free once again. Pompeii is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. It was well worth the pain to get there! Full houses are still intact, the streets still have marks from the carriages, bodies are intact with their facial expression of horror, walls are still painted and mosaics are preserved! For once I didn't have to use my imagination when visiting an archaeological site! The city was massive too! I spent four hours walking around, attempting to do every one of the 70+ stops on the audio tour! I got most of them, but I began to get tired and it got late.

The next day we got back onto the crappy easyJet airplanes and arrived back in warm Athens. I enjoyed my trip to Rome very much, I just wish I would have had my friends with me. I didn't really know the girls I went with too well, and though they are great people, we didn't have as much fun as we could have had. Anyway, my pictures are on Facebook. I have given up on Flickr until I go back home because the internet here is just too slow.

Oh, and too make you all jealous, today (Dec. 3) I wore shorts and sandals out since it was well above 70 in Athens! I am not going to transition well back to Chicago weather!



I will be in Rome until Monday evening this weekend, and I am not bringing my computer. So no pictures, updates or any contact whatsoever! Once I get back I will try and put everything up, but I will be even more busy with school next week.

I hope your all happy in your freezing weather. Today was a nice cool 70 and yesterday was around 65. Last weekend was the coldest it has been in awhile, around 50. Brr! I think my tan is starting to come back.

OK, so I haven't posted in a very long time. But I have been very busy with school lately. Suddenly, all my professors decided to give midterms when it was way past the actual middle of the semester. This on top of papers, projects and other things that suddenly piled onto my desk. But anyway, I will attempt to recap my past... three weeks is it?

After bungee jumping, I volunteered at the Hilton here in Athens for the Democrats Abroad who were throwing an election party a.k.a. victory party, but that was only after Obama won. It was incredibly disorganize as many Greek events are. Most of the people there were Greek-Americans so they could speak perfect English, which threw me off a bit. Anyway, one of the coordinators came up to me and told me to sell T-Shirts with Obama's logo on them. He then handed me a bag of four shirts and basically left me on my own. I had to fight and argue with so many people till I could get the rest of the shirts. Nobody wanted to take any responsibility and would have much rather sat, ate and drank. Anyway, I eventually got the shirts, set up shop on a random table, and sold all the shirts within an hour. A lady decided to sell her stuff next to me and after a short conversation I found out she was also from Chicago. However, she hated it and had lived in Spata (not Sparta. It is close to Athens) for almost 30 years.

Anyway, it was a fun, however exhausting, party. I met some very cool (and important) people but it did not provide me with the networking I had hoped for. I was a small-time volunteer pushed to the back. Ugh. Whatever. All of the volunteers from my school left around 2AM because we could not stay awake any longer.

After the Hilton, the biggest thing that happened was my trip to Barcelona. I was planning on going with a friend here from school, however she got incredibly sick and had to drop out. I refused to not go since I had already paid for everything. I sucked up my fears of going somewhere alone and got on the plane. Good thing too cause I had the time of my life! When I got there, I managed to find my way into town and straight to my hostel. I am just that good! But that night I decided to stay in and socialized with people at the hostel. It was a very nice one. It had satellite cable, movies and free internet. The people were pretty cool too. A few Americans, Aussies, Brits, Brazilians and an Argentinean. We sat talking for a few hours while watching "You've Got Mail," in Spanish. Very few of us knew Spanish, but it looks like a horrible movie.

The next two days I did everything. I went to most of the sights I could and walked from the morning until sunset. I had a terrible cramp in my shin for a full week after this. Barcelona is very beautiful. Full of gothic buildings, small, winding streets and massive churches. And Gaudi, a famous architect, made his signature mark in Barcelona. His designs are almost are strange and almost crazy! But it was very cool nonetheless to see. The metro in Barcelona is so amazing as well. Ten times better than Athens simply because Athens' metro has three lines. Better than Chicago too since it's newer and more efficient. I tried tapas for the first time, but got incredibly ripped off. Of course I have to choose the most expensive tapas bar in one of the most expensive cities in Europe! Eating was slightly lonely, but I sucked it up. I went to McDonalds a lot since I wanted to save money and not look stupid eating alone. Spanish McDonalds is absolutely amazing. It tasted so fresh and meaty! I fell in love with it. My favorite expierence of Barcelona was the evening of my second night. I sat on top of the steps to the gigantic Mueseum of Art, overlooking the entire city while a man played a guitar. It was so relaxing and beautiful. I really love Barcelona! My pictures are not yet loaded onto Flickr, but they are on Facebook, if you have one.

Nothing important happened for a week after that. School, school and more school. But the next weekend I went to a bazoukia with some friends. They had met some guys who knew someone and got us in for relatively cheap. 25 euros per person is not bad. A bazoukia is a night-long party where they play traditional Greek music and most everyone dances. We were some of the youngest people there. However, we did not go to a traditional. At first, it was kind of like a circus with rock music. Dancers, acrobatics, side-shows, all to popular American music. We were beginning to worry after an hour until the main show began. That night, a famous singer was there named Antonio Remos. He sang forever, but was pretty good. I'm not a fan of Greek music, but he was decent. Then, after a long, long time, the real bazoukia began. Everyone rushed to the stage (including me) and we danced like only Greeks know how to. The night wore on and before we knew it, it was 4AM. Even though we were the youngest, we were also some of the first to leave. Greeks are truly out of their minds!

Skip forward past my midterm exams which weren't really midterms, to November 17th. Remember that day I told you about in previous posts? Well, it had finally come and we all prepared to go. Really, it wasn't that exciting. It was poring rain, but regardless the march was incredibly large. There were so many people, ranging from young to old, and many many communists. I think the United States is one of the few countries without a Communist Party. Anyway, nothing exciting happened. No tear gas or Molotov cocktails. Many people came expecting trouble. They brought large sticks and their motorcycle helmets, marching arm-in-arm, and there was a huge police presence, but it still no fighting. My professors said it may have to do with the rain and Obama's win in the elections. Obama had a huge impact here in Europe. Many people on the radio and newspapers keep talking about whether or not Europe can overcome its racism and elect an ethnic minority to office. Many look the Obama as inspiration for their future and I was told more than once that I should be proud to be American today. It was pretty inspiring to see people look up to the United States for once. However, I think they are going to be very disappointed. They see Obama as a demi-god, an expectation that very few people can live up to. They think he is going to end both wars by the end of the year and many other strange things. We will see.

Anyway, those were the highlights of my past few weeks. I feel that I am finally at peace with my surroundings in Athens. I love this city so much, and with more time, it could become my home. I don't want to leave, but I really miss the holidays, snow and home. Everyday, Greek starts to make more sense to me and I grasp another small concept or phrase. It sucks that I only have four more weeks left, because given more time I could speak pretty fluently. But oh well. UIC won't give me credit for my Greek class here anyway.

So, I promise to blog much more often. I have been too lazy.



This was my weekend!


Οχι Day

Today was a national holiday in Greece called "Οχι Day" (said Oh-hee with a rough 'H' in the back of your throat.) Literally translated, Οχι means No. Greeks are a little strange, let me explain.

Today marks the beginning of Greece's involvement in WWII. The legend goes that early in the morning on October 28 (I forget what year), the Italian ambassador gave an ultimatum to the dictator in Greece. Either let Italy occupy Greece, or face war. The Greek dictator responded with a simple, "Οχι." When Italians invaded that same day from Albania, they were slowly driven back by the Greeks. The Greeks haven't won many wars, so this is an occasion to celebrate! Of course, the Nazis soon invaded and quickly defeated Greece, leading to a long, devastating occupation which later led to a even worse civil war. Needless to say, the Greeks do not celebrate the end of WWII.

Anyway, everything was closed today with the exception of the OK Market (a mini-supermarket in the plateia) and all the tavernas and restaurants. We also had been told by our teachers that there was a military parade in Syntagma Square. So, the few of us that were here decided to head over and watch it! After waiting around for two hours, a mass of black, important looking cars started to drop people off in front of the Parliament. Eventually, the Patriarch or Arch-Bishop of Greece came out as well as the Prime Minister. They stood around, talking to each other forever, then listened to the national anthem, gave their respects to the dead, etc. It took forever, and a lady fainted from the heat in front of me during this time. Then a marching band came, played, and my disappointment began. There were only school children in the parade. Lots and lots of kids ranging from elementary to high school. No tanks, no army, no jets, no cannons. After an hour of school children, the parade was over and everyone left. It was horrible.

Anyway, we had school off ever since last Thursday. Everyone went traveling to different places such as Italy, Sweden, Crete and Egypt, but I stayed since I am already traveling later next month. Oh, and by the way, I am going to Barcelona and Rome, not Berlin. Tickets were cheaper and someone wanted to come with me. Anyway, my weekend was very relaxing and boring at the same time. My roommate, Aleata, was still here, so we hung out once in awhile. But mainly, I was on my own, wandering the city or sleeping in very late. I started to work out I was so bored! There is a track above the Olympic Stadium that is open to everyone, so yesterday I ran a mile and then did basic push-ups, sit-ups, etc. I have never done so many before though. Anyway, thats not important.

This week, I only have one day of classes again. But tomorrow I am going to volunteer at the dog shelter again. I went last week, and it was smelly and nasty. But I enjoyed walking the dogs even though I got poop on me and got bit by a crazy pit bull. Oliver and Carmela were both very good pit bulls, but I forgot how strong they are even when they are well-intentioned. Anyway, next Sunday I will be volunteering at a football game for the Olympikos. Greeks take their football VERY seriously, just as much as the British do. And then next Tuesday I am volunteering for the US Embassy at the party they are holding at the Hilton. I get in for cheap plus I get to meet important people! I feel good about the chances I have been getting to volunteer. It integrates me into this society a little better than the normal tourist. The NGO for Refugees hasn't been working out. They are incredibly disorganized plus the children I would be playing with don't even know Greek let alone English. But I still hope it works out. It would be a lot of fun.

I heard it started to flurry back home! I wish I could have been there. I miss everyone and everything so much! But, I know it isn't going anywhere, so I will enjoy my time here! Hope everyone is doing well! Γεια σας!

DSCF1414, originally uploaded by michael.wood.88.

This is probably the most explicit statement against Americans I have seen so far, but more exist. Actually graffiti is a huge thing. It is everywhere! It is kind of strange to see how people don't care about it. Some of it is really good too! Anyway, this gives another perspective about some Greek's view of the US.