Make It Happen

It’s been a while, so this blog will be pretty much a memory exercise for me. Let’s see if I’ve taken enough vitamin B12 to cover everything that I’ve done since my last post.

We took a half hour bus ride to Lamia last Saturday (where Achilles and Fotop are from… They’re pretty much the same person) and did some shopping/sightseeing. The next day was spent doing laundry and relaxing before we left for our “Spring Break” in Skiathos.

This five-day vacation was definitely up there in my top vacations ever. We went out to eat amazing food at nice restaurants and dive bars alike. Thankfully, Italian food is abundant in their eastern neighbor’s restaurants. From the first day, I found a place with the absolute best garlic cheese bread I have ever had. And the wings I had there were…

[Get a hold of yourself, Michael. This is not a blog about food.]

The whole group took up the entire hotel, located right across a two-lane road from the marina. My room looked out on an inlet of the Aegean Sea. From the moment I checked in, I had a good feeling about this place. I hadn’t even unpacked, but after eating I immediately headed for the beach and soaked up some rays. The first night, everyone traveled in a big group and went out to a nice restaurant to celebrate two people’s birthdays in the group. It was 100% gourmet, and totally covered by the cost of the trip!

After dinner we all went out. The first bar we found was apparently where all the Scandinavians on the island hung out. All the bartenders were women with blond hair and blue eyes. It was about eleven o’clock and only six other people were in the bar aside from our group. Someone decides to leave and everyone else followed. We regroup and try to figure out a place to go for the night, but motivating 30 people to go to the same place is a bit of a challenge. People got fed up waiting for the group, and some of us split up. Brandon and I find some cigars, but we need a light. We decide to ask the three Greek girls approaching us if they have a lighter, and sure enough they did. We stood and talked for a while. The usual conversations take place: where are you from, what are you doing tonight, etc when an apparently absent-minded Brandon exhales a huge cloud of smoke in one of the girls’ faces. Awkward moment. But they laugh it off and we begin walking and talking. They are going to a nightclub called Kahlua and it sounds like a good time, so we follow. On the way to the club, we passed our hotel, and a short five minutes later we had arrived at a strip of three clubs back-to-back-to-back. Turns out, our entire group had found Kahlua also and we had engulfed the back corner.

The next day, we go just outside of the hotel to find that our “breakfast” was really just coffee/tea, juice, bread, and coffee cake. Water was available on request. It didn’t bother me that much since I’m not big on breakfast, but it seemed a little deceptive. After eating, Brandon and I split a dune buggy and we explored the island for almost seven straight hours. We found hidden beaches at the end of some of the rockiest roads I have ever seen, explored a monastery, and got stuck in the sand at a nude beach only to have the buggy refuse to get in gear, and hear fat old naked men a short distance away laugh at us as our tires kicked up sand.

I’d reached a new low. Naked people were laughing at me, but it was damn funny.

Skiathos also entailed parasailing, sneaking on to the roof of the hotel at night, my first good steak in three weeks, many encounters with British people, a day trip sailing on a catamaran to beaches only accessible by boat, and souvenir hunting.

We got back Friday night and had a newly found appreciation for how awesome our hotel is. Dinner buffets, big rooms, a housekeeping staff of more than one person, and a pool were all huge perks of coming back to Kamena.

We toured a vineyard/winery the next morning, and I bought some vino to bring home to the folks. That night was the fourth, and we celebrated by lighting off a few M-80 like fireworks and going to the carnival just down the street from the hotel. They had bumper cars, carnival mini games, a mini coaster, etc. and I ended up spending 20 euro at this place but it was totally worth it.

Starting back up at school was rough, but I’m getting through it. Yesterday while lying by the pool, my friend Maddie said she wanted to go to Italy while she was here, and I told her that I had that in the back of my mind too. Before I knew how serious she was, she had a group of six people put together looking for a way to make it over to Italy. After five hours of planning and a few headaches, I’m headed for an impromptu weekend in Rome tomorrow morning!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oracular Spectacular

This past Saturday, the whole gaggle of us got up and at ‘em early for Delphi, ready to leave at 9am. According to Dr. Fotopoulos (our native Greek/WSU professor, hereafter “Fotop”) the bus ride would take no more than two hours. Cool. I bring a little food and my computer to keep me occupied while half of the group slept on the way. Fotop didn’t come with us, he had already seen it a few times and wanted to go visit his family in Lamia. About twenty minutes out of Kamena Vourla, we stop at the battleground where the now familiar story of “300” took place. Everything seemed to be going well until the bus suddenly came to a halt in front of a shady looking restaurant. Turns out, the bus driver was lost. Two things:

1. You’re a bus driver. Learn your way around. Better yet, find out how to get there before you pick us up.

2. WE’RE TRYING TO GET TO DELPHI! We’re not asking you to take us to a remote village whose name isn’t found on any highway street signs.

The drive to Delphi reminded me of the drive to Pullman after Vantage; all we drove by were farms, power lines, and dirt.

After a second stop to ask for directions, a horrifying three-point turn off a vertigo-worthy precipice, and three and a half hours of driving, we finally made it to Delphi. Our tour guide was very nice, but didn’t seem ecstatic about us being late. She started us off with a tour of the museum to the side of the base of the sanctuary, where they preserve some pretty neat-o artifacts from the formerly grand center of the Greek world. The tour guide explained the different periods in Greek art, and key characteristics of each one. We learned the myths and historical accountings of various pieces in the museum, until we finally reached the end of the museum to see the bronze statue of Apollo. There’s a picture of it on facebook, but that hardly does it justice. It’s just before the one with the outline of the four horses. The following picture that looks like a model is what the sanctuary of Apollo looked like once upon a time. There remains a theater at the base, the home of the Delphic Oracle located halfway up, and the Delphic Games (precursor to the Olympics) were held in a stadium all the way at the top. The picture that looks like a rock with horizontal etchings on it is a section of what we would now consider a bulletin board, all the important news of the time was written there. It was pretty much an inferno that day, so I didn’t take too many pictures aside from those places.

All of us on the way down eagerly awaited the air-conditioned bus, and hurried down as fast as possible. We hopped on the bus and realized we were starving; the bus driver took us to a restaurant off the road. Thankfully, it was not the one he stopped at for directions earlier. I was fairly excited about the fact that this was going to be my first real restaurant experience in Greece. It was nothing fancy, but still. I got the chicken, and wasn’t too impressed. For 9.50 euro I got a boneless chicken patty with moderately soggy fries. Somewhat of a bummer.

We made it back to the hotel in only 2.5 hours. I have come to the realization that Greek time is about the same, if not worse, than island time. We had a bit of time before dinner to relax a bit, and come dinnertime, I had completely forgotten about my mediocre experience at the restaurant. Saturday night dinners are not taken lightly at our hotel. They had gyros, pizza, AND ice cream served buffet style.

The next day was spent lounging around and, shocker, doing homework. A bunch of us ended the afternoon with a drink at the café on the beach across from our hotel called Isabella. Late at night, they bump techno and American pop music and it gets pretty crazy, but during the day it’s a nice place to sit and chill.

So as you might imagine, 30 American college students are capable of making a lot of noise. Our rooms were scattered throughout the hotel, and often before we go out, we all meet in someone’s hotel room first. Management informed Fotop on at least four occasions that they had received noise complaints that originated from people in rooms around us. One woman even opened her door at 10:30pm Saturday when we were all headed out, and yelled “IS THIS HOW YOU BEHAVE IN YOUR COUNTRY?” Yesterday, we finally got the hotel manager to agree to move us all to the same wing of the hotel. This was what we all thought would happen in the first place anyway, and it’s working out better for both parties (pun) so far.

Then there was last night. Greece and South Korea (where our teachers are from) had a World Cup game last night, and went to a bar down the street to watch it. On their menu, they call a pint “a big glass of beer.” Definitely accurate.

We have a test in MgtOp tomorrow and a group project in IBUS due this week, but after that comes a week of freedom in Skiathos!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The KV Shore

Okay, I’ve done so much in the last three days it’s ridiculous. I’ll give the Reader’s Digest version so I’m not here all night typing away.

We arrived at our hotel in Kamena Vourla, and I couldn’t believe how nice it was. There are two pools, a huge lobby w/ internet access, buffets for breakfast and dinner with amazing food, and the Agean Sea across a two lane road. On the same street as the hotel are an impressively large variety of cafes, bars, restaurants, and grocery/convenience stores. Less than an hour after arrival, everyone threw on their swimsuits and headed for the pool—I couldn’t believe this was where I would be for the better part of five weeks. It’s 90+ every day, with a nice breeze coming off of the coast.

Even during the night, it stays in the high 70’s. Speaking of nighttime, a bunch of us ventured out last night. A huge group of 20 loud American college kids just walking down the street in a small Greek town… we definitely turned a few heads. We eventually found a place to go have drinks, and one of the people in the program negotiated with the owner (like any good business major) and bought us all a round of drinks at half price. We headed home in the wee hours of the morning, and well, let’s just say some people didn’t do so well in class the next morning.

Classes here aren’t too bad. A 2.5 hour block is reserved for each class, but they usually don’t take anywhere near that long. That being said, it’s REALLY hard to take time out of my “busy” day to study.

People who have seen my twitter account will chuckle at this one, because I seem to always tweet about food. But the food here has been incredible. Honey balls (http://www.bellalimento.com/2009/12/27/struffoli-honey-balls/) are all the rage at breakfast. The mere mention that I was blogging about them made everyone down in the lobby instantly turn to me and say “they’re sooo good” with a droned tone. Pretty sure a few of them were foaming at the mouth. Lunch isn’t buffet style, but they serve four courses (including dessert) that I have yet to fully finish. Dinners are 100% gourmet. Some of the things served so far are: veal, rabbit, seafood fettuccini, crepes, and catfish filet, chocolate mousse, and lots of starches. The first night, the waitresses commented to our faculty advisor that we didn’t eat much as a group, so now I’m on a bit of a vendetta to prove them wrong.

I’ve been trying to be on Facebook and Skype during times that people are usually online (late morning or early evening) and I’ve only chatted with a few people on Facebook and Skyped with Kailyn. She’s kind of a big deal on wordpress, for those of you that don’t know. She told me she liked reading my posts. It’s whatever! 😛 Okay people I know it’s ten hours later over here, but even when I account for it, no one seems to be on!

I’m getting pumped for this weekend. Friday we have no class and no activities planned, so it’s pretty much going to be our first free-for-all. Saturday is our daytrip to Delphi, the place thought to be the center of the world by ancient Greeks, and also was the home of the Delphic Oracle and Temple of Apollo. Should make for some pretty cool sightseeing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

One for the History Books

Not too long after I finished skyping my cousin (shout out to you, Meghann!) everyone arrived back at the hotel we stayed at in Athens (for those of you who are curious, the link to our hotel’s website is http://www.museumhotel.gr/) and decided to go to lunch. I hadn’t unpacked a thing, but my affinity for food often domineers such logical thoughts. Clearly, enjoying my first gyro in Athens was a bit more important than anything else. Of course, it was the best gyro I’ve ever had, and it only cost two euro. From there, the group split and I headed with a couple of people to go see the Acropolis.

Because everyone had already seen it on a tour earlier that day, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to see it due to my “tardiness.” Along the way, our group decided to stop in the Hard Rock Café and have a drink and watch the world cup. I ordered a captain and coke and when the drink arrived, it’s fair to say that, going by volume, the “captain” certainly belonged before the “coke” in the drink’s name. We finished our drinks and headed out the door to meander around. After getting lost several times on the nonsensical streets of downtown Athens, a souvenir stop, and some gelato, I had found it. I was actually looking at the Acropolis.

Mind = blown.

I showed the man at the ticket counter my International Student ID and he gave me a pass for six euro (12 was normal price). There were for-hire tour guides attempting to make their pitch, but I decided to fly solo. My fascination with actually seeing some of the things that had only existed in my world in the form of a history textbook forced me to sit down and take frequent breaks in the shade… okay it might have also had a bit to do with the defeating mid-day heat of summer. Either way, I didn’t mind. With the city of Athens sprawled out below me as well as the Parthenon beside me, my surroundings offered plenty to look at.

After an hour and a half of exploration, I met back up with the group and begin to head back. On our way, we stumbled on one of those cliché European side streets paved with cobblestone. It was full of restaurants and gift shops, but we were too exhausted to look around very much. I barely had time to shower at the hotel before dinnertime rolled around. A bunch of us went out for pizza then hung out in a plaza nearby. A couple of people from our group played basketball against locals, who kept yelling in Greek. The only thing they said in English the entire time was “f*ck me!” when a play didn’t go their way. I really hope that sounds as funny to you as it actually was.

At about 7:30 local time, I decided to head back to the hotel. I had barely slept in three days. If I was going to do anything that night, I needed a nap first. I woke up to find out that two hours had gone by and I didn’t know where anyone was. My legs were still begging me to stay off of them after my six-and-a-half hour excursion earlier that day, so I just took out my contacts and went back to bed. I woke up at 1:30 AM to find that my roommate was also wide-awake. We both decided to make use of the time and busted out our computers, responded to emails, etc. Morning came, and we were headed off to Kamena Vourla. (Again, if you’re curious, the link to our hotel is http://www.mitsishotels.com/kamena-vourla_28.htm)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Settled

Finally in my hotel in Athens. After a long and hectic adventure, I sit here with MTV Greece in the background while I try to hash out the last 24 hours…

So I was supposed to arrive in Athens yesterday afternoon, on the flight that just about everyone in the program was scheduled to be on. 12:55 pm scheduled departure from Seatac, an hour layover in Amsterdam, then finally it arrived in Athens at about 1:30 pm local time. My parents had decided to take me out to a farewell meal at Shari’s at 10 am before the flight. Sounded good to me. Don’t get me wrong, my eggs benny was tasty, but not worth the headache that ensued.

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a planner. I don’t typically do things on a whim, and I hate being late, no matter what my excuse may be. There are exceptions, but my first transatlantic flight hardly fits that bill.

Anyway, somehow my parents and I lose track of time at Shari’s, but I’m not freaking out because I’m still an hour early to the airport. I figure I’ll kind of be rushed, but I can still make it. The lines weren’t bad, and I’m not exactly a novice jet-setter. I go to check in at Delta, and their computer doesn’t know who I am. Apparently 8239752983 other people were in the same boat, because their customer service line was enough to wrap around the Great Wall of China. An assistant approaches me, and as soon as I mention the word Amsterdam she says “Sir, you have missed your flight. We close all international flights an hour prior to departure. Stay in line so we can rebook you.” I didn’t even know how to react at first. Then like a wave, it hit me. I was pissed.

I called my dad, and told him what happened. My mom insists that they come back in to the airport, in spite of me going all passive aggressive on them and telling them to let me deal with it. My parents show up, still convinced I can make my flight to Amsterdam if I just leave my checked baggage behind for another plane to take. That might have worked, if I had thought of it right when I got in the door.

But I didn’t. So we wait in line and finally get to talk to someone. We’re ready to bust out a hefty chunk of change to rebook my ticket, when we’re suddenly passed on to a man with a shaved head whose red suit jacket stood out amongst a sea of navy blue clad assistants. His name tag identified him as Bruce P.

Bruce worked his magic and booked me a flight from Seatac to JFK, then a transfer at JFK to Athens… at no additional charge. The flight to JFK left Seattle at 6:35, which meant an early morning for me, but I didn’t care. I was happy to know that I was still leaving. Plus, I squeezed in a family visit AND a Dick’s burger during my additional time home. Win.

I show up to check in for my flight the next day, and there’s Bruce, waiting to escort me to the front of the Delta VIP security checkpoint. I literally bypassed hundreds of people waiting in the normal line, during what Bruce told me was the busiest time of day at Seatac. I arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare. One glance at my boarding passes, and I realized Bruce booked me aisle seats in exit rows for both flights. I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I immediately went to the Delta Airlines website and typed up a comment card thanking him.

My flight to JFK was smooth. When I first sat down, the guy next to me started chatting, and he tells me he lost 100 lbs. I congratulate him, but he acknowledges that he still has a little bit more to go, and he has to ask for a seat belt extension. To his dismay, the flight attendant tells him that the FAA doesn’t allow anyone who needs a seat belt extension to be seated in an exit row. So I had an empty seat next to me for that flight. But that didn’t stop the lady in the window seat from talking to me. She was from Alaska, but currently split time between Seattle and NYC. A self-described libertarian with a degree in Architecture from UW and an MBA from Harvard… clearly there was good conversation to be had. I won’t bore you with details, but she gave me great ideas for my paper on the Greek economic crisis.

My flight to Athens was soooooo loooooong. 9.5 hours to be exact, and the melatonin I took didn’t help me sleep at all. I was too excited, so I watched movies instead. When I landed, I picked up my bag and got a cabby who didn’t speak a lick of English. He got me to the hotel, and I went up to my room expecting to see my roommate, but they had left for a tour of the Acropolis. As such, this post seemed like a great time killer. I promise to start writing about actual things I’ve done and places I’ve seen, this is just a story that I really don’t want to recount too many times–I’d rather block it out of my memory.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments