Sunday, November 15, 2009

Athens is not even Athens

Since I have arrived in Athens, I have pretty much heard the refrain from day one- "Get out of Athens, Athens is not Greece". Apparently some people move to Athens expecting they are in the Greek Islands. Well, Athens is close to water, houses Greek antiquities, and some excellent people and food. It is also home to over 3 million people (the number changes depending on who you ask). All of Greece is estimated to be about the same size as New York state or Alabama (or England) with almost a third of the population in Athens, which land-wise, is not the most sprawling of cities, although compared to many other European capitals it is. So you have a lot of people in a fairly tight location with incredibly old streets (and sidewalks that may have been better not built) with a lot of passion and energy.

Then there's the need to be first. Whether in a car or getting onto the metro or on an escalator, there is the all consuming need to get there first. Don't even ask about getting off of a plane. It's kind of wild, the antithesis of "Minnesota nice". Whether there is a red light, two empty trains arriving right behind, or an older lady in the way... hurrying to be in the first position is the most important thing in the world. Get that seat, be able to speed off first, whatever, just get there first. In some ways it is incredibly honest, in others incredibly dangerous. But don't feel too sorry for the older lady, she is just as likely to shove you out of the way as the younger guy. This may sound like out and out criticism, but anyone who has driven with me knows there is an impulse of understanding in me. Not for the plane or train, however. Seriously, let people out first. It frees up seats.

I've spent nearly two months in Greece now. I've had a couple side trips to Rhodes:

And a half-ass attempt at Delphi:

But they closed the access to the Temple where the Oracle used to sit-- kind of crucial. The trips were fantastic. I'm even throwing in a couple of pictures, in case I don't do any in-depth posts on them. Beyond great.

But I've spent most of my time here, partially due to my car being held in port- that's a whole different story as well- but mostly because I don't want to fall in the trap of "Get out Athens, the rest is real Greece". I've never believed New York is not real America, nor Virginia, nor New Mexico... they're all just different facets. And Athens- with its crazy streets, posh coffee spots, hidden parks and squares, dirt, protests, museums, street vendors, immigrant neighborhoods, massive potholes, big boxy buildings, Olympic stadium, little kiosks, shoving people - is a big part of Greece.

Fashion shows, too:

I'll save getting out more for December and January. And the islands for friends and visitors... but Athens, too.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

234th Marine Corps Ball

What a lovely night and what a lucky girl I was... A fantastic mix of formality, tradition, and letting loose on the dance floor. The Marine Corps, whose birthday is coincidentally the same day as mine, does know how to throw a good party.

Getting ready was a bit of a challenge as my household effects (aka the majority of everything I own) are being held hostage amidst a port strike, so all of my finery is in crates within eye, but not arm's reach. The dress I ordered will likely arrive tomorrow and the two attempts to go shopping in rainy deluges did not bear much fruit. Although I will say, the Athens mall was a trip, getting to the Athens Mall without a car (oh, yeah, also stuck at port) was much more of a trip! But thanks to a few fairy godmothers, and a developing sense of humor, a dress was borrowed, hair and makeup were done including very Greek "smoky eyes", and much merriment was had. The electric slide was slid. And when my dress arrives, I am all set for 2010.