Greek Street Cred

Being aware of my surroundings is not exactly something that I excel at.  Sure I notice the Temple of Zeus when I pass it on my way home and the Panathenian Stadium is hard to miss.  I certainly seem to notice details, like the funny little trashcans at the acropolis in the shape of a pillar (my classmates think it is a coincidence).  But as far as street smarts go, I’m lacking. 

 However, in this very busy city, I am learning (whether I want to or not) to be more observant.  It comes as a necessity here in Athina when cars/mopeds/motorcycles/four-wheelers do not stop on a red light unless a pedestrian is crossing the street.  “Jan, I’m a little bit concerned about crossing streets.  Red lights seem to mean nothing here” one student said to Jan, Arcadia Center’s program director.  “Well, you just have to hurl yourself into traffic once the walking light is green.  If they don’t stop just give them a dirty look and they will.”  Or they might not; two students got hit by mopeds last year.

 Okay, note to self:  Glare both ways before crossing the street.  Today, as I tried to cross the street a moped was going full speed ahead towards me.  I put my new street cred into action and glared at him.  The moped stopped.  Hmmm, this new awareness of my surroundings thing is going well so far.

 Later on, my art class went to the new and very controversial Acropolis museum.  Well I was certainly observant there.  Everywhere that I looked there was something to see.  Up there was the reflection of the Acropolis.  Down, through the clear floors, there are newfound ruins that were discovered during the museum’s construction.  Left there was ancient Greek pottery; right there was the renowned (and cheap) Acropolis Museum Café. 

 I was so aware of my surroundings in fact, that I became unaware of myself.  Was I feeling O.K.?  Hmm, is it hot in here?  When can we sit down again?  Mayday Mayday, Jayna’s going to faint.  And I didn’t even realize it like I normally do.  Mind you, I generally am aware and choose to ignore it.  But this time I was unaware of my own very familiar symptoms.  Great.

 When my hearing started to go, I finally ended up mumbling, “vasalvagal…hypoglycemic” to my professor as I ran towards the nearest bathroom.  The museum guide was laughing at me.  I managed to get myself together and I ate a pear that I brought with me.  Of course that was all that it took for me to feel better. 

 When I rejoined my class my professor said, “ok? Now you present your statue.”  Cool.  I had to speak to the class about a statue that I had been observing. I don’t really know what I said seeing as I was just regaining consciousness.  All I know is that it could have been a lot worse.  What if I had fainted onto a statue (they are freestanding, no glass).

 A mortal fainting among the gods, how fitting.  And as long as I’m mortal, I better continue to build up my street cred.  But apparently, street smarts will only get you so far.  Self-awareness is also required to reach the finish line, and maybe, if you’re lucky, to Olympic gold.




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