Archive for October, 2009

Indiana TZEINA and The Temple of Corinth

October 25, 2009

Ancient Corinth.  Just another archaeological site?  Well according to my language professor Apostolos, “Corinth?  Eh there is nothing to see really.  Just some columns and ruins.  There is not much else to do there.  No nice town.  It’s okay.”

 Sounds worthwhile huh?  But I still went this past Friday with some other kids in my program-I’ll decide for myself if Corinth is “just ruins.”  The director of the Arcadia program here in Athens, Jan, is married to the director of excavations at Corinth.  So essentially, we would be getting a backstage tour of Corinth from her husband.  Sweet!

 And man did we get a behind-the-scenes look at Corinth, or rather a behind-the ropes look.  “Ok just step over these ropes guys,” Jan’s husband, Guy, told us.  Step over the ropes?  Go into the closed off area of the ruins?  Wasn’t that breaking the rules? 

 Guy is British and he often used the words “brilliant” and “rubbish” in his explanations, which only further held my attention.  Not to say that he was boring at all.  He took us behind ropes, over “closed” areas, and even encouraged us to touch everything.  It was pretty much as close to being Indiana Jones as I’ll ever get-especially in this economy. We walked all over the site, even crossing some “bridges”-or pieces of plywood that looked as ancient as the ruins underneath them.  At the end Guy brought us to an area where pottery and other artifacts where being reconstructed by the archaeologists.  Thousands of pieces of pottery covered tables set up outside overlooking the entire site. 

 “Go on, pick up anything you want.  Touch it,” Guy said.

 What?  I couldn’t even believe that he brought us that close to the artifacts in the first place (I felt like just breathing near them was damaging them somehow).  Now he is encouraging us to pick them up?  One of the excavators was reconstructing a vase as Guy was speaking.  He had all of these little important looking tools near him, but the one that he was using at that moment was a toothbrush-Colgate brand to be specific.  As I watched him, he seemed to favor the toothbrush over all of the other fancy little brushes.  Talk about tartar control.  If that toothbrush can get ancient earth off pottery, it must be able to handle anything. 

 The most interesting thing that Guy said was about our potential futures in graduate research.  He is overseeing five graduate students at Corinth right now, all of whom are up for Ph.d s. 

 “You have to just throw away the books.  That is what I tell my students.”  

“I told them not to read anything that anyone else has written about Corinth.  But instead, just look at the material culture in front of you-make your own observations-and write about them.”

“As a result four of my past students have disproven previously accepted research about Corinth and five more are on their way.”

“One of them dated pottery in a new way that has made a very famous book about Corinthian pottery completely irrelevant-seeing as it is 100 years off.  This is a huge deal because it has repercussions for the rest of history.”

“This is what you guys must do.  Get rid of the texts written by old farts and draw your own conclusions.  There is nothing more satisfying or empowering than disproving some old scholar’s life work.  It is so gratifying.”

 I loved that idea, just loved it.  It makes me want to change the way we study history.  And as an education major concentrating in social studies, I found his lesson especially relevant. 

 After the site, Melissa (one of my roomies) and I got coffee in the little village nearby.  After we ordered the waiter told us that we spoke excellent Greek.  Well hot damn!  That’s a first.  It felt great to be complemented on something that I have been working soooooo much on.  Just the pronunciation alone is difficult.  And after being corrected so many times over and laughed at by Greeks-I would say on a daily basis- when I speak Greek, I only appreciated the complement more.  But no need to worry about my ego getting too big- a bouncer corrected me on my Greek last night (since when do they even talk?).

 So I guess, for me at least, Corinth was a little bit more than “just ruins.”  In fact, it was full of modern ideas, all of which were uttered by Guy.  And I got a little bit more out of the trip than pictures and facts.  I got an epiphany about history and a complement on my Greek! –It’s all Greek to me.




There’s no place like Athens

October 23, 2009

This past weekend I ventured to Corfu, one of Greece’s green islands.  It’s a little bit of a hike from Athens so naturally we chose to take a bus that ranges between 6 to 10 hours as opposed to a flight –the glamorous life of a student.  Yes, the buses here, like the Greeks, do whatever the hell they want and don’t feel the need to specify anything to you, not even travel times.  The way back took about 7 hours so not bad.  And the bus ride there?  I honestly couldn’t tell you how long it took because I took a dramamine to avoid motion sickness.  As a result I literally passed out for the entire ride-like passed the hell out-couldn’t keep my eyes open or operate machinery.  I think Greek dramamine is actually vikadin with a hint of morphine.  Needless to say, I was in the island state of mind once we arrived seeing as I was still comatose.

 The hostel we stayed at was called The Pink Palace-it’s one of the most famous hostels in Europe, holding up to 750 in the high season.  It’s on the beach and the clientele was “I’m about to be too old to stay here.”  Guests are known to stay longer than they initially planned- it even says it on their t-shirt, which I purchased?  But we had to be back Monday for class.  The next day was beautiful so we relaxed on the beach, which was easy to get to, “just follow the yellow footprints” the staff told us.  I felt like I was in The Wizard of Oz following the yellowfoot road.  Corfu certainly felt like Oz.  We met a lot of Canadians and some kids from Argentina.  They were all cracking me up and language barriers only made everything funnier. 

 All in all, Corfu was really relaxing and I did not want to leave-apparently I fit the Pink Palace stereotype.  As we left, I popped another dramamine to sleep on the ride home.  Clicking my ruby red slippers just doesn’t equate to the magic of dramamine.

 However, my drugged up dreams were cut short when we arrived in Athens.  There were riots in our neighborhood.  Wake up call! –Quite literally for me at least.  All of these men wearing black were parading through my hood throwing flaming bottles and rocks. They damaged some stores and cars.  Rioting the newly elected Prime Minister?  No, they were rioting about volleyball.  Not even futball, volleyball.  I thought that was ridiculous! Volleyball? Does that even exist in Greece?  The most physical activity I’ve ever seen any Greek do is swing worry beads.  Why are they so passionate about volleyball?

 Only in Athens.

 Today my art and archaeology class met at the National Archaeological Museum.  We walked around the enormous museum discussing the classical ideal-specifically amongst male nudes.  Then all of a sudden Vince Vaughn walked by.  Now talk about an ideal male.  I couldn’t believe it.  Last week I saw the Costner during class and now I get to see Vince Vaughn!  This is crazy.  I got a little giddy and acted all excited-he makes me laugh in all of his films (expect The Breakup. What was that?).  Now Vince Vaughn is something that I would riot in the streets of Athens for!

 I guess the rioting volleyball fans aren’t so crazy after all.  If I could get that excited over a stranger who I know nothing about, then who am I to judge them for getting excited over a sport that no one here seems to know anything about.  It’s nice to relax and zone out for the weekend but eventually you have to leave Oz and get back to Kansas.  Even if Kansas is a place where men riot about volleyball.  Good thing there is always a new yellow brick road to follow.



Athens-Guest Starring Kevin Costner

October 18, 2009

Today I went to the new Acropolis Museum for my art and archaeology class.  This is the second time that I have gone to the museum for that class.  The first time, if you recall from an earlier blog, I passed out.  So this time I was hoping to remain vertical.  I prepared myself accordingly: I ate fruit, followed by a socolat croissant, and I hydrated myself.  I also brought a large water bottle, more fruit to revive me, and I wore layers to avoid overheating.  How responsible right? It’s only taken me 11 years to, as the Greeks say, “know thyself.” 

I walked outside and it was cloudy and cool.  Noticeable since it’s always sunny in Athens (not Philadelphia, that show got it wrong).  Although I love-crave the sun, I’m more susceptible to fainting when it’s hot.  Athens Forecast:  partly cloudy with a chance of Jayna fainting. 

So we arrive at the museum and I am feeling good!  The lack of natural light in the museum works to my benefit-it’s cooler inside.  The constant standing no longer bothers me I guess since I walk everywhere anyway.  And my breakfast really was of champions!  I’m a free bird and I can tell that my body isn’t going to faint today.

Or is it…suddenly Kevin Costner rounds the corner.  Yes the real Kevin Costner.  Field of Dreams?  The Upside of Anger? Now Kevin might not be that big of a celebrity sighting for most people but I actually have a massive crush on him.  He is a great actor, nice and rough around the edges you know? He is like a nice classy bottle of wine who gets better with age.  I realize he is a lil older than me/he is married/he is married to a beautiful blonde model 20 years his junior.  However, I choose to overlook these minor mishaps.  I then brainstormed what to say!

“Hey Kev! First time in Athens? Well lucky for you champ, I live here so I can reconfigure my sched and show you around.  If you want?”

“O Kevin-is that you? Gosh I didn’t even notice.  Do you want to know anything about that pediment over there because I’ve studied it in class.  Maybe after we could get gyros?”

“Costnaaarrr. Hey, what brings you to Athens?”

“Hey Kevin, what’s your sign?”

I considered that last one.  I mean I am genuinely interested in horoscopes.  So much for remaining vertical!  From the moment I spotted the Costner I was a little nervous you know?  Gosh is it getting hot in here?  There he is again!  My professor literally let us follow him and his posse around the museum.  And his posse?  Now there are a lot of dudes with the Costner and two of them are lookers! 

Wait! What am I doing?  I’m staring down strangers and looking at them.  O, I’m just being Greek.  Well it’s about time-I’ve withstood enough harassment here to gain the divine right to stare at whatever the heck I want, even Kevin Costner’s butt.  Hey, it’s a two way street right?

Two girls in my class got his autographs.  I chose to remain Greek and just stare, mumble to my friends and say something in passing.  Classy I thought.  The girls returned saying that he didn’t say anything to them; the consensus was that he was rude.  Rude?  Invading someone’s personal life is rude in my book.  Sure it’s his job but leave the man alone. 

 Later on I went to Thission to meet my next class, Athens Onsite.  Sweet a free bench.  I happily planted myself ready to people watch for the next half hour sipping on my frappe.  Then three old men who were strolling stopped in front of my bench.  The stood there for a while, flipping their worry beads.  After a couple of minuets one of them sat down next to me and asked me something in Greek.  O I see.  This was their bench that they sat at everyday and I was intruding.  At first I was pissed.  It’s a free country! No, it’s Greece.  A country where men are served first in restaurants, the elderly are well respected, and ancient habits (legal or not) never die. 

 So maybe Kevin Costner is entitled to his personal space, but the three old men in Thission are apparently equally entitled to their personal space too (or rather personal bench).  And if you forget, they’ll kindly remind you.



Ps Kevin Costner was in Athens for his band’s concert.  (Kaite remember we saw all those commercials for it in Santorini?)

If the shoe fits, it’s probably from The Poet

October 13, 2009

Greece is a land of sandals.  In nearly every shopping area authentic leather sandals sit beside cheap metallic gladiator sandals.  And while the tourists reach for those shiny, strappy gladiators the Greeks reach for the leather.  Not to say that Greeks are modest with their clothes-sequins seem to adorn every outfitted mannequin here.  But sandals are a basic here-a true Greek necessity.

 As family and friends have often called me a “flip-flop” girl, you can see that this is one Greek treat! to which I have had absolutely no problem getting accustomed with.  In fact it might be one of the first things about living here that I have not had to adjust to.

 When the fam visited, I took them to “The Poet” sandal store.  Internationally recognized, this simple man hand-makes leather sandals and fits them to your foot in the store as he writes and publishes his own poetry.  Poetry and shoes, now there is a combination you don’t find too often.  They are the BEST quality and extremely comfortable.  He has sold pairs to the likes of John Lennon, Jackie Onassis, Sophia Loren, Kate Moss and so on.  Katie was in heaven.  You would think that with all of his fame, not to mention famous customers, that by now his prices would be in the Jimmy Choo category.  But they are actually extremely reasonable at 24 euro per pair.  Well, 27 euro if you have big feet…a little discriminatory right?  I thought so.

 Anyways, I got the “Jackie-O” style that was designed for her and have been wearing them around everywhere.  Katie bought two pairs and was also equally satisfied.  Walking around in my new sandals really put a spring in my step.  They are certainly an upgrade from my deteriorating rainbows which I’ve had since 2005…I couldn’t get away with calling them “vintage” anymore.  My sandals made me feel like a Greek goddess.  However, in Oia-a beautiful village on the north end of Santorini-my goddess status did not translate.  As Kait and I sat at a café with our Frappes I relaxed, stretched out, and put my feet up on a ledge as we overlooked the ocean.  The waiter then came over.  Maybe to offer us some food I thought.  But instead he said, “um, small favor?” and nodded at my feet.  What? My feet are not welcome in Oia?  Katie reminded me that he probably didn’t want the other customers to see my grotesque feet.  I didn’t realize until my family came how rough they have gotten here in Greece.

 They are scratched up, blistered, scarred, and pretty much constantly dirty.  It seems as though wearing sandals everywhere comes with a price, beaten feet.  My ugly feet soon became the joke of my family’s trip.  Sure I could use a pedicure, or three, but my feet are the way they are because I’ve been places.  They have hiked a volcano, walked all over Athens, danced in gay bars, tripped over ancient marble, ran-no sprinted across streets, climbed flights of stairs and more.  I’m proud of my mangled feet and I don’t see the need in perfecting them with pedicures when I’m just going to get them beaten up again.  I also don’t see the euros in my wallet to do so.  

 So maybe my feet are not worthy of goddess status right now.  But my sandals are and that should count for something.  Until then I plan on trying to acquire ankle wings; you know like the ones Hermes has.  Not the designer Hermes, the god Hermes.  Although I might pitch that to Hermes now that I think about it.  Flying designer sandals?  I’ll take two.



 p.s. For my language class today we went to an Andy Warhol exhibit where I viewed some of his famous images of Jackie Onassis while wearing my “Jackie-O” style sandals.  How fitting.  I guess sometimes the shoe really does fit.

Athens Meets the Parents

October 6, 2009

When I really love something, I get a little nervous about exposing it to the ones that I love.  I want them to like it too.  Of course no one has the same exact interests as one another; and no one should (how boring).  But when it comes to my passions and interests, I want approval from family and friends. 

So, you can imagine my anxiety about my family coming to visit me in Athina.  I’ve come to truly love Athina-in fact I would say that we’re dating.  I know its getting serious fast, but I just cannot deny our chemistry.  We go for long walks through all different areas and have nice coffees for hours on end.  We go exploring, always eager to try new things.  And Athens and I have even developed our own little language-Gringish (Greek combined with English).  Sounds great right?  Introducing Athens to my family will be a breeze.

Maybe not.  Athens is not perfect and although I have come to love its “flaws,” my family might not.  For one thing, Athens is a little rough around the edges.  Taxi drivers will not always take you where you want to go.  And if they do, all too often they rip you off.  Don’t count on street signs to help you out either, as most streets don’t have them.  Spray paint is endless in certain neighborhoods.  Sometimes stray dogs follow you for blocks…and at other times harassing men.  Public transportation ends at 1am, when Athens nightlife begins.  Which can make getting home either expensive via taxi or strenuous via heels.  Not to mention that second hand smoke is inescapable; breathing is equivalent to smoking.  And you cannot always count on Athens to be on-time, prompt, or organized.  Just last week the 11 bus stood me up. 

Naturally, as a girl in love, I’ve rationalized all of these flaws.  The bus didn’t come? Just playing hard to get, which means that actually it really did want to pick me up.    No offer for a ride home after a long night out?  Athens just wanted to walk me home, how romantic.  Spray paint everywhere?  I do like scruff. 

Well, maybe my family will be able to see what I see in Athens.  On the first night I decided to lay all of the cards on the table: Dinner in Athens ExTremeeE style!  In my mind I was picturing an Anthony Bourdain adventure!  I took them to this great, authentic, cheap Greek restaurant called Barber Yannis.  I forgot to mention that getting there would require walking through Exarchia, a “student neighborhood.”  One street was crawling with college kids just sitting and drinking.  But a tourist might assume they were doing drugs and shit.  My sister was fine with it and I have honestly been bothered more in the richer areas of Athens than in Exarchia.  But Mary and Gary…having arrived less than 24 hours ago were a little, well shocked.  Oops.  I was only thinking about my stomach I guess.

But they all loved it.  That’s right, even Gary Roberts, he who does not eat chicken, vegetables, seafood, or fruit (except for orange juice but that doesn’t count).

And as we spend our last night in Athens tonight before I take a long weekend with them in Santorini, I daresay they might miss Athens.  Dad was impressed with the markets and the potatoes? Mary liked the history and the desserts.  And Katie? Well she liked the jewelry and the gyros.  Now that the formal introductions are over, we can all relax in Santorini.  Did I say that I was just dating Athens exclusively?  Because I’m also seeing the Greek Islands on the side-it keeps my relationship with Athens fresh and fun.

Who knows, maybe I’ll stay with Greece for the rest of my life.  It would be a big commitment, but one thing is for sure, things would never get boring.