Archive for December, 2009

Deck the halls with…piles of trash?

December 14, 2009

It’s that time of year again, the holiday season.  Everywhere around the world, people are decking the halls.  In such a uniformly Christian country, Greek Orthodox to be specific, one might guess that Greece would be decorating for Christmas by putting up lights, wreaths, or other typical Christmas decorations.  That is what I expected anyway.  But then again, if I’ve learned anything here it’s not to expect the obvious. 

 Instead, Greece is decked out in piles of trash, spray-painted buildings, anarchist signs and banners, and other miscellaneous items such as burned oranges and abandoned shoes.  Christmas tree with all the trimmings?  No, more like burned trees without any trimmings, or leaves for that matter.  Aromas of candy-canes, garlands, or hot chocolate?  Try aromas of trash so bad I would consider buying a trendy swine mask to wear.  And the lingering sulfuric smell of tear-gas.  Ahh…fa la la la la la la la la. 

 The piles of trash everywhere are the result of a strike.  This is the second time that Athens waste management has gone on strike since I’ve been here.  But this time, it’s bad.  This strike has lasted over a week, and lemme tell ya people have a lot of trash after one week.  It’s really piled up.  So much so that I often find myself strategically jumping over and around these overstuffed dumpsters in order to clear the sidewalk.  Trash has started to extend from the dumpsters to the cars parked next to them.  And the smell.  I just really can’t get my point across here without doing the stench it’s justice.  It’s bad-real real real bad. (see trash album for an idea)

 And the other decorations like the anarchist signs, burned foliage and vandalized buildings are a result of anarchist riots.  Although, most of the activity occurred on December 6th, the one-year anniversary of the death of a 16-year old boy by a police officer, it has yet to stop.  Tear-gas was used on the rioters who threw maltov cocktails and oranges (lots of orange trees in Athens).  Needless to say, I’ve been told that December was going to be a riot-filled month.  Most of the hostility is directed towards the police, but I’m not headed to Paneppestimio (the University area) of Athens anytime soon.  I’ve seen so many riots that I’ve literally become slightly unaware and numb to them.  I saw one crossing the street the other day, and a second one passed me on my way to my language professor’s farewell dinner. 

 Well, at least the Greeks have the spirit thing down.  Nothing like the holidays without a little rioting in the streets!  I mean isn’t that essentially what the malls are like this time of year in America anyway?  I can handle a riot or two and some pyrotechnic displays of resistance, but crowded stores full of pushy people fighting over the last X-box or whatever-now that’s scary.

 Athens has begun to clean up a little bit though.  My favorite moment this past week was watching as a large Christmas tree was being put up in the city-center in the midst of all the trash and burned plants.  It just looked so ridiculous.  My roommates and I have bets on how fast that tree will go up in flames from more anarchist protest.  I’d say a little less than a week.  And lights are shining everywhere.  Ermou (main shopping street) is crowned with chandelier-like lights and vendors selling poinsettias.  Trees are strewn with lights that could only be put up by Greeks as they look like they were literally thrown up during someone’s coffee break.  Not to say that they don’t look good-they just appear very Greek as they should.

 So maybe Athens isn’t the picture of conventional Christmas, but it’s certainly a picture you could never forget.  A picture that I would venture to say communicates more than a thousand words to the viewer.  Maybe even two-thousand-after all, the Greeks do talk a lot.  And as I walk around Athens this time of year I really see the Christmas spirit-it’s a unique spirit, a feisty spirit, but a spirit nonetheless.  One worthy of the Christmas Carol; maybe a fourth spirit, a Greek spirit, should be added to the story.  Because honestly, it’s a spirit all it’s own-one that doesn’t fit the typical Christmas mold.  One that creates a new one.  In that way, I guess I already got what I wanted from Santa this year.  As my family knows, I always ask for a surprise.  And it seems that the Greek Christmas spirit is just that-a surprise.  But a surprise that I cherish.  A surprise that I didn’t even know I wanted until I got it. Santa really delivered this year-and early too.  I didn’t even write him a letter and he still knew that I didn’t want to hear caroling this Christmas.  No, Santa knew that I wanted to hear rioting-Santa knew that I wanted the real Greek Christmas spirit. 

 Now the only question is, does that mean I’ve been naughty or nice? 




Poor Girl in a Material World

December 8, 2009

If I had to choose a song to describe my weekend in Milan it would be “Labels or Love” by Fergie.  From my impression, it serves as the soundtrack of the city.  When I stepped off the plane in Milan I found myself immediately in a store.  Not an airport gate, a store.  I had entered the shopping capitol of the world.  My first thoughts: I think I’m gonna need some more euros-Pronto!

 Shopping amongst big labels is not just luxurious; it’s a lifestyle in Milan.  A lifestyle that requires lots of friends.  Friends like Gucci, Fendi, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Ferragamo, Valentino, Versace, Burberry and more.  Prada has it’s own café? And you can’t forget Furla, Katie’s favorite designer label and therein mine too.  Furla makes the most beautiful, highest quality Italian leather bags.  Katie has about 20, I have two baby ones.

 In fact, a lot of things in Milan reminded me of my sister.  Not surprising seeing as she used to live in Italy.  And lucky me was fortunate enough to visit her when she was in Rome and then again when she lived in Florence.  I saw her favorite gelato place, Grom, and immediately dragged my roommates to it.  Crowd pleaser.  And Melissa immediately gained an Italian admirer.  The guy at Grom-GromGuy.  After she ordered GromGuy replied, “I’m sorry I got lost in your eyes.”  I loved it.  Whatever happened to all the cheesy pickup lines in the world?  They seem to only exist in Europe-specifically Greece and Italia.  I demand an international revival! 

“What’s your sign?” (personal favorite)

 Milan also reminded me of Katie because of the food.  The food!  I may be a poor girl with holes in her shoes but I ate like a king.  Pizza Pizza Pizza.  Delicioso!  My favorites were lasagna! And this spicy sausage ricotta pizza that I had.  I always ordered the cheapest wine but it never tasted cheap.  Not to mention the Prosecco.  If it wasn’t for EasyJet’s bogus strict checking policy I would have brought some home.

 Although I was eating like a king, I wasn’t exactly strutting like one.  My ballet flats hit their final tread in Milan.  And I mean final.  I’m talking holes in the bottom, no longer black in color, absolutely shapeless poor excuses for a pair of shoes.  Not exactly ideal in a city where every avenue is a runway of stores and modelesque pedestrians dressed to the nines.  Needless to say, my shopping involved shoe shopping.  Unfortunately, the prices gave me anxiety and I choked.  My roommates proceeded to rightly make fun of my shoes from there on out.  Thrifty Melissa suggested that I wear plastic bags on my feet as an upgrade from my flats.  And she was right. I tested it out in the hotel room (see photo for laughs).  There I was in Milan, a city offering up shoes on silver platters all around me, and I just kept walking.  Attainable glass slippers jumping at me from all angels-apparently Cinderella didn’t translate for me. 

 Maybe it’s the new Greek in me.  Sure I was in Italy, but I was still speaking Greek.  It was so embarrassing.  Every Italian I spoke with had to put up with my confusing Greek-English mumbo jumbo.  As if the Greeks haven’t had it hard enough listening to me, the Italians too?! 

 Everything I observed in Milan, I found myself comparing to Greece-not to America.  There was construction on one road at night-something you would never see in Greece I thought, no one works past 1:30pm.  Cars were parked in neat lines along the sidewalks.  Not like in Greece where double, sometimes triple parking is typical.  Waiters were attentive, running to give us our food and check.  Well, that is just unheard of in Greece-sitting at a restaurant for less than three hours feels rushed.  Also, there were more blondes in Milan-something I loved because I fit in more.  Unlike Athens, where no matter how much I cover up my hair I still get gawks left and right.  And there were clocks everywhere in Milan.  Not like in Greece where time is of nearly no concern.  I even forgot to change the time on my cell phone and accidently lived on Athens time in Milan.  Not a big deal, until we used it as an alarm and accidently woke up an hour too early for our flight home…oops, sorry Melissa and Emma.  You can take the Jayna out of Greece but you can’t take the Greece out of Jayna. 

 All in all Milan was fantastic, between seeing the Last Supper and eating like it was my last supper I had a marvelous time.  Even in my atrocious ridiculous flats, Milan did not cease to impress me at every corner.  I remembered how much I loved Italy and realized how much Greece has rubbed off on me.  Then again, Italy has had it’s affect too.  I ordered a gyro today and said “Grazie” instead of “efharisto.”  I finally remembered to switch to Italian…once I was back home in Greece.  Etsi eivai n zwn! (That is life!)