September 23, 2016
Greece is a beautiful place with beautiful people.
Day 1: We arrived to the port of Piraeus; close to the city of Athens. On the first day I went to Acropolis.
On our way to the Acropolis, our guide told us the story/background of the Acropolis. A long time ago, there was a competition among the Greek Gods as to who could give the best gift to the people of Greece. Poseidon said that he will give them water if he strikes a rock with his triton. Athena said that she would do better and give an olive tree branch so that they would always have wealth and food. The people of Greece chose the Olive Tree Branch and built the Acropolis as an offer for Athena and named the city Athens.
The Acropolis is very beautiful. Almost everything is made of marble, even the slippery steps/slope. They are doing some construction on it to maintain the buildings since most of it has been restored and hard to preserve.
Afterwards I met up with a couple of my friends and we explored Athens. We found a little café that had the best gyro plate of lamb. My whole meal only cost 8 euros, which I thought was cheap, but found out that it included a 24% tax cost because of the government and the Greek crisis. Many shop owners explain how much that has hurt them.
Day 2 & Day 3:
For the next two days I went to Santorini with a field program. There was a ferry strike going on later that week, so we could only stay in Santorini for 2 days. The ferry ride was very long, 5 hours going there and 8 hours returning.
Santorini is incredibly beautiful, and met my expectations with the white buildings and blue domes. In Santorini, we visited a town called Fira which had many shops and restaurants and nightlife (which we came back to at night). That night when we went to the hotel, a couple of SASers walked to the closest beach and did some cliff diving. I was surprised that I decided to jump of a cliff , but I told myself I didn’t want to regret not doing it while I was in Greece. As I jumped off the cliff and landed in the water, I felt extremely proud of myself and in a way reborn.
The next day we went Oía, which is most well known for as the scenery in many movies such as Mamma Mia and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Again, we did some souvenir shopping and took lots of pictures with the white and blue houses/hotels/churches as our background.
The fourth day, we decided to explore Athens again. The whole trip, I decided to pretty much stick to eating Gyros since I loved them so much. We also took the Metro to the Olympic Stadium, where the Olympics was in 2004. As we walked around Athens, we noticed a lot of graffiti. We learned that in 2004 during the Olympics, the mayor decided to put street art on the walls. However, years later as the Greek Crisis hit, the graffiti became political and expressed the citizens’ dissatisfaction with the government and the police.
On the last day in Greece, I decided to take part in the Invisible Tours with one other student and many professors and life long learners. The Invisible Tours is a program where someone who is/was homeless gives you a tour around downtown Athens and stops at 7 different NGOs/social institutions. Often times when you are a tourist, you experience what the city forefronts (such as the Acropolis to experience something related the famous Greek Gods), but I wanted to take part in something that truly reflects the issues that Greece is facing today rather than thousands of years ago.
This program allowed me to physically and emotionally see how many Greek locals and migrants have become homeless due to the Greek crisis. There are so many Greeks who can’t find a job with a 30% unemployment rate. Even for the college students, those who graduate with degrees have a 50% unemployment rate because of how bad the economy is and how many jobs there are. It made me realize how lucky in America most of us can be just to have a job, and made me feel more appreciative of the job I have and the people who work so hard to pay their bills.
After the tour, we ended up in a flea market where we again did some last minute souvenir shopping. One Greek man, named Nicholas, who owned a shirt store asked a friend and me if we were from Semester at Sea. He asked us where we were from and got so excited when I told him I was from San Diego, California. Nicholas asked me to come into his shop, where he displayed hundreds of business cards of Greeks he knew who moved to the United States. He to his cash register, put a shiny penny in my hand and closed my hand while saying, “I’m going to give you this lucky penny, you will have a great boy to marry one day and you will be successful!”
I had the biggest smile on my face and began to laugh. He tried to tell me that I look Greek.Before I left the shop, he kissed me on both of my cheeks and squeezed my cheeks and told me how fun it was to squeeze my cheeks. Meeting this owner gave me a 5minute overview of the welcoming Greek culture and how much Greeks care to create relationships. I was kind of sad that it would be the only interaction I would ever have with him.