Monday, November 21, 2011

Holidays, Birthdays, and "Fun-days"!

Wow. So another week has passed (well a little over a week). It's been so crazy over here! That's why I haven't been able to post! I've actually been trying to post this for the past 3 days or so, but I always get distracted or caught up in something else and didn't get around to actually posting it! But, now it's posted and done with! This post is full of pictures and a whole week's (and two weekends) worth of fun!!!!
Well, on that first weekend (November 11 and 12) I had a fairly relaxing weekend. I didn't go really much of anywhere. On Saturday Elina and I walked down Ermou Street (the big shopping street) and did some shopping, as she needed some things (a winter coat, boots, etc) and it's cheaper for her to buy the items here in Greece than it is in Sweden. It was actually more fun than you would've expected. It must have been the company and conversation that I had to keep me occupied (as I wasn't buying anything!). Today was also my first encounter with "rain" or what I know as sprinkles. It was actually refreshing to have the light rain!
The next day we went on another adventure. Although it was raining again (really it was just sprinkling in my book) we still met and went at 11am to see the "big changing of the guard" that happens every Sunday at 11am. Little did we know that when it's raining, the "big change" doesn't happen, just a normal, everyday changing of the guard happens. I will have to go on a sunny Sunday and check it out!
Afterwards, we headed over to the metro so we could go to the airport. There's an IKEA near the airport, and as I've never been to one, Elina insisted that we go (which I was happy to do). But, when we finally got there, we were told that not only was the bus back to Syntagma Square not running, but IKEA was closed. We knew that most stores are closed on Sundays, but we had been told and saw on the website that IKEA is open 7 days a week. I guess they were wrong... So we headed back to Syntagma on the metro. Once we finally got back we went for a coffee at Starbucks and sat outside for a little bit drinking our coffees and talking. It was very relaxing! Elina also showed me a nice little supermarket on the way home, which is very small, but has some good items at good prices. It even had some things that my big supermarket doesn't carry (like Dolmathes).
Then it was Monday again, and work began again. Today everyone seemed to roll in at various times starting around 10:15am. It seems that they all had a relaxing weekend though! Monday was a typical day, but I learned something new! Giannis and Konstantina are going to do a school program on Wednesday and I was going with them! I was so excited!!!! I might even be playing the flute or xylophone/vibes for the kids if we can find one that we can borrow. Today we also lost power for about 3 minutes or so, where everything was pitch black, and there were alarms going off all over the place (not in the office but outside). It was very strange...
Well Tuesday came around and all I could think about was Wednesday and getting to see the kids! I was so excited!!! It was kind-of hard to believe that I would be going tomorrow to a school and teaching kids all about sea turtles! One thing I've noticed about my routine, is that I know how to stretch my sleeping time to the very last minute and yet I still manage to get up before the alarm. That was one of the things that I was worried about before I came to Greece. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to wake up to my alarm. But, there seems to be no problem here! It makes me very happy!
Finally Wednesday, November 16, came and it was the day to visit the kids! I was very excited, while Konstantina and Giannis were their normal selves. So we started by walking to the metro (Giannis looked like a Santa Claus the whole way because of the size of the sack where the "Niretta" (turtle mascot) costume was kept), hopping on it when it arrived all the way to the last stop. After exciting the metro area we got into a taxi and traveled through this small township on the outskirts of Athens. It was very cool to see this little township and watch the people on their daily rounds. We soon arrived the school, which is a small school, with just two Kindergarten classes (we were going to visit both). In Greece, Kindergarten school is separate than all other school for the Greek children. It was so fun to see these kids and to hear the questions they were asking Konstantina. We start them out by watching a short DVD all about sea turtles and the importance of them and preserving their nesting grounds.

After the movie the kids made masks, that Giannis and I helped cut out, and attach the ribbon to, which they were going to use to approach "Niretta"! It was such a ball helping the kids into their masks too!
Once "Niretta" entered, the fun began! Now, "Niretta" doesn't speak and doesn't like other animals except for fellow sea-dwellers. So the masks were: sea turtles, dolphins, penguins, and orcas (killer whales). And the kids had to approach "Niretta" doing their animal's movement and noise.
After being introduced, the kids and "Niretta" danced all around the room and had fun saying hi to each other!

And then we did it all again with the second class...

After finishing up with the classes we headed back for a taxi and the metro. Upon arriving back to the office, work began again. But, at around 6:30pm or so I called Elina and we decided to go out for dinner. This was to be my birthday dinner, as tomorrow was to be a pretty crazy riot-filled day! So, we walked around for a while and then ended up at a restaurant fairly close to the Acropolis with a great view of it. As tonight was the night before my birthday (I'll explain in a bit why we didn't go out on my birthday night) I was to try my first beer, kind-of as a right of passage. This beer is called Mythos beer, a traditional Hellenic beer. It was actually really good. I did drink it all!

I have discovered that I don't mind the taste of beer... Or at least Mythos beer that is!
The next day, November 17th, was my birthday, but I wasn't expecting anything special, especially considering what this day means in Greek history. I don't think I have all the details for the story about the importance of November 17th, but the gist of it is that years ago, when Greece was ruled by a dictatorship, on November 17th, the dictator was overthrown, which was very favorable for the Greek people. But, on that same day about 10 people were killed at the University of Athens, creating a big uproar. So every year on November 17th, people get half-days (or even full days off), streets are closed and there are lots of marches, strikes and riots all over Athens. So, on Thursday, my birthday, it felt like they were celebrating me, with my half-day of work and all!
But, I did get a big surprise in the morning, when I was told that there was someone at the door for me! I go to the door, and a delivery man hands me this HUGE bouquet of flowers! I didn't know who they were from!!!
They were from my parents. :) And they smell beautiful in my room!!!
About 10 minutes after that, Konstantina and the others in the office came over to me and said that they would like to take me out to lunch and that I should be ready by 2:30pm. Of course I said yes, and was ready on time! When we finally left it took us some time to get there, as many roads were closed, along with the metro and buses. It was fun to watch Giannis drive (they all insisted that I sit in the front seat of Kostis' car) and having the other three women in the back seat all backseat driving, telling him where to go. It was stressful to say the least! We eventually arrived at the restaurant, which was very nice and I really like it! The food was delicious traditional Greek food as were the drinks. I tried for the first time "Tsilili," which is similar to Ouzo, but a little different... It was good! But, I was just content with my Mythos!
That's my cake! It had sparklers and candles lit too when it came in!
In order from left to right: Giannis, Katerina, Konstantina, Kostis, Elvridiki, Eleanna, Me! That's my office crew, minus Liza and Lily!
The party was a blast! I was very happy that I went and I had lots of fun! In order to get back to the apartment, Elvridiki's friend gave me a lift (with her) to right outside the Olympic Stadium, and then I just had to walk for maybe 15 minutes to get back to apartment. It was a nice walk! But, when I was walking I noticed that (not only was the road closed) a lot people were walking down the road, some carrying large megaphones, others large banners. They all seemed to be heading to Syntagma Square... So, I decided I would check it out. I just peeked over to the strike. There were a lot of people and lots of megaphones and banners, and lots of police men, all with gas masks on for tear gas. When I saw them I decided that I would head out and go home. I got home perfectly safe and sound too!
The next day, Friday, Konstantina had been nice enough to give me off. So, I got some nice uninterrupted sleep! When I did wake up (around 11am) I got ready and headed off to Omonia Square to a laundromat to get my laundry done! I had never been to Omonia before, so it was nice to see that part of town and take the metro again! While I waited the three hours for my laundry to be done, I did some sightseeing of the Ancient Agora, one of the ancient burial areas and temple clusters (not the biggest burial area though, that's Keramikos).
I was about to head to the Temple of Hephestaus, which is part of the Ancient Agora, when I was called and told that they were closing and I'd have to come back another time. How disappointing, I told myself I would have to go and see it again. So I headed around, trying to see where I wanted to go. So I went up to the Cathedral and took a picture.
After walking by the Cathedral I realized that I still had about an hour to spend until my laundry was ready. So, I decided to head to one of the many museums in Athens... The Benaki Museum. The Museum is in Mr. Benaki's old (now renovated and expanded) home and houses 36 exhibits, some from his personal collection that are all about the history of Greece and how it has changed!
I really love the ancient Greek pottery!
Those are neat bracelets! I wish I could find those on the street to buy for my friends!
This is a funny statue... It's a statue of an "Unknown Action." I thought it was funny.
The rest of my day was uneventful, as I just picked up my laundry and went out with Elina for a bit afterwards!
The next day I decided I would see the other historic monuments/ruins by Monastiraki Square. So I started by going to Hadrian's Library, the ancient library, which is now a set of ruins that are being restored.
Even dogs need their rest, ancient monument or no...
I then took some pictures of the surrounding Monastiraki Square and headed up to the Temple of Hephestaus.
Temple of the Giants
While I was up at the Temple of Hephestaus, this nice couple, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, from Maryland, US, stopped me and asked if I could help them point out on their map as to where we were. I did, and then we got to talking, and eventually, after giving them some suggestions of where to go, we went together up to the National Observatory and had a very nice conversation!
After parting ways we said that we meet up again on Sunday morning for the large changing of the guard at 11am to do something!

So, Sunday morning, I knew that there was going to be a large crowd for the 11am changing of the guard, but I didn't expect there to be the huge crowd there was. I didn't get the vest view I wanted for all my pictures, so I will have to go again before I leave to see the 11am changing of the guard! But, these are some of the pictures I did get!
After the Johnsons and I found each other, we decided that we would go up Lycabettus Hill (the hill behind where I live) and look at the Church of Saint George. We had a lot of inclined road to climb up before we even reached the base of the hill... We decided to cablecar up to the Church too.
There are so many beautiful lemon and orange trees!!!
When we finally reached the top, the view was beautiful! It was a little hazy, but beautiful all the same! And the church... The church was absolutely perfect!
The "horseshoe" in the distance!
The Acropolis (Kind-of hard to make out.)
The Ceiling of the Church
There was this crazy sink in the bathroom at the top of Lycabettus!
We decided we would walk down, which was so much better. The view was so great all the way down!
Our small taverna where we had lunch.
After we climbed down and had our small lunch, we decided to walk around some more and ended up walking by the National Observatory again, but it was nice to see the Acropolis during the night again.
We then parted ways at the New Acropolis Museum, where the Johnsons went in and I headed off to my apartment. But, while I was on my way back home, I saw this small tiny kitty on the street. I felt so bad for it. I have seen other cats around, but never a kitten this small. It was so hard for me to not just pick it up and take it back to the apartment with me. (And I probably would have if I didn't think that Konstantina and the office crew would be mad at me!
Well that's all for now... I wonder what's in store for me this week!