As I’m sitting on the ferry making my way to Paros, all I can think about is how surreal these past couple of days have been. It’s hard to grasp that I actually am experiencing all of this and I know I will continue to feel this way up until the day I leave… which I already am sensing will come too soon.
Overall, the traveling portion of the trip to Greece was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated. The two connections were in Atlanta and Paris; The Paris airport was by far the hardest to navigate because of the layout of the airport and the minimal time I had. When I landed in Athens I faced my first test of independence: I was originally supposed to meet two girls in the program but when I got off my flight they were nowhere to be found. I ended up searching the airport for them for quite awhile but because none of us had our phones or any wifi available we were unable to communicate. I contemplated giving up and happened to run into our taxi driver and after making a few calls he told me both of the other girls flights were delayed and they would be taking a later taxi into Athens. So, I took the journey alone! I packed up my suitcases and was driven into Athens to my hostel.
I was the first one to check into my room which was not all that bad because once I did, I fell asleep almost immediately because of the intense jetlag. I was completely out of sorts at first because while it was bright out and the day in Athens was just beginning, but internally I felt like I should be going to sleep. Not to mention the shock from the COLD in Athens was unexpected and I was told it was even snowing on Paros! (Did NOT pack for this weather, might I add).
An hour nap was all I needed before I met with more HISA students in the outdoor cafe area and our professors gave us a quick briefing about the next couple days. The girls I was originally supposed to meet finally got in to the hostel after our 7pm meeting and jetlag and all we hit the streets of Athens for a spontaneous exploration and first taste of authentic greek food! This was a hilarious experience trying to figure out what restaurant to eat at: all of the restaurant owners stand outside and call you in closer to offer deals and “specials” in order to lure you in. The one owner who finally caught our eye kept pulling me closer and closer in to whisper in my ear “free wine! free dessert! Shhh!” We were too overwhelmed to refuse so we experienced our first dinner in the Plaka, the heart of Athens.
The next morning we explored Athens once more and found some awesome graffiti scattered around. I absolutely love this place: it’s urban with lots of character, and it is noticeable that although they more than welcome tourists– the greeks run the town. That afternoon we met up with some of the HISA group and took a trip up to the acropolis. It was MINDBLOWING. I didn’t feel worthy to be walking amidst that type of history. It all felt like a dream (and still does). Everyone shares a mutual amazement and disbelief every minute of the day.
After the acropolis we went to dinner with the group who was in Athens at this point and it was insane. SO MUCH FOOD. We all got to try all different sorts of greek dishes and we truly got the greek experience. It felt like being in someones home because of the family style atmosphere.
After dinner, some of us went out to try and find a place where we could get some drinks and meet some locals, and we ended up finding a little rooftop bar where we took our first shots of ouzo under the light of the Acropolis. Truly an incredible experience.
Which brings us to this morning! We woke up at 5am and dragged our luggage down 3 flights of stairs and through the bone-chilling cobblestone streets of Athens where we took a bus to the port and boarded the ferry to Paros. It was a 5 hour ride and for the most part we all just took some time to relax, nap, and gaze at the Aegean Sea. As we were pulling into Paros we climbed to the outside deck and were mesmerized by the blue of the water and the dreamlike place we would be living in for the next 3 months.
We excitedly took the walk together to our apartments and were assigned our individual rooms: complete with kitchenette, bathroom, and outside balcony. Some of us took our first trip to the nearby market because it will be closed tomorrow on Sunday, and we had an interesting time grocery shopping for the first time in another country. Tonight we are doing an island tour, meeting our professors at the school, and then participating in a group dinner at a nearby restaurant.
So far this has just been incredible and I am so excited for all of the things that are to come. On the drive in I asked my taxi driver if he thought I would stand out and he was shocked because he was beyond convinced that I was actually Greek! Other professors have commented on the same thing and called me “the greek!” So I’m thinking that I may just take advantage of that and maybe develop a greek accent and convince myself as well.