Waking up every day, opening the doors to my balcony, and feeling overwhelmed with this much beauty is an unexplainable feeling. People keep asking me to describe this place and I can’t seem to find the words. All I can say is that you must see it for yourself. I want nothing more than for everyone I’ve ever loved, known, or spoken to, to be able to experience this. It is incredible, and no words or pictures could ever do it justice. I can not stress that enough.

This past week has been filled with getting to know the island, making friends with the locals, and starting our classes. After rough days of travel, there is a newfound peace in being able to just breathe and enjoy.

The school itself: Hellenic International Studies of the Arts could not be any better. It’s the way we were supposed to be taught by people who were supposed to teach: working artists who are madly passionate for what they do. There are about 18 or so students here, making the classes all very small (6-8 usually) and intimate. From what I’ve experienced thus far, they seem to be intensive and personalized to our own individual needs and skill level. I am already impressed with the level of commitment all of the students have towards their own work and this experience. That alone inspires me to be better. I am so excited to see how far I can grow throughout this semester.

The classes I’m taking are: Creative Writing, Art Workshop, and Film Studies on Monday and Wednesday, Cycladic Art and Culture (learning about Paros Island and attending classes at the historical sites such as churches, ruins, beaches..etc) on Wednesdays, and Theory of Art on Tuesdays. I absolutely love theory: we spent our first class discussing our art, why we love to do it, what is holding us back, and what defines what working on your craft truly means. I had an epiphany during Theory of Art that this place simply was made for me.

I am taking Art Workshop/Intermediate painting as my wildcard class. I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting but never pursued it seriously or taken a class before. I think there is no better time to explore art than now because after all, what better place to seek inspiration than on an island in Greece? The professor is so helpful and supportive, and when I first came to her to talk about my hesitation she loved the fact that I started off with: “Well, I’m not wonderfulyet…” I do know that it feels great to be surrounded by amazing artists in my class, and I will look to them for guidance as well.

We were given a calendar of the dates of excursions and island hopping trips and it looks like a packed full 3 months of endless discovery. I’m so excited for the future: spring break in Istanbul, Turkey, Naxos, Santorini, Antiparos, Mykonos and Delos as well as hikes and exploration of our island: Paros.

Around the island, I am getting used to venturing out by myself and being able to feel the real authenticity of Greece. We are known as the American students to everyone on the island, so people tend to be very hospitable and kind. There is a little market down the corner where the Greek woman who runs it, sits outside all day at a little cafe and smokes cigarettes. “Yasas” she smiles as I walk by. I used to timidly reply but have now gotten more confident in the few greek words that I know. I’ve found that the people who live here really appreciate when you so much as make an attempt to speak Greek. Even if it’s not perfect, saying “hello” or, “yasas” with a smile and a wave usually does the trick. We have a greek language class on Fridays that I can’t wait to take, because I would like to at least be able to make small talk during my time here. “Kalimera” means good morning, which usually is said until 2pm or later. Then there is a slightly gray area of when the greeting transitions to “Kalispera” which means good evening. I’ve had a few run-ins so far of people who make comments to me in Greek that I have no idea what they mean. Walking around town the other night a man was walking straight towards me, and as I tried to do the whole awkward move to one side, hesitate, then move to the other to let him through… he stopped dead in his tracks and just said “hello, blondie” … he didn’t even smile. I guess now I know the real meaning of “it’s all greek to me!”

I usually do a test run of my greek at the Gyro stand on the way to class. Gyros are the hotdog stands of America, but way better. For only 2-3 euro you can get a choice of chicken or pork, and the option of tzatziki, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, and even french fries. They wrap all of the stuff up in the pita and send you on your way. It’s delicious and not like any Gyro I’ve had in America. However, my favorite place to grab something to eat before class is a little stand down one of the cobblestone streets by the Art Studio that sells pastries of all kinds. Normally they are baked filo dough with a filling: feta, spinach, or chocolate. They even sell a bagel looking thing that I am pretty sure is filled with ham and cheese named the “Barrack Obama.” Why? I have no idea. But no one questions it here… So you don’t either.

I’ve recently made a lot of friends here who live on the island. The place to hang out is called the “Saloon D’or.”  I’ve also been spending some nights at “Friends Cafe” where the hot chocolate is perfect on a windy night on the island.  I laugh at the thought of ever thinking I had communication issues with people at home because here that all goes out the window. Although many of the guys have impressive english speaking skills, sometimes not even that can help you. A lot of American phrases or things that are often said, make no sense to them. So, I have to rely on finding alternative ways of expressing myself. I’m lucky to be a Theatre major because of all the wonderful charade skills I now have under my belt. It actually seems to be helping me learn Greek (and Albanian!) and maybe even improving their english simultaneously, so everyone wins!

Shayla is also another person I met in Greece who attends HISA and we have hit it off immediately. We seem to share the same the same mentality about a lot of things, and she is a great wing-woman to have here. 🙂

I tend to feel guilty if I’m in my room for too long because of everything that is outside of my window, so I’m currently working on finding a balance of relaxing and exploring. Luckily, our apartment complex alone has beautiful views of Paros, so all it takes is a trip to the rooftop deck to take your breath away and remind you of what is right outside the door. These next few days I have homework and things to do: read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for film studies, finish my “still life” drawing, write more poetry, write, and write some more, trip to the market, and on Saturday– the Paros bus excursion to the Mycenaean Acropolis!

Waking up and feeling like you are exactly in the world where you need to be is a feeling that I’ve never experienced until now. My personal goal is to feel lucky, amazed, and euphoric every single day I am here. I don’t think I’ll have trouble holding myself to that, all I have to do is glance out my window.

xxx Hannah


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