If you have been following this blog faithfully (hi mom!) you are probably hoping to see stunning panoramics of the Acropolis by now; I regret to inform you the Acropolis was closed by the time my group got there, so those photos will have to wait for another day.
Instead of a panoramic photograph, allow me to share with you a panoramic shot of my week, which I have aptly titled “The Week of Heavy Things.”
The first heavy thing I encountered was a slab of marble, my slab of marble. On Tuesday night I went to my very first marble carving class at an art studio in my neighborhood. The class is not through my institution, but the studio is very popular among CYA students and there are 12 of us enrolled. Once we settled in and heard some brief introductory remarks, we began to tackle the huge questions of “what am I willing to permanently enshrine in 20 pounds of pure (expensive) marble?” and “how the HECK will I get this home?” After answering the first question (still working on the second one…) I sketched up a Byzantine icon and, before I knew it, was set in front of a cold white slab with mallet and chisel in hand. It took me no fewer than two straight hours of chiseling to complete a paltry outline of my saintly figure. Heh. Though the art is very tedious and physically difficult it is a remarkable change from the fast paced culture of instant gratification in which we live. It seems fitting, then, in a world of feather light computers and putting your whole life “in the cloud,” that this break from the everyday could only come through something very heavy and slow – marble.
The second heavy thing I encountered was far less poetic and far more frustrating. Let the record show that I am always eager to save a few dollars when I can, especially as a student and especially as a student abroad. So, when I was told that most Greeks don’t own a clothes dryer and, therefore, romantically dry their clothes on quaint clothes lines, I knew I would never pay a cent for an “air fluff cycle” and would hang my banners of thriftiness from the balcony, for everyone to see and admire. After all, it is not so hard to carry two bags of dry laundry down the stairs of your apartment and down the huge hill to the basement of the academic center where it will blissfully soak and rinse and become evil in just 35 short ‘express wash’ minutes. If you have not yet figured it out, my friends, the heavy thing was wet laundry. And lots of it. When the express wash was done, I, congratulating my thriftiness, pulled heaps of sopping clothes out of the steamy washer and stuffed it into tote bags for the trek home. The first tote was not so big, and I slung it easily over my shoulder. The second tote bag WAS big and it was the SECOND one. At this point the hot water is soaking through the tote bags and onto my clothes and all I can think of is “up the stairs, up the hill, up the stairs, home.” If this sequence sounds short to you it is because you have not seen the sheen of the marble steps and the incline of the hill. But I am thrifty! And young! And svelte! So I did it. But next time I will pay full price for the longest dryer cycle they’ve got.
The last heavy things of The Week of Heavy Things are my own expectations for myself, which have been nearly as hard to carry as the laundry. It is certainly no small task to assimilate yourself into a new place, let alone do it with any sort of grace. I have had a hard time balancing what I want to do with what I believe others think I should do. Is it enough to order a coffee in the native language and sit with a book for hours, or is it necessary for me to go to a new museum every day? Can I be content staying in my neighborhood or must I venture out to new places each weekend? I believe a little of both is healthy, but it has been a battle against my introverted-ness to strike any sort of balance. And even when I have the grace to find a balance it is always a question of “what more can I do?” I know I must address these expectations and do away with them, but it is easier said than done. Like marble, it takes effort to pare down the weight and, like wet laundry, it simply takes time.