γεια σας (hello all!) from the Pangrati neighborhood in Athens, Greece. It has been a whirlwind since I landed yesterday afternoon, but I am feeling more settled each moment as my first full day draws to a close. My apartment is a two minute walk from the CYA academic center. The academic center is next door neighbors with The Panathenaic Stadium, which was built entirely from marble in the mid 2nd century. Any picture I took of the stadium did not do it justice, so I will leave it up to you to look into it for yourself. Yesterday I strayed only one half block away from my apartment; today I ventured three blocks. On each excursion I came to the same conclusion: Athens is not what I expected.
I had the opportunity to go to a local ‘taverna’ with a few members of the faculty and staff this evening along with fellow students. I asked the native Greek faculty many questions and began to understand a bit more about the city in which I live. When I asked about the graffiti they explained it is not a sign of gang activity but a sign of political expression and teen angst. When I asked about the economic crisis they explained 60% of Athenian youths are unemployed and angry. When I asked about their opinion on the American obesity epidemic they explained Greeks care about healthy food that one spends time over. In one single evening, I have been able to learn and appreciate so much more about the Greek culture and Athens itself – imagine what four months will do! Athens is certainly not the beautiful tourist trap that is Santorini, but it is the home to many who work, worship, and eat (and eat, and eat, and eat!) and are full of love for family and country. It is cliché to say I have only scratched the surface, but that is the truth of the matter. There is so much left to say after only two days, yet the words do not come. If I cannot summarize all the details perhaps I can summarize the feeling. I am overwhelmed by the breadth and height and noise, and unsure about my place here, but I am certain every moment I am here is doing me good and I will only become more confident and empowered. I am also certain of the food. Fried feta cheese anyone?