The following is not intended as “whining”, but a humorous look at how this experience is shaking me out of my complacency.
While there have been many, many wonderful things about this Fulbright experience (the freedom to study and write! The strawberries! The people!), I have had to make a few adjustments…
It’s one thing to learn a foreign language. It adds a whole level of complexity to learn a new alphabet on top of that. I am at about a 4-year level of the alphabet right now. Last night, Mother and I ate at this restaurant and we literally gave each other high-fives when we decoded that it says “George’s”. Standing out in the middle of the street squealing that we could interpret it. I have so much more sympathy for tourists.
We stand for minutes at a time at the grocery store, trying to decipher what things are.
We assume that these are Ritz crackers. Big squeals when we found them.
Not big squeals with I learned that this….
Is NOT cream for my coffee. Turns outs it’s buttermilk. That was NOT the way to start the morning…
I’m carrying my own toilet paper. The university has a cleaning woman on staff, but no money for cleaning materials, so everyone brings their own toilet paper, and chips in to contribute bleach, hand soap, etc.
And the worst of all… the toilet paper is non-biodegradable. Which means that you put it in the trash can after you use it. No flushing of toilet paper. I find myself getting used to almost everything else. At this point, I would sell my soul for Charmin.
That’s a radiator at my office. That doesn’t work because while the University has central heat and air, they have no money to pay for heat. So, no heat or air conditioning. I work in my office with a coat. Students attend classes in sweaters and coats. Normally, it’s ok, but we’ve had a cold spell this week. I am now making tea to warm up my fingers so I can type. Spring is around the corner…
Fizzy orange juice/ fizzy apple juice/ fizzy lemonade/ sparkling water
They like beverages fizzy around here.
I do not.
Because I am in a hotel apartment, there is no laundry. We walk our laundry down to the laundromat a 1/2 mile away. It is not like a US laundromat- they do it for you. At first, we were like “Yay!”, until we learned they take 4-6 days to turn it around. Until we learned that they wash our clothes in cleaning solution. Which smells. Horribly. Like dry cleaning solution. And until I got someone else’s t-shirt and my favorite black pants are gone.
This is our new washer/dryer. Which is me learning a whole new set of skills.
Getting from point A to Point B is complicated. I live a mile from the University, so I walk (uphill) in the morning, downhill at lunch to spend time with my mom, back uphill in the afternoon and back downhill in the early evening. My colleagues have offered to pick me up, which happens when it rains, but I am enjoying the walking! Nothing like a fitness routine because you “have” to. But it does mean that I’m not thrilled at the idea of walking the two miles down to the sea- and back- or to the coffee shop a mile away. Navigating without a car is literally something I have not done since I was 15, so it’s challenging, especially when you don’t speak the language.
Getting to Athens or Delphi involves the KTEL bus. Which has seat numbers. I am very grateful that the word “seat” is in English. Finding the seat number on the seat itself was challenging and involved lots of hand gestures from other people.
While some Greeks have pets, there are an awful lot of animals hanging around.
Dogs in the main square of Athens- well-fed, but roaming.
A pair of pigeons apparently live in the bakery across from us. We see them every time we visit.
Lack of sidewalks
Makes for an adventure every time I go out. The footing is always exciting as we pick our way down the street. Parking appears to be random, but polite. If people are hemmed in, they honk and someone comes out to move their car. No big deal…
Never lived in California. Last night, the bed shook as if the dog had gotten up on it. I got a little freaked out…
There are so many things I am getting adjusted to that I am going to miss. Fresh orange juice. And I mean FRESH.
Just the fruit itself could be whole ‘nother blog…
One think I’m amazed at is just how kind people are here. Store keepers laugh and clap at our feeble attempts at communication. They enjoy that we are trying and there is no sense of mockery or irritation. Colleagues offer to pick me up when it’s raining. Students want to come talk to me. The hotel people tell us of good places to eat. Despite my settling-in challenges, there is truly a warm sense of kindness and support here that is like nothing I’ve seen before. This I don’t mind adjusting to.
Disclaimer: These comments are NOT slights or insults to my very kind hosts here in Greece. And many of these comments have nothing to do with Greece itself, but my own adjustment to altered living conditions. They are statements to share how easy it is to get complacent where you are. And I am also aware that I am VERY fortunate to be living here at all- especially compared to the Asst. professor from Syria who is a refugee at the border of Greece and Macedonia (A story I read in a translated Yahoo page that I can’t find now..).