What I Read | NOVEMBER 2017

Wow, is it hard to go from working at a library to living in a foreign country.  From overabundance to scarcity!  Since my time is ending in Greece, I’ve decided to actual tackle the shelf of To Be Read books that I kept passing over.  This is actually pretty satisfying, though the going is slower.

Novel_the_blind_assassin_coverThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

This book was immediately intriguing, flashing between an old woman remembering her past and an at-first ambiguous meeting of lovers discussing science fiction plots.  It’s a dense novel, delving into generational family relationships, complications, and regrets.  Because it’s Atwood, the story consistently reveals the underbelly of what it means to be a woman during the early 1900s.  The middle dragged a little for me, but the beginning and end were totally engrossing.

71epnYVGumLThe King Must Die by Mary Renault

A historical novel focused on the life of mythical Theseus, I was ALL about this book.  It covers only the first half of his life (I accidentally read the second book so long ago I was writing full reviews).  Theseus travels to Athens and then Crete, where he lives in the Palace of Knossos (I WENT THERE) and survives by becoming a champion bull-leaper.  Renault is a master at creating believable history out of mythology, and I am continually impressed by how she allows events to unfold in such a way that they can be read as natural events or godly interventions.  Very fun read for Greek mythology nerds!

51zEfKBgrdLAbraham by Bruce Feiler

A Jewish man goes to the Middle East to talk to leaders of the three great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – about the man that unites them all:  Abraham.  This is an excellent book for people who like history, culture, and/or theology, delving into sacred texts, oral traditions, and how people have twisted stories to suit their purposes throughout time.

220px-The-lost-city-zThe Lost City of Z by David Grann

A modern day journalist ventures into the Amazon in search of a mythical city and the man who disappeared while seeking it.  It’s more of a biography than a travel memoir, but Colonel Fawcett is a fascinating man.  I loved reading about the early 1900s and all the explorers trying to survive the Amazon rainforest.  Although a lot of it is horrific, and is portrayed as such, Fawcett himself is a man before his time, insisting upon pacifism when interacting with indigenous tribes.  So many people kept returning to the Amazon despite enormous difficulties, and this book does a wonderful job of conveying the enticing mystery that the forest creates simply by existing.

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Year 2 | A Week in Greece #5: WORK WEIRDNESSES

After an exciting but restful weekend in Bucharest, I came back to a chaotic week in Athens.

On Monday, we tried to begin having Day Program classes at our new offices.  This meant starting with a couple hours of new rules and a lot of questions about the rules.  Mostly we talked about tardiness and absences, and this is still a topic I feel conflicted about.

Our program is meant to model a school or work environment, and we want to hold participants to similar standards so that when they seek employment elsewhere, they will be used to the routine of being on time for things.  But we have participants from diverse cultures, and I think this is at least partially responsible for the serial tardiness of some of the women.  I don’t know how much my desire to enforce timeliness is for their benefit or if it is for my own cultural comfort.

But other than that, it was really nice having classes in a new space!  Or at least, it was on Monday and Tuesday.  By the end of Tuesday, more and more workers were arriving to finish air conditioning installations, wall dividers, etc, and it was becoming increasingly ridiculous to try to be vulnerable or thoughtful with all the chaos around us.  We cancelled classes for the rest of the week, but planned a special event on Friday.

It was almost disastrous, and I was SO pissed, because I told the women a fake time to show up, knowing that they would be late.  Still, I wound up standing at the metro station for half an hour, at which point I decided to go on without them.  I met up with the two people who were meeting us downtown and found out that THEN, the women were leaving the house.  They met us one hour and fifteen minutes after our scheduled appointment time, and as I mentioned, I was PISSED.  I am generally a pretty laid back person, but apparently time issues have their claws sunk deep in me.

But then they showed up, and…they were all dressed up!  They’d done their hair and put on makeup.  They were wearing nice clothes and jewelry.  The baby was outfitted with everything he could possibly need.  And I realized – this was a really special event for them.  It was a chance to get out of the house, to explore the city while feeling safe, to be TOURISTS and just enjoy life for a while.  My annoyance drifted away as I became consumed with love for them, which is like, the whole point of everything.

We spent a couple hours at the Acropolis Museum.  Two of the women only speak Spanish, so we mostly pointed at statues and imitated their poses, laughed at each other, and then got told off by tour guides.  We had to stop a lot because two of the women are pregnant, and the new mother got increasingly terrified because she kept static shocking people and she thought she would hurt her baby.  A quick phone call to our Spanish interpreter prevented her from going home early, and I just kind of…loved my job?  The weird things that happen!  Never a dull moment!

We got coffee and sat around in the sun together for awhile before heading home.  On the metro, I was acutely aware of the fact that I, a white person, was hanging out with three black women.  There aren’t a lot of black people in Athens, and I wondered how people saw me, and then I thought, oh God, this is only a tiny taste of what they must think and feel at all times.  How exhausting to be a minority, always conscious of being “other” and wondering if that will cause you trouble or harm.

That was a lot of work stuff, but I did manage to have some fun this week too.  I went out with Olga and Haley (an American who works with Samaritan’s Purse) to Little Kook on Monday.  Olga and I had some prime roommate bonding, such as one Complaining Night and another Wine and Cheese and Jane Austen Movie Night.  And on Friday, three women from the Bible School came over for, well, another Wine and Cheese Night.  Today is Saturday, and I’ve been lazy while waiting for laundry to finish.  Tonight I’m going out to an Iranian restaurant for Danielle’s birthday, and the celebrations will continue tomorrow after church when we all watch a bunch of cat movies to celebrate the thing that bonds us all together (besides being ex-pats in Greece).

Things I’ve Learned in Greek Class

One of my favorite things about the seven weeks I spent learning Greek at The Athens Centre was how we learned both the language and the culture.  The Greek language is rich, and as I came to see, very logical!  Although it can be complicated, there are reasons for the grammatical rules that are often based in a decidedly Greek worldview.  I had so much fun learning from my teachers, Roza and Eleni, who instilled a little bit of Greece into my soul.

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Below are some of my favorite facts and trivia that I learned while conjugating verbs and memorizing vocabulary.   Continue reading

A Week in Greece #1: Everything is New

It’s been a week!  Well, it’s been a week since I left the United States, though tomorrow will be my official in-country anniversary.  But soon it will have been so long that those differentiations will be meaningless, which is one of the weirdest things I’m going through right now: constantly re-configuring my brain so that I remember this is not a week-long trip.  I live here.  One week down, fifty-ish more to go.

That doesn’t make me scared or anything, it’s just weird.  After all, I’ve never really been one to get homesick (although I have stared sullenly into the darkness at night, wishing Rory’s tiny paws would push my arm around for optimal snuggling).  I feel okay about this being more than a vacation, it’s just….weird!   Continue reading

Oh Hey, Friday! 5 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GREEK AND US CULTURE

Oh Hey Friday & 5 on Friday

My first Oh Hey, Friday! in Greece.  This is a link-up from September Farm and 5 on Friday from A. Liz Adventures, and I figured a listicle was a great way to address some of the differences I’ve noticed about daily life since moving to Greece.  I’ll probably do this again on another Friday, because Lord knows there are more than five differences.


5 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GREEK AND US CULTURE

1|  Where the Toilet Paper Goes

As a U.S. citizen, I was raised with relatively recent plumbing and could therefore flush toilet paper without a second thought.  Not so in Greece, whose sewer pipes are 2 inches in diameter (as opposed to 4 inches in the U.S) and were created centuries before the invention of toilet paper.  So in Greece, every toilet has a little wastebin next to it.  You wipe, then throw it away.

Some people on trips to Greece (or Turkey, or Mongolia, or anywhere with a culture older than ours) freak out about this.  It doesn’t really bother me, since traveling inspires in me an “oh well” attitude toward unusual bathroom habits (see my story about going to the bathroom in Mongolia: Tricia Accepts the Inevitability of Peeing in Public).  After all, the wastebins have lids, so you’re not looking at used toilet paper while you brush your teeth.  And I have a room to myself, so it’s only my own filth, and I can throw out the bag any time I want.

For me, the problem is in remembering to toss the TP in the wastebin.  But it’s been five days now, and I’m nearly at a 100% success rate. Continue reading

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill

I’ve already begun thinking of myself as part-Greek, which is, I know, very ridiculous.  Just because I will live in the country for a year does not mean I have a right to claim their heritage as my own….except that Cahill has written an entire book about how the Western world has been shaped by the Greek worldview for the last two and a half thousand years.  So while I may not be Greek in heritage, I am in spirit.

Cahill divides his chapters into themes that also follow a general chronological pattern.  I found this to be a much easier way to track with the history and culture presented.  He also makes use of a lot of literature, which, as a book nerd, I found especially delightful.  Beginning with Homer’s The Iliad, Cahill describes Greek warriors and their obsession with glory on the battlefield.  We then move on emotions, celebrations, politics, philosophy, art, and religion.  Over and over again, Cahill reminds us just how strongly our present-day culture resembles the ancient Greeks.

I’ve always loved Greek mythology, my high school English class spent some time with Sophocles and Homer, and I took art history classes as electives in college.  I’m a little familiar with a lot of Greek history and thought, but Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea put everything into context.  For instance, the shift in Greek sculptures from rigid idealistic poses of men to the twisting, agonized figures in the famous Laocoon and His Sons came about as the strength of Athens waned, first to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War and then to Rome.

This book hits all of my interests:  art, literature, history, culture, and GREECE.  Perfect.  Continue reading

StumbleUpon Sunday (15)

StumbleUpon is a great way to lose hours of your life.  Luckily, I braved the Internet vortex so you don’t have to.  This week I found these especially interesting websites:

  1. 10 Incredible Thrill-Seeking Adventures To Do Around the World
    I will never do any of these because I am a big coward.  Maybe the wing walking.  But only on a dare.
  2. 29 Mind-Blowing Coincidences You Won’t Believe Happened
    I’m naming my son Hugh Williams.
  3. Dog and Lamb
    A boxer frolicked with a lamb, and there are pictures!
  4. What It’s Like to Fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suite Class
    Oh my GOSH this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read.  Someday when I’m flush with cash I will spoil myself silly on the world’s most expensive flight.  The guy who wrote this has a great sense of humor, too.  I especially loved his horror at sleeping for six hours, or “$6,000 worth of the flight.”
  5. 14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time it Takes to Eat Lunch
    I love this list of bite-sized literature.  It is especially useful for its links to places you can read the story for free.
  6. ‘Real Monsters’ Art – Mental Illnesses as Monsters
    Wow.  These creatures are really beautiful, in a horrible way.  The artist, Toby Allen, does a wonderful job making mental illnesses understandable.
  7. 26 Gifs So Cute You Might Die a Sudden, Tragic Death
    Death by adorable is a good way to go.  (Hint: click on #5 to see a whole video of this tiny orange kitten climbing up to sit on a cameraman’s head. And #11 IS SO CUTE.  Just, all of them.  Look at all of them.)
  8. 12 Interspecies Hugs That Show That Love is Universal
    More cuteness!  I’m especially awed by the lion and the fawn, but there’s also the cat and the owl!  And that last picture of a koala sleeping on a dog’s back is super adorable.
  9. 10 Mnemonic Tricks for Never Forgetting Anything Again
    Super useful!
  10. What Real Beauty Looks Like Around the World
    These photos of diverse women in their 20s are a stunning reminder to embrace your culture and background.