A Week in Greece #6: Beginning Level II

This week has been great!  Last Saturday I went to Sounio, which was a much-needed mini-adventure to somewhere new, beautiful, and fun.  It really rejuvenated me and gave me the energy to jump back into life in Athens.

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On Sunday, after church, Argyris and Dina took me to a lunch for a group of church planters. I was not excited about it, because church always drains me. There is so much Greek to listen to and so many introductions and opportunities to forget even the most basic of Greek phrases. But I went to the lunch, and I’m so glad that I did!  There were a bunch of people there that I already knew, which was nice. I got to reconnect with Joy, an American woman who has worked in Athens as a counselor for about four years.  And I met Sarah, a woman from Illinois who married an awesome Greek guy (Leonidas) last year and moved to Greece. She’s 33, and she told me to wait until I’m 33 (like she did) before I get married so that I can take advantage of being single in my 20s.  It was the best thing someone could tell me on Valentine’s Day (which, wonderfully, is not really celebrated much in Greece).  Her husband translated the mini-lecture at the lunch for us, and I like them both so much!  Continue reading

Sounio Vlog!

I created a YouTube channel, creatively named ItIsTrish | inGreece, to post videos and vlogs about my adventures in Greece!

Last Saturday, Anthi and I went to Sounio to explore beaches and see the Temple of Poseidon.  It was SO good to get outside of Athens and be surrounded by nature.  And it was fun to get a little creative and tell my story with video rather than the written word.  I hope you enjoy this peek into my life in Greece!

A Week in Greece #5: Level I Ends, Other Things Happen

I’m done with my Level I Greek class!  YEAH!  I’m going to celebrate this weekend by going to Sounio, which I will talk about in a separate blog post sometime in the next few days.

I need to celebrate the occasion, because on Monday, I’m going back to class to start Level II.  This time I’ll be taking a three-week course for FOUR hours every day.  I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.  But not nearly as much as I could be, because I’m really looking forward to continuing to hang out with Elvira and Emi (and maybe Stewart – he is undecided).  Plus, this week I had a decisive shift toward self-confidence that actually makes me excited to keep learning Greek.  It first happened at the grocery store when I handed the cashier €20 and said, “Oh, I think I have change, just a second.”  When the transaction was finished, I grabbed my bags and walked out the door and suddenly realized: I could have said that in Greek.   Continue reading

A Week in Greece #4: One Month Anniversary, Feeling Homesick

It’s been a month!  I’ve officially stayed in Greece longer than anywhere other than Senegal (this week I passed the Mongolia mark).  I’m happy with this milestone – although I’m missing my homes in the United States, there’s nothing about Greece that I actively dislike.  It’s a really nice place to live.

As always, my life continues to revolve around my Greek class.  I was planning on saying, “Only one more week!” in this post, but on Thursday I talked with Dina and Argyris and we decided I should go ahead and take the Intensive Level II course.  It starts immediately after this one ends, and it will be FOUR hours a day, but for only three weeks.  I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.

However, if I’m going to continue studying Greek, this is definitely the best option.  1)  I will continue to study with Elvira and Emi, and I really like my new friends.  2)  It will be taught by Rosa (my teacher the first two weeks) and she is fantastic.  3)  I used to think I needed a break to let my knowledge settle, but when I gave myself last weekend off, I wound up forgetting a million things.  It’s better, I think, to keep going.  4)  I will be done on March 4, which will be when House Damaris renovations will be winding down and furnishings/planning will be winding up!   Continue reading

A Week in Greece #3: A Greek Play and Exploring on My Own

Although my mind is still consumed by Greek lessons, I had a bit more of a life this week (for better and for worse).

Last week I felt overwhelmed by all the verbs and vocabulary and grammar that I had to juggle every day in my Greek class.  I also felt overwhelmed by making new friends.  So last weekend, I stayed in my room as much as possible and worked my butt off mastering the Greek we had worked on.  I’m talking 8 hours of Greek on Saturday and another 6 hours on Sunday.  The payoff was worth it – when I returned to class on Monday, I felt like I was swimming through the lessons instead of drowning.  Classes continued, my friendships with Nir and Elvira continued, and I started to really like our teacher Rosa, which is unfortunate because next week we have a new teacher.

I already wrote about the excitement of how we have a location for HD.  The continuation of that is that Anthi took me to see the outside of the building on Thursday night, and it’s nicely secluded with a lot of trees, and there are balconies and…you know, outside of a building stuff.  Eventually I will see the inside and have a stronger opinion.  I’ve also been helping Dina write fundraising updates and letters.  She came to my room Thursday morning and said, “We need $200,000 to fully renovate the house.  God will give us the money!”  Later I told Anthi that I’m just going to kind of borrow Dina’s faith body-of-Christ-style, because I definitely don’t have it.  But, well.  Maybe I do.  Because God came through with providing us the house, so why not the money too?

On Thursday night, I went to Anthi’s house after class.  We had dinner, she took me to see the house, and then we went to Ambelokipi (meaning “grape garden” because there were vineyards in the area before there was city) to meet up with Dina, Francisca, and Natasha to see a play!  It was a three-hour production of Crime and Punishment in Greek.  When the music started and a man slowly walked on stage, lighting a lantern and pouring a glass of water, Anthi leaned over and whispered, “Do you understand what has happened so far?”  She filled me in every ten minutes or so, and I could mostly keep up.  I wondered how much of the exaggerated emotion (there’s nothing quite so strange as listening to gibberish spoken normally SUDDENLY JUMPING TO SHOUTED GIBBERISH) was due to the plot and how much was due to the Greek actors.  When it was over I found out that several of the cast were famous Greek TV actors, and Natasha made Anthi take multiple pictures of her standing with one of the men.   Continue reading

BIG NEWS: We Have a House!

We have had some disappointments during our search for a HD location, and there has been talk of us delaying our opening until July.  While driving me to church on Sunday, Dina saw through my fake “everything’s fine” facade and assured me, “Don’t worry about the people who paid for you to be here. God is in control. He knows what he is doing, and when we will open.  He is doing something – we have a bank account even though banks are not opening new accounts, and you are here now.  We will find out what he is doing when he has made us ready.” I was still lying a little bit when I agreed with her, but she said she spent all day Saturday praying, so I decided to trust her wisdom.

We parked the car and got on the metro.  A girl from school happened to be on the red line with us.  Veta, her mother, was visiting the city, and she and Dina happily reunited while we walked to the church.  After the service, a tiny older lady asked me how HD was doing.  “Oh, it’s slow,” I said.  “We can’t find a house, and the budget keeps shrinking.”  Belatedly, I wondered if I should be telling these things to a stranger, but she had already walked away.

I visited with some other people before circling back to Dina.  Her face lit up when she saw me.  “We found a house!” she cried.  “Um, what?” I asked.  Two hours ago we were complaining and doubting (well, I was), and immediately our problems were solved?

“Veta and her husband are old friends of ours, and they have been praying for HD for years.  They have a house that they have wanted to be used by a ministry, but they didn’t think that we needed one.  Now they are going to let us use it for very cheap, thanks to you!”

“Thanks to me?” I asked.  I hadn’t talked to Veta on the metro or at the church.

“You told Mrs. Hill that we didn’t have a house, and she knew Veta was trying to rent one.  She told her to talk to me!  I told you this morning that God brought you here for a reason.”

Filled with Greek exuberance, I threw my hands in the air, delighted to find that my big mouth had accomplished something wonderful.

Over lunch with Dina and Argyris, we discussed all the benefits of the house.  It’s in a good area, it’s private, it’s owned by people they know and trust, and it’s half the price of our already slashed budget.

On Monday, Dina and the other HD women went to the house in the afternoon while I was in Greek school.  They loved it.  They went over the budget, they talked with important people, and it was decided:

We’re renting the house, and we’re ready to get started ASAP!

I cannot actually comprehend how ridiculous this is.  Dina and I talked about trusting God in the morning, and in the afternoon he answered our prayers, and the next day everything is good to go?  It’s crazy and exciting and with such perfect timing that I have to see God’s hand at work.

I don’t think this is the end of our obstacles.  But this week has strengthened my weak faith – God can, and will, side-step every obstacle with ease.  After all, as I keep hearing, this is not our project.  God is interested in freeing women from a lifetime of emotional and physical slavery, and he will get the job done, in his uniquely absurd and delightful way.

A Week in Greece #2: First Week in a Daily Greek Class

Υεια σασ!  Τι κανετε;

Δεν ζερω ελλινικα ακομα, αλλα καταλαβαινω λιγα.

This week has been all about GREEK.  I’ve gone to class for three hours a day (we’re supposed to get a half hour break, but some days we get only fifteen or twenty – one day we went over by half an hour).  It’s crazy intense.

Every day I leave feeling like my brain is about to explode.  This is compounded by the fact that my classmates have lived in Greece for several months.  When we practice speaking in class, they’ll throw in phrases they’ve heard or learned, and it’s all I can manage not to throw a fit and scream, “You can’t say things we haven’t learned in here!!”  I feel very dumb, especially since the girl who struggled the most dropped out.  I’m now definitely in the bottom three.

It’s easy to focus on that, because, well, perfectionism.  But on Wednesday I skyped with my mom and later with my grandparents, and I read them a paragraph from my textbook.  I mean, I read it in Greek.  “Do you know what you read!?” my mom asked.  “Yeah,” I said dully, because I’d mispronounced “δυο.”  “WOW,” she enthused.  “Three days ago you didn’t know any Greek.”   Continue reading

First Day at Greek School

I have started my month-long intensive Greek lessons!  It’s in downtown Athens, which means it takes about 1.5 hours to get there.  There’s a bus very near the school where I’m staying, which takes about 40 minutes to get to the metro station.  I get on the blue line, and ride that for another 30 minutes or so to Syntagma Square.  I exit aboveground at the place where, eight years ago, I rang handbells for a crowd in front of the Parliament building.  From there, I walked through the National Gardens, exit near the Olympic Stadium, and walk up a sweat-producing hill (altogether about 25 minutes) to the Athens Centre.

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The blue line is my walk from Syntagma to the Centre.  The red blobs are tourist destinations.

I arrived at the Centre with enough time to fill out a registration form and grab a cup of free coffee.  I wasn’t really nervous about the class, but I was…on edge? Ready to be nervous? But I think I’m finally experienced enough that I can walk into an unknown situation with new people and not immediately hyperventilate. Of course, it helped that the Centre is small, beautiful, and comfortable.  There’s a fun view of the Acropolis from the roof.   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