Monday, May 25, 2009

2010 JU Lacrosse Schedule Packs a Punch, But What Kind of Punch?

ThE 2009 NCAA Lacrosse season is over and Syracuse was crowned the national champion. Watching the game on Memorial Day only got me more hyped for the inaugural season for JU lacrosse at the Division 1 level. The schedule was just released last week and it definitely will offer a challenge to Matt Kerwick and his young bunch next season:


2/13/2010 BELLARMINE

2/27/2010 at VMI
Lexington, Va.
3/2/2010 MOUNT ST. MARY'S


3/10/2010 YALE

3/13/2010 SACRED HEART

3/20/2010 MANHATTAN

3/27/2010 at Robert Morris
Moon Township, Pa.
4/3/2010 at Duke
Durham, N.C.
4/10/2010 RUTGERS

4/17/2010 at Presbyterian
Clinton, S.C.
4/24/2010 at Hofstra
Hempstead, N.Y.

The schedule offers a nice mix of powerful teams in NCAA lacrosse along with some teams in the lower-tier of Division 1 that will allow for some competitive games for JU.

According to rankings, JU will play two teams in the top seven in the country. The first of those teams will come in the first game for the Dolphins when they take on North Carolina. I do not believe that their schedule will be as difficult as some people will say however.

The combined record of all 13 teams Jacksonville plays next year is 91-108, which averages out to about a 7-8 record. Five of the 13 teams have a winning record, with two of the teams (Manhattan & Robert Morris) in the bottom half of the country in the rankings. Any team that has already been playing d-1 college lacrosse would find this schedule fairly easy.

I'm not here to say that this will be an easy schedule or even a decent schedule, because for a team with mostly freshman, a few transfers and some kids that could make it from the club team, their heads will be spinning from the competition. Most of the teams on the schedule are not used to playing teams that they know they will be better than. It sucks to say it, but the Dolphins will struggle this year as they get adjusted to life as a division 1 team. All the tools are in place for this team to succeed eventually, but everyone takes their bumps and bruises in their first season so it will be nothing to be ashamed of.

It is something that I am excited to be apart of next year, one way or another!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Chronicles of Berry: My Thoughts on Greece

For the past couple of weeks I've given you pretty much a day-by-day account of what's been going on here in Athens. Today I want to switch it up and talk to you about my perspective on this city. Keep in mind it's merely an American's thoughts whose only been here for a couple weeks, anybody whose been here can chime in and tell me if I'm accurate or not. Here we go:

- Food: It seems like they take so much more time to prepare the food here compared to back in the states. Everything from the pizza to the salad to the fruit just seems to taste that much fresher over here. Even if you go into fast food places like McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut you will see much cleaner looking establishments than you would in the US.

Even the things that are mass-produced (candy and juice, for example) just seem to have that extra care that I don't see back home. One of the many great things I had while I was here was strawberry juice. I love strawberries and I've always wanted it in juice form but you really don't find that in the US, and I found it over here. It tastes absolutely great, I wish I could bring the whole brand back with me. I guess I'll have to come back to Greece soon. I really could get fat over here with all the food I love. By the way, I think I mentioned it before in a previous post but if you ever go to Nafplio, please check out the gelato shop here. It is absolutely the best gelato I've ever had. Granted I've never been to Italy but still! If you didn't notice I loved the food over here.

-Smoking: Simply put, there is no place in Athens that you can't smoke! It's unbelievable. It's also interesting because as I read and experienced Athens, I found out that there are laws that ban smoking in public places. I had yet to be in a public place in Athens for the entire trip that adehered to those rules. It was really something to see everybody that smokes; the most astonishing statistic that I read while I was there was that one in four 10-year-olds smoke. 10 years old! That is insane, I can only imagine how bad it is at 12 or 14 or even 20! You could see a very attractive young lady over there and there was a pretty good chance that she smoked, which is a shame.

-I am thankful that we ended up in the neighborhood that we did for our stay in Athens. Pangrati is an actual neighborhood in Athens, not a tourist area where most of the locals spoke english. I think it was good for while we were there because it helped us learn how to deal with being there. If all we had was people speaking to us in english, it would have been too easy. Truthfully, I came to Greece because I wanted to experience a different culture and obviously a different language. It's not an easy language at all but one that is worth the time and effort to at least learn the basics. We as Americans have butchered the pronunciation of the Greek alphabet. We probably only get about 15% of it right, it is really something to see.

-For the most part, the people in Athens were nice and willing to help. They could clearly tell that I was American, with the only exception being one lady who thought I could have pulled off being French. There were a few people who fit the "cold" European stereotype but for the most part they were very friendly and helpful.

All in all this was an extremely enjoyable experience and I would absolutely love to do it again. I'll be back to my regular blogs coming up soon, I have plenty to talk about. Thanks to everybody who was with me on my tour of Athens!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Chronicles of Berry: Delphi

Monday was another long day filled with bus rides, historical sites, and a museum. Our destination for the day was the town of Delphi, about three hours away from Athens. We first met up with Keti, another of the ladies who worked at the Athens Centre. We ended up taking a full-sized tour bus, one that was entirely too big for just four students, a professor, and an extra lady. Nonetheless, we were off to Delphi with one stop for breakfast.

When we got to Delphi, we met up with Elektra, who would be our tour guide for the day. Of all the beautiful sceneries I have seen so far in Greece, this had to be at the top. You could see the mountains for miles (or kilometres here). You can also see down into the valley and see the houses; it is just an absolutely breathtaking scene to behold.

Elektra toured us through Delphi, which had a temple dedicated to Apollo, the god of music, poetry, and oracles. This is also the site of the Delphi oracle, which is the most important in the classical Greek world. This had to be one of the more fascinating sites we went to since we've been here in Greece.

Delphi was also home to the Pythians, which was a precursor to the Olympic games. The stadium is still in existence, and through abotu ten minutes of climbing, the four of us students finally reached it. It was a very long stadium and the seats didn't go up very far, maybe about 10-15 rows. I would have really like to see what it looked like in ancient times as the athletes went about trying to win the crown of leaves (which went to the winner; there were no rewards for second and third place like there is today).

Elektra was particularly interesting as a tourguide because of how she delivered the tour to us. She was as passionate as someone could be about the site, and to think that she has to have that knowledge about all of these archaeological sites in Greece is mind-blowing. There were plenty of things she explained that really stuck in my head, like breaking down the name of Philadelphia. Philos means love, and Delphi means brother. It's crazy to think about where the "City of Brotherly Love" got its name from, but it came from ancient times. What made her good was the stories she had for all of the different parts of the site. It felt like I could actually use my imagination to see where everything was from the ancient times.

After we walked down from the site, we met back up with Elektra and went on a tour of the museum. Once again, the stories she knew were really able to bring the artifacts to life in a sense. We were able to go through the different artifacts from what would have been in the acropolis. We saw some sculptures of what would have Asclepios and his twin sister Artemis in some pretty amazing detail. Words can't fully describe everything you see at these sites.

When we finished with the museum, we said our goodbyes to Elektra and went to grab a quick bite to eat and something to drink. They were selling cups of some really nice looking slushies for 3 euros and 50 cents. It was pretty much worth it for what I got. We all took the bus after that for a long bus ride back to Athens, though it didn't feel as long as the ride to Delphi. Although it was a long day, it was definitely another memorable one. Our professor Dick said that what we're doing is what people have spent their whole lives trying to do. In the span of two weeks! It really makes you appreciate the experience that we've had so far and whatever is yet to come. Today (Tuesday) was another semi-off day. I sent off postcards, got some laundry done (or done for me, at a crazy expensive price) and took another quiz for Dick's class. This one I feel supremely confident that I did great on.

Tomorrow is the Island of Aegina, so tune in soon for that post! Until next time blog followers....

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Chronicles of Berry: It's Saturdaaaaay!!!!

Our Saturday was nothing short of very very long. We had to wake up seven in the morning, which is never much of a Saturday tradition back in the states. We all pulled ourselves out of bed and met Dick downstairs to go meet our guide for the day and the minivan.

When we got to the corner of the street that we were supposed to meet our tourguide at, he was nowhere to be found at first. Then, a guy came up from behind us and asked us our names in as American of an accent as we'll hear while we're in Athens. His name was John, and after we met up with him we went over to what we thought would be a minivan. Instead it turned out to be a small bus that was really nice. Just like a bunch of things over here in Athens. Iris came with us as well, but this time I think it was just to tag along.

I slept for the first part of the ride to Mycenae, and on the way we stopped in Corinth for a bathroom break and to get something to eat and drink. While we were there we saw the famous Corinth Canal. When I tell you that it's a far way down, I lie to you not. From where we stood at the top of the canal to the bottom, it was about a 300 foot drop. Not the best for me, seeing as I'm not a big fan of heights. I had to get off of there pretty quickly needless to say. Now we were really off to Mycenae.

When we got to Mycenae, we took a look at the citadel of Mycenae. Once again, another grand site that shows off some of the rich history of ancient Greece. It's still kind of hard to get a true idea of what the place looked like since it's mostly grass and some stones now, but using your imagination does wonders to aid the process. There were plenty of different things that we saw, including the entrance to the citadel, which had to be one of the most impressive things about the entire site. As you walk up, you see two lions etched in stone above the entrance. These stones are not small either, they have been called "cyclops stones" because it is believed that only cyclops would have been able to carry them up to where they were.

After Mycenae, we went to Nafplios. Nafplios was actually the first capital of Greece (little history lesson vor everybody out there). This was an island that is what you think about when you see postcards and tourist pamphlets. Kids were playing outside, the sun was out and no clouds were in the sky, the water was as clear as I've ever seen it in my life (definitely a far cr from the St. Johns River). We stopped here and got some lunch at this little taverna that was barely noticed by anyone but John, who obviously had been there before. I ordered some meatballs and french fried potatoes for lunch and tired a little bit of the swordfish that Steve ordered. It was all very good and had me bordering on the edge of being full (which is hard to do. After lunch, we went over to a gelato shop which Iris insisted that we go to. I'm glad she instisted on it, because she treated us to what had to be the best gelato I've ever had. The lemon, mango, and strawberry gelato was quite simply amazing. It astonishes me to see the amount of care they put into making food over here compared to in the states, but that's for another entry.

After Nafplio, we went over to Epidaurus. This is home to the Temples of Asclepios and Artemis. The story is that Asclepios' mother died as she gave birth to him, so his goal in life was to help heal people. He thus became the god of medicine. The site that we went to was huge and had plenty of different places to go. We saw what used to be a gymnasium where athletes used to train, Greek and Roman showers (which are very different, by the way), and the place where families stayed if a family member got sick. All in all it was an interesting site. Now it was time to head back to Athens.

On the bus, I did as I always do, SLEEP! I got woken up a bit prematurely however as the bus we were riding in broke down in the middle of a horrendous traffic jam. Luckily, we weren't too far away from the apartment so we just hiked it on foot from where the bus broke down.

At night, we decided to go out for a little bit. We ended up finding an Irish pub right in Monastiraki Square. It was fun, we were able to find more "study-abroaders" from the states. It was fun to be able to converse with more people. I was scolded by one girl that I met for having a Yankees cap on (FYI, I don't like the Yankees but I do feel like that cap can be worn with most anything!) All in all it was a fun night, except for having to pay 15 euros to get back home.

Sunday was a true off day, all I did was sleep, study, and eat. Kind of like what I do in the states when I'm at school, except maybe not quite in that order. Anyways, until next time faithful "Chronicles" readers!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Chronicles of Berry: Thursday & Friday of Week One

First, I have to say thank you to my most faithful reader, Mama Flynn, for coming up with the great name I can use for my blog while I'm here. It was only genius enough for me to not come up with it. Anyhow, this update is a two-for-one because Thursday and Friday weren't terribly eventful. Here we go!

Thursday morning, the four of us and Dick walked down to the Old Olympic Stadium (which is by the way a beautiful and amazing piece of architecture!) to meet up with Iris. After we found her, we got on the bus and headed down to the National Archaeological Museum of Greece. After we got off the bus, we had a little bit of time to kill before we went inside, so I did the obvious when I have free time. EAT! I got this bacon, egg and cheese pastry which once again seemed to be better than anything that I've had in the states that is similar. After that solid breakfast, we sat down to get a quick lecture about the different historical time periods in relation to Ancient Greece. Then we were off to experience the museum.

Once we got inside, we found out just how much history there was in ancient Greece. Almost too much for four students to digest in a few hours! There was definitely some interesting things to look at though. By the way, if you want to check out some pictures from the museum as well as some other pictures on the trip, click on this link:

Among the various things we saw at the museum were how statues were used in ancient times and how they varied and became more detailed as time went on. They were initially used as tombstones would have been used today. Essentially, imagine going to a cemetery and seeing statues and the grave sites instead of tombstones. As time went on, the statues would get more and more lavish until they were eventually outlawed. After that, the tombs featured much more subdued images. It was really interesting just to think how much extravagance has been a thorn in the side of society for thousands of years; it's not just something that started with "bling-bling".

Something we saw that plenty of people would have liked is weapons that were excavated from the Battle of Thermopylae. Not ringing a bell yet? If you remember the movie 300, you should remember that is the battle it is based off of. They had some of the weapons from that battle and you can see those in the picture album. Just in case a few of you readers did not realize that the movie was based off a real life event, here you go! No excuses now.

We also saw how the ancient people used various materials to make these wonderful sculptures. At first, it was mostly marble. However as time progressed, they obviously realized that marble can't be sculpted in certain ways or else it would probably fall off (arms and legs sticking out for instance). A picture in the album shows Zeus (or Poseidon, it's been debated) with his arm sticking out in a position to hold what would have been a bolt of lightining. That would not have been able to be done with marble because the arm would have fallen off. One of my favorite statues had to have been of the minotaur (the head of a bull and lower body of a man). It just looked really cool.

Something else I saw that I liked was the images on the pottery which showed the goddess of Athena Nike (which means victory for all you ignorant Nike heads out there). She would be judging different competitions. It was cool to hear about how the athletes would clean themselves off with olive oil and then scrape it off after their practice or competition. You know something having to do with sports would catch my interest.

The museum was huge, and it felt like an accomplishment when we got to the end! Afterwards, we got on the bus and headed back to the apartment. We had another great quiz from Dick and that was about it for the day.

Friday wasn't too eventful at all, and we would need it to be like that because Saturday promised to be extremely busy. We just had another quiz and chilled for the day. It felt good just to be able to rest for a little bit. Until next time, stay tuned for the "Chronicles"!

P.S.- Happy Mother's Day to every mother out there, especially mine!!!! Love you!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Agora, "Class", and Americans!

Wednesday set up to be a not too bad day. Not too much on the agenda but we still got to see another important historic landmark from ancient Athens. The four of us and Dick met Iris at the entrance to the Agora, although we were a bit late. We got there though!

If the Acropolis was the religious center to ancient Athens, then the Agora was the cultural, political, and civic center. They had everything there for ancient Athenians including shops, legislative buildings concert halls, and temples. We had a fairly extensive tour of the grounds, and of course Iris was there to break it all down for us.

The Agora is a huge site and it has a big connection to the Acropolis. On the Street of the Panathenaia, the main street in the Agora, they used to have a Panathenaic National Festival. They would march down that road through the other side of the Agora all the way up the Acropolis until they got to the Temple of Athena. They would then worship her and get her a new robe, and this would happen every year. The festival was somewhat similar the Olympic games.

We then went around to see the various sites where the legislative bodies were in ancient times. We also saw the Temple of Hephaistos and a bunch of different places that, with a bit of imagination, could be made to look like it was definitely the central hub of life in ancient Athens. We also went into the museum on site where one of the stoas once were. There were plenty of interesting artifacts all around the museum to see how ancient Athenians lived. It's honestly pretty crazy to think that this stuff is centuries old, and actually even older.

After we left the Agora, we all split up before we had class at two. I stopped by one of the little souvenir shops and got some postcards (which I still have to send out). While I was there I met a young lady named Ana who works there. I learned that she was fairly proficient in a few languages (English, Spanish, French, and Greek were the ones I heard her speak) and she's not even from Greece! She was born in Albania and lived in England for about five years. Definitely an interesting person to meet in my journey here!

We had one of Dick Gibson's classic quizzes after we all got back to the apartment. I forgot how much I love those! Anyways after that I went back to the room and passed out, simply because naps are the definite best.

When nighttime rolled around, three of us decided to head out to find a restaurant with a tv so we could watch the second leg of the Barcelona-Chelsea semi-final for the UEFA Champions League. We found a decent little place and met up with George (the friend of Jon's I mentioned in an earlier post). We sat down and ate for the first half. The souvlaki wasn't the best I've had since I've been here, but it wasn't bad. The game started out very surprisingly when Michael Essien absolutely struck the ball off of a deflected pass to put Chelsea up a goal in the ninth minute. At halftime, we got up and went to look for a bar to hang out at. Fortunately, we ended up going to the best one for the whole trip so far.

It wasn't necessarily the drinks or anything that made it so great, just the fact that we finally met some other American students that were doing study abroad as well. The majority of them were from the University of Indianapolis in Indiana. It was nice to be able to have a converation with people who weren't the roommates or professors. To top it off, the ending of the game was just insane. I was rooting for Barcelona to advance, but it wasn't looking good for them and time was winding down. Just as it looked lost in the 93rd minute, Andres Iniesta put a laser in the back of the net to tie the match at one. We thought it was going into extra time but there was none, because they won the aggregate on away goals. What a game!

After that, the four of us just walked around for a little bit before taking a cab back home. Another fun and productive day in Athens! Until next time readers, make sure to comment....

Athens Trip: Temple of Poseidon, Agora, What Else?

Hey there folks, I know you've been anxiously waiting for my next post so here it is! My first two posts I did after writing a "rough draft" on paper. I realized that this takes a bit of free time, time that we really don't have over here. That being said, this is being written off the top of my head with my verious papers here to aid me in the process. Hope you still enjoy!

Tuesday started with the four of us students, our professor Dick, and our tour guide/archaeological expert for the trip Iris making our way to the Acropolis. Like I said in my last post, this time we went for educational purposes instead of merely as tourists. We were able to see it in a bit of a different light, of course learning the whole time. Among the many buildings on the Acropolis we saw were the Erechtheion and the well-known Parthenon. This was the religous heart of Ancient Athens where the Athenians went to worship the Goddess Athena and in later years the God Poseidon. At the the bottom of the Acropolis is the Theater of Dionysos where many plays performed. Nobody needs to worry this time, no whistle-bearing ladies were there to stop any of our picture-taking this time.

After the Acropolis, we went down to Monastiraki Square where we got some lunch as we waited to get on the train. Monastiraki is pretty much the tourist hub of Athens with a flea market and plenty of plenty of places to eat. I had some souvlaki, I can't remember if it was pork or chicken but it was really good. I must say that I could really get fat off of Greek food. Maybe it's just because I'm not used to the food so I find it that much more appealing, but it seems like they put so much more care into the preparation of the food here than they do in the United States. I even had what I could literally say are the best strawberries I have EVER had in my life before we got on the train. They were so naturally sweet that I think Jesus Christ plucked them and personally put them on that fruit stand. Anyways, back to the rest of the day...

We got on the train and went to Egyptou Square where we waited for our bus ride to Sounion. At this point we were all pretty tired, and that hour and 40 minute bus ride was the perfect remedy. The buses that took us out to Sounion were pretty nice, the equivalent of coach buses in the U.S. except it was for public transportation. Think something like Greyhound, but much more frequent and with way nicer buses. As fast as I could sit down and turn my iPod on, I was knocked out. When we got there, I felt as good as I had all day.

When we got to Sounion, we saw the Temple of Poseidon. It wasn't nearly as big as the Parthenon, but the view of the Aegean Sea was still amazing nonetheless. There's not too much to say about this place, I'll have to let the pictures do the talking for me. You will be alerted when they're up!

We sat down to get a drink before we had to get on the bus. Once again, we had a long drive but this time I was able to catch up on some reading AND take a nap. That's how you become efficient with your time. So what that the trip back was longer than the trip there, that's a minor detail.

When we got back, we took a taxi from a part of downtown Athens back to the apartment. Later that night we walked around, but it wasn't much to scream about. All in all, our day was tiring but fun. We're busy, but what else would you want to be in Athens!!!!

P.S.- I have four postcards I'm looking to send off soon. If you want one let me know. That means you would have read all the way too, which would make me pleased. Until next time....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Athens: The Adventure Begins!

To start our first full day in Athens, we went to the Athens Centre for our official orientation. There, we were given a tour of the quaint yet very beautiful facilities by Nina. We were introduced to Harry, the rhino that protects the centre. No, it's not a real rhino, but if you glance briefly at it you would not be able to tell.

After our tour of the library, classrooms, main office, and everything else (trust me, it's not even as big as I'm making it sound) we went to hear from who had to be one of the wisest and most well connected people in all of Greece. When he talked, it seemed as though he knew everybody there was to know in the country. I can't remember any of the names he mentioned specifically, but I do remember him saying there were quite a few famous poets. I believe the name of the man that spoke to us was John Zervos, the dircetor over the Athens Centre.

The only drawback to the "lecture" was that he almost knew too much, more than the four of us (and even out professor, Dick!) could absorb in the time that he talked to us. None os us felt like we knew when it would end. There was a lot of interesting and useful information, but our brains became over-saturated with it. After our conversation, we went back to the Athens Centre for some refreshments. The cookies and juice, like a lof of t hings here in Athens so far, were absolutely exquisite. I may have to take some of those cookies with the chocolate filling back to the Florida with me. As we all devoured the refreshments, we chatted with Nina some more. Then, we were on our way for a two hour break before "classes" offically started.

All four of us went on a bit of a mission on our break: first, a couple of us had to buy a book that we have to read while we're here in Athens. The book is called "Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens". That was found with relative ease, minus a turn here or there. After that, we went on to our next mission: getting cell phones. Now, we weren't looking for Athenian BlackBerrys or anything, just a simple pre-paid phone to get us through the remainder of the trip. We found a phone store and were able to get some phones with minutes for pretty reasonable prices. Unfortunately, the time it took to get the phones put the group against the wall as far as time went. We had to get back to the centre for class, but we were also really hungry as well. We wanted some traditional Greek food for lunch, but the time crunch forced us to our American ways. Steve and I ended up ordering a Big Mac value meal from McDonalds (side note: the McFlurrys over here look much much better than the ones in the U.S., I have to get at least one while I'm here) and headed back to the apartment to get ready for class via taxi.

Our first lecture was essentially to prepare us for our official visit to the Acropolis the next day. We visited it on the first day we arrived here, but that time it was more for tourist purposes. This time it would be as students learning about the different buildings. Our lecturer for that session was Dr. Iris Plaitakis. She was born in New York, and got her Master's Degree in Archaeology from Oxford University in England. She talked to us for a couple of hours about the ins and outs of the Acropolis. After she finished, we had class to learn about the Greek language. I can't remember the exact name of our professor, just that it is Angelica in english. There were plenty of things I remembered about the Greek language and alphabet. One of the biggest things I learned is that we as Americans butcher about 85% of the Greek alphabet. This speaks mostly to Greek-Lettered-Organizations. That's for another blog entry however, so be on the lookout for that. Anyhow, we learned a lot about the language and when I say it is a tough language, I mean it is TOUGH! But I guess a language with over 11 million words could do that to you.

After class got out, the four of us went out to explore a little bit. We started out at Plaka, the oldest section of Athens. This tourist attraction right below the Acropolis has plenty of shops, tavernas, and cafes. We sat down at one of the tavernas. The food was very good; we had souvlaki with french fried potatoes and rice. The white rice had to be the best I have ever had, and the potatoes were good and not very greasy. While we ate, a friend of Jon's (one of my roommates) showed up and sat with us. His name was George, and the two are friends from Australia. He lives in Greece now however. While we were sitting down, we also got our first glimpse of who could have been some other American "study abroaders". I saw one guy with an "Omega Psi Phi" hoody on. It was nice to see someone else from the NPHC in Athens, even if they aren't apart of the best fraternity in the world like I am.

When we got up from dinner, we decided to walk around. Boy did we ever walk. And walk. And walk. We walked for a pretty long time and some interesting parts of Athens. I'll put it like this: everywhere in the world has a shadier side to it, not just the parts you see on the postcards. Where we passed through kind of reminded me of the boroughs in New York. Some of it was good, some of it was not so good, but it was definitely eye-opening. After a while of walking, it got to be a bit much and I got tired. We called a taxi and went back to the apartment. The six euros and change was way better than the 12 euros we had to pay to go from the city square back to the apartment earlier in the day.

So went the first day of classes here in Athens. Stay tuned for more....

P.S.- even though we've only been here a few days, it seems like we've been here for weeks!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Start of My Journey to Athens, Greece!

Ya sou! Lol that's hello in Greek for everybody wondering. Anyways I told all my readers that I would be updating my blog as much as I could from Athens to let you all know what's going on, so here's my first one!

My journey from Athens started with a flight from Ft. Lauderdale to JFK Airport in New York. That trip was shorter than expected. Combine that with an already lengthy layover and you get an even longer wait, about fours to be specific. To kill the time I talked on the phone, texted, listened to my iPod, watched a random bird fly through the terminal, and ate insanely expensive New York airport food. New York food is already expensive, add the "airport" part to it and that just makes it ridiculous.

The flight to Athens wasn't too bad, except for my friend who I was flying over here with had to sprint almost a mile just to make the flight. Don't worry, he made it. This flight, like my first flight, seemed to go shorter than I anticipated. I'm sure a few people thought that, but especially me because I thought the flight was going to be about 14 or 15 hours and it ended up being around nine. Still along time, but a great overestimation on my part. I watched "The Express", a movie based on the life of the Syracuse football great Ernie Davis. It was inspiring and made me want to get back out on the football field! It was a shame that he had to die so early in his life. Anyways, I can't forget to talk about the food on the flight. Well I actually could, because it was nothing special, slightly average airline food.

It seemed like as soon as we touched down in in Athens we had something to do. Hitting the ground running like that isn't too bad, but the seven hour time difference from where I live didn't really help things. We had to stay up the whole day so we could adjusted to the time difference, which was TOUGH! (We arrived in Athens at 9 a.m., which is 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time) Our professor for the trip, the immortal Dick Gibson, took us to our apartment in the Pangrati section of Central Athens. When i say this apartment is immaculate, I am doing it a pretty good disservice. For four young men, there are three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room. The weirdest thing I've experienced in there so far is the fact that you are discouraged from flushing toilet paper. The pipes in Athens are apparently very old and small so too much paper in there could clog it up. What do we have to do then? Take any toilet paper (ANY) we use and put it in a plastic bag. I had to do it today, but I quickly took it to the dumpster downstairs outside of our apartment. Otherwise, I would have to say it is a pretty sweet deal for us to stay here.

As me and my roommate for the trip Steve waited for out other two roommates to arrive, we decided to give ourselves a tour of our temporary hometown. We walked around for a little bit and ended up at the quaint little cafe in Varnava Square. We got something to drink and we sat down to talk for awhile to kill time. What seemed like hours turned out to actually be a little bit over an hour. We saw a pretty disturbing sight that I'm sure could never happen in the States. A man had a baby in the front seat with him as he was driving. She was steering the wheel! It was funny, but not at all at the same time. This seemed like it could end up being a long day....

When our other two roommates arrived in town, all four of us and Dick decided to take a journey down to the Acropolis. That wonderful site can be seen from pretty much anywhere in Athens. The walk over there was not bad but I quickly saw the kind of driving that exists in Athens, or most of Europe for that matter. They have very little regard for pedestrians, and pretty much park wherever they see fit as long as it won't block the road. We walked through the street and passed some nice tavernas (restaurants, not taverns) before we got to the Acropolis. What a walk that was! I could say that about pretty much everywhere in Athens so far, if you stay here long enough, squats would be unnecessary, all you have to is walk up and down these hills. The Acropolis itself is a wonderful site and magnificent piece of architecture. Just imagining people building this mostly our of marble and on their backs astounds me. The view from the top of Acropolis was stunning, pictures will be put on later on. The funniest part was when a lady came running (or waddling) over to us after she saw us taking a picture with a JU flag in it. When Dick asked her what was wrong, all she could say was "respect". Needless to say, we were pretty careful with how we took our pictures after that.

At this point I am seriously tired, but we all (minus Dick) decided to walk around a little more. We went to a few little stores and I found this candy that's just like Twix except a thousand times better! And that's saying something because I love Twix. We then found an internet cafe which allowed to get my Facebook fix for two euros an hour.

After that, we went back to the apartment to get ready for our welcome dinner. All five of us met up with Nina, one of the ladies in chare of the whole program here in Athens. One of my roommates is crushin' on her, but I shall keep that identity secret. The dinner we had was wonderful and it was nice trying new stuff. although some of it really wasn't new. My entree was lamb leaves (I think) with french fried potatoes (think really healthy potatoes sliced up that taste really good, not much grease there). The waiter came with a shot of vodka before dinner and a shot of wine after dinner, which is custom here as I learned. It was a wonderful dinner, one that Nina called "the most fun I've been to". That's high praise because I'm sure she's been to many welcome dinners. After dinner the four of us students walked around for a little bit and stopped at a nice looking cafe and watched the end of a European basketball game. After all of that though, I went back to the apartment and completely knocked out. What a day, and that was only day one!

More to come soon....