Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back to school, the bus fiasco and how I lost my voice.....

Well let’s recap the last few days:

Sunday was a pretty decent day- I finally felt “at home” here in Greece, or at least at home ENOUGH. Pretty uneventful as everyone was pretty tired from the non-stop partying the week before. Nonetheless, we still decided to go out Sunday night. Not everybody’s heart was in it, but we felt like we should since it was the last day we could go out without worrying about homework. We went to a club called “Velvet”. Very Americanized- it looks like somewhere in Tampa or Miami the only difference was the people. It was pretty loud, but still fun and we went home relatively early by our own standards (2 am, ha!). Then we had to go through the joy of hailing a cab again- but this time we were wise to it. The cabbie did not speak English, but luckily for my friends, I’m a genius. I spoke like it was my native tongue and got us home without a hitch. After he dropped us off, we stopped at a local bakery and got crepes. I had chicken, cheese and veggies in mine. The combination of the chicken and the cheese with the mildly sweet, thin pita makes the crepe delicious. The texture is doughy, yet crunchy at the same time. When I got home I passed out. I had school at noon the next day (Monday).

Monday came so fast. I literally got in my bed, blinked and got up. I went into this day knowing that it was going to be a challenge simply because I had never ridden public transportation yet. A taxi is one thing- but navigating a bus route when you can’t read the signs or understand the intercom is tricky. The first thing that I noticed when I got up was that I couldn’t speak. That’s right, my voice was completely gone. As the sun crept over the shade, I opened my mouth to say a few obscene words and nothing came out. Just a raspy, wispy semblance of a voice. I tired to curse in English, I tried to curse in Greek. Still nothing. On top of that, my throat felt like it had been burned with a blowtorch overnight. No other symptoms, just those. My self diagnosis is this- the combination of the cold weather, the wind, the massive smoke inhalation, the screaming at the clubs and the late nights have done me in. Still don’t have my voice back as of today. But hey- talking is overrated. So we (meaning myself and 10 others) scurried out to the bus stop about ½ a mile away. Just getting to the stops is a near death experience, but I digress. All we knew is that we were going to Anatolia (the name of the larger campus which contains ACT). But we didn’t know which bus to take and they were driving by at lighting speed. There are 3 doors on the right side of the bus- the front, middle and back. The doors spring open for 7 seconds and people exchange places rapidly- some dashing onto the street and others cramming into the bus. From a bird’s eye it must look like a swirling ant mound. As the busses drove by we had to quickly scan the destinations which were flashing across the grainy screen in orange, pixilated Greek font. Luckily we spotted “Ανατολία” on bus 58 and recognized it to be “Anatolia”- we crammed on and held tight packed like pimentos in a Greek olive.

On the walk to the bus, we purchased tickets at a περίπτερο (or kiosk) for 50 Euro cents. But when we got on the bus everything was so quick and there was nobody checking out tickets. It made me wonder if we could in fact just ride for free and get away with it. What a silly American idea. Luckily, I saw there was a ticket puncher in the corner of the bus and I stamped my first Greek bus pass with pride. My roomie on the other hand decided to be slick and keep his ticket unstamped. Things were kosher until about 8 minutes into the ride when two ticket regulators (who appeared out of nowhere) confronted him about his unmarked ticket and started berating him in a flurry of what I’m guessing were not nice words. I let him take it for a little while because it was funny, then I stepped in and explained that it was his first bus ride and he didn’t speak Greek. They relented. Finally we arrived at Anatolia, pushed the stop button and were all too happy to get off the hell bus. The downside about Greece’s healthy eating is the fact that they can fit 3 million people on one bus.

I stumbled into class at 12 on the dot, but then I realized the professor was on Greek time (not all that different from CP time). She was 15 minutes late. That’s the cool thing about Greece. Time is more fluid- not static and definitive. 12pm can mean anywhere from 11:45 – 1:00. It has give and leeway. The pace of Thessaloniki is much slower than Chicago or New York, even though it is a major metropolitan city (the 3-5pm siestas for example). I took 2 classes yesterday- Greek ethnography and Greek Language II (which became increasingly hard as my voice got worse and worse). Now I’m getting ready for class at 3:30 and I’m heading up to the gym to finally check it out. I really am missing training. I’ve lost some weight and I’m looking a little smaller/flatter. Not much muscle loss, I have visably leaned out. But I’m trying to gain weight right now, so that’s going in the wrong direction. I’m still having difficulty with the sleeping patterns. Primarily because I am in need of at least 10-11 hours of sleep lately. I assume my body is still adjusting and whatnot- but when you sleep for so long you waste the day. It’s 1 pm now and I’ve just eaten breakfast. More updates as they become available- hope I can talk today.

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