Saturday, February 9, 2008

Last day of orientation

3rd and final day of orientation today (Friday)- we journeyed to the tombs of the Macedon kings. There were three tombs and the entire excavation site was encased in a modern museum so that once inside the building, we were viewing the actual tombs not just the artifacts within it. Original frescoes had been restored with precision and the whitewashed stone columns were still in place- standing strong after thousands of years. Of the three, Phillip II had the largest and most ornate tomb. Much like Egyptian lore, Greeks believed that when someone made a journey to the afterlife, they needed all their essential earthly possessions. The tomb is actually arranged as a house with two chambers. The first being the living quarters and the rear chamber being the burial site with the ashes of the deceased and other personal effects. The tombs were originally covered below 40 feet of dirt, forming a large hill structure called a tumulus. The mound has two purposes- 1.) to mark the burial site of prestigious figures and 2.) to protect the site from intruders. Even so, tomb raiders have desecrated several tombs throughout Greece. In order to enter the tomb the thieves go in through the roof through a special stone called the keystone. It’s the only stone (and smallest) that can be removed from the roof without damaging the integrity of the structure and caving in the entire structure. Phillip’s tomb is the only tomb to be discovered untouched in 1977. To know what you are physically in the presence of ancient warrior-kings is a rush. To touch the stones they touched, to view their armor, to know that Alexander the Great once buried his father here before returning to his campaigns in Asia puts you in a mental time machine. This museum is not just a collection of artifacts. It is the burial site and actual tomb. Great leaders of antiquity stepped foot here. I took a small rock from the tomb- no doubt thousands of years old. Don’t tell! Of course no video/photography was permitted in the museum- it’s something that has to be seen and felt anyway.
After that we went out to lunch- the last lunch courtesy of ACT for the entire program to enjoy. Salad, light pasta, pork with potatoes and a rich cake to finish. The food was good as usual. On the way back to the apartment, the buses took us on an extensive tour of the city. We saw the great walls erected in 300 BC to keep the Ottoman empire out of Macedonia and ornate Byzantine churches. Certainly breathtaking. Then we went back to the apartments to rest up- we knew we were going out again tonight. Around 11pm we went to a bar called “Seaside” in the heart of Thessaloniki and is literally adjacent to the magnificent waterfront. The moonlight reflected an eerie, calming glaze over the water that shimmered across the surface. The coolest part was that we were so close to the sea, yet there were no walls or guard rails. One could jump right in. I elected not to. LOL. I had one beer- that’s it. One thing that bothers me immensely is the apparent dependency some people have on alcohol to have a good time. People are drinking 5-6 shots before we even leave the house and then starting all over again when we get to the bar. It’s insane. I hate drunk people- it’s really unattractive. If you’re drunk I think it’s a sign of weakness. It means that you can’t control the drink, the drink controls you. Also, I like to know what’s going on. After that we went to this three-story club. It just sucked. No room to dance, poor music, felt like a sardine being crushed with creepy Greek guys. So glad I didn’t pay for that. Couldn’t ger my groove on. Although I must admit, Thursday really spoiled me. It was one of the best times of my life- the dancing was great- but not every night can be like that.
The weekend looks promising. I’m going to find that gym that I saw again and hopefully I can get some headway on the reading for my USF class and my Honors thesis. I’m plan to write on the infamous “self-fulfilling prophecy” it’s link to self sabotage and tie it together using theories from psychology as well as interpersonal/internal communication theories. I need to finish my 2-5 page prospectus by the end of the month. Monday I start real classes (I haven’t been to class since December 13th!).
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my first week and look forward to the months to come. One thing that really made the transition easier for me was finding someone very similar to myself. I have always been raised to be “color-blind” but the truth is that’s always been impossible for me being of mixed race. It’s one thing to be with my close friends and family- with them race truly is a non-issue. But in social scenarios it’s a big issue. I’ve found since elementary that whether you like it or not, you are either with the majority or you are with “everybody else”- in most cases the majority has been white. I’ve always been more comfortable with Blacks and Hispanics in social situations. It’s just a vibe or a feeling. It has nothing to do with dislike of other races. It has more to do with the comfort of mutual understanding coming from a fellow minority. If I’m in a social situation with all white people whom I don’t know well, I can have universal appeal without a doubt- but at the same time I feel like an outsider. I feel like a “token”. I’m sure everybody has felt like this to a certain extent. Also, Blacks are a rarity in Greece. Like a delicacy or commodity- you don’t see many of them (and if you do, they are selling CDs- go figure). I’m even more comfortable around Black or Hispanic girls. I find it easier to flirt and get along with them. Anyway, what it boils down to is that I am one of three black men in the entire program (and 2 girls) out of over 100 students. One in particular is mixed just like me, looks just like me, has similar experiences/attitudes towards life, identical tastes in music and women. It’s very comforting to have someone that you can relate to when A.) you are in a country where you can’t even read the signs and B.) You are the minority in a large group. All in all the first week is exceeding expectations.

*Lastly- I’m trying not to judge- it’s my new year’s resolution. But there are people here who I don’t like and I can’t help it. I hate fake smiles, fake laughs and sneaky punks. I hate aggressively annoying/arrogant pricks. Hope I didn’t just describe myself. Hope it doesn’t come to blows. More on that later as the plot develops.

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