Time 2 Reflect

As I write this I’m flying over the Pacific Ocean on my way to Hawaii. I got home yesterday at 10 a.m. following a one-hour flight from Boston to Washington D.C. and a five-hour flight from there to Vegas. The day before that I flew from Athens to Munich and and Munich to Boston. I’ve spent so much time on airplanes the past few days I think I might permanently lose all feeling in my butt because of the uncomfortable seats. Also my face is breaking out.

I’ve been so busy the past few days I haven’t really gotten the chance to stop for a little while and think about all that has happened, but this flight to Hawaii has provided some time to do so. When I got home my parents asked me to give them the rundown on how the trip had gone and what the highlights were, and so much had happened in such a short period of time it was kind of difficult to think about any one specific moment.

The highlights of the trip I was able to pull out were the hike at Mount Athens, the day at Aegina, Meteora, and all of our nights out in Athens. I loved exploring these places. Each one was special for a different reason. In Aegina I was able to relax and recharge so that I could keep going in Athens. Mount Athens and Meteora gave me a chance to get out of Thessaloniki and see breathtaking scenery. In the end though, I think the main reason I enjoyed these places was because of the people I was with.

By the end of the past five weeks, I had several new friends who I feel very close to and who I feel I will be friends with for a very long time. Of all of the surprising things that happened on the Dialogue, I think I am most surprised by just how much I enjoyed hanging out with everyone in the group. I loved Isaac’s pop culture references and the way Olivia said “oh, ok!” I loved working on videos with Hsiang-Yu. We had fun even when we should’ve just been stressed. I really could go through every person on the trip and say something nice about them (but I’m about to land in Hawaii and I don’t have time for that).

That being said, the trip wasn’t without its challenges. I found it hard to focus on school work because I was so overstimulated by the sights and sounds. I’m an introvert in that I need time alone to recharge, so sometimes it was exhausting because I was never truly able to be alone. I felt homesick a few times, probably because I only get to see my family for a couple weeks this summer. Several of my article ideas fell flat throughout the first few weeks for a variety of reasons.

When I think about all of these challenges though, its more important to dwell on how I reacted. I would say I reacted really well to all of them and made life easier by doing so. I don’t know how much this trip helped me mature, considering I’d been put in very similar situations my first semester. However, by reflecting on how I reacted to challenges this time and comparing it to last time, it becomes apparent that I’ve grown a lot as a person. I am much less likely to be overwhelmed by various aspects of life and I am much more confident socially and academically. There were multiple points throughout the trip when I though to myself, “wow, I should really be more stressed right now than I am.”

I am so glad that I had this unforgettable experience. I have grown as a journalist and have gained memories and friendships that will last a very long time.

And now, time to lay on a beach and drink a Bloody Mary. See ya.

(I’m going to blog from Hawaii too so stay tuned, or don’t. I don’t care either way.)

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νυσταγμένος

Google translate tells me this word means sleepy, and I am too tired to expend the energy to find out whether or not this is correct and if it isn’t I don’t care. But I am sleepy for good reason. The past 48 hours have been really nonstop, but in a fulfilling way.

I am currently working on two different pieces. Yesterday David and I went all around Athens finding sources for our article about LGBT refugees, and I would say we were pretty successful. Also, I love David so it was nice having him work on it with me. We were able to speak with individuals who were knowledgeable about the topic from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and tomorrow I am going to be speaking with a couple of LGBT refugees. I am really looking forward to hearing about their challenges and triumphs.

Today I went to a refugee residence an hour outside of Athens. I’m not going to share too much about this because I’m still processing the entire experience and I’ll wait until I’m wrapping up our video until I fully reflect on it. What I will say is that I feel it was an invaluable experience and I am so glad I did it. There were so many different people who had stories to share. I hope that our pieces on this residence will remind people that there are so many people in need and that it’s part of our responsibility as humans to help one another.

So, after all of this I am unsurprisingly exhausted. When I got back to the hotel I relaxed myself by drinking a Bloody Mary and going to McDonald’s, which tastes the same no matter where you are in the world.

Literally, the exact same. No argument.

Anxious in Athens

I can’t believe we’re leaving Athens in a just over a week. When I think about everything I have to do over the next week, a piece of my soul screams one of those high pitched screams that breaks windows and wine glasses in movies and I seriously consider paying 25 euros to spend 45 minutes in a Turkish bathhouse. Then I remember I don’t have 25 euros to spend and that being nearly naked and sharing a glorified hot tub with strangers will probably only increase my anxiety levels.

Instead, I will once again rely on my guided meditation app. Random gurus will tell me in their NPR-voices that my thoughts are like drops in the water, and that they’re there one second, but then gone a few later. “Let the negative thoughts go, and dwell on what centers your consciousness.” And after five minutes of listening, I’ll be like, “Thanks for trying Guru Linda, but that’s easier said than done and I don’t have time for this considering I’m working on three different projects.”

It’s fine, though. Every time I’m feeling really overwhelmed, I just remind myself that in the past I’ve done most of my best work under a lot of pressure, and this time won’t be any different if I try hard enough.

I’m actually glad all of this work is hitting me in Athens. I think working in Thessaloniki is really hard for me because the pace is so relaxed compared to Boston. Athens, on the other hand, is much more energetic and I can feel that energy rubbing off on me.

Tomorrow, I will be running all over the city with David as we work on our next story together. I have a feeling its going to be a really productive day as we go from place to place and ask people to talk to us about LGBT refugees. If it isn’t, well… my thoughts are like drops in the water, there one second and gone a few later. 

Photos From Greece Up Until Now

We’ve all heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I really hope this post counts as around 10 word-based blog posts.

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Suma taking in the beauty of the boardwalk.
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Isaac holding onto the ghost handle. Spooky.
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Wine guy explaining how wine works.
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Isaac smiling the same as what I believe is a corgi even though others may disagree.
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A beautiful beach.
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Syd and I trying to recreate a 50s photo.
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The only being who didn’t deny Sophie and I while we were reporting.
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The murals at Elpida, where residents are treated much more humanely than in other residences.
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The market we toured with our Professor Maria.
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A textile market.
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Father Athenagoras at Faros Tou Kousmou, a non-profit that helps an impoverished Roma community.
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Me interacting with a child Athenagora recently adopted.
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An overcast day in Thessaloniki.
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Paxtyn posing in the cafe of the photography museum.
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Me posing with a flower I picked on the hike at Mount Olympus.
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Taken during our hike at Mount Olympus. What an awesome day.
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My second time visiting the sacred floating monasteries in Meteora, yet they were just as breathtaking.
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The mountains of Meteora.

Hiccups

I went out with Giannis and some his friends last night. We went to a party at the university, but it was dead so we left and walked to a club named “Uberdooz”, which they said is the German word for overdose, but Sydne says is not. After that we went to a different club. The night was a success, but nothing can be perfect.

It was approaching 4 a.m. when the outing had its first hiccup, and I mean that literally. I couldn’t go more than 10 seconds without hiccuping and I dismissed it at first because I thought it would only last a minute or two, but 15 minutes passed and I was still hiccuping. My stupid diaphragm wouldn’t stop interrupting my dance and conversation, so I decided it was time to peace out.

I sat on the curb outside of the club and held my breath for as long as possible, because that is the trick I’ve used in the past to rid myself of this affliction, but that didn’t work. Giannis and I got in a taxi, and we began trying different methods to get them to go away.

He tried to spook them out of me, but that didn’t work because the constant news updates I get about Trump have induced a semi-permanent state of terror. Then he suggested I try meditating, but every time I was about to find my zen I thought about how “The Secret” is bullshit. “A teaspoon of honey will take it away,” said Giannis. There wasn’t any honey in the taxi.

I said bye to Giannis and went to my room. By now I had been hiccuping for 40 minutes, and I was anxiously reflecting on my mom’s ER stories about people who would come in because they had been hiccuping for days. I tried chugging water, weird breathing techniques and kind of just trying to ignore it until it went away, but to no avail.

The cure to my hiccups came in an unexpected and regrettable moment. Isaac, Isabelle and I were just hanging, and then for some reason Isaac and I started horsing around. He began to tickle me, which I despise, and then in a knee-jerk reaction moment I Zinedine Zidane’d Isaac in the face, breaking his nose in the process. I was so busy feeling like a terribly idiotic jerk that my hiccups went away.

Who knew all it would take to get rid of hiccups was feeling guilty over inflicting pain on someone you love?

Late Night Talks

Last night I met up with a Greek friend. It was 3 a.m. and I was unsure whether it would be worth it to pay 5 euros each way to get there and back, but I told myself this might be a memorable life experience and it would be a missed opportunity if I didn’t.

I got out of the taxi and he was waiting for me with a small bottle of a weird, syrupy wine-like alcohol that made my lips stick together after drinking it. We sat down on a bench at a park that was abandoned minus the stray cats who were uninterested in hanging with us, regardless of how much we whistled to them.

I told him what had been happening in my life as he rolled himself a cigarette and took sips of the drink. We went from topic to topic, and soon I found myself wondering what life had been like living as a gay man in Greece. I knew the displays of homosexual acts prominently featured on a variety of souvenirs were more reflective of ancient Greek attitudes, while modern attitudes are much more hostile toward the LGBT community.

Despite the slight language barrier, the conversation that followed was engaging. He spoke about how lesbian couples can be seen walking hand in hand on the streets, yet two men are rarely seen openly showing affection. A group of men on motorcycles roared by.

It was now 4:30 a.m. and we changed locations to a gazebo made of stone and decorated with tile crosses that sat outside of an ornate Orthodox church. He rolled another cigarette and continued to share his opinions and experiences.

In Greece, much like back home, sexuality and gender identity are often seen as two closely related things. While same sex relationships can exist between two women, same sex relationships between two men deviate from the definition of masculinity that society has set out.

For this reason, in instances of discrimination, it is often men acting against male couples, while women could care less about whether or not two men are involved with each other.

This conversation and others we had reminded me that while cultural differences are ample, in the end people are more likely to find common ground that bonds them together, rather than differences that set them apart.

I wish that people who harbor homophobic tendencies focused on the similarities between people who seem different than them and realized that they are just humans too.

As the time approached 6 a.m., my friend rolled his final cigarette as the mosaic Jesus above the entrance to the church watched with a shrug. The sky started to turn from black to blue, and I knew it was time to head back home.

Am I A Journalist or A Telemarketer?

Today I officially began reporting on my video narrative story. I was anxious and excited as I prepared to go out and conduct man-on-the-street interviews. I knew I would be rejected by many people, but thought that I would get at least one quality interview.

Sadly, I experienced the opposite. People treated me the way I treat telemarketers and shopping mall kiosk workers. They reveled in my disappointment and rejected my advances in increasingly creative ways. One guy skated away from me mid-conversation and an old lady yelled “no television” at me as I insistently repeated she would not be on television.

Without further ado, here is a semi-complete and somewhat-comprehensive list of the people who rejected me today:

A German guy who insisted he was Greek for some reason

Another German guy who was flying a drone (dumb)

Two guys who were high on something other than weed

A group of teenage boys

A group of angry elderly people who couldn’t wait for me to leave

Isaac (not surprised)

A sweaty, novice skater

A stylish Greek guy

A man with no teeth

A lady and her mom

A guy with one of those weird, non-yo-yo yo-yos

A baby

A pack of hyenas who were raising a baby

Roger Ailes’ ghost

Anyways, I hope tomorrow is a more productive day for me. For now, enjoy this comparison photo of me and the photo used on a pack of cigarettes to get people to stop smoking.

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Watch out kids, if you keep smoking you could end up looking exactly like an unconscious version of me!!!

Oh, also, thank you so much to Sophie for helping me out with my reporting (or lack thereof) today. I wouldn’t have been able to endure the rejection if you hadn’t been there getting rejected right alongside me. You helped make it cute and funny.