March 27, 2009

Athens, Day 2: In which I wish I knew numbers

It is very difficult to unlearn what to do with toilet paper. It is almost instinctual to put a used piece of toilet paper in the toilet bowl. It feels very unnatural to put that soiled paper in a wastebasket. It is, in fact, rather troubling.

Last night we went out to a taverna where I had souvlaki and wine (it is appropriate to have wine with every meal). After dinner I went straight to sleep, but I woke up at 8:15 due to jet lag. We had to be at the Athens Centre at 10 for orientation, which was mostly speeches (the director, who is elderly and Greek, is awesome) and then a tour of the neighborhood. We ended up at the farmer’s market, where I bought broccoli, zucchini, apples, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and potatoes. Unfortunately, I don’t know numbers, so whenever they told me how much things were I had to look really confused and say, “Anglika?” or just hand them a few euros and expect change. Afterwards I went to the grocery store for dry goods, milk, and ouzo. Everything one needs is within a few blocks of the apartments; I can also see the Acropolis from just down the street (I hear it’s a fifteen-minute walk).

The neighborhood feels really safe. Last night I went alone to the Athens Centre to sit outside the gate and check email (it closes at 8.00) and felt perfectly safe. We’re in a residential zone of apartments and houses with stores a couple blocks away. It feels a little like Tel Aviv, but cleaner; everything is built on a slant and is entirely non-handicap accessible. It also is confused whether it wants to be a city for cars or for pedestrians; there is no speed limit (at least that I can see), and green men at crosswalks very rarely mean the cars will actually stop. On the flip side, there is very little parking. Cars and scooters choose to park on the sidewalk whenever they get the chance (I even saw a boat chained up to a tree). This morning I looked outside my window to see a traffic jam inside a parking lot: about 18 cars were parked askew in a lot built for about 10, and one wanted to leave while another wanted to enter. Much honking ensued. Scooter appears to be the best way around. This morning we learned about the trams, but I have no idea where the trams actually go or how to find this out.

Also had my first gyros while out looking for a phone charger (success!) I also learned the word for thank you (ειχαριστοσ).

Currency: 1.33 dollars/euro

Weather: 60s and sunny

Gyros eaten: 1

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