Sunday, May 31, 2009

8:44 PM: Home for the summer

Yes, I've been home for a while. Quite a while. Like, a month. The last time I blogged, I was still in London. Oh, I'm such a bad blogger. Apologies.

I flew back to the USA on Saturday, May 2, arriving at 1:30 in the afternoon. I was happy to be home, but so very tired. When I finally saw my family, including my little sister whom I had not seen in 4 months, I felt so relieved. Physically and emotionally relieved. Relieved to be home, surrounded by people I love, in an environment where I feel comfortable. It was a great feeling. The Georgia humidity was not. I stepped outside the airport and was overwhelmed by this sticky, wet heat that invaded every inch of me. And I remembered. Oh yeah, I'm in Georgia. London had been mild, not even what we'd classify here as "hot." I was surprised that I had forgotten the heat here. Welcome home, Amber.

I've been amazed over the past month at how much I miss London, England, Europe in general. I didn't think I would miss it as much as I do. Honestly, I was aching to go home during that last week--I missed the normalcy of home, my family, and how relaxed it is here. I was over English food and their accents, and their currency. But as I've been home and have settled into the way of life here, I've begun to miss it. I miss the ease of getting around. Hop on the tube and see a show in Piccadilly. Hop on a coach and spend a few days in the Lake District. Board a plane and enjoy a weekend in Paris. That's what I miss most--the travel. But I've even begun to miss things like weird European dishes, the crowds of people at open-air markets, and being able to walk pretty much anywhere in European cities. Oh, how I miss walking. My feet don't miss it, but I do.

What I've already consciously or unconsciously decided is that I will go back. I still have yet to see Spain, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, or any Eastern European countries. And what about Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and northern Africa? Oh no, my traveling days aren't nearly over yet. I've considered studying overseas for graduate school. Or maybe I'll just disappear one day and hitch-hike across the world. That sounds scarily fun.

I may or may not blog about the rest of my travels (like Ireland, etc.), depending on what else occupies my time this summer (which, admittedly, is not a lot). But we'll see. All my photos are up on Facebook, so please look through them. They are like picture-blogs. :)

So, signing off on the official London blog of 2009, au revoir.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

1:39 PM: So I've been a bad blogger.

And I'm sorry. I've been busy, but I know that's no excuse. If I have time to get online, surf, and check my Facebook, I've got time to blog, right? Well, yeah. I suppose it's because I've not been in the mood to write, which is strange, but still. For the blog to be anywhere worth reading, I've got to be in the mood. Otherwise, things just come out boring and mundane.

Anyway, I thought I'd give you some reason why I haven't blogged lately, and probably won't blog for another few days. Next week is, unbelievably, finals week. Every time I say that it hits me afresh that this is my last week in London, and that breaks my heart. I'm not in love with London or anything: there's no way I could ever live here. I need trees. And space. And quiet... oh, for some quiet. I suppose if I could live in a tree at Regent's Park, I'd be okay, but even that gets crowded, and I'm sure the police wouldn't like it very much. And I'd probably look like a creeper. So living in London is out of the question for me.

Still, it's what's happened in London that makes me sad to leave it. I cannot tell you what wonderful friends I've made here. They are so incredibly precious to me, and leaving them, more than anything, makes my heart hurt. What's even more terribly ironic is that all of them go to Webster University in Missouri, and I'm the only one down in Georgia--they'll be able to see each other all the time, but I'd have to drive 10 hours or more to see them. We've all joked that I should transfer to Webster, but I could never do that. I love Shorter, my kindred spirits there, my family, and everyone else in Georgia too much. Besides, Missouri people are weird. And I mean that in the very best sense. :)

So this last week will be difficult, not only with exams, final projects, and portfolios being due, but also because I'm constantly reminded that I only have a few days left with all of them, as a group. I wish I could just make them doll size and pack them in my luggage when I leave next Saturday. If only I were a magician. I love my friends. Julia, Caris, Kristen, Emily, Kaytee, Lilly, Jessie--I love you all.

And now I'm getting emotional. Calm down, dear.

I say all of this to say, again, I apologize for not blogging recently and for not being able to blog until a few days more. Once I have all my finals and projects behind me on Wednesday afternoon, I'll blog for a bit. So you can look forward to that. :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

7:23 PM: Mom and Dad and other things

My mom and dad arrived in London last Friday at 7:21 AM, according to the "arrivals" screen at Gatwick Airport, where I met them. I had gotten on the tube when it opened at 6 AM, then taken a train to the airport, where I took another train to the north terminal, where I anxiously leaned on the railing that divided off the arrivals section. I stared and stared and stared at the door down the corridor, watching endless streams of people with huge suitcases, strange hats, and wearied expressions stride quickly toward the crowd of awaiting people. I tapped my foot, sighed, chewed my lip to pass the time. Then I started to think about what it would be like to see them, playing it out in my head, and I teared up about a million times. I wanted so desperately to see them--they are home to me.

After hours of waiting--but it was really only 30 minutes--I saw Dad round the corner, followed by Mom, both lugging their suitcases and looking expectantly for me. I gasped really loud and threw my hands up over my mouth, scaring the kid standing next to me a bit. We hugged and kissed, and I might have cried a bit. And then our adventure in London began.

The first day, we didn't do much. Mom was all geared up to go, but Dad and I both knew that jet-lag is the ultimate power in that situation. Once we had gotten to Victoria Station and then all through the tube to their hotel, then walked the long distance back past Regent's Park to the college, they both were looking a bit pale. I suggested we have lunch in the Brasserie. Halfway through lunch, I saw them both fade. Mom's stomach was upset, and Dad looked like he could fall face-flat in his sandwich. So I walked them back to Baker Street, got them on the tube, and they took a nap for a few hours. Later, we met for dinner at my favorite Greek restaurant here, and walked around a smallish park afterwards. Both they and I were completely wiped, so we called it a night.

The second day, Saturday, was a marathon. I had mapped out where exactly I wanted to take them, and here' s my list: Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Borough Market, The Globe Theatre, the London Eye (at their request), Waterloo, and a show ("Wicked" was the preference). We ended up taking a very long but interesting tour of the Tower of London, and I was actually very pleased with being able to go inside again. The crown jewels are... sigh. Anyway, we walked across the Thames on Tower Bridge and took lots of pictures, and walked along the Thames for a bit until we came to Borough Market. It was Saturday, so it was crowded, but it was still amazing. I found some amazing Gala apples and spiced olives. I wish we could have gone when it was less crowded, though. It can get completely overwhelming.

We walked down to the Globe, which is so cool even if you get to just see the outside. I'm planning to see a show there when the season opens in late April--I can't wait to be a groundling at "Romeo and Juliet"! Anyway, we walked on a bit until we got to the Millennium/Wobbly bridge, crossed it, and visited St. Paul's Cathedral. Then, we were all famished, so we gave up going around to the Eye and Waterloo. I'm glad I talked them out of the Eye: it's completely over-priced and not worth it at all. Or that's what I think.

After dinner, we went to the Apollo Victoria to see if we could get discount, last-minute tickets for "Wicked"... no such luck. They had two restricted-view tickets, and we didn't take them. We decided to see if we could quickly run over to Piccadilly to see if "Les Mis" had any left, but by the time we got there, the doors had already opened, and tickets were no longer on sale. I felt pretty bad, but Mom and Dad were content to walk around for a bit. We found Trafalgar Square, which I'd completely forgotten to include on my list. They liked just wandering, taking pictures, wondering who the statues were (I was useless when it came to answering their questions), and talking with me. I was thirsty, so we found, of all things, a Pizza Hut (where you can get free refills!), and ordered dessert. It was nice just sitting there, relaxing, talking, doing nothing really. And then we called it a day.

On Sunday (which was Palm Sunday), we went to the service at Westminster Abbey. It was incredibly crowded. I can't imagine what it will be like on Easter this Sunday. They gave us palm crosses, and, in a long procession, we circled the entire abbey before taking our seats. It was a nice service, but we ended up standing for-ev-er while the choir sang, not read, Mark's account of Jesus' crucifixion. It was interminably long, though stunningly beautiful. I love the choir at Westminster.

After the service, we skipped across the road to a small cafe in a Methodist church (go figure), and then started to walk toward Buckingham Palace. I knew it wouldn't be crowded on a Sunday afternoon, and it wasn't. The sky was pretty gray and overcast, but the palace actually looked lovely still. They took pictures, exclaimed several times of how surreal it all was, and we walked on through Green Park, stopping at a bench to just take things in. It seemed that everyone had gotten bored with the palace and had wandered into the park--tons of people were playing football, eating lunch, reading, talking, relaxing on the grass. It was lovely, though a bit too chilly for me.

Since Mom and Dad had already seen the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben that morning before the church service, and we'd seen St. Paul's the day before, my list of things to do on Sunday was dwindling. I decided to take us to Covent Garden Market, one of my favorite places in London (granted, I haven't been to Camden Market, Portobello Market, or Spittlefield's yet). Just as I had hoped, the place was alive with street performers and tons of onlookers. My favorite group of performers is this string quintet/sextet (depending on how many people they've got that day) that play in one of the courtyards down below the main market level. The sound just reverberates off of the courtyard walls and up into the upper floors--and they're flippin' GOOD! They play this amazing classical music, usually fast-paced and therefore appropriate for the venue, which is teeming with activity. If you walk down the stairs of the courtyard, near where they're set up, one of them will detach from the group and come play right up next to you in your face until you give them money. They're all extremely animated, jumping up and down, stomping their feet, dancing and twirling around while playing exquisite classical pieces on their violins/violas/cellos/(and a flutist, but she's not usually there). One day I'll buy one of their CDs and make them really happy. HA!

We then made our way over to Piccadilly again to possibly meet Julia and her mom after they saw a show. We ate dinner at this awesome oriental place, and then, when it was starting to get good and dark, I took Mom and Dad to the main circle (the "circus" part, I guess) of Piccadilly. It's like Times Square--the lights are dazzling and colorful, there are tons of people and cars, and the main focus is this fountain that splashes in the centre. Mom and Dad loved it, and I was elated, because that's another one of my favorite spots in London, especially (well, really, only) at night. It's where a lot of the shows are, so all those signs and posters are lit up. Gah, I love Piccadilly by dark.

We ended up sitting on the fountain to wait for the show to end so that I could call Julia. We talked forever about random things, or maybe it was just me talking... I have conveniently forgotten. HA! When it got too chilly even for Dad, we ducked into a nearby Starbucks for something hot and talked for even longer. I finally was able to call Julia, but it turned out that we weren't able to meet after all. Oh well. It was great, though, because I went back with Mom and Dad to their hotel, and ended up staying until past 11 PM just talking. It was really wonderful to be able to have those unrestrained, comfortable conversations with people that I loved, trusted, and knew me. I regard them both now as some of my best friends.

On Monday, I only saw them briefly before they left to fly to Paris. I'm not sure what they did or where they went before they caught a bus to the airport, because I haven't talked to them since. Tomorrow, I fly out to Edinburgh to meet them for the weekend. I am incredibly excited, not only to see Edinburgh, but to spend Easter with my parents in the land of our ancestors. I can't wait to hear what Mom thinks of Scotland...

So, until I return...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

7:40 PM: Why the heck am I blogging?!?!?

I have a ton of work to do, and I'm trying to get it all done before MY PARENTS COME ON FRIDAY MORNING!!!!!!!!! Did I mention that I was excited about that?

So, I should be writing entries to my Cont. Brit. Fict. portfolio, completely homework for Scriptwriting, and writing a first draft of a script. But that would be logical. Instead, I have my iTunes on shuffle, and I'm blogging while chewing on a Starburst. Starburst is my favorite candy. Well, Swedish Fish is more favorite. But they don't sell Swedish Fish in the refectory. So, Starburst is my favorite. For now.

I had dinner with my high school's senior class and some of my old teachers last night at a Pizza Express near Leicester Square. They're on their annual class trip to London and Scotland. It was so incredibly good to see them--they're the first people I've seen that I know from home. The assistant principle and his wife, Harry and Judy Robertson, were both there, and so were my favorite English teacher ever and his wife, Terry and Cheryl Klempner. I saw many of Bonnie's friends and kids that I had done theatre with years ago... too bad Bonnie wasn't there.

But we won't talk about that.

I can't wait until my parents get here. Could time PLEASE go faster??? I'm picking them up from the aiport ("picking up" in the loosest terms... basically, I'm just meeting them and ushering their wearied, sleep-deprived bodies to their hotel) at 7:30 AM, and we're spending four days together before they fly off to Paris for a few days. Then I'll see them when I fly to Edinburgh next Thursday and spend Easter weekend with them... and then I'll see them the following Tuesday afternoon when they get back into London from Bath. They will fly home the next morning. But THEN, a mere three weeks after that, I'll fly home and see them again.

I cannot believe how fast time has gone this semester. I feel that I've been here forever, but, at the same time, I feel I've hardly been here for any time at all. I've seen so much, but there's still so much I want to see. I miss home, but I'll be sad to leave London. The paradoxes are unending.

I spent this last weekend in the Lake District. I'll have to blog about that amazing experience when I have more time... like, not now. I have to write papers and scripts. Bah. Until later, then...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

3:48 PM: The two-minute blip.

I'm in the middle of writing entries for my Cont Brit Fict portfolio, and I had a bit of writer's block. Then I figured out that it wasn't writer's block: I just didn't want to be writing about that particular topic. I had no real idea where I was going, and it was crap. I'll probably delete it all and start again. Or maybe not.

Anyway, I had two minutes between stopping my portfolio writing and going to my 4 pm class. So I thought I'd say hi. So... hello!

I miss everyone at home. Very, very much. My parents are coming to London in a week and a half, so that will make it a bit easier. I'm so excited to see them!

And now I have to go to class. Maybe the professor will actually show up today... :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

12:57 PM: Greece/Italy '09... Nafplio and the end.

Getting there was a bit sticky. Caris and I had researched where the bus terminal was, how we could get there, and then which bus to take to Nafplio, but you never really know in Greece. It was all guesswork. But we were pretty confident. Who cared if we got lost? We’d ask directions. So… we got on the metro in the direction of Aghios Antonios (don’t ask me how to pronounce it) and got off at the last stop. According to the map—which we’d accidentally left at the hotel, but had memorized in our heads—we needed to find and follow this main highway until we hit the bus terminal before the big bridge. Easy enough, right? Right. We took a guess on a road when we exited the metro station, and, amazingly enough, we found in the big highway. Problem was, it was actually a really big highway. Lots of cars. Moving very fast. Kind of difficult to walk on the side of the road. But we did. I felt fearless as I led our little band past racing cars and very large trucks that almost took up the whole road. It was thrilling. We followed the highway for a long time and came to the big bridge. We stopped, looked around—no bus terminal. You have got to be kidding. So we asked this fatherly-looking, nice Greek man who spoke very good English.

“Bus terminal,” says Allison. He smiles and his eyes squint. He points across the road.

“It’s right there,” he says. “Just take the footpath across. Two minutes.” We thank him. He asks where we’re from.

“Canada.” Bah. Stupid Canada. I was sick of saying Canada.

So, two minutes later, we made it to the bus terminal, which looked vaguely similar to the Victoria coach station in London. We easily bought round-trip day tickets to Nafplio, boarded the bus, and were on our way. So easy. The countryside was amazing, from what I saw (yes, I slept quite a bit… something about buses and the jostling rhythm), and in about two and a half hours, we were in Nafplio, a.k.a. heaven. If I ever go back to Greece, I’ll only go if I can stay in Nafplio. The water is ridiculously blue, the sun is warm, and the sea breeze sweeps you away beyond this world. I’m serious. It’s so relaxing and peaceful. We walked by the water for a bit on the marina, took lots of pictures, and settled down to eat lunch at this outdoor cafĂ© restaurant. It was warm, but not hot because the wind from the water kept sweeping over us. Gah. So great. We walked around for a long while, taking it really slow, ambling through alleyways and peering into shops. Then we decided that we wanted to climb this hill-mountain thing (what now, Lycabettus?) to the medieval Greek fortress that was part of the “old city” of Nafplio. And so we did. We found this random path that led toward the mountain, but we veered off to discover these random ancient caves and overgrown paths and lots of other interesting things (I took pictures, I promise). We eventually found the path leading to our fortress, and we started to climb.

And climb. And climb. And climb. And climb. And climb.

It got hot, really hot. I was wearing two layers because it had been chilly in Athens. Bad choices. The view was unbelievable, but the wind couldn’t quite reach where we were on the mountain. But we kept climbing, stair after stair after stair. The view really did make it worth it. We stopped in this little shaded alcove with a stone bench and rested at about the half-way point. And then we kept climbing. I felt so sticky hot but so invigorated. We’d made it about three-fourths of the way up when we began really looking—really looking—at what was to our right. Water. Blue, sparkling, Mediterranean seawater. We made up our minds. When we got back down, we were going swimming.

So we made it to the top, but in order to get into the fortress, you had to pay 4 Euro, and it was 30 minutes until closing time. So, after all that, we decided not to go in. People we met on the way down said that the fortress wasn’t really worth it, but the view was. We sat at the top in the full sun and just stared. The peninsula of Nafplion stretched out in front of us, covered with tall, bushy Greek trees, and an expanse of blue, both above and below, lay to our left and to our right. A water fortress castle-thing stood in the middle of the water to our left. It was like heaven.

“This is Greece,” we said.

And so we made our way down, which was considerably easier than going up. We craved the water, and talked about how cool it would be to say that we had swum in the Mediterranean Ocean. Awesome! But we had a problem. None of us had brought bathing suits, and the beach we had spotted wasn’t exactly private. And we didn’t want to walk around in wet clothes all day, especially on the bus ride back to Athens. So we discussed our problem. I had an idea. We could find those Greek dresses, the ones I had seen in Athens, that were like big T-shirts. They’d cover enough, and we might actually wear them again. So, down in Nafplio, we hunted. It was around 3 pm. And I began to notice. All the stores were closed. Some of the tourist shops and restaurants were still open, but everything else was closed, lights off and doors locked. It was afternoon siesta time, the lull in the day where the sun is highest, and no one does any work.

We couldn’t find dresses. We’d walked everywhere around Nafplio. It was hot. We were grumpy from the futile search, and we were getting desperate. We looked at each other, eyes squinted in the sun, and just resolved ourselves. We were getting in that water. Period.

Without any plan in mind, we headed for the beach. The area was very park-like. There were woods with walking paths, picnicking tables, and even a little bathroom/beach-house thing. The beach itself was mostly rock that just sloped into the waves. We made our way a good distance from the main group of sunbathers—I noticed that there weren’t many in the water—and picked out a good piece of rock near a ladder descending into the clear blue water. And we kind of looked at each other. This was it. We were getting in that water. Period.

Shoes came off. Layers came off. I won’t go into details—you can use your imagination. I wouldn’t exactly call it skinny-dipping, but it was about as close as you can get. The water was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo flipping cold. But after your body got over the initial shock of it, you got pretty numb and didn’t feel the cold as much. We floated near the ladder for a long time, and then swam out a bit farther. There was a rock we found we could stand on so we didn’t have to keep treading water. Each wave brought more cold. Our teeth were chattering, but the experience was exhilarating. We were swimming in the Mediterranean Ocean in Nafplio, Greece. It was the best day ever.

I learned a lot about myself. I’ve never been that spontaneous in my life. I don’t care if people make fun of me as they boast about things they’ve done that were way wilder and crazier than what I did—that day in Nafplio was a big milestone for me. I got out of my comfort zone, far out of my comfort zone, even if it was in a seemingly small way. It didn’t seem small to me. I liked not caring what people thought. I liked being spontaneous. I liked defying the person I’ve always thought I was, that people have told me I am—“lady-like, proper Amber.” It felt good to move in that other skin, that other side of me that I’ve discovered since studying abroad. I’m still me, of course, but that day in Nafplio proved that I’ve changed. And I loved every second of it.

We spent a long time sitting and lying on the rocks in the sun, trying to dry off without towels. People passed—we didn’t care. We’d been in the Mediterranean. Eventually, the sun began to dip down, and we got a bit chilly. Laughing our heads off at ourselves, we strategically maneuvered into dry clothes and walked away from our lovely beach. We ate gyros for dinner (these pita-breaded meat wraps with things like French fries in them… they’re very, very good), walked around some more, still exhilarated from our spontaneous swim, and then headed to the bus stop. We slept most of the way back to Athens and fell into bed at the hotel. Such a great day.

The next morning, all three of us checked out of the hotel. We walked around the flea market again because Allison hadn’t been there yet, and later we found another part of the park Caris and I had visited a couple days earlier. We sat on a bench talking for a really long time. Eventually, Caris and I decided to head on to the airport. Allison’s flight back to London was later that evening, so she hung around Syntagma Square in Athens for a while. Caris and I sat and talked at the airport, munched on some snacks for “lunch,” and waited for our flight to board. We flew Aegean Airlines to Rome. Fancy-schmancey (at least compared to EasyJet or RyanAir). They actually served us dinner and drinks free of charge! Whoa! It was really nice. Two hours later, we landed in Rome, Italy.

12:55 PM: Greece/Italy '09... More Greece.

So, sometime on Friday amongst our many escapades, some of our group (minus me and Caris… what were we doing? Oh yeah, that’s right. Wandering. Our favorite pastime. I love wandering!) managed to find this smallish travel agency that offered one-day cruises of the Greek islands. Looking back, I shouldn’t have done it. I won’t say how much I spent on it. Too much, definitely. And, like I suspected, the travel agent lied to us. At least two hours on each island that we visited? Um, no. The cruise departed Sunday morning from Piraeus port, stopped at three of the islands—Poros, Hydra (which I had wanted to visit anyway), and Aegena—served us lunch, and was to give us a minimum of two hours on each island to explore. That was my main concern. Two hours, I repeated to our travel agent, a wrinkly, jolly Greek man with kind eyes. He looked trustworthy. Two hours, he assured me. Okay, I said, and signed my life away. Ugh. It was way too much. I think the only reason I did it was because everyone else was. Oh, peer pressure!

Enough lamenting. The cruise really was fun, but we didn’t spend two hours on each island, and the included lunch wasn’t great. BUT, I did get to see three lovely Greek islands, take some beautiful pictures, and explore a bit. Caris and I usually just headed up. We took the first alleyway/road we found and kept climbing stairs until we hit the top of the city, which looked out across all the colorful buildings, the glorious blue water, and the (slightly) cloudy sky. Everything was very quiet and peaceful from there. I felt very foreign but also very comforted, as if I was a bit closer to home. Hydra was lovely, but still not what I imagined as “Greece.” I had imagined white stone buildings with blue shutters and roofs and people milling about speaking rapid Greek… all from what I’d seen in movies (yay “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”!) But that wasn’t it at all. I was surprised yet pleased.

Enough about the cruise. We got back late and crashed, though we had really only lain on the boat all day and wandered slowly around islands. On Monday, we all checked out of our little sketch hostel (which we did truly love, though there were no walls or curtains for the shower, thus causing water to go everywhere and get on everything). Caris and I found our next hotel and checked in—the rest of the group had opted to fly out on Monday to Italy and spend more time there. Caris and I wanted more time in Greece, so we decided to stay until Wednesday night. I forget what we did that morning. Wait, no, I don’t. We went to the big flea market at Monastiraki Square. So cool. Lines and lines of shops and vendors of all kinds of random stuff. It was sort of like an outdoor mall up and down random little streets. I found Greek sandals (more like flip-flops, but different… they were really comfortable), made of real leather, for a decent price. And then it was time for our friends to leave. We watched them get on a bus for the airport and drive away. It was sad.

We wandered (as we always do) around the square for a bit, and then stumbled upon this park. The weather was unbelievably beautiful. We sat on a park bench on this wide path lined with overhanging trees to shade the sun and talked for a long, long while. This would be a good time to mention the dogs. Dogs are everywhere in Greece. Some don’t have owners, but most do, as shown by their collars. It’s normal in Greece to get a dog, stick a collar on him (or not, if you prefer), and let him run loose all over Athens or wherever. They’re all very, very sweet and will follow you around whether or not you feed them. They always go back to their owners for food, anyway. And these are big dogs, like Labs and Huskies and some random mixes… they’re all really big, though. Caris was telling me that she’d heard from a good friend (who had traveled to Athens) that most of them had been given rabies shots because of the Olympic games being held there five years earlier (lots of people, lots of foreigners, need for safety, blah, blah, blah), and that these dogs can be very valuable, especially if you’re a woman and/or you’re traveling alone. If you can get one to follow you around and get used to you (which isn’t hard… if you get it to come to you once through a little call, it’ll follow you for a long while, especially if you scratch its ears or show it that you like it), they can be very protective. Caris’ friend said that she was in Athens with two other women, and that they were walking back to their hotel from dinner one night, and this dog was with them, had been following them around for a few hours. I promise you, these dogs will lay outside the restaurant if you go in to eat, and they’ll still be there when you get out—they’re very faithful, especially if they think they’ll get food because of it. Anyway, so they’re walking back at night with this dog, and a man comes up to them and demands their purses. They don’t know what to do, if the man has a weapon, if they should refuse and draw attention to themselves, etc. No need. The dog approaches the man, growling, all its hair sticking up, and begins to bark at him. And the man turns and runs away. Cool, huh? I have to admit, the dogs did make me feel safer. And they’re everywhere. They’ll come up to you randomly and will nuzzle your hand. While we were sitting on the park bench, a pack of five dogs trotted down the street, and two of them came over to us to say hello. One left to join its fellows, but the one I’d petted flopped down next to my feet and rested. It’s so random, but so cool. I was sad to leave the sweet big, protective Greek dogs.

Wow, that was a lot about dogs. Anyway, we chilled the rest of the day, grabbed dinner, and went back early to the hotel to crash. We were so wiped already. We were expecting Allison, a girl from Regent’s who had worked out ahead of time to meet and stay with us in Athens for a couple days, but she didn’t get in until much later that night, when Caris and I were sleeping. The next morning, the three of us got up early to head to Nafplio, a coastal city on the “other half” of Greece’s mainland. Little did I know that I was to have my best study abroad day yet.