Athens does Mardi Gras

13 Sep

There are certain things nobody tells you about Greece until after you’ve already arrived (or at least nobody told ME these things):

1. You can’t flush your toilet paper.  For reasons associated with the pipes and clogging, you must instead dispose of your used toilet paper in a receptacle next to the toilet.  It’s gross.

2. Cab drivers decide when they want to pick you up.  You might be thinking, don’t they do this in America?  No.  Cab drivers here slow down, make you tell them your destination, and then drive away.  I’m not sure if they just don’t want to make money, or if they already have a set destination in mind and if you don’t say that exact destination you’re shit out of luck, but whatever the reason, this usually results in you standing on a corner for far too long, until you give up and start walking.

3. Don’t put your hand up.  Kind of like how Americans do “talk to the hand”.  It’s the Greek equivalent to giving someone the finger.  This may seem like a simple thing to avoid, but it’s not.  High fives.  Giving someone a wave of recognition.  Saying that you want 5 of something.  All out of the question, and things I somehow manage to do on a daily basis.

4. Before you shower, you have to turn on the hot water and let it heat up, and then remember to turn the hot water off again.  We didn’t realize this for a solid week, at least, and all had our fair share of cold showers before deciding to just stop showering altogether.  Luckily we think we have figured it out, although temperature and pressure can still be sporadic and disappointing.

Other than these small pointers I wish I had known before I came, nothing has been too out-of-the-ordinary, or at least unexpected.  This week I started getting into my daily routine.  School began on Friday, however I started work on Monday.  I work in the UK college counseling office on M-W-F from 9-3:30, and this week I learned more than any American should ever have to know about the British university application system.  I can’t wait for the day when I meet a Brit and can impress him with my vast knowledge of UCAS (slightly like the common app, but used for every school), Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, LSE, and which colleges have the best reputation for English, Engineering, Economics, History, Law, Medicine, etc.  Students were shuffling in and out of the office on Wednesday, which was most surprising.  Never in my high school career did I ever even play with the idea of entering my school before the first day.  And on Friday I already had two personal statements to edit by the end of the day.  These kids sure don’t mess around.

On Tuesday I had the day off, and so went sightseeing with some friends.  We took our own walking tour of Athens, hitting up Parliament to witness the changing of the guards in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the National Gardens, the original Olympic Stadium, the Temple of Zeus, and a statue erected for Lord Byron.  It was a trying day for my feet, topped off with a perfect scoop of gelato for my stomach, which I’m praying isn’t already beginning to grow.  That evening I went to the movies and saw The Soloist.  The theater was in an American style mall, and walking into the structure, one truly does feel like she is back in American suburbia.  Differences?  The movie theater had a swanky lounge, serves alcohol, and provides complimentary juice.  It also stops the movie randomly in the middle for an “intermission”; in our case right as Robert Downey Jr. was about to yell bloody murder at Jamie Foxx.  The movie was great, and I am now terrified that I’m going to develop paranoid schizophrenia.

As we’re all settling in and making Greece our home, we’ve been spending more time just hanging out at the house.  We’ve already had a family dinner with all the fellows, and a dessert and wine night at one of the apartments.  Exploring can be fun, but the occasional relaxing on the couch watching House or The Office in sweats is a great way to spend an evening too.  We’re not losers, though, and last night we intended to show Athens exactly what we’re made of.  Athens, it turned out, planned to do the exact same thing.  We started out at a little Mexican restaurant for dinner.  Mexican?  In Greece?  Am I kidding?  No I am most certainly not.  The restaurant, Santa Fe, is owned by a family originally from New Mexico, and this Mexican food was grade A authentic.  Margaritas, enchiladas, chips and salsa and guac, fajitas…while I love the Greek cuisine, this place is definitely a nice escape.  At 12:45am, with a pitcher of margs behind us, we finally got up and headed out to experience the nightlife.  We had the cab driver drop us off in Gazi, a hip part of town, and…wow.  I couldn’t tell if I was at Mardi Gras, at a massive college block party, or just in party heaven.  The streets were packed with 20-somethings strolling along, hopping in and out of crowded bars and clubs, each with its own unique vibe.  No lines, no checking of ID’s, no cover charges.  Just wander in, push through the crowds, and enjoy the music.  Tired of one place?  Go next door.  Getting hot?  Just go back outside to the street, which is just as crowded as any bar.  Gazi was the place to be, well into the wee hours of the morning, and there were no signs of it slowing down.  We finally decided to head home at 4:30am, and it’s a safe bet to assume that we were some of the only ones heading to bed at that hour.  The metro re-opens at 5:30am, so next weekend we’ll be pushing ourselves to stay out that extra hour.  I don’t think it should be too hard to do.  Highlights include pounding drinks in the taxi, a car somehow making its way through the congested street that my small body couldn’t manage to do, and Greek men who finally didn’t resemble cavemen.  Turns out all the attractive people are hiding out in Gazi.

Today was spent sleeping past noon, recounting the night, watching over half of The Office season 3, downing multiple Domino’s pizza pies, and going for a run to prevent any guilt from creeping up.  All in all, a great way to start the upcoming week.

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One Response to “Athens does Mardi Gras”

  1. Jillian Levi June 26, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Hi Allyson! I’m going to be a new fellow for the 2011-2012 year and was SO excited to find your blog! I absolutely love this entry with your facts that you didn’t know before you got there! Can’t wait to read the rest! =D

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