September 24, 2014

Week Two. Story Time.


     Well, as it turns out, I am in fact getting much more comfortable here in Chania. Since my last post, I have ventured out for solo walks, explored the shops and took pictures like the tourist I wish I wasn't.  (Prepare for a lot of pictures!) I have managed to scrape together a few random phrases that my Greek classmates have taught me, and will walk down the street saying the phrase over and over until I come as close as I can. It's weird, because they emphasize so many different parts of a word, and how you enunciate makes all the difference. But, I am learning the key phrases like, "thank you very much," "sorry," "bathroom," and "Good morning, good night," etc., as long as they see that I'm trying to make an effort. :) And the most important phrase of all, "Thélo éna phrésko chymó portokáli" which means, "I want one fresh orange juice."(Shout out to my classmate Pavlos for writing that down for me.)
I'm telling you- I can not go on enough about the orange juice here! It's a daily thing. We frequent a little tiny place down the street, hidden in an alleyway, where an old man has an orange juice shop, and he makes the orange juice from the oranges he grows at home. He doesn't speak any English, but he has the best in town, and it's only 1 euro, which is the cheapest we've found!

My favorite building in Old Town

I love these little trinkets!
     We find ourselves going out to eat a lot. Actually, almost every night. I buy groceries for during the day, which I stick to the few items I actually recognize, because there are so many things in Greek and you have no idea what they actually are. (Cheese and milk are tricky ones!)
     And for the nights we don't go out to eat, some of my classmates and I will cook dinner together, and have game/card nights. (i.e.  Egyptian War until 2am. So fun!) That's another thing. They are serious night-owls here. Doesn't matter if you're 4 or 84 years old. I typically don't get to bed until well after midnight, and that's an early night. Now that the schoolwork has kicked up, I try to get a better night sleep and not wake up so late in the day, but - when in Rome, eh?
Dinner on the harbor. There are restaurants lining all along the water.
     That's as good of a transition into food as I'm going to get, because it's late and I'm tired. Some people have asked me to talk about the food. Well, I can tell you that I've tried Souvlaki, which is amazing, and this traditional lemonade drink that's like a syrup you add water to, and it's sweet and delicious! (I forget the name). Otherwise, I know the Greek dishes that most people have heard of, like Moussaka or Pastitsio, are an easy find, but I have yet to try them. They have food like we would - Bruschetta, pork chops, Fried Calamari, basically all kinds of meats, seafood, and of course lamb. You name it, they have it, but keep in mind I'm staying in a big touristy spot. Regardless, the food is delicious! Fresh and so tasty! When you go to the market, like we did yesterday, you see ALL kinds of cuts of meat, which put me in a woozy state. (Think large animal heads with eyeballs and the tongue hanging out of it's skinned mouth. Or the full rabbit, sprawled out in a running stance, like he's calling for you, with the fur still on his poor, little paws. I was done after that.) But the fruit? I can't get over how cheap the fresh produce is! I just bought a half of a watermelon, and a good sized one, for $0.69!!! What?? Yes, please!
David and Doug. I don't know if they'll appreciate that I took this.

     Now, for your dining pleasure... Pretty much wherever you eat, bread will be brought out with your meal whether you ask for it or not. (And you will be charged for it, though it's pretty inexpensive, and me being the carbivore that I am, I would never object.). Also, depending on where you are, the majority of places will seriously take their time. Like, possibly a couple of hours by the time it's all said and done. Lunch or dinner, doesn't matter. That being said, I really admire how Greeks savor the moment, enjoy the food and company, and talk for hours. It's an awesome cultural trait that I wish we adopted as Americans. To not always be in such a hurry? Must be nice.  Then again, there are times when a meal is taking eons, and I'm antsy, verging on irritated, and the inner-American in me  starts coming out and I'm doing everything I can to relax and not get impatient, even if I don't really have anywhere particular to be, simply because that's how we've been trained. (Like that bunny from Alice in Wonderland that sings, "I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! No time to say 'Hello', 'Goodbye,' I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" Late for what? We're always late for something, even if it's nothing.) I digress..
     After your meal, they almost ALWAYS bring you some type of dessert for FREE, like a bowl of amazing ice cream that your table shares, or maybe it's REAL Greek yogurt with fresh fruit on top, or possibly pieces of melon or a bunch of grapes. No matter what it is, it's good. And did I mention it's free? It's just part of the dining experience. Another quality I can't rightfully express my appreciation for, and would strongly encourage our country to adopt. When it's all finally come to an end, that's when the Raki comes. They always bring Raki. It's a small bottle of alcohol, (typically clear, depending on how it's made) that most tavernas make themselves. I'm not a drinker, so it's not really my thing, and I think it smells absolutely disgusting, as most foreigners seem to agree, but they'll take their shot, say "Yamas!" in unison, and it's bottoms up. Often times even the waiter, if asked, will take the shot with you. EVERYONE drinks here, so I definitely stand out in that regard, but I don't really care. I can enjoy a meal and the company of others and have JUST as much fun as the next guy. :) I think that's all I have on the dining. Oh, one more thing- they really do have those photoshopped-looking cafes lining all of the streets, with the cutest decor, and the cutest waiters. (Seriously- to my single ladies, they should have given a warning about how good-looking some of these men are. Just sayin...)
     This past weekend we finally had some full days off, and to be honest, and I agree I should be horse-whipped for even saying this, but I kind of missed the fact that we didn't have school, because at least that brought all of us together and gave us something to do. We found ourselves quite bored! Besides going to the beach, (which we ended up doing) and eating, and walking around A LOT, there aren't a whole lot of things that you can do that wouldn't involve going outside the town. (Which then turns into a day-trip and requires a car or bus. In our case, no one really has a car, so bus it is, and we have yet to really figure out the bus system or schedule, as I've heard it changes weekly.) After a lot of sun, and more walking around, we eventually found a movie theater and scrounged up some other ideas of places we can visit in the future.

I give you our ship, matey...
     However, a few of us did manage to schedule a boat ride on Sunday! If you know me, you know I was in my element!  At least I would have been... You see, we got to the boat well in advance before our excursion, and as soon as David, (one of my classmates) and I stepped onto the boat, we knew we were in for a treat. It was particularly windy on Sunday, and I've never been seasick before. But that boat was moving way more than I thought necessary, and I couldn't get my bearings, so we decided to wait out by the dock until it was time to go. Once we finally boarded the pirate-looking ship (so cool), one of the sea captains,  an adorable little Greek woman, (who we coincidentally thought was a boy), mentioned that they had pills for seasickness, and David and I, without hesitation, downed the first pill she gave us. (In retrospect, probably wasn't one of the smartest things I've ever done). And that was it. I always tell people the story of how I once took a NON-DROWSY Dramamine at Six Flags years ago, and that stupid little pill made me so unbelievably tired, I felt like I had been drugged by a narcotic and was begging my friends to let me sleep on the grass while they waited in line for the rides. This wasn't too far off. At first I felt great, I felt free and not the slightest bit sick. I made it to the first stop, on a small island outside Chania. We got in the water, I attempted to snorkle, but my mask was too loose, my breathing pipe-thingy kept leaking and I swallowed a bunch of seawater and tried not to exaggerate how I felt like I was choking, and one of my flippers was torn and didn't really work. By far the worst snorkeling experience I've ever had. And this was after all of my puffing-my-chest because I had "snorkeled plenty of times," and clearly was pretty good at it... So I got back on the boat, ate some chips, and that's when I'm sure my morphine substitute kicked in. Of course it didn't seem to affect anyone else, but I was going comatose. I don't even remember the trip from that island to the other two islands, I'm almost certain I was slurring my words, and when we docked for another swimming break, I practically begged to sleep on the bench. I was probably drooling, and I recall having to peel my eyes open on a few occasions.  Everything else is pretty much a blur. Surprisingly enough, the pill seemed to wear off relatively fast, just as we made our way back to the harbor. But I did squeeze in a few pictures. I wasn't even mad about it. When you're that tired, you can't reason to be mad.
From the boat. This was pre-sickness. 
You can see another boat with their snorkelers diving to see an old WWII plane  on the sea floor. 
      Finally, that evening, (and I'll wrap this up) I met up with Gus and his family. Funny thing - back in March, when I was still deciding to do the whole Greece thing, (but was still praying for some type of direction or confirmation) I mentioned it to a girl I had just met that day, who happened to be playing on the praise team with me. (And I never said exactly where I was going, just that it was in Greece). She thought that was cool, told me her brother was living in Greece, and I commented that it's a big country. Then she said it was on some island, but she couldn't remember which. I mentioned how there are thousands of Greek islands, so chances are slim it would be the same one. She then remembered it was Crete. "Ok, ok, that's pretty cool," I thought. Because, by that point I hadn't really met anyone who had even been to Greece before, let alone this island, or at least not that I knew of. I, for one, had never even heard of it until about 2 weeks prior. She said he lived in a small city, like "Chan" or something, and I said, "Chania??" and she said, "That's it!!!"  I sort of stood there in disbelief. I finally had a connection, which deep down, is what I was really hoping for. Just some type of safety-net, even if I didn't personally know them. To have someone I could turn to if I needed.  I mean really, what are the chances? The exact city, on the same island, in the exact country halfway around the world. My friends, that is what I like to call a "God-confirmation" - a moment where I feel like God has given clear assurance that He's involved and I'm on the right track.
     So, anyway, Sunday I actually got to meet her brother and his family. Finally, I had my first taste of the true Greek hospitality I kept hearing about but had yet to really experience. (Sad, but true). They met me in the harbor, brought me a whole bag of fresh veggies from their garden, (which were DELICIOUS! I cooked them last night!) and brought me that traditional lemonade, which is phenomenal. They took me out for dinner, wouldn't even let me consider paying, walked me around the city, and didn't just tell me, but really took the time to show me exactly where certain places were that I had trouble finding. They were so incredibly sweet and thoughtful, and truthfully one of my favorite experiences in Greece thus far.
     On that note, I should be getting to sleep. I'll touch on my classes and how the teaching is going more next time. As for future plans, I still have no idea what I'm going to do. Just trusting and waiting and taking everything a day at a time. Maybe I'll work, maybe I'll travel. I guess we'll see where the wind blows. :) As I was reading this morning, I think this couldn't more accurately describe what I feel He has done for me here...
   You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.
- Psalm 21
     A big THANK YOU for the kind words, encouragement, emails and messages I've received. You all truly make me feel empowered, cared for, and like I have my own little team that's cheering me on! What an incredible community to have behind you. It makes everything worth it! I am very blessed!
Until next time...
A little touch of home! And you get free wifi. :)