Greece

Greece

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Garden State



(Life back at Home)

Oh how I missed the surf in southern California

It’s been a while since I’ve journal. I think the last time I was in Cannakale, Turkey, the modern city of ancient Troy where I finished reading Homer’s Iliad while sitting before the walls of the city that had been burned down shortly after Homer’s story. I meant to write about the concluding days of my time in Turkey, about the feeling I had when returning to Greece staying with Marina and Marino (reminding me of the feeling of home). I meant to write about London and the architect who brought to life my former aspiration to become an architect that I had in high school, about the guy I met on the plane home and how I was able to give back to him the hospitality that I had received all summer, and about life back in southern California after three months on the road. But I never got around to it because it was those moments that held all of my attention captive.

It is now early September, and tomorrow I will finish the first week of my new school and work in San Diego and I am excited for the opportunities I have had already to apply to life at home the lessons I learned while abroad.

Life can never work against you when standing still. When you have no expectations you can’t be disappointed. I don’t mean that plans aren’t good, or goals aren’t of value, but when we become attached to the goals and plans of life that we perceive, the present moment becomes lost and can never again be recovered – time moves only forward.

A special tour of my new place...
Days after coming home from traveling, I had registered into a full-time load of classes and secured a job working in coffee at a new shop in San Diego called Kaffee Meister. However, what ended up falling through was my plans for the living situation. A friend I had hoped to stay with decided it wasn’t a good time to move in after all. After a whole summer of freedom from feelings of anxiety and worry, for a few moments these feelings started to re-appear in my mind. Between many phone calls to try and find a place to stay I discovered that my friend Zack, who had moved to San Diego just a week before me, had been living out of his truck and with a cover over the bed, he was actually enjoying the simplicity as well as saving a lot of money. And then I remembered my trip, and the philosophy that seemed to have found me during that time, and decided to detached from the plan I had made for life in San Diego and to join Zack and continue being flexible like I had been all summer. I would trade cars with my little sister, and live in her Four Runner, and resort to bringing only the essentials of my possessions that would be necessary for the first weeks of life in SD. I strapped a surfboard to the ceiling so that I could sleep with my gear underneath. I had a backpack for school, a milk crate filled with clothes, a skateboard and climbing gear to keep me busy when there was no surf.

Friends
I’m going on the sixth night sleeping in my car, and while it is not the best sleep in the world, early mornings are assured and keep my productive. With very little possessions around me it is not easy to distract myself, but I have a lot of time to read and write philosophy. I hang out in cafés, at friend’s houses, sometimes they are there and sometimes they’re not. It is nice not being restricted to one location every night. If I want to surf in the early morning before class, the night before I can park my car and sleep near the beach wake up and be in the water within 10 minutes. If I have work really early at the café, I can just sleep outside and wake up minutes before my shift.

balance board....of my own creation
At school I really enjoy all of my classes, especially my class in Existentialism, where I am reading Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, and Marcel, who’s writings all encourage my lifestyle as it is right now. It is not because of need that I am living out of my car on the street, nor is it a result of poverty or a consequence of careless living. Rather, I choose to live this way (for the time being) for experiences sake. The early Existentialist writers would say that value is not a term to associate with material possessions but one that can only describe the personal experience that is subjective to each individual. The higher the value of an experience, the more purely individual a choice was made. They would say that values are subjective in this sense. For example, take a charitable act, is it valued a good thing in an objective way, despite the heart and attitude of the person committing charity? Or is it valued specifically because of the heart that is behind the act? I have grown convinced of the latter.
A must see!!!

Anyway, this is what I am learning in school and daily practice. But before I do away with that subject, I should explain why I titled this entry Garden State. Garden State is a film, one that a saw a few nights ago for the first time with some friends, about a guy who learns the value of momentary experiences. He stops taking the pills he had been on since childhood, which dampened his emotional reactions to life, and he does things that are not normally part of his known routine. He meets a girl, who shows him the value of his unique individuality and saves him from losing himself in the monotonous acts of life. I loved the movie, and in light of my new existential curiosity, I decided to make it the theme of my first few months in San Diego. It is the heart of the individual that is truly present in the experience of now that begins to move forward beyond itself.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Istanbul: Mosques are like Swimming Pools

Insıde a Mosque


(In order to be current, I skıpped my hıke up Mt Olympos and my stay ın Thessalonıkı, but hopefully I wıll get those posted soon!)

Istanbul ıs the only cıty ın the world establıshed on two contınents. It cradles both Europe and Asıa and contaıns ın ıt a populatıon of 17 mıllıon people who have an advantage over the rest of the world. Thıer culture was created from both western and eastern tradıtıons, and so thıer worldvıews are free to lıe anywhere they choose along the spectrum of thought. They have a rıch hıstory extendıng past the Ottoman and Roman Empıres ınto the Bronze Age and yet ın recent years they have not faıled ın keepıng up wıth the modern world. They have the latest technology and fashıons. As I sıt ın a cafe ıt was a touch screen regıster system used to take my order, smartphones all around me are rıngıng ın calls and sendıng out text messages, and laptops are busy wıth free hıgh speed wıfı access. Next door ıs a haır salon where trendy hıpsters are cuttıng the latest European styles for half the prıce you see at home and across the busy pedestrıan street are many fashıon boutıques competıng wıth best deals and the best graphıc desıgns to advertıse them. The transportatıon here ıs cheap and effıcıent for ıts massıve populatıon that ıs always ıncreasıng. The underground metro system ıs the nıcest and cleanest I have ever seen and the busses are somehow safe and effıcıent despıte thıer overly caffeinated and anxıous drıvers. The taxıs dont do so bad eıther, possıbly because the only way they dont run you off the sıdewalk ıs when you jump ın. Thıer economy ıs also ın great standıng compared to the rest of the world and thıer future promısıng and secure. As a result I thınk the people here are happy and content knowıng that thıer future belongs to them. Opposıte to what ıs typıcal ın a tourısty town the people here are more helpful and frıendly than anywhere ın the world that I have been. They seem to respect each other and thıer vısıtors too, even when there ıs a strong mıx of secular and tradıtıonal culture. Half the women wear headdresses and long sleeves and the other half are ın skırts and hıgh heels. Istanbul ıs a place where vıbrant culture and hıstory are found on every street corner. I have no desıre to leave, and so I wıll stay untıll the end of my trıp.

A quıck sketch of the vıew from the Asıan sıde lookıng
over the Bosphorus too the European sıde

Havıng just come from Greece, I can see that Greek culture has much ın common wıth Turkısh. Durıng the Ottoman Empıre they were practıcally the same natıon lıvıng together for over three-hundred years. Whıle food and musıc ıs very sımılar, the major dıfference ıs relıgıon. Greeks are mostly Chrıstıan under the Greek Orthodox Church and here ın Turkey almost everyone ıs Muslım. Mosques ın Istanbul are lıke swımmıng pools ın southern Calıfornıa, there´s one ın every neıghborhood.

Couchsurfıng wıth Bılal and Afşın
Me thınkıng really hard...and showıng off how
good my poınt-and-shoot camera ıs 
For thıs reason, you mıght expect that Turkey would be more of a cultural shock for me, but thıs has not been the case. Suprısıngly, I fınd myself and my values relatıng more closely to the people and relıgıon here ın Turkey. In Greece, there ıs lıttle seperatıon between church and state and I thınk relıgıon has become so common, so famılıar that ıt ıs rarely notıced as somethıng that wıll actually change your lıfe. For example, ıt ıs common for Greeks to begın an actıve sex lıfe ın thıer teens, and ıt ıs openly dıscussed between frıends and even famıly. Sınce the establıshment of Turkey as a republıc ın 1922, ıt has consıdered ıtself a secular country but the people have stayed closely connected to Islam. Apart from actıve worshıp and prayer ın the mosques, vırgınıty ıs saved for marrıage and ıf your really tradıtıonal you wont physıcally touch a women who ıs a non famıly member asıde from your wıfe. Turkısh people choose to follow Islam out of a love and desıre for God. Sınce I have been here, fıve tımes a day I hear the Imam at the mosque sıngıng to Allah through the loud speakers and all of the people stop what they are doıng to lısten for the three mınutes of musıcal melodıes. It takes gettıng use to, but ıt ıs beautıful. To everyone readıng thıs at home who mıght feel sorry for the people here because they dont have Jesus, dont bother. Untıll you are here to see the beauty and delıcate desıgns ın each of the mosques and the commıtment the people here have to thıer God that far surpasses most Sunday church-goers at home, and the purıty of thıer marrıages that ıs so rare today ın Amerıca, dont worry yourself over ıt. Its not our place to judge or to feel sorry for people because they happened to be raısed ın a dıfferent geographıcal locatıon. God ıs just and wıll He not take all of these thıngs ınto account? It ıs more ımportant to love, each other and others, even ıf they come from a dıfferent relıgıon. Thıs ıs what they do here, they are frıendly and kınd even to those who come from dıfferent relıgıons and worldvıews. Isnt thıs the heart of Jesus, and ıf they know the heart of Jesus, who ıs to say they dont know Jesus hımself?

Matthew 25:31-45
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply,

‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me.’


I would love to enter ın some healthy dıalogue wıth those who dısagree wıth me...so please comment on thıs blog and let us dıscuss the thıngs of God!




(More storıes and pıctures to come of my tıme here ın Istanbul!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ioannina and Meteora

(Besides the few photos I uploaded, you can check out more photos corresponding to this blog at this link http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2211119167711.2130123.1539476984&type=1)

Me, Flora, Nina and her ınjured foot
I was suprised when I realized that my last blog was from Sifnos, because its been a few weeks since then and I have had so many more adventures and gone to so many other places. After the islands I returned to Athens for just a few days where I was able to meet a lot of Greek people at a CouchSurfing picnic. One guy I met was driving the next day to Korinthos, his home town, and he offered to give me a free ride. So I went to Korinthos and saw the ancient city of Corinth that Paul was writing his letters to, and after that went to Nafplio and visited the ancient Greek theatre of Epidavros and then got a call from a CS host in Patras, the north of Pelopponese, to stay with him a few days and go free beach camping. His place was really nice and I was able to rest well and at the beach campsight I became really good friends with him and his friends. I was with Yannis for four nights and we were like best friends when I left. I took a bus to Ioannina where I met two Dutch sisters living in Amsterdam, we were at the same campsite. Nina and Flora were thier names and they were really nice and lauging all the time, even after Nina stepped on a sharp knife and I had to quickly get her to the hospital where she ended up getting one stich. There was so much blood running down her leg and my hands and feet I couldn't believe it was just one stich, but apparently it had gone in really deep. After just one night in Ioannina I woke up early and caught a bus to Meteora.

They say that thousands of years ago Meteora was a lake, which is supposed to explain why today there are many huge rocks towering over the valleys and small towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki. The rock formations are beautiful by themselves, but then there are monasteries on the very top along the cliffs hundreds of years old. Words can hardly explain the experience of being in Meteora, pictures even less because they mask over the beauty your imagination may have come up with.

I stayed at a campsight in Kastraki where there was an awsome view of the rocks from your tent. At the campsite I met a German couple traveling together on a motorcycle, and also a Frenchman who was riding alone on his bike. I was perfect, because without all of his gear on his bike there was an extra seat for me, and so the four of us on two bikes rode up and down all of the windy country rodes of Meteora. On the first day it was already too late to visit inside the monestaries, but we had a picnic at sunset at this spot we found with a paneramic view of Meteora.

The next day me and the Frenchman Julian visited two of the monasteries, spoke with some of the monks, got plenty of pictures, and exausted our share of the beautiful views that are everywhere in Meteora. I ended up asking the monk questions to better understand the practices and theology of the Greek Orthodox Church. We talked about the icons that are so important in the church, the prayer beads and gold and silver crosses and flashy pictures of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints, and the colorfully bright frescos on all four walls and ceiling of most orthodox churches throughout Greece. He said that the material icons are meant to act as  symbols that keep us aware of God throughout our day. The monk explained to us that there are levels of faith, and the higher or more spiritually atuned you become, eventually you will no longer need the icons to be aware of God. They believe that in the bible God did not complete his directions for the Christian way of living, but through the example of the saints we have a more complete picture of the Christian life. This is why the the saints are exaulted as much as scripture.
The levels of a spiritual life caught my attention and so he explained more. The first level is when a person comes to faith out of fear for hell or fear of interrupting the tradition within the family. The second is what he called the 'supermarket' faith. This is where you say, do, and give certain things to God in order to reap the benefit of earthly blessings and the eternal life to come. The third is when you realize that the life you have is all a gift from the creative hand of God and so you are free to live a life of gratitude and give it all back. This sounds so familiar to what I have thought about church-goers at home. While at home we have very little tradition left in the church, not like they do hear in the Greek Orthodox Church anyway, but we certainly have our own church routine and I wonder how many of the thousands that atttend a church service are really seeing past the routine. In Greece it is apparent that few people actually see past the icons and really have any personal relationship with God, but the precentage might look something similar to us at home as well. Few people see past the emotional experience that is so shallow and yet inevitable in all religions, and so the connection they thought they had with God ends when the feelings have past.



One of sıx functıonıng monesterıes ın Meteora
When julian and i were done at the monesteries we headed back to the campsite where I found the Dutch sisters wıth thier tent set up next to mine. They made it, despite Ninas injured foot and her crutches. Apparently, it was the crutches that saved them. They were able to milk a few rides out of them untill they eventually made it to the campsite in Kastraki. The four of us made a spagetti dinner and played cards all night untill we finally went to bed at 1 in the morning. I had to get up at 730, pack all my stuff, fold away my tent, and walk 2 kilometers to next town to catch a bus at 9. I hoped to get to the base of Mt. Olympos in time to start that same day. I figured once I got there I would find some kind of informatiıon about the two day hike that I had in front of me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sifnos

(Ok so this post should have actually come before Paros, but I am just now able to catch up with my blogs)

It has been a lot of fun traveling with Mia and Carol (See the Santo Gang post) the last few days, but there is a time for everything, and I realized during our first day in Sifnos that the time for us being together would end soon. The two of them are traveling the Greek islands as a vacation gettaway from work, where I am traveling all summer, like them to escape work, but for a longer period and a tighter budget. Mia and Carol seem to be on vacation spending mode, where nice hotels and pricey dinners is within their budget. While with them in Santorini I had relaxed my own spending a bit, but I know I will have to be more conservative if the money I have left is going to last me another six weeks on the road and get me home. I have grown to be ok without a roof over my head, content with simple foods, and open to free transportation like walking and hitch-hiking. This is what I mean by conservative spending, and when you do all of these in the same day, surviving becomes very inexpensive. So the three of us, each with different purposes for being in Greece, have each made compromises. I have been spending a bit more to eat out with them and they have taken to my style of sleeping on terraces and empty houses.

But more than money I am also in search of something. Something I don't ever expect to find, but will always be in persuit, the asnwer always unkown. I am talking about the feeling when you encounter the uknown and sometimes unfortunate circumstances in life with acceptence and ease. Thats the best I can do to communicate it to you, but we all have encountered it during our lives, only this summer I am intentionaly looking for it. The unkown and unfortunate circumstances are inevitable to all of humanity, but approching them with acceptence and ease is the hard part.

Mia, myself, and Carol at the cafe
We arrived to our first day on Sifnos without knowing where we would sleep, but we had heard of a hotel relatively cheap in a small village called Kastro. We took a bus to Apollonia, the islands biggest city, which is actually no city at all, where we stopped at a cafe for coffee. the owner ended up being really cool and we talked about a lot of politics and Greece's economic situation and how apparently there is oil here that can restore it within a few years if only a Greek company would start digging it up. We stayed for a few hours untill we decided to look for the village we had heard about. Carol and I wanted to walk, this way we could get more familiar with the island. Mia wasn't up for walking because it was too hot and we had our heavy backpacks to carry with us. We found what I thought was a simple solution, but later caused a lot of miscommunication. Mia wanted to meet us there in a taxi a little bit later in the day and Carol and I would walk to Kastro, calling her if we ended up anywhere different.

The bar underneitih the terrace

Carol and I found the village but not the room and had little luck finding anything under 40 euros. So we kept walking around the small village, with absolutely no tourists around, right above a fishing harbor that had the most beautiful, clear water I had ever seen. We ended up at a Cuban cafe bar asking the guy if he knew of a place to sleep. Kostas was his name, and he was a small guy in his seventies with extremely short, cut off blue jean shorts that were hugging his package tight. He had a green army shirt with cutoff sleeves, a thick dirty mustache, very little teeth, long and thin greece hair slicked back under a bandana. His bar had the best view of the harbor below but was really small inside, dirty, and cluttered with parafonalia from Cuban revolutionaries: Che Guevera t-shirts, Fidel posters, old war caps, newspapers and magazines covering that whole conflict. Kostas told us as he pointed up, "You sleep on my balcony and you use my toilet," and then he started making us free drinks. Carol and I didn't need to think twice about the offer before we laid out our bags and sleeping gear on the balcony above.

The terrace where we slept
Cuban music was ringing loud in the speakers, Carol was singing along and cooking us dinner in Kostas' kitchen, Kostas was dancing, and I was in amazement at the fact we were there, experiencing something you only see in the movies. All night I racked my brain trying to understand where this this guy came from. He was absolutely crazy, drank so much Haverna Club but never beer or wine because he said it made him too drunk, although Im pretty sure this guy as lived his whole life half intoxicated. The theory I came up with was this: Kostas was a Cuban revolutionary himself, at one point affiliated with Che and Fidel, and had escaped their unfortunate outcome to this tiny and desolate Greek island of Sifnos. Over the next two nights that we stayed on his balcony, I was convinced by the stuff in his bar and the stories that he told thaqt my theory was fact.

Cuban Revolution Parafinalia
Kostas - The Crazy Cubano
Thanks to Carol's cooking skills, dinner turned out really well despite the lousy selection of ingredients sold at the "mini market," anchoves, tomato sauce, cheese, pasta, and an onion we had with us already. I swear it still may have been one of the best pastas I have ever had. The first night Carol and I grabbed a few mats from the bar below and used them as padding on the wooden deck. We stayed up most of the night talking under the starts as the breeze from the harbor kept us a little chilly. We actually slept very little, but eventually the sunrise came, and we were already in the perfect spot to see it. the sun came up, lighting the harbor and the surrounding farms along the moutain side, and the terraces of the village. Animals from all around began to sing thier morning song, first the roosters, then the song birds, the sheep and donkeys, dogs and cats. There were so many animals around us I couldn't believe how loud they were when the sun came up. While Santorini was the most beautiful sunset, I think this place in Sifnos must have been the most beautiful sunrise in all of the Cyclades. Carol and I thought again to ourselves that this should be in a movie.

The harbor below
What happend next was totally unexpected, but the neighbors, the traditional looking old Greek ladies, began to yell and wave us off the porch. We could not understand what they were yelling in Greek, but it was clear they did not want us there. Carol and I just laughed as our morning became even more Hollywood. We finally got up and walked down to the harbor to swim and clean up. Looking up you could see on the top of the hill the village and the wooden terrace that we slept on reching out into the valley with a paneramic view of the village, the sea, the harbor, and the farmland.
Remote fisherman harbor

The next day we ran into Mia again and we ended up renting a car and explored the rest of the ilsand. We bounced around to all of the major harbors and thier beaches, the last of them turning out to be really amazing, where we ate fresh octopus and fish. The three of us returned to the Kastro for another night of the same thing, hanging out with the crazy Cuban and sleeping on the wooden terrace.

The time for the three of us to depart came eventually, when we took a ferry back to Paros. They were gonna get a hotel and I found a couchsurfing couple that siad they would take me in for a few days.I knew I would miss Carol and Mia, but I was ready to be couchsurfing again. Hostels are good in thier own way, but they are not as good as the cultural experience that couchsurfing offers.

Im coming up to the middle of my summer and I have left to see the Pelopennese and northern Greece. I am also thinking about traveling through western Turkey. Every person I have met coming from there has said it is the best place to travel. I have been corresponding with a farm there through WOOFER., an organization that connects world travelers with farmers in need of labor, where you live and work on the farm in exchange for free accomodation and food. It will be tricky getting there on my budget but there will be no expenses once Im there. Untill then I will continue being open to all that traveling has to offer when you have no plan.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Paros

Paros is just another beautiful island of the Cyclades where I have come across many more amazing experiences. There are many big hollywood stars that live here in Paros, Tom Hanks, and Madona, who just bought a small island just of the coast. Just like all of the others islands I have been to, this is a dream land for even the wealthy.

Hanna Vasco and I having a sunset picnic on the beach.
It has been especially good because I was able to stay with CS hosts Hanna and Vasco, a young couple, 26 and 22, German and Swiss, living here in an apartment. During my two days with them we were able to connect really well because Vasco was a musician and we would play music together. Every meal we cooked together, mostly salads and bread because they were both vegiterian. They had a garden her in Paros, and they were very eco-conscious in everything they did.

We had coffee one morning at a cafe and I learned that Vasco was the best in the tennis league here on the island, and because of that, he and Hanna were really connected with everyone. During the day I would hitchhike my way around. It was suprising that the only rides I was able to get, which were quite a few, were from foreigners on very small, half broken scooters. As I hung onto the back it was always a mind came to let go of the need for control. My safety was in the hand of a foreign stranger, and I just had to accpet that and enjoy the ride. I'd say it is both a dangerous and healthy excercise.

This is me being mobile.

After couchsurfing I made my way to the opposite end of the island to Noussa Camping, where I had to pay 9 euro for a small 'cabin,' which was just a glorified tent with a light and power outlet. I wouldn't call it the best experience, the place or the people, but I decided to rent a scooter so I could be mobile and get out of the campgrouds more easily.

One day I headed to a small traditional village called Kostos, to hopefully run into a guy named Pantelis who was a self sustaining farmer with a history on the island. Hanna and Vasco told me about him. I found his house with a visitors welcome sight out front, but he wasn't home. His number was left on the door, so i called him and he told me to come back later in the day. So i hung out in the town center tavern with a bunch of old Greek men I couldn't communicate a word with, and returned to meet Pantelis.



Pantelis' farm
He eventually showed up and we hung out for a few hours. He pulled off figs from his tree for me to eat, and also gave me some homemade lemonade. He told me all about his families history on the island and how his traditional style of farming does not work well in modern society. With all of the new supermarkets around the island he makes little money from his farm, but rather just uses it to sustain himself. He also is a blacksmith and winemaker. He showed me his work space and wine celler, and even let me taste many of them. He played some traditional Greek music for me and overall I was amazed at his traditional style of living on the remote hilltop. His house was the same hous his grandfather and great grandfather lived in, and he lived the same routine they had for the last hundred years.


Pantelis' traditional style bedroom
When Hanna and Vasco told me about him, they explained how he pays epople not with money usually, but with his home made goods. Food, metalwork, wine - all of these were his form of exchange. Paper money has less value for him and without using much of it his life is more simple. Speaking of money, today my visa card got eaten by the ATM machine. I am clean dry out of cash making the next few days very difficult. It's Saturday, and the bank is closed today and tomorrow. I have no idea what I'm gonna do. My spare card has not been activated so it is useless. Tomorrow I was going to catch a ferry back to Athens but now I have no money to buy a ticket, let alone eat. In this moment, I can't help but wish my life was as simple as Pantelis.

My traveling is dependent on interent that is either hard to find, or a total rip off, but without it, I'm stuck where Im at. Pantelis said he has never travelled outside of Greece, and hardly outside of his island. He is stuck at home with his hens and his farm that must be tended to constantly. So while his life is simple it is also confined, and mine is complicated but mobile. I dunno which is better, or is there a balance that lies perfectly between the two?


(This was  a journal entry from the 9th, and I have worked out all of the complications and I should be on a ferry in a few hours on my way back to Athens .... so mom, you don't have to worry about me! Love you all, and maybe while couchsurfing on the mainland it won't be so difficult to blog more often like it is here on the islands.)






Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Santo Gang

My last few days in Santorini have been amazing hanging out with Mia, Carol, and Conrad who we just call the German. We went wine tasting at Santo Wine Estates, bought our two favorites and finished them off before the bus even showed up to take us home, we hiked up Ancient Thira and down the other side where we were cliff diving in the ocean, we went to the red beach where the German became more red than the beach was famous for, we rented ATV's and discovered a remote beach that became our favorite 'little piece of heaven.'

The Santo Gang is a perfect example of how traveling can bring people together. The German was only 17 and this was his first time traveling alone, and he made himself a student to all of the older people around including me, thier philosophies and experiences. Then thier was Carol, an extremely chill Brazilian, 23 and has been studying in England and now Switzerland the culinary art of gastronomy, where you cook with the elast amount of waist, making tasty appetizers and enteres out of things like peels and seeds you would normally throw out. Miah was the oldest and also the one with the most traveling experience. 30 years old and from Denmark, she graduated with a degree in international development and has since been traveling the world leading campaigns for social improvement. And then I'm thrown in the middle of these people, each of us so different but so similar, our new friendship solidifying every moment, at a quick pace that is only possible on the road.

The German left this morning to visit family on some smaller island in Greece that no one has heard about. The rest of us, Mia, Carol, and I decided to travel together for a little while, first to the island of Paros, then Sifnos, untill we will each go our own way. While writing this we are waiting for our ferry to Paros, and when we get there we have no idea where we will stay, maybe find a room to share for a few days. I have grown to love the feeling of not knowing details like these, and I am at the point where worry and anxiety I don't feel anymore. Everything will work itself out.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time is Irrelevant

For a few days now the time and date has been unknown to me, and everytime I think to ask someone I stop, because it is irrelevant.

One night I cooked a nice spagetti dinner for ten of us at the hostel, and some of the girls wanted to cook again the night after. I guessed that I would be back to eat at ten-o-clock and we called it a date. This was the first reference to time I had used in days, and I don't know how I excpected to hold to it.

That day me and a friend took off on an ATV to the opposite end of the island to visit a book shop and to watch the sunset that Oia is so famous for. I was far more impressed by the bookshop, where the volunteer staff from all over the world slept in bunks built among the bookshelves. They practically had to climb up the stacks of books to reach thier beds. Books were piled to the ceiling and followed spiral staircases leading to the terrace above. I had never seen anything like it.

After the sunset, which sets very late, we had an hour ATV ride ahead of us. I remembered dinner, and thought for a second to check the time to see if we ould make it back. And I remembered that it is irrelevant. We were where we were at that moment, and the hour long journey ahead of us would still be there if we knew the time or not. So instead of asking for the time, and anxiously driving back to make it to dinner, it was better to remain dettached from time and enjoy the ride home.

We arrived perfectly on time to a wonderful, all-you-can-eat home cooked meal and lots of good company. There was no rush or worry involved.

That night I talked with a girl about this concept: to enjoy every moment, hour, or day without worrying about the days to come. It is not an original though obviously, though it is an original feeling to be ok with it, one that goes back to many existential philosophers and writers. Dostoevsky in Notes from Underground wrote that the act of achievement is more meaningful than the achievement itself. Sartre in all of his writings glorifies the momentary experience, as does Camus in many of his novels.

I remember when I read the works of these writers feeling very dark and hopeless in a world where tomorrow is irrelevent, but I am now experiencing the beauty of appreciating the here and now, uncomprimised by the worry and anxiety of tomorrow.

Jesus talks about this way before all of these existential writers, in verses that have always been among my favorite in the Bible.


"Do not be anxious about your life,
what you will eat, nore about your body,
what you will put on. For life is more than food,
and the body more than clothing...
And which of you by being anxious can
add a single hour to his span of life?
If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that,
 why are you anxious about the rest?"
Luke 12:22-26

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

High and Lows of a Lone Traveler

Courtyard at Cave-land
Soon I will have been in Santorini for a week. I originally though I would stay here a few days and then continue onward to explore and discover many more of the Greek island variety. After meeting so many travelers who have seen many other islands already, I know that each island is unique in its own way. Santorini is known for its white, red, and black beaches and the Caldera sunset, Ios and Mykonos are the party islands, Hydra is desolate with only one means of transportation, donkey.

Travelers are always suprised when they here that I plan on being in Greece for so long, as they usually have come from all over the world and have many other destinations to go. But after a whole week on Santorini, I still haven't seen half of what it offers its visitors, and Greece further still. A summer is not enough time to know the island, not enough to know Greek culture. So I'm happy to be in Greece all summer, to do it right, not to rush in all of a countries sights and monuments at the expense of the people and culture that created them.

The longer I stay in Santorini the more beauty and culture reveals, every time a high moment of my travels, but I have also been dealing with the lows of traveling alone. I have been meeting so many great people. I think that most world travelors have a lot in common, or they would not all be traveling to begin with. They are the margin of people from wherever they come from that are open to new experiences, positive about life, and free from all that constrains us at home, or at least trying to. So it is rare to meet a fellow traveler who you don't like, and it is just as rare not to have one or two everyday that you become really good friends with. Sometimes you hang out with people for days without even knowing (in my case, remembering) thier names. But names are not important in a setting such as traveling. What's important is to share experiences together, and what is best is to share yourself to others.

"You give but little when you give of your possessions, it is when you give of yourself that you truely give. For what are our possessions but things we hold on to for fear of tomorrow?" - The Prophet (Kahil Gibron)

Abroad you trust a stranger from the moment you meet them, unless they later do something to break it, where at home it is the other way around. You have to slowly build trust with other people, and the process of building relationships is greatly drawn out. No wonder people at home struggle with being lonely, it is the nature of a routine life.

Baglama, my new greek instrument.
So Im meeting really interesting, one-of-a-kind people, but usually one or two days later they're on thier way gone. The relationships don't last, only the memories and experiences of moments together. Then I am alone, and I have to start all over. Sometimes I will move to a different hostel or place on the island, even if its more expensive, just because of the people that are staying there. If I vibe well with the people, it's worth the move. It becomes an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. Giong into this trip I knew this would happen and I told myself I would be open to it. I think I have been much too detached from my emotions in the last two years anyway. The passion that I so desire in life is inspired by the high and low experiences both.

So what of all these great experiences I've been talking about? I will share a few from the last few days.

After staying in John and Katerina's Hotel on the south end of the island, and saying goodby to Kelly and a New Zealand couple I had been hanging out with, I headed to the more central part of the island to a place called Cave-land (cave-land.com), a new hotel/hostel in a quiet country vinyard where the rooms are built into dug out caves from hundreds of years ago. The feeling this place produced in me was the same I had in one of my favorite movies, A Good Year. The main character, Russel Crowe, a wealthy stock broker from London, inherits his uncles property in the countryside of France, and as he prepares to sell the place for whatever its worth, he begins to re-live old memories and eventually he finds himself in love with a girl, and also the property where he spent his summers growing up. Throughout the movie he is fixing tennis courts, swimming pools, side gardens, and vinyards, all of which are hear in Cave-land.

Here I met Michael, a guy working at the hotel and perhaps the most like-minded person to me I have ever met. He's been working in Santorini for four months and originally came from Mississippi. He is creative, spiritually sincere, a student of world literature, a lover of music, and we hit it off really quick. I almost feel like I've known him my whole life. Since he has to stay at the hostel to check people in and out all day, we end up just sitting around the cave, talking about literature, and out of two little speakers play music that bounces off the walls of the cave and sounds like a thousand dollar surround sound system. Music I've been listening to forever is beginning for the first time to echo in my soul, a purer form of communication between artist and listener. Talk about a surreal experience.

Although Michael works at the place, he understands my situation, homeless and looking for work in a foreign country of a different tongue, and he kinda helps me out a bit. Veronika and Costas, the couple who own the place, are both very cool and I was hesitant to except some of what Michael offered because I didn't want to take advantage of them. But my mind has been working lately in survival mode, and so I justified some of it by helping out alot around the property and doing dishes and giving some of the clients rides to and from the airport. Regardless, everyone seems to like me and would rather have me stick around than see me go.


Baglama
Back in athens I bought my Greek souveneir early, a mandoline-like greek instrument called a baglama, that way I could learn to play it and have something to do when I get bored. It's been alot of fun!

I also met two Australians at Cave-land name Donna and Joan, both older than I with careers teaching and scientific research. They have been my adventuring buddies the last few days. They both leave tomorrow.

My time to leave Santorini has not come to an end yet. I just feel drawn to stay and I don't know why. One reason I suppose is that I have spent more money than I thought I would at this point. Transportation is just so expensive and I know the more I hop around locations the quicker I will run out of money. This takes me back to the question I answered to myself at the beginning of my traveling this summer. It is better to submerge yourself in a culture rather than just checking it out at a tourists distance. So I will stay another week, or even a month if I can find a job.

In the end, these kind of things work themselves out.




Donna and Joan
The best food ever!

The Cave


Cave-land Crew


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Santorini

(I am having trouble on this computer uploading the photos to go with it onto this blog, so I've put em up on facebook here .... http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/media/set/?set=a.2086551813605.2126397.1539476984)

Santorini must be the most beatiful place I have ever seen. Dispite a bad first impression, due to the fact that when I arrived on the ferry I hadn't slept in two days, I realized quickly that staying here was going to be easy and cheap, a place that many people dream about throughout the world.

After arriving to the poort that is against the rocky cliffs of the caldera, I took many busses, to the central island city of Fira, to Pyrgos, and finally to Perissa on the south end of the island where John and Katerina's Hotel was located, so i had heard. A few girls I met at the Acropolis in Athens told me about the place for only 6.60 euros a night (less than $10) living in dorm style beds. I quickly found the hotel and met Rick, an American from Miami who lives on the island over summer to help John and Katerina, who only speak Greek, with hotel bookings. Marcos, John and Katerina's son, and his wife, run a bike, scooter, and ATV rental shop and an internet cafe next door. As I was walking through the place to my room I couldn't believe it. Patio chairs and tables next to a pool and just a beautiful Greek hotel for so cheap! I was excited to find my friends from the Acropolis pull up on an ATV they were renting three days for 24 euros. They were coming back from Santorini's famous black sand beaches, just down the street, and were about to head to the Caldera for the sunset. I jumped on the back of another ATV that two other girls I had just met were driving and the five of us zoomed through the fresh island air, with green vinyards and Greek island estates all around us. The island is shaped like a crescent moon, with a volcano in the center, and other islands you can see in the distance. The Caldera is the magnificent view of the west side. The small town of Oia on the northern tip of the crescent is kown around the world as the most beautiful sunset spot ever.That night we went to our own lookout spot on the inside of the south tip of the island, with the volcano and Oia in view, ferries and sailboats coming in and out of sea, and the rocky caldera cliffs all along the coast. This would be a prime proposal spot, there were couples all around sipping on wine and cheesedishes under the romantic sunset that is sure to make you fall in love, if you hadn't already. I watched all of this as I fell in love with the island itself. This was the first night...and it wasn't even over yet.

That night another girl named Kelly showed up who was travelling home to Canada after two years living and working in Sidney, Austrailia only to move again after summer live and work in London. She had been travling the world for three months already and her trip was coming to an end. With her beautiful red hair, Austrailian/Canadian accent, and all of the confidence and experience of a world traveler, I could not help but be very attracted to her. We ended up spending all of tuesday out adventuring the island together. I rented an ATV, and instead of her buying one for herself and going out alone, I offered to share mine, go out together, where we would both save money. We hit it off really well in the beginning, and the whole day was just amazing. We took a swim in Santorini's famous red sand beaches, saw a lighthouse view of the caldera, enjoyed tradition Greek cuisine, and traversed up to Ancient Thira on top of Santorini's mountain. When we reached near the peak we had to stop because Kelly about got blown off of the cliff's edge. I did my best to help her while trying to keep my own balance, and one gust of wind completely knocked her over! No matter where on Santorini you are, there is always an amazing picturesque view of the caldera, or the beaches, vinyards or white/blue Greek churches and estates, and sometimes all of these at once to make the most beautiful view in the world. Along with the view, there is always really good Greek wine close by. Santorini is believed to be home to the oldest vinyards in the world, says the plaque in Santo's Wine Estates. Whether that's true or not, the was wine great, and always tasted better I'm sure because of the dreamy and romantic environment all around. In only one day Kelly and I became very good friends enjoying the beautiful landscape and talking about our past traveling experiences and our future plans, the meaning of that word becoming more abiguous each traveler I meet and every day traveling myself.

Ok, now I will stop teasing all of you friends and family wondering what the deal is with me adventuring around an island all day with a pretty girl to the most romantic spots on earth. Despite the situation I knew nothing would happen and did well avoiding too much feelings between Kelly and I. Sure it was kinda hard, but for those who know me that is not the kind of person I am, although I'm learning that for many world travelers it is a big part of it. They travel countries and hop islands falling in love everywhere they go, loving and romancing only to wake up in the morning, pack thier bags, and depart thier seperate ways. I told Kelly how I wasn't shaving my beard all summer, and she didn't believe that I would keep to it. She said if I am trying to pick of chicks my chances will grow less and less likely as the summer goes on and the beard grows longer. This information I know was like gold to me. It meant that so far as I continued growing this thing out there will be a romatic barier between me and any girl that comes along my way. So I will keep this nugget of information from all fellow travelers lest I be called gay, which has already happened once. Meeting fun girls traveling and making memories together, becoming good friends and resist sharing romantic feelings will be just fine for me.

Back to Santorini. I have been eating very conservatively, making peanut butter and jelly and when I go out eating souvlaki for only 2 euro.I have become a souvlaki efficianado realizing that the meat and the tzatziki is what makes a good souvlaki. If at least one of those is good quality the whole thing will be good, and if both are present you will have the best meal under $3 in the entire world. I have been spending more money on wine and transportation than anything else.

And now, the story I have been waiting with strong anticipation to share - As the sun set yesterday and the day came to and end and the lights of night shone bright, I dropped off Kelly to meet a traveling couple for dinner that they had cooked themselves that night. which is by I couldn't initially join her, to find out later that they were trying to call me to have me go out with them. I would have been fun, but thier calls never got to my Greek and sometimes insufficient cell phone and I totally understood the situation. I had my own plans anyway! I would go taste some of Greece's best wines at Santo Wine Estates, that is open latre and has a great view of the Caldera. When I showed up on the ATV I did not know what was happening because there were police cars everywhere. But when I arrived back to the hotel later that night IJ had the best story to share with everyone who all emmediately became very sorry they hadn't taken up my invitation to come along. I had somehow crashed a wine tasting event for the islands entire police department. I had all the wine and cheese I could help myself to and wonderful conversation with uniformed locals, and then took off without paying anything. I didn't steel, they just wouldn't accept any money from me - a story that will last me a lifetime and a party.

More blogging to come about a potential summer job as a barista at a nice cafe overlooking the Caldera! Keep in touch to here about that as soon as I do!

After talking to other travelers I am learning to appreciate beautiful California and the  opportunity we have practically in our backyards. I hope by these blogs to encourage in all of you an adventuresome spirit in California and elsewhere. Love and miss you all!

Miah

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Greece at Last - Athens

Jordi Varkas, my first couchsurfing host has made me feel really comfertible staying at his place. he manages a club, and a soccer team during the day, and being gone alot, he gave me a set of keys to use while Im here. His place is my place kind of a thing. His flat is in Athens about 10 minute from the center by metro.

Me in front of the Parthenon
After flying in yesterday to the airport I had to find my way about 20 miles first to Athen's center, and then to Jordi's house. Without a phone, and only his street and apartment number, it was a little tricky. I met a family on the train who were half Greek half Jordanian and the mother, who was really nice, let me use her phone to call Jordi. He didn't give me any more information really, but after I got off the subway I asked a pizza delivery guy on a motorcycle I knew would know the streets well and asked him where Geraki street was. He showed me a map and ten minutes walking brought me in front of the apartment, but no one was home. Thankfully, he showed up 15 minutes later. He welcomed me inside, gave me the keys and said he had to take off for a meeting, but that he would pick me up at a subway station and take me with him to the beach. I was really tired, after flying and traveling for 2 days without sleep, but I didn't want to miss out on anything, so i said I would go. I showed up and he was waiting for me, we drove about 20 minutes to a beach and met up with his friends for a night swim in the Mediterranean. They were all realy nice, but didn't speak English to eachother, so the conversations became realy exclusive for me. I was fine with it, i was tired anyway. We played football in the shallow water, and they made me feel part of the group.

Porch of Caryatids
The next morning I slept in untill about 13:00. I showered, made myself some coffee, and headed out to explore the city of athens. Another friendly person helped me to the town square Syntagma, where over a hundred thousand protestors had been the night before. Hundreds of tents were still set up in front of the Parliament building, people who had traveled from all over Greece to be apart of the protest. Later on in the night with jordi and his friends, a girl names Vassoniki who had a degree in Political Science explained to me Greeces political condition. It sounded much like it is in America, a large deficit, higher taxes, lower wages, not enough jobs, inflation, but the difference is that Greece connot print more money like us. We do the quick fix and they have to deal with it. the European Union will not give them another laon untill thier is a consensus within the Parliament, which is so divided that the situation seems hopeless to many Greeks. If there is no consensus for a solution, the country will go bankrupt, and what's happening in Argentina is likely to happen here (which i know little about, other than that it's very dangerous to be there).
Temple of Zeus
So I guess I am very thankful to be here while it's still safe...or semi-safe. After seeing the Parliament I unexpectedly saw Hadrian's Arch and the Temple of Zeus behind it. then I saw the Acropolis, and decided to check it out, since I had nothing in particular planned. It was 18 euros for a pass to get in that also included a ticket into many other big ancient sites like, agora, the temple of Zeus, and others, good for four days.  I spent hours and hours hanging out up there. I was crowded, and I offered to take many pictures of people in exchange for mine. The columns were so massive and tall, you are forced to wonder how the Ancient Greeks were able to build something like the Parthenon. Iconic of Greece now, and iconic then, it can be seen from Piraeus, the city's major port. In a few days I will see the view from the other end when I take a ferry to the islands. I met two American grils who were traveling through Europe on the Acropolis, and they were headed to Santorini for 7 euros a night. Online I had never seen prices that good during all my research. I wront down the name of the hostel and I think I might go there as well and see them again next week. Surrounding the Acropolis is the city of Athens, sparkling in the light of the sun ,a huge metropolis that is buiilt on top of acient ruins that can be seen on about every other street corner. this is art history that everyne else in the world studies in book sand here it is just part of everyday life to Athenians. Jordi said he has only been to the Acropolis once, and it was three years ago when he was twenty-five! I wondered arund more after the Acropolis, climbing Mars Hill, where Paul spoke to the Greek philosophers, and from here saw a good view of Acient Agora, the common social center of acient Athens, which is where Sacrates, Plato, and Aristotle spend much of their time.

Greek Orthodox Church near Jordi's House
On the way home I picked up some Souvlaki at what is known as Souvlaki Square, for 1.70euros and reminded me of a hot dog in Manhattan, or a Philly Cheesesteak in Philadelphia, a stable meal to any Greak that is on the go. Later I met up with Jordi and we went to a place that reminded me of the Public House in old town Temecula, a place where younger people come to eat and drink and hang out for long hours throughout the night. I met more of Jordi's friends, and got some of the cultural experience I've been looking for. when we ordered food, there was no individual dishes, but we all just picked and shared as we talked untill the plates were empty, and we would order more. The bill turned out to be 10 euros each, about $14 in US money. I had a full dinner and two beers that would have cost at least $25 at the Pub House.

My first full day in Greece has been great. Earlier I got a cell phone, and even with only two contact I already feel much safer. It was 35 Euros for a phone and 250 minutes that you can recharge as you need them.

I think, and Jordi and his friends confirmed, that the traditional Greek experience that I am looking for is going to be much stronger as I travel away from Athens. Today on the streets I saw a Gap and a McDonalds and an H&M. I think life is very similar in all of the metropolitan cities of the world. Next I will leave the city and venture to the islands, the Peloponnese, and Thrace, wehre a stronger, more stereotypical Greek culture can be found.
My first couch!

In Flight

Three hours left untill I will be in Brussels, Belgium. It's crazy that in what feels like the same amount of time to travel halfway up California I can travel half way across the world. I got stuck in the middle seat of a relatively small plane and I'm about to go crazy. My mom would say I "have ants in my pants." With another movie starting, battery still left on the ipod, and one more meal to be served, the three hours should go by fast.

They say we are traveling at nearly 700 miles per hour, which is ten times faster than driving a car on the freeway. It's so easy to travel nowadays and I'm sorry I people take so little advantage of it.

As we fly east into the Atlantic, night quickly passes us by as it travels the opposite direction. Tomorrow's morning will come early, as will it seem the summer's end.

The Simple Way - Tuesday 6-14-11




My second day at The Simple Way went over really well, where I was able to understand more about what a regular looks like for the staff.

I woke up just in time to make it to morning prayer at 8. There was about five of us, incense and candle, and an eastern sort of bell that was wrung to begin prayer. We recited together a few pages out of a daily prayer book which included in it some hymns, prayed quickly for specific neighborhood needs, five minutes of silence, and we were done. It too about twenty minutes, it was very simple and ordinary, minus the bell, which was supposed to create more of a spiritual environment, and I liked it.Later I asked about the five minutes we spent in silence and if anyone had heard of Centuring Prayer, a method of prayer that I have come to love, and they said that is what they were doing. This prayer method, taught by Thomas Keating and other Christian monastics, is a time of detachment from your personal identity to be better receptive to the will and identity of God. I was stoked to share this common interest with everyone at The Simple Way.

After morning prayer, I invited Shane, Aaryn, and the girls over for some Bravo coffee, and then we all headed to the office to start work at nine. I hand wrote about ten thank you letters to people who had sent in a donation in the last weeks. it took me about three hours and in between I was able to use the internet for a few minutes. I had been depraved for three days and as a couchsurfer, I depend on the internet to make connection with people for a place to sleep.

After seeing th eoffice more closely I realized how small the Simple Way really was. With only 8 people on staff including Shane and his new wife, I realized this is something that anyone can do, anywhere.


Aaryn, myself, and the ladies (i forgot thier names) made a few pizzas for lunch, and afterwards when they had to go back to work, I borrowed a bike, got directions to downtown Philly, and took off on the half hour ride. I was mostly flat, and I was able to see alot more of Philadelphia on a bike instead of being underground on a subway. It is a beautiful city, not so enclosing as New York, but with all the historical architecture. On a bike, I was passing cars left and right, and it didn't feel dangerous like i think it would in New York City. I ate at Shane's favorite Philly Cheesteak joint, taking in as much of Philadelphia's culture that i can during my last full day.


A really Philly Cheesteak Sandwhich





I made it back to Kensington just before it rained. On the way back I saw Shane and his wife on a tandom bike who were just heading out, and later saw them pull up in the neighborhood totally soaking wet. It was pretty funny.

At six we all met at Shane's house to cut scarves out of blue fabric, which Shane was gonna use at a speaking event that weekend to represent the blue sky that shines bright over America is the same blue sky that shines over Afghanistan. As an activist, Shane is fighting for peace ini the Middle East and does not believe in war. I'm still not sure what I think about it. Shane has been there twice, once injured because of the war and has experienced the people thier suffering because of the war. Is America the casue of thier suffering or is it the Iraqi government, or both? I think my opinion doesn't matter much on the political and military end of things, but i know I believe in a peace between the major religions of both countries. Muslim's and Christians must learn to accept one another, no matter the outcome of the war.

Anyways, tomorrow I leave this wonderful place back to New York to catch my flight onward. I really want to get a picture with Shane and his crew, but I am trying to be modest about it. Im sure he doesn't car to be idealized by so many of his readers. he says in his books that he is just an ordinary radical, just as ordinary as you or I. During my time here at The Simple Way I have realized that helping people and communities around us doesn't have to be a big production. Loving God is very simple when simply loving others.