Saturday, July 29, 2006 


London was not made for heat. I generally think London "heat waves" are adorable little spikes in temperature. But then again, I'm a walking commuter and have never had to get on the tube in summer rush hour; due to this I'm quite sure, as I've been told often enough, "[I] don't know what pain is!"

Fair enough. This summer has been worse than the last however. I'm trapped in my tiny dorm room, which doesn't have air conditioning (most people here don't have air con) but also the windows don't open (which I'm sure most people's windows do.) Hence, long after your tube ride is over, I'm sweltering the night away, waking up drenched in my own sweat several times in the night. I nicked a thermometer from work, it has been 34C (93F) in my room for the past three days.

I'll survive, and fondly look back on this post in late January, when the holidays have gone and I haven't seen the sun in four weeks and have to wear a scarf in the office or else my head will freeze off. I'll survive, but I'm not entirely sure London will.

Tonight, for example, we canceled dinner birthday plans off Oxford St due to fear of power outages. EDF, the French firm in charge of London's electricity (whose bright idea was it to put the French in charge?) claim it to be too hot to run properly, and plus all the demand of air con units (who are you people and why don't you invite me round for tea?) has knackered the system. This affected King's College as well, with a power outage on Sunday rampaging the email servers and the email is still not working as of today, Friday!!! (Every time I get the inkling that I attend a world-class, first-rate university I am promptly reminded otherwise.)

In fact my own little Dell Inspiron 1100 is suffering a similar fate. I just placed the thermometer under the fan on the bottom that kicks out the heat, it read 44C (111F). Sweet Jesus.

Thursday, July 20, 2006 

Athens II

So yea Athens was a cracking great time. Amazing. Had so much fun. So at request, and a convenient way to sum up the trip, I'll go back and address my ever-so-embarrassing fears.

1. Two weeks is a long time.
Just about long enough. I certainly wasn't bored and didn't get to see any museums, but I was definitely ready to go home at the end.

2. A really long time to be in Athens for a vegetarian.
I'm not going to lie, that was a helluva lot of Greek salad. But I did manage to find the one vegetarian restaurant, Eden, and it was delicious, with dishes like vegetarian Moussaka with Soya instead. Yummers. I ate there thrice. I also found the Noodle Shop, a with a "polyasian" menu. Best fried rice of my life. Ate there four times. Considering breakfast and lunch were provided, it got repetitive but I was always happy ...

3. I only get one day off, with 12 days on. Not exactly a holiday.
That was the truth. And of course it rained that day so no beach for us! Went to Pireaus, which was actually pretty nice once we got away from the cruise ship landing docks and to the more secluded harbors.

4. My lodging is 3.87 euros a night, yes I'm sleeping in the University of Athens dorms.
And they were fantastic!! Brand new, built for the Olympics, and I had a balcony with a view of the Parthenon!

5. Anything that's 3.87/night probably doesn't have A/C or decent beds.
Would you believe that they were fully equipped with A/C but had it turned off prior to our arrival?? It was extremely hot in the room, we all would have gladly paid a few more Euro to switch it on, but alas. Slept with the balcony doors open which didn't help much with the temperature and was worse with the noise. What is with Greek people and driving? As soon as a light turns green they ALL honk! Surely if everyone is honking, then everyone sees the light is green and drives forward, no? I hadn't seen driving this frantic and reckless since Rome.

6. I am going with someone I work with, but I don't like her very much (and probably vice versa.) She's a perfectly nice person but we just don't get on.
Meh.... Whatever.

7. She's extremely negative about the trip and I feel her emotions infecting me.
She was in fact, so preemptively negative that she opted to only stay a week, thus cutting her time in half and leaving the course a week early. I heard that after she got back she was quite upset to have to come back, because she was having such a great time. AHAHA, that alone was worth it. Oh, she also brought her own toilet paper, convinced that they don't have any in Greece. Nutter.

8. It appears to be very poorly organized (i.e. introduction welcome dinner being pushed back to another night, leaving us on our own the first night.)
Definitely. I guess there was a uni strike before we arrived, throwing everything in to chaos. I forget how things are run on the continent though. They just don't care. Hell, they smoke in the QC labs we visited. Yes, smoked cigarettes with open flames in laboratories with flammable solvents. I learned they are a little more laid back there....

9. This is the farthest east I've ever been in my life.
And it was wicked!

10. Worried about reading street signs, etc in a non-Romance language, yikes!
That was definitely a problem. But if you are Greek I don't think you're ever that concerned with finding an exact location at the exact time you are supposed to be there. So why bother with street signs (in any language actually)?

11. The current temperature is 90F with 50% humidity, after living two years in London, that scares me.
It was hot but a lot BLOODY COLDER THAN LONDON!

12. My professor and I got in a huge row about it. It has not been a good few weeks at work.
He has since quit the university, and has gone from being a looming threat roaming the hallways who could pounce at any moment to a once-a-month prearranged one hour meeting that I can be fully prepared for. I think my shoulders are finally starting to un-hunch.

13. People have been telling me that Athens is loud and dirty and not very nice at all.
And everytime I'd meet a Greek person they would ask, "How long are you here, and where else are you going?" and I'd tell them that I was two full weeks in Athens only and they'd always offer their most sincere apologies and deepest regrets that I wouldn't be going to the islands. But I really liked Athens! Yes, dirty! Yes, noisy! Yes, people screaming across the street and out of their cars! Buses and mopeds ready to flatten you while you stand on the sidewalk! Oppressive heat with dirty A/C liquid falling on your head! Smog!

And I loved it! I was there two weeks and only saw two McDonalds and one Starbucks... for a city of 5 million! I thought it retained a lot of character and individuality. When I go back (and I WILL go back) I will definitely visit the islands. But I can't wait to see Athens again too.

14. Once I'm out of the country, England will probably win the World Cup and I'll miss it all.
Now that was the fear talking. What the hell was I thinking? I did get to spend a lot of time with Italians, Portuguese, and Germans, what a blast! We didn't miss a single match!

15. I'll be spending my 29th birthday completely alone (or at best, hopefully with some nice strangers...)
And they were so lovely. My present was to drag everyone to (our first trip) to the vegetarian restaurant, where they all promptly sung me Happy Birthday in their native language all at once and I blew out the candle on the table. I really had such a blast with all the other students on the course; it was so fun to hang out with so many different cultures at one time and not once did they pester me about American foreign policy!

Trying just to understand them half the time was the best part.

Italian: I need *something, something* past tooth.
Me: What?
I: past tooth
M: Whaaat?
I: *makes brushing motion over this mouth*
Me: Oooooooooh, toothpaste!

Me: Oh, aren't you going to finish your pizza?
Dutch: No, I don't like the ... rim bits.

Me: Yea the rooms are really nice.
German: Yes. But um.... um.... I don't remember the word.
M: Give it a go, I'll help.
G: Um... Is the cold air producing machine working in your room?
M: *gaffawing noise as Monica falls out of her chair laughing*

Loved every minute of it. Truly fantastic.

Sunday, July 16, 2006 


The Plaka

Halfway up the Acropolis

Lycabettus Hill


The harbor in Piraeus

I could post dozens of sunset pictures.... Heavenly.

The ancient Acropolis and the brand new Metro trains

The pictures turned out fantastic, except for when we hiked the Acropolis. It was so sunny and bright that I couldn't see my little digital camera screen. The bloody camera had somehow been switched to the black and white setting, which I didn't realize until back in a cafe an hour after I'd hiked back down again. I spent hours setting up the shots with the amazing blue sky, white marble, and green mountains in the background only to find them all ruined, RUINED! Oh, I was so angry, but not nearly angry enough to climb all the way back up and repeat. Should be getting pictures soon from the rest of the people on the conference, and I'm sure they've got some gorgeous shots....

Friday, July 14, 2006 


I'm back!!! I had the most amazing time of my life! Athens was amazing, and the people I was with were even better! I'm too exhausted to write now, but trust me plenty of pictures and stories are on their way. Thanks to everyone for all their helpful advice and comments, you guys rock!

Cool chick

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