Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July in Greece

On this most American of days, I wanted to tell you what's going on in Greece. The first half of this post is about the economy, and the second half is about actual fun stuff.

The Half About the Economy:

I know when you're far away and you hear about demonstrations and security threats on the news, you assume everyone in that place that you love is definitely dead. Case in point, I keep reading about the potential ISIS 4th of July threat, and think that the only safe place for all of you to be today is in some bunker somewhere.

But America is a big place, and so is Greece. It's true that all the banks are closed, people are lining up at ATMs, and there are demonstrations occurring in advance of the referendum vote tomorrow. It's also true that this vote is a big deal, not only from a historical standpoint, but also from a "What's going to happen with all of these Greek people" standpoint.

Despite this, Phil and I are pretty much unaffected. The demonstrations are usually pre-planned events monitored by police. A lot of them occur in Syntagma Square, which is downtown Athens near the Parliament building. We live in the suburbs and never come close to these crowds. Neither of us have accounts with Greek banks. We have other means of accessing funds, and are able to use bankcards at the grocery store. So far, public transportation has not been affected, other than being free this week to ease the financial strain on the locals. Phil has ways to get to work that don't involve public transportation, and I can stroll around our area to get pretty much anything I need, including medical care. This is a real epoch for Greece, but it sort of feels like business as usual when you're walking around the 'burbs.

It's been a week since the vote was announced.
These campaign signs have popped up everywhere.
This one was at our bus stop.
"Nai" means 'Yes" in Greek.
We saw plenty of "Oxi," too.


This is an ATM scene from our bus ride.
From late morning to evening, this is what it looks like.
Every single ATM has a small line.
The people in it don't actually look very worried.
They just look like impatient people in line.

The Half About Actual Fun Stuff:

Phil and I have been exploring a lot more this week. He's also been working, which limits his exploratory time. I remain unhindered. On Thursday, Bella and I went on a big walk and accidentally ran into our neighborhood laiki. A laiki is like a weekly farmers market where the locals buy all their produce. They also sold flip flops and swimsuits. I bought some honey and stared stupidly at everything else. I'm planning to return next week with a list. We got lost on the way home, ran into some ancient (probably literally) bridge, walked on the median of a freeway on ramp, took the wrong turn five times, swore a lot at Google Maps, and finally made it back to the apartment for a light lunch.

Friday was the federal holiday. Our friends invited us to a party at a beach near Poseidon's Temple. I just typed those words and can't get over how cool they sound. It was a gorgeous beach. There was almost no development, almost no other beachgoers, and no one to complain about the loud Americans  blasting music from their BBQ. I can't overstate how prepared our friends were for this beach excursion. They had a canopy tent, wind blocker, grill, solar powered sound system, chairs, food, drinks, beach games, a hatchet...it was great. We hung out all day with some other people from work and enjoyed the Med.

70-something degree water. It was so clear!
View of the party tent. It looks like I'm scratching my privates. I am not.


Earlier today, Phil and I went to a BBQ at his work. We met another couple who have only been here for two weeks, and traded rookie stories. The great thing about being an expat is that you make a lot of friends really quickly because everyone is so freaking out of their element. Well, not everyone. Our beach friends are bosses. They power around Greece like they were born here.

Happy 4th of July! We hope you blow off lots of fireworks, and no appendages!

-jj

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