An Expatriot's Independence Day

Athens Travel Blog

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I spent my second Independence Day as an expatriate. Last summer I was living in southern France. I had a close group of American girlfriends, who were all equally nostalgic for our homeland, after about six weeks of la vie francaise. We had dinner together and set off party poppers in the parking lot and concluded with a rendition of ‘Proud to be an American’. Some of our French friends even joined us in celebrating. We celebrated their Independence Day with them 10 days later.

I didn’t have any expectations for a real 4th of July experience in Greece. Aubrey talked to our professor about a possible barbeque, telling Stavros ‘It’s the 4th of July for us.’ Stavros responded “I know, it is for me too” and then laughed at his own joke. It was coincidentally the last day of our class and the final exam, so we had a little party to say goodbye afterwards. It was a very sad goodbye, I had such a great time with this group, the three weeks went by too quickly.

Our Professor Stavros is also an archeologist, working for the Greek School. He is currently planning an excavation in Albania. He approached me with the proposition of joining the crew in September or next May to participate and be certified by the University that leads the dig as a ‘real field archeologist’. I was so flattered to be invited, I can’t go in September, but I’m making it my new goal to go on the dig in May. I think archeology would be really tough work, to be out in the heat all day, working in the dirt, but I think the incredible feeling of discovering something, buried under layers of history, would make the hours in the hot sun worth it.

So after our goodbye party, the program leader told us about a barbeque that the Expatriate Democratic Society of Athens was putting on, as a beach clean up and fundraiser for Obama. Five of us decided to go, only for the beach and the hot dogs. We had to take an hour and a half bus to arrive at a beach, very far out of Athens. There were several other Americans there, some Greek Americans, some Archeologists, American students, and some eccentrics.

The beach was nice; we went swimming for a bit, waiting for the barbeque to be set up. It was the most unorganized event I’d ever seen. One woman seemed to be in charge, or at least they gave her a microphone (which was a mistake) She guilt tripped all the ‘young people’ into taking trash bags and cleaning up the beach. When we got back, we were subjected to her frightening renditions of the American and Greek National Anthems. She really liked to freestyle and struggled hitting the high notes. She then proceeded to give a terrible speech about how much ‘she hates George Bush and is ashamed to be an American and cant look people in the eye’ and drama to that effect. It made all of us very annoyed. I thought it was a completely inappropriate time and place for that speech, I was really hoping that on just one day out of the year, we could celebrate our country partake in a little ethnocentric patriotism and leave politics out of it. Half way through her speech we just tuned her out and talked amongst ourselves. I just came for the hot dogs! If someone had told me I was going to have to listen to this crazy lady I wouldn’t have gone so far out of my way.

So we paid for overpriced hot dogs to support the Obama campaign (I was confused because I thought he wasn’t accepting public funds???) The entire thing was so unorganized and chaotic, and they couldn’t find the ketchup. I couldn’t help snidely commenting how Clinton wouldn’t have lost the ketchup, and asking where the Republican Party barbeque was. There were supposed to be fireworks, but we didn’t stay. Our group rode the bus back, wallowing in our disappointment. I missed home the most I have yet. I remembered all the fun times setting off fireworks with my brother and sister. We loved to dance around with sparklers and were delightfully frightened by my dad’s bag of real fireworks that we could sometimes persuade him to light. I thought about the last couple years spending the 4th up at Bruneau at the sand dunes, camping, and making s’mores with out having to hear political speeches. I know that I’m having the experience of a lifetime here in Greece, but on this American holiday, I couldn’t help and but think about what I was missing back home.

We had a free three day weekend to do anything our hearts desired. We relaxed on Saturday, my roommate Katie packed because she was leaving to meet her family in Rome on Sunday. That night we had a farewell dinner. We got a little dressed up, and five of us went to dinner at this nearby rooftop restaurant. We watched the sunset. We all decided to go dancing afterwards. There is a neighborhood in Athens called ‘Psiri’ where all the fun clubs are, so we headed there. We found a little joint with techno music. We danced and then met some locals to dance with too. I ended up dancing with Antonio (only because I’m partial to that name after reading Corelli’s Mandolin). We had a fun night and stayed out way too late. Katie almost missed her 9am flight, and only got 3 hours of sleep. It was my first real night out in Athens.

Here is where we made a mistake. One of the Greek guys we were dancing with got one of my roommates’ phone numbers. They called the next morning to invite us to go to the beach. Maybe we were just overly tired from the night before, or disappointed that we didn’t really have any Greek friends, so we agreed. My two roommates and I met them at the tram, which we rode to a particular beach that our new friends liked. I was not immediately impressed with the beach, since it was all rocks, but once I got in the water I completely understood why of all the beaches in Athens, they chose this one. The swimming was perfect. The water was a comfortable temperature, and so clear you could see the bottom even 20m deep. I stayed in the water for over 2 hours. On the beach we taught card games to our new friends. Antonio – the guy I had danced with was constantly doting on me, and looked in my phone to get my number. It really started to annoy me. They invited us out again that night, but we were too tired from all day in the sun.

Monday we had the day off again, so the roommates and I went back to the same beach. We spent another perfect lazy day working on our tans, reading our books and enjoying the deep water. Antonio calls and texts incessantly. The first 5 times I didn’t answer. Then the 6th time I picked up and he asked if I was mad at him and told me he missed me. I made some excuse that I couldn’t talk. For the next 5 days he kept calling and texting even though I wouldn’t answer or respond to text messages. He even tried blocking his number, and got his friends to call too! I couldn’t believe that he would be so persistent when I hadn’t reciprocated any interest. I mean if you have to block your number to trick a girl into answering the phone, then deductive reasoning would suggest she isn’t interested. I found out that Greek men are thick headed like this because stereotypically, Greek women don’t give them the time of day, so the men have to be very persistent. The last time he called I just answered the phone with a ‘WHAT?!’ he was totally shocked and I hung up. I know this sounds mean, but the phone calls were bordering on harassment. At another time in my life I might have enjoyed exploiting the attention, but now I couldn’t be less interested.

Tuesday the new group arrived and class commenced. We’re learning all about Alexander the Great. I hope everyone had a great 4th of July!



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