The things I had wished for in Thessaloniki have already appeared in Athens. Our bedroom is clean, we have a fully functioning shower (and bathtub!) and are provided continental breakfast every morning, which includes regular coffee, eggs and toast. I never knew how much I appreciated breakfast sausage and hard boiled eggs until I had pastries for breakfast three weeks straight. We are also situated downtown, rather than 20 minutes outside of it, which has made it much more convenient to go out, eat, work and explore.
Athens is also a much more diverse city than Thessaloniki on many fronts. In Thessaloniki, everything is fairly standardized. The buildings all look the same, the people are very homogenous, everyone is speaking in Greek and the food is pretty standard anywhere you go. In Athens, however, there is more variety in the structures, shapes and colors of neighboring buildings. There is more diversity in race and ethnicity – although it is still a fairly homogenous community – and I hear people speaking in many more languages than just Greek, including French, English, Spanish and others that I do not know. It’s easier to walk out and find something other than gyros and souvlaki to eat.
I love Athens, but I do feel like a visitor here more than a student. I am already nervously counting down the days until I depart (nine!) and stressing about all the work I need to get done in that time. In the meantime, I have a crippling cold that makes my voice as hoarse as that of a 50-year chain smoker and exhausts my body so much that I am still tired after a solid 10+ hours of sleep last night. Yesterday, our beach day, is the first that I forgot to wear sunscreen and subsequently resulted in the worst sunburn I’ve gotten so far this trip.
Despite my less than ideal physical state, I am still enjoying Athens and getting excited about the stories that I have been working on for weeks on end. Not having a published story yet despite the amount of work I have been putting in can be disheartening. Every time another person’s second story goes up, I become increasingly flustered that I have yet to finish one after so many hours of reporting. But I know that the pieces I am working on will be incredible, vibrant and powerful when they are finally ready for distribution, and that is what is pulling me through.
Nine days left in this city. Nine days in this country that has brought me many learning experiences and interesting opportunities. I hope to make these nine days in Athens really count so that I can leave here proud of the work I’ve done.