This isn’t goodbye

It’s see you later. Yes, this may come across as cheesy, but I assure you it’s not.

I’ve missed the U.S. so much that words can’t describe how happy I am to be back in my daily routines. Having stores open at normal times, phone reception, breakfast foods, and many other things have me thrilled to be back.

While I bask in the sunlight to work on my tan so I no longer look like mozzarella (credit to Asia for the nickname), I remember the amazing laughs and frustrating struggles that took place over the five weeks in Greece. I mean after all, the water was shut off one of the mornings that disallowed me to wash off the stench of cheap liquor, second-hand smoke and sweat from the pervious night. But, as I infamously said so many times on the trip: it builds character.

This post isn’t about a complaint though, this is about a reflection. Wow I will miss Greece. What a beautiful country that every human being should visit in their lifetime, even if it’s only for a few days. The people were nothing but kind, friendly, caring and helpful to me during my time there, and for that, I thank them. I grew so close to the people at ACT, it hurts to know it’ll be a very long time before I see them.

Maria, Daphne, Kristina and Yvonne were nothing less than special. Each were incredible human beings in their own ways, and I will miss them so much — I promise I will visit one day.

Theo and Nikolas were my pals. I talked to them the same way I talk to my best friends in a bar atmosphere, sharing endless inappropriate laughs that are too dirty to blog about. To the both of you: thank you so much for your help. I will definitely visit one day to attend a couple of Aris games with you guys — hopefully against Paok. Theo, you’re my main man. I’ve never had a brother, but these past five weeks have given me an idea of what it would be like (awesome). Thank you so much for helping me with my stories — I couldn’t have done it without you. I feel like I’m parting ways with an older brother. I hate this. Please visit, man. I will try my best to get money aside to do the same. This isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.

To everyone on this trip: thank you for being amazing people. I love to laugh, and each of you made me do so in a different way which is pretty impressive. I would love nothing more than to be friends when we get back to campus in the fall. For those of you who won’t be there, please keep in touch and let me know when you’re in town. Each of you are all incredibly talented people, and I have no doubt that I’ll be seeing your work for mainstream publications one day.

Cody

Thank you for not murdering me for coming back to the room at 3 a.m. every morning, leaving my clothes every where, almost losing my credit card and making a mess in the bathroom every morning (stupid shower system). Thank you for hearing me out on any issue I felt the need to express — it definitely helps having a voice of reason who has been to other dialogues. We were close friends coming into the dialogue, and I feel like we’re even closer leaving it. I’ll always have your back. Thanks for being my first friend at Northeastern. Suh, dude!

Bridget

Thank you for being my right-hand woman. My goodness, I was a mess a few times during the dialogue. I would irrationally turn into a ball of panic (especially during Heinz’s story), and you proceeded to stay calm and talk me off the ledge. We had some amazing laughs that left us both gasping for air, and I will never forget how red you got a few times from almost crying with laughter. I told you a few weeks back — you are a sister to me. Wow, have we gotten so close in only a year’s time. I’m always here for some dude advice, as you are always there for me with chicks. It’s so funny how you talk me off the ledge of panic, while I talk you off the ledge of occasional insecurity — quite the duo. Can’t wait to see you and Cody back in Boston, just like old times. “They don’t know, but we know.”

Ellie

What an amazing friend you are. I’m so happy I met you, and very thankful of how caring you were to me. Your anti-bugbite stick saved me…I think I counted 27 by the time we arrived in Athens. Much like Cody, you were also a very calming voice of reason who always kept things in a positive perspective. I had no idea who you were coming into the dialogue, and was pleasantly surprised how alike we are. I love how you and I both have the same mentality of fearlessness. “Oh they’re bigger than I am? This will be really embarrassing for them then.” I admire a lot about you, and want to remind you that you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. I know you’ve been through a lot, but you’ve arrived at a place of happiness — and I am very happy for you. Never change who you are, just keep fighting on. Can’t wait to see you in Boston. Let’s get sushi ASAP! Black rice for life!

Danny

“I’m voting for Bernie Sanders too, this doesn’t mean you can just smoke hops at a brewery.” Only a select few know this small quote from a larger inside joke, but Danny and I beat this entire skit to death over five weeks. It became one of many inside jokes, to the point where Bradley said “I feel like I wouldn’t be able to hang out with you guys, because everything you say is an inside joke.” You would be correct with that statement, my friend. Danny and I started off as two guys who have never met before, but quickly turned into close friends by the third week of the dialogue. By the fifth week, people were tired of our frat-like bromance. In fact, people began calling our burner phones to ask where the other was. I can’t wait to get trashed and go to sporting events with you — what a scary duo that will be in Boston. Thanks for being my video expert, and also helping me gain experience in reporting. I know our nightlife adventures didn’t quite live up to the hype we originally expected, but time simply ran out. We have plenty of nights in Boston to make up for it. See you back in Boston, bro. “Shoot me a ‘T’ about the ‘P’.”

Asia

Cat’s out of the bag by now I suppose, haha. We really hit it off since day-one, and meeting someone on this trip was the LAST thing I expected. Thank you for being such a special person. I guess two Italian-Gemini’s should not be so surprised they hit it off, but it’s crazy how compatible we are — always on the same wavelength. Thanks for taking care of me when I was sick. Thanks for keeping me honest when I needed it. Thanks for being the way you are. I could go on, but I think everyone gets the point. Have fun in Rome, and I’ll see you in two months when you get back to Boston!

Carlene said “When you get back, you’re going to sit there and not believe that it’s already over.” Well, this is my moment. I’m honestly saddened at the fact that I won’t see many of you for a long time, and that the dialogue is already over. I’ll miss all of you, but this isn’t goodbye. I’m sure we will definitely have a reunion in the fall. Don’t be strangers! See you guys later!

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I had sushi and didn’t get lost this time

The streets in Athens were emptied, but the humidity was in attendance. It was another late dinner for the grad students, which has been the theme for most of the trip.

I said to Cody, “I can’t believe it’s 9:30 already. How does this always happen to us?”

Cody didn’t have much of a response, but I could tell he was thinking the same thing by the snicker and head shake he gave. It’s obvious that our group can’t seem to eat dinner at an appropriate time. But, that’s part of the business!

Cody and I had walked to Nakama thanks to his sense of direction (mine is trash), and ordered our sushi feast. The others showed up shortly after we ordered, and we had an amazing sushi feast without any conflict. I didn’t get lost getting there this time! I remembered my burner phone! I’m an adult!

The Salmon Teriyaki roll has crab, avocado salmon and teriyaki sauce. The Forbidden roll has black rice, salmon, crab and dynamite sauce (yeah, I don’t know, but it’s great). For those who don’t know, the Shrimp Tempura roll (most basic sushi roll) has rice shrimp and cucumber

Look at the delicious sushi choices I made.

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From left: Salmon Teriyaki, Forbidden, Shrimp Tempura
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Alternate views of food heaven

The dinner was delicious, but the time with friends was what makes the experience special. I’ll miss everyone when we get back home and get back to our daily American responsibilities.

I am itching to go back to Acropolis

It was a humid, scorching day on Acropolis, but it could’ve been 200 degrees and I still would’ve loved it. What an unbelievable experience that I am struggling to put into words. The slippery marble steps allowed you to take in the scenery and history before arriving at the top of greatness.

The view made me realize how lucky I was to be witnessing the breathtaking history that stood before me. I heard that every full moon, Acropolis is open until midnight. I would love to bring red wine and cherish the view as a last goodbye to Athens. I am itching to go back and capture pictures at night — any photographer who wants to come are welcome to tag along.

Oh, and I have been carrying my burner phone religiously, so if you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that’s a very good thing.

Here are some photos I took while being blinded by the sun.

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This picture doesn’t even justify the view.
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I must return to Athens to attend a performance at this theater.
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The crane really murders the shot, but it’s still amazing to see in person.
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This guy is absolutely showing too much leg.

Frustration sparks motivation

I’ll admit it: I am looking forward to going home. The Greece dialogue has been an extraordinary experience, but I am beginning to miss my daily routines at home.

I don’t want anyone to read this and say “This guy needs to relax,” but I am genuinely ready to complete this dialogue. The reporting experience has been very intense and difficult, but also terrific for me. Living in a country and not being able to speak the language is becoming difficult. Not having a phone without Wi-Fi — if that even works — is a growing exhaustion that I am losing patience with. Also, this country doesn’t know how to properly build a shower or gym.

I’m growing anxious with the amount of responsibilities I have waiting for me at home. I have a job and three online publications waiting for me, and I feel so unprepared to take it all on when I arrive back in the U.S. on June 13. I am one who prepares endlessly with any passion I have. If there’s a responsibility waiting for me from one the online publications or my job, I am working until late hours in the next morning with a metaphorical coffee IV hooked up to me. If I’m at the gym working out or training MMA, I am there until I have nothing left to give. Same story with any sports I play. Or any family responsibilities. Overall, I am simply a person that goes all-in with everything I do. I work hard and strive for success, and nothing is ever handed to me. For anyone who thinks I don’t have an edge, you’re mistaken.

Today’s a “free day” but it’s not. The week ahead is my last push for this dialogue, but it will be an enjoyment. An enjoyment to experience the journey ahead. The hard work. The blood, sweat and tears. The feelings of elation, frustration and deflation. Today will be a productive one for me. No leisure actives, only productivity.

I will never be able to express how much gratitude I have for the incredible support shown by people in my life. They are the ones who help me sail through any stormy conflict.

People have doubted me my whole life, and will continue to, so I also owe gratitude to them. They’re the reason why I wake up hungry every day, and that constant hunger to prove them wrong is what pushes me. So, thank you.

I can’t stop forgetting my burner phone during crucial moments of my life

In the midst of a humid evening in Athens, I got lost trying to find the sushi place from the bank. I knew I should’ve taken money out beforehand, but lazy Brandon thought he could just do it after he orders at the restaurant. Big, embarrassing mistake. Yet again, I forgot my burner phone during a time where I desperately needed it.

On my way back from the Attica bank, I somehow overshot the turn I was supposed to take. In my defense, Greece has numerous side streets that don’t actually count as streets. Many people gave me directions that contradicted each other. Some counted side streets, some didn’t. It’s three lefts. No it’s two lefts. Grecians simply don’t know how to give directions. We saw this problem a lot in Thessaloniki, and I experienced it today for over 20 minutes. They can’t seem to know for sure exactly where anything is, it’s always an estimate. How do you live in your country and not know how to direct people to destinations?

I texted Bridget for the name of the place, only to find out she must have been drinking heavily.

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K. Thanks, Bridget.

After asking NINE people, and stopping in FOUR shops to ask for help, I finally got a man who spoke English very well. He showed me the way, and I finally was able to enjoy three rolls of sushi. Wow, I forgot how much I missed sushi. I may go back to Nakama for sushi every day until I leave Athens. The service there was excellent — employees were so kind and friendly.

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Hey there, good looking.

This nightmare experience made me realize this is the sixth time I’ve been in desperate need of Wi-Fi in Greece and haven’t had my burner phone on me. It happened quite a bit in Thessaloniki, and now my ignorance has carried over to Athens. I don’t know why I neglect this phone so much, it’s the least inconvenient thing to carry around. JUST CARRY YOUR BURNER PHONE, IDIOT! Next time I don’t have my burner phone when I’m out, I owe everyone shots. I’m not kidding. To friends: bully me into carrying my burner phone from now on.

Midway point reflection

This post is a bit late, but I wanted to briefly reflect on my time in Greece thus far. There have been many great times, but a few challenging times too.

For the first two weeks I didn’t face many conflicts or inconveniences. I love the sights and sounds of the city — especially by the water and Aristotelous Square.

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Thessaloniki produces some fierce sunsets.

 

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The Old City is beautiful to see in the rain.

The food is decent at most places, the prices are great. One thing to note: Grecians don’t know how to cook pizza. I’ve been doing pizza reviews throughout the city — a few caught on film with more to come in Athens — and I have come to the conclusion that pizza in this country isn’t made well. Yes, I am a pizza snob. Stay tuned, more reviews coming with Danny as my camera man — who by the way is a very handsome man. Send in your resumes to me for a date with this rude boy. Upon my approval, you’ll hear back for an interview.

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Is it hot in here, or is it just Danny? 

 

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America needs more open space like this. I’ll miss you, Thessaloniki.

Food aside, I have lost count of the amount of mosquito bites I have from my room in Thessaloniki. It’s befuddling to me that there is no air conditioning in such a hot city. Allegedly, we were supposed to be given a remote that triggers the AC unit, but most of us — if not all — did not receive anything and suffered through the sauna rooms. Curled up in the corner of a shower I didn’t fit in was less than ideal, too.

Ultimately, the night life scene has been pretty good (not great) for what I expected. Some places are empty — and no, don’t tell me it’s a timing thing. I went from the hours of 11 p.m. to three a.m. without seeing a huge change. I’m from Florida, I know a thing or two about late night partying. Us Floridians don’t go out until 11 p.m. or later, and then start enjoying ourselves by one or two a.m. before ending the night at four, so I get it. It’s not a timing thing. It’s a Greek-nightlife-isn’t-as-popping-as-you-think thing.

My first story was a smashing success, I was very pleased with the finished product. I faced a couple of small challenges — mainly language barrier-related — but I was very proud of my story. My second story has been very challenging. It’s one of the most humbling experiences to listen to a Holocaust survivor, but it’s very difficult to try to pry words out of him about a shop he used to own, when he has nothing to say. The shop has been passed down through generations in the family, but none of them care to comment on it. Very strange.

Here’s to hoping my third story goes smoothly!

Weather not a factor in humbling hiking experience

The fifth consecutive day of rain in Thessaloniki was not enough to stop the beautiful experience of hiking Mt. Olympus. I have never hiked for over an hour, so this three hour adventure was the first time I truly felt connected with nature. I have a terrible cold that reached its worst yesterday, but I powered through before passing out on the bus.

Jumping over rocks, knifing through plants and nearly falling off small cliffs kept me honest during the hike. I couldn’t believe how clear the water was when we reached the waterfall. It looked drinkable — though I chickened out from doing so.

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A long stare into the wilderness.

The pictures captured the peaceful scenery and made me wonder what life would be like if I lived in isolation. The conclusion was: I can’t. I would miss family, friends and things that require wifi. As pathetic as that sounds, I would hate to be on my own. I enjoy being around the people I love — they bring out the best in me sometimes. Without them, I would just be going through the motions in life.

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A place I could not live the rest of my life.

I like being outside and active, but doing so alone would be a very difficult challenge. I consider myself very lucky to have no physical limitations. Many people in the world have limitations that prevent them from experiencing things in life. While walking the trail, I realized how some people in my life would not be able to hike — let alone for three hours.

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Classmates enjoying the view.
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A break from the hiking.

One thing’s for sure: I definitely got my cardio in for the week.