Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lost in Translation

(Written on 3/30/2011 from Athens, Greece)

I stared at the massive demonstration on the street wondering what the occasion was in Athens for the police forces walking around with their shield thingies up.  I asked one of the tour guides for the Red Bus (yes, I go on those tours sometimes.  And yes, I like them most of the time) what the hubbub was all about.

Red Bus Tour!  I was the only one on top...

He explained to me that in Athens there are usually one or two demonstrations per week.  And sometimes one riot per month.  So there are always police walking around the streets…but usually, he says, they’re just going to get coffee.  And if they’re walking really fast or running….then they’re just going to get very good coffee.  J

As I watched from a distance I noticed a street vendor with some sesame seed bread/doughnut thing and stroll over.  Clearly he didn’t speak English (or chose not to speak English with me) and just shoved the roll at me when I paid.  I put my doughnut back on the pile to take a picture and he picked it back up and shoved it towards me as if he had no time to wait.  We played a childish game like “this is my side vs. your side.”  And to my disappointment (after ceding my position), when I bit into the doughnut it was as hard as a rock from sitting out all day.

One thing I’ve noticed about Greece so far is it seems like if you’re nice…you’re nice.  And if you’re mean…you’re mean.  If you want to be rude…you be rude.  And that’s just the way it is.  You don’t try and fake how you’re feeling or put on a show just for social norms.
So after facing somebody stubborn and (by American standards) rude, I trotted off to find a restaurant.  As I wound down streets getting lost between jewelry shops and scooters whizzing by, a little cafĂ© caught my eye and I waltzed over to the patio to check out the menu.  No English on the menu...only Greek.  Menu at Fasoli 1, Annie 0.
I grabbed a seat and asked the waiter for the best thing on the menu.  Although he tried to convince me it would be enough food, I also order a Greek salad to be certain.  Apparently that was my idea of a ‘light’ lunch.  Well at least I had a light Coke, right?  When my salad came out and then the baby pork chops milfeig I glanced over at two women across from me splitting a salad between them.  That must be a normal human portion in Greece.  If so, I prefer my mounds of food be characterized as a “super human portion.”

Everything with "chips"

It seems like when dining Americans seek quantity.  Foreigners seek quality.  So clearly it would make sense that me, as an American travelling, would seek both quantity and quality.  After I plowed through lunch, the waiter came over and set down a small (a few ounces) carafe looking glass bottle and a shot glass.  He said, “Now that you’ve eaten Greek food, you will drink like a Greek too.”
The drink was mastic – made from the sap of a tree.  And I sipped on the sweet, strong liquor for a bit before continuing to lose myself in the streets of Athens.

Sometimes my favorite thing to do is roam without a plan.  You can discover things that are totally unexpected.  One time my cousin told me that she and her friends used to right out a plan on paper like...

"Take the first right, take a left at the next stop light, take a left after the 3rd gas station, etc. ....and then STOP.  Go into the first store, restaurant, movie theater, whatever it is that you see."

I loved that idea!  So my suggestion for you today is to make a plan to get lost and see what you find!

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