Friday, March 12, 2010

Social Change in Greece 2.0

Here is YouTube providing you with a clip of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou giving a speech, standing next to President Obama. Notice the majesty of his English! His words articulate very heartfelt and rousing words about democracy.

(The man with the beard is NOT the Premier. You must press "play" in order to see Papandreou himself)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Change in Greece

And now for a sociological discussion! Being here in Greece is certainly a perfect time to discuss the nature of social change, contentious politics, and the responses of a culture to both domestic and international policy. Below are links to online news articles that demonstrate everything from today's strike (the country will be crippled today) to opinions from the Premier himself. It's interesting indeed; check it out!

BBC: "Greece set for second general strike in a month"

This strike will most likely play host to a preponderance of violence. All the journalists will be demonstrating, so the only way to get coverage of the actual events are from external sources. Trust the BBC to be your provider.

Kathimerini: "Strike to paralyze services again"

Athens-based newspaper, with article in English. States the details of the strike, including what sectors of the economy, locations in the city, times, civic ministries closed. Because the journalists are demonstrating today, you will notice that the Kathimerini website still says "Wednesday, 10 March 2010" even though it's Thursday today.

New York Times: Op-Ed Contributor, "Greece Is Not an Island"

As Prime Minister George Papandreou visited the United States earlier this week, he also gave some input about his country's reform measures to the New York Times. His writing is succinct, eloquent, and reflects truthfully the attempts of his government to reduce the state's debt. By reading even a few lines of his prose, you will get a sense of the dire situation this country is in, but also of the hope that many people have for change. I could read his writing all day!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's Raining Mud, Hallelujah!

Yesterday I awoke only to peer outside my window and view what lay before me: a yellow landscape. The sky was overcast, and the clouds were literally orange-yellow so that the incoming sunlight cast a yellow glow on everything. We talked about it in class, and some students commented that it looked "scary," "terrifying," and "like the apocalypse" was about to begin. It felt as if I was looking at the world through the lens of a sepia photograph, or through yellow swimming goggles.

Despite the ominous glow surrounding us, the whole occurrence was actually a natural event. Once in awhile winds from the Sahara blow sand across the Mediterranean over Greece. Such clouds of dust descend on the land like this (it looks violent, but it's nothing; once inside the cloud, everything just looks gross):

(Photo credit here)

Yesterday, though, there was mud everywhere and on everything. Because the sand mixed from the previous night's rain, the weather precipitated mud! Mud fell from the sky. Look at the following pictures. The "rain-mud" appears as droplet-sized brown specks.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Greece's Economic "Excitement"

Greece is in a considerable economic bind (ah, the plight of Detroit follows me everywhere!). The actual country's debt is four times greater than originally thought, and the European Union is not happy.

Since the Greek government's announcement of new [and rather strict] austerity measures last week, there has been a colorful variety of strikes emerging from both the private and public sectors. The latest one in Athens was last Friday, 5 March. I do not have pictures of the occasion because I was not present, but from seeing others' digital cameras and hearing first hand accounts from other students, I can tell you that there existed the following sorts of [literally] deconstructive activities:

  • Loud music
  • Thousands of irate people
  • Burnings on the street of various objects
  • Bashings of numerous objects, i.e. payphones, marble walls, glass-covered signs
  • Bashings of actual people (not a surprise, because they themselves were violent too)
  • Throwing of yogurt onto prominent figures of authority
  • A new layer of graffiti
  • Lots and lots of tear gas

To give you a sense of this type of animosity that is occurring in a more inter-state fashion, read the following quote from the New York Times:

"A pair of German politicians...suggested Thursday that the Greeks consider plugging the large hole in their budget by selling off some of their lovely islands. Several Greek politicians and commentators have argued that the Germans should pony up reparations for the death and destruction wrought by the Nazis during World War II." (Read the rest here: Kulish. NY Times. 5 March 2010)

After the demonstrators had vacated Syntagma Square, I walked through the area to get to Starbucks, my objective for the day. Little did I know that tear gas was still in the air. My eyes and lungs started burning. After emerging from the gas-filled area and thinking that I had done so permanently, I sat down at the outdoor cafe seating of Starbucks with Chelsea and her mom only to be met with yet another round of tear gas. We escaped to Plaka safely. Yikes indeed!

Taste of the Peloponnese

The program coordinates two study-travel trips, one through the Peloponnese and another through Macedonia and other areas of Northern Greece. We returned from the Peloponnese last Saturday, and I thought I'd share some of the stunning landscapes with you.

We were transient for five days and stayed at a different hotel every night. Although by the end of the trip we were exhausted (I never thought before this trip I'd anticipate being in my bed in Athens), we got the opportunity to visit
many archaeological and historical sites. Among other places, we saw Sparta, Mistra, Nafplion, Olympia (the original Olympic games), Pylos, and Mycenae.

I also learned that I like
Mycenaen art a lot.

The ruins and churches of Mistra, all surrounding the citadel on top of a mountain

Bob and me posing on a wall of the citadel at Mistra

An old Venetian fortress