Friday, February 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Days

Wednesday was one of the least fun, most wretched trip days in Greece so far.  Upon disembarking from the bus in Piraeus, the ancient and modern port of Athens which is just a few kilometers away, we were told to watch our step and look out for "syringes and human excrement."  Our professor wasn't kidding - never, ever have I seen so much shit, in so many colors, textures, and sizes, in one day of my life.  I even considered taking a photo, but since I once unfriended someone on Facebook for posting photos of her baby's poopy diaper, I decided to spare you all.  But consider this a background theme of the day. 

Then the wind and the rain started.  Sheets and sheets, which would stop just long enough to instill hope for a rainless future, only to start again.
The low point was standing in the pouring rain looking at the very scanty foundations of the Arsenal of Philo (which, bizarrely, doesn't have a wikipedia entry for me to link you to) in the middle of a building plot, listening to a presentation...before we realized that not 20 feet away was a perfectly good roof to stand under.
From under the roof.
Wait, I take that back: the low point was during our lunch break, when we tried to have a picnic on the bus, and the bus driver kicked us off, at the high point of the rain, because he had to move the bus.  We huddled together in a doorway, passing around hunks of bread and jars of peanut butter. 

But, like most things in Greece, the discomforts were balanced by pretty incredible archaeology finds and spectacular views. 
Crashing waves, the ancient fortification wall, modern city; the island of Aegina comes into view at left as the clouds clear.
Block for standardized measurements such as a foot, a hand, and a cubit (because, you know, everyone's fingertip to elbow is a different length).  So cool!
The other bits were fairly normal, but the hand was HUGE!
But also, this.
And that was going to be the end of this post, but I had a pretty spectacular day today, as days in the library go, when several things I've been working on for a long time finally came together and could be crossed off the list, including submitting an abstract to a national conference next fall, completing the handout for my presentation on Crete next week, and getting preliminary permission to stay in Greece for the summer to complete a museum studies requirement and play around with glass (more on that, hopefully, in a bit, provided it works out). 

But the most exciting, scariest, and monumental was finally sending my first ever article for peer-review to a journal editor for publication consideration.  On my final read-through this morning, I was feeling nostalgic for the journey this piece of scholarship and I have gone through together, from my first playing around with the idea and collecting data early in Fall 2011, complete surprise at the structure which emerged from the data, the first seminar paper it generated, its submission and eventual acceptance at an international conference last March, playing with more charts and ideas, experimenting with various visualization softwares, the second seminar paper, a summer of figuring out images and phrasing which would be appropriate for other people to actually read...  And, holy cow, is that last one a scary step: it's a long jump from a seminar paper with an audience of one or even a conference paper, with an auditory delivery and a lifespan limited to 20 minutes, to conceiving an article which anyone, anywhere, at any point in the next several decades could read and even use in their own research.  This, of course, is the ultimate objective of the whole academic discipline - to produce the kind of work people will read, cite, and internalize, which will contribute to our overall understanding of and appreciation for the human condition - and for me, the culmination of many years of writing, learning, thinking, and training as a student to become a scholar.  I feel totally, completely, 100% ready to make this jump, and I am damned proud of the article I sent off into the world today.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vacation from Athens, or, Why It's Awesome to Live in Europe

On my sticky note To-Do list for the week, which I made last Friday, I included "blog about how AWESOME Paris was!"  This was a bit presumptuous on my part, but also designed to cheer me up when I got home and not be too sad the adventure was over.  Well, one way to be excited to be back home in Athens is to get stuck on your Paris vacation longer than you intended due to a missed flight.  That part is boring and depressing, so I'll skip it.  But maybe it was just the universe's way of making me feel happy to be back, happy to be in Athens, happy to be home.

But! Back to weekend vacation adventures!  One of my college roommates lives in London now, and we had been planning all fall to figure out some time and some place to meet up in Europe while I was in Greece.  We chose this weekend, in Paris.  It turned out that we are excellent travel companions because we both like to 1) go to museums, 2) eat food, and 3) walk around looking at stuff.

The first Sunday of the month in Paris, several museums are free.  That meant that we went to the Louvre on Saturday, but saved the Musee d'Orsay for Sunday, and threw in a visit to Sant Chappelle while we were at it.  The Louvre completed my pilgrimage to the three museums containing the majority of sculpture from the Parthenon (more about that in another post, I think).  It's hard to gauge my overall impression, so I'll share a few impressionistic thoughts:  I was most struck by the historicity of the building itself, which is integrated into the museum presentation in a very cool way, with the history of the architecture and the objects held within the space not really competing, but not existing in complete harmony either.
Hall of Glass.  Hannah is bored but doing an admirable job pretending not to be.
On the way to the Mona Lisa - which, actually, impressed me much more than I thought it would - were fantastic examples of medieval paintings with elements of Greek and Roman myth which I found fascinating.
Also this.
Running out of time, I was walking quickly through the Roman galleries when a low relief sculpture caught my eye, and I thought to myself "that looks like the Ara Pacis."  Turns out, that's exactly what it was. Just, you know.  Hanging out.  Did you know it was there????  Because I sure didn't.
Ara Pacis, on the right; Augustus on the left.
I didn't take photos of our fancy 'bistro' meal at A la Biche au Bois, mostly because we were so tightly wedged into our table that I couldn't really get to my bag to get my camera. The food was good, but not exceptional after reading all the glowing online reviews.  However, I did take pictures of the better splurge, which was our tea time at Laduree in St. Germain, famous for their macaroons.  Did we each order both cake and macaroons?  Yes, yes we did.

We found another, cheaper but less posh, place to get takeaway macaroons to bring home.  Although they got a bit crushed* and didn't really make it all the way home, I sure enjoyed them in the airport.  The cheese did make it back to Athens, where it awaits me in the refrigerator. Cheese, while smellier, is more crush proof.

All in all, it was a really lovely weekend.  Thinking about and planning for the trip really got me through the last couple weeks here in Greece, and I'm very happy to have had the experience of jetting off to Paris for the weekend.  But, I have to say - it's quite nice* to be home. Home, as in the country where I have figured out the airport transportation, know my way around the city, and can sit in peace in my little room eating a gyro or go down to the saloni to drink ouzo with friends whom I will be happy to see.

*Side effect of only speaking English with a Londoner all weekend: picking up all sorts of Britishisms, or at least things that sound like Britishisms in my head for the moment.