Thursday, December 29, 2011

things i miss most about aigina

It's nice being home. It really is. But there are some things about Greece that Missouri just can't compare with.

Things I Miss Most About Aigina

1. The great people I met there. My roommates, all the other kids, the program directors, teachers, shop owners, and friendly strangers.

2. Cheap produce. I bought broccoli last week and it was over $2. $2! In Aigina, it would have been less than 50 (euro) cents. No wonder Americans are so unhealthy compared to Europeans.

3. Clementines. Because not only were they cheap, they were delicious

4. Cheap (and tasty) wine. That bottle below? 1.90 euros!

5. Our apartment. I would have loved a bigger bathroom, a dishwasher, and a private bedroom, but I still loved our apartment. Our landlady kept it decorated cute with printed pillows and tablecloths and the view was amazing (especially at sunset).

6. Waking up to sunshine and an ocean view. When it was still warm enough, I left my window open all night and I'd wake up naturally to the sun on my face and the sounds of my neighbors waking. And looking out my window, I had a view of the ocean and could see boats and ferries out on the water. I doubt I'll ever have a view like that again.

7. Traveling so often. Whenever our days were becoming too routine or 
schoolwork was stressing us out (especially Greek class, for me), we'd get to head out on another field trip! We never went more than two weeks without traveling.

8. Being able to walk everywhere. Both in Aigina and on our field trips, walking was always the main mode of transportation.

9. Great weather. From what I remember, it rained twice in Southern Greece, twice in Aigina, once in Rome, and once in London. In Aigina, the weather was perfect nearly everyday. Sunny, clear, never too cold. Gorgeous.

10. Swimming. In that beautiful blue water.

11. Dark chocolate ice cream. Yum!

11. Moussaka. Mmm. Mmm!

Friday, December 23, 2011

things i missed most about home

I've been home for a little over two weeks now, giving me lots of time both to readjust to life in America and look back on my months abroad. So for the next week or so, I thought I'd post some of my reactions to the trip as a whole. To start though, I thought I'd look at America. 

It's funny how going abroad makes you learn both more about the country you're visiting and the country you left. Before going to Greece, I had only been abroad once (to Paris, for a week) and I thought of Europe as this magical, beautiful place with tons of history and style and charm. I always believed I was meant to be European, not American, and that I'd jump at the chance to someday live in Europe.

And I still would jump at the chance to live in Europe. That hasn't changed. I want to live abroad someday, for more than just three and a half months, and I wouldn't mind living somewhere like London forever. But living in Greece made me realize how much I do love a lot of what we have here in America. I don't know if I was "meant" to be European or if I was meant to be American. I think it's more about cities that fit your personality than entire countries. Someday I would love to live in a vibrant city like London, Paris, or New York, or maybe someplace quieter like the Irish countryside. The only thing I'm really sure of is that I don't want to live in Missouri the rest of my life.

Before I get carried away, let's just go to the list. For this first reflection post I'm going to look at . . . 

Things I Missed Most About Home

One of the pups mentioned below.

1. Friends and family and pups. Obviously.

2. Free water at restaurants. And refills. I'm so used to free water in America that when I went to Europe, the fact that I had to pay for it (and usually paid way too much) felt like a cruel joke. We need water to live! They can't just say no! But they can and they will and the fee is usually so exorbitant (especially in big cities like Paris and London) that you might as well get wine, iced tea, or soda since it's pretty much the same price.

3. Shower-heads that aren't hanging on hooks near your knees. Three cheers for keeping shower-heads where they belong (near our heads)! So you don't have to turn off the water constantly, so you don't freeze every time the water goes off, and so you can use two hands because you aren't trying to hold the shower-head over your goose-bumped body!

4. A full closet of clothes. Sure it was nice to know that I could get by on the basics, but did I really want to? Not at all. It's amazing to actually have choices when I get dressed in the morning. You have no idea how tired I got of those same tee-shirts and shoes every single day.

5. Target, malls, and big grocery stores. No explanation needed.

6. A variety of food choices. Greek food was nice, but it was frustrating knowing you had to eat it everyday. The grocery stores didn't carry things like foreign cheese (and foreign meaning American, Italian, French, etc.), Asian sauces, salsa, etc. Everything was Greek. Rarely, you'd find a goodie like mozzarella or tortilla chips but it was often too expensive to consider purchasing or not half as good as it is at home.

7. Local libraries. I'm incredibly thankful our school had a bookshelf of fiction, but the books we had definitely wouldn't have been my first choice. And with so much time for reading, I was desperate for good books. Gotta love the library.

8. Driving. Only sometimes. Like when it was raining but we had to walk 15 minutes and back to get our groceries.

9. Having my own room. My bed was in the living room/kitchen, so I had zero privacy. My roommates were great and were happy to let me use their room if I ever needed it, but it would have been nice to have my own room in an area closed off from the main living space (especially because our apartment was the biggest and thus, the most popular for visits from the other kids).

10. Alone time. On field trips especially, we were together all the time. Our group got along really well so this wasn't a huge problem, but I did start to crave moments where I could just be alone. And in Aigina, I could be alone sometimes but due to #9 on the list, it wasn't always easy.

11. TV. Very rarely, you'd find something good on TV in Aigina. The best things I watched there were episodes of Mad Men (though it was hard to understand what was going on because I haven't watched the show much before), House, 30 Rock (only very late at night), and the Office (only very late at night, and only once). Harry Potter was also on TV once, but it was the exact same Harry Potter movie (Order of the Phoenix) that we had in our school DVD library. We could watch TV on our laptops, but it's just not the same and we didn't have internet access in our apartments anyway.

12. Snow. Which we don't have in St. Louis yet either, but I've got my fingers crossed!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


City: London, England

Dates: 1-5 December, 2011

Transportation to City: Plane from Athens to London (Lufthansa)

Transportation in City: Our feet, the Tube

Places Seen/Visited: 
- Trafalgar Square

- London Tower
- Tower Bridge
- The Gherkin
- Leadenhall Market
- St. Paul's Cathedral
- Millenium Bridge
- Tate Modern
- South Bank Christmas Market
- London Eye
- Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- Covent Garden
- Hyde Park
- Green Park
- Buckingham Palace
- St. James's Park
- Victoria Tower Gardens
- Westminster Abbey
- Harrod's
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- King's Cross
- St. Pancras
- Regent's Park
- Primrose Hill
- Oxford Street
- Piccadilly Circus
- National Museum of London

Food Eaten:
- Mozzarella & Tomato Sandwich

- Apple & Pear Smoothie
- Apple Cider
- Baguette with Ham and Cheese
- Maple & Pecan Pastry
- Yaki Soba
- Peach Iced Tea
- Italian Sandwich
- Apple & Pineapple Fruit Cup
- Bangers & Mash
- Baguette
- Pineapple Slices
- Mixed Berry Cider
- Turkey & Cranberry Sandwich
- Yogurt Parfait

Hostel Review: 
PROS: Not too far from a nice Tube station (Fulham Broadway, which has a grocery store, pharmacy, pret a manger, and clothing stores inside). Staff nice enough, carried my suitcase up the narrow staircases. Had WIFI in the pub downstairs.

CONS: Big gap under the door, so very little privacy. Bathrooms dirty and had holes in the walls. Shower had very poor water pressure and switched back and forth between freezing cold and burning hot.

Things Learned:
- Don't try to eat at a pub at night. They're very crowded for the drinking crowd and will likely either not be serving food or won't have a table free. 

- However, pubs aren't a bad place to go if you need to use the bathroom at night. The crowd prevents you from being caught.
- Buy an Oyster Card for discounts on the Tube. They don't cost anything (you pay 5 pounds for one but it's refunded when you return the card). And if you have difficulties buying the card on one of the electronic machines with your credit card, go to one of the cashiers and buy it there. A regular ticket (like we bought) costs much more than an Oyster Card fare.
- Maybe make a list of places to eat beforehand? We had a lot of difficulty finding places within our price range that looked good. The one place I'd definitely recommend is Wagamama, an Asian restaurant chain, which is both tasty and not too expensive.
- Study the currency a little before you get up to a cash register. Some of the coins are hard to distinguish and remember.
- The Tube is confusing at first because each line has more than two ends. Look for the light board on each train that flashes the name of the end and be certain you're on the right train before you get on.
- Make sure the fashion exhibit is open at the Victoria & Albert Museum or you will be very disappointed :(
- Use up all your extra pounds before you get to the airport unless you want to make a bad, rushed decision.
- Definitely go to Regent's Park. It's filled with things to see- a rose garden, a zoo, a lake, a hill that overlooks London.
- Don't try to go to Platform 9 3/4 right now. King's Cross is under construction :(
- London is expensive. If you don't want to overpay for your food, just go to the grocery store. They have a lot there and you'll get more for your money. Especially for water and other beverages.
- Dress warmly if you're going in December and bring shoes that will keep the water out.

Favorite Parts:
- The tree lighting in Trafalgar Square. It was rainy and not terribly exciting, but still a great way to spend our first night. Plus, the area around Trafalgar is great. There are tons of charming shops and restaurants. Just walking around the area was wonderful and made me fall in love with London.

- Seeing Tower Bridge, commonly mistaken as London Bridge.
- The South Bank Christmas Market. Small, charming, and festive.
- Covent Garden Christmas Market. The decorations were extravagant, the stores ready for the holidays, and there were lots of exciting performers to see and enjoy.
- Picnicking in Victoria Tower Gardens. The perfect spot for a picnic overlooking the Thames.
- The National Gallery, a great museum in both size (smallish) and substance (Van Gogh, Monet, etc.)
- Regent's Park

The tree lighting ceremony at Trafalgar Square.

Ice-Skating at the Tower of London.

Tower Bridge.

Leadenhall Market (aka Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies).

St. Paul's Cathedral.

The London Eye.

Houses of Parliament.

Covent Garden.

My future home.

Buckingham Palace.

Victoria Tower Gardens.

Big Ben.

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