The season changed very quickly in Athens: on Thursday morning I had class at the Ancient Agora at 8:45, and when I woke up, ominous clouds were gathering in the distance. The wind picked up throughout the hour and a half we spent at the Agora and just as I was returning to the Academic Center, rain started coming down in torrents and the temperature dropped several degrees. As I walked into my Modern Greek class, my teacher Marinetta announced that this is fall–gone are the sunny, 75º days in Athens, here to stay are chilly, rainy days.
Not all changes I have encountered here have taken place so suddenly. I find myself slipping into routines: going to the grocery store on Mondays to pick up the food I know I’ll like, picking up a gyro for dinner when I’m in a rush and want something filling, going to the friendly cafe down the road with good wifi and excellent choice in music. I realized the other day that I’m becoming accustomed to life here. Even though I face daily challenges, mostly having to do with my lack of fluency in the Greek language, I’ve settled into a pretty normal routine. This made me a little sad to realize; I studied abroad to challenge myself, to push myself out of my comfort zone, and yet here I am finding a comfort zone across the sea. I can’t pinpoint a moment when I stopped thinking of my semester in Athens as a scary challenge I would never get used to and started thinking of it as a routine I’ll go through for the next few months until I come home, but something has been changing inside of me very slowly.
I realized how bad it was getting a week and a half ago when we went to Delphi to see the oracle and I thought to myself, “Meh.” It’s an incredibly beautiful place, but after seeing Crete and Meteora it seemed small and less impressive in comparison. I’ve been spoiled by all the travel here, so much so that seeing one of the most important sites of the Ancient Greek world hardly left an impression on me.
To some extent, I knew this would happen. Eventually, when the newness of a place wears off, everything seems less exciting and more normal. At the same time, I’m determined to battle this, because I’m having the most fun and feeling most fulfilled when I’m exploring something new and learning all I can. So I have a couple of plans: I bought a sketchbook last week and I’m determined to get out and explore the museums (especially since it seems the rain is here to stay); I’m planning a few trips coming up within the next few weeks (spoilers 😉 ) and I’ve been enjoying learning about my future destinations; and of course, I’ve been looking out for fun things to do here in Athens.
Yesterday was OXI day and I was reminded of why I came here in the first place. Seeing children dressed up and carrying the Greek flag with pride reminded me that this country has such a rich and complex history and culture that I’ve barely begun to comprehend. I was frightened by the huge police presence, especially after being questioned several times and sent back from places I apparently wasn’t supposed to be; I was out of my element and I didn’t fully understand everything that was going on. But at the National History Museum, a friend and I were greeted with a smile and free admission, and encouraged to see and learn all we could. At the cafe, our friendly barista made us a warm cappuccino and brought us little chocolates after we’d been sitting in the cold for a while. And at dinner, I sat with friends I’ve made here and enjoyed delicious Greek food and wine and a night of conversation. I came to the realization that it’s alright if I’m finding routines and getting comfortable; something new and exciting to discover is always just around the corner.