3.2.2017

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A round up of this week’s:

Reading

The Detective of Northern OdditiesOutside Online
Loved this quirky portrait of an Alaska scientist, just as much about her as a person as the disturbing environmental trends her work reveals.

Refugees are already vigorously vetted. I know because I vetted them, The Washington Post
This piece was written by a former US immigration officer, who intimately describes the process refugees go through when applying for resettlement in the US.

U UP?The New Yorker
Miss you Obama.

How a Photo of Jewish and Muslim Kids Protesting President Trump Went Viral, Time
Yes America. ❤

This week’s more lighthearted ‘WTF’ moment, Business Insider

Watching

Global girl power, via Saudi Arabia (from NPR).


Something a little heart-warming – maybe we do have more in common than we think? Good job, Denmark.


I didn’t do the ‘love’ them on purpose, but it seems like a good one for this week.

Listening

John Lewis – the Art & Discipline of NonviolenceOn Being with Krista Tippett
These words seem more important than ever. ‘So you try to appeal to the goodness of every human being and you don’t give up. You never give up on anyone.’

Anti-Semitism in America, Fareed’s Take on Trump’s Travel Ban, ACLU vs. President Donald TrumpFareed Zakaria GPS
Great conversation, but also a telling example of a voice of reason drowned out by hurt indignation. (Thanks Theia!)

Busted, America’s Poverty Myths, Radiolab/On the Media
This series methodically tackles (and dismantles) America’s poverty myths. Worth listening to

Fortress America, Hidden Brain
Nuanced discussion of what we can (and can’t) learn from history, examining the case of the SS St Louis, the ship full of Holocaust refugees turned back from the United States in 1939.

Randomly

Plotting when I can make these brownies.

Currently drinking a lot of this before bed (with my most recent kitchen experiment, homemade almond milk!).

Just realised there is a lot of subtext going on in these links. I’ll add just one more here – basically sums it all up: How to #StayOutraged without Losing Your Mind.

Extra hugs to everyone today, just because.

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2017 Non-Resolutions

As long it’s still January, we can still talk about goals for the coming year, right? I’m deliberately not saying ‘resolutions’, though I’m not actually sure why. Even when I was younger I don’t remember ever really getting on board that particular wagon – maybe I just think it’s unfair that January should have a monopoly on self-improvement. No day like today, right? It just happens to be January… 🙂

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This year, though, one thing is new  – putting my goals down on ‘paper’ and out in the open. Perhaps it’s obvious that my list will include writing and blogging more..! Here goes:

Say No

Perhaps a somewhat negative starting point, but an important one for me. A friend recently told I should refer to my plethora of jobs/volunteering as my ‘portfolio’ of work. I like it and intend to adopt it, but it’s still a nice way of describe one of my chronic problems. It’s not that I intend to overcommit, but I get excited about things and tend to agree to contribute to interesting new projects without calculating how much time I actually have. I think it’s also a reaction to uncertainty – if I just reach out in all directions, maybe I’ll actually grab something good.
On the other hand, I’m finally internalising what all the internet gurus say (or at least, Steve Jobs – he seems trustworthy, right?) – that focusing on too many things is not the way to achieve quality work.

This goes along with the next item, which is to be more deliberate with how I spend my time.

Relax – One Day at a Time

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to those who know me that I am somewhat ‘high strung’ (not a descriptor I would have chosen, but when it comes from Mom, it’s probably accurate). A huge combination of factors means that I am generally anxious and worry about everything, without good reason. To be fair, there are a lot of anxiety-inducing things going on these days, but there are also a lot of wonderful things in my life.
This year, I want to take things a little more slowly – focus on the day-to-day, all the things that are good, and channel my energy deliberately into making the not-so-good better. One of my favourite pieces of advice that I dole out liberally but seem incapable of taking myself:

‘Eat your elephant in small chunks.’

Learn to Feel at Home

There is certainly a theme to these goals so far – this one clearly derives from trying to be more relaxed and content with where I am right now. I think being semi-nomadic for the last nearly ten (!!!) years has created something of a paradox – addiction to being able to travel and see ‘my people’ across the world, paired with a deep longing for a stable base and a safe space that I can come back to.

This seems fairly reasonable to some extent, except that I’m not very good at, as above, being content with the present moment. Honestly, there is a lot that I would change if I had the magical capability – BUT my well-practiced ability to second guess and doubt also limits how much I appreciate what I have. And that helps no one.

Read/Write

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Some of last year’s picks

Surprise surprise. This year I want to read more. Last year I read 21 books, and this year I hope to reach at least 30. (I think in 2015 I had set a goal of 50, thinking, eh I read all the time, of course I’ll reach 50! No.. Of course, I choose beasts like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Goldfinch, which doesn’t help.) I also want to write out my thoughts and share them here – accountability! You can also follow me on Goodreads (let’s be friends!) to see how I’m getting on – so far I’ve read two!

Along with reading, this year I really want to write more, hence this post… I’ve worked out an editorial schedule for my blog, and will be aiming to post at least once a week, if not more. At this point, I’m thinking of sharing a combination of ‘travel log’ style posts, with photos and recaps from various adventures, ‘around Athens’ with snapshots of daily life, a round up of interesting things I’ve been reading/I’ve written elsewhere, and perhaps even a recipe or two(!). Stay tuned – and please let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see in this space!

Practice Languages

Living in Greece has, unsurprisingly, been very good for my Greek. That being said, I’m not as deliberate as I would like to be in noting unknown words, practicing, asking questions, etc. One habit I’ve gone back and forth with is reading a daily Greek e-newsletter that I love, AthiNEA, and making a point of recording any words I don’t know, and then practicing them.
Also, Greek has, understandably, replaced all the other languages I (once) had floating around in my head, and I want to snatch them back before they escape for good! So – French, Arabic and Turkish are (somehow) coming back!

Wear my Glasses

Note to self – everything is better when you can see clearly!

Run 3rd Half Marathon

Also self-explanatory. The Athens Half-Marathon is 19 March this year – the same race I did last year where I had a great run. Hopefully a new training plan plus ongoing yoga will allow for a similar experience! If it goes well, the ‘Poseidon’ Half Marathon is the following month. That was my first half marathon  and although I finished, it was not pretty. I’d love to run it again in better shape this year.

Cook

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Note – I did not make this food. I did eat most of it though 🙂

Well, I cook often enough at home, but it’s also become increasingly clear to me that a) I find it super relaxing and soothing and b) I love to feed people. (Neither of these are new developments). So, I’m going to try and share at least one ‘food blogger’ type post a month, just to give myself a bar to reach. I learned through writing for theTravelPorter that actually, all it takes is a deadline. After years of studying, I was convinced I was stuck in a state of writers’ block, and though I was feeling creative, I just wasn’t getting anything out there. But then.. I became a content producing machine. Apparently it’s possible!

 

Those are my rambles for now – I’ve read a lot of ‘blogging advice’ that suggests choosing one ‘genre’ to focus on. At the same time, bloggers are often urged to stay loyal to their own ‘authentic voice.’ Since it’s unlikely I’ll turn into a ‘real blogger’ any time soon, this space is going to continue to represent the diverse and colourful mess that is my life. I hope you’ll follow along!

Around Athens in October

Although a week of this month was spent adventuring around the Peloponnese with my dad, and then the rest of the month mostly spent at my aunt’s house where my dad recuperated from the fall that cut our adventures short (he will be fine!), the changing seasons here in Athens have made for some glorious skies and scenery. Also, staying home and keeping dad company has been a good excuse for some cooking, so there are a few more food photos than usually, I apologise. Still can’t quite believe October has come and gone already, but Happy November everyone! 

 

 

 

P.S. Previous Around Athens posts from June, July, August, & September!

 

100 Days Challenge: Days Five through Eleven

As I mentioned in this post, I decided to set a challenge for myself for the last 100 days of 2014. I’m back to carrying my big camera around with me, actively looking for the little things that I love, appreciate, might miss, laugh at, etc., every day. The challenge for me is to use these moments for inspiration, and to write a little bit about those moments.. Here are days five through eleven..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day Five – 27 September 2014

A dreary Saturday in Athens. With a massive to-do list and trying to get through the last part of my dissertation, I only went out in the evening because I set myself this challenge. I’m glad I did it – evenings like these make me love Athens. The clouds were so much better in real life, and the pulse of the city was thrumming on, business as usual. Not a pristine sunny day, but a cloudy, dramatic, regular day. Not to mention a welcome sign of autumn.

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Day Six – 28 September 2014

An afternoon spent at my aunt’s house, in the company of family past and present. This was one of my great joys in the past week – finally digging into a box marked ‘photos’ and forgotten in a closet. I discovered it several months ago, but was resisting really getting into it until my dissertation was behind me. I often wonder what it is about my background, upbringing, personality, whatever, that makes me so happy to lose myself in these ‘memories’ that aren’t really mine. As of now, no conclusion. I’ll get back to you on that one..

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Day Seven – 29 September 2014

Finally an excuse to bake! Though autumn may or may not exist in Athens, I embrace it fully, and used end of dissertation as a reason to make this Pumpkin Walnut bread. I’m not sure there’s much better than filling up my apartment with cloves, nutmeg, etc., even if the weather was still decidedly late-summer. A few days earlier, a friend of mine told me he doesn’t like autumn, because things are dying, the days get shorter, darker, colder, etc., and although I see his point I just can’t get behind it. The season from now until the end of the year is my favourite – I start feeling grumpy about the short days in January, but until then I’m all about the baking and coziness of October, November and December.

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Day Eight – 30 September 2014

Hello Rusty! Not much exciting happening on Day Eight of my challenge, despite hauling my camera up and down town. But this guy (and his brother, Rocky) have played a fair part in keeping me happy and sane. I always forget how much I miss having animals in my life until I am actually around animals.. The antics of these crazy guys is always entertaining and their affection always appreciated. I think it’s because they’re always there (well, at my aunt’s house), hanging around and being weird (and also because I’m afraid of becoming a cat lady) that I rarely share any photos, but Rusty was looking especially photogenic here (and I didn’t have any other photos from the day!)

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Day Nine – 1 October 2014

Ok, I admit today’s photo is a bit of a pathetic one. But! It is more meaningful than it seems. Though I rambled a bit about fall above (and will continue the ramble below), I opened this box for a ceremonial ‘First of October’ cup of Pumpkin-y tea and it was lovely. Beyond that, this tea was a gift, and an indulgence of my weird autumn obsession, which to me means more than the fact that it was lovely and spicy and warm.

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Day Ten – 2 October 2014

Ah – where to find the words for this one? This gorgeous (or not-so-gorgeous thing, let’s be real..) thing is perhaps my favourite food in the world. It’s called ‘Peynirli,’ which in Turkish means just, ‘with cheese,’ but obviously it is so much more. It’s a traditional food brought from the Greeks who lived in Asia Minor (when Turkey was the Ottoman Empire), when they came to Greece as refugees in the 1920s. Then, and now, the restaurants specialising in this delicacy are centred in a far northern suburb of Athens where the descendants of those refugees go on  pilgrimmages to eat this thing. It’s basically fluffy dough, with cheese, an egg and pastourma, spicy cured meat – topped with liberal amounts of butter. That description does not do it justice. This particular Peynirli was enjoyed as a post-dissertation celebration, as well as a welcome dinner for my dad who is now in Athens. A memorable meal, as always.

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Day Eleven – 3 October 2014

More fall – but this is extra special because my dad brought it for me from Ohio. Not many mini-pumpkins to be found in Greece, especially this time of year. I do my best to keep the space around me inspiring and comforting, and small things like this bring me a disproportionate amount of happiness. (I’m reminded of my room at university in first year – I went all out on the Christmas decorations, and although my friends indulged me, assuring me it was lovely, I’m sure that the decorations made me happier than anyone.) Also it’s small and adorable. Very simple!

Ok — lesson learned from this week. Too much fall related stuff. This post is really orange  Challenge met but.. perhaps some more thinking outside the box is needed. Next week I’ll be away, travelling in the Peleponnese with my dad for the first Tour du PéloponnèseThere will certainly be no shortage of photo opps, but I’ll do my best to push myself a little and try and get creative. Stay tuned 🙂

Athens: Platia Agias Eirnis

Though I haven’t really mentioned it on the blog, earlier this year I started contributing some of my work to Portes Magazine, published by two Greek-American sisters I met here in Athens. The first thing I wrote for Portes was about one of my favourite areas of Athens – Agia Eirini Square. This was where my university classes were held, and even over the course of the calendar year I watched as the area became more lively and popular with young and old Athenians alike.

The square is named after the church -Agia Irini, which is itself really lovely, though nowadays most people walk past it on their way to the bars, cafes or restaurants. It is worth looking at though, even just for a moment. The land was previously occupied by one of the main churches of Athens, but that building was destroyed during the Greek Revolution, and the current church built to replace it in 1847. The style is an interesting combination of neoclassical, reflecting the new Greek state’s obsession with its ancient past and early rejection of Byzantine influence. To the casual visitor, it doesn’t seem very ‘Greek,’ but the church is actually very much of its time.

The crowds in the square are, on the other hand, timeless. Spilling out of cafes even in the colder months (I took these photos in February), the square is bustling with people at most hours of the day. While many of these cafes and bars are at the higher end of the cafe scene (Tailor Made is especially popular, with an eclectic selection of coffee, tea and liquor), they all have outdoor tables and are great for people watching. 

Though enjoying a leisurely coffee while taking in the atmosphere of the square is all well and good, there are also choices for some more substantial munchies. Greek souvlaki is famous for a reason, and this actual hole in the wall is my favourite. This is a big claim but I will go on record – I think it’s the best in Athens, and I’m not the only one, as the queue outside the door attests. The controversy of this claim, however, comes from the fact that Kostas’ souvlaki had a red, spicy sauce, in contrast to the usual tzatziki. Like any good Greek, I do love tzatziki, but this ‘secret sauce’ is in a league of its own. Yum.

Ah. Heaven. 

After a quick souvlaki, there is always room for dessert, and this place is a quick walk across the square at the corner of the square. A modern twist on traditional loukoumades – usually described in English as ‘fried dough balls’ but so much more! – this is really worth a stop. I used to say I didn’t like loukoumades – traditionally they’re covered with honey and cinnamon, neither of which I’m a major fan of. BUT as you can see from the photo below, this place has totally corrupted the classic – in a good way. They offer the plain ones of course, but also will stuff them with chocolate, banana, mastiha or other cream, cover them with whatever you want, and serve ice cream on top, in all kinds of unholy combinations. Though I have always left this place clutching my stomach and moaning ‘whyyyy did I eat all of that,’ they are really that good..

Chocolate stuffed loukoumades with praline (nutella-like) drizzle and almonds. After moaning about this, the guy working there said ‘yeah usually we do one or the other on the chocolate, not both inside and on top…’ Oh well, I take my chocolate seriously. 

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These are plain loukoumades with honey, walnuts and kazan dipi ice cream, made from the traditional sweet kazan dipi. Not pictured – the empty dish at the end. Bon Apptit and Happy Adventuring! 

On A 100 Day Challenge

So… this post is going to be something of a departure from my recent blogging style, and it will probably get a little rambly. I’ll preface it by saying thank you for following me and for ‘listening,’ as I get a bit more personal than usual.

I officially began this blog seven years ago, as I was getting ready to move to Cambridge for university, full of grand plans to document my adventures mainly for family back home. I kept it up sporadically, usually reappearing during stressful periods, like exams, to procrastinate a while, before disappearing again back into real life. At some point I also migrated my blog to WordPress, so the first few years of archives are mercifully hard to find.

When I moved to Greece after graduation, the blog remained a fairly personal way of expressing my perceptions of life here as well as my adventures. At some point, gradually over the last several years, and especially during my year in Edinburgh, in an effort to be more ‘professional’ I began to distance my own voice from my blog, letting my photos do most of the talking. I’m happy with the way things are going, but dissatisfied that I’m not pushing myself to write more. Which brings me to today.. or rather to, three days ago, when I read this blog post by Matt Trinetti, a fellow Cleveland diasporan, in which he sets a 100 day challenge to push himself beyond his comfort zone in the last 100 days of 2014.

His post is a long one, but I found it pretty inspirational and a few things specifically resonated with me. He wrote that he was feeling a little lost, as if he had lost sight of the ‘bigger picture.’  That is something I totally relate to – I objectively love where I am right now, but I have (always) had a hard time being completely present, distracted by general uncertainty or malaise. That anxiety is the direct result of uncertainty about my Future (yes, with a capital F), and though I am battling with it and winning (most of the time) there are major changes coming, including the possibility of leaving Greece.

Uncertainty, however, is combined with major excitement about where my travels (and life!) will take me. Over the next few months there will be a lot of adventures, and I want to appreciate everything. At the same time, I am really very happy where I am, and I’m undertaking this challenge to consciously remind myself to stop and look around and remember that. I know it’s going to be January in the blink of an eye, but I’m going to get the most I can out of that blink.

And so.. for the next 100 days I’m going to take a picture (with the big camera, not just the easy iPhone) of something meaningful I encounter that day, and then post weekly with those images as well as some musings. I’m not sure where I’ll end up 97 days from now, but it should be an interesting journey.
Day 1

Day One – 23 September 2014

I read Matt’s post about the 100 day challenge while drinking a usual cup of tea. When I was living in Scotland I became a chain-tea drinker (one cup after another) and as soon as the weather goes below 25 in the evenings (which it has, hooray) I am back to my old ways. One of my weirder habits is to reuse a teabag, if it creates interesting combinations. These two tasted nice together (blackcurrant and mint I think), but it was only after I drank the tea, read about the 100 day challenge and decided to take part that I looked down at my tea cup. Words to live by.

Day 2

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Day Two – 24 September 2014

Today I put this postcard (in an envelope) in the mail for my grandfather. I love old postcards – which is another story on its own – but this one jumped out at me from an antique store in June. My grandfather visited Fecamp while in Normandy during World War II, and retells the story of his first taste of Benedictine with some frequency. Not only was this card itself gorgeous, the message on the other side very sweet, but my grandfather’s Fecamp stories have made it especially significant.

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Day Three – 25 September 2014

This rainbow staircase is down the street from me, and one of the little things that makes me smile whenever I pass by. From the metro station to my house I go up the red-yellow section, but the colours of the rainbow continue as you go higher. I recently started giving English lessons to some kids that live up up & up these stairs, and on Thursday as I was thinking, ‘urgh, work, why,’ the stairs reminded me.. people are wonderful.

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Day Four – 26 September 2014

Today, it rained! That’s about all I feel I need to say, but this is a challenge after all, so I’ll expand it a little. ‘Autumn’ doesn’t really exist here in the way that I remember it from when I was growing up, but that seems really obvious. Greece and Ohio are not reaaaally that similar.. of course the weather from September to November isn’t going to be the same. Come winter, this is obviously a wonderful thing and I have zero complaints. Still, I really miss fall, and one cool day in Brooklyn at the end of August has had me craving it big time. So today, appreciating the rain and the little bit of chill it has brought to the air.