Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Going Off Line

Hi all,

Tomorrow the lot of us CLAS320/420ers are shifting to Kolibari for six days. It's on the western tip of Crete, and is quite small, so I doubt there'll be internet access. So this is to say to those who've been checking for regular updates that I'm just fine, and have not been hit by a tidal wave, or a rogue riot, or kidnapped by a wandering drunken centaur, or worse, a libidinous Greek deity.

This morning we wandered around a Minoan cemetery. The site presenter, Steffany, who is a goth, made a point of climbing into one of the Mycenean stone paved graves and did a zombie impersonation. Diana, our chief lecturer, says that we have an unnatural and disturbingly recurring interest in zombies and cannibalism.

Take care,


(See you on the flip side.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Not much to say ...

... except we've moved to Heraklion (on the tickets) or Iraklion (on the street signs). This place is so much nicer than Athens, you wouldn't believe it. The air tastes so good. I can walk around at night without rousting out someone to walk with me. (Not actually that difficult, the women in the group developed an unspoken agreement that we didn't have to go out by ourselves, because we found the solid clusters of young men standing around staring at us, combined with the almost compete lack of local women on the streets after five somewhat unnerving.) It's nice to go for a walk by myself again.

Today we went to Knossos, which was much coolness, particularly as one of the archaologists working on the site came out and gave us a very in depth tour of it.

I am feeling very homesick.

Take care all.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Rains Have Come

Yesterday night, a good solid soaking into dry ground. This wasn't a complete surprise to the locals, the weather had been overcast all day, and spitting a little, and it's the time of year when they expect rains. According to one of the books I read for my site presentation, the growing season for grain here is autumn and winter, when there's enough water to keep it alive, which is appropriate, as I gave my site presentation yesterday (on Eleusis, the site of a cult to Demeter, Goddess of Agriculture). It went pretty well, with one hasty rearrangement of material when we thought it might rain earlier in the day that turned out to be a false alarm, and I was feeling a little spaced out at the time due to the beginnings of a cold. I thought of John often, and fondly, becauce a random handkerchief he'd lent me some time ago had turned out to be in my jacket pocket just when I really really needed it. The site itself was fantastic, although I didn't have nearly enough time to look at it properly because we had to get on the bus for the next site. Who cares about stupid old graveyards, anyway. One of the things I almost missed was walking down a pathway along the excavations of one of the old retaining walls and realising the sheer amount of earth that was brought on to the site, so that they could have a bigger temple on severely sloping ground, because it was the sacred spot associated with Demeter.

Today is our last day in Athens, we fly to Crete at midday, and I'm finding it very relaxing not having a 9am (or 8am or 7.30am) morning call for once.

Take care all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I'm Still Alive

(But don't have much time to post.)

Yesterday we went to the Island of Aigina, which fits, I think, most people's image of what Greece is like: hot sun, blue mellow sea, white houses and narrow streets. It was incredibly laidback, and there was a lot of fish, and many people selling pistachio nuts. The Best Bit was clambering around in a neolithic village on the Hill of the Colonna (Hill of the Column) which I enjoyed greatly until someone said "Hey, we might see snakes!" (We didn't.)

Today we see more museums. Take care all.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

There was a riot yesterday.

This is not as bad as it sounds.

Every year on November 17 there is a big protest march in memory of a bunch of students who were killed protesting the Junta way back in the 70s (?) (I can't remember the exact date.) It also tends to be protesting whatever it is that America has done lately to piss people off, in this case the Iraq War, as America was the main supporter of the Junta government. The early part of the march is quite civilised, and by evening the hooligan element descends into open battle. The gent holding down the desk at the hotel told Hamish that a certain part of it is simply young Greek men wanting to go out and cause a ruckus, and this is a legitimate excuse to do so.

We were careful, however. Yesterday was spent in the British School which has nice thick walls, although, unfortunately, the reason for this is because its right next to the American School in the Embassy district where all the trouble happens. Walking there, there were a few less people than usual, coming home at about 3 the streets were dead. That's right, the day of the riot is the one day of the year you can walk along the big 8 lane boulevards when they're empty of traffic. I think we went home through the eye of the storm, if it had been noisier we would have gone along back roads and that, but the opportunity to be in the middle of Athens when its quiet is too rare to be missed. There were police everywhere, in the quiet parts where I was mostly lounging around in clumps of about 10 chatting, snacking or fiddling with their cellphones. It wasn't all quiet though, we watched the news on TV that night, and the area around the American Embassy (and up north in Thessaloniki) was a huge roiling mass of people hitting each other with 2x4s that had started out as the poles for their flags. There was tear gas, and the huge black police buses we'd seen earlier probably came into good use. I'll just repeat however that I stayed well away from the trouble areas and was absolutely fine.

In other news, today we're going out to three sites on the Attic peninsula, Brauron, Thorikos (?) and Sounion. I'm really looking forward to this, partly because we've spent the last three days in libraries and museums and I could do with the exercise, partly because the air will be a lot clearer and the smog and asthma is really getting me down.

Anyway, take care all,


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just a quick one.

Thanks for the heads up about the hacking, guys. The internet cafe I was in kicked me automatically kicked me off the system before I could log out properly, I'll be more careful about that now.

Today I'm up and wandering around at 7 in the morning, due to having woken up at 3 and there being a limit to how much time I can spend dozing and eating breakfast. Athens is quite nice this early, actually. The air is very crisp and clear and there's hardly any traffic.

Yesterday was the promised library, which answers the question about where to go in the event of a zombie attack. It has very high solid walls and quite strict security requirements (apparently because they're attached to the American School which has had bomb threats). The library itself is one of those old fashioned libraries that you hear about in Oxford and that, creaky ladders heading into the high shelves, big tables and subdued lighting. It wasn't a huge help to me for research, as most of the books that weren't available in NZ or precursors of the ones I'd read were in Greek, although I did read a fascinating text on mushroom cults and the hallucinogenic properties of ergot.

Take care all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reporting In

Hi all,

I have made it to Greece all safe and sound, although we spent 30 odd hours in transit and we were all feeling trashed by the time we got to the hotel yesterday morning. Driving in to Athens was awesome - it's a white city with the hills covered with greygreen olive trees. Right up close the buildings show up more as slightly grey or slightly brown, and the district we're in is fairly seedy with very narrow streets. This is a city of tenement buildings, usually 4 to 6 stories, and also of dogs, randomly mooching around or curled up on the middle of the footpath catching a nap. Nobody has gardens as such, but there are trees, sometimes citrus, planted on a lot of the streets, and potted bushes on balconies are very common. Marble is a very common building material here. It's not as ubiquitous as concrete, but they'll use it for doorstops and balconies and other commonplace objects that we wouldn't because, well, it's marble. Yesterday was our jetlag day and we mostly spent it walking around Athens and having impromptu room parties trying to stay awake until 7 o'clock. This morning, however, we went up to the Acropolis and it was absolutely amazingly cool. The weather is quite warm without being excessively hot. It's autumn, though, and we stand out from all the locals who are wandering around in thick jerseys and heavy coats. Everything you've heard about smog here is true, the air is a visible haze and yesterday I had a scarybad asthma attack having tried to walk up a hill at the same pace as our group leader who always hurries everywhere. From now on I intend to be unstaunch and amble and suspect I will find life a lot easier. It's also a city full of cigarette smoke, everywhere you go there is an undertone smell of petrol and nicotine, such as the internet cafe where I am which is also full of young Greek men playing first person shoot'em ups. We've been doing lots of walking this past two days, but tomorrow we get to hang out at a nice quiet library and do research, which will be good for our feet.

Take care everyone,


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Up, up and away...

I'm off tomorrow morning. Will update occasionally (and do that email thing) but probably not everyday.

Fingers crossed etc. (John gave me a Chthulu plushie as a going away present. It's so cute!)

Friday, November 03, 2006

Metlink, an Oddity.

First off, let me say that the Wellington regional transport database (www.metlink.org.nz) is a fine institution that has given me much help in finding my way about this last two years.

But sometimes, it can suggest surprising results. For instance, this evening, I wanted to know what the best bus to take into town would be in order to get to the Westpac Stadium.

This is the route it suggested:
Walk Depart: 17:28* Walk to: Kingston Shops - Quebec Street, Wellington City
Bus Depart: 17:32 Kingston Shops - Quebec Street, Wellington City Service: 7 - Kingston - Wellington
Arrive: 17:54 Wellington Station - Stop D, Wellington City
Bus Depart: 18:00 Wellington Station - Stop D, Wellington City Service: 44 - Strathmore - Wellington - Khandallah
Arrive: 18:02* Kaiwharawhara - Hutt Road (Fore St), Wellington City
Walk Depart: 18:02* Kaiwharawhara - Hutt Road (Fore St), Wellington City
Arrive: 18:04* Kaiwharawhara Station, Wellington City Rail Depart: 18:11 Kaiwharawhara Station, Wellington City Service: Hutt Valley Line (Upper Hutt - Wellington)
Arrive: 18:15 Wellington Station
Walk Arrive: 18:26* Walk to: Westpac Stadium

Yes, that's right, kiddies. It's seriously suggesting that I bus to the Wellington Station, get on another bus out to Kaiwharawhara, take the train back to the Wellington Station, and then walk to the Stadium itself, about ten minutes away.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Last Exam of the Year is Done.

Phew. Not particularly inspired, but it's done.

And may I say that I find essays on comparative literature very tiring to write, which is what I spent most of ENGL308 doing. It isn't enough to understand an individual text, you have to understand two, or five, and then work out patterns and contrasts amongst them until you think your head's going to explode. I'm beginning to miss the halcyon days of 100 level papers, which I never thought I'd say.

Hark, outside there is blue sky.