Monday, October 20, 2014

Blaming the Boomers


Readers of this post have no doubt seen articles admonishing millennials for their perceived apocalyptic effect on the workforce, society, family and everywhere in between. The seemingly endless list of complaints about millennials begins with lazy and pampered, and ends with “selfies.” The accusations, guilt and fear-mongering are unfounded and – even worse – are mostly blame-shifting. Frankly, I am tired of it. What makes the millennial-bashing even more unbearable is the generation that is slinging the mud: the baby boomers.
Baby boomers came of age in an era of unprecedented prosperity. They were raised by parents who had survived poverty, war and the true sacrifice of a generation burdened with great moral struggles. As a whole, they experienced economic and physical security. Baby boomers received, by today’s standards, inexpensive and widely available education, preparing them for a thriving and open job market. Success at the beginning created a strong foundation for financial and personal success on a level the world had never known.
This led to America’s greatest asset: the middle class. So what did they do with all their good fortune? From the time the baby boomers took over, the United States has experienced an economic environment plagued with unfounded asset and real-estate bubbles and collapses. The bubbles were caused by blind greed on the part of investors, and a blind eye on the part of regulators. The baby boomers forced the financial and banking system out of relative security to high-risk systems.
The perfect example of this was the 2008 collapse of the toxic housing debt market. In government, baby boomers ballooned the defense budget beyond the point of reason. They then raided government programs to pay for their mistakes. Regarding the environment, baby boomers left the United States reliant on coal (cough, cough) while eroding the advanced nuclear energy infrastructure built by their parents. We can thank baby boomer leadership for a nation that has no sound policy on foreign affairs, the environment, energy, social welfare, human rights, terrorism, technology development, education, debt, etc. The point being, baby boomer leadership has provided America with a government that is the most partisan and self-serving the union has ever seen, and remains entirely reactive to the world around it.

The Gathering

"After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands...
-Revelation 7:9





Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Place

The Place by C.P. Cavafy
ευχαριστώ, Marianna

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

You said: “I will go hence to another land,
I will betake me to another sea.
A better place than this may well be found.
All my endeavours are foredoomed to fail,
and as though dead my heart is sepulchred.
How long shall this corrosion sap my brain?
On every side — whichever way I look —
dark ruins of my life confront me here
where I have spent and wrecked so many years.”

You shall not find new places; other seas
you shall not find. The place shall follow you.
And you shall walk the same familiar streets,
and you shall age in the same neighbourhood,
and whiten in these same houses. Ever this place
shall you arrive at. There is neither ship,
nor road, for you, to bring you otherwhere.
As here, in this small nook, you wrecked your life,
even so you spoilt it over all the earth.

Where the Midwest meets Southern Africa

The strangest thing is that Harare reminds me of an African Tulsa or African Phoenix.  Said probably no one else ever....





Share a coke with....


Cubola

Interestingly, Cuba is in the lead on the international front line on the fight against Ebola.  Not entirely a surprise, Cuba has been sending medical teams to Africa for years-- as well as military forces.  There was a time when Cuba had the most foreign fighters in Africa, serving as shock troops for the Soviets.  I have some of my own personal theories of how the Apartheid South African went after them in Angola but that is a different story.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Paris to Dakar to Harare

As is par for the course these days, I am at a loss for words and for time to encapsulate the worlds I am passing through....

I barely know where to begin these days.  First I was in Sarajevo, then I was in Suburbia, and immediately thereafter I was in Paris, joined by my girlfriend Marianna.  Yes, I have a girlfriend now.  A Greek one at that.

And she met me in Paris, and we did it up Parisian style over red wine and stinky cheese and steak tartare and Rodin and the Mona Lisa and La Tosca at the Bastille.  But that isn't what I am updating about.

And then I was in Dakar.  The former capital of French West Africa was a treat.  Hanging out under baobabs and banyans.  Wonderful people, and surprisingly great food.  I am now a huge fan of poulet yassa, a grilled leg and thigh of chicken covered in a rich sauce of grilled onions, olives and a lil peppery spice over rice.

Dakar reminded me of an African Morocco, and has an incredibly vibrant hip hop scene that I visited for the upcoming NL program in January.  The people were incredible, and so friendly and kind.  I truly loved it.  We found partners to work with, and a wonderful seaside paradise to stay in come January.  I even took the morning ferry to Goree Island, the infamous slave island but the pastel colonial island was not quite open yet in the morning hours. But that isn't what I am updating about.

What I am updating about is my return to Southern Africa, and the surprising wonderfulness of Harare.  For starters, the fact that I was coming from Senegal gave the Zimbabweans pause as they were convinced I had Ebola or was coming from an outbreak area.  It doesn't matter that Senegal has had exactly ONE case of Ebola, and they quarantined the shit out of that fellow--unlike the U.S. which sent their case home and told him to take two aspirin and come back in the morning.  But they did ultimately let me in.

Harare is surprisingly tranquil, with wide boulevards covered in purple jacaranda canopies.  I even spent a little time in a building designed as a termite mound.

I expected that gritty Jo-Burg feel, and actually was anticipating even more precariousness, but thankfully I was wrong.  Instead, I found a nostalgia for the 1990s, when Zim was booming and was a poster child of the "African Renaissance" before the economy went off the rails in the early 2k over the appropriation of land from the white Zim farmers.  Not a bad idea in theory, but for the "breadbasket of Southern Africa," such willful and capricious takeovers caused the farming industry to tank and FDI to shrivel.  And then the currency, which had been one-to-one with the dollar went turboed.  I had a Trillion Zim Dollar note in my wallet for years.

And of course, I should describe the food.  At a great grill, I had a wonderfully rich beef stew with corn meal and collards.  The Zims say their beef is better than South Africa, which I find hard to believe but I am will to test.

But the place still has a placid charm to it.  It feels like a suburban American city, like an African Tulsa or Phoenix without the mountains.  Salisbury.  And a surprisingly decent skyline that harks back to better booming days,

And it has an easy going spirit so long as you don't get into the politics.  I spent the night at a fun club called "Pariah State," which sums up the sardonic sense that the Zimbabweans have.  It was a posh lounge of which I was among the handful of whites, and made me hopeful for Zim's future--if only it can get through its present.

But Zim was always different than South Africa.  Even during the Rhodesia years, while the racial system was off, it was not as fragmented as apartheid South Africa.  It didn't have the same meanness that the Apartheid system possessed, albeit it was still not good.

I asked my Zim friends why Harare was not like Jo-Burg, and the basic answer I got was that the disparity in wealth is not as profound.  Many of my friends in Harare mentioned how precarious South Africa felt even to them because of the crime situation.

I had such misconceptions of Zim and Harare borne out of skewed imagery and media distortions. I am not saying this to downplay the problems it has, they are manifold.  But it is not remotely what I expected.

As usual, I wouldn't know if I didn't go.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Haute Street Couture

Oh Paris, even your homeless people dress better than moi

La Tosca a La Bastille

Marianna and I went to see "The Opera of Operas" at the Bastille!  It was epic.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Paris Returns

Every journey of a thousand miles begins with a first....freak-out that I don't have the visa I need as I am heading to the airport.

Just a minor scare, and it ended up being fine.

The flight to Paris was comfortable and uneventful.  Air France has all the comforts and charms that American carriers don't offer, and it made the long journey far more pleasant.  I sat next to a girl in high school on to Rabat to study Arabic for the year.  I pontificated to the budding public diplomat about the way the world goes round.  I think amidst all my yarn spinning, she was listening and taking note on how to get out in the world.

I returned in the darkness to Paris, and meandered my way through the airport and on the train to Gare du Nord.  In a light rain, I wandered to my hotel in Montmartre as the morning commuters set out.  Amazing that at nearly 8am, it was still so dark.  Not even the sun can be bothered to rise in Paris when it doesn't feel the urge.

I slept most of the morning, and ventured out in the grey to a bistro for some French Onion soup and a glass of bordeaux.  Such is my French breakfast.  I sat outside the little bistro, so pleased to be back in the city I love so.  Paris is in a different season than my summer sabbatical, and so am I.  I intently people-watched as the dapper French passed by in their scarves and jackets--a far cry from the summer frocks once adorned.  A metal;ic grey clung to the sky, and gave the manicured facades a stark appeal.

Paris, I missed you so.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

IOC

Vaccines

A lil polio. A lil typhoid. some meningitis. A spot of influenza. Some anti-Motaba vaccine. I think I can feel the polio in my left shoulder. Journey on 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sarajevo Still

A grey rainy day in Sarajevo. From the terrace, the pitterpatter of rain descends on the quiet day. The traffic passes beneath with sounds of a calm wave. The stillness of the afternoon punctuated by the muezzein's call to prayer. Indeed, God is great.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All the little lights

We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark
And they show us the way
One lights up
Every time you feel love in your heart
One dies when it moves away

Longing

the warmth of your skin next to me; the weight of our bodies pressing against each other; the countertension of space filled.

the strength of my fingers on the nape of your neck; the back of our teeth clacking in deep kiss; nibbling at the soft flesh of your earlobe; the presence, once-longing now filled.
-Eric Hayes

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Next Level Montenegro

The Next Level program has been having an incredible time with NL Team MonteBosnia (AKA The Elements Crew).  This specific program is special for a number of reasons. First, they are the only Next Level team to have 5 members, because we woudn't dream of splitting Deena and Wandee of TruEssencia up. Second, because they are the only NL team running hip hop diplomacy programs in 2 countries.

The Elements Crew arrived to Podgorica last week, and we went out for a welcome dinner at a traditional Montenegrin restaurant called Kuhinja Bake, which means "Grandmother's Kitchen."  Everyone loved the traditional Montenegrin foods.  Marc ("DJ Mista B") Bayangos was the most adventurous, and tried the horse sausage.  Of course, I had it too. He liked it, and thought it had a bit of a bacon-y flavor.

The next morning the team was already busy at work running hip hop workshops at the Bozidor Vukovic Podgoricanin school. The school hosts one of the largest communities of Roma students in Podgorica. All the students loved the hip hop demo by the NL team, and had a grand time learning the elements of hip hop in hands-on workshops!


The NL MonteBosnia Team returned in the afternoon to Bozidor Vukovic Podgoricanin school to run workshops for the hip hop community of Podgorica. The Elements Crew had a fantastic afternoon working on best practices in hip hop with the b-boys and b-girls of Podgorica.






The following morning, the team departed Podgorica along the beautiful mountainous route north to Nikšić.  After settling in to Montenegro's second city, the NL team headed over to the Matrix Dance Center to run a morning workshop on hip hop dance.

The talented students of the Matrix Dance School had a fantastic time working on dance best practices with Deena and Wandee of TruEssencia.

That evening, NL Team MonteBosnia had its first concert at the lovely theater in Nikšić at the Dara Čokorilo Music School.  The intimate theater had wonderful acoustics that bounced off the ridges of the corrugated stage wall behind.

The performance began with a dance demo by the Matrix Dance School.  Following the opening act, the Next Level crew came out to introduce themselves and their crafts.  Prior to the beginning of the show, we had a moment of silence as the performance fell on September 11th.  It was moving to be joined in silence by the whole theater, who helped us mark the somber occasion.


The evening's concert continued on, as The Elements Crew wove explanations and demonstrations of the elements of hip hop into the performance.  The performance took the audience on a journey through the creation of hip hop, and had the crowd rocking along.
The Elements Crew were also able to include some of the artists from the previous day's workshop in Podgorica.

After the show, the NL team got to meet the Embassy's Chargé d'Affaires Bix Aliu (diplomatic speak for an "acting Ambassador").  It was nice to meet Bix in person, as he had previously invited me to the Foreign Service Institute to speak on cultural diplomacy and gastrodiplomacy.  We were facebook friends, but this was our first offline meeting.

 The U.S. Embassy did a wonderful job on the program, and we give a real kudos to the Public Affairs Officer Sunshine Ison and Cultural Affairs Specialist Bernard Cobaj, and it was nice for their boss to come out and support the program.

The following day, we started to make our journey to Bosnia.  While we had planned to simply go north from to Sarajevo, NL Program Director Prof. Mark Katz had other ideas, and the team made a detour to Kotor on Adriatic coast.


So the NL Team MonteBosnia stopped in the Montenegrin gem Kotor, in the placid Bay of Kotor off the Adriatic Coast.  The city's walled fortifications were built by the Venetian Republic in the 14th and 15th centuries.  The city resembles a mini-Dubrovnik of King's Landing fame.

MJ, Deena and Wandee wandered through the maze passageways of the old city.

Meanwhile, Marc, Russell and Mark ascended to the top of stone stairs to the lookout high above.  

We were sad to leave Montenegro after such a warm welcome and great hospitality we enjoyed.  But, we are super excited for the upcoming program in Bosnia!  Journey on!





    

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Ikea BookBook

Roadtripping through Attica and Peloponnesus

Sadly I'm finding the more wonderful my days are, the harder it is to find the time and space to recount them.

I made my way over to the place of Marianna's friends John and Anna to embark on our roadtrip. I took what I thought was the correct bus but it turned up on a street prior to my expected journey. I got off at the first stop, and was annoyed at my mistake. But as I replayed the map in my head, realized that it probably took me closer to my destination in terms of distance to walk up route. I walked through the silent neighborhood, empty in the August slumber until I found their apartment complex. The area, I later found out, was home to Athens' anarchists and was basically a no-go area for the police.

I caught up with my roadtrip friends and we headed out into the quiet morning. We passed signs out on the road for Markopaulo, and I smiled. We got outside of Athens on the road through Attica, and the hills were lined with windmills. An auspicious sign, indeed. We drove through the verdant Greek countryside, which alternately reminded me of both Israel and California. John and Anna are local music producers for metal and post-rock shows, and immediately we got chatting about the ins-and-outs of the music biz, and how my work on the public diplomacy side differed from theirs in the private commercial sector.

We drove for a while as we snaked up the mountains leading up to Delphi. We arrived to Delphi a few a hours later and checked into our hotel in the picturesque town. We dropped our gear and wandered through the alleys as we took in the wide valley below. After some unsuccessful searching for lunch spots, we ascended to another part of the city and found a wonderful little taverna that overlooked the valley.

Lunch was immaculate. We sat out in the little taverna, drinking cold rose out clay pitchers and feasted on a Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta and an added surprise of capers on the vine. The saltiness of the capers really made the salad. The main course came, and we feasted on delicious roasted lamb that we squeezed lemon juice upon. There was a phenomenal stew with caramelized onions swimming in a wine and plum sauce. We had sides of gigante beans and dolmas stuffed in zucchini flowers, which were incredible. We sat for hours, eating and drinking while we took in the view. The restaurant brought us an incredible dessert of kanafe cake and Greek yogurt cheese cake that we munched with Greek coffee and ouzo. We almost begged off the entire day.

We rallied and made our way out of the town a bit to get to the famous grounds of the Oracle of Delphi. We wandered through the ruins as we took in the old crumbled temples that once gave divine wisdom to the priestesses of the Oracle. The sun was setting across the wide valley, and the old columns began to cast shadows on the dusty ground.

We caught the sun set across the valley from the promenade overlooking the ravine below.  We returned for some rest back in the hotel. Later, we ventured back out for a free concert in the town square next to the old church. Greek melodies filled the cobbled stone square, and I swam in the lucid charm of the Greek tunes. We had an added surprise for the night's concert: free icecream and free beer (!) offered by the night's entertainment.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the charming hotel's charming balcony that overlooked the ravine. The morning went slow as we sipped espresso and Greek coffee and snack on soft halva cake. I thought I knew halva from the Middle East, but this was not the dry, flaky variety I knew but rather a soft delicate cake. The morning ended with a glass of ouzu to mark the afternoon.





We finally pried ourselves away from our wonderful stay, and got back out on the road to Nafpaktos. We drove along the Aegean Sea coast, as I stared out into the blue expanse. We stopped for a coffee and a break at the most idyllic shore. We sat under a craggy tree on smooth, worn rocks as the waves lapped against the shore. In my dreams, I never left.

We stopped in a cafe I could only term as paradise, with beautiful yellow stained glass and mahogany-stained furniture that overlooked the sea. Again, I had to be pried away, and we continued on to Nafpaktos.

We arrived to Nafpaktos, and were famished in the afternoon heat. We sat out in a restaurant off the beach, and stared out at the long bridge that connected Attica to Peloppenesseus. Lunch continued the immaculate trend, and we dined on korice-- sheep liver wrapped in intestines and grilled over a spit. We added skewers of chicken souvlaki and delicious kefta (greek burgers) with lemon juice, as well as Greek salad and tzatziki. The ouzo looked like the milky-white caps of the waves rushing to shore.



We continued through Nafpaktos, stopping shortly to take some pictures of the old stone harbor with windmills in the distance on mountains high above. I noticed a statue and got a strange feeling looking at it. In my cursory Greek, I slowly read the letters. My eyes widened. “Cervantes?” I asked the gentleman standing next to me. “Neh (yes),” he replied. I ran back to the car to show my Dulcinea the auspicious find.

We crossed the cabled bridge into Peloponneseus and made our way to Marianna's family's country house in Rio. Ironic that I would be staying in Rio, when it was in Rio that such Greek adventures were made. We sat out in the lovely gardens as the sun set, drinking rum and amplifying music in a clay bowl from an i-phone.

The next day was slow and idyllic. We munched peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and squares of feta and pesto as we took the day as slow as possible. Later in the afternoon, we rallied and went for a swim in the Aegean. After the salty swim, we sat out in a restaurant overlooking the bridge as the sun set golden in the horizon and lit the cables in an effulgent glow. We dined on sea-fare, and I had to make a kosher exception to try some squid swimming in garlic and olive oil, and some fried calamari.

The following day, we drove out to the Ionian Sea. The winds of the beach were profound, and assaulted us with sandy granules. I took a dip in the emerald waters, and marveled that in a week I had been for a dip in both the Aegean and Ionian seas.

We drove back to Patra, a bit famished and having a difficult time finding something open for dinner. We found a cafe overlooking the Aegean, and watched the sun set from up on high. The green city lights slowly came on, and traffic let a yellow blur in the town below.

In my dreams, I didn't leave Rio either. But we did, and after cleaning up we headed out the next afternoon to Olympia—home of the first Olympic games. We wandered through the ancient ruin site, and climbed up on a hill to grab some shade as we watched young Olympians race on the remaining track.

We visited the wonderful museum, with its incredible statue of Hermes. I sat on the ground of the room that housed the wonderfully-well preserved statue and admired the Greek messenger.

We tore ourselves free from the museum, and grabbed a nice last meal in the town. We also found a fascinating museum on Archimedes (Evrika!). The museum chronicled the brilliance of Archimedes and his groundbreaking-inventions. 

Give me a place to stand on, and I will move the earth

There were interactive demonstrations of Archimedes' genius, he was millenia ahead of his time.

Don't disturb my circles...

We made our way back through the mountains as the sun set. Villages with little yellow and white lights punctuated the darkness and looked like patches of stars in the night's sky. We made our way back to Athens, and I was left swimming in thoughts and a new reality.

PS: The Athens Remainder

The rest of Athens feels like a dream. I took it slow, visiting the wonderful National Archaeological Museum with Marianna, whose knowledge of museums made it even more interesting. I also visited the Akropolis Museum with Marianna and her friend Alkistis. Alkistis is an archaeologist, and she made the incredible Akropolis Museum even more so.

I also got to see firsthand what incredible theft it is that the Brits remain with Elgin's Marbles. The marbles of the Parthenon on the Akropolis were pilfered by Lord Elgin in a shady deal he made with the Ottomans, just a couple of decades before Greece's independence. Britain's excuse for holding onto Greece's patrimony was justified for years by the fact that Greece did not have a proper museum to store the pieces. Such excuses don't hold true anymore, as the Akropolis Museum is world class. The exhibit on what remains of the marbles is heartbreaking when you see how much Britain has compared to what remains for Greece. Britain did an amiable job protecting these works of art, but the imperial age is through and these works belong back in their rightful home in Athens. Anything less is a travesty.

On the whole, I had an absolutely incredible and possibly life-changing time in Greece, and it was a period for me that I will never forget. I have a good feeling I will be back to Greece many more times in the future.

Monday, September 08, 2014

On progress

"Progress would be wonderful - if only it would stop."
 - Robert Musil

Monday, September 01, 2014

Shanteniketan

On the outskirts of the jungles of West Bengal, I awoke to the sounds of the pitterpatter of rain in the trees; it was all a mirage, the sky was clear and blue and it only the residue rains from the night's monsoon still trickling down the large leaves.

I spent the day dreaming of new windmills.

That evening, I became a goat-whisperer, as I shielded a kid from a pack of trouble-making dogs. I can only imagine what the local thought when they saw a white ghost carrying a black goat down the village road.

Across the wide monsoon skies, the sun set gold, peach and salmon pink over the green mid-harvest rice fields.

The night descended over West Bengal like a purple wine benediction, and the communion night was filled with the cricket symphony.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Flags

In Dhaka, I have seen three ubiquitous flags: the Bangladesh flag (duh), and also the Brazilian and Argentine flags. A very stirring reminder of the power of football to connect the world.

Free lunch

Whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch? My hotel staff in Dhaka was so impressed that I was unfazed by the rolling blackouts, and that when the hot water heater broke I simply asked for a bucket and some boiled water in the kettle to bathe in, that they treated me to a free lunch at the hotel's restaurant. Chicken Vindaloo never tastes so good as when it's free.

The King of Pop lives on

In one of the more surreal nights, I spent the evening on a radio station in Dhaka, Bangladesh that was doing a tribute to Michael Jackson for the King of Pop's birthday. 

The station had an awesome Bangladeshi band in studio doing soulful, acoustic renditions of the King of Pop's music; I was invited to discuss the upcoming Next Level program in Dhaka, cultural diplomacy through music and how music connects us. I called MJ the original musical ambassador.

The pièce de résistance was the whole studio singing along to "Heal the World." 

After the show concluded, we sat around the studio eating American-style Chinese food (Yes, apparently we have co-opted Chinese food) and drinking whiskey (still haven't been to a Muslim country where I couldn't get a drink) as we watched clips from the BMW Film Series. 

As it got late, I bade the party goodnight and wandered into the naked, dead streets of Dhaka. The seething, choked city was serenely peaceful in the still of the night. I wandered through the empty streets until I found a bicycle rickshaw to speed me home. As I was bargaining over the rickshaw, two ladies appeared. In chivalrous fashion, I offered it to the ladies--only to realize they were ladies of the night and wanted me (and my money) not the rickshaw. On that note, I hopped on the bike chariot and sped away.

I got stopped once at a police checkpoint, by some guards after backsheesh. They pointed out that the rickshaw did not have functioning tail lights (!). I laughed. They made the international sign to grease the palm. I laughed harder. I smiled and offered to bribe them with a clove. They laughed back. I gave them a salute and offered "khoda hafiz" (Go with God). They smiled, and sent me on empty-handed.

I returned to the hotel with the power out, and wrote this all in my journal by LED flash light.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Love Changes Everything

Love Changes Everything

Love changes everything.

Love makes black hair into a sea of raven ink.

Love makes brown eyes into a forest of mahogany. 

Love makes soft ivory skin into warm marble kissed by the sun.  

Love makes the soft caress of fingernails on my back into a thousand splendid shivers. 

Love changes everything.

-Eric Hayes

Ferguson

I saw the images from Ferguson yesterday while in a small market shop in Olympus, and I got so angry.  Tanks and riot police in the streets.  WHAT THE FUCK! I watched with my face buried in my palms.

Two articles that have made me alternately laugh and cry:

-How we'd cover Ferguson if it happened in another country

-The Onion's tips for being an unarmed black teen

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Athens Market; Akropolis

No sooner had I decided to stay put and made the proper Greek arrangements to do so, I was rewarded by stumbling upon an open-air market just a street below me.

Wandering through the market (Athens)

After meandering through the market, I caught the bus downtown to get some lunch and work done.  I stopped for an incredible kebab in Monastiraki, and sipped a katamba as I worked on projects.  Such is my vacation--working on the things that went by the wayside.

It was getting hot in the outdoor patio, so I departed for a fun little cafe to finish my work.

I met Marianna in Syntagma Square at the proper time (not 11am, not 12pm, but 4pm) and we hopped the subway to the Akropolis base.  We sat out chatting and sipping ouzo as we waited for her friend Chryssa to join us.  I explained to Marianna how the Targaryeans had built the Acropolis to honor their victory over the Andals.  I fed the sparrows and pigeons potato chips as we sat out in the afternoon heat.  Chryssa, an architect joined us for a coffee.  After Chryssa came, and we waited for the afternoon heat to break a bit, we headed on to the Akropolis.


Both Chryssa and Marianna were able to get in for free (student pass; architect courtesy), but I had to cough up 12 euros for the entry.  Not too bad, and the pass is good for 5 other sites around the city.  We began our climb up the mountain top.  Chryssa the architect was able to point out little structural differences and discuss the various styles on the site.

 We passed the Roman amphitheater, and the city began to open up below.  The climb did not take long, and I snapped a lot of pics on the ascent.  We quickly reached the summit of the City of the High Place.  The view was spectacular.  I wandered in and out of the ruins.

I crossed the gates into the summit with the ruins of the Parthenon, the temple to Athena on the top of the Akropolis.


Unfortunately, much of it was under renovation, but it was still pretty spectacular to see.  And the views across the city were magnificent.


I ducked behind a rope to get to a better section for some photos and got a scolding by a security guard.  Meh, I shrugged.







The best part was wandering over to the side of the walls where the winds came rushing up, and the sounds of the cicadas echoed off the marble walls.
We began our descent down to visit the Agora and Temple of Hephaestus.  The temple was well preserved and fascinating.   But after enough antiquity, we departed for a restaurant that had a phenomenal view of the Akropolis. 
 We sat out eating a wonderful mezze of pureed fava beans (Greek humus), tzatziki, zucchini fritters, grilled mushrooms and grilled haloumi.  We washed it down with cold beer as the restaurant blasted some great American blues music and the night enveloped the city.




Later we wandered through the area, and I climbed up on top of a fence post to get a pic of the incredible huge moon hanging over the lit Akropolis.  Unfortunately, I am a better climber than photographer because the shot was simply beyond my skills.  But I had fun anyway climbing to the top of the fence post and taking in the view.

We grabbed some delicious gelato for dessert, and sat out in a lil bar where we sipped rakimeli (hot honey brandy) and enomeli (hot spiced wine) as the music from the island of Crete bellowed out of the establishment.  The music was hauntingly beautiful and familiar like some Levant mournful cry, as Marianna and I discussed the Greek state of affairs and how difficult things had become.  As we headed back in a taxi, Fortuna shared her gift as the taxi driver was a Greek New Yorker whose fortuitous encounter helped bring peace to the evening.