Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Thief

As I’ve mentioned in other posts here, we play soccer (aka football) at Aristotle Square A LOT. One day we arrived at the park to play football and noticed a large dog sleeping where we usually have our “goal”. The Afghani kids we play with made these funny Greek gestures (that they’ve obviously picked up in this culture: imagine an exaggerated sad face - lips turned way down - and add dramatic shrugging shoulders with hands up in the air). They wanted to play on the other side of the square, away from the dog.

Well the West side of the square is a little more shady. Not as in “there is more shade from the sun”, what I mean is that we used to play football over there, but stopped when we were harassed by Roma (aka Gypsies). So Kolby and I told them to chill out and just play where we were. The children really didn’t like this idea, but went with it since we’re the cool ones (being older has a lot of perks in Middle Eastern cultures).

So we arranged our “field” to where the “goal” was at a slightly different angle, so we could enjoy our game while the dog enjoyed its nap.

First kick from one child to the next, the dog was awake and up on its legs.

Next kick, the dog was barking and wagging its tail.

And the next kick, the dog was running after the ball while everyone was backing away from the animal.

Yes, within three kicks, this dog had taken the ball from us.

All the kids were freaking out, so my heroic husband decided he was going to get the ball back. As he ran toward the dog to get the ball, the dog snatched it up with his teeth and ran in circles around us.

He wanted to play.

Of course none of the children, including the owner of the ball, was brave enough to try and take it away from the crazy animal. After about 20 minutes of Kolby barking at and chasing the dog around the park, the ball had been popped. Thankfully the kid who owned the ball had another one, but he was still pretty ticked off. It didn’t help that even after we had given up, the dog teased us with it. He would run over to a spot in the grass, sink his teeth into the ball for a second, then get up and leave the ball where it was so he could proudly stand by us. Of course anytime someone tried to walk over to the ball while the dog was strutting around us he would quickly run back, snatch the ball up before anyone could get to it, and run around us in circles again. Some children were terrified of the dog, some were very angry with the crazy animal, and some were laughing hysterically at the whole situation.

I have to say that from the very first bark I was one of the laughers. J What a memory!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ahhh Train Memories

Train ride #1 – 8AM from Thessaloniki to Athens (arrived in Athens at 1PM)

Train ride #2 – 12AM from Athens to Thessaloniki (arrived back in Thessaloniki at 7AM the next morning)

  • On the first train ride, Friday morning, we thought we would be able to buy food on the train. None of us ate breakfast, so we were hungry… for 5 hours. We took naps and made jokes to distract us from our hunger, but it wasn’t helping. Yeah, we ate at the first restaurant we came to in Athens. On the second bus ride back to Thessaloniki later that night, we found out that if we would have walked up and down the train we would have found the restaurant.
  • On the 2nd train ride there were 2 creepy men who wouldn’t stop staring at Sara and Holly. So Sara got really stylish and put on sweatpants with her dress so that they wouldn’t stare at her butt anymore. It didn’t really work so Kolby stayed up most of the ride home so he could glare at them. Kolby was pretty tired by the time we got back.
  • Kolby, Sara, Holly, and I all talked ghetto the whole way to Athens. I don’t know why. But I do know it’s extremely contagious. And after 5 hours, it’s obnoxious.
  • On the midnight train there was a family of 3 Greeks who had a little boy (couldn’t have been older than 3) riding on their lap. He made silly faces at us for a while until he basically fell over and went to sleep on his mom. We were praising God for the baby going to sleep… that could have been bad. Definitely a culture shock moment for me… I can’t imagine an American mom taking a child that young on a train that late!
  • Every 20 minutes, when the train would stop at a station to pick up or drop off people, the driver would come over the intercom and basically scream so that people who were sleeping would hear that it was their stop. Yeah, this made it really easy to sleep. Not.
  • On the train ride back to Thessaloniki, Holly was sleeping on two seats with the arm rests up so she would have room to lay down. When the security officer walked by, he accidentally knocked one of the metal arm rests down and it hit Holly on the back of the head, waking her up at 5 in the morning. She gave him a nasty look and when he walked back by 20 minutes later he asked her in Greek if she was ok. Of course Holly doesn’t know Greek so she just looked at him like he was crazy until he walked on. I was awake and laughing at the whole situation. J

Train rides may be beautiful and a ‘neat’ experience, but I definitely wouldn’t ever call them ‘fun’. I’d be ok with never riding a train again… it is pretty close on my scale to plane rides. And I think everyone knows how I feel about those.

trying not to look like a TOURIST

What an interesting week! This past week two American friends came to visit us here in Thess. These girls are always full of randomness so it wasn’t surprising that they decided to take a Friday trip to Athens. Of course my husband couldn’t resist a spontaneous trip so he convinced me to join them on their travel by train (one leaving for Athens at 8AM and then another train -that same day- at midnight to get back to Thessaloniki).

We took lots of pictures, rode the Metro, drank lemonade and coffee, laughed at tourists with Greeks, and ate at Hard Rock Café Athens for dinner. Although it was strange and annoying to be able to understand everyone around us again (SO MANY SNOBBY AMERICAN TOURISTS!!!) it was honestly a really exciting city to see!

As I walked around I couldn’t help but be reminded of how different Europeans are from Americans. Even if an American was dressed like a European, it was easy to point them out! Europeans are really relaxed about… well, a lot of things. They are passionate about what they are passionate about, but in everyday life they generally seem to “go with the flow” much better than the average American.

European children were climbing the Parthenon rocks when their parents were gazing into the beautiful blue sky, while American children were clinging to their parent’s sides and getting fussed at if they walked over 10 feet away. European teens were lounging around with coffee while American teens looked lost in all the culture happening around them. European YaYas were slowly strolling along the cobblestone streets while American Grandmas seemed to be running their next destination. Needless to say, it was pretty entertaining to see both people groups in action at the same time in the same place. Of course there were other continents represented, such as Asians, but I focused on the ones that I personally connect with on a daily basis. I hope I don’t sound like I’m bashing American culture. I promise I’m not! I am actually forced to turn these observations into an examination of my own self. You see, God uses these interesting experiences to have me look inward. I am a woman of anxiety. As much as I hate this and wish it would just go away in a flash, it won’t. It’s a sin that I struggle with off and on, and I have faith that one day God will completely finish healing me from fear and anxiousness (whether that’s in heaven or here on earth, I know He will). In my American culture, it’s almost applauded at times to be a person of anxiety. I was actually taught in college that, “Stress makes you see something as important. It is good to stress about exams because then you take them more seriously!” Yeah, I don’t agree with that at all. But instead of describing why I think that view is wrong, let’s focus on what we know is right.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Colossians 4:8-9

I’m writing directly to my American audience when I say this…

Just because our culture tells us that it’s good to stay busy and get overwhelmed with all kinds of stuff in this life, that doesn’t mean that this is right! While working, we should work hard and with integrity, but there is a time to work and there is also a time to enjoy the day! If there is anything I have learned here in Europe, it’s that I need to chill. Take a nap, read a book, hang out with friends in the sunshine, go to a coffee shop, listen to music, do whatever it takes to have some significant down time. This is so important! If we don’t stop, then we can’t get away from the noise around us to listen to our Father who wants to whisper in His children’s ears about His plans and His peace.

So today I want to challenge you to chill. Then I want you to leave a comment, let me know how you relaxed, and tell me what God showed you during this time!