The beginning of November brings a mix of sunny and overcast days, with a slight chance of rain. In the middle of the month I can felt overcast increase gradually and higher chance of rain. Sometimes I even experience sun and rain in the same day. Generally, the air temperature is getting colder. Even my lips get really dry I had to buy a lip balm to keep my lip soft and smooth. At the beginning I feel little strange because I have never used it before. But now, I enjoy it.
“Winter is coming”, is the first sentence that pops into my head considering the air temperature in Thessaloniki. This is the motto from the best TV series in the world, Game of Thrones. It is about battles among “great families” and “great houses” to claim the Iron Throne. Jokowi even mentioned this series when giving a speech at the world bank event in Bali a few months ago. The latest teaser trailer was released on 13 of November and confirms that the series will air in April 2019. This is a very good news for GOT fans like me. I’ve been waiting for this series for a long time. Hopefully I can watch it here.
One scene in the Game of Thrones series was taken from Meteora, a wonderful mountain area in Northern Greece. GOT doesn’t shoot the scene directly in Meteora but it was digitally mastered into the series because of it’s protected environment, so the series could not officially shoot there. I’ve been there in the first week of November and it was very beautiful place. Tall sandstone pillars, sheer cliffs topped by monasteries defying gravity and the valley filled with clouds, making the monasteries look as if they were ‘suspended in the sky’ the meaning of the Greek word Meteora.
Meteora (the picture took from one of the monasteries)
In Meteora I also met an Indonesian. Her name is Imel, from Yogyakarta. Here she is studying nursing at Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki (ATEITH). In fact, in September when I was at the Greece Embassy in Jakarta, one of the visa officers told me that my friend had also completed the visa requirements. Of course I was confused because I don’t have any friend who go to Greece with me. Even so, I just say yes because I don’t want to continue the conversation since I was in a bad mood and little tired. Unexpectedly, that person is Imel. She came to Greece in October just like me.
Since that time, we meet again in the following weeks. We talk about many things and also plan traveling together. We also plan to go to Athens to meet other Indonesians. According to information from my facebook friend, there are Indonesians who live in Athens and sell typical Indonesian food such as meatballs and chicken noodles. My facebook friend even gave me the contact and address. Hopefully we can meet Indonesians in Athens.
Imel, my Indonesian friend from Yogyakarta
Talking about Indonesian food motivated me to cook here. After last month struggling only eat pasta and bread, this month I could end this suffer. First, I start to learn how to cook rice by watching youtube and get some suggestion from my friends and my sending organisation. The first time was not easy for me. 3 times tried still failed. It was overcooked and too soft. I almost gave up and returned to thinking of buying a rice cooker that cost 50 euros. However, my flatmate Dora suggest me to change the type of rice I used. Ah, nice idea! So I went to the market with great confidence. When the seller asked me what rice I wanted, I said “give me the most expensive rice”. At that time bhasmati rice was the best quality. By the same way I cooked rice that I just bought from the market and … Boom. It was the best rice I’ve ever cooked. Actually I want to cry but I don’t have time for that. I continued to cook fried chicken and ate it with rice. After that I slept happily. Happiness is simple. As simple as cooking rice. I love my life.
Cooked rice using a pan
Now, I’ve also found Asian shop that sell what I need. They sell Asian food such as rice, spices, dried chili, and the most special is instant noodles. I even found Indomie. Yes, Indomie. But this Indomie is produced in Arabic. The taste is almost the same. It just little bit softer and the price is 3 times more expensive. Not far from here I also found a Chinese market. They sell various products at much cheaper prices. I also see many Indians and Pakistanis. Some of them even sell cigarettes which I think it was illegal. They carry large bag and offer their products while moving to avoid the police.
I’m not sure those cigarette seller related to this my unlucky experience. I was examined by police on the road near the market. At that time I was actually going to cross the road but not on the zebra crossing. Before I cross the road, I look at both side of the road to make sure there’s no cars or bikes. But unfortunately, I saw 3 police officers were passing the road. Damn, I canceled my intention to cross the road and decided to retreat to the pedestrian path. I don’t want to get a problem just because I cross the road not in proper place. Maybe I’m in bad luck, the police see me like suspicious person especially I look like a foreigner. Maybe they see me like a cigarette seller with a bag full of groceries. They ask me to stop, turned and put my hands up. They checked all the contents of my bag and my body. At that time I was like a terrorist, many people saw me on the road. I was a little scared and it was embarrassing. After the inspection they suggest me to put my important things in pants pocket instead of put it in my backpack since there are many pickpockets. Actually they are very kind and professional.
Chinese market is quite far from my apartment, it takes about 30 minutes on foot. I’m quite lazy to walk far, so I usually take the bus. Here, there is an rganization who control the public transportation named OASTH. The organization of Urban Transportation of Thessaloniki (OASTH) connects the whole city via a dense network of bus lines. We don’t need to wait long for the bus because there are buses with various route choices at any time. We can get our tickets at the kiosk or by the vending machines inside the buses. For regular pay 1 euro and students only pay half. We can also buy cheaper tickets that can be used unlimitedly for 1 month at the kiosk. Honestly, I rarely buy tickets because the bus always full and it’s hard for me to reach the vending machine. Besides, there are rarely officers who check passenger tickets. But don’t try this because it’s only done by professionals. Hahahahah . If caught by an fare inspector, the fine can be 60 times normal ticket price.
Unlike Indonesia, people rarely use motorbikes here. Maybe because of the cold weather. Most people here use cars. We can see many cars parked on the side of the road. Here people are used to park their cars on the side of the road because generally apartments do not provide parking spaces. However, I rarely see traffic here. Although Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece, but compared to Denpasar, I think the streets are more crowded in Denpasar.
I enjoy to walk here because everything is close enough. Like when I have to go to a supermarket, coffee shop or fitness center, it’s less than 7 minutes by foot. The locals here have the habit of walking very fast, like in racewalk. They always overtake me while walking here. Maybe they are used to walking, unlike me who always rides a motorcycle if I have to go anywhere even if it’s only less than 50 meters in Indonesia. I began to realize how lazy I was. Walking isn’t as bad as I thought.
I tried to enjoy my day here. Lately I have traveled more often inside and outside Thessaloniki. Starting from Meteora, Edessa, Pozar, Lake Kerkini, Serres City, Philipi, Kavala, Anopoli and other places. I will not share it all here, but I will talk about it on my next blog. Greece has wonderful nature and historical places. In general, when I visited the place, I was drawn to the past, just like the life of the game of throne. I imagined living in royal times, using war robes, riding horses, living in castles and partying every night. It looks like I’m going crazy now.
Horses in Lake Kerkini
I really like how civilization in ancient Greece, culture, the philosophers who lived in that era, the buildings and the language. This is one of the motivations why I want to learn Greek. Fortunately, my host organization here provide me free Greek language courses. And most importantly my teacher is beautiful. Her name is Styliani, she teach me Greek three times a week such as reading, writing and some basic grammar. Learning Greek is not as difficult as I thought. Although the letters are different, the pronunciation is almost the same as Indonesian. Unlike English that has different pronunciation. In addition, many words are similar in English. In fact 30% of the English words came from Greek. For example: acrobat, phobia, democracy, europe, music, planet etc. Greek is one of the oldest languages in the world, even many terms in science such as chemistry, mathematics and medicine use terms from Greek besides Latin. In Greek, intonation is very important because it can affect the meaning. Letters given quotation marks above sound longer. They called it tonos (‘). Sometimes Styliani laugh when I made some mistake on intonation because the meaning become dirty word/adult terms. So, be careful guys.
Styliani was teaching me Greek alphabet
There are 2 more people in my host organization here, first is a French guy Maxime who is also a volunteer like me. And the second is my coordinator, Dimitrios. Uniquely if you go to Greece, you can find many people who has the same name, Dimotrios or Dimitri. Dimitrios is a common name used in Greece. Here they use the names of heroes or other people who are very meritorious in the past as part of their names. And they usually use the name from generation to generation. Styliani once told me that her name was taken from her grandmother’s name. She also told me that there were even more than 5 people who used the name Styliani in her family. The most unique is that they have a memorial day for their names usually using the birthday or the day of death of the person who first used the name. Usually they will go to church to pray. Styliani once brought us cakes at the day of her name.
I and Maxime were explaining about Erasmus plus to young people
Alter Ego Ngo is the name of my host organization. This organization is engaged in the arts, environment and social fields. We also facilitating the access to young people with fewer opportunities to involve in Erasmus Plus program. Young people with fewer opportunities are young people who need additional support due to the fact that they are at a disadvantage compared to their peers because of various obstacles, such as disabilities, health problems, educational difficulties, cultural differences or economic, social or geographical obstacles. In the end November we gave a presentation at the Deaf Association to promote Erasmus plus activities. What surprised me was that they talked more than common people. Although they speak in sign language but they were very active during the question and answer session. They were very enthusiastic when listening, seen from their serious expressions. It’s like slapping me on the face because when I was in question and answer session in Indonesia, it’s always quiet, most of us are embarrassed to ask and fear being wrong. We have to be brave enough, especially when we are still given the ability to speak normally.
Giving a presentation about Erasmus plus at Deaf Association in Thessaloniki
I think I have told you too much stories. In general, I experienced a good development and able to adapt with my life environment here. I really enjoy my life here but I also miss my family and friends in Bali. Yes, almost every week I make a video call with my family. Sometimes also with my friends. Every month I also make a video call with my sending organization in Bali, Act Global. They really support me and give advice that is very important for my life here. Indeed, when we are far away we are vulnerable to losing motivation, but they are the ones who strengthen and remind me of my goals. I love u guys.
My journey here is still a few months away. And I understand that I am not only here for fun but also learning something that I can share when I return to Indonesia. I know my friends are also struggling to finish their thesis. We are all struggling in our own way. The challenges of life in the future are getting heavier, of course, we need a stronger self. We must be ready to face the world. So get ready because winter is coming.