A few years ago I watched a movie titled Lightning Thief which tells Percie Jackson son of God Poseidon who was accused of stealing lightning from God Zeus. This film was very cool especially it is telling about the mythology of Greek Gods. The time flies so fast and it’s hard to believe that one month ago on 3rd October 2018, I stepped my foot in the origin place of the Gods that I admire. Yes, I am in Greece precisely in the city of Thessaloniki.
I am currently participating in a European Voluntary Service program in Thessaloniki until the end of April next year. I am very grateful for all those who have supported me to join this program, especially for Act Global that has given me this rare opportunity. Actually it takes enough effort to get to this point. But for this time I will not share how I can get into this program, but I will share it later on my next blog.
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece after Athens. This city is located on the edge of the beach which is very beautiful with an average temperature in October is 18-20 degrees celsius. The fun fact is that most of the population are young people. I’m still 21 and I think this is a perfect city for me to live. And this is true, I can see public places filled with young people such as bus stops, supermarkets, coffee shops, taverns and fitness centers. Most of them are students because in Thessaloniki there are at least three big universities that accept many international students. 2 of these 3 universities are close to my flat. Even on my first day here I thought I was living in a student-only apartment, but it wasn’t.
I live in an apartment with 3 friends from Spain, Croatia and Germany. We share the kitchen and bathroom. They are cool flatmates. First , her name is Louisa, she is a law student at Aristotle University. If I could have an older sister, maybe she would be the right sister for me. She is mature, keeping everything clean and what I like the most, she is very attentive. Even one day I fell asleep and forgot to turn off the light (still in a state of semi-consciousness), there was someone turned off the light of my room. I’m sure she did it. The second flatmate named Dora, and she reminded me of the cartoon movie for children, Dora The Explorer. She is from Croatia and is quite funny and has chubby cheek. Last time, she bent the apartment key without knowing how she could do it. The last is Spanish guy. His name is Oyer. He is very funny and like most young men, he likes to drink and hangout with other friends. He once told me that one day he drunk and came home by bus. But, when he woke up, he was at the airport. He even asked people there what time the plane to Thessaloniki depart. That was crazy. I rarely see him in his room.
The first month in Greece was the hardest time for me, especially in the first week because I had to adapt and face the new environment. Besides that there is a big difference between Asia and Europe, so there are many new things that I have encountered here starting from cold temperatures, meeting new people, new currencies, new home, new languages and even new alphabets. … hemmm … but beyond all that, there is one that worries me the most. Yes, it’s about food.
I don’t expect to find suckling pig, satay, fried rice or other Indonesian food here. But at least there are instant noodles, I thought. But unfortunately I have not been able to find instant noodles here. From that moment I have realized that my life will suffer for the next 7 months. Even my first day coming to Greece was the worst day for me in terms of food. Honestly, I only eat bananas. I don’t know where to buy food and I don’t know how to use an electric stove, and I was too shy to ask my flatmates. So I just lie in bed and think about how stupid I was. When you are hungry, you cannot think of anything unless food. Absolutely not. Trust me. I am in a situation that I call the cycle of stupidity. I felt hungry, thinking of cooking, going to the kitchen, too afraid to use an electric stove and ended up in the same bed, feeling hungry and continued like that.
Living in a foreign country away from family and friends is not easy for me. I made a number of mistakes that could be considered stupid at the first time I lived here. One of them was when I bought table wine which I thought was vegetable oil in a supermarket. Do you know where my table wine ends? it ends up in Oyer stomach. I don’t know what I thought when I bought table wine because of the shape of the bottle, the color and size were almost the same. Moreover, all printed letters were Greek and I could not read Greek letters at that time.
At the beginning, shopping here is quite confusing in my opinion. Initially all items looked very cheap because in euros. The price is only 1 digit. But when I converted to rupiah, I was a little surprised because the average goods here are more expensive than Indonesia. But not everything is more expensive, I bought six 600 ml mineral water only for 1 euro. In Indonesia it can be much more expensive. Louisa says here I can drink tap water. Okay it makes sense. Generally, goods which are not produced here are more expensive. Examples of bananas here are quite expensive, while apples are very cheap.
Apart from the supermarkets, there are also street or traditional markets like in Indonesia, but the difference here is that prices are fixed and there are usually product names and prices at the merchant’s kiosks so we can’t bargain. But what I like, some merchants are “paragogos”. Paragogos is a name in Greek for the ones who sell their own products. Commonly paragogos has small garden, field or farms. So the price of goods is relatively cheaper because without third party intermediaries. Here you can easily find traditional markets. It’s usually open on certain days, such as Wednesday or Friday. I personally prefer to buy groceries in this market, besides of being cheaper, the products are more diverse and look fresher. However, shopping here is also a motivation for me to learn Greek, because most of them do not speak English. So I communicate with them usually by reading their mimic and guessing what they mean. This market is also close to my flat.
People say the storm will surely pass. My life is changing day by day. The lion in my soul starts to wake up from its long sleep. I don’t want to end up being a loser here. I am a true lion. I started hangout with friends here. Fortunately, people who live in the same building with me, most of them were Erasmus students, so I could meet people from various countries in the world. Share stories and food. Most of them are from Europe. But I have not found an Indonesian here. I hope I can meet with an Indonesian next month.
During 1 month of living here, I felt that I had a mental issue. My life feels ups and downs, fast and slow, sometimes I feel happy being able to travel, learn new things and make new friends, but sometimes I also feel sad, and lonely away from my family and friends, miss my home dishes, and my lovely motorbike. But I am sure in the future I will be proud of what I have chosen. I’m living my dream to explore the new world. I know that I’m in the right place because all seem to have challenges and only in pain we will grow. I still remember my friends and family who support me before I left to this place. I knew they had great hopes and expectation to me. This made me sure to finish what I had started. Wherever life takes me, I should be ready. But I don’t know I will change my mind for the next month, hehehe … so, stay tuned for my next blog. Thank you
Written by I Made Bayu Pratama, Act Global’s volunteer.