I have learned a few things about myself over the years. One of those things is that I do NOT do well on little sleep or with any type of illness, not even something as simple as the common cold. When I’m tired, I tend to be a little down in the dumps. When I’m exhausted, everything is bad; there is nothing good about anything, anywhere in the world. When I have a cold, I am both exhausted and dealing with the added indignity of not being able to breathe easily or quietly. It is not pretty.
I was unable to sleep on the flight to Athens, and I developed a cold on the plane.
I arrived in Athens primed to hate everything about it. And I did: my house was too dark, the rooms were too small, the split pack air conditioner units were placed inefficiently, the stairs were too steep and too circular, the handrail on said stairs was too high, and don’t even get me started on the ridiculously ineffective European washer and dryer in the basement (okay, fine, the dryer; the washer is actually fine). Luckily, there was no need for me to leave my house for a full day after I arrived, so my hatred was confined to the house while I slept off most of the jet lag. Jeff brought home medicine from the exchange at the embassy, so the cold began to resolve fairly quickly as well.
By the time we’d been in country 48 hours, I was feeling a bit better. That was a mighty good thing, because by then, I’d had to leave my house. We were at the embassy on Wednesday morning, getting photos made for our diplomatic ID cards and going through the in-briefing for newcomers (in which we heard from Human Resources, GSO, and the health unit). I was still a little ambivalent about everything, though I tried to think and act more positively than I was feeling at the time. After a morning at the embassy, I was more than ready to come home and take a nap.
On Thursday, I woke up feeling almost normal. Alexa and I puttered around the house all day, and amazingly, it seemed brighter than the previous days. The rooms were indeed smaller than what we’ve had in the past, but I recognized that they are a workable size. The air conditioners still weren’t placed efficiently (they really aren’t; we may invest in a fan or two next summer), but the stairs felt more manageable (if still steep, circular, and with a shoulder-high handrail). I managed to do two or three loads of laundry, without getting annoyed that the clothes came out "cupboard dry" rather than "ready to be worn dry"; I even recognized that hanging them for the last little bit of drying is going to result in much less ironing for me, and that's never a bad thing.
Thursday evening, Alexa and I headed out to meet Jeff and some of his coworkers. There were TDYers in town (Temporary Duty-ers, here on a short work trip), and they were being taken up to the Acropolis to see the sunset. It was an opportunity too good to miss.
We took the metro to the stop just behind the Acropolis, then walked up and up and up some more to the top of the mountain. When we first came out of the metro, we walked through a shopping area that reminded me of a cleaner, more high-end version of the Khan el Khalili in Cairo, and I made a mental note to check that out when I have a little more time. There continued to be random stalls here and there almost all the way up, though most were clustered at the bottom of the mountain.
After the long walk up, we climbed some stairs and found ourselves on a rocky outcropping. The Acropolis was just one outcropping over. There were amazing views down into Athens. I had not brought my camera, so I had to settle for a few pictures on my phone. I’ll definitely be making the trip again—probably several more times—with a real camera ... and possibly a taxi.
Once the sun had set, we continued walking around and back down the mountain. We stopped for drinks at a wine bar, then went to a local restaurant for a very late dinner. We talked and laughed and all around enjoyed ourselves and the food: Greek salad, fried sardines, roasted pork (or was it lamb?), and some kind of greens. It was very late when we returned home, close to midnight, I think.
The next day, while Jeff got up and went to work, Alexa and I slept until 11am. Just a few hours after we got up, we met up with Jeff and some others at an apartment downtown for a happy hour. It also was a nice time—a great opportunity to get to know some of the other people from Jeff’s office and from around the embassy. We didn’t stay too late, though, as we thought it better to get Alexa back on something resembling a normal sleep-wake pattern.
Yesterday, Saturday, one of the people in Jeff’s office took us to Ikea. It is so incredibly nice to have a resource like Ikea here! We bought several odds and ends that we needed—lidded trash cans for the bathrooms, a soft topper for Lexa’s hard mattress, a new drying rack to pair with that European dryer downstairs. The availability of familiar stores where we can get lots of different needed items from one place (rather than going to several smaller stores) is a definite plus to being in a more developed country.
Today we had intended to go to church, but Jeff woke up with a scratchy throat. He made the executive decision to turn the alarm clock off and go back to sleep to try to get over this quickly. He has all day today to rest, and he can rest tomorrow too, if needed, since it’s Labor Day. We’re hoping to spend at least part of tomorrow walking around with our neighborhood sponsors, though, getting familiar with what’s near our house.
I did have a rocky first couple of days in Greece, thanks to jet lag and illness. I’m thankful that I know myself well enough that even then, in the midst of the “I hate everything” attitude, I recognized it for what it was and knew not to take it too seriously. The last few days have been much better.
I’m pretty confident that we’re going to love living in Greece.