Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I think the anarchists have achieved their purpose. Anarchy is definitely reigning at the University.
All joking aside, I honestly can't keep track of all the protests, strikes, work stoppages, and occupations taking place at the University. Between them all, it's a wonder any work gets done at all (wait, no work does get done).
The anarchists left the Theology School after about a week and it was reopened two days later. (Crews had to clean up the damage and filth the anarchists had left, including their destruction/desecration of the building's chapel and icons.)
About two days after it reopened, the students held another vote on whether to join most of the rest of the schools in the University in an occupation (translation: no one goes to class). The Theology School had been one of the few holdouts (shortly before the anarchists took over anyway). Of course, the students who were allowed to vote now voted to join the occupation, so the building was closed again.
In between all this, I forgot to mention, the school secretaries and teachers also went on strike (I'm not sure if these were separate strikes or if they agreed to join together in not working.)
Interestingly (and not at all surprising), the government still pays these government employees when they go on strike for better wages. (Hmm, they get paid to not work and argue for more pay? Why would they ever not be on strike, you may be asking yourself. Good question.)
All this is just a sideshow to us in the School of Modern Greek. I'm not sure why, but none of it affects us, even though we're somehow part of the University (and located right in the middle of campus). Maybe it's because we actually pay for our education.
Anyway, as we walked across campus today after class to go to the student cafeteria, we somehow found ourselves in the middle of a student protest parade. (See photos above.) I'm not exactly sure what I was protesting, but I was in there.
Blue-ray Tech: Surgery and Gadget
I walked past this place today in downtown Thessaloniki.
Finally, a place where I can get rid of this pesky appendix AND get a new cell phone, all in one stop!
(Seeing English like this makes me shudder to think what kind of things I'm saying in Greek!)
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
On Sunday, we went to the Monastery of the Dormition (Kimisseos) here in Panorama. What a blessing to have such a monastery so close to our home!
The weather continues to be unseasonably beautiful here, so after church I went with some other young people I met at the monastery on a hike up in the mountains behind Panorama (in a village called Hortiati). (Pelagia was feeling a bit under the weather, so she stayed home and rested.)
The group was led by our French friend, Emmanuelle, who is in my Greek class and also lives here in Panorama (see the middle photo). The others were friends of hers who are mainly involved with teaching music (see the top photo).
It was about a 90-minute uphill hike to the top, where the Greek Hikers’ Association has a ‘refuge.’ We had a nice, simple lunch there (see the bottom photo) and then it was about 45 minutes downhill. It was a great chance to practice Greek. The others were all Greeks with an ear for music which, interestingly, translated into an ear for language. They were quite patient and helpful to me in learning.
We talked about possibly going on a day hike to Mt Olympus (the home of the ‘gods’) this Sunday afternoon. Pelagia is leaving for the
Meanwhile, at the University, the anarchists decided to go home today, so now the University is cleaning up their mess and will reopen the building later this week. Most of the rest of the University, however, voted to strike, so most of the University is closed. At the same time, the teachers are starting their own strike tomorrow. I can hardly keep it all straight – anarchists, students’ strike, teachers’ strike, secretaries’ strike! Fortunately (and unfortunately), it’s not really affecting the
Saturday, January 20, 2007
I don’t know if I’ll ever understand how things work here with the students and the university. Back in May and June, the students voted to shut down the university in protest of a new Greek law. All classes and exams were canceled, and no one was able to graduate (and, as such, fewer scholarships turned over for newcomers like me). ) :
Now the law they’re protesting has several facets, and I don’t pretend to understand all the issues, but one of the issues is that the new law allows for greater expansion of private universities. The government also seems to want to crack down on the abuses of their publicly funded universities; for example, they have the audacity to want students to go ahead and try to graduate in less than say 8 years (which is not uncommon, especially when it’s all free).
Anyway, after the school year ended, the student protesters wanted to go on vacation so they gave up the strike. Now, as this year’s mid-year exams approach, they’re considering whether to resume the occupation. Now, apparently, each school votes separately. I know that the Philosophy and
That, however, didn’t stop the anarchists, who decided to occupy the
Anyway, I took this photo on Friday of the current state of the building. Life goes on all around the building, but no one is allowed inside to do any actual work. (The school’s café – yes, each school has their own café – is, of course, functioning. I shudder to think how the people would react to these protesters if they started messing with the regular flow of caffeine and cigarette smoking).
In the photo, you can see above the name of the school that the anarchists have set up a black flag and speakers, from which they blast terrible rock music, interspersed with their propaganda. One of the black-clad anarchists is arranging the speakers (it’s about noon, so he’s probably just woken up). They also have a couple sheets hanging from the roof.
Now, you may ask, ‘Why can’t the authorities do anything about this?’ Well, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, police are not allowed to set foot on university campuses. This essentially guarantees that these hooligans can get away with whatever they want. At some point, they’ll get tired of this charade and let everyone resume work. Until then, everyone just waits.
Fortunately, this doesn’t affect me at all. The
Besides that, not much exciting happening with us – vacation is clearly over and it’s back to the grind of school.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
What a wonderful book! Maybe I just read it at the right time, I don't know, but it's made an incredible impression on me.
First, I got the book in the most extraordinary way. It was shortly before Christmas and at the end of Greek class one day, a Romanian monk from Mt. Athos stopped by to meet me and see if he could be of assistance in my upcoming visit to the Holy Mountain with RM. When I got out of class, my teacher and I went to meet him (he was a former student of the same teacher -- she arranged the meeting), and he was already speaking with the woman who is in charge of the School of Modern Greek. "She loves the Church," my teacher told me.
I spoke with this woman for a few minutes about the difficulties of learning Greek, going to Mt. Athos, etc., and then suddenly she said, "Oh wait! Come up to my office!" There she gave me this book, all wrapped. This book is distributed by a church bookstore here in Thessaloniki and she was in there shopping one day when she noticed this English translation. She had liked the book so much that she said something told her she had to buy this English translation, and that God would send someone to her at some point who needed it. I was this person apparently.
I was quite moved by this, and now I am quite moved by the book. This should be required reading! For Orthodox, it's a very different sort of story of sanctity than we're used to -- and it's made me rethink some ideas I had.
When RM was here, we stopped by this bookstore and bought 5 copies for the church bookstore in Spokane. They just got in a new, updated 3rd edition which supposedly has smoothed some of the English (although I find that the 2nd edition I have is fine, especially compared with other 'translations' I've endured).
I'm not sure if this book is available in the US. If not, and you would like it, let us know ASAP and we'll arrange to send some to the US for you. Pelagia is coming for a three-week visit to Washington at the end of the month, so she may be able to bring some stateside then, if there's interest.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Well, RM left very early this morning and is currently probably somewhere over the
We had a very nice, simple day on Thursday, his last full day here.
As you can see from the top photo, he took time to relax – play the guitar, pet the cat, take a nap. (Check out the great color that Pelagia and RM painted that wall!)
Around 4 PM, we took the bus downtown to meet our friend Paris when he got out of work at 5.
As we waited for
Afterwards, RM wanted to treat everyone to a final meal in Greece, so Paris took us about 30 minutes outside the city (east, toward Halkidiki) to a little village called Agios Prodromos – the Holy Forerunner (St. John the Baptist). This tiny village is just lined with traditional Greek tavernas (restaurants). We had a great meal (with LOTS of meat).
It was a nice way to end RM’s visit, I think.
It was great to have him here – a taste of
Anyway, RM’s observation was something like: “Now I really appreciate how difficult it is to get anything done over here! When you tell me these stories on the phone now, I’ll have a whole new appreciation!"
Thursday, January 11, 2007
We had another ‘Greek’ day of eating and coffees on Sunday. First, our friend Yianni (John), was celebrating his Name’s Day, so he took us out for coffee after church.
Around 3 pm, RM took us out for a typical Greek mid-day meal at a nice restaurant here in Panorama. We’ve had very sunny weather, so we sat at an ‘outside’ table looking out on the main
After that, we again followed Greek tradition and went for a coffee. Our friend Paris joined us. While there, a priest came in, sprinkling the holy water from Theophany throughout the café. (See bottom photo –
We headed home pretty early, and went back to the grind on Monday morning. RM heads home early tomorrow (Friday) morning. We’re hoping to go to the monastery of Elder Paisios this evening. If not, we’ll just have to take RM when he returns!
RM on Greek food:
How can the Greek people stay so thin when eating is such an event? It goes on for hours!
Sunday, January 07, 2007
We celebrated Theophany here in Panorama at Serres is a decent-sized city (probably the fifth or sixth largest in
Serres is a decent-sized city (probably the fifth or sixth largest in
This is the same monastery we visited with Gerontissa Efpraxia and Sister Partheni back in August (see the blog archives). This is really a wonderful monastery. We only wish we could make it there more often. The monastery was founded in the 13th century by a monk who came off
The monastery was founded in the 13th century by a monk who came off
The top photo shows Moses and Pelagia walking to the white-colored chapel, which can be barely seen in the background, slightly to the right.
The middle photo shows RM inside the small chapel. The last photo is of Sister Katherine sounding the simantron, announcing the beginning of Vespers. She is standing in the exo-narthex, at the entrance to the katholikon.
The last photo is of Sister Katherine sounding the simantron, announcing the beginning of Vespers. She is standing in the exo-narthex, at the entrance to the katholikon.
Sister Katherine is an American from
After Vespers and Small Compline, we were able to visit with her and ‘the second’ of the monastery, for quite awhile – we had a wonderful discussion.
I was amazed that an American girl could come to
Thursday, January 04, 2007
On Tuesday evening, we went down to
Fr. Alexi loves to make pilgrimages and he has a reputation of always putting together nice ‘programs,’ as they say here. So, anyway, we of course said ‘yes.’
Fr. Alexi was taking a group of special-needs adults from the assisted living home next to the church on the trip as a Christmas treat, and he invited a few other people from the church to tag along.
Gregory arranged a day trip with the priest, Fr. Alexi, from
As we exited the vans to go into the church, I had my first opportunity to meet the special needs people who came on the trip. Their bravery and joy were a blessing to me. As we stood in the church, I was drawn to stand by one of them. It was as if I was seeing a true icon of Christ.
The monastery was founded around 450 when St. Germanos received the instruction to do so from the Theotokos. When he objected that he couldn’t make any of the icons for the church since he did not know how to paint, the Panagia told him to go find a certain type of tree in the woods (an Eikosifinissa tree) and cut a piece of wood for the icon. When he did this, there was a bright light, and when the piece came off the tree, the icon was fully made.
The icon has remained in the monastery’s main church since then, and we were able to venerate it on Wednesday. The nuns tell one story of an attempt to remove the icon from the church: In 1917, communists came down from
The monastery is also famous for its unusual trees. They have two small pine trees growing out of the roof of the church! They’ve been growing out of the stone roof for about 100 years, but they never get big. (See the second photo. The top photo was taken from the entrance to the church and the last photo was of the group inside the monastery. For all our photos, click here.)
After we saw the church, we went and had the story of the monastery told us by the nun while we were served coffee and sweets. After this, we went into the trapeza for a meal – very delicious! I was very impressed with the food. I got full.
We got into the van and not even an hour later we stopped – someone mentioned having dessert. After we got seated, I was asking Greg: ‘What are they ordering so much of?’ When the order arrived, it was several platters of vegetables and fatty meats. Sitting there and consuming food and wine for two hours led me to believe that our day was almost over. But not so fast.
There was one more stop – for coffee. We got back into the vans and drove again to another place for coffee, and some even had dessert (again).
The experience was a blessing to me because no one was in a hurry to go home and no one was eager to part company. This is the Greek way. This is community.
I also had a chance to get to know two very nice young men in their early 30s. Both are unmarried and still living at home. The one young man, Yianni, told me that his mother calls him four times a day to make sure he’s alright. He admitted to me that Greek mothers have a hard time letting their sons go. But listen, you young single American men, here in
I have one week left here and the Greek experience has started to soak in, which I think will produce a reverse culture shock when I return to the US, because already I’m thinking that we Americans isolate ourselves. Everything we have is big, even our personal space.
I think RM really enjoyed the trip. He got a real sense of the Greek ethos -- church, coffee, dinner #1, dinner #2, and then another coffee! ( :
On Sunday, Brendan took us to the little Bulgarian parish he used to go to when he lived in
We arrived around 8:30 and caught the last half of Orthros. The piety of the Bulgarian people is very different from the Greek ethos. Movement in the church is much more regulated; people make their crosses very slowly and deliberately; there is a definite order for venerating the icons, etc.
When it came time to receive communion, only one child was brought forward. I had heard of the infrequent communion by the Slavic people, but it was the first time seeing it.
I was moved by how compassionate the parishioners were. A group of orphans came into the church during the Liturgy, and the people treated them with so much love and affection. Each adult seemed to have a surrogate child they cared for.
After Liturgy, we visited the small bookstore and then went downstairs for coffee. There, in the basement, the church ran a daycare-type program for the orphans. We met some great people (who spoke English) and they even invited us to stay for a play that the orphans were putting on.
We decided, however, to head out into the city again. First, we stopped for some breakfast at a nice little restaurant. (See the second photo.) Brendan and I had ‘Salty Pancakes’ (sort of a mix between an omelet and a quiche) and RM and
After breakfast, we visited a couple more churches, including one named after St. Kyriaki. I can’t remember or pronounce the name in Slavonic. (See the third photo.) This church also had the full relics of the Serbian king, St. Stephan Milutin (reigned 1282-1321). (Modern-day
After that, we visited the open-air market one more time to find some gifts for people. RM found a babushka doll of the American presidents, featuring George W. Bush as the outer figure. The innermost doll was of John F. Canady. ( ;
(The bottom photo is of one of the many convenience kiosks which are actually located in a basement, with a window coming out of the ground. To get a pack of gum or a drink, you have to crouch down on the ground to speak with the cashier.)
Exhausted from all the walking around and the blur of ancient churches we had seen, we caught the bus back to
The trip home was uneventful. It was practically empty – only about 4 other people, as people were probably getting prepared for New Year’s Eve that night. We made it back in only 4.5 hours, arriving in
Before the festivities began, Brendan, Gregory and I went out in search of some dinner. Nothing was open and our blood sugar level was getting dangerously low. Finally, we found a place open which specialized in crepes. I waited for my food in a weakened state while the preparer went back and forth from turning the television up and talking on the phone. At this point, I turned to my friends and said, ‘What is this?’ and they said, ‘It’s
We did finally eat, and enjoyed the night with friends. At midnight, we went up on the roof and saw some of the sporadic individual fireworks that were going off all around us.
Check out all the photos from the trip here.
We spent the rest of the day Saturday visiting churches. We stopped by a few other sites of interest, including the presidential residence, where two soldiers are permanently on guard and have a changing ceremony every hour. (The top photo was taken in front of this.)
There is a lot of culture in Sofia – museums, orchestra, opera. The middle photo shows the National Theatre in the background and a public ice skating rink in front. In front of the theatre, we stopped for awhile to watch an old Bulgarian man playing fetch with a cute little dog. The dog would take a tennis ball and go up toward the doors of the theatre, which was at the top of an incline. He would then lie down and slowly let the ball out of his mouth. It would roll down the ramp and he would start to give chase as the old man gave it a good kick. It was a nice scene, especially with everyone at the ice rink also having a good time out on this cold, but sunny, day.
After we had walked for quite awhile, we stopped for a coffee and had an interesting cultural experience. In
Meanwhile, RM asked an employee if they had espresso and they also shook their head side-to-side. He then asked what else he could get before they made it clear that they did in fact have what he wanted.
Later in the afternoon, we hit the open-air market (also sort of a black market) which is located in between the beautiful 5th century St. Sofia Church and the Office of the Patriarchate and Holy Synod. The bottom photo is of the market with the Patriarchate in the background.
Brendan and I asked discretely about ancient coins and ended up having a fascinating conversation with a coin dealer. He explained the Roman coin system and we then bought a couple ancient Roman coins for dirt cheap. (The coins are apparently dug without proper authorization at various archaeological sites. There are so many such sites that they can’t possibly all be explored. It’s like finding an arrowhead in the
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
After the mosque, we visited so many beautiful, old churches that none of us can remember all the details exactly (except Brendan, but he’s not here to help me remember).
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (bottom photo) was magnificent. It’s listed as one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and it’s easy to believe. It seemed to me to only be a shade smaller than Hagia Sophia in
The next stop was the Russian
We returned to this church in the evening to attend Saturday night Vigil. The Old Church Slavonic and distinctive Russian music really moved RM – I think it brought back a flood of church memories from childhood (he grew up in the Ukrainian Eastern Rite church).
After the synagogue, we headed over to the mosque, which was nearby. Saturday was the Muslim feast of Eid ul-Adha or, as one person told us, the ‘Muslim Christmas.’ (It’s the day when Muslims celebrate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac.) It also happened to be the day Saddam Hussein was hanged. Despite all this, the mosque was practically deserted.
In close proximity, there was a church, a synagogue and a mosque, and it seemed like they were co-existing quite peacefully.
When I stepped into the mosque, for some reason I felt like I had gone back in time. It was very plain, but very ancient. We all found the inside very peaceful and reverent. There was one man in there, quietly sitting in a corner reading the Koran. I couldn’t help wondering how this could lead to people blowing themselves up.
We spent most of our time in
On Saturday, we continued our exploration of the city. Brendan was a great tour guide – he lived there for 5 months at one point and goes back frequently.
First we passed by the enormous synagogue – unfortunately, it was closed so we didn’t get to go inside. (See the middle photo.) According to the latest statistics, Jews make up less than 1% of the population of
For some interesting and basic information about
For more detailed information about
We had an early start on Friday – out the door at 6 AM to make it to the other side of the city for the bus to
We drove about 2 hours to the border, where we had a few stops – one to check out of
We checked into our hotel and then headed out to explore the city.
When I first saw the people, I felt like I was among my people. The experience in
I was also excited about the fact that the first church service would be in Old Church Slavonic, which was what I grew up with in the Eastern Rite Catholic Church in
That evening we wandered into the Church of the Seven Enlighteners (Sts Cyril and Methodius, along with their 5 immediate disciples). We caught the end of Vespers, where (retired) Archbishop Hilarion was chanting with a few women. Roger Michael immediately remembered some of the Old Church Slavonic in the service.
The top photo is from the bus trip. The middle photo is of The Church of the Seven Enlighteners, and the bottom photo is of the mosaic of the 7 Enlighteners above the entrance.
We have close to 200 photos (from 2 different cameras) posted here.