4. Santorini Sunset

 

The Santorini Sunset

If this is the crowd of tourists that winter receives, i can hardly picture what summer must be like

Santorini is actually a group of islands in a kind of circle, up until about 1500 BC the area was one island but after a huge volcanic explosion the island took its present form, hence the islands form a circle around the crater.

Santorini is a subduction-zone volcano, and is one of the active volcanoes of the Southern Aegean Volcanic Arc. These volcanoes have formed in response to the continued, slow, sinking of the African plate northwards beneath the Eurasian plate. At the northern end of the caldera is the Santorininian town of Oia; here you can see houses built along the volcanic rim of the caldera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


“Houses built on the edge of the caldera – The ancient civilization of Santorini was completely destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic explosion that occurred sometime between 1620-1640, BC. With every trace of life gone, all that remained was covered with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone, which eventually lead to the creation of a compact soil, called “aspa”.
Today, houses are dug sideways or downwards into the surrounding pumice (volcanic rock). The main building material is the red or black lava stone. Fear of the volcano and earthquakes forced the locals to minimise the height of the buildings and the use of arches.”

3. Athens, Greece (photo log)

Greek mythologies

The one I most remember:

‘According to Greek mythology, Pandora was given a box or a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. Gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them but she was not allowed to open the box ever. Eventually Pandora could not resist her curiosity and the temptation that was overcoming her, and so she released the jar’s lid. 

All at once all of the evils of humanity were unleashed. This meant that sickness, suffering, diseases, war, hard labour, jealousy, greed and hatred escaped to make their way into the world. Pandora tried desperately to close the lid of the jar, but by that time there was only one thing left in it. 

All that remained in the box was Hope. It fluttered from the box like a beautiful dragonfly. 

Even though Pandora had released pain and suffering upon the world, she had also allowed Hope to follow them. From now on, Hope would live with man forever, to give him succor just when he felt that everything was coming to an end.’





 

 

 

 

 

 

acropolis

 

 

 

 

 

texture of the rocks

 

echoes

 

 

rocks

food

 

 

2. Santorini, Greece (photo log)

Half a year has now passed since I drafted these. 
I now keep these pictures here as a memory space
how time flies.

crater rim

Shades of Santorini’s blue: Since antiquity, in Greece, the color blue is believed to ward off negative energy and evil spirits. Blue doors, walls, windows and charms are seen at every corner. White is used especially to reflect the harsh sun rays to keep the interior of houses cool; blue and white also represent the colors of the Greek flag 🇬🇷🇬🇷🇬🇷

first time renting a car

love this. apartment decor idea

The iconic Santorini symbol of the Oia view and the blue domed churches. 🇬🇷 Actually, what I find more geographically fascinating are the houses and restaurants built along the steep slopes of the caldera rim. Santorini (subduction zone volcano) owes its existence to the volcanic activities (to be specific, sinking of the African plate beneath the Eurasian plate). The 1600BC eruption of the volcano plunged most of the island under the bottom of the sea, creating myths such as the sinking of Atlantis. 



Here, in the touristy town of Santorini, I found (to my surprise) one of my favourite @bookstoresoftheworld – with its rent-a-cat sign hanging surreptitiously outside the door, the exclamations of Wilde and Whitman on its walls, fervent scrawls of ‘just read it!’s fondly placed upon selected hardcovers. A ceiling patterned with kaleidoscopic spirals of authors’ names, dusky gold-embossed hardcovers gleaming on the wooden shelves. A chandelier of paper sheets, basking in the orange evening glow. 📚📓👓

Athens, Greece

Before everything slips away, let me sit and write about Greece. It is Thursday, and my second day lying on this cosy sofa, cushion behind my back, with my laptop on my lap. Usually, I would be frowning in disapproval – I am overseas! Possibly the last time I’m here! Should I really be spending my day just sitting here, instead of exploring further what Athens holds for me?
But nah. Giving myself a short break, before my next flight. I should take this time to contemplate about the trip.
Various strands of thought:
Greece.
It’s nice to be in Greece, everyone’s heard of Greece as a country.
The Greek mythologies and Plato and the Olympics and Cartography and the Marathon and alarm clocks and modern philosophies. The Ancient Greeks and their various inventions and tall structures we’ve heard about. Zeus and Gaia and Poseidon and Aphrodite and Apollo and Athena, names embedded even in our modern vocabulary.
There are many stray cats in Greece. Vasiliki tells me there’s a unique breed of cats in Greece – a mixture of breeds. I googled and they suggest the Aegean cats, native to Greece.
Magnets sell the Greek cats / donkeys.
Olive seems to be a significant part of the Mediterranean diet. Olive trees, native to Greece (12.5% of the world’s production, a brief Google search suggests) and countries like Italy / Spain / Turkey. This brings to mind the topic on Geography of Food – why do people eat what they eat in different countries?
Pies stuffed with cheese / spinach / ham / cream cheese. Olives. Potatoes. Fish, steak. Grilled prawns. I ate a lot of these in the last week. In our last nights, we ate at an Indian restaurant – masala potatoes with lots of spicy sauce and i realised the delectable taste of sauces is actually quite essential in my perception of a palatable dish. That, or a plateful of carbohydrates. I love carbs, it’s undenial. I LOVE CARBS.
On my last night I couchsurfed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Couchsurfing in Athens, Greece

Posting this because I spent my day sitting on the sofa in the hotel lobby. And this has been my most meaningful encounter of the week.

Let me recollect my thoughts about my conversation with Mocca (Vasiliki). She signs while she speaks.

As always, I walk away from each encounter, no matter how short, with a slight shift in perspectives. At this moment, I wonder if I’m wasting my day away, sitting here with my laptop on Cyberworld, instead of talking to more people who can tweak my life in ways.

I believe a year ago I’d probably arrange at least a noon meetup. I feel a slight apprehension or consideration at arranging meetups, and I wonder why. Is it because I’m a little tired from my Greece holiday week with family so I need these days to consolidate my thoughts a little, or is it my growing guardedness with age? I’m not too sure. Actually, I think it’s more fatigue, and perhaps my curiosity about Greece has been eased.

Anyway, digressing.

Meeting Vasiliki is meaningful. I was excited to meet her, I wanted to, mainly because she was a Special Education Teacher. A fellow teacher, and one far more certain and specialized than I was at handling children of Special Needs. I hoped to glean some insights into why she ventured into this, how she handles them, and if I could take away any advice for myself.

I would like to remember her stories (from the very short encounter we had).

Let me try to weave together the various strands of thoughts I have.

We watched The Voice (Greek) in her cousin’s house

Chatted about Greece (700 euros a month for a teacher, hmm. Refugees shifting in. Macedonia. Eurocrisis / EU referendum and their reaction to take a holiday the next day. Summer holidays flocking to Greek islands – how lucky! The church and its… involvement (?) in politics hmm. Stray cats. Greek cats.)
A teacher of Special Education – why? I shared with her my background, and she shared hers with me. She wanted to be a teacher, and as a teacher she wanted to help every child. Every child, regardless of their backgrounds and abilities. She was curious about how she can help children of special needs, took up volunteering and started off there.

Sign language classes. In Greece with only less than 70 Deaf interpreters, and limited deaf schools, it is difficult to cater to this group of children.

She told me about her volunteering at this project that aims to help the Deaf refugees of Syria. There is a boy there, 6 years old, caught in the midst of the war and the turmoil, did not learn any language. No Syrian Sign language, no hearing-aid-assisted English language, Syrian spoken language, nothing. When he came, she had to teach him from nothing. Nothing. At 6 years old and communicating without a language, I wonder how it is.

At first, he kept indicating he wanted to go home. Tried to play games with him but he’d reject, because he didn’t understand how to play. But it’s getting better, today he smiled, she said.

We also talked about the integration of children of special needs in mainstream schools. She agreed it could be helpful to some in inculcating inclusivity and understanding, but it was also debilitating for children, especially Deaf children. A parent had opted for hearing aid for their child, and often the Deaf would learn the Spoken Words (Greek) before the Sign Language. It was wrong, she said, it should be in reverse. Sign should be their First Language, and then when they grow older, they can learn the languages of the Hearing. I loosely quote from memory:

‘Why should a child struggle so hard to fit in a place where he’s placed at an overt disadvantage? He can learn but he’ll be studying and working really really hard all day thinking he has to. But does he? Why shouldn’t he then learn Sign, which is his first language?’

She shares about this boy whose parents eventually opted to let him learn Sign along with his hearing aid. She says he seems happier now, and it builds confidence, you know, being able to communicate with a community which you perhaps, feel you belong. It makes me consider- a Deaf with a Hearing Aid learning the Spoken Language – does he belong to the Deaf community, or the Hearing? It does seem neither here nor there.

She also shared her interest in researching the learning through play. ‘It can also be used for overcoming fears, you know.’ She brings up this incident which I really like.

There was a child that had a fear of hairdryers. In order to help the child overcome his fear, the teacher designed a series of challenges for the child, with a character/hero and an ultimate task to complete to save him. The hairdryer task is the last challenge before this ‘story’ ends. They dressed up the hairdryer like a dragon, and the task was to retrieve a slip of paper from the hairdryer, in order to rescue the hero. As it is the last task now, the child has ‘bonded’ with the hero, and this creates greater impetus for him to go through with the task. They brought him to ‘practice’ by trying with the hand dryer in the toilet, before his actual mission. He did it, and quickly too.

‘Helping a child overcome his fear should not be waving a hairdryer and telling him ‘look, it’s not scary, it’s okay’. When you create a task like this, you give him the choice, to participate, and the choice to overcome his fear, on his own accord. He makes the decision to overcome his fears in order to save the hero, rather than forced to encounter it. ‘

I thought this was a very inspiring story. A plot / story carefully thought out, creatively enacted, can help a child and touch his life indeed. I really liked this. I am reminded of our powers as adults and our abilities to shape lives if we want.

At this thought, I am also thinking about my own desires. I am not sure I am as driven as passion by they are, I cannot quite seem to dedicate the time and energy to extensively think through my curriculum. I would like to seize all my free time to pursue my other hobbies like reading and Spanish or just to watch youtube and scroll through websites. Is that bad?

 

 

 

She makes for me some tea from the tea leaves her mum has collected from their hometown. Imagine, collecting tea leaves when hiking and placing them in a jar, brewing tea from them in the days to come.
How lovely.
Part of travelling is also travelling into another’s worldview. Someone of my age, in another place, leads a different set of experiences so different from me.

 

Skopje, Macedonia

When I got off the bus it was 11am; after awhile the time switched to an hour earlier. A couple of clicks later and I realised Macedonia was in a different time zone from Bulgaria. Wow. And why? The bus took only 4 hours.Already, I miss the abundance of wifi in Sofia.



I was due to meet Katy in a couple of hours. I took the chance to walk along the streets in the meantime. 
I walked past a shop. Why were there 2 flags?

A shopkeeper briefly explained the shift in the country’s flag design. 
More at: http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/05/24/409210151/to-build-up-its-history-macedonia-going-baroque
3. Average wage of 250-300€ a month
4. Unlike Bulgaria there’s no paternity leave, only maternal
5. ‘Skopje 2014’(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skopje_2014)
Statues can be seen throughout the city, in a project known as Skopje 2014 
This was very noticeable, and I couldn’t help feeling somewhat amused by the number of statues around the city, almost every 5m you’ll spot one. Also, it was clear they were new structures, that looked like the old ones.
What I felt was more interesting was this tourist map board – these attractions (only top half displayed, bottom half photo not taken so there’s really many more statues not shown)
Firstly, the Jokerman font. Wow, been some time. Secondly, the ‘under construction’ sign – they were building so many things.
‘Identity crisis’? To attract tourists?

Katy drew my attention to the fact that some of these establishments were ‘imitations’ of popular infrastructures in other cities. Do these look familiar to you?

– No proper earthquake resistant structures
– Citizens are complaining that this is a waste of money (according to Katy)



Things I took away with me from Skopje

1. Mother Teresa

Part of Macedonia’s draw for me, admittedly, was the Memorial House of Mother Teresa. She was born in Skopje, Macedonia, it seems. 


Later, after meeting with Katy, I learnt the complexities of geopolitical boundaries and ‘claiming’ of popular figures for each countries’ attempt to boost national identity.

“Albanian politicians say they are angry at a proposal to describe Mother Teresa as Macedonian on the statue’s inscription. They say she was Albanian. 


When Mother Teresa was born in Skopje in 1910, neither Macedonia or Albania existed. 
The streets of the modern capital, Skopje, were part of the Ottoman Empire.
But now that the world’s most famous nun is approaching sainthood an unseemly row has broken out over her identity.
Her ethnicity may have mattered little to her but it has tremendous importance in the Balkans.” 


Is Mother Teresa Albanian or Macedonian? 




2. Flag Dispute between Greece and Macedonia 



– Previously it was related to Alexander the Great, but seems like Greece has been trying to claim that Alexander the Great was Greek, not Macedonia, and so Macedonia changed its flag. There also seems to be some territoriality issue- Greece claims they have a state called Macedonia, and rejects the country’s name. Macedonia hence has the (FYROM) at its name; apparently it’s also Greece that has been hindering its entrance into the EU






Roma community uses horses as a means of transport (supposedly illegal)












A river runs through the city. Apparently a Ferris wheel is due to be constructed along the river, which may affect it. There are people lobbying against its construction, but who knows? I wonder how it’ll go.










Katy and I walked along this part of the park. It was calming and beautiful.




My hostel did not have an electronic radiator. The fire heated the whole place. The hostel owner eagerly showed me the fire, when I asked. I grinned. I was secretly nervous though, and as I lay in bed at night, I wondered if the place might catch fire, and if I would be able to escape. But nope, none of that happened, I’m pleased to say.









Would Skope 2014 work in attracting tourists? Frankly, the night view of Skopje is indeed pretty. I think Papa would like it.
It might, it might grow.