remainder of entries from the island of Zankythos
Oct 8, 2004
I have learned a lot about the way the English speak, new phrases, different words, different meaning. I have also learned much about biases and differences in culture in Europe. It is also funny to be around second language English speakers for long periods of time because when I say a phrase like "That food's not bad" I mean a certain thing, but a German speaker may understand it to mean something completely different and it often makes no sense at all. If you think about the phrase, it is pretty funny when you don't understand its meaning. It is not bad, well... is it good. The English call fries chips, and chips crisps. A bloke is a man, while a bird is a woman, usually when referring to either as masculine for the male and feminine for the female. If someone is taking the piss on you, they aren't actually peeing on you, but making fun of you. If something is bollocks, it is bullshit. Fuck all is a catch all phrase with many definitions ranging from if you say, He did fuck all today (He did nothing today), but I am not sure I understand yet the full extent of this word and its uses. English people think American football is a copy of rugby and not a real sport, and the same with baseball in regards to cricket. Both of the English games aforementioned I know fuck all about, ha! A hamburger is a beefburger, which makes a lot of sense if you think about it! More phrases and things will come to me soon I am sure!
I am on the outs again. I am leaving Archelon for good after this weekend. There are some really cool things about it, and some very uncool things about it. I am going to stay in Zakynthos with Frauke, Effie, and two of Frauke's friends. Speaking of Frauke, things have escalated and we are now... well I don't exactly know what to call it, but I like her a lot. It is somewhat funny that I make an effort not to meet anyone in Chicago for months before I leave, and then I meet a German in Greece that I really enjoy being with! We are getting an apartment together at this hotel place and it is costing each of us less than 4 euro night! It should be very nice to relax and be civilized for a week or so, especially with a beautiful girl. When I travel to Germany I will probably stay with Frauke and we will travel around Germany, staying with friends of hers and such. It should be great to travel a country with someone who knows the terrain. This is all a rough schedule right now but hopefully it will all pan out.
It is really amazing that Frauke and I can communicate so freely and intimately when she is speaking a second language, it blows my mind. I hope someday to be able to do that in Spanish or French. It amazes me how much language most Europeans know and have studied.
The island of Zakynthos is an interesting place. It is one of extreme beauty and natural elegance but has been trampled on by tourism. In Laganas and Kalamaki the locals are bitter, the scenery non-Greek, and the overall demeanor sad. It is not like the other two islands I went to, where tourism and Greek life balanced each other out to create a culture of tourists within the already in place Greek island culture. Here on Zakynthos the cities are filled with English restaurants, Irish pubs, Chinese-Indian restaurants, and turtle boats. I haven't been out of the tourist sections of the island, so I think I am generalizing a bit too much, because I have heard there are some interesting and vibrant villages on the other side of the island. After I finish at Archelon we will probably rent a car to check out the rest of the island, and may take day trips to surrounding islands.
A few days ago I went on a morning survey and excavation trip to Sekania. Sekania is a beach owned by the World Wildlife Federation and no tourists are allowed to go the beach. It is very calming to work in that kind of environment. I have gotten pretty good at doing excavations. This involves finding the exact location of the nest by feeling around in the sand and deciphering where the nest is by the softness of the sand. After finding the nest I dig it out and begin to take out the eggs. Often times I will find nests that had great success rates, once I had 97 eggs that hatched and only 4 that did not, this is a great nest! On this day though, I came across a nest that was very discouraging. It only hatched 9 eggs while over 90 were left unfertilized, and 70 of which were inundated with bacteria. It is kind of a gross job, but is the most beneficial and interesting.
At Sekania you never have an audience while excavating because the island is deserted, other than the Warden of the WWF who comes around from time to time. On Laganas, and Kalamaki beaches though, there are always tourists that come to watch the excavations. I have had between 10-30 people at almost every excavation. It is quite fun to have them around, poking there heads to get a better view, slowly creeping closer when I begin, asking questions about the turtles and sometimes reaching for the eggs. I don't ever mind talking to people so it is no problem to give a little show, explaining this and that about the turtles, and giving them a glimmer of hope that they may see a live hatchling, which they often do. We have to wear gloves for obvious reasons during an excavation, but there is always some knob that reaches for an egg, that is before I tell them that the outside of the egg may be contaminated with salmonella or other bacteria.
I don't think I have properly described the camp ground I am on, so here goes. Twenty or so tents are bunched together near the road like ants surrounding a dropped piece of bread. Away from the road a bit are the showers and sink, which consist of two showers that I wouldn't enter if it wasn't the only way to take a shower. The shower heads are covered with green substance and rust. The sink and the shower do not have a proper drain and black goop begins to gather in the small moat that was cut from the ground to drain the water, it is disgusting and has a smell like no other. Around from the sink is the dishwashing and clothes washing station. You are lucky to not see a rat and a mouse for a day's time in this area. The only foundational building is the store room if you could call it this and the kitchen. When I say foundational... I mean it is the only building with walls, but it lacks a roof and floor. The roof is made of tarp that gathers large puddles of water when it rains and then leaks, sometimes on the cleaned plates and silverware. The kitchen cutting table is always surrounded by flies and often times birds, and the occasional mouse of course. The fridges hardly pass as refrigeration and the burners are filthy. The resident chicken often times likes to take shits in the kitchen; that is when she isn't grabbing food from your hands. Attached to the kitchen is the store room where all the spare t-shirts and merch goes. Connected to the kitchen on the other side is the dining area, which consists of two long tables with benches, again tarps attempting to keep the rain away. Behind the eating area are two hammocks, which are my favorite thing on the campground. Near the street at the entrance are the two porta-potties we use, which seem to always be filled with shit. I can't really even describe the utter lousiness of the campground enough. This description is only a slice of the pie. The leadership of Archelon just don't care about their volunteers, it is amazing people stay as long as they do.
In three days I will have been in Europe one month. In some ways it feels much longer, and it other ways I feel I just got here. There are many things I miss, like my friends and family, like refills, hearing my language more, American football, the pennant race, Mexican food, the Chicago skyline, bowling, poker with friends, amongst many other things. I am not feeling homesick though; the new experiences I am having are settling in and giving me peace and comfort. I haven't washed my hair in weeks and it feels great, although Frauke keeps hinting that I maybe should wash it! I am getting tan from all the Grecian sun! I am eating great food on a daily basis.
I bought a large amount of extremely tasty bleu cheese for 2 euro earlier this week. It is somewhat difficult t purchasing items in a grocery store when you can't read the labels and most of the people in the store speak another language. At the cheese counter I asked the lady for 4 euro worth of bleu cheese, and after explaining with hand signals a few times she understood what I wanted. She cut a large piece of cheese which I thought would surely be more than 4 euro. When she weighed the cheese the digital price came up on the screen, 2,22. I couldn't believe how cheap it was! Shopping carts in Greece are crazy too, although probably more effective than ours. All four wheels spin, yeah, crazy huh. Maneuvering was much easier, but riding on the back was almost impossible, damn! I bought close to a weeks worth of groceries for myself and the price came to 20 euro, pretty amazing!
One of my last nights at Archelon a bunch of us went to dinner at a Greek Taverna down the road from our campsite. It was nice to have a proper Greek meal. We had homemade wine by the carafe, fish, lamb, spinach and cheese pies, baklava, and other tasty things. Our waiter was a Greek man; loud and confident, playful yet forceful. The old man who took our reservation earlier in the day was the father of the owner and he just hangs around. The whole family was visible back in the kitchen, preparing dishes with passion and joy. After dinner, we were given port on the house. It was a memorable dinner, which would have been even more memorable if the dread of returning camp hadn't been lingering in all of our minds!
One of my last mornings at Archelon I walked through various neighborhoods looking for apartments to rent. It was very pleasant to get off the beaten path and see new things. Many of the houses I saw were stunning, with vast porches, and terra cotta roofs. Most of the houses were set on large plots, often containing cows, chickens, dogs, and sometimes goats.
I am sitting in my apartment on Zakynthos. It feels very nice to not be working at Archelon anymore. It is a welcomed relief to be with people in a civilized setting. I am staying with Frauke and two of her friends from Germany. We will be here until the 12th of October. The apartment we are in is amazing. It has two large rooms, a small kitchen, a bathroom, and three balconies, one on each of the bedrooms, and another in the back. We have been cooking dinner here each night and drinking wine, very relaxing. We are also having breakfast in, which is nice. On the back balcony we have a view of the sea, although not a direct view, and can see the island we traveled to with Archelon. I am having a great time with Frauke. It is very interesting being with someone when you both speak a different language. It sometimes makes communication on an intimate and personal level somewhat tricky. Things often have to be repeated and explained. It has been an intriguing experience and one I will not soon forget!
The apartment is only 5 euro a night each, which is outstanding. After the 12th I will begin my travels around the rest of Europe. I am very excited to do this, but am in no rush because I am having such a good time now, and I wasn't expecting to be done with Archelon until the 31st anyways.
Today was the most amazing day. I am still with Frauke, Effie, and Frauke's friends from Germany, Fritz and Michael. We rented a car today to explore the island and see some of the sights. The insurance only allowed for one driver, so yours truly was given the job, which was fine by me. This morning on our way to a small village in the inland of the island we stopped at a beautiful olive grove. It was amazingly peaceful and we saw an incredibly small bird, probably the smallest I have ever seen! After the grove and driving through the village we headed towards the Port of Limnionas. Driving towards the port we were all struck by the amazing views of the sea. The stark calmness of the water and its bright blue color were strikingly beautiful. None of us had any idea of the immense beauty we were soon going to see. A taverna was placed near the cliffs edge and had an amazing view, and a path led down to a lagoon below. The lagoon was amazing, stunning. We had a swim in the lagoon and snorkeled a bit. The cliffs and the view, the sparkling water, it was something I had never experienced all in one place. After a swim, then packed lunch, then another swim, then rest, we went back up the path to the taverna for coffee and a snack.
After we left the taverna I drove us to a monastery. It was small, as was its chapel. It had a very peaceful feeling to it, only enhanced by the one monk we saw, who looked peaceful and content. It's great to have Effie with us because she is Greek-American and can speak to the locals. At least twice today this came in very handy when she asked for directions to this and that. She spoke with the monk for a few minutes about the monastery and about LA, which is where Effie is from.
Driving towards Shipwreck everyone was dumbfounded by the cliffs and the sparkling water. Not a minute after we stepped out of the car two tour buses pulled up, leaving us gasping for air among the fumes. Shipwreck Beach is an amazing sight, like seeing the Grand Canyon, or Niagara Falls. There is a small beach that is cut from a cove, over two hundred meters below where we were. On the beach is a rusted old ship. The cliffs are amazing. Sick of all the people we noticed a small road heading down away from the crowds. We walked down the road and to our amazement found an amazing view of the other side of Shipwreck. I noticed a small path leading back towards Shipwreck. After sitting and taking in the amazing views of the cliffs I walked the path below. After a five minute walk I came across one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. On one side of me, over 200 yard below was Shipwreck beach, amazing sight. On the other side were more cliffs and incredible deep blue waters with amazing rock formations. The water looked completely different on either side. We were the only people their, which made the experience even more memorable. A piece of me wants to return tomorrow. I wish I could put into words the amazing view.
After Shipwreck we were all famished and decided it was time for dinner. We found a nice tavern a few miles south of the Shipwreck. The view from this taverna was spectacular as well. We made it there just in time to watch the sunset over the sea. I was thinking about all my friends and family that were waking up to the sun that was now leaving me. On the way home from dinner I stopped the car so we could observe the stars for a few minutes. I saw the milky way for the first time in years, and hope I will have time again to see the stars before I leave the island. Amazing, just amazing!
It was a day to remember. It was so great to get away from the Chinese-Indian Restaurants and the pubs, and find our way through villages and towns, and see some amazing, amazing things. We haven't even seen what most people consider the most beautiful thing on the island, the Blue Caves. Tomorrow is another day!
Today was another great day. It wasn't nearly as spectacular as yesterday, but great nonetheless. We drove up to a lighthouse at the northern tip of the island to hire a boat to take us to the Blue Caves. It was windy and the sea was too choppy, so we had to scrap the caves, we may try again tomorrow. After the mishap we trekked out towards a craft district where Effie bought local honey from an old Greek man who gave us fresh basil and pomegranate from his house and wanted us to stay and chat, although Effie was the only one who could talk to him. After we left the village we drove the coast streets on the east side of the island taking in the amazing landscapes. We stopped for a swim and rest break at a beach . After the beach we set out for Gerakas, which is a community on the southern eastern tip of the island. Loggerhead turtles nest their, and Frauke and Effie had stayed their for a week while working at Archelon. The beach is one of the most beautiful in the bay area. There were amazing cliffs, rock formations, and the water was immaculate. Simply stunning. After Gerakas we were all pretty beat, so we went back to the apartment to cook dinner, share wine and stories of the day. It was most relaxing!
I have been in Europe a month, woo hoo! It does not feel like I have been here this long, time flies! Today was our last day with the car we rented. The roads are absolutely nuts on this island. There are no street signs, I mean none. I don't even think any of the streets even have names. The only markers are the not too often placed signs that give kilometers to different villages. It is a little disheartening looking at a map that has no street names, it makes for some stressful drives... but beautiful.
This morning we went grocery shopping for the rest of our stay here. After breakfast we called the Blue Cave boat people to see if they were taking boats today. They were not, the water too choppy again. We decided to set out for Keri, which is the south-eastern tip. It was amazing, again, beautiful sea, cliffs, trees, everything. We found a cozy spot to watch the sea and the cliffs and chilled out for a little while. We then went to the port town to hire a boat to take us to the Keri Caves and Marthonisi Island. After negotiating a price we set out. The caves were again... incredible. We stopped near a large cave for a swim during the trip. Effie, Frauke, Fritz, and myself hopped into the water for a snorkel and a swim. We had made it into a cave and Effie was getting the other three of us ready for a pose when Frauke shouts out, "Scheisse!!" This is German for shit by the way. After repeating this a few times she yelps that something bit her. I put my snorkel on and go under water; swimming along a few feet away was a small jelly fish. After we swam back to the boat Frauke had a nice size welt on her leg that was blistering up and turning red. It was obviously painful, but she was calmer than I would have expected from just about anyone. After a tour around Marthinisi Island, which is a turtle nesting beach and where I saw a mass emergence of hatchings, we headed back to the port.
We couldn't help ourselves after this. We had to get back to the lagoon. It had been calling us since we left its waters. After a drive of anticipation and French fries at the taverna looking over the sea, we again headed for the lagoon. Fritz and I swam for a while, exploring a small cave where we found thousands of small fish. We sat out on the rock at the lagoon and read, relaxed, talked, and enjoyed the scenery. After the lagoon we set out to get back home, which again took much maneuvering and some back-tracking due to the streets with no names, and the messy road system. I now understand what Bono was referring to when he said, "where the streets have no name." It had to have been this island!!!