My Big Greek Vacation- Part 3: Santorini

I think I can safely say I saved the most beautiful place on the planet as the ending for my trip to Greece. Santorini is another island in the Aegean Sea and is primarily known for its sunsets. Many people say it’s the most beautiful place to watch the sunset, and I can’t say I disagree. Even looking back at my pictures I realize that no camera can capture Santorini. It defies technology.

Santorini was very easygoing. We spent most of it lounging around the pool in our hotel or out on the ocean. The ocean cruise was actually the best part of the entire trip. We were on a small ship with about twelve other people for six hours cruising around the shores of Santorini. We got to see the black, red and white sand beaches. There were cliffs made of lumpy volcanic rock due to the fault line right underneath the island. I got to sail right by an active volcano, so that was a little terrifying. The volcano was actually right off the coast of our hotel, so I got used to being near it after a while.

Back to the cruise. For me the best parts of it all were the few stops we made so we could jump into the sea and swim around for some time. It was like swimming in Mykonos only better. The water was crystal clear to the point where I could see fish swimming underneath my feet. One of the stops was at a hot springs by an inactive volcano, because there are actually two volcanos next to Santorini.

Santorini also has a cute town just like Mykonos. This one was called Oia (it sounds like EE-aa), and it’s the most famous in Santorini. It has the same white walls as Chora, but these are rounded with blue domes at the top. Despite the shops and all the great gifts they had to offer, Oia is most known for being the best place to watch the sunset.

Honestly, you could watch the sunset from anywhere and it would be just as beautiful. The view from my hotel was stunning. The first night we were there, I couldn’t stop looking out at the skyline during dinner. The sky looked like a pastel rainbow. That’s the best way I can describe it. The mountains and rocks looked lavender during the sunset too. Then there was the moon coming up opposite the sun, which is something I literally couldn’t capture it on my phone. I could watch it change right before my eyes. When the moon was lowest, it was bright red. The higher it got, I could see it change from red to light orange, when finally to yellow once the sun was totally gone. I really wish I could get a better description for you guys, because it was absolutely surreal.

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Surreal is the word that keeps coming up when I think about Greece. It was the best place I’ve ever been to in my life, and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone who hasn’t been there before. You won’t be disappointed.

My Big Greek Vacation- Part 2: Mykonos

From Athens, Mykonos is just a thirty minute plane right away. From the moment I got off the plane, it was clear that the island was significantly different from the mainland. The roads are narrow and some aren’t even paved. The landscape is hilly with dry brown grass and bushes.

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Oh, and it’s windy.

I don’t just mean Chicago-style-windy either. When we went to the beach, the sand and water was blowing in our faces. We had to weigh down our books, towels and anything that weighed less than a cinderblock. I almost lost a 400 page book to the wind multiple times.

Despite the wind, it was still the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever visited. It was amazing really. While the island was dry and arid, the coastlines were absolutely stunning. I took so many pictures of the water that I had to delete a good number of them just to make room for other photos. Even with the pictures, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that there was absolutely no way I’d be able to recapture what it was like to stand there at my hotel and see the view. Swimming in it was even more surreal. I could see right to the bottom it was so clear. The cold water was so refreshing and so salty I could float without a problem. It was really interesting to be able to notice that the water had that much salt in it. It was a lot better than the New York and Florida beaches; I came out of the Aegean Sea feeling almost exfoliated.

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On the opposite side of the island from our hotel is a completely different kind of attraction. It’s the little cobblestone town of Chora. It’s filled with cute shops selling beautiful jewelry, soap, and all the Greek souvenirs you can imagine. The buildings were this nice bright white and they had bold blue shutters that caught my eye. They were small and simple but it was still awesome to see the interesting architecture I’ve never encountered before.

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They have beautiful bougainvilleas all over Greece, but this one in Chora took my breath away.

We did get lost in the town though. Multiple times. It was actually designed that way to confuse invaders, we were told by a local. The streets are all intersecting and you can’t really retrace your steps. Trust me I’ve tried. In a few cases I went in a complete circle. I was happy about getting lost though. Each street was a little different and I managed to find a cool magnet of Socrates while I was there.

Staying in Mykonos was an incredible three days. On the last day, we took a ferry to another Greek island, Santorini. Stay tuned next week for the third and final part of my Greek trip!

My Big Greek Vacation- Pt 1: Athens

My family is Greek. We’ve always wanted to visit Greece and experience the culture of our family and so we finally booked a two week vacation and headed over. I’ve just returned from said trip to Greece and I can safely say it’s the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my life. This is a country everyone needs to see before they die. From their islands to the mainland, Greece is stunning.

It’s the third most mountainous country in Europe, something I didn’t know until I got there. The capitol city Athens is actually in a valley surrounded by mountains on three sides with the sea on the fourth. It was also very dry and hot. It didn’t rain once while we were there but there was always a nice breeze even when the temperature in Athens reached above 100 degrees.

In all honesty, Athens itself isn’t pretty. It’s home to about five million of Greece’s eleven million people, and the buildings are crowded and littered in graffiti. In other words, Athens is like a regular city. However, it does have one major twist. The ancient Acropolis sits a few hundred feet above the city right in the middle of them all. Seriously, I could see the Parthenon from my hotel room.

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The Acropolis from my hotel window.

It was a real hike to get up to the Acropolis. My family and I had to stop and rest before finally coming face to face with the ruins that are thousands of years older than the USA. There are two main ruins up on top of the Acropolis. The big draw is the surreal Parthenon. This is the temple for the goddess Athena, who gifted the ancient Athenians and thus won the right to have the city named after her (according to mythology, that is). The other is a smaller but still gorgeous temple dedicated to Poseidon, another favorite of the Ancient Athenians.

Now I’m a writer, but overall I can say that everything in Greece I saw challenged me to even attempt to describe how out of this world the entire experience was. This feeling started at the Parthenon. It’s exactly like the pictures, but it’s so huge when standing next to it. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that someone built this. Ancient Greeks used perfect mathematics to form a giant temple that still stands today. Of course significant portions are missing and reconstruction efforts are taking place, it still felt amazing to stare up at these wide columns and symmetrical design.

The view from the Acropolis is also amazing. As the center of the city both today and in ancient times, you can see out over the whole city on all sides. I could see the Theatre of Dionysus, a theatre I was excited to see after learning all about Greek theatre at Emerson. I love Ancient Greek literature, so seeing the giant amphitheater where they would put on some of the most famous tragedies was, sorry to use the word again, surreal.

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The view from the top of the Acropolis
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Theatre of Dionysus! The ancient Greeks obviously didn’t have that screen or those modern chairs down there, haha.

Athens was such a new cultural experience that I won’t forget until the day I die. From the delicious gyros and fresh food to the after-dinner shots that comes customary after every meal, I think I discovered a whole new kind of eating experience to take back to America.

But, this was only the beginning. My family and I also visited popular Greek islands Mykonos and Santorini after Athens. Each had their own amazing and unique qualities, and I’ll tell you all about them soon!

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Just hanging out by the Parthenon

The Power of Wonder Woman

I’ll be the first to say that I thought I was Wonder Woman when I was younger. In preschool I had a red velvet ribbon that I would wave around as my Lasso of Truth. Nowadays, anyone who knows me knows how big of a Marvel fangirl I am. However, if you asked me which superhero movie has had the biggest impact on me, the honor goes to DC’s latest Wonder Woman.

I grew up on Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League Animated Series, so I’ve been waiting for a good adaptation for a while. Man of Steel and Batman vs. Superman didn’t do it for me. My worst fear was that these same filmmakers would ruin my Wonder Woman as well. However, with female director Patty Jenkins, I instead found myself crying three separate times during the movie.

From the start, Diana is a girl who wants to kick ass and take names. She wants to be able to fight alongside her people and protect those she loves. As she grows, her goals never change. She changes, seeing what the outside world is like once she leaves her homeland, but always her mission has been peace and protecting humans. The opening scene she runs from the cozy plan laid out for her and heads to the training grounds to imitate the warrior women she looks up to. Watching young Diana throw punches at the air like she’s one of the great women of Themyscira made me tear up. I could see her drive and her desire to be just as strong as everyone else.

What I thought was the most telling about Diana and how inspirational she is had nothing to do with her badass fighting. The first time Diana is exposed to the bombs and bullets of our modern world, her first instinct isn’t to take up arms and fight. Instead she tries to stop Steve, Chris Pine’s character, and insist that she help every single person she passes. The crying civilians and wounded soldiers clearly affect her and inspire her to fight to protect them from any more pain. Gal Gadot really brings this empathy to life and convinces the viewer that Diana has an investment in the lives of others. It hurts her to see suffering and she’s willing to lay down her life and leave her comfortable homeland to save the world.

Diana is the hero I need, the one who doesn’t give up even when the world seems to be a terrible place. The DC Universe right now is too dark and hopeless about the state of the world. The Marvel Universe is a bit lighter but there aren’t any female characters I can really look up to and say “That’s who I want to be like” (sorry Black Widow). The first female led superhero movie in some time has given me a woman with emotional intelligence and physical prowess. Personally, I can’t wait to see how she takes the Justice League to new heights and saves the world yet again.

Summer Writer’s Block

Summer is a time to relax and have a little more fun than you’re used to. For writers this can distract us from what we do best: writing. The activity of the summer tends to make sitting down and writing more difficult, but there are many ways to make your writing livelier and to help get you writing in the first place.

1) The Great Outdoors

Writing tends to get associated with hunching over desks in stuffy rooms, but taking your writing outdoors is a great way to start writing about something you haven’t tackled before. The sunny summer weather makes it perfect to sit outside for a while without being disturbed. You can sit on a park bench, at an outdoor Starbucks, or even just right outside your front door. When you sit down with nothing but a pen and pencil, there is plenty opportunities to notice something new and exciting that could get your creative juices flowing.

2) 1000 Words

I’m taking this straight from Stephen King. I believe he strives for more than 1,000 words, but for someone with writer’s block or with a busy schedule 1,000 words is a lot. Even grabbing a piece of scrap paper or typing a stream of consciousness exercise would work for this. It’s all about “shutting off the editor.” Giving yourself a little block of time to write the first thing that comes to your mind and running with it can lead you to interesting places, such as story ideas or maybe some key words and feelings to make up a poem. Keeping this minimal writing schedule helps keep a writer in practice and prevents them from going 24 hours without writing.

3) Take Your Writing on Vacation

Going on vacation is a lot of fun. There’s plenty of time to unwind and have a wealth of new experiences. This is the perfect time to break out some writing. What I’ve always done is take a small notebook with me everywhere I go. There’ll be little and big things to see and writing down basic observations or noting settings or characteristics of people can prove to be fuel for great writing. Experiencing different cultures and places, even if it’s only from one state to another, gives a writer more flavors to include in their work. It’s kind of like running an ice cream shop where you can take a scoop from each place and add it to your writing sundae.

4) Your Small Notebook is Your Best Friend

This goes along with vacation but keeping it in mind for everyday use is just as important. I work at a retail job and I have a post-it pad next to the register for when a customer says something that sticks with me,or when I see a cool outfit I’d like to remember. Inspiration can strike at any time, and having your tools available to you 24/7 is important. In today’s day and age this can be your phone too. Use the Notes app to jot down fun things you encounter this summer and maybe someday it can turn into an even bigger writing project.

Because the summertime is so different from the rest of the year, gathering observations and snippets of writing can be extra fun. Make sure to always have your metaphorical pen in your pocket at all times!

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder

Why do some people experience depression in the summer?

Believe it or not, seasonal affective disorder, usually associated with wintertime blues, actually applies to summertime depression as well.

The harms of summer SAD are hardly ever talked about, yet many feel these effects on a day to day basis, myself included. Instead of the lethargic and empty feelings present in winter, those with summer SAD have a different set of symptoms. They are restless, irritable, have trouble sleeping and eat less than usual. While summer is supposed to be a time for carefree fun, those with SAD feel a certain pressure to have that fun. Bathing suit season is a terrible time for someone not comfortable in their own skin or the lack of a structured routine that was present in school months leaves them feeling aimless and useless.

For those with summer depression, it can seem like all is lost until August and September when things pick up again. However, there are many ways to handle summer SAD so that everyone can enjoy the sunny months.

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BTS at the Billboards

Was I screaming in joy Sunday night when K-Pop group BTS won their first American Award at the Billboard Music Awards? Yes. Yes I was. Loud enough to frighten my dog actually. Not only was this a major win for BTS but this marks the first time a K-Pop group has even been nominated for anything at the Billboards.

So here are some basics on the new K-Pop sensation; there are seven members, Jin, Yoongi, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V and Jungkook. They’ve been active since 2013 in BigHit Entertainment, one of the smaller and lesser known music companies in South Korea. BTS’ widespread fame really picked up within the past year with songs like “Fire,” “Blood, Sweat & Tears” and “Not Today”. While their lyrics are stunning, their music videos are equally impressive.

Continue reading “BTS at the Billboards”