Sunday, July 15, 2012

Home Again

 This is a picture of the "Fab Four", as we called ourselves (because of our love for The Beatles and just our general awesomeness), or "Team Cheerbear", as everyone else called us (because we were so chipper and apparently upbeat?). From L to R: BrittBritt (or BeeBee), Linds, Amber, myself. Taken on a typical Saturday night, at one of our homemade dance parties down at the soccer shed (where the guys stayed). They would provide location and beer, we would bring watermelon and music.
 On a Sunday field trip, obviously before going to the beach. Here, Duncan is giving a presentation on the battlefield of Farsala spread out below us. The grass we are standing in got the nickname "death grass" because it would break off and work its way inside your shoes, your socks, and then your skin. Very painful and hard to remove, and we would often find pieces weeks later still stuck in our clothes.
 This is a picture of the stoa once we had cleared and started excavating. You can see a column base in the back, and the 3 large stones in front are just tumble from the outer walls. Oh, did you know the difference between a "rock" and a "stone"? Neither did I at first, but then I learnt that a rock is just naturally formed whatever way, while a stone has been worked by man.
 I am posing in front of Building 10 here. I worked here for the 2 weeks after the students left and we had finished the stoa, and while it was hard to be back under "adult supervision" (not really because we still all did our own thing), it was nice to be working with Britt and Linds and to see how far the house had progressed.
 This is on one of our early days in the stoa, and we are clearing the awful pournari. It looks so soft and fluffy here. Don't be deceived.
Pre-dinner watermelon party. We ate so much of that stuff. It was cheap; we could buy it for 4 euro off the back of the fruit trucks that thrice weekly drove through Narthaki, shouting out of bullhorns in Greek what they were selling. We would listen for the word "carcuzzi", or "carcuzza", which meant watermelon.

I have been home now for about one week. Flights were delayed and complicated, as has been the case for me in the last couple of years. I used to have such good luck. Like, insanely making flights on time, or just happening to sleep in the airport and wake up early when it turns out the flight had been advanced a few hours with no notification. But my luck has run out! And now everything that can go wrong does. Every time.
It's kind of funny.
So when I called my parents when I got in to Toronto and told them I would be late and on a different flight in Edmonton, I just laughed instead of cried. Because who was I to think I would make it home on time and as planned?
Anyways, my cousins wedding (the reason I came home a few days early) was spectacular and beautiful, and we have had 30 degrees + since I've been back (except today is raining). And my bag is unpacked and sitting in the storage room again, and all my clothes have been washed a few times, and the "perma-dirt" has left the creases in my wrists and elbows.
I have been biking everywhere otherwise I get achy from lack of exercise, and I still wake up pretty early which is nice because I can get lots of things done.
But I miss the Fab Four. Linds and I are the only two in Edmonton this summer, and we went out dancing for her birthday on Friday. But she is mainly working on a bee farm 3 hours North of here, so I don't see her much. I miss having these girls to gossip and laugh with. To silently read books with in our quiet time, and then to dance and sing and laugh with while eating watermelon. Even washing clothes together, I miss the community of hunching over a basin out in the sun and scrubbing cloth and sharing hopes and dreams. It feels like because we lived such a simplistic life, with few distractions and fewer aspects of angst, that we could really focus on bonding and making good friends with the people around us.
Ah. What a good experience. How different from 2 years ago, yet I couldn't tell you which was better or worse. I hope to maybe go back next summer. We will see.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Last Beach Day

Today Lindsay, Amber and I went to the beach- twice in two days, which felt like heaven. We swam far out in the choppy warm waves, and took our swimsuits off and held them in our hands, and flipped and flopped around like naked dolphins. The water felt like silk, with seaweed, and with the sun reflecting into our eyes and shining off our heads I think most people mistook us for pale seals.

When we managed to drag our tired bodies back onto shore, gravity taking hold of our flesh, our bones,   we lay in the sun and rubbed olive oil on our legs and got mad at the boys who "accidentally" threw the ball in our direction 5 times, and then we went for a late lunch with seaweed and pebbles still stuck to our stomachs and and backs, but it didn't matter because the table and chairs were in the sand, and the umbrella was in the sand, and our bare feet were in the sand.

And when we were full of fried octopus and fresh shrimp in tomato sauce, and a cabbage-y vinegary cold salad, and crab legs with a mayonaise sauce, and little ice cream and chocolate bars for dessert (on the house, mais oui), and we were tired of the sunglass-stares from the other tables, and we were exhausted from the wind and the salt in our eyes, we piled in the van and drove back to the village and a hot shower which stung our new burns.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Note on What Makes a Good Day a Great Day

Today has been a great, great day. Here is why:

Being called a “mole” for eating through so much dirt so fast. Trust me, it’s a compliment. And on a dig where no comments means you are doing well, a true statement like that can stay with you for days.

When during first break your head supervisor asks if you all want to go to the beach after work (which already is a short day because it’s Saturday) because it’s going to be so hot and she notices that everyone is exhausted. Yay!

Not just the expensive good cookies for break snack, but awesome chocolate wafers and muesli bars.

Being asked to ink in the drawing of a figurine head you spent 3 hours on so that the professor can put it in her book when she publishes next year.

Actually being at the beach and the water is very wavy and the warmest temperature all season. So much fun.

Buying a white chocolate ice cream bar.

Spotting a sea turtle.

Then coming back in time for grill night for dinner: (pita, pork souvlaki, tzatziki, French fries…mmm)

Indulging in an Amstel beer. Or two.

Going to bed knowing that tomorrow is Sunday and you have the entire day off to spend at the beach.

p.s. Sorry for the lack of posting this week. We have been working ourselves to the bone without a break… bedtime every night at 9:45 for all of us. But hopefully I’ll be able to write more in the next couple of days.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Joan of Arc

Yesterday while digging, I spent quite a few hours meditating on a short film I saw last summer. It was at our old theatre, and the film was part of a reel of the old silent black and white film Joan of Arc. This movie is fascinating not only for the cinematography, but also for the story behind the film itself. Apparently the actress who played Joan was a French prostitute, pulled off the street for her tragic, beautiful, emotional face. This was the only film she ever acted in. Also, all reels of the film were thought to be destroyed or lost by the end of WWII by the Germans because of it's controversial subject matter, but a couple of years ago two reels were found in a closet in a mental institute in Austria, and were gently restored. So the reels came to Edmonton, and I was in audience for viewing the part of the film left- the trial and execution of Joan.
My friend and talented musician joined a group of other young talented musicians, and together they came up with a soundtrack that they played LIVE during the screening, in the old style, at the front of the theatre sitting in the corners of the stage.
It was so incredibly beautiful and touching and moving and even frightening. Joan's face was haunting, passive in her misery and commitment to her life's call, and the Church and political officials who were judging her were terrifying.
It's only looking back now, a year later, that I can realize how influential that 45 minutes has been on my life. It has left an indelible print of sadness and greatness and beauty all tied together. I can't stop thinking about it. And it's even more maddening because I know there is no way I can ever see it, with that original score, ever again. No one will. It makes me want to cry.

Monday, June 18, 2012


There is nothing more disheartening than being told first thing Monday morning that your two-week old spoil heap (all the dirt, branches, and roof-tile we have excavated, a.k.a. a small man-made mountain) is too close to the Western wall, and has to be moved in a week for the visit of the Director of the Canadian Institute.
It's like re-re-excavating.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Election

This morning I awoke at 6:30 a.m. and went outside and started doing laundry. Hand-washing your clothes takes time, forearm muscles, and never seems to get all the dirt out. Then we drove around to visit sites: a tholos tomb, ancient fortifications, and a recovery archaeology site in the middle of Farsala.
Then to the beach- and it was so windy, and hot, and the water was so warm. Swimming by myself with waves breaking over my head, and being tossed up and down, unable to see the shore sometimes, and currents pulling me in all different directions, I soon gave up and lay in the dappled shade under a tree and tried to read my book. 
We ate a good lunch of fresh seafood. 
And listened to night club music with the windows down in the car on the way back to the village. 
I also called my father in England for Father's Day. 
And overlying everything was this tension, this weird forced normalacy as people prepared to vote, and turned on their TV's, and logged on to their computers, and watched them out of the corner of their eyes. 
You can sense the excitement. The normally placid village is gathering in the tavernas and the ouzeries, huddling together for whatever reason- to be on the forefront of any news. It's an ancient feeling. The crowd growing in the square. The town crier swaying from foot to foot. The children running rampant, and parents snapping at them to calm down. Gossip and theories being whispered, ear to ear, neighbour to neighbour. 
And us, outsiders, being sucked in but still regarded with slight suspicion. We will see. We will see. We will see. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Butterfly Plague

All the caterpillars we saw our first week have disappeared and been turned into butterflies and moths. Brown, with soft, fat bodies. Yellow and black. Black and blue and white. Neon yellow, orange, and green. And once, a tiny, perfect miniature, periwinkle and purple one. They are everywhere. The entire mountain seems to shimmer, vibrate.
(Walking to Building 01 in the cool morning, they fly into my path and brush oh so softly against my arms and face, giving a literal meaning to the term "butterfly kiss".)
Listen, I said to Elina and Gino.
And we paused.
And you could hear the moth wings fluttering against the leaves, the ground, the air.
Into spider webs and traps.
Helplessly suicidal.