Tag Archives: Greece

The Year

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I’ve been writing this blog for a long time now. Several years of my life have been documented in the 70 some posts that are Meet Me in Thessaloniki. In the last year or so, I have found myself in a difficult moment of life. Most of my dear Facebook friends will quickly tell you they are annoyed with the mass amount of ‘all things Greece’ dumped onto their newsfeed from yours truly. 

You see this year was supposed to be thee year. The year I have been waiting for since 2009. The one I dreamed about, envisioned over and over. And now it’s gone. Poof. It only exists in what one day will likely end in a movie script that I will indeed try to sell as a turning of age story of a girl looking to be loved in the way she can love. (Just for the record- it wins a few Oscars). The lovely heroine would of course be played by Jennifer Lawrence, because who doesn’t love her? and obviously she and I are dead ringers for each other (insert sarcasm and a genuine mix of all seriousness). 

2014 is the year I was convinced that I would move back to Greece. Since 2009 I said I would live in Thessaloniki again, I would come back for good one day, and I thought that would be in 2014. I had an interview with the school I attended while in Greece. I was a shoe-in. Or at least I thought I was. 

For the record, dear readers, or random bored human out there reading this because they liked the colorful design and my snarky attitude about J-Law- I am not an over-confident person. When I say I was a shoe-in, I genuinely mean it. I was over-qualified for this job. My heart was prepared for it. I was prepared for it. I did all but pack my bags 6 months early, and it’s a good thing I didn’t. 

God had other plans. That’s one thing that’s changed drastically since I first started writing Meet Me. I so questioned my faith back then, I was in search of something bigger, and I looked in a lot of wrong places for it. Not now. I can look in my heart for the biggest thing- God. 

For anyone who has read this blog, they know that I fell in love when in Greece, with a man named Kosta. He was everything to me. I saw him every time I went back to Thessaloniki. I would lose time over him repeatedly because I was so in love. And then he had a girlfriend. A girlfriend he cheated on, with me. I am not proud of that, especially now, when I try to set an example for the young women in my life that I lead. 

But I would justify it, I would continue to pursue my heart because he was my true love. He was mine! Or at least the invisible stamp that I had all over him said so. But as I told him the news that I could be moving back home to Greece after these five years away the words, “I’ll be married next year,” just rolled from his lips. It was a dagger. 

Had I not known better I thought I was just stabbed. How could he? How could he replace me? It was a flash. Everything after that moment. His face flushed with regret, tears. I congratulated him. What more can a girl do? Apart from call up her best friend after ending the skype call and ask her to take the bitch out. Which I did do. Immediately after getting off this call, I was plotting how to get him back. Thinking about ways we’d be together again.

And then it happened. Three days later I got the news from Greece. ‘It was a very difficult decision this year, as there were many outstanding candidates’. Another dagger. I knew what had happened. Oh and was I pissed?! God did this. God did this because I wouldn’t do it for myself. Had I gotten that job in Thessaloniki, there is no question in my mind that I would have broken up Kosta’s marriage. It would not have been a matter of if, but when. 

That is the most disgusting and ugly thing about me today. I’m pretty sure of that. I was more willing to fight for him than search for a man who would never put himself in a position to cheat. God did this. God protected me from my sin and from myself. God gave me an opportunity to be better. I’m going to take it. 

In the last several weeks, God has been doing crazy shit. Sorry for the cursing- but it’s legit. Crazy. He is uncovering things in me that I haven’t felt in years, if ever. He is putting things in place in me as his child that I didn’t think I was good enough to be part of. 

I always thought I wasn’t a real Christian because I was never able to experience things the way other Christians were in my life. It’s funny how amazing hurt can be for a child of God. If you look really carefully at the dirt of your soul and examine why you put it there, you might better understand why God loves you. And that’s just it. That’s what I realized in these last couple of months. In January and February, there were a lot of days I thought I was going to die. I was so scared, so depressed, so hurt by things around me and I just felt like I was drowning. And then God would do something and show me bigger things. 

For the first time ever, I could see my life from an outside perspective. I was like a third person to myself. I looked on my situation with a broken heart and just wanted to fix myself. For the first time I have been unapologetic about my faith. And it has reaped dividends. Friends of mine, one of my best friends accepted Jesus into her life. I have had more God talks with people in the last two months than I have in the last eight years. 

There’s a saying that sometimes God closes a door to open a window. In my situation, God slammed the door and I am so grateful. He saved me from what I know would be more hurt, more disappointment and just another let down. God is preparing me for far greater things. I am charged and ready to be that person. 

Greece will forever be in my heart, and probably a piece of me will always love Kostas. But my heart is not about to be put in a position to be broken in Thessaloniki again. There will be a day when someone meets me with a heart that is capable of loving me, the right way. Maybe that will be in Thessaloniki…or maybe somewhere else…the year and all those to follow, is still young.

What I Want for Tomorrow

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Tomorrow is my least favorite day of the year. January 27. I used to love it, just two days before my birthday and the day before my sister’s. It was always a day that lead up to fantastic things, but never really meant anything in my life. If it ever did mean anything it meant there was a snow day. But not anymore.

January 27, 2009, three years ago tomorrow, was the first day I spent in Thessaloniki. January 27 was the beginning to the most meaningful journey of my life. I look at January 27th as one of the best days of my life, but today I witness it in a new way. I long for that life again. I long for the life where I had no clue where I was going, what I could do and had any dream and possibility in my grasp. 

Greece allowed me the capability to fall in love, to travel, to learn and explore. It taught me to trust again and to give my heart to others. Greece gave me my soul back. My wonderful friend Sam, who studied abroad with me in Greece posted this blog on her Facebook page earlier today. 

 What 20-somethings Want 

I read it, and instantly felt connected to this person. This blogger claims to want someone to pick them up from the airport, to live closer to their parents, to find happiness, a nice job, a good couch, and someone’s nice penis/vagina. They want to get rid of unnecessary relationships and high school bullshit, and “… want a job, a vacation, heath insurance, validation, a back rub, a scalp massage at the place where you get your haircut, people who are jealous of you, an ex who won’t stop texting you when they’re drunk, Twitter followers, happiness maybe sorta, someone to buy you lunch at a fancy restaurant, a mentor who can tell you what the hell to do with your life, a reliable internet connection, a reliable human connection, a gift card to the grocery store, dinner parties with friends where everyone will pretend to have their crap together for just one night, a nice flirty text message to wake up to every morning for the rest of your life, for everyone to like you even if you don’t like anyone, and one of those nights that doesn’t end till 9 AM and reminds you what it feels like to be young and alive. Oh, and $$$. That’s all.”

 

So here’s what I want in my life 3 years after Thessaloniki. 

I want someone to pick me up from the airport, because as Love Actually says, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.” Every time I’m at an airport my heart breaks a little bit when no one’s there to greet me. That’s why, if I can help it at all costs, I will always be there when a friend comes home on an airplane. I will be there, with a sign and love because that’s what life is about. 

I want to establish worthwhile relationships that will outlive the ‘bullshit’ of college. I created many of those while abroad, and a few in college, but overall, there are still so many people I’m friends with now that in six months will probably never speak to me again. 

I want to open my mind to the world again in a way that education cannot teach me. You can only learn so much in a classroom, and France has so much more to teach me when it comes to living my life. I am ready and prepared for those lessons. 

I want to be able to afford to buy my friends a nice dinner. I love to spoil people and having that kind of income would be nice. Mostly I want to be able to treat others the way I feel about them. I want to show people the kind of love with a random bouquet of flowers or tickets to a concert. I want to be able to, for the first time, be able to spoil those around me. 

I want a significant other. I have now been single for about 2 years, and I am ready to let love envelop me again. I want to find someone who has the same necessity to travel, to understand the world and its twists and turns and I want someone who can make me feel worthwhile at the end of the day… yea, that’d be really nice. 

I want to have the time to speak to my parents and sister every day. I love them dearly, and I just don’t make the effort as much as I should. In the end, they still know they’re my favorite people in the world, but I want to show them how crazy I am about them. 

I want to be fluent in three languages. English- check. Greek and French, not so much. Working on that. By the time I graduate from my master’s I plan to have French half way checked. Greek is a work in progress.

I want to be published. I don’t care where or how, but I want my words to mean something to someone. I blog because it’s an outlet, but to know that someone that I have never met could be impacted by my words and actions is something I want for my life.  

I want the time to read. I want to be able to sit with a book for a few hours a week and go to town. 

Mostly though, I want to continue my travels. I’m not talking France, because yes I’ll be living there within the year… I’m talking about true travel. No plans, just a flight itinerary and a few new countries. I have the goal to visit 30 countries under the age of 30…I need to keep that promise to myself and go to new places.

And of course once I graduate with my 2nd degree, I want a great job (preferably in Europe, but I’ll take the U.S. if I have to), a flat I can call my own and for my dog, Teigan to join me

Lessons Learned

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Does it ever occur to you that the relationships you nurture most are ones that others could care less about?

I had that epiphany today. In the past few days I’ve had two wonderful conversations with two very important men in my life. The first was with my friend, Brando, who’s in my program at UNI. He and I have been friends since freshman year and now as seniors, have become close. After he dated one of my roommates, we got to know each other even better, and today I respect his opinion as truth. I know he will tell me truly what he thinks, and that’s powerful.

The second conversation I had was with my ex, Adam. Those of you who read my blog, know our relationship as a very volatile one. Adam and I go from being friends one day to not speaking the next. He hasn’t been a constant in my life since 2008, but I still consider him as one of my best and truest friends.

Until yesterday, I hadn’t seen either of these gentleman in weeks. The beautiful thing about these relationships though is that neither side has to really nurture it. Neither side has to work to develop anything. Weeks go by and the second we’re back having a drink or coffee together, everything’s the same. These are the relationships I should value more in my life. I have people in my life that I see maybe only once or twice a year that are more genuine and legitimate in their intentions of our friendship than those I see on a daily basis.

I have been so concerned with relationships around me that I thought I was getting something out of. Relationships that I gave and gave and gave to but the one time I should be able to take, no one’s there. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning time and time again in the past few months.

It’s funny, it dawned on me today that while I was abroad, I had- outside of speaking with my family- 3 people I talked to/skyped with on a normal basis. Sydney, Ashley and  Conor. That’s it. One relationship I have in my life hurts me a lot with this. I just figured it was how she was while I was abroad, when we were best friends before I left for Greece. I spoke to her twice the entire semester I was gone. Twice. Today, she takes time on a weekly basis to skype with friends around the country and the world. But never was I given that kind of love. Maybe I can attribute that to her age then and now, maybe I can attribute that to her going abroad after I did and understanding that need, or maybe I truly can attribute it to her not giving an F… either way, it still hurts me today to think of that.

So… here’s the lesson. Learn to choose your friends wisely. Very wisely. Recognize when things are reciprocated to you and when you’re being used. Most importantly, make time for the relationships you truly value, that deserve your nurturing. To the rest of those relationships that are only on the surface, don’t burn bridges… but just remember that those people will not be there for you when you expect or need them to be.

counting the days

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1,084. 

Days it’s been since my life changed forever.

942.

Days it’s been since I first returned.

152.

Days it’s been since I last set foot in my favorite place on Earth.

0.

Days it’s been since I’ve thought about Thessaloniki.

In eleven days, it will be the three-year anniversary of my landing in Thessaloniki for the first time. That day marks such an important part of my life and I commemorate it every year. It doesn’t get easier with the time, as some may  think, but harder. I arrived in Thessaloniki on January 27, 2009, just two days before my 20th birthday. I spent my 20th with one other girl, Megan, a student from Iowa State. She and I were the first to arrive in Thessaloniki for school and had the longest time to adjust to being there…or rather to cry.

At least that’s what I did with my time there. I don’t do well alone. I never have. I thrive in a group. Throw me in a room with 100 people, and I’m bound to become friends with at least 40-50% of them. With Megan it was she and I alone to fend for ourselves. There was no one to lean on but each other. She and I had just met, so we weren’t exactly best friends. The nights I spent awake from jet-lag I sobbed calling my best friend Ashley from Skype asking myself what I was doing. I would weap over my bible crying to God about why I chose to do this. Ha, joke was totally on me though… good one, God.

I hated my first two weeks in Greece. I was miserable. To make matters worse, my roommate was the last to arrive, as the freak snow storm in London held her there while everyone else was bonding, I was still alone. Poor me, right? Well, yes… at the time, that’s exactly what I was thinking. My mind was quickly changed. The second my roommate with the same name, Jacqueline, came, I was ready for my adventure. Orientation began and I made friends very quickly. From that point on, I had my παρεα. My friends I’m still close with today. Jacqueline, Lauren, Vana, Chrysanthi, Simone, Sarah, Alyssa, Jill, Allison and Olga.

I still count the days when I get to return. Being in Thessaloniki is the hardest thing to explain. It’s this gorgeous combination of old meets new. The taste of the air is a mix of sea breeze and sweat, the scent of cigarette smoke and frappes. The people are beautiful, bronzed from the sun and marked by their thick and delicious accents. How I could go on. Salonika always will have my heart. A love affair will always go on each time I step into its graces off a plane, train or boat. Sweet Salonika, three years could never be just a memory. How many more days must I count before we’re reunited once more?

Just like Paul

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“But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought) out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you- certainly, I, Paul, did, again and again but Satan stopped us.”  “But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.”  “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”

1 Thessalonians 2:17, 3:6 and 3:9

This is how I feel, over 2000 years later. I have brothers and sisters in Thessaloniki, and I have some of them in the United States. I miss them like we were torn away. I have the same intense longing that the Apostle Paul had. I constantly want to go back, as did Paul, but so much stood in the way. Frickin Satan and bad flight prices.

I know the feeling of being town away. I was the first flight out of Thessaloniki on June 6, 2009. My flight left at 6 am, and I was out until 4 crying and attempting to say my goodbyes. That was one of the worst nights in my life.

smiling through all the tears

I felt as though I left my entire heart in Greece. Every time I go back, it gets a little bit easier to leave again. But that first time was brutal. In Thessaloniki, there’s the White Tower– the city’s most famous structure- which is what you see in the banner at the top of this page. The night I left Thessaloniki, I was at a place called Dogs, where many of us frequented. Dogs is on the port and just a few blocks away from the White Tower. The night I left my best friends at Dogs, I passed by the tower in my cab, but I never saw it…my tears were coming too thick.

I was torn from everything I knew for six months. I was torn from the people, the places, the culture and food that I loved. I’ve now been back to Greece twice since 2009 and my love affair still continues. Today, it’s easier though, because I have my very own Timothy’s. I’ve said in past posts that I have two friends living in Thessaloniki now, and they are my messengers. They remind me so much of my fond memories there, and constantly send me love from Greece.

I look back at my time in Thessaloniki like it didn’t actually happen. It was truly a dream to me. Everything I did, everything I saw and everyone I met, I loved…with exception to one crazy girl in our program.  I still keep in close contact with my friends in Thessaloniki and around the U.S. that shared in the love Greece gave us.

We’re part of a family that can’t be touched, so similar to the Christian brotherhood Paul built in Thessaloniki. It’s on a day like today I just love that these verses are in 1st Thessalonians. When I have a day that’s hard and I miss Greece like crazy, I always go to Thessalonians and read. It’s a comfort to know that more than just my friends and I felt the same way leaving this perfect place.  I constantly think about how I could thank God for what I was given. The opportunity to meet and love so many amazing people. The ability to live on my own and prosper in a country completely foreign to myself. I can’t thank God enough for what he gave me. For the joy I was brought through everyone in Greece.

My joy is in travel. I’m blessed with that calling, and I know so many of my wonderful friends here and there feel the same way. We were given our own family while in Greece, and we’ll do anything to keep it alive. Just like Paul.

one sentence summation of relationships

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Today I’m going to preach.

It’s a rare occurrence when I openly discuss my faith with people I don’t know, purely to the effect that I don’t want to offend other’s beliefs, but today I think we can all learn something.

I went to church this morning at good ol Prairie Lakes Church where I’ve attended since I’ve come to college, and Pastor John took us to Philippians today. There’s a few verses in Philippians 4:1-3 that I think are pretty awesome. In Philippians, Paul is just about to be executed and he writes a letter to the people, and calls out two women in particular:

“Therefore,my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal people, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

Alright so here’s the deal. These two chicks Euodia and Syntyche were butting heads over something, arguing and at war with each other, over what? We don’t know. But they are in history, called out by Paul, to come together and agree in the Lord. One thing Pastor John asked this morning, “What’s going to be your one sentence summation about relationships in your life?” woooo, that’s good right? Pastor John totally get’s points for that one. So I got to thinking, what is that sentence gonna look like? Cause I certainly don’t wanna be called out in a book that will last all of time. Then I thought back to verse one, stand firm in the Lord. Earlier in Philippians Paul says that our hearts and minds must be right, and that we should stand firm in the Lord.

It’s the wounds that connect from head to heart in our body and souls that get us in trouble. We begin to poison ourselves with the hurt, that it’s okay that my father beat me or it’s okay that I lied and cheated. Oh no it’s not. We are letting the hurt in our hearts poison our minds and we’re letting the hurt in our minds overpower our hearts, and that’s not a good thing. We lie to ourselves and say we deserve these things to happen to us, but let me tell you a secret, we don’t.

My one sentence summation of relationships? It can be one word, hurt. I don’t want that to be my legacy. I don’t want that to be what my children see one day, what I give to others. Not hurt. I’ve poisoned my mind and my heart with the hurt from my past relationships. I looked back at Greece while I was sitting in church today thinking about it. I fell in love with a man and he lied to a woman that he loved to be with me behind her back. Neither she nor I deserve that kind of poison to our hearts.

That’s why Paul says stand firm in the Lord. We have to stand firm in our hearts and minds to know that we deserve more, God gave his son so he could give us the world. Man, it’s stupid that we plan anything isn’t it? God’s got bigger dreams for us than we ever could have for ourselves. Now that’s power.

The relationship I deserve is not one of hurt or lies, but of truth, of faith, and unconditional love. I want my one sentence summation to be one that spreads the power of my love, not the destruction of hurt.

So, do you have that fight going on with a family member or friend that you question, was it really worth it? Are you in a relationship that brings you down and doesn’t glorify God? If so, reflect on that, I know I did this morning. What’s your one sentence summation going to be? If you’re not happy with it, think about what needs to change. I dare you to stand firm in what you know is right in your head and heart.

the capability of a traveler

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Today I had a discussion with my ex-boyfriend, who for years was also my best friend. Six years later, after a world of changes, he and I are finally parting ways amicably. What’s truly amazing is that I’ve now been gone from Greece for just under three years, and to this very day, I feel a greater connection to the world through them than the people I’ve had right around the corner for the last 22 years of my life.

You see, I may not be the most educated person, or know the most about the most things. I may not be politically correct, or have the right views. But I know one thing. I know that travel has the capabilities to unleash all of those things. To learn and grow, to understand more about more things. To understand what’s politically correct and why, and actually care about it. To learn what views are right for you. Travel has that capability.

I was 12 years old when I started my life journey in travel. I was a student ambassador for People to People, a program created by Dwight D. Eisenhower. That journey took me to Australia. I still keep in contact with some of the friends I went with, that was 10 years ago.

Today, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity of visiting, learning and exploring close to 20 countries. I’ve met people of all walks in life, befriended them, and learned from them. From an ex-heroine addict now clean for three years to the heir to a multi-million dollar company, travel has opened my eyes in new ways.

So yes, I may not be the most intelligent, most politically correct, or the most hip… but I am a traveler. The people I know and will meet in the future have a greater capability of teaching me the real lessons of the world than those around my corner.

That’s why I believe my life is in travel, in encouraging others to explore the world around them. There’s no greater way to learn than to experience it yourself.