Greece Days 1-2: Athens, Feta, and Casual Sexism

The #TooTurntTwerkTeam takes Greece 2k15.

That has to be the most important thing you, my reader, takes away from the next few blog posts about my “yay MPhil is done” trip to Greece with my Cambridge ride-or-die Imogen. We have something very special in store too, but I will leave that reveal for after the trip is over.

The first two days were spent in the capital city Athens. I have been to Athens before, I should note. I went there for three days that included Christmas in 2013 with my entire family. It was wonderful. It was not that cold and I was in awe of all the ancient sites. It has been equally as jaw-dropping to see such splendours this time around. The only difference is that it is a million times hotter. I start sweating the moment I leave our apartment (which is great) and round about two corners.

We arrived yesterday after a fairly easy time at Stansted–my least favourite airport in the world. I had a friend liken it to hell one time, and I find that an apt comparison. We decided to do airbnb in the city because we found a great place that was an entire apartment available in the city centre. It really is a fantastic location and price. However, it came with a downside. The man we are renting from is not just a ‘casual’ sexist, as the title of my post would let you believe, but an ouright sexist. From the moment we met him, he would say that something was for a woman (something obviously very traditional and stereotypical) and not for men. Shopping street: this street is ‘for woman.’ Ice cream: that is ‘for woman.’ I’ll pause and say that Imogen pointed out to him that men like ice cream too, in which he felt the need to tell her a story about how he does like ice cream and when he eats it he eats x kilos of ice cream, which I can only guess is to let us know that men eat more ice cream than women who are delicate creatures who cannot handle large amounts of ice cream. Even when he mentioned a restaurant he wanted us to eat at, he said that it did not have a lot of alcohol which is good because women don’t drink. At this point, I was physically biting my tongue to not respond to him, and just said “Oh thank you. Yes, I do not drink at all. We will be careful. Thank you so much for looking out for us.” While I thought this would be the end, as we neared the apartment, he had to get in one last comment. It was not enough to force us to entertain a 15 minute conversation filled with sexism, but he had to get one jab in to let us know he was racist as well. He pointed to Imogen and said to her that she was beautiful (which, she is). He then points to me and says that I’m beautiful but that “this colour I cannot do.” At this point I tasted a bit of blood as I was biting down further on my tongue and turned away before we lost the apartment.

No one asked him to like this colour.

Man aside, the last two days in Athens have been wonderful. I only mention the story because it is a typical anecdote of my encounters with sexism and racism abroad. My intersectionality is a cause for “double trouble” as I travel, and it interests me to take note of it and the forms it takes. Beyond this, however, we spend an incredible two days in the intense Greek sun trekking around the ancient ruins, soaking in every word written in museums and archaelogical sites about a time period that is long gone. But so much of what we know of modern cities and democracy was birthed right here in Athens. What they have managed to preserve is beyond remarkable.

There was one point when we were at the Panhellenic stadium and I sat down on the marble slab seats. I closed my eyes and breathed in deeply, despite the hot air. I felt so blessed. I am blessed. To set eyes upon and sit in the midst of the wonders of history is to remind myself of why history matters; why everything that is today is a culmination of what has happened. We cannot forget that. And as I walked earlier through the gates that ancient Olympic athletes walked through, in search of victory and glory, I felt reinvigorated for the post-masters degree journey that lies ahead.

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