Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seeing and Understanding

Our overnight bus from Istanbul arrived three hours early in Thessaloniki.  Eric and I found ourselves deposited on the side of the road, blinking and disoriented.  After asking for directions at a nearby hotel's reception desk, we trekked towards the train station.  We passed a storefront covered in plywood and I commented, "I wonder how much of this is construction and how much is vandalism."

Eric shook his head.  "I don't think any of this is construction."

Kalambaka, Greece, our destination from Thessaloniki

Of course, I realized.  Greece is in a terrible economic crisis.  The plywood was not covering the windows while the interior was renovated.  It was there because the store was closed permanently.  The graffiti everywhere expressed the frustration of young Greeks who felt that cans of spray paint were their most effective tool of protest. 

One of the best lines from the TV show Community describes Britta, the socially-conscious, "needlessly defiant" member of the cast: "She's seen the world, but doesn't get it."  I am often reminded of how easy it is to travel without considering where I am and what I am seeing.  I looked at Thessaloniki in the context of affluent parts of the US, where plywood boards usually announce the construction of something new.  Despite the reading I've done on Greece, it still took an extra kick to see it in its own context.

Have you ever had trouble understanding new places while traveling?

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