I am what most people call “the funny friend.” I can take a joke and more often than not I am the one cracking them, whether at my friends, or more usually, at myself. Self-deprecating humor is my dark specialty, a delicacy that if used correctly makes one humble and grounded. If used too much, it can come off as compliment fishy or simply just as self-hatred.
On this trip, I think I have laughed more than the past month, possibly the whole last semester. I am joking around with the funny sounding new language, the strange happenings on the foreign streets and with my exhausted friends at the sleep-deprived things we say.
Laughter, for me, is the most cathartic thing, especially in a new place with new people. Jokes are how I make friendships and humor is how I relate to others, transcending cultural boarders and regional differences.
Because of my usual open mouthed smile and louder-than-expected laugh, I know I can be taken not as seriously. And this is the one downfall to my favorite pastime. On this trip, I am one of the youngest people. I have not taken most journalism classes and I have not been on co-op or taken a class with our fearless leader, Carlene. Already, I feel as if I am though of as lesser, so throw in the childish giggle that doesn’t have to fight too hard to escape my lips, and I am easily labeled the “funny friend” over the “smart journalist.”
Some of this is my fault. As hard as I work to make myself better, my self-deprecating jokes are the most common in my repertoire and slip out more than I may like them to deep down. In a late-night conversation over blogging and drinks, the topic of these darker thoughts came up and one by one, everyone in the 85 degree apartment admitted to being way harder on themselves than need be. I am still not sure if that was worrying or comforting or both. Regardless, I am making a few vows on this trip, and if you are reading this and see me slip up, give me a gentle reminder.
- I promise to never stop laughing and making jokes to make others laugh around me. It is not a weakness or sign of immaturity, it is wholeheartedly me.
- I will not choose between being the “funny friend” or the “smart journalist.” I will be both to the best of my abilities.
- I will try my hardest to make less jokes at my own expense and try to see the value in my mistakes rather than point them out in a negative joking way. I won’t give them up entirely (because what’s the fun in that) but taking a moment before tearing myself down in the name of humor may be a healthy thing for me.
- Remind others to take a step back from themselves sometimes and have a laugh. We are all amazing journalists and in a stressful and larger-than-life environment such as this, a little laughter goes a long way.
“Good humor is a tonic for mind and body. It is the best antidote for anxiety and depression. It is a business asset. It attracts and keeps friends. It lightens human burdens. It is the direct route to serenity and contentment.”- Grenville Kleiser, an American author of positive thinking books.
“My whole house is full of flamingos. I want a concept in everything in my life. I love Alice and Wonderland. I have the cheshire cat on my back. I want to continue to make my tattoos look like a fairly tale. Backpack is from Ebay. I wanted something silly.” – Yiorgos Barbadenis, may he serve as a fashion icon forever.
“Oh my, can you take a picture of her taking our picture?” – Kelly, an Australian tourist in disbelief that someone would take her photo.
“Us?” “Guys, come with me” “You like our faces or our clothes?” – Three boys who walked away giggling before they gave me their names.
“Me alone? Im…happy? Honor.” -One of the three boys on the boardwalk.
“Only my shoes and not the whole outfit?” -Milos, 25, needed to Skype call a friend to translate how to say his age in English.
“I always wear short trousers and leggings. All different colors, the shorts and the neon leggings are the hipster thing to do. Im from Germany, but plan to live here for longer and keep wearing this.” -Dutt, 25, the coolest name ever.
“My hair is because of feminism. Black and purple is the color of feminism around the world I think. I’ve had it for 2 years now. No clue what the next color will be.” -Finn, 24, also amazing and planning to stay in Thessaloniki.
There was a day not too long ago (May 11, but the days feel like years here) in which I felt like a full fledged journalist for the first time. All it took was around seven different groups of anarchists, communists and soap makers, a stray dog and an amazing group of talented journalists beside me.
To make most of that clearer, here is the not-so-brief retelling of how I went on my first photo assignment that turned into my first full-fledged reporting piece.
Originally, I had volunteered to accompany my friends and fellow reporters, David and Bradley, on their first reporting assignment. The idea was to cover protest culture and in Greece there are apparently daily protests. Thinking I would just be standing on the sidelines and taking a few pictures when/if we stumbled across a rally, I packed my camera and a notebook for work and then a book to read in the down time I assumed I had.
We eventually found a protest at 6 p.m. at the Arch of Galerius in the city and from there, my story gets wild.
In the city square, I was expecting to find a few dozen people to be holding protest signs and possibly a black-inflatable tube @DivestNU. We decided to be punctual and showed up at 5:59 for the 6:00 show, but we were surprisingly early, as only a few signs (like the one above) were taped up and not a lot of people were there.
Slowly, the area began to fill with people, each horde of around 20 carrying a different red, black and white sign. (What’s black and white and red/read all over? A group of Greek anarchists.)
Back in the states, anarchists and communists are viewed with a certain distaste, being associated with chaos and wrongdoings. And so I walked up to them and started chatting. We met some amazing people, and most of them were willing to talk, some sans a first name and even one with a pseudonym (and who also threw me shade, I’m not upset, it’s fine, whatever).
My favorite anarchist of the bunch is pictured below. Amidst the first part of the gathering, this pup was fast asleep on the ground in the dead center of the square. Little did we know, the dog picked his nap spot to be right in the middle of the action on purpose, as we later found out that even the strays in Greece are politically active.
After the weirdest gathering of anarchists, communists, anti-capitalists and a cool couple of German tourists petered out, they took to the streets and as journalists do, we followed…or at least we all tried to.
I had never photographed a protest before, as most of my main photo concerns are usually figuring out stage lighting and not getting sweat on by up-close performers at shows. Shooting a march was a whole other animal, but luckily I had my faithful animal right beside me the whole time. As I ran at full speed, camera bag swinging and probably looking ridiculous (thoughts David/Cody?) the dog followed us as I weaved in and out down the street and even crossed in front of the march at some points.
After walking what felt like the entire world, but most likely the length of the city, we made it to the end. The end being a weird and frankly ironic benefit concert type gathering. The anarchists formed a line to get in and the anti-capitalists reached into their wallets for the three euro admittance charge. Felling strange about going in, both the journalists and the stray took that as our cue to leave. That and the presence of riot police, but only as a courtesy to them (can’t scare me in Greece, po po, I’ll call Rebecca Fong.)
In all seriousness, being able to talk to anyone and everyone with the confidence of a real journalist was one of the biggest takeaways for me. I know I usually joke that I am “just a little freshie” and can be hard on myself, but in this moment, I jumped in and was reporting with the best of ’em. Behind the camera or out with my reporter’s notebook, I think I’ve found something worth doing that in turn makes me feel worth it too.
RIP Doggo. He didn’t die, I just miss him.
If you’re reading this, I made it across the world and am safely in Thessaloniki, Greece. No small feat for some, after one illness, a five-hour layover and 17 hours of travel later left many exhausted and one back in the states (she is okay and hopefully coming on a plane tomorrow).
Our day started on Monday the 8th, when 18 students clogged the entrance to Boston’s Logan International Airport, all getting to know each other for the first time as a group. Getting there a generous four hours before departure, we all took that time to mingle and scope out who we would be reporting with for the coming five weeks, that stopwatch getting closer and closer to starting by the second.
Our first flight was from Boston to Frankfurt, Germany and totaled seven hours… after one hour of delays in Boston. I had the fortune of getting a aisle seat next to an empty middle and a cheery Indian man on the window to keep me company and point out the views we were flying over.
Despite every stand-up comedian’s joke about airplane food, the cuisine on the way to Germany was honestly not bad at all. Accompanied by *legal* white wine, the chicken and broccoli dish was akin to a decent Chinese food place and the desert was chocolate and therefore up to my standards.
As you get further into my blog, you will come to see that it will be heavily focused on food. And so after landing in Germany, I made a beeline for “something German”…and I settled on a pretzel covered in cheese and bacon. I tried, okay. Luke, another student on the trip, also tried to be authentic while in Germany and ordered a very strange breakfast of two hot dogs and a slice of unidentifiable bread. Please note the facial expression.
Take two of our journey was thankfully much shorter and for the first time in about 15 hours I slept like a baby…until the food rolled around again. After being fed, I passed out again for the remainder of the flight and in no time I felt the familiar rumble of the wheels touching the ground. It was a surreal moment, especially after just have woken up in a haze of jet lag. Like in the movies, we deplaned via a staircase and I stepped onto Greek soil for the first time.
On the bus ride over to our apartments, I am still not quite sure if it hit me that we were in Greece or just that I was somewhere other than the States. As cliché as it sounds, the atmosphere, even on the sweaty bus full of sleep deprived kids, changed to the relaxed one that only the Mediterranean has.
As much as I am excited to start reporting and getting into the nitty-gritty of things, taking in the country at our own pace has been a highlight of mine. Like a kid on the first day of school, I’m excited to see our new college campus and when we walked into our rooms and saw our American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) packets, I felt like a high school senior getting my acceptance letter all over again.
All in all, the months leading up to this trip, from the frantically raising money to the packing and unpacking to get to the perfect 50lbs, has been justified and then some.
It is 5 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and I have just walked out of the newsroom for the last time this semester, but for the first time as a sophomore. My last final exam, and the only thing standing between me and Greece, was three hours ago, and afterwards I came to the only other place besides my dorm that has felt like home for the past nine months. Leaving the doors of Holmes Hall, I left behind my freshman year and strode nervously towards my next adventure: Greece.
I have studied abroad before, but these nerves are different and more foreign to me. During my semester abroad in Israel, I was 16 and just trying to escape my junior year of high school in a new country. When I was in India at 17, I was there to film a short documentary and see the world, knowing that I would have my American friend turned Hindi translator by my side and return home in under a month.
This coming trip is much more than just an escape or a fun project, while in some ways it’s both of those things too.
I returned back to my dorm, once a double and now a single, my roommate’s side now littered with half-filled cardboard boxes for storage and suitcases to be packed and weighed to the ultimate 45 lbs (leaving five for the souvenirs I am undoubtedly going to collect). As I unpacked my school bag for the last time this year, I realized that my classroom learning is over for the summer, but my real life journalism learning is going to kick in, and in high gear, in just over a week.
And that is scary.
I am the girl that embraces travel, going to foreign places like India and Poland where I do not know the language, but also exploring the neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Boston to find something new and exciting hidden among the familiar. However, nothing about this trip will be familiar and that is scary. Exciting and wonderful and amazing. And also scary.
I think that if I were calm about this experience it would have been wasted on me. Going to a new place should be a bit nerve-wracking. Going with older and more experienced journalists will be intimidating. Seeing first-hand the effects of the refugee crisis on the shores of Greece will be heartbreaking. And I think not accepting all that would be cheating myself of all this trip has to offer.
I am so excited to throw myself off this proverbial cliff and into this trip full-force. I know that I will have the chance to tell the stories that I have always dreamed of telling and with the support of professors and fellow students turned news team staff. I will wake up with a mission, a script to write, and interview to conduct and drinks to go out to afterwards and talk about my day over. And that too is scary. Amazing but scary, and I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid. I think that it’s all part of the experience, really.
In the coming week, I will have moved out of my freshman dorm, packed my belonging and put them in storage and traded in my first-year status for that of a rising sophomore. I will most likely freak out over the weight of my ever-growing suitcase, my Greek pronunciations and just how incredible this life I am leading truly is.
And then I will board a plane. Scared, excited and ready.