After A Weekend In Greece

Cooper Copeland is a student at the University of Southern California and an official API Student Blogger. Cooper is studying abroad with API this summer in Florence, Italy.

It’s a battle between degrees and mosquitos here in Florence—a variation on “Hunger Games,” if you will. In this city, which is basically a medieval baking oven that chars tourists and locals alike until everyone accepts each other for being sopping wet mops that leave trails of sweat in their wake wherever they go, the majority of us Florentines without AC in our living quarters must make a chin-scratching decision: to either endure the heat until we become raisins or open our windows to welcome the slight breeze, as well as the ravenous mosquitos that have taken a liking to my legs and my roommate’s face. We take periodic cold showers that seem to last all too short, and the lack of any body of water around town has become all the more apparent. These days, the unswimmable Arno River is looking mighty tempting, sloshing about right underneath our apartment window, beckoning me to embrace Isaiah Mustafa’s moves and swan dive from the balcony. So, it’s no wonder that we fashioned an escape from the cobblestone stove that is Florence and try out a new terrain whose heat index would hopefully be a tad more forgiving.

And after a boggling sequence of planes, trains, and automobiles, we happened upon Greece, alas, also hot as a flaming meteor, but it boasted a beach with an oh-so-wonderful ocean at its feet, and that’s about all we needed to hear before donning big, delirious, dehydration-induced smiles. After getting our fill of floating in the perfect Aegean waters, we finally had the wits to realize exactly where we were: a country whose culture is starkly different from the one we’ve been experiencing in Italy. This trip to Greece marks the third country after Italy and Switzerland that I’ve visited during this summer’s wanderlusting, and as that number grows, Italy’s social and cultural norms become increasingly defined. And, I have to admit, some of these realizations were not in Italy’s favor. Uh oh, I feel a rivalry coming on.

The rustic, sprawling Tuscan countryside or the pristine, white and blue cliffs of Santorini? Good lord, Italy and Greece provide some of the most heart-breakingly gorgeous landscapes to ever grace anywhere. Both have cuisines that make me wish an Italian/Greek alien hybrid would invade the American food scene and rid us of KFC Double Downs for good. Many of the cultural differences between the two Mediterranean countries are incomparable, but one contrast that screamed out at me is the people. Greeks know how to have an unabashed great time wherever they go and they aren’t afraid to hide it.

Before I’m slapped in the jugular, yes-of-course Italians definitely know how to get jiggy and be joyful like the rest of us, but for some reason, in public, all of that hides underneath five hundred layers of scowl. I cannot express how oddly cathartic it was to walk down the streets of Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, and to have locals approach you offering to show you around rather than making you feel like having blonde hair is a felony. Even the Greek dogs are extremely helpful, somehow knowing exactly where you want to go and guiding you all the way.

The Greeks love to celebrate life, family and friends often and loudly, inviting other happy humans to join them all the while. Again, I have met wonderful Italian people that have been nothing but welcoming, but when I am given advice prior to arriving in Florence to not look strangers in the eye or smile in their general direction, it makes me feel a little awkward trying to make friends with the Italian peeps. It’s beginning to remind me of New York City, where the bustling crowds only strive to get to their final destination, looking straight ahead towards their goal and at nothing else. There is a sense of exclusivity that Italians convey that makes me feel like there’s a membership I’m missing out on. Italians take pride in their resolved quiet, which makes them pretty mysterious and alluring. It makes it all the sweeter once you form a relationship with an Italian, for it was hard earned, and, man, that must mean they really like you. And mark my words, I shall make an Italian stranger smile on the streets before my stay is through! And I’m pretty sure tickling them is not going to cut it.

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May 17, 2021 @ 15:30
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👋 Hi everyone! I'm Eryn Fleener a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, studying Early Childhood Education. I studied abroad with API Summer 2019 in Florence, Italy! I will be taking over API Instagram tomorrow, make sure you follow along!
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