What a whirlwind of a week! This entire first week has been full of meeting new people, attending various orientation sessions, and discovering all that the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) has to offer.
There are so many more people in residence at the school for the year than I imagined. In addition to the fourteen regular members, there are many visiting associate members who are primarily former regular members completing their dissertations or are junior faculty in America. The introvert in me was overwhelmed by the number of introductions I had to make and names to remember. It’s safe to say, though, that living in Athens for a year will make us all more than just acquaintances at a school.
We had the pleasure of attending not one, but two lectures in our first week here. Mary Lefkowitz, retired from Wellesley, gave a talk about the Trojan Horse and why smart people make bad decisions (a not-so-subtle reflection on the 2016 US elections). The second was a panel exploring the intersection between democracy, immigration, and women in ancient and modern Greece. Both events opened my eyes to the amount of influence that the ASCSA has in the city of Athens as an intellectual community and as a source of community engagement. The ASCSA is involved with supporting refugees in Greece who have come from Syria and beyond.
There is plenty of opportunity to loosen up a bit. Despite is regal appearances and hallowed grounds, not everything is so serious at the school–there is plenty of time for shenanigans and fun. The first monthly trivia night was a hit. Despite a solid performance by my teammates, we settled for third. We’ll certainly be back for more next time. After the Director of the School’s welcome party in the ASCSA’s newly renovated gardens, many of us found our way to a British pub called the Red Lion where the British School of Archaeology hosts a weekly darts-night. Somehow word got around that I was good at throwing, and I was made a team captain. Despite my first throw being a bull’s-eye, my team was humbled. We met some folks from the Swedish Institute, the Canadian Institute, and the Swedish embassy too. It was a truly international affair.
My body is not a fan of radical time-zone changes. I’ve been here a week, yet I’m still waking up at 4 and 5am. I take the opportunity to read and write, but more importantly, I get out for a run before the hot Greek sun comes up. The streets are mostly quiet in our neighborhood of Kolonaki at that hour. Two loops around Mt. Lykabettos (pronounced, Lee-kah-veh-tos) produced bats hunting around a lamp post, old taxi-cab drivers getting started on their day, and one other solitary runner trudging up and around the hilly loop.
We regular members now finally have the weekend to prepare for our site reports that we will give starting on Monday when we venture out on our first of many trips across Greece. We will wander our way into western Greece where I will give a report on the site and oracle of Zeus at Dodona. Then we will travel into northern Greece for another week. I’ve never been to any of the sites in these areas, so it will be a side of Greece I’ve never experienced. Since English is less commonly spoken outside of Athens, good thing we’ve all been learning and practicing our Modern Greek with our teacher Ourania (her name means “heaven”).
It will likely be a few weeks before I post again, so here are some pictures from our first site visit in Athens to the Temple of Hesphaestos. One of the perks of being a member of the ASCSA is the access to often restricted areas–but out of fear for posting images that the local Ephorate may not approve, I can’t post anything too revealing. So here are some images of the Hesphaestion, the Greek agora with the Acropolis in the distance, and a look at Mt. Lykabettos from the Hesphaestion.