Day Nine (Or Driving a Manual Transmission EuroVan on Hilly Terrain with Little to No Enforceable Traffic Law)

These are my lovely roommates, terrified in the backseat:


So here at A21 it is incredibly important that the interns be able to run errands. Picking up lunch. Going to the grocery store. Getting DVDs for the weekend. Picking up House Mom at the bus stop. This sounds fairly simple.

It is not.

Running errands means driving one of two little European vans up and down hills and mountains, around scary corners that traffic flies out from with no warning, and down city streets narrower than Austin, Texas and more crowded than University of Houston at 8:25 am. The stop signs, traffic lights, and speed limits are basically suggestions. The police aren’t called unless an accident is so serious the car is undriveable or someone is injured. Right of way goes to whoever happens to be the most aggressive driver in (or approaching) the traffic circle. Oh, and these little vans both have manual transmissions.

I’m not the kind of person to hold on to fears once I’ve recognized them. Most of the time I’m gung-ho about conquering my psyche. Self-control. Responsibility. These things are at the top of my list. My anxiety about driving here was at its peak about two days ago when I made my first attempt to stop and take off again on an incline crossing a main road. I stalled twice and then another car pulled up behind me. I had to let the lovely, patient girl teaching me take over. Dear Pride, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to go ahead and get in the backseat. And it’s probably just best if you stay there. Now when I learned to drive a standard car, I had no problem. In my super flat east Texas neighborhood, I didn’t even stall out until the third time I took off, and then was under instruction just so I could know what it felt like. So failing after three tries SERIOUSLY freaked me out.

I came back to the apartment seriously distressed because one of the girls who drives is leaving next week, and the other leaves in two and a half weeks. And then it’s just me and my soon-to-be fellow intern who just drove a manual car for the first time last weekend. Doing everything by ourselves. I tried to look up tips for driving like this online. I tried to watch a video on how a manual transmission works. I thought for a brief second about everything that could go wrong and how I could possibly get out of this seemingly unmanageable responsibility.

And then I got over it. My God is the God of Supernatural Ability and Fears Overcome. And I’m pretty stubborn myself. It’s just driving around Greece, not climbing the Himalayan Mountains for goodness sake.

So today I slid behind the wheel again, drove up the incline driveway, through the electric gate, out across two lanes of traffic, shut the gate via finnicky clicker button almost as stubborn as I am, and headed up the road. Ran an errand AND THEN drove all the way back to the apartment. Crazy traffic. Crazy hills. Didn’t stall out or panic once.


In other news, I found this awesome place that sells crepes. Savory for dinner, chocolate with banana and strawberries for dessert. I may or may not have been there three times in the past 24 hours.


Also, super bright pen light + giant water bottle = makeshift lamp.


Altogether, the first nine days have been a success. Night y’all.

Day… Four?

This experience so far has seemed timeless. Part of me feels like I just got off the plane yesterday, and another part feels like I’ve been here for months. We stay pretty busy on the weekdays setting up and purchasing stuff for lessons, running errands, and staying late whenever it’s needed. Like yesterday. I fell asleep on the Ikea couch with the girls last night watching a Turkish soap opera with Greek subtitles, waiting on the other interns to get back from running late errands. They love that stuff (the Turkish soap opera… not so much the errands). I’m lucky I didn’t end up with a toothpaste mustache or something, haha.

God is definitely using all of the skills I have learned up to this point: language, dance, communication, you name it. And I’ve only had three days at the shelter. Also, I will have an opportunity coming up to do something very specific to my skill set, and I’m a little nervous because it’s the kind of thing I would love to continue and I really want to do a good job. Prayers appreciated.

On a more touristy note, I visited the city center and the White Tower today! I just realized I didn’t take any pictures of the tower from the outside, but here’s one I found just for reference:


Ok so this picture’s pretty neat looking because the tower is that distinctive building on the right all lit up. Here’s a few I took from the inside looking out to the harbor:



And these are from the top roof part looking out:





There were spiral stairs that go all the way up the inside, and about seven small floors with little museum exhibitions about Thessaloniki. The White Tower is important to the Greeks because it was originally built by the Ottomans when they took over to house (and torture) Greek prisoners, and when Greece became it’s own country again they painted it white as a sign that they were free from all that. Pretty cool.

One last thing you should all know. I am very sad to inform you that you may have been under the impression that you have been eating fruits and vegetables most of your life, but unfortunately I am here to tell you that unless you have been to Greece, you have tasted neither fruit nor vegetable. Nor feta, for that matter. Only sad, expensive imitations. I don’t think I’ll be able to order a Greek salad ever again when I get home. That’s all for now.

Day One.

Well, I made it.

And without any major delays, issues, or loss of luggage. Praise God.

Despite the jet lag, I have had a wonderful, if not crazy, first twenty four hours. My roommates are (as the one from the UK would say) absolutely brilliant. Funny, helpful, passionate, welcoming. I’m sad that two of them are going home in just two weeks. The girls living at the shelter are amazing as well. I did not expect the joyful, affectionate welcome I received from each one of them. Apparently before I arrived, the other shelter interns thought it would be funny to tell the girls that I was an old lady. Needless to say, when I arrived there were many laughs and excited exclamations. And now they call me ‘Babushka,’ which means grandmother.

Many exciting things are happening here, and I wish I could share more with you. We had a security briefing this afternoon, and most of what we do and what happens here I will have to save in my journal and tell you guys about when I get back home. A21 takes every measure to make sure that the girls, the staff, the interns, and the house stay safe. I am very impressed with how organized everything is, and I promise to do my best to share as much as I can without giving away anything that needs to stay confidential.

Before I hit the sack (it’s almost 10:00 pm here), I just want to say another great big THANK YOU to everyone supporting me with prayers, donations, and love. You have made this possible, and I can verify that your time and money could not be better spent. Jesus is doing work in Thessaloniki.