Carrie Bostick is a reporter and recently moved from Utica, New York to work at the Inquirer and Mirror newspaper in Nantucket, Massachusetts. She studied at the Center in the fall of 2008 before going back to Siena College to complete her English honors thesis fellowship. She attributes some of the more challenging events of her time in Athens to propelling her into journalistic storytelling.
When I first found out I really was going to study abroad in Greece, I started trying to learn words and phrases that would help me get by and the alphabet, too, of course. Our apartment in Athens was right by the Kallimarmaro Olympic Stadium and we could see the Olympic rings above the waving palm fronds from our balcony. Since we lived right around the corner, we were able to get good spots for the free concert that kicked off MTV Athens in 2008. R.E.M. was the headliner, but make no mistake, the Kaiser Chiefs brought down the house with Ricky Wilson singing as he climbed the scaffolding, microphone in hand. We had already heard some of their music played as a sound check for most of the day before the concert (I still love Ruby Ruby Ruby, so you know it held up after hearing it 20 times in a day). We waited in line for hours and got to be part of what turned out to be an amazing cultural and musically historic night.
One of the coolest moments of my time in Greece was when a couple of Greeks asked me for directions. Really, American-looking me? I was over the moon and luckily, I had just learned terms helpful to get the couple where they needed to go. I was confident in where I was sending them and I was so ecstatic to be thought of as a resident and fellow Greek by actual Greeks.
My favorite trip during my time in Greece was with some friends to Santorini and Mykonos. We rode donkeys, climbed on volcanic craters, sailed on and jumped off the bow of what can only be described as a whimsical pirate ship and learned how to party with people from around the world in Murphy's Pub The sights I took in on Santorini especially linger in my brain as some of the most striking I've ever seen.
With the approach of the end of the semester, however, when things should have been winding down for the Arcadia students, events in the city started decidedly heating up. Street protests started on December 6 in 2008, when Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15-year-old Greek student, was killed by two officers in the neighborhood of Exarcheia, a place where one of our favorite cafes is located. Athenians responded to the shooting in Exarchia with protests and some violence, throwing bricks, damaging stores and setting garbage bins alight. The shooting had released a valve of public displeasure towards the police and the perceived corruption of the government. I didn't plan on going to where clashes between civilians and riot police were taking place, but, ignoring the strong advice of the Director in Athens, two of my friends announced they were going and before you knew it, five of us had assembled to see what we could see. One of us didn't have a scarf, so I used a scarf big enough for us both to spread out and I grabbed a water bottle on the way, having heard that if you pour water over a scarf, it cuts down on the chemical effects of tear gas. Once we hit the first wave of tear gas, however, I completely forgot what the water bottle was for and instead observed the spirit of anarchy that filled the city streets. Although Exarchia is where the incident occurred, the protests had spilled out into other parts of central Athens. A stream of smoke gushed from where the Christmas tree stood in Syntagma Square, now strewn with blackened ash rather than Christmas lights. “They burned the Christmas tree down?” one of my friends asked incredulously. We were surprised by several percussion blasts as we stood and discussed the situation. Luckily, the usually crowded street was empty. It was time to move on. We began to walk down Ermou Street, noting the snowflake patterns caused by rocks that had hit the glass windows of the shops. Strangely enough, they seemed almost to match the displays that they covered. We were ready to go home, walking through dissipating clouds of tear gas, sputtering through our scarves and tears, and just trying to move out of the cloud as quickly as our bewildered feet would carry us. We made it easily home, scrubbed the tear gas out of our eyes and then headed to the Arcadia Center where I caught the last of evening’s Muppet Treasure Island movie screening.
A couple of weeks later, we left the country we had called home, still mulling over events that we had seen and felt and smelled firsthand. Recording those thoughts and recollections were a part of my accidental transition into the news industry and they have been a shaping force in my life ever since.