Parakeets and Goats and Pigeons, Oh My!

Rachel Shaffer Arcadia in Greece


October 21, 2015

The Nationals Gardens of Athens are one of my favorite places to wander about and clear my head. They’re winding trails with constant changes in scenery and smells. As a chronic people-watcher, I also love going there to observe native Athenians in such a beautiful place. The Gardens have a series of sitting areas, fountains, benches, bends, and curves for anyone to use.

The first time I went to the National Gardens, I was browsing around with two of my friends and we happened to see a pair of wild parakeets hanging out on the fence. Earlier in the semester, our program coordinator organized for us to have a quick lesson in photojournalism, and I showed her that picture of the bird sitting on top of the fence. The woman who spoke to our group about photojournalism mentioned that she had never been able to photograph the wild parakeets before and I felt so lucky that I was able to see them, as they normally flock to the more tropical islands as opposed to the city area. That photograph is probably the best one I have taken on my trip thus far and will be used as a good reminder of the mix of wilderness and urban settings in Greece when I return home.

My favorite part of the National Gardens, however, is the goats. Goats are one of my favorite animals. My roommate from last year can attest to the fact that I talk about goats at least once a day. The first time I saw the little, horned beauties in the National Gardens, I almost cried tears of happiness. When I was much younger I was told about how goats, as normally solitary grazing creatures, are a symbol of independence and self-reliance. Moreover, since goats can climb to such great heights and up the sides of mountains, they are also symbols of ambition and achievement. As I first started my journey abroad, coming to Athens was one of the scariest prospects I could have ever imagined. These goats will serve as a synecdoche about my semester and will be representative of the independence I have gained here and my ability to do well in such an initially unsettling environment.

Finally, for the pigeons…one of my dearest friends from home, Alexa, visited Greece when she was younger and has a photograph of herself outside of the parliament building with pigeons all over her. Her one condition of me coming to Greece was that I had to recreate this picture before I left. In nearly every conversation I’ve had with her since I arrived in Athens, she has reminded me of this important task of mine. There are pigeons all over the city and I know that I will (at some point) capture a similar photograph to Alexa’s. As for right now, I will continue to attempt to ignore the pigeons but be reminded of home and my friend every time I see them.