Sunday, December 14, 2008

Protests & Riots Continue

Well, I have a few things to tell you about today.
  1. Visa. I got all my paperwork submitted and will be receiving a 5 year visa in a month or two! This keeps me from having to exit and reenter the country every 90 days, saving both time and money. I was given a paper to verify my legal status until my official visa arrives. It took a little over a week to get everything the city hall requested, so I actually received my paper on the last day that I could legally be in the country! If they hadn't given me the paper that morning, I would have had to have flown to another country for a day or two. It was a good morning.
  2. Language. I have one more week of my second language course. My next course will start Jan. 12. I am looking forward to the time between classes to review and practice more of what I've learned.
  3. Riots. We have had 7 days of protests and riots with this possibly being the 8th. My family was asking how close we are to the action, and I told them that we live far away and not to worry. Well, I was right in telling them not to worry, but I also want to give them an idea of how far we are from the center of Athens. So, I google mapped/directioned our apartment to Syntagma Square which is in the center of Athens. About 6 miles. Admittedly, closer than I thought. Growing up in the States, that seems like nothing. But, from our apartment to the center there are no open spaces and no highways. So, six miles of building after building, stoplight, stoplight, stoplight...six miles seems like a long ways.
    I hadn't had any encounters with protesters or rioters until this past Friday. I was on my way to class and got caught in a mess of traffic. My first thought was that the public transportation must be on strike. After a while of going nowhere I thought there must be a car accident. A little while later a police officer on a motorcycle drives through the parked cars (this, by the way, is how all the bikes drive here). Later on an ambulance forces it's way through the traffic with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Must be an accident right. Wrong. I finally reached a point where I could see what was going on. About 50 or 60 teenagers were blocking the road. They had pushed trash dumpsters under the streetlights in an intersection. Some were sitting on the dumpsters, others were blocking traffic by just standing in the way. And then, there was one guy who was selecting people to go through. Only two or three cars were allowed through at a time. When this 16 year old kid pointed to me and shouted back at his friends, they moved aside enough for me to squeeze through. I couldn't believe what was happening! I couldn't believe the cop that drove by didn't do anything. This is a small picture of what is happening all over the country. The police are handling these situations as if they have been disarmed and stripped of authority.
    I have more to say about this topic than should be legal to post. So, if you have a question or a comment or something to throw out for discussion, please post a comment.
    Our prayer for the Christians here and the churches is that we would view all of this through the lens of Christ. There are some fundamental root issues behind all this mess that need to be addressed. We pray that we are a part of the healing and the solution. We pray for deeper understanding and appropriate action. Please pray with us for this nation!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Riots in Greece

We are okay. Many of you who have heard about the situation here in Greece have asked if we are okay. We don't feel that we are in any danger. I will tell you a bit about what is going on, but understand, I don't have a full picture of all the reasons and history behind the current upheaval. The catalyst to this particular upheaval was the deadly shooting of a 15 year old boy by a police officer. This officer and his partner were in their patrol car when 30 youths rushed their vehicle. The officer claimed he was firing warning shots, but some witnesses claim he shot directly at the boy.

For starters, understand that a great number of people here are frustrated and angry with a government they accuse of being corrupt and self-seeking, not caring about the people. I can't tell you the number of strikes that have gone on since we have been here, only for three months. There was a Customs strike when we first arrived that prevented anything from coming into or going out of the country. This diverted our container and caused us problems, but also, it drained this area (Attica) of 95% or more of gasoline. I waited 40 minutes in line one day for 30 euros of gas, as they were forced to ration it out. The metro has been on strike several times. A workers strike is going on Wednesday which affects many people in many ways. One example is a friend of mine who had to postpone his flight because of the strike! So, all this to say, there exists quite a tension between the people and the government, and the people continue to seek to make their voices heard.

As for the violence, much of this can be attributed to Anarchists. Demonstrations and protests happen quite often in the city. Most of the time they are non-violent, although sometimes violence erupts. It seems that this erruption of violence can many times be attributed to the anarchists.

So, is this happening where we live? Has it affected us? The only activity I know that has happened in our section of Athens is that last night a number of youths were throwing rocks at the police station. This was the scene at many police stations all over Athens, as well as many other cities in Greece. Sunday night we had a worship event scheduled with Hellenic Ministries, but had to cancel. The ministry building is located in the center of Athens and is in a pretty volitale area in times like this. So, the word got out to cancel the night of worship for everyones safety. Not only that, but the roads were blocked off as well. The only other direct effect was the thick traffic this morning because of closed roads. Many roads were closed as they needed to be cleaned up. Several shops, banks, storefronts, etc. have been damaged and burned.

Wow, what a post! Gloom and destruction. But, I got to tell you, it's ten o'clock at night, I'm typing on the laptop, Nikki is cooking dinner, Ashtyn is sleeping, and in our home... it is quiet. Thank God, for the simple things. Today, I walked up to the rooftop of my school to take a look out over the city. From the top you can see the beautiful mountains, the open sky and the sprawl of the city. Can you imagine the heartache of God when He looks over this city, over this world, full of people he created in His image, and sees and hears and feels the brokeness of the people. But can you also imagine His excitement and joy when we become his hands of healing!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Language Course 1 almost finished!

Okay, okay. I must admit, two months between posts is quite a long time. We were without internet for a few weeks, and right when we got it hooked up, my language classes started. So, my bad. Well, since I have written, two major things that have happened with us is that we have settled (in some ways continuing to settle) into our apartment, and I have begun my language courses. The course I am taking goes from 1:00 - 5:00, Monday - Friday, and lasts for three weeks. This first course ends this Friday. I will start my next class the following Monday, December 1. It will finish on the 19th. My third course won't begin until mid-January. I took my camera to class the other day so you could see where I am spending a good bit of time for now.

This first picture is a beautiful view of the Acropolis from the roof of the school. We have two 20 minute breaks in the day. Most days I will take a few minutes from a break to take in this view and let my mind rest.

This is my class - 5 students. Everyone in the class is from a different country. The countries represented are Poland, Canada, Greece, Italy, Sweeden, and the USA. We have all enjoyed our time together and have learned quite a bit.

Many days I will drive to the metro and take that to a station that is about a 15 minute walk from the school. I was on my way back to the metro after class and took this shot so you can see what my walk is like. On the left is the Acropolis and on the right is the temple of Zeus. I am still amazed every time I see them.

Well, Nikki is making tacos for dinner and they are almost ready! It is about ten minutes 'till 10:00, and we are about to eat dinner. Ha! I guess that would be us adjusting to our culture.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Welcome to our new blog! We will continue updating our blog. We will use it to update our family and friends about what is happening with our family. This blog will be dedicated to our experiences and ministry in Greece. My goal is to update it regularly so that I don't have massive posts! I will regularly plan to post pictures, although not in this post. Please feel free to post your comments, questions, etc. to any post. And, just so you know, Nikki will be updating our family blog and Matt will be updating this blog.

Okay, moving on...

We have been in Greece now for about 3 1/2 weeks. Since we have been here we have been busy with a few things:
  1. Paperwork. Wow, lots of paperwork. Not just the paperwork itself, but all the different places you must go to get the paperwork done. We registered our marriage and our family, we obtained tax ids, Nikki renewed her Greek id, we opened a bank account here, etc.
  2. Car. We searched the newspaper here that everyone uses to advertise their cars to sale. I learned what to look for (it is in Greek) and we eventually found one at a used car dealership. We bought a Chevrolet Lacetti. It is a four door, which is great for Ashtyn, but it is a stick-shift, which is not so great for Nikki. So, I must learn Greek and she must learn to drive a manual.
  3. Appartment. We searched the same newspaper for an appartment. We made several phone calls and visited about 6 appartments before we made a decision. The one we chose was the right price, a great location, and is newly renovated. Location was an important factor for us for many reasons. Nikki's parents live south of Athens and I'll be going into Athens almost everyday, so we wanted to find a good middle-ground. I also want to use public transportation to get there. Gas, when converted, is about $7.00 per gallon, not to mention Athens traffic and the non-existence of parking in Athens. Besides, it costs .80 euro cents to ride the public transportation here. So, all that said, we found a great place and we move in in just over a week!
  4. Container. Well, our container made it to Greece. It just made it to a different part of Greece than we expected! We expected it to arrive in Piraeus port on September 24. I got a call that day or the day after that said it had arrived in Astakos Port, on the other side of Greece. We were told this happened because of strikes in Piraeus. They have had a workers strike since January where they have only been working 8 hour days versus 24, and a Customs strike began on the 22nd of September (This also affected the gas situation in the nation which left this part of Greece 95% out of gasoline. One day I waited for 45 minutes for 30 euros of gas). So, the ship was redirected to Astakos port. Piraeus port is just a few miles from our appartment, where as Astakos is on the west side of Greece. So, what does that mean? That means our price doubled! How can we be held resposible for the cost? That is a question I have asked over and over in many different ways. But, at the end of the day, in order for us to get our things, we must pay. Thankfully, Dino (Nikki's dad) has a relative in the shipping business who was able to relieve some of the costs a bit by offering his services for less. So, we are hoping to receive our container on the 11th of this month.

These have been the issues of settling that have taken a good deal of our time. We are very thankful and indebted to Nikki's parents, Dino and Debbie, for all their help. They have helped us when language was a barrier, especially for me. They have also guided us through the different systems and the way things work here that are foreign to me. Heath and Mariko, a couple from Hellenic Ministries, have also been very welcoming and helpful during our transition.

This has been kind of a nuts and bolts update of what we have been up to. I look forward to sharing with you about some of the people we have met, the ministry we are working with, as well as some moments of culture shock.

Much love,

Matt and Nikki