Ελλάδα: εζάρτημα δύο
It was a fairly uneventful day at the conference today, with quite a few talks on robotics, and working on my presentation for Friday. The conference hotel is large and fancy, reminding me why we didn’t stay there (it is >100€ a night). There was some confusion at registration, because I was using Nikos’ registration, with him not using it much at all. There was one very interesting talk about robots with switching batteries, and some other interesting talks about mapping, although it was all grid-based mapping which is not as much in use anymore (although Stage uses a grid-based map). The conference had precious power and free internet, so I got to bring you the prelude (προοίμιο) of these posts there, and as it is free, I believe that I will be making all of my posts from there.
Lunch was at a reasonable restaurant near the hotel (the one in the hotel was very expensive and also looked horrible). I got a mixed plate of meat, which came with some pita and fries, and also had along with some very tasty sauce which seemed to be a mix of mayo and mustard, although I am not sure.
The conference lasted until about 7pm, and after meeting with Nikos and talking a while it was easily 9pm. Hyeun and I went back to the hotel, stopping along the way to get some drinks from a shop. Fanta orange-ade seems very popular here, and it tastes very nice - it is a orange-like still drink. After that, I needed to stop at the cell phone shop again, because it appeared that the charger that I bought previously was not working. The shopkeeper tested the charger, and then got another charger and tested that as well, and the phone still wouldn’t charge. This is a bad sign - the phone is hopefully not broken completely. Thus begins my decline into desperation.
You see, Greece is fine and nice, but I have a desperate need to stay connected. I realize this after I was so happy to have the internet at the conference, and use it in the Internet cafe the night before. I was looking forward desperately to talking to my lovely, and now it looks like I won’t be able to. I try to buy a new phone at the shop, but it is nearly 10pm now, and they are closing for the night. I walk back to the Hotel, and for the first time since I arrived, I feel completely disconnected from everything near and dear to me. It doesn’t help that the shopkeep doesn’t speak english, but it is not her fault. I break down, and feel a deep sadness and futility rush over me for a while. This is not good. I need to be able to talk to my sweetie.
I try to dial the phone in the room, at this point willing to pay the crazy charges that I would have to pay in order to at least tell Diana that I can’t call her tonight and will have to try tomorrow. It doesn’t seem to work at all, and the phone is dodgy in the room anyway. Calling down to the office, I discover that I cannot (or should not) use the phone in my room because it is very expensive and will need to buy a card from the kiosk down the street. Walking to the kiosk and getting a card, I discover that the card is a pay phone card, and I will need to use the phone outside. I was shown by a nice man how to use the phone, and tried to dial to no avail. I try many times, pushing random buttons before trying to call. Nothing works - I either get a message telling me I dialed incorrectly, or the phone saying Greek words I don’t understand at me. I go back inside the hotel to talk to the owner about how to dial, and he doesn’t know how. I try again in futility a few times, and then ask some students upstairs who are from I don’t know where, but are speaking English anyway, and they tell me I need to dial 001 + number.
I go back out, and wait for the phone to be free again, and dial my sweetie. Voice mail. I need to talk to my honey, and she’s not available. Maybe she is talking to someone. It doesn’t seem to work for call waiting. I try again after a minute or so just in case she is not near the phone. Voice mail again. I leave a message, and go back inside.
The temperature is 110 F (45 C) by the way, which isn’t helping my mood at all. Also not helping is the fact that the metro police are saying that there may be a city-wide blackout, so the hotel manager advises against using the elevator. I wait inside for a while, and try once more. Voice mail still. At this point, I am feeling still very disconnected, but at least I was able to leave a message, so I go back up to my room for a while and lay on the bed a bit. After a bit, I return down to the hot street and try once more. Finally! I get to talk to my sweetie, and the world is right again.
Today’s ordeal has taught me a lot about myself and my comfort zone. I have been helped by the hospitality and graciousness of many people. My world is rooted in connectivity – at least to the people that I hold near to my heart. For a couple of hours today, I was alone in a sea of people, and the world was a horrible place – a living hell. Tomorrow I will buy another cell phone for use here, and the world will have righted itself once again.