Weeks 8, 9, 10 – Massachusetts

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Hello World (part I),
28th of December of 2015, here.

I am typing these words having already spent 11 days in Boston. That’s a lot, but actually I am kind of stuck here as I am waiting for a package and I can’t leave before it arrives. It should have been here before Christmas, but… nope. And the thing is I don’t know when it will be here so I can make a schedule. I feel like a fish out of the water… I wanna ride! I wanna see USA! You may say, ok, look at the bright side, more days to explore Boston!

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Troubled.

Well, not exactly like this. I don’t know why-what-how but my situation is one I am feeling sleepy all day. I drink coffee but I feel sleepy. I had days during these first U.S.A weeks that I was sleeping for 15 hours at night and then had 2-3 hours of sleep during the day… Apart from that, I spend some time in Church, since it’s Christmas time. I have found an excellent Bulgarian Orthodox Church very close to where I stay and I am going there every other day.. I enjoy services there so much and I am very happy I met some young Orthodox people from the States.

I also had my bike repaired by Shean at Giant Boston bike shop… I am grateful to this guy because he was so generous… He cleaned my whole bike (which I hadn’t done for the last 2 months….), he replaced the chain and the cassette for free, and he also gave me for free a lot of stuff…Appreciated.

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Furthermore, it annoys me so  much that I am in the USA for the first time.. everything is so new and… special, and my camera is not working. The official service needs 300 $ and I have to ship the camera. The unofficial service needs about 150 $ but they don’t know how much time they need cause they have to order stuff and this takes time… The camera just gives me a black screen. All the indications is there on the lcd but no normal picture can be captured, only plain black.. I saw a lot of youtube fixes but none of them gives results. I like my camera so much. I am now dedicated to fix it myself.

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In addition, I am a bit worried about my budget running low faster than I estimated. I spent for food, accommodation and miscellaneous stuff for 7 weeks in Europe, 840 €. Which is…ok, I think.. But I also spent 220 € more for getting to the airport and buying extra kilos (and some 100 € on software for videoediting-timelapse).

Now, as far as the USA in itself is concerned… First impression? I am amased! People here are FRIENDLY, OPEN, KIND, GENEROUS, SMILEY, HELPFUL (so far, eh)… Example: When I landed here I was trying to ride from the airport to the city center without getting in the highways.. After some time and many attempts I was desperate and got into the mini market of a gas station. I asked the cashier if she knew a way to the city that is appropriate for cyclists. She didn’t know, but she started asking “Hey sir, do you know…”. After 3 minutes there were 5 people around me, something like a consultation, trying to find out what’s the best way for me to get to the city… I was smiling like a 7 year old..

But everywhere really – you go into a shop, you ‘ll probably find someone who likes the his/her job and is smiley – I went to a cafe yesterday and the lady at the cashier asked me “how are you today, sir?” – (yes, I know it’s part of her job, but I can tell when someone is unwillingly doing something or not).. Even random people on the street are very helpful. I am happy to ask for directions here, really. One lady at the bus stop just started talking to me about how people are afraid here of the strangers (and that they have guns at home) and stuff. We had a good 20 minute conversation.

There are also a lot of guidelines, here, on how to behave. Labels on the street, on the shops, everywhere. And also, do I need to mention that everything here is… extra large.. The streets, the cars, the supermarkets…

Oh, I should mention that I celebrated Christmas at the Annunciation Greek orthodox cathedral of New England. After the Liturgy I was invited at the house of Papadopoulos family at a festive meal that was such an experience for me and I enjoyed it a lot. These people just opened their house to a total stranger and I am so grateful about that. The father, Mr. Alekos, has spent over 40 years in the U.S.A and, in answering my questions, he was telling me how valid they are the “American Dream”,”…the land of opportunities” etc. (if you are working hard, of course, and you are relatively smart).

At this point I wanna thank from the bottom of my heart Marios and Mihalis for their warm hospitality in Boston. It was really important for me to have my first days in the U.S.A in a proper and comfortable place.

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Mihalis & Marios, post-graduate scholarship students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Well done guys and many thanks!

On a personal note, now,

Ι felt kind of lonely these days. I mean… I enjoy being alone, especially when I am riding – it’s fun. [Of course some company would make the journey less boring, sometimes]. But, these days, I don’t know – a bit lonely. Not some being-far-from-home-during-Christmas loneliness, no. I know there are people who love me and I can call them whenever I want and feel their presence.. I hadn’t really something important to share. But sometimes you wanna chat with a close person of yours just for everyday stuff. You know, just share some thoughts on ordinary stuff. How have I dealt with this feeling? I responded to my self with an “empathetic nudge”: imagine how many people live alone in small or big apartments, how many are alone in  hospital rooms, how many elderly don’t have someone. Or even, and that’s closer to my reality, how many fellow-Greeks may feel being abroad, away from their country, away from their beloved, distanced from a place they love. Conclusion: when I feel bad or awkward, I look from above, the macro-image, I place myself in a broader context. At the time, I felt being one with all these “stand-alone-units” around the world -> not alone anymore. Cool how perspective and thinking can change your feelings… (When I finished this paragraph,  i grabbed my coffee and I saw this on the cup )

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What are the chances???

Oh… and there is another feeling knocking my door these days. I think this is because I am not changing location for some time and I am pretty much alone to spend some time… thinking in retrospect.. It has to do with… well, how realistic is my travelling proposition. It is this fight between the colorful (dreaming and believing in the potentiality and in the inner hidden powers of yours) AND the neutral (living in a reality of limited time, money, energy).

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I think the seed was this animal cry in Paris… I got afraid my friends at that point. Fear. I had never experienced fear in my life. Like fear, real sense of wearef*ckednow. So, these days I am having recurring thoughts about encountering bears, about snakes. And all these obstacles I had so far, with the weather, with the road, with finding where to sleep. I mean, at the time  (when I was having all these issues) I had no negative thoughts or even negative feelings [cold? ok.. I am cold but hey I am out here – going around with my bicycle – from country to country – how cool is that? -> no cold) – you know, I was so excited. I am now, too, but now I can look back at the first completed part of the journey and look again in front of me. And be more realistic. Latin America.. Africa….Africa… Africa…

Of course I want to go there so much and see these people – how they live, how they are. I had no thoughts of by-passing a part of the journey. I am just feeling a bit afraid and… awkward and.. i-am-so-small-this-is-too-big.

Before we move to “Hello World (part II)”, which is below, you can have a look at how I get to Boston.. Or… 19 minutes on “25 hours in a day”!

Hello World (part II),
3rd of January of 2016.

4 days so far in New York City. What’s been happening….?
I couldn’t wait more for the package to arrive and I also didn’t want to ride on the 31st, so I left on the 29th in order to ride a good 370 km in two days and reach New York… Well, I woke up on the 29th and everything was white! (First day for this year!) I was happy looking the nearby roofs full of snow but my smile faded away as I saw the streets condition. And that was….. snowy, icy, waterish… 😦 I said “well, no matter what, I am leaving Boston to-da-y”. This is what followed.

So I said “ok I ‘ll take the train”.. I went to Worcester Train Station. There was no-one there. No tickets office at all. Just a security guy – I told him “I wanna go to Hartford, do you know..”, he said “I don’t do Amtrak, I do Security” (*Amtrak is the National Railroad company)… I went to the platform, I asked around, they told me “you can’t go to Hartford directly from here, you have to go to South Station and then take the train to Hartford”. I bought a ticket from the machine – it was just 10 $ and I am like “yes, South Station must be somewhere around here…”. Well… no.. I started talking with some people at the train and I realised that South Station is the central station of…… Boston! Goodness me, why didn’t they name it Boston Central Station – Boston Train – This Is Boston, People or something similar.. Ohhh (**then I remembered  the central train station of Athens that is called Larissa Station (Larissa is a Greek city pretty far from Athens…). I went to South Station and the last train to Hartford had left an hour ago… I spent 7-8 hours wet, with constant rain/snow/hail, I had 2  falls, my phone got wet and it’s not working, and I was again at the same city – Oh!

There was no alternative left – if I wanted New York for New Year I had to take the train. I didn’t fancy at all this option cause I wanted to ride to New York but I my choices were limited. However… bikes are not allowed at this specific route (from Boston to New York)! My only option was to fold it and take it with me as a luggage… And… this worked out! Thank God!

WIN_20151231_00_35_11_ProAt New York I am being hosted by my cousin Panos..! I am so grateful to him because he showed me some very cool places to eat in New York and we also had an awesome bike ride and party in New Years eve! I had such a nice time so far in New York..

New York is simply… amazing… I have been in some cities in my life but this is… extra ordinary. You step in the middle of an avenue and just look at the horizon…Everything is so big! Tall and pompous and majestic and impressive and imposing. Every 100 meters I am like “wow…just..wow”. Put this place at your travel destinations list and save some good money cause everything here is… expensive!

Now, I need to tell you about another incident with great importance to me. It was not just a moment or an event that fired like fireworks do. It was a continuous internal worry (like an upward slope) that peaked the night of the 30th of December. Panos (my cousin) put a tv series on (Long Way Down, with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman) that had to do with 2 guys riding their motorbikes in Africa (from Tunisia to South Africa). I liked it a lot and it indeed bear resemblance to what I am having so far (in terms of the nature of the questions travelers pose). The only thing different was the landscape and the very very very poor infrastructure that you could see in the African countries. And also that these guys were riding motorbikes. And also that they had a crew, and cameramen and doctor..

I am alone.. and I will be facing some really big Questions… there.. Where do I eat, where do I find water, is this place dangerous to camp, where is the closest bike shop?  Ok, pretty much all these questions are familiar to the questions I was seeking answers to these 7 weeks in Europe.. BUT I failed repeatedly in answering them properly so far… That’s the thing. I was saying that Europe is a test to see if the whole trip is possible… so if that was a test I had really failed…  I enjoyed so much all the unexpected occurrences and surprises but this is not how I should proceed further on. I can’t imagine myself in Africa getting lost so much, looking for a place to stay at the very last moment, having surprises with animals in semi-forest areas, etc. I mean, I know these will do happen, but this should be the exception, not the norm.

I need to focus more on the months coming and plan accordingly.

So, there is only one big resolution for year 2016. Only one. I don’t know what exactly it needs this wish/goal to be fulfilled but this is it. Plain and clear.

“Do not leave stuff for the very last moment”

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The intention with the above sequence of images is to capture not only how fast years/time pass by, but also the need to pause and think and reflect upon our actions – stay alone a little bit and examine ourselves. I also liked the…reflections of the screen (image of me) into the glass (apple cider & whiskey!) – this is because I am pondering on my activity as performance mediated through Cameras-Facebook-Blog etc.)

The intention with the below sequence of images is to give you a glimpse of what Boston looks like. My camera being broken I acknowledge that it’s really nothing special. (More on New York at the next Post)

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