Reflections During a Sudden Hailstorm

I am currently taking shelter in the Omonia metro station as hail beats down on the escalators and water rivulets begin to flood the space at the bottom of the stairs. The “caution: wet floor” sign does not do it justice.

I am surrounded by locals and tourists who are either watching the sudden hailstorm with a combination of amazement and annoyance, filming it on their phone, or bravely charging up the escalator to run to their destination. One woman takes a look at one of the ice-cube sized pellets at my feet and makes a gesture of prayer. 

Less than half an hour ago I was leisurely walking through tourist shops with Hsiang-Yu under sunny skies. How quickly things change. 

It’s reminiscent of a time two summers ago when my parents were visiting Boston. I wanted to take my mom to try her first bubble tea, which would have been a five-minute walk from where we were having lunch. As soon as we started walking, however, it began to hail. We took shelter next to a nearby nail salon and my dad literally had to cover my arms and face to protect me from the pounding hail and strong winds. It was brief but terrifying. Afterwards, we had to go the mall and buy replacements for our soaked clothes because the hotel was too far away to go back. 

My parents have not yet arrived in Athens, so I am alone in the metro station. I do not feel scared or lonely, though, as I am surrounded by others who are having the same experience. It is strange to share this moment with strangers who I will probably never meet, but it is also  nice to know that I am not alone.

I can relate to the fury of sudden storms because sometimes my emotions change in ways I have difficulty controlling. One minute everything is fine; the next I feel like a terrible person. It’s not unlike the sudden change in the weather. Sometimes my changes in sentimentality aren’t in the forecast, but happen anyway. Sometimes it hails when it’s only supposed to rain. 

I can only take shelter inside this metro station for so long, just like I can only mope in my room for so long when I am upset. It is therefore time to join my fellow train riders in ascending the escalator into the next phase of the day. Despite sudden changes, we have no choice but to move forward. 

Update: I am now safe in the lobby of our hotel. 


Sundays are for Soccer and Smoothies

Today I attended my first international soccer game during one of the worst days of weather we’ve had since arriving in Thessaloniki. Intermittent drizzling – and later, pouring rain – didn’t stop hundreds of fans of Aris, Thessaloniki’s local team, from showing up at the stadium in their trademark black and yellow and chanting, jeering, and stomping their feet with enthusiasm while the score stayed stubbornly at 0-0.

We arrived around 4:30, bought tickets for only five euro and found our seats. The moments leading up to the game were exciting, and we watched as across the stadium, fans waved enormous black and yellow flags and released small fireworks as well as clouds of colored smoke which gradually wafted over the field. Some avid fans even climbed up on the fence in front of us to more loudly catcall the other team. Brandon, Danny, and Bridget’s yellow jerseys that they’d purchased at last week’s basketball game – you can read more about that in Brandon’s story here – created a pop of color on an otherwise dreary day.

Danny, Bridget, and Brandon watch, enraptured, as one fan stands atop the fence and other Aris supporters release clouds of orange smoke across the stadium. 

At first, I enjoyed sitting with my friends and watching the game. No one would call me sporty, but I enjoy loud chanting and stomping feet as much as the next girl. When it started raining harder at halftime, however, I decided it was time to go. It was kind of a lame move and I was disappointed to miss the rest of the game, but my denim jacket was getting damper by the minute.

Fortunately, Hsiang-Yu and Alexa agreed with me, and the three of us started walking back towards our apartment building. When we were about halfway there, Hsiang-Yu spotted a bar across the street where they were playing the game on TV. We decided to detour there and watch the rest of the game in a place where we had the comfort of a roof overhead.

The bar didn’t have food – many places specializing in coffee and cocktails simply don’t here – but they did have delicious and photogenic fruit smoothies. We spent about an hour sipping our colorful fruit blends and watching as, even in overtime, neither team scored a point. Even though it wasn’t the authentic method of watching an Aris game, it was a fun way to spend a rainy afternoon. I’ve mentioned before how this trip is all about balance. Today I struck a balance between energetic sports fan and grumpy college student, though I definitely leaned more toward the latter.

Hsiang-Yu and Alexa enjoying their smoothies as the Aris game plays in the background. If you’re curious, the flavors were – from left to right – kiwi, apple, and strawberry.