Tuesday, June 18, 2024

United Airlines employee racism in Athens

Susan and I flew United Airlines flight 423 from Athens to Chicago on June 17. Ahead of us in the baggage check-in line was a group of 25 teenagers and chaperones (coincidentally booked on UA423). UA averaged five minutes per teen to scan a passport and check a bag. No others were scrutinized to this extent; when Susan and I reached the counter, it took us only a minute. The delay with the teens bogged down baggage check-in for 40 minutes, causing some customers to be late enough that they may have missed their flights. Later, the departure seating area had an additional passport check and security desk. Most customers were passed in easily, but not those unfortunate teens. Their carry-ons were opened and their bodies were scanned with security wands. This scrutiny was performed by uniformed United Airlines personnel, not the police. This scrutiny was undoubtedly due to the brown color of the skin of most of the teens. The teens behaved impeccably; they endured demeaning and unnecessary bureaucratic and physical mistreatment, then moved along with straight faces to the next racist UA employee.

UA owes an apology to the teen group and a mitigation plan to avoid employee racism worldwide.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Santorini, Greece wrapup

June 15, Santorini, Greece.

We finally got to see the perfect sunset, right from the walkway outside our room.

We have another day to have dinner in the village of Oia, then flying back home on June 17.

The islands are nice with good food and great views, but you can't really walk anywhere unless you get a room in a village. But in most cases, the resort class properties with views or beaches are not in the villages, so you have to find transportation to get anywhere. There is public transportation, which we have not tried, but the crowds and traffic can be very heavy, so it's a lot easier to get a driver. Uber seems to be available from our hotel, but we have used pre-booked drivers on Santorini or a service booked by our hotel.

Here is a view from the Santo winery near Pyrgos. This is supposedly the premier winery in Greece. I bought six bottles with shipping to the USA, about 200 euros.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Clouds? What clouds?

June 13, we are on the island of Santorini. Back on Mykonos, there's Susan with the moon. We have not seen a cloud since arriving in Greece, day or night. Our sunset cruise was very nice, but the horizon was very hazy. This is usually due to African dust across the Mediterranean. As far as I know, pollution is low, even in Athens.

However, the Greeks do like to drive, even at 2 euros per liter on the islands, i.e., $8 per gallon. A lot of that is tourism-related, but still, that's expensive.

Tomorrow we will visit some of the sites of Santorini. Everyone keeps telling us that the sunsets are the best on Santorini, but with the haze, I don't think we will try to get on the water for a sunset.

Yesterday's ferry ride from Mykonos was very exciting. The boat was to stop at Naxos first, but there was some sort of mechanical problem and all passengers had to disembark. On the ferries, customers drag in their luggage and dump it off in a common cargo area. When disembarking, you hope you can find you luggage again. We were dropped off at the Naxos port in the blazing sun for two hours until the replacement boat arrived.

The seating areas on the ferries are very nice, and this sort of mass public transportation is efficient and relatively inexpensive, but it is physically demanding and chaotic to board and exit with suitcases and carry-ons. Our hotel transfers to and from the ports have been pre-arranged (relatively expensive, but better than trying to get a bus or taxi on the spot).

Here is the Naxos port and Santorini:

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Now THAT'S a view!

June 7 - we spent our last full day in Athens walking around the shopping districts, and then took a Greek cooking class.

Jube 8 - we have arrived on Mykonos. This is the balcony of our hotel room.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

In the footsteps of Paul in Corinth, Greece

Thursday, June 6 - CORINTH! Today provided me with a meaningful historical and spiritual experience. Susan and I visited Corinth, just west of Athens.

The Bible is full of events that should be historically verifiable through independent research, but the Bible stories often don't hold up to that scrutiny. However, some stories do match the independently known historical context. Whether one objectively believes the story of the crucifixion of Jesus, we can date it to the time Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea, up to about 37 CE. Following that event, the Bible provides stories of Paul (author of much of the New Testament). Paul traveled the known civilized world to gain followers of a died and risen Jesus.

There is little doubt that Paul existed as a real person. The Romans kept good records, and Paul was born a Roman citizen to wealthy parents. Many details of Paul's life cannot be verified, and there are discrepancies between the Bible and the historical record, but this is true for almost any major ancient figure, including those with no connection to the Bible.

In the Book of Acts, chapter 18, verse 12 (Acts 18:12), it is written, "But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal." (NRSV)

We independently know that Gallio served as proconsul 51-52 CE. At that time in Corinth, when a person was brought before the tribunal, that person was brought to a specific, centralized spot in the business district referred to as a "bema", which is a stone platform used by orators (top photo where the white stones are sticking up, right of center). The person being questioned would stand on the bema where citizens could watch from all sides.

Paul's mission was to spread the story of Jesus, and Paul (according to the Bible) was handed a monumental opportunity to do that, on a platform in the middle of town with the leaders in attendance. When questioned by the Roman authorities, Paul preached his little heart out. The Romans took no further action since Paul was not advocating insurrection against Roman authority.

Today, this bema is now ruined but partially visible. The ancient Corinthian ruins are surprisingly open to foot traffic within an enclosed area of a museum property, and I was able to stand on the bema, on the ancient platform where Paul would have stood. This was even cooler than standing in Sun Studio on the spot where Elvis recorded for the first time.

June 15 - In 2 Cor 5:10, Paul writes, "For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil."

Some people read this in a way that suggests it was Gallio the Roman proconsul who stood on the bema in order to judge someone brought before him. The bema is rectangular, so it makes sense that Gallio and his advisors would be on the bema, judging someone standing just below them. Many commentators equate "bema" with "tribunal". However, I think this is quite incorrect; the bema is the stone platform, and Acts 18:12 does not say where the human judges who comprised the tribunal stood or sat, only that Paul was brought before the tribunal.

2 Cor 5 places Jesus on a judgement seat, referred to as a bema by many commentators. I am unsure if the ancient Greek uses the word bema. I like the idea that the person would be placed on the bema (platform) for all to see, and for all around to pass judgement, making the bema a place of vulnerability. The person is not being raised up to God or above the rulers; the person is being exposed, ready to be cheered or stoned.

But I admit, it makes sense for a ruler to pass judgment from a throne or high platform. Was I passing judgment on Paul when I stood on the bema? Or was I exposing myself, separated from the safety of hiding in the crowd?

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Acropolis, Agora, Parthenon

Below the Parthenon is the ancient Agora, where Socrates would corner fellow philosophers to badger them about heady topics, with his student Plato and Plato's student Aristotle. Aristotle invented democracy around this area.  I have included the well-preserved temple of Hephaestus, the god of volcanoes among other things.

On June 5, 2024, here are Susan and I overlooking Athens, taken by our driver, Tas.

 We spent the day around the Acropolis, which is the area in downtown Athens encompassing the ancient Agora and certain ancient temples. You can see photos of the Parthenon anywhere, so I have shown here that visitors can get close up to the temple. The ruins seen today are the result of warfare and plunder, as late as the 20th century.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Athens traffic

Athens has green spaces, but when it comes to pavement, every square inch is covered in moving vehicles, parked vehicles or pedestrians dodging vehicles. In this photo, this "arcade" could be a pleasant area in which to relax. Instead, it is lined on one side with delivery vehicles and their busy workers, and on the other side with vapers and smokers.

Farther ahead is a line of parking spots for motorcycles and other motorized two-wheelers. Motorcycle operators are jerks in Athens just like everywhere else. As is typical in Europe, they weave between cars, drive over sidewalks and park in the tiny bit of space between parallel-parked cars.

I found a nice bistro in a true pedestrian mall next to this photo, but we are crashing after our overnight flight.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Greece or bust!

We are counting down to our trip to Greece! Watch this space!

Ahh, the joys of modern travel. I have been installing phone apps and signing up for international data plans and paying down credit cards and moving money around bank accounts.