ADVENTURES IN GREECE                                  July 2006


            The second week of July I attended an international cross-cultural psychology conference on the Greek island of Spetses, after sightseeing in Athens.  On the way back, I spent a night in London.  I stayed home six days recovering from jetlag, then flew up to central Washington to go camping and boating with my brother and his wifeÕs family on the Columbia River.  While there we took a tour of the Underground in Pendleton, Oregon, where we learned about Chinese workers who lived underground, speakeasies during Prohibition when alcohol was illegal, and brothels that catered to miners, sheepherders, and military men until closed by a crusading minister.



            I arrived in Athens late at night on a flight from London.  I was surprised to see a counter in the airport for smoking with an advertisement for Winston cigarettes.  I also saw many billboards for cigarettes around Athens. Tobacco advertising has been illegal in the United States for many years.  In the Dublin airport there was a sign saying 3000 Euro fine for smoking (one Euro is now worth about $1.30).   Smoking was illegal in Irish pubs, but people would stand in the doorway to smoke and the wind would blow the smoke in.  In California you are supposed to be 50 feet from the door.  Bar and restaurant owners in California had opposed a no-smoking ban since patrons often smoke.  But when the ban finally went into effect, their business increased!

            I took a bus from the airport to Syntagma Square downtown and walked several blocks to the Metropolis Hotel. I had made a reservation at that hotel since it was near the Acropolis.  I had brought my daughterÕs European cellphone which had worked with a chip I bought in Ireland, but got an error message when I tried to call my wife from the hotel even though the chip was supposed to work in 100 countries.

            In the morning I walked up the hill to the Acropolis, where several ancient Greek temples are located including the Parthenon.  I had been there before in January of 1992 when I took my family around Europe after spending a semester on an exchange program in Denmark.  But I wanted to see it again.  While there I saw several groups of navy men from India wearing white uniforms that stood out in the crowd.  Many of the temples were under reconstruction, ironically to correct prior reconstructions using new materials. 

I visited the museum which contains statues from the temples, but many of them are broken.  The best statues from the Parthenon are in the British Museum in London.  They are known as the Elgin Marbles since they were taken there by Lord Elgin.  When the British went about the world conquering continents, they took back many ancient artifacts.  As a result, you can tour the ancient world by visiting that one museum, which I have done in the past.  However, the countries the artifacts were taken from consider them stolen and want them back.  On the other hand, the ones preserved in the British Museum have been protected from decomposition, melting down, or being hidden in private collections.  They are available for anyone to see who can go to London.

I consider artifacts from all cultural groups to be part of my cultural heritage as a human being, and feel they should be accessible to all humans.  But countries that have their own museums with sufficient security should be able to display the best of their own cultural artifacts for their own citizens to see.  In Los Angeles, the Getty Museum has been embarrassed by reports of having bought artifacts obtained illegally and has recently agreed to give some of them back to Italy.  The British Museum apparently has ignored demands to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece.

After exploring the Acropolis, I wandered down to the ruins of the Agora, the ancient marketplace where Socrates and Plato had lived.  I previously had been in the cell where Socrates had died, but didnÕt have time to look for it this trip.  I walked up to the Temple of Hephaistos, then back down and out to the street with shops, then into the Library of Hadrian.  I wandered around Monstiraki Square, and chatted with a man from Bangladesh who was selling small magnets.  Other men were selling souvenirs and pirated DVDs.  All of a sudden they pulled up the sheets on which they had displayed their wares and quickly went away; they had heard that the police were coming.

I picked up my backpack from the hotel and took the subway out to Piraeus Port.  Unfortunately, the subway station was at Pier 2 while I had to go to Pier 9 which was a long walk.  At Pier 9 there was a representative from the travel agency used by thepsychology conference which had my tickets for the hydrofoil to Spetses.  While waiting I met some colleagues on the way to the conference.  The hydrofoil trip took about two hours.  On the way there it stopped at Poros, the island that my family had visited the previous time I was in Greece.  We had sunbathed on the beach in Poros before going to Finland where there was snow on the ground in January!



The conference on SPETSES was the fifth one I had attended with the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology over the past eight years.  The previous ones I had participated in were in San Sebastian, Spain; Xian, China; Winchester, England; and Bellingham, Washington USA (where the organization was founded).   As a result, I knew many people at the conference. I also met many new colleagues as well. There were 750 participants from 50 different countries!

            Some of the conference presentations were related to Acculturation, the ways in which people adapt after contact between cultures.  John Berry had previously identified four ways in which immigrants adapt to a new culture Š Assimilation in which they give up the old culture and adopt the new, Separation in which they hold onto the old and do not adopt the new, Integration in which they embrace both the old and the new (often code switching depending on the situation they are in, such as at work and at home), and Marginalization in which they give up the old and are not successful in adopting the new.  There are many elements of culture, including language, beliefs, rituals, customs, relationships, etc, and the patterns of acculturation can vary for different elements and groups.

I presented a poster on self-esteem among ethnic groups.  Eight years ago I created a Multiple Identities Questionnaire which is completed for extra-credit by students in my Intro Psych courses, that are taken about two-thirds of all students at Whittier College, which has a very diverse student body.  Instead of asking them which ethnicity they are, I ask to what extent they are a member of each of several categories, with answers on scales from 0 to 8.  That allows them to say that they are half this, or a quarter that, or an eighth something else.  For this poster, I analyzed correlates of self-esteem.  Like other studies, I found no difference in self-esteem comparing major ethnic groups like Asians, Black persons, Latinx, Native Americans, Hawaiians, and White persons.  But I did find lower self-esteem among minorities within the minorities.  For example, Chinese and Japanese had high self-esteem, but members of some smaller Asian groups in the US did not.  Similarly, Mexicans had high self-esteem, but not members of some smaller Latin American groups in the US.   In general, persons who perceived more discrimination had lower self-esteem, whether the discrimination was based on ethnicity, religion, physical attractiveness, or other attributes. 

When I was in Ireland the week before, I kept having Pinch Me Moments, when you pinch yourself to see if you are awake and what is happening is real. Instead of pinching I would ask myself ŅDo you realize where you are?Ó  It was so cool to be there, since I had not been there before, even though I was totally familiar with Irish culture from living in Boston (which has a huge Irish population), eating in Irish restaurants, reading books by Irish authors, and celebrating St. PatrickÕs Day in many US cities.  The only thing that seemed foreign in Ireland was the fact that cars had the driverÕs seat on the right instead of the left, although I had seen that before in England and Japan.  But my feeling in Greece was that it was totally normal to be there, since I had been there before.  I generally feel at home anywhere in the world, and after 5 minutes I am usually talking with someone!

I found that my daughterÕs European cell phone worked at the school in Spetses where the conference was being held, in spite of not working in Athens.  So I was able to call my wife and daughter to let them know that I had made it there.  But there was no signal at the hotel.

I had selected a hotel near Old Harbor, since that was where the discos were located. When I travel I usually try to stay near the discos so I donÕt have far to walk late at night.  But the conference started early and lasted late each day so I didnÕt have time to go to the discos.  When the last sessions ended at eight, I stayed talking with colleagues until midnight.  It was a long walk back to my hotel from the school where the conference was being held, and the Old Harbor was even farther.  Finally, the last night we were there when the conference ended at 5 PM, some of us walked to explore the Old Harbor and I found that the discos werenÕt even open until 1 or 2 in the morning!  I had been to discos 5 nights out of 9 in Ireland, and the conference had had a dinner Friday with dancing, so I didnÕt feel deprived.



On July 16 I took the hydrofoil back to Athens along with many colleagues from the conference.  A bus from the conference travel agency took us to Syntagma Square, where a colleague and I took the subway out to the airport.  I try to arrive at an airport three hours ahead of my flight so that I can request a bulkhead or exit row seat that has more legroom, since they generally will not reserve those seats in advance.  But this time all of those seats had been assigned and the stewardess on the plane was reluctant to ask someone to exchange seats.  As a result, I was miserable with my legs cramped in the seat on the four-hour flight to London. 



In London I took the subway to Oxford Circus in Soho, which is the district with most of the theaters and discos.  I had reserved a private room in the Oxford St. youth hostel where I had stayed on a previous trip to London.  It was about 11 PM by the time I had checked in, but I wanted to go clubbing.  So I went to the Bar Rumba disco near Piccadilly Circus, half a mile away, since it was the only disco listed in LetÕs Go which it said was open on Sundays.  There were a couple of guys there who were my height and one was even taller than me, which is unusual! 

The next morning I had English breakfast at a cafˇ, which was like the Irish breakfast, and took the subway to LondonÕs Heathrow airport.  The flight to Los Angeles was very pleasant, even though it was 11 hours, since I was able to get a bulkhead seat.  I was so tired that I actually slept for a couple of hours which I have never been able to do on an airplane before due to the noise of the engines.  My wife picked me up at the airport so I didnÕt have to take a shuttle home.



I spent the rest of the week back in Whittier, adjusting to jetlag and catching up on email, mail, and bills, as well as editing and backing up the 1200 photos that I had taken in Europe.  It was hotter than usual that week, with the temperature reaching 115 F (46 C) on Saturday.  There was a power brownout, meaning that the power was reduced dimming the lights, and our air conditioner stopped.  The house heated up to 90 F (32 C), but we had fans going and put wet towels on our necks.  Fortunately, the air conditioner worked again in the evening so we were able to cool the house for sleeping that night.