A Bird on the Street

Elisabeth Hawthorne
March 30, 2015

I was walking to the bus in Athens and it was one of those shiver into your skin because the air is brisk, light ethereal, and possibilities endless lovely days.  I hadn’t had the first cup of coffee yet, so my mind was primed for observation barring reflection, open to though not actively seeking stimulation.  We saw a bird/part carcass, disemboweled wound open to the air – it was a small bird – on the sidewalk pavement.  Another ate from its side (small again, I could have held each in the palm of a hand).  Our passing startled it and made it fly away.  As I stepped over the figure its chest struggled to suck in air, gasping, and I saw the eyes were alive with panic, not glazed by death.

The expiring animal gaped in confusion, we walked on, and the day remained lovely.


It occurred to me only after my visit to the Acropolis that animal sacrifice had been regularly performed there.  It must have been a zoo with people and beasts milling about under the sun and life and blood and death mingling.  At that point I was halfway through my Spring Break travel, having visited Athens and Crete.  I was striving to be present in each moment, like above, in which judgment of good or bad is subservient to reality, finding creativity in the mundane.  I hope to tell you more about my break in coming posts!  I enjoyed the traveling and companionship, meeting new people and trying new things, gorging myself on delicious food and stunning views, but today I talk about how all that is made possible: with money.


[It might seem a little caustic/uncaring to speak of Greece and money management in the same breath, so sorry about that, but hey it’s a timely topic and I needed to address it at some point...]


I am no financial wizard and I have no real advice to offer, only my observations.  Money is a great source of stress for many, especially young people who are struggling to become independent, and whether financed by personal savings, scholarships, or the support of family the student abroad is challenged to manage their funds effectively.  Everyone has a different relationship with money and it is just as acceptable to spend $5,000 during a semester abroad as it is to spend $15,000 depending on individual and context, no judgment.  However, a particular difficulty I’ve come up against during my time in Italy is tracking how and where and what I spend.

Normally I use a financial app called Mint, which syncs with bank accounts and records purchases, sending me weekly reports on my expenses and distinguishing between essential and recreational spending.  Coming to Italy, though, I realized that 1) most European/Italian stores are militant in their preference for cash over credit and 2) this app and others like it only work if you use credit for the bulk of your monetary transactions.  So, essentially, it’s useless here.  I guess we’ll have to go back to the old-fashioned hand-written ledger!  Or the handy Excel spreadsheet.  In my experience the most conscientious spenders abroad have always kept note of their purchases and planned a general budget.  Like I said earlier, this could look different for everyone and I’m not judging anyone’s lifestyle, but it is generally responsible and good to know how you’re spending your money.  It can seem tedious, but put pen to paper, stay informed, and you probably won’t prematurely run out of money before the semester’s end.  No promises about economic crises, though.

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Grazie, Roma! Bella cosa tosto è rapita.

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Elisabeth Hawthorne

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">I&rsquo;m your standard artistic mutt, head on the ground, feet in the clouds, brought to you by a serious case of wanderlust. Small-town Minnesota girl, ex-expat of Singapore, international traveler, art history major, varsity fencer, opera singer, aesthetics junkie, curious soul, gelato votary, far from home at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, making distance and immersion my teachers during a year abroad in Rome, Italy. You can follow along as I happily consume art and carbs in la bella città, but be warned I might not stay in one place for long!</span></p>

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