Wow! What a week it has been. I have been assigned to write a blog post about arguably the most eventful week this entire semester. I started off spring break excited to leave Chapel Hill behind as I traveled across the world to Greece, and I finished it sick (potentially with COVID-19) and longing to go back to my structured and slightly repetitive dorm life. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home with my family. But, I don’t love the idea of experiencing a pandemic that incites chaos and fear across the globe.
Seeing as we didn’t have class this week, I can’t exactly sum up the past week’s activities in this blog post. I think my time would be best used applying what we have all learned about subcultures in English 105 to my observations of a very important subculture in Greek life, tourism, and the ever present topic in today’s news, the coronavirus. I am hopeful that I can use what we have learned in class throughout the past unit to begin a UP2 Spring Break Edition that is both unique, yet applicable.
As I mentioned previously, I traveled to Greece with my family for spring break. While there, we stayed in the small port city, Chania, for three days. If you know anything about seasons in Greece (because I’m sure you study them in your free time), you know that it is relatively cold there right now, placing the beachy city of Chania in its off-season for tourism. Seeing as tourism is a dominant industry all across the Greek islands, it is safe to classify it as an important subculture in Greek life.
As we walked up and down the port in Chania, it was quite fascinating to see the shells of touristy shops that had yet to open for the up-coming travel season. The sounds of hammers and saws reverberated up and down the streets as merchants busied themselves preparing for their approaching reopenings. On our first day there we took a tour from a local, and she explained the history of the city to us in great detail. I asked questions about the empty shops I had seen along the port, mostly because I was confused as to how the Greek people could shut down their businesses for a majority of the year and still make a living. With each question our tour guide ultimately circled around to a single idea; the people in Greece are able to make a living by only opening their shops during the warm summer months because of the high volume of tourists that travel from across the world to Greece during that time period. She said that the empty waterfront street we were walking down would be impossible to navigate during the summer months due to the overwhelming crowds.
Now, the connection with COVID-19… Some of you may have seen President Donald Trump’s speech last Thursday night. In that speech, the President made a slight error in saying that he was going to close the borders to the US, without specifying that it didn’t apply to American citizens, only foreign nationals. Well, if your family was in Greece, you may have been woken up at 3 a.m. by family members at home frantically urging you to get home immediately. Within 36 hours of President Trump’s speech, the newly sworn-in president of Greece closed all monuments and public gathering spaces and started spraying tear gas at migrants trying to cross the border from surrounding countries. Like the US, Greece is currently shutting down. But unlike the US, Greece relies almost entirely on tourism to support its economy.
Research Question: How is the COVID-19 pandemic going to influence the subculture of tourism in the Greek city of Chania?
And now… I guess we all have to wait to find out what happens next. There’s no way of knowing what will unfold in this touristy town when the tourists are barred from arriving. Will the pandemic have run its course before the peak travel months? Will tourists feel safe to travel even after the travel restrictions are lifted? Although I can’t continue my observations in a face-to-face setting (as Paul would want me to do), I will do my best to make future observations from a distance.
Similarly, as UNC students and as citizens in general, we are unaware of what is yet to come, and the lasting impacts that the coronavirus will have on our lives. As the next few weeks of the semester unfold, I hope that everyone remains safe and healthy. I also hope that this challenging situation we are facing brings out the good in each of us. As our tour guide introduced us to the local vendors in Chania, I was touched by the sense of family and camaraderie they shared. I hope those same values will surface in the Carolina community as we navigate the end of our freshman year through online classes, move out of our dorms, and cope with the fact that we won’t be reunited with our friends until next fall.