Thursday, March 26, 2009

Soldier, Sailor and Air Command!

I very much enjoyed having a rare day off work yesterday, in order to celebrate Greece's Independence.

We went to Syntagma to watch the parade! Parade for me conjures up visions of floats, bands, clapping, shouting. In Greece, it is an opportunity to show how much military power they have, and I have to say, not accustomed to seeing army tanks and fighter jets, its pretty impressive. The parade went on for a good hour and half. We shown everything, the army, the airforce, the navy, the special services, the Red Cross, the ski fighters, war veterans, the police, the planes that take the water to the forest fires, everything. The amount of army vehicles that came steaming along was very interesting, and altogether, I have to say, was quite intimidating! We mostly enjoyed seeing the men, there is nothing like a man in uniform! Especially sailors!! It was a lovely sunny day, and everyone was out, waving their flags and whooping at the different sectors, with the soldiers in traditional dress getting the loudest applause! I have to say that my most favourite sight though, was the children. They looked so cute, like miniature dolls, dressed up in their traditional cloths to watch the parade. Ever so sweet.

After the parade, we were at a loss at what to do, so we went for a salad and ice cream, and gradually, I have to say, as I was walking to work this morning, that old feeling is creeping back.
More on this to follow.

I then went for drinks with T and L. It was L's name day, and so the three of us went for some drinks in Sygrou. We went to a tiny bar, that is a favourite with actors and actresses looking to get away from the posery, stylised haunts that are normally associated with theatrical types. As I consider myself a theatrical type, this little hide-away suited me just perfectly. It just struck me as quite Bohemian, this little dark bar. What else could be better than sitting in such a delightful place, with two good friends, indulging in traditional drinks and foods, whilst enjoying good conversation. I swear, I could have sat there for hours had it not been for today's meeting.

T and L, I believe, are the reason I have started to relax in Athens. They are considerate to the fact that I don't understand much Greek, and if they speak in Greek, they take the time to include me, to translate to me what they are saying, so that I can participate in the conversation. They have contemporary views, and understand, even share some of the same view points that I have on Greek culture. I have faith that we will be friends for years to come, we are already talking of future trips to England and Greece to visit each other. I do not care that I don't have a million friends here in Athens, but the friends I do have, are ever so special to me.

I believe the sun is also making a big contribution to the shift in my mood. The city feels alive, the smells, the way it looks, the feeling I get when I step out of the door is reminiscent to that of my first trips to Athens. I am excited for whiling days away sitting on the beach. There is most definitely a spring in my step, and now I feel relaxed, I don't feel I have to keep talking, but I m quiet, maybe I am starting to take in that I have been here in Greece for a long time now. Every so often it really hits me that I have only been back to England three times!

Maybe this change, this relaxed feeling is not just to do with the sunshine, but also I can see the end, I can see when I will be back in the UK. I am aware its approaching, and almost as if by magic, it'll be when I have to leave. I am think this is making me relax a bit more, to not worry so much that people stare at me in the street, or that I don't understand. I know my Greek has improved, but most of all my understanding of me has improved. I was asked yesterday if I thought I would be clinging on for dear life to the tarmac screaming don't make me go when i finally go back to the homeland. I said, no. I think maybe I have changed my mind. I don't think I'll be screaming, but I do think I will be sad to leave the adventure behind. But one thing I do know now for sure, is that it will not be the end of my Greek love affair.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lost in Limbo

Spring time has certainly arrived in Athens. It makes me feel alive, there is something about the Sun, many people will agree, no matter where you are, having the sun out, and feeling it's warmth on your skin, makes the word seem like a better place.

Saturday, two of my friends, T and L, took me on my first trip to the Cinema here in Athens. We met for lunch first, and ate in Greek style, where you share everything. I felt a bit off balance, I'm not used to doing this, unless I'm stealing chips from my boyfriend's plate. But I just got stuck in, and it was all good. We had loads of yummy entrees, salads, and a platter which had sausages and ribs on it. All very tasty.

After we had feasted, we made our way to the cinema. The cinema we went to was not a multiplex, but an old theatre that had been converted in to a cinema. We saw Slumdog Millionaire. It was brilliant, I had the best time. Me and T then saw L off, and went on for a drink, before going our separate ways.

I am beginning to feel confused. I love these days that I spend with my friends, doing normal things, just like I would in England. I still miss my family and friends, but I enjoy it. And yet, half the other time, I just feel a bit empty. I wake up and it's pot luck on which emotion is hanging around.

One thing is for sure, I am finding out loads about myself, I'm not sure I will ever do this type of thing again, I think I would rather travel around somewhere, but I'm getting to grips a little bit more.

Now if people would just stop staring at me like I'm an alien, I could do anything!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

T Saves The Day xx

On Saturday I got my gladrags on and ventured out to Gazi to celebrate T's name day. I love Gazi, its one of my favourite places. My first encounter was on a very random night in Athens.

I had planned to come to Athens back in June 2008, firstly to see my friend A , and secondly to find out more about doing the CELTA course. However, things with A took a very unexpected turn , and I found myself in Athens all my own, and unsure as to what I was doing here. I still went to my interview, and the lady told me that there was another English girl who had just arrived in Athens who was on her own too. She took my number and passed it on. Little did I know, that this girl, B, was to be my flatmate in a mere years time! As they say, everything happens for a reason! Anyway B and I arranged to meet up and go for a drink, a drink turned in to many drinks, and we somehow found ourselves in Gazi, where we also met friends that we still have! It was a slightly crazy night, but we loved it! Hence, Gazi always holds a special place.

So, I have little, well no experience of Name Days. I don't know how they are celebrated. The only thing i do know, is that this is when the children bring sweets to school to celebrate. My first faux pas was that I turned up empty handed. I felt very embarrassed, but my friend didn't seem to think anything of it. After all, I am English, I am unaware of things until people tell me.

The night was so so much fun. The wine was flowing, everyone was so friendly. We drank, we danced, and I particularly enjoyed the cheese platter that was making the rounds! It was practically being back in London, I knew of some of my friends who very much enjoy a cheese and wine evening!

I woke up on Sunday and felt excited, basking in the thought that 1 I was not hungover, and 2, that I may have finally started to make some friends.

I'm beginning to think that Athens is sometimes like a secret club, and the only thing you need is one person to let you in, and for this, I will always be eternally grateful to T xx

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Its that same question, over and over

Do you remember that feeling of excitement and anticipation when something amazing is about to happen and you just can't quite figure out what it is?

This is the emotional roller coaster I used to go through whenever I came to Greece.

When I first made my decision to come to Greece for a year, I was so excited I could have burst. I bored my family to death with stories of the history and the experiences I had had on weekends over there. In fact I am pretty sure my friends breathed a massive sigh of relief when I finally boarded the plane. At last! they cried, no more bloody tales of Kefalonia or Athens, and its amazing-ness. I was totally buzzing, even when the glazed expression took hold of their faces for the millionth time, on I went about nights watching the sun come up at the beach after nights of clubbing, of certain people making an eight hour trip to spend one night with me, talks about the difference in the light, the earthquakes (when i thought someone had got in the bunk below me on one occasion as my friend had left early!), and the constant raving about Greek salad and souvlaki!

So, why do I keep feeling like the magic has gone?

Sure there is always the fact that one is on holiday that accounts for a little of this enthusiasm, but I can assure you that this is not the main reason for my love of Greece. I blame Louis de Bernier, and then I blame the film company that made the film, and then I blame Kefalonia for being so beautiful, with its beautiful people, and then I blame myself for coming to Athens to meet up with friend, but then if said friend hadn't of lived here, I wouldn't probably have ventured to Athens, at least not on my own!

I keep coming back to the same question - why is it so hard to meet people and make friends here in Athens? I might have been under a somewhat naive impression, that as I had one or two friends in Athens, I thought, that in true Greek Hospitality style, they would be there welcoming us with open arms, and introducing us to all their friends while a big old goat was rotating on a spit in their front gardens. And that said friends, would be so warm, and we would all get on amazingly, and that I would at least have a few more friends to go out for coffee with. Surely this is what would happen, its what would happen in England!

As I was battling against the fact this had not happened, a friend of a friend introduced me to his friend, T. T is amazing, exactly what I thought it would be like. He introduces me to his friends, and we go out and have an amazing time, he is the one saving grace!! We also have C and G2, who have also gone out with and had amazing times. Then there is G1, ever so aloof, but fun when he appears. So we have a handful of friends,for which I am so so grateful.

Do you know what disappoints me the most? It's that I have found this experience lacking in so many areas, I don't understand it. It has taken away the magical - ness of a country that i was so in love with. Sure it still has it's history, the food, the beaches and the mountains, but something has disappeared, and I hope and pray that when I get back to Kefelonia that I will love it as much as I ever did.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.

So, I am sitting at my desk still trying to decide what stance I should take on the riots and killing of a 15 year old teen.
Since the riots began in the early hours of Sunday morning, my emotions have been on a rollercoaster ride. I know how all this violence in a city which I love and adore, is making me feel, but as for the reasons why they are doing it, I am still trying to work out if I think its right or wrong. There is no doubt in my mind, that the killing of a 15 year old boy can never ever be justified. I look at my 15 year olds in my class, and want to huddle them all in to a corner, to block out the scenes of violence, and to let them everything will be ok. This image of strength that I was trying to project to my students, as well as, my point of view that in my classroom we do not discuss what is happening, but try to have fun learning English, was almost blown out of the water, when one my boys came in to class late because he had been up to Syntagma Square to join with the rioters and show his support. These kids are all so so angry at the way the state is run. I believe most people are well aware that Greeks are all very proud people but I now can see that they are totally fed up of living in a country with a corrupt government, where they all work so hard to sometimes no avail. Having said this, is this a reason to smash and burn people's businesses??
The other political topic which comes up is that of the police. Only last week in one of my classes the module was focused on accidents and emergency services. I was shocked when i asked what would happen, if the same situation in the book (a drugged up boy, who was comotose and bleeding) happened in Greece. In fact, this was taken from one of Bill Bryson's books, documenting how Danish people have a very low crime rate, and that they only have about 6 murders a year. We were discsussing this, and me kids told me that the police were more than likely to just walk over him and leave him there. In fact, when I asked what would you have to do to go to prison here, they told me you would have to murder someone. This was the only thing they could think of. Compare this to the English police, I am starting to realsie we should be thankful for our country. Not saying it doesnt have its oh so many faults, but what would happen if this took place in England?
From a more personal view point, my flatmate and I have found these last few days extremely difficult. Not able to understand the newspapers or reports about whats going on in our city, only being able to go on what BBC and CNN have to say on the matter, or relying on our dear Greek friends to reassure us. In fact, we found it more disconcerting that this had all began, when we were out in the middle of town dancing the night away. Even more frightening, was that I had wondered of to have a conversation with my boy on the mobile, and my friends didnt realise so couldnt find me. What if they couldnt find me and things had kicked of there?? I have now vowed, never, to wonder off when we are out ever again.
Saturday was also when I had finally started to feel happy in Greece. That things were going well, and that on reflection, yes it is hard being away from my boy, my family and my friends, but that actually the experience was so totally worth it. By Sunday, this feeling was gone, and all we could think about was when can we get the hell out of here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Lesson in Clubbing and A Trip to Ikea

So this weekend, we had a trip to Ikea (pronouced here as IK-KEY-AH otherwise no one know what the hell you're talking about) planned. We has been concerned about the old cash flow, I find these Euro things a bit difficult to get on with, but decided to go an have a look anyway, and with a budget in mind, I knew would be able to get a few bits needed to add a few more homely touches to chez moi's bedroom.

Apparently a trip to IK-KEY-AH is something of a family outting in Athens! We zipped around the upstairs enjoying the views of fabulously put together show rooms, silently wishing our empty echoey lounge would somehow transform in to an Ikea palace. So far, our prayers to the God of Soft Furnishings have gone unanswered. Off we went to the downstairs, where you can actually touch things and put them in your yellow bag to BUY!!! As we went down the stairs, it was like entering the inside on an ant's nest - people everywhere - suddenly your I kea bag turns in to a form of defence saying you from being battered by mad Athenians with armfuls of material and crockery.

My main reason to go enter the Sweedish den was to purchase a fabulous bed set. I have discovered the secret to loving my room is all about colour at the moment, and on my last trip, had spied a fabulous, if slightly garish, duvet cover. Well this was where the nightmare really started. We started in very British manner, no please you go first and all that jazz, but after 30 minutes of trying to decide which cover i wanted, as slightly garish cover unavilable, we were sweating and had headaches of the worst degree. It was time for full on elbow out, Greek grabbing what you wanted as soon as you could, and if you bruise someone in the process, well never mind, their fault for being in the way!

As we made our way to the checkout, we were both exhausted, hungry and feeling a little fragile. Combine this with a half hour wait for a cab, there was a need for crisps and juice as we sat waiting for a cab to collect. Eventually, the yellow light of hope arrived, and off we sped to heaven, also known as home, to relax before getting out dancing shoes on!

After some stop starting, yes and noing, to and froing, we decided yes we would hit Gazi for giggles and good times! The excitement started to get going as we decided what to wear, spangle shorts for Saturday night dancing for me, and a sexy backless number for my lovely flatmate. Off we tottered in eagerness, hailed a cab and off we sped!

Or so we thought...after THE most slow and jerky journey we finally reached Gazi. We trotted to Soho Bar, said hello to our friends that work there, and relaxed enjoying the music, a drink and some snacks which arrive at our table. We sat for a wee while, untill the pumping bassline was too much we hit the dancefloor.

Ahhh English Girls, a salute for us where ever we are in the world, I think we know how to have fun the best! As we strutted our stuff on the dancefloor, giggles at each other and just had general silly-ness, we noticed we were the only girls dancing, and that we were quickly becoming victims of murder on the dancefloor. Yes sir, it seems the Greek girls have an unwriten rule: CLUBBING INVOLVES STANDING ON THE DANCEFLOOR, POSING AND SIPPING ONES DRINK. ONE MUST NEVER LOOK LIKE ONE IS HAVING FUN! They laugh, make fun, push and make any kind of spitefull look is thrown in our direction. On this occassion, it really felt much worse than usual. Is there a reason to behave like this?

I feel unfair to tar all Greek girls with the same brush - we have some lovely Greek female friends, who I really like, and have never ever behaved this way towards us. But it saddens me to think this is the way to behave towards us, after all we're looking to have a good time and get on aren't we?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A step back in time

One month in Athens....and even though it is passing so quickly, I'm still not completely there yet. My friend and I always seem to end up having coffee and discussing the fact that, actually, Greece, or maybe its just Athens, is stuck in the 1980's.

The teenagers all love 80's rock music, and nothing is simple. For example, we needed to pay our electricity bill, and so the whole of Kalithea seems to need to do the same thing. So off we go, after the obligatory coffee, to the electricity office to pay the bill. It appeared that the whole of Kalithea was also there, with the que right out of the door. And before you ask, no you can not pay on th ineternet or just post a cheque.

Last weekend I took myself off to The National Archealogical Museam in Pireaus. I thought this would be the ideal opportunityto be a culture vulture and enjoy the treasures unearthed in the harbour. So there I was enjoying the most amazing bronze sculptures, when a small old man with a wonky eye accosts me. I couldn't escape from him, because he worked at the musuem!!! He followed me arouns and told me that I should NOT be learning Greek but that I should just know it, that I needed to find a nice doctor to make me glamrous?? and that he was very lonely. It was only when a Japanease tourist approached for important photographic opportunity, that i siezed my chande and ran like the wind out of the museum and in to the street.

So having only used up 20 minutes of the afternoon set aside for musuem'ness'. I headed in to Athens, to be typical Ally and go shopping along Ermou. Mango, Zara, H & M and Marks and SSparks all have residency here, its amazing!

So we are learning that its impossible to pay any bills, that you need a guard with you when entering musuems, and also that when you go jogging its important to remember to run along side streets or else traffic is at a standstill and tooting car hors can be heard for miles as you run along in all your sweaty glory.

Have I told you how much I love living in Athens?