Sunday, September 27, 2009

To those we Love

I'm back in Athens as of very early Tuesday morning, and the inability to have grieved has affected me badly. It's only today that I don't feel like I'm moving through glue, and somehow it feels like now it's too late for my tears - the moment has passed, and what a bitter pill to swallow are the tears of grief.

On the ride from the airport to my flat, I began to cry for our lost friend, for my relief at being home, but once again I had to stop because going beserk in the back of a taxi is not the best idea at 3 am. It was my most expensive taxi ride because so desperate was I to get through the front door and back to my normal life, so happy was I at this stranger delivering me to my doorstep that I shoved a EUR 50 note into his hands and took no change.

Watching pre-election debates, sometimes I wish I really could talk to party leaders of the right wing, anti-immigration parties like LA.OS. I know they wouldn't listen, but I would say this:

I followed the Greek I loved to his land and fell in love with Greece. When my plane landed here on Tuesday morning, I felt a rush of relief. Riding in the taxi in the small hours of the morning, past the sleeping olive groves and the mountains that have seen so much and had so much blood spilled on them, I felt like Athens herself was saying to me "You are now home, it's okay to let go now."

The stress of the previous week released and tears rolled down my face because I realised that what Mr Zeus had always told me was true: Greece is not a place, Greece is a feeling, and if you open your heart she will talk to you. It's those that can't open their hearts that will never be happy here.

Greece spoke to me on Tuesday morning as clear as an actual voice in my ears and I cried that an alien land had accepted me so unquestioningly into her embrace. Greece - halfway between the Home Country and the UK, my new home, the home I love, where I am at long last free.

So please, don't judge all us foreigners with the same standards. It may be hard for you to understand, but some of us love Greece as much as you do, maybe even more, because we were not taught this love from birth, we felt it of our own free will. I may not be able to roll off the history of Greece on my fingertips or name all her past leaders, but I can certainly tell you what is right here in my heart, in my gut.

Here's to the ones we love, who we should all hold a little bit closer because for all the fights and for all the frustration, they are here, we are here, and life is beautiful no matter what the colour.


vultures said...

I empathise and agree strongly with all this... The entry struck closer to my heart than it normally would because, unfortunately, I'm leaving in about a week's time for the UK. I don't think I need to explain how I feel, especially seeing as I've never lived in England (despite being british).

Hopefully I'll be able to return to live here some years from now - I'm already planning how to come back, shh, but until then your blog will keep me connected to life in this crazy country.

Anyway, wonderful post. While most locals do expect everyone to simply adore Greece (because it's the best place on Earth, obviously!), I don't think many actually realise just how strongly it captures some of us.

AL said...

Glad you are back doll. I was laying on my couch all week, didn't know you were back, but i guess you needed the down time, we all do.

I kind of understand what you mean, although i'm not all there yet about my love for this country but i don't hate it as much as most people expect. It's weird, but almost every new Greek person i meet always ends up asking me, so what do you think of this country (as compared to wherever you come from). And i always get the feeling like they expect me to hate this place. I just say, its not bad, i am doing ok here, life goes on and i'm getting on just like everyone else. I guess the tough times have affected everyone and most young people just cant imagine what would bring anyone to move over to this country.
Sure they expect tourists and short stay visitors or retirees to love it here, but not young people who are looking to start a future.
Ok i'm rambling... missed you!

Anonymous said...

you will learn the history when your kids start triti!!!
I will try to open my heart a little to Greece and see if she'll speak to me.

Anonymous said...

hi there,

i'm rozie here. I just found you blog and found it is very interesting. I am now in Athens, together with my son following my husband for his course here.We live near to syntagma square. Could you suggest us an affordable and very good place to eat. We are muslim and looking for halal or vegetarian food.

Hope to hear from you.

Have a good day.

bollybutton said...

Rozie, you can buy halal meat very easily from the main meat market on Athinas street, metro stop Omonia. Also, there are quite a few halal restaurants on Menandrou street (off Athinas street, metro Omonia) but to be honest I have not been impressed by any of them so far. They're either too expensive for the quality of food or just not to my expectation of good Asian food.

All spices can be found on Menandrou street. The street doesn't have a great reputation though, I go there all the time alone with no problems but maybe if your husband feels insecure take him with you till you learn your way around.

Further to that, most Greek restaurants serve a very good selection of fish and vegetable dishes, though you may find these a little bland. A nice place to try is 1002 nights near Monastiraki metro. It's Egyptian, delicious food, not sure if it's halal but ask them. There is an Egyptian restaurant in my neighbourhood owned by Christian Egyptians and it is all halal. Good luck!

Maria said...

Hey BB, the reason I found your blog in the first place a while ago is because I stumbled across it when looking for help with improving my Greek - so after the 3/4 years you've been there, how would you say your Greek is now? You must be pretty fluent now huh? I'd love to hear how the transition has been since the last few posts you made about the subject. (I'm still coming along with my Greek you see, and frantically look for advice and tips!)

smaro said...

Welcome Home!

I feel what you feel. I have felt displaced and not really where I belong for years until I went to Greece to visit family. I realised that how I speak, how I think, what I feel, it is all there, in Greece. It is a feeling, it is my heart.

I have yet to make the brave move to Greece. But in 2 days, I will be in Greece for a week (can't wait!!). I am showing Greece to the boyfriend whom I love, in the hopes that he will understand and feel the embrace of Greece the way I do.

I was wondering, since I am going to explore Athens myself for the first time:
a) if you have any tips for Athens-getting around

b) tips for shops to go to to get: petite clothing

c) a hairdressers where I could get curly hair cut? I am going to ask my cousin as well, who will probably come with me to ensure that there is no dangerous cross-communication that could result in a hair disaster!

I notice that Maria too is struggling to learn Greek, as I am. I would love to hear how you learnt the language and any tips you may have.

bollybutton said...

ladies, in terms of speaking Greek i wouldn't say at all that I was fluent, as I have big problems with my grammar. For the first year and a half I took classes at the Hellenic American union in the city centre.

Then I stopped (mistake!). As of 3 weeks ago I've been taking private lessons that help me focus on my weak areas. They're expensive (EUR20 an hour, and that's the cheap rate as my tutor is a family member) but I believe they're worth it because I'm getting frustrated with myself and I want to invest in a holistic level of Greek knowledge - speaking, reading and writing. My written Greek is absolutely riddled with spelling mistakes, and since the school system in Greece is all in Greek, I'll no doubt spend three times what I'm spending on myself now to hire someone in to help my future kids with their schoolwork.

My advice would be to speak as much as you can. You will at some point hit a wall, in which case lessons are worth investing in to take you to the next level.

By far the best thing is the Greek course at Athens University if you have time. A friend attended for 6 months and emerged with near perfect Greek. I wish I had the time to do it too!

smaro said...

thanks bollybutton for the information. Good luck with your Greek language learning!!

Private tuition is a killer on the pocket I know, but it will be worth it in the end!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bollybutton. You’ll probably find this dubious advice but I find the best way to improve your Greek by reading are the Greek editions of Disnay comics, like ΚΟΜΙΞ and ΑΛΜΑΝΑΚΟ. This may sound strange but their language is accessible and without the jargon you find in newspapers etc and above all it’s correct grammatically and syntactically, surprisingly so. They’re also printed in block capitals which I find makes them easier to read. Plus, they’re dirt cheap, compared with a proper course at least :) That is how I learned to read and write in Greek, although I do confess it’s my maternal language!