Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2002
From: Lee Lady
I'm seeing Athens as a combination of Hawaii and Mexico, with a little of Arizona thrown in. Hawaii because it's a tourist spot which people come to for the great weather, and a local population which has a culture that the tourists have no comprehension of. I think that many of the tourists actually believe that Athens is here for their benefit, and the local cultural is simply intended as part of the tourist attraction. (Those of you who live in Hawaii will know what I'm talking about.)
It's been a very long time (forty years, I guess) since I was in Mexico. So I don't want to be too specific about where in Mexico I have in mind. But if you think of the way people drive (and park), then you will probably have some sense of the way Athens is like Mexico.
And like Arizona because it's a desert town, with flat roofs, very hot days but with little humidity.
So far I'm still in Athens, thanks to C offering me a place (one small apartment, which is not much more than a single room) to stay in. It's perfect for me, except that it does get very hot. I'm a ways from the city center, but still can get there quickly by metro and bus. (The busses are air conditioned, which makes it tempting to simply ride them all afternoon long. The metro is not air conditioned and is quite unpleasant to ride.)
I'm being very lazy about arranging a trip up to Thessaliniki (Salonica) or to some islands, partly because I don't feel any real desire to go to an island and partly because I don't think I've really understood Athens yet. But I really should at least go to Thessaloniki, if only for the sake of the train ride. (I went to the railway station and got a schedule. It's not expensive at all.)
I'm starting to think now that traveling, for me, is a matter of entering different worlds. Or maybe it's a matter of different stories. So that's why Athens has become a completely different place for me now that I'm not at Eugenia's any more. (If I didn't say, Eugenia's family lives in a very near suburb where a lot of rich and important people live. Not too far from downtown on the bus, but still in a way rather isolated.)
So there was the story of Eugenia and Lee, which was really the story of Eugenia and her family and Lee, and Eugenia and her friends and Lee. But this was a very marvelous thing for me, going out with this bunch of kids in their twenties graduating from college about now, and being accepted as a part of them. And marvelous partly because this is the sort of crowd I was never a part of when I was that age myself.
Eugenia usually introduced me by saying, "This is my professor," but they didn't treat me as being any different than themselves. I think that the fact that I spoke a little Greek helped. It showed that I cared enough about them to have learned a little of their language, a language which few non-Greeks ever take the trouble to learn.
Before, I didn't want to be too specific in my comments about J, with her wonderful enhanced breasts, prominently displayed the first time we spent together. It was a little hard to know how to deal with them, because one didn't want to stare too conspicuously, and yet it was hard not to. I guess they were fairly new, because some of her friends were teasing her a bit about them, and she responded to their teasing good naturedly.
I guess J is about Eugenia's age. I think Eugenia said they've been friends since grade school. But J in her attitudes seemed very much still a teenager. I spent one more evening with her and Eugenia and I came to like her quite a bit. There's something very natural and spontaneous and uncomplicated about her.
And then Eugenia's cousin Vanessa, with her orange dyed hair cut short in the shape of a bowl, making her look like a Japanese punk rock star, and her London-accented English. And Vanessa's friend and boss in the pub in London where she works: Sarah. A large part of Sarah's body was lavishly covered with tatoos. And it make me realize at least one way in which tatoos can function. Sarah's tatoos were mostly not very colorful, mostly a sort of dull blue, as I remember, but what they did was to really make one aware of the quality of her skin, really make one want to touch the skin.
I was quite aware that if I had met Sarah and Vanessa in the London pub where they work, they would never have given me the time of day. But because I was with Eugenia, and had her recommendation, they included me in their conversation as if I had been one of their peers.
And the same was true, in a slightly different way, of Eugenia's family. They certainly treated me in a royal way. But also, when I told you before about the play by Eurpides, (The Bacchae) directed by Peter Hall, which Eugenia and her father took me to, I forgot to mention that this was an overnight trip. We drove down the coast in the late afternoon and the play ended close to midnight. And so we stayed at Eugenia's grandparents for the night, a little north of Corinth, before driving down to Epidaurus to see the play.
Anyway, the point is that for the few days I was with them, I was accepted as a part of their family in a way that made me feel quite honored.
This is aside from the fact that when I went out together with her family, they never let me pay for a thing. This is the Greek tradition. This is the way guests are treated.
Likewise I remember Eugenia telling me that when it's her birthday (or rather Name Day, which for Greeks is the important date), she doesn't expect her friends to give her presents. Instead, she takes them out and treats them to a celebration. Since she's the one celebrating, she's the one who pays.
Anyway, now we move onto a different story. Lee alone in Athens. But I haven't figured that one out yet. Mostly for the time being I'm just wandering around, finding my way around, looking at what's around me.
Love & kisses to all,
Trying to understand learning by studying schooling
is rather like trying to understand sexuality by studying bordellos.
-- Mary Catherine Bateson, Peripheral Visions