(Matt) I have been thinking about a couple of blog posts that I intend to write about some very interesting things that we have been doing. But, this morning I woke up and had a very typical day. It was the first time since arriving here that everything didn't feel new. I thought that this would be a good way to give a picture of the ordinary parts of our life in Greece that we could easily take for granted.
I slept in this morning a little bit. I had been getting up early to jog the last 4 or 5 days, but it is so blistering hot here now that if you don't start exercising by 8:00 am you will dissolve in a puddle of sweat. It has been a long, demanding week and full of so many new experiences that it would good to finally have a morning to rest a little.
Isaac made eggs for breakfast. That was not typical, but a welcome surprise. I walked to the bakery around the corner to buy fresh bread. It only cost .80 euros and was still fresh when we picked it up.
I read a bit after breakfast and left the house at 10:30 to head to the church office. We live in a residential neighborhood, but it is very close to the acropolis and full of tourists. The walk to the subway proceeds along a cobblestone street full of nice restaurants with outdoor seating. Each restaurant has a worker who stands on the sidewalk and attempts to convince the tourists to come in and eat. One of the men knows us now and smiles when he sees us. We have promised to stop in before we return to the states - but not today.
The subway offers a welcome relief from stifling heat. I have already bought a 5 day pass and I know which way to go and how to get there. It is a good place to practice my Greek, because the words are written in Greek and phonetic English. The electronic voice on the car speaks in both English and Greek so I can practice sounding out a few phrases. I have a head start in Greek because I am familiar with ancient, Biblical Greek, but the modern language is pronounced differently and has a much different vocabulary range. I know how to tell people that "I am the bread of life"or that they should "put off the deeds of the flesh", but neither have come up in casual conversation.
As I exit the subway into Omonia square, the heat hits me again. This past weekend, the temperature rose to 105 degrees. It won't be as hot today but it is close to 100 already. Omonia Square is a very different place from where we live. Refugees are more common than tourists here. Although this was once an important commercial hub, it was subsumed by darker elements and a few years ago had the reputation as the center of drug trafficking. Locals say that it is improving again and hope that better days are ahead. It is fine during the day time, but the women have been warned against walking alone at night.
Beggars are more common here and as I ride the escalator up out of the darkness, street vendors offer Greek sim cards for cell phones. The food is less expensive here and cheap foreign goods fill the streets side markets.
I walk a few blocks to the church and wait outside as other members from the SGI team arrive with the keys. After they arrive we talked a little about our upcoming trip to Corinth and what we will be doing to help. We are going to manage the child care as a team and Chrissie and I want help as much as possible.
My first class is with a Kurdish man who volunteers with the church. He speaks Syrian, Greek and Kurdish and is a helpful resource for the church. He has lived in Greece for over two decades so his Greek is good, but his English is still at a rudimentary level. After working through a level one workbook for most of the hour, I ask to use the last 5 mins getting help on my Greek. I want to do a better job asking for things at the store in Greek and he helps me to ask for the price.
The second class is with a young girl from Syria. Her English is better than I first thought, but it is still level one. (In the books that we use.) She is a bit shy, but this is our third time meeting and she is beginning to warm up. Sometimes the biggest step is just finding out what she does not understand. Google translator is immensely helpful with words that we do not know.
The third class is with a young Palestinian man who is married with a child. His English vocabulary is very good, but he wants help with his grammar. We spent most of our time talking about the various way to say things in the past tense and the way that we use the subjunctive tense to describe thoughts that are potential. For instance, the difference between saying: "I would like to meet you tomorrow" and "I will meet you tomorrow." In the midst of doing this I am painfully reminded that my own knowledge of the official rules of the English language is a bit spotty. Like most native speakers I learned the language by ear and forget the name of various tenses.
The day ends a little earlier that normal and I spend a few minutes trying to locate a music store to buy a cheap guitar for Chrissie. The church hopes she can acquire one before the retreat in two days. She debated bringing her own, but didn't have a good travel case. If we can find one here we will buy it and let the church keep it. It is hard to locate a Greek music store on the internet, so I decide to walk part of the way home and pass by a place where someone remembered seeing one the other day.
The backstreets around Omonia Square are even dirtier than the main streets. I see Asian immigrants who are unloading produce and imported goods. The dirty jobs in Greece are done by immigrants from Asia and Africa. A delivery truck is stopped in the middle of street completely blocking traffic. A motorcycle slows down then ramps up onto the side walk in front of me and dodges the street vendors as he circles around the truck. The rules of the road are fairly flexible here.
The heat is bearing down on me and I try to find the shady side of the street. Something that looks like a pawnshop has a used guitar hanging from the roof. I tried to recall the Greek words for "How much?", but in-between Arabic and Farsi and English grammar pushed it right out of my head. I bartered a little in English and took a picture of it for Chrissie to see.
On my way to the music shop I stop into two supermarkets. I am looking for two items that we can't find near us - raisins and peanut butter. Again, Google translator helps me pull up the words and I asked for them in broken Greek. No luck. And no luck at the music store when I finally find it. It is closed today because of some Greek Holiday. I will try again tomorrow. My shirt is soaked through by now and I am happy to retreat back into the subway. The day finishes a bit earlier than normal, but we have a meeting planned for the morning, ESL lessons tomorrow afternoon and the schedule will likely be demanding at the retreat in Corinth this week. I am happy to get home a bit earlier than usual and spend some time writing. I have completely sweated through my shirt and no one wants to hug me when I return. (See picture.) I guess it turned out to be a fairly typical day.