Life in Greece: Tears, Hope, and Love from Athens

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Life in Greece: Tears, Hope, and Love from Athens

Though the name of this website is Whispers from Greece, it should be noted that Greece is anything but a whisper.  Greece is a shout, sometimes a frustrated shout, the likes of being trapped in a closet fighting ones way out, struggling to be heard. But every now and then, somebody escapes and their shout is heard across the globe.

Modern Athenians have a love hate relationship with their city. In such a short period of time they went from a feeling of euphoria to embarrassment, to blind murderous rage, to that indescribable feeling of numbness and burnout.

 

In 2004, while the country basked in celebration of hosting the Olympics, I was at Piraeus port boarding a ferry destined for Santorini. A nighttime journey across the Aegean, a night that happened to be the peak of a meteor shower.

Along with others, I leaned against the rail. The Athenian lights shimmered through the smog before me. Ships prepared for journey, the excited passengers were eager for destination. Amidst all this excitement suddenly a replica of an ancient Greek ship was making way around the port. One by one, ferries blared their horns, filling the air with thunderous tones.

The ship was bringing home the Olympic flame; she had returned to her birthplace.

People on other ships cheered, but the people around me fell into silence, starring deeper into the horizon. A single light, growing closer grew in magnificence, slowly it revealed itself to be the most beautiful cruise ship I’d even seen, the Queen Mary II. Aboard was the Queen of Briton, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and former President George Bush.

I felt so proud and happy for Greece! I wanted to cheer, shout and scream my congratulations but their silence was unnerving. What were they thinking?

I swallowed my excitement in frustration.

Finally as my ferry departed and began journey over ambient waters, a brilliant fireball swooshed across the sky with a hiss. If this had been ancient Greece, the ancients would have taken this as an omen from the gods. Of what, I could not know. But a few years later, a young boy would be shot dead in the center of Athens, and the city would burn in riots, the citizens choke on teargas, something they would get used to over the years as they found themselves struggling against the black hole of economic crisis, hunger, confusion, and betrayal.

To anybody who speaks poorly of Athens, I remind them that Athenians are the modern warriors of our times. But as with anything in life, to truly understand something is to live and breathe the situation yet still we are left with questions.

Now, during everyday survival, our wants and needs are forced into perspective. We understand that there is something deeper to this existence, something the elite, who suck on their fat cigars over looking Syntagma Square from the Grande Bretagne, will never understand.

I am witness to many who are looking into their souls, turning toward their communities, while offering food and a warm blanket to the alarmingly growing homeless. In a city where many have already taken their life, it has become common to hear tales of people talking the man next door out of committing suicide. It is heartwarming to know that there are people  that will ignite the warm glow that somebody does care – a life has been saved.

Those who do not have the resources to relocate abroad, or wish not to depart from their homeland, they return to their villages in the mountains, countryside, or islands. They plow a small patch of land and grow their food. Some have returned to the loving arms of yia yia and embrace her love and lessons from surviving war. One is reminded that though your country may feel lost, you still have yourself.

Experience and knowledge will never cease to provide for the future- our children whom it is our responsibility to remind them of identity and history- we must teach them not be victims to what they inherited but remember everything yia yia taught, and rebuild with imagination and determination.

 May these children not know how to whisper, but how to shout with the cry of an ancient soldier, and may the ancient soldiers smile from their graves and nod in approval that Greece is anything but dead.

2 Responses to “Life in Greece: Tears, Hope, and Love from Athens

  • All warriors know how to keep the flame alive and smoldering until the time is right to release it and allow it light the sky and scorch the feet of those who dare try thread on them.

    Patience is the warriors best tool, a warrior can make a statement, many together are required to make change.

  • Well said Brendan! 🙂

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