Thursday, April 13

FAREWELL O ATHENS OF MY HEART... I WISH

I don't know about everyone else, but between the mounds of stinky garbage that are slowly consuming our fair city, the summery weather (which only serves to remind us that we could be lying on a beach somewhere), and the resulting increase in surliness one is encountering on the streets these days, I think it's about time to get the heck out of Dodge, don't you?

I mean, really, what is it that keeps everyone flocking to the big city? Is it the jobs? Cause, last time I checked, they were kind of in short supply. Is it the access to culture? If so, why is theatre, cinema and so on in decline? Does your family live here? Get them to move somewhere else with you. It shouldn't take too much convincing.

Why don't we all pack our bags and go harvest olives, peaches and ouzo on some gorgeous, sun-drenched island? Live the simple life. Drink and swim and laze and soak up the sun all day. Was it not, after all, the image of the sun-drenched island that captured our fancy and enamoured us of Greece in the first place?

I, for one, am currently planning my escape. It'll be tough. It'll be dangerous. It might even be painful. But I know for a fact that I will not live in this city forever. (More on my grand escape scheme another day... it's still in the works, though slowly coming together.)

Don't get me wrong. I am not normally among the Athens Haters. As those of you who have read my blog fairly regularly may have gathered, I actually find it an eternally fascinating city, full of spontaneous drama and hidden beauty.

So when I go, I'll make sure I have easy access to a quickie back in Athens every now and then, for when allure of sleepy island life wears thin and the big city clamours ever louder in my imagination.

But right now, in reality, the clamour of the city is getting to be a bit much.

A semi-irrelevant anecdote:
I was walking to work this morning, alternately beaming with pleasure and grimacing in horror as conflicting wafts of jasmine and putrefying garbage were blown my way, with my arms crossed across my chest cause it was a bit chilly. From the opposite direction came an decrepit, toothless old man. A few meters before our paths crossed, he started blabbering and gesticulating wildly in my direction.
Eventually I made out that he was telling me to uncross my arms. In fact, he seemed positively infuriated by my arms crossed position.
Yet another soul lost to the madness of city life? Or was I breaking some ancient Greek canon I've never heard of? (Or, though this is really stretching it, was he angered by the fact that I was denying him a view of my breasts?)

I continued on my way, dazed, murmuring over and over under my breath: "Oh, it's off to the island I go, I go! It's off to the island I go!"

13 comments:

ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop !! Viele GrĂ¼sse !!

kassandra said...

Huh? Ummm... does anyone speak German?

The SeaWitch said...

I have always wanted to live on one of the beautiful Greek islands and failing that, just a small Greek village would have suited me just fine. I love traditional Greece. Love it. Love it. Love it. Athens is not Greece. The people are different here. The way of life is different. My Greece is to be found in all those tiny mountain villages and farm towns .
I wish I could move to a small town life but my husband believes he will shrivel up and die if he leaves the city. So here I'm stuck. But I'm so very glad you're actually going to do it. I am now officially jealous. LOL

(And no, I don't speak german but I do know that he's saying "Hi, I am Chriswab from Bottrop." I have no idea what the other two words mean.)

Loop said...

well! i am form the most beatiful island of greece Rhodes and i am still here supporting the job that i study over the university. I will stick around the next years but i will go back for sure .... The easter is close and i am going back to myyyyyyy island oeo ... xixiixxi

betabug said...

Regarding the "Chriswab" comment:
The other two words are "Many Greetings". Judging from the popup advertising after one follows the link, this is just some luser who spams random blogs to advertise his own unrelated thing and hopes to make a buck from the advertising junk he runs there. I'd delete that comment.

That out of the way :-) now to the topic...

I've lived 6 months on Limnos island in a small village and I absolutely loved it. Lucky me I did not need to work in that time (free rent and living cheap from savings), but when I had to look for a job it was kind of obvious that there are no jobs for programmers in a place like that. So I went to Athens, found a job and now only spend my vacation time on the island like everybody else. Yes, I would prefer the island life too.

Congratulations if you found a way to live in the country!

As for the anecdote: Athens is full of madmen, shouting in the streets, walking like in a Monty Python sketch, etc. I was not aware of any special meaning of crossing your arms when walking on the streets. So I asked Mary, my expert in all things of special meaning in Greece. She said that it depended on how you cross your arms: If you hold them in some ways similar to how people are laid to rest in a funeral, that is a big no-no, something one shouldn't do. It could well be that the old man was trying to tell you that. (Hands underneath the arms is OK, hands on your shoulders is not, hands together over the stomach is not either.)

At least the garbage strike should be over today :-)

kassandra said...

Seawitch: that's really too bad... Tricky situation. I feel for you. Maybe as he gets older, he'll mellow out, and be willing to move to a town, as opposed to a village, on an island? I understand the opposition to village life - it was, in part, fear of that which made me move to Athens in the first place. But university towns, like Rethymnos on Crete, or Mitilini on my island, Lesvos, are both beautiful and somewhat "happening" - perhaps a compromise could be reached one day? And, after all, for the same price as a bus ticket from Montreal to the Eastern townships used to cost me, you can always take a ferry down to Athens every chance you get to get a dose of city life and culture.

Loop: I am from the most beautiful island in Greece... LESVOS!!! :P I'm going back for easter too. Can't wait!!!! (OK OK I haven't been to Rhodes but I have heard it pretty nice... humph!)

Betabug: Right.
Anyway, I spent 10 months living in a small village too - staying with my family, so rent free as well. Though I did have odd jobs here and there teaching english. And I also loved it, but I also had to return to Athens to get a job (teaching is not something I'm overly fond of). But... I don't know, it depends on your priorities. Maybe you couldn't be a programmer on an island, but there are many other things you could do as a computer expert. Or maybe one day, if you get really good and in demand, you could work from your home on an island doing what you do - after all, programming doesn't actually require you to be in an office all the time, does it?
Lastly, I think your explanation is probably correct. Thanks, and thank your friend for me!

deviousdiva said...

Have you ever lived in London or any really big city ? Athens is small and horrible and great and secretive and special and disgusting and wild and unpleasant and wonderful and surprising and different and and and... move if you have to, Small island/village life never did it for me but when you must, you must.

Emily said...

I understand you, deviousdiva. I'd heard bad things about Athens before I visited, but I showed up and felt right at home. It just felt so good to be in a massive, sprawling, bustling urban capital. But that' probably because I am from New York. I could not survive out of the city for too long.
I live in Thessaloniki now, which is not nearly as massive and mind-boggling, but is lovely and has a lot fewer tourists and a LOT fewer imitation statues of Zeus and Parthenon shaped light fixtures.

BallAndDust said...

Kassandra,

You wouldn't happen to know a couple from the US (Seattle area) named Dimitri and Nancy with 3 girls that moves to Lesvos maybe 10 years ago.

I know Lesvos isn't that small, but you never know, it can be a small world.

Kosta

Vasilia Vaxevani said...

Lost in Athens, too! Thank God, who doesn't exist by the way, I've managed to create a small island here with people and things I love. But leaving the city is always a goal. Chania, maybe, or even better, hopefully.
Good luck, dear straggler in life, sister in arms. I hope your ominus name does not betray you.

kassandra said...

Devious and Emily: I love cities, too. And I love Athens - you summed it up wonderfully Devious. It's just those things that makes Athens so special (In fact, I think I'll send that quote to my mom, who just can't understand why I've come to live here). But I've also always really loved nature, and a slower, more natural pace of life, which leaves time for all the things I enjoy doing and which I consider make life worth living: taking walks, having time to cook proper food, reading, having long leisurly discussions and making real connections with people, etc. And while theoretically all these things should be possible in the city, I find that in practice they are more difficult than they should be - everything and everyone is so fragmented, spread out, tired and cross, and just getting from one place to another takes so much time and energy, and no matter how hard you try you do get caught up in this frenetic city pace. And this is slowly tipping the balance for me. But as a city, I will always find Athens fascinating and fantastic and all those things you said.

Ballanddust: No, sorry. Worth a try tho :)
Vasilia: Thank you, and thank you! Good luck to you, too.

Anonymous said...

Oh island life!!! My husband's family is from Lesvos and we also got married there. We are currently living in Melbourne, Australia and just can't wait to move there permanently! We are so over the hussle and bussle and smog and as Kassandra says, can't wait for the chance to read a book at our own leisure, as I am at university, and have the time to enjoy cooking!! Oh island living is what we long for!!

Anonymous said...

Hello my name is Yianni, this is my first post here. Originaly I am from the island of CHIOS but I have been living in Toronto, Canada for the past 23 years. I recently moved to Greece last July. A few month's ago I left Chios to come to Athens because I thought I found a good job here. I have been here for a few months now and I can't wait to find a job in Chios! I know I will make a little less money in Chios but when you compare the cost of living there and the cost of living here, it evens out in the end, so if I make more money here it doesn't matter. Anyway I think Athens is good for the people that are from here and are used to it, but for an outsider it's not that great. This city is dirty (and no I don't live in a bad area, I work in Maroussi and I live in Ano Pefki) but I still think it's discusting here, I guess maybe because I'm comparing it to where I used to live. (Woodbridge, Ontario,just outside of Toronto). The traffic here is just crazy, the people are not friendly, especialy to outsiders and everything is so expensive. I can't wait to go back to Chios!!! The island life is the best by far! ........But yeah I'm not loving here either.