Wake up! Damn it; I hit the snooze button too many times. It’s 8! I am already sweating… of course. It’s June; I need a cold bath immediately. Let’s open the windows first. Oh yes, there’s Athens, Greece. You can hear the traffic, see the endless cityscape filled with buildings. When I moved here, I always thought I would be able to see the Parthenon every day. Instead, I see Mrs. Mary from next door watering her flowers. ‘Good morning!’. Let’s meet the Greeks.
Freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs, and bread from the bakery. Off to uni. Wait, I can hear a heated discussion. It’s probably the landlord downstairs asking for the rent from that student. The guy works three jobs and comes home around this time, and he still struggles. Greeks don’t always have it easy it seems. Anyway, no time to ponder!
I should probably take the bus today. There’s a strike in the metro. Hmm… I believe there’s another strike downtown, so the main road is closed. Shit, I am late. I will just take the next bus; I just hope it won’t get stuck in traffic again. Wow, there are a lot of people waiting. Yes! I found a seat… What is all the fuss about?
‘You can’t get on the bus without a ticket. No exceptions!’
‘But sir, just this one…’
Someone got caught without a ticket. It’s an 80-year-old man, he can barely stand, and the driver pushes him away! OK, 2-3 people offered to help him out, and the bus finally starts moving. It’s sad seeing the elderly getting treated that way, that is certainly not how we Greeks should treat each other.
Bus Tour Through the City
I always liked this route. You can see Athens from every side and angle. The traditional coffee places, where people are playing backgammon, and the markets selling fruits and vegetables straight from the fields. Neoclassical buildings are standing next to modern offices. There are streets full of graffiti, and suddenly you come across an archaeological site. You can hear the bells from the Orthodox churches inviting people for the celebration of a saint and a red-faced guy claiming he sells the freshest tomatoes you’ve ever tasted.
We have arrived. You know we got finals when there are thousands of young people waiting outside the university. Two blocks away the parliament stands there, and in the distance, the Parthenon watches over the city. The crowd starts moving. Sweaty hands and stomach ache. Yes, all the right ingredients for anxiety. We’ve all got three hours to finish the exam, but I have only two. I need to be at work by 11.
‘I am done!’ Did I say that out loud? Anyway, time to run now. Boss said he would finally pay us today. I doubt it. But hey, it’s better than no job at all, right?
I need to go to the bank first. There is a big line outside. Everyone is collecting their money for the week. You can see the disappointment on their faces… No time to think, just go to work.
There is a meeting… Was I supposed to be in there? Probably not. I bet they are discussing how they are gonna give us a raise, a paid leave, a car and a house by the beach… Ha! Or they are firing people again…
How can anyone work this time of year? The beach is five minutes away; I could walk there from my house if I wanted to. It’s almost three o’clock. Four hours of work. That’s the best they can offer. I need a second job… Easier said than done.
It’s getting late. Athens is so calm right now. Everyone is going home, eating with their families. Nothing compared to the hectic atmosphere of the morning. I should visit my friends and grab a bite at Monastiraki. Best souvlaki in the world, though Greeks barely eat there. Cold ouzo and some tsiros (fresh fish) is a must.
Time to go home and check my emails. I’ve sent a bunch of job applications, but most offer only unpaid internships or uninsured work. Should start studying for next week. Ugh, I need to turn off the TV. Yes, yes another economic disaster on the horizon, another savior is coming our way. Enough…
Athens by Night
It’s getting darker now. The weather is perfect, not too cold, not too warm either. I should just walk to Plaka, some of my friends are already there. The streets are packed now. People sitting there just talking about their day, some groups have brought guitars and started singing. Some are dancing, and everyone is talking to everyone.
I am always impressed by us. Athens and Greece in general, have this juxtaposition of a chaotic vibe, fast paced living and a relaxed, chill atmosphere. While every day is a race, a marathon to survive, you can see life in every corner. Seeing so many people sharing a drink or a laugh makes me feel good and proud. I can see the Agora of the ancient times in front of me, and I can still feel the spirit of our ancient culture in us, in every way possible.
We are the Greeks, pleased to meet you.