Δευτέρα 10 Οκτωβρίου 2011

Sorry, facebook

You should never mock anything in life. You just might live long enough to have to kneel down some day and lick what you have spat on before.

That’s exactly what I’ve had to do lately. Facebook was too superficial for me; silly posts, empty dialogue, and an army of virtual friends to brag about. When I finally succumbed, it was just so that I could add another link to my professional site in an effort to generate some extra traffic. The only posts I would have to add would be professional announcements, photographs would be superfluous, and it wouldn’t hurt to accept invitations of “friendship”.

But, wait! Who was that? How moronic of me! Facebook isn’t for keeping in touch with friends who live across the street! It’s for those who make an effort to keep in touch with people they can’t casually invite over for a drink.

So now, like a toddling infant trying to train for a marathon, I keep falling flat on my face. Where do I begin?  How do I connect thirty or so years of loose dots with a few short lines? Would they be interested or have the time to read about the story of my life?

Do I tell them that I have found my vocation in teaching English and that the biggest reward I’ve been getting for my endless and passionate devotion to my work is the respect and recognition I’ve received from my students? Will they care that my career as a tourism instructor, for which I had spent years studying, went down the drain overnight just as it was taking off in that dreadful September of 2001?

Should I mention that for over twenty years I’ve been happily married to a wonderful woman, who happens to be my best friend as well? That I haven’t had any children, but I have an amazing stepdaughter/daughter who got married two years ago and was fortunate enough to bring a kind and witty son-in-law into our family?

Would they be interested to learn that I have been obsessed with traveling and have done more than my fair share of globetrotting?  That I now feel ashamed and responsible for the shambles my country is in because we have been voting the same political families blindfold for half a century?

If there is one thing I should tell Cathy, Colin, Erik, Lisa, Luisa, Robert, Ruth and Stephen it is that they have always occupied a very cosy nook in my mind and that the memories we wove together during that carefree year form a priceless keepsake in my life’s treasure chest.

Death of a Greek middle-classman

Granted, in the financially turbulent times we are going through, our “prayers” should be with the most needy. Globalisation has finally brought what the odd romantic economist had been warning us about. In the global village, competition was going to get out of hand, leading to a unique redistribution of wealth where the super-rich would become hyper-rich and the rest of us would suffer.

And that was no exaggeration; reporters on Greek television have never before paid so many visits to vegetable markets, capturing for posterity the puzzled expression of a pensioner standing in front of a stall and struggling with the impossible dilemma of whether to buy a bunch of parsley at those prices. Anyone watching Greek television could form the impression that the whole country’s economy is based on parsley; and I don’t really know how far from the truth that would be.

What the romantic economist should have used was an American phrase many of us had been pouring scorn on for years. We should have known better. There is no other phrase than “when the shit hits the fan…” to describe the present situation more graphically. Well, the “shit” finally did “hit the fan”, and, save the wealth-insulated individuals, we are all in a pretty bad mess.

The pensioner’s dilemma has been recorded. But no one will ever dare to show some sympathy for the dying breed of the middle class. Especially those who spent years devoted to a chosen profession, battling it out on their own, working extremely hard and deservedly earning an honest well-being. Fear not my fellow middle-classmen; it’s time we made our plight public.

The world used to be our oyster. Three-week holidays at such faraway places as New Zealand never broke our bank. European destinations were reserved for long weekends, and we could walk around London without a map. I, personally, never felt any guilt answering my colleague’s questions of where I had spent the weekend with: “I saw Maggie Smith in a wonderful monologue at the Strand”. And I didn’t need to explain that Maggie had never performed in Thessaloniki. Some of the staff at the Athens Intercontinental actually remembered me from my previous visits, as I could afford to make it my “home away from home” every time I needed to renew my fading “capital lustre”.

Now our ouster rarely extends further than our couch. What wanderlust still remains is satisfied by sharing the complimentary travel DVDs we find in newspapers and magazines. We sigh secretly when we watch them and pretend to remain “cool” when we claim to have “done that, been there”. In reality we yearn for that kerosene smell that infiltrates the aircraft cabin as it prepares for take-off.

Our visit to the food hall of our supermarket was ritual. We nonchalantly passed by the imitation Danish Blue and gestured our helpful assistant to be generous with his cutting of our favourite Saint Augur. I, personally, felt sorry for the poor chap trying to cut my €38,00 a kilo favourite soft cheese in one piece.

It must be his curse that I no longer need the connoisseurship of distinguishing a good Pinot Noir. Why should I? Now I choose my wines by the price tag. It is only because of habit that I glance at the label. I didn’t know that they make a palatable Cabernet in Chile; and at €1,79 a bottle you could almost promote it to fine.

No matter how hard you try to blend in my fellow sufferers, I can spot you out from a mile in a discount store. You walk around in a daze among all that hitherto unknown costume jewelry of consumerism. You behave like a child on his first day at school. The regulars angrily push your trolley aside as you hopelessly try to fathom whether the vile-smelling €0,79 giant-size concoction you’re handling is shampoo, conditioner or bubble-bath.

It all boils down to one thing. Relatively speaking, we are the hardest hit. The rich have sizeable nest eggs to help them weather the storm. The poor have developed fight-mechanisms through years of experience. How are we pity souls who traveled in life’s economy class but stayed in life’s discount five star hotels going to cope?  How can we go from living a life of luxury by proxy to living a life of poverty by proxy? We have been turned into life’s financial outcasts; fitting nowhere and belonging nowhere.

Maybe our Nobel Prize winner Odysseas Elytis found the secret when he wrote:

Then suddenly I realized
and let them think it folly
that out of nothing
you can make paradise

Τετάρτη 14 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

The Stroll

A short story by John Meremetidis

It had been a rough night. Thoughts playing hide and seek and constantly cheating. Dreams like interrupted film screenings, as if patched together like split celluloid. The bright red digits of the clock frozen. His eyes pierced the shutter openings looking desperately for the first shades of grey.

Who was he trying to fool? This was it; he would have to spend the rest of the night in the company of the day’s TV reruns. The sound barely audible but the flickering screen bringing virtual life to his cold living room.

Strong coffee was the savior of the moment, ruthlessly shocking him into the state of rude awakening. The shutters now open he stood by the window, warm mug in his hands, staring at the empty street below. So peaceful, so quiet, as if all life had disappeared.

He ran to the bedroom, opened the closet and pulled out his track suit. He wanted to go out there, to be part of it all, to catch the first hues of the passing night. The moment when the street lights are switched off, leaving everything shrouded in shades of grey, like a black and white photograph.

The crisp air freshened his mind, clearing away all the pent-up feelings of the night. He entered the park and walked on the moist grass. The bell tower of the nearby church was spiking the sky, trying to force an opening for the light. It seemed to have succeeded because it was then that he noticed the first grey shades.

He paused at the small chess theatre with the empty chess table on the stage. Four seats, no pawns and a game that never started in front of an invisible audience. It was pleasantly sad, yet he moved on. There had to be some form of life in this beautiful picture he was painting in his mind.

Yes; the nearby zoo. It would be closed at such an hour, but he could still peak behind the fence. Two bears searching in vain between the carpet of leaves in their enclosure. So big, yet so small; so rough yet so gentle.

A car engine in the distance reminded him that the city was waking up. The threshold had been passed. He hastened his pace. He didn’t want to dilute his perfect daybreak scenes. With the jacket hood over his head, he hurried back home. It was the perfect morning stroll.

Δευτέρα 12 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

Academic Year 2011-2012

Registrations for the new academic year have started.

You will find us at the downtown school Monday to Friday 11:00a.m. - 7:00p.m. and at the school in Kalamaria Monday to Friday 10:00a.m. - 1:30p.m. and 5:00p.m. - 9:30p.m.

Find more information on our school site.