Saturday, February 24, 2007

a rose by any other name
After a two-hour bus journey, I reach Tropea. I speak no Greek, only graduated a month ago, have spent a weekend on a course learning how to “teach” and am here to start teaching English. I am shepherded into the classroom by an old lady dressed head to toe in black, the grandmother of the school owner. I’m standing in front of my first ever class of students – I have no books, no lesson plans and no clue what I’m supposed to be doing. There are two truculent Greek teenagers, boys with broken voices and stubble, sitting expectantly in front of me. I’m stranded in a village at the top of a mountain. There are sheep and goats outside. I’m questioning my sanity. In time-honoured fashion, I write my name on the board: Miss Lisa.They laugh at me. I wonder why. I survive the lesson, but only just (after managing to offend them by making an innocent gesture that, it turns out, is the Greek equivalent of the finger, while asking them to give me five examples of sth).Weeks later I learn why they laughed. Lisa, the Greek word for rabies.

My team has been discussing the genesis of nicknames via e-mail. This was my entry, not exactly a nickname, but worth a story worth telling nonetheless. All that year I'd introduce myself with a self-conscious smile: yes, crazy [miming mad] skilos [miming a ravening dog].
The year of Earl Grey at 4pm and buying oranges at Saturday market. A James Bond-themed party, one of many. Nights spent in Koutouki (little shack) smoking "mavro" with the other teachers, old artists, revolutionaries, anarchists and a (conflicted) millionaire marxist property developer whose shack it was, drinking retsina and eating horta (dandelion leaves) and potatoes baked in the fire by a man we called “Wiggy”.
Spending one night a week in the mountain school, sleeping in a classroom and only learning after months of cold showers that to turn on the water boiler one unlocked a cupboard, climbed over a wall and flipped a switch.
Finding a dead cat frozen to the doorstep one morning. Asking for bread at the shop and being shown into a woman’s house to be given half a loaf.

The memories are coming thick and fast today.

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