After almost 25 years of living away from the country, I have decided to move back. For a year, maybe less. It’s an experiment. Just to see if someone raised the good old American way could survive in happy go lucky cash-strapped Greece. Everyone thinks I’m crazy.
“What the fuck are you going to a country that’s got billions of Euros in debt that so many are moving out of?” my associates tell me. “I love Greece, but I couldn’t stand to live there,” a proud cut-ass lawyer tells me.
Only for a vacation.
For having fun it’s great, but you can’t seriously establish yourself as a professional there.
No fucking way. That’s financial suicide.
“I give you three months,” the most my cousin Danae quips, “tops 6.” She’s not really my cousin, you know the same way her mother, Kiria Louisa is my theia.
For better or for worse, I am married to the country at least for a year. I’m on a quasi sabbatical from both my teaching jobs. I have an open return ticket however bookable any time I want just in case it doesn’t work out. So for the next series of issues posts, I will be sharing with you all the joys and frustrations of an American in Athens, as I’ve named the series.
Let’s start with some background. Why Greece? And why now, during one of its the most challenging periods.
As I shared in a previous post, sometimes the American way, more specifically the New York way gets to be a bit much. All the hustlin’, the rushin’, the doin’ half a million things all at a quarter to 3 gets played out. I’m worn out from the grind. The New York hustle gets exhausting after you’ve done it for 20 odd years. Sometimes you just want to walk not run to the beat of a different drum. The pace is more manageable in Greece, even in the capital Athens.
I think I am also getting older. I don’t need the intensity of city living. How sane is it for millions of people to pack themselves in a space of square feet (according to Wikipedia “one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with a census-estimated 2015 population of 1,644,518 living in a land area of 22.83 square miles (59.13 km2), or 72,033 residents per square mile (27,812/km2), higher than the density of any individual American city.[? ) That just brings back memories of the chimp and living space experiment from Psych 101. In case you forgot the chimps in one cage kept getting their space cut in half again and again until they killed each other. Not that Athens has more space, but it’s easier to escape to the mountains or the islands. Or maybe psychologically it just feels less cramped.
I have reached a critical point in my life, one that requires more reflection and contemplation. It’s like reaching the top of a high hill and you have the benefit of both hindsight and foresight because you can see what came before this point, the incline, and what’s coming after, the decline. I also think there is a tendency when you get older to yearn for your roots. You want to return to Ithaca. It is where you feel comfortable, even if a bit out of place. No wonder John Cassavates chose to film “The Storm” during a mid- life crisis that brought him and his teenage daughter played by Molly Ringwald back to his ancestral island. Greece, like Colombia and Costa Rica, is a great country to drop out to. It’s values stand in long contrast to the West. It keeps its exoticism by facing East. In a way it is the antidote to Americanism. It emphasizes slowness, doing things without the pressure of the clock, relationships over materialism (although this too is starting to erode), the rawness (and rudeness) of life.
Like I ranted about in another post, America has become a dystopia. The growing rise of random violence,, institutionalized racism, and the break down of the middle-class all point to America’s own crisis. Clearly, the times they have a changed. The country has taken several steps backwards. Radicalism, conservatism, Islamophobia and the rise of Trump. Hey, enough said. Let’s just say I’m hanging out from afar to see what happens during this election. If Trump by the grace of Satan wins I don’t have to move out of the States, I’m already out there waiting in the sidelines to see if it is safe to return.
So starting from tomorrow, get ready to explore the ups and downs of living like an American in Athens. Sort of like an up-to-date My Life in Ruins post-crisis.
Yiassas for now.