Wednesday, October 29, 2003

We're All In This Together

When we were in Gyflio, we were walking around the Platia, the town center, and happened across a funeral. We saw what seemed to be a hearse parked out on the street, but we didn’t think anything of it until all of the people sitting in the cafes on the Platia or wandering around grew quiet and rose from their chairs. We followed their eyes and watched as a funeral party emerged from a nearby building, the funeral home I presume. Everyone in the party was wearing black and many were teary-eyed and holding on to each other for support. The coffin was loaded into the hearse, which was really nothing more than an old black station wagon with all but the front seats removed. The coffin rested in the middle and along the sides were electric candelabras. Flowers were piled atop the car. A professional drove the car, and the Greek Orthodox priest, dressed in full attire including hat and long beard, sat in the passenger seat. Everyone else walked behind the car as it crept forward. In front of the car, a band, dressed all in red and composed of people of all ages, walked and played a dirge.

The church was only a few buildings down from the funeral home, and when the party reached it, they all moved inside for the funeral mass. Flowers were piled in front of the entrance, and we could hear songs and the chanting of the ritual funeral service. The smell of incense drifted out and perfumed the entire town with its bittersweet odor. Following the service, the funeral party reorganized itself and made a slow trek along the sea to the cemetery. The band played its dirge, the mourners wept, and the entire town stood quietly and respectfully as one of their own exited the town and this life.

The rituals surrounding death interest me. Cemeteries and funeral services speak to the way in which people care for other people. While it certainly does not concern the dead, it is still heartbreaking to see an overgrown and forgotten gravesite. On the other hand, it is touching to see fresh flowers, a letter, or a small trinket atop a gravestone, especially gravestones which reveal that it has been many years since the person buried there passed away. I didn’t know the person whose funeral was being held in Gythio, but I felt connected to it, because I was in a town that felt connected to it. Not everyone in the town knew the person who had died, but they all stood quietly, paying their respects. It was a simple gesture. But it was a gesture full of meaning. The funeral was not for a person who would be considered important by worldly standards, but to family and friends, to the town, to the space of world to which he/she belonged, he/she was important. The dirges, the slow walk through the street, the public display of loss was appropriate. In Gythio, it was not true that when you cry, you cry alone. There the whole world mourns with you. There they have not forgotten how important one person is. There they have not forgotten how important empathy is.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

On the Road Again...Going Places That I've Never Been...Seeing Things I Might Never See Again

I just came back to Athens after a four-day weekend exploring the Peloponnese. We were given a long weekend, because today is “Oxi Day,” the day when Greece said no (oxi) to Mussolini’s request to allow Italian troops in Greece, thus effectively dragging Greece into World War II. It’s an interesting holiday I think, and the day is celebrated with parades, masses, flags, laurel garlands, boys and girls dressed in blue and white, and the complete shutting down of everything.

My weekend was fantastic. I love the Peloponnese. It’s Greece the way I want it to be, completely different from Athens and its cosmopolitan, consumerist culture. It’s the Greece of history, mythology, and life before 1/3 of the population decided to move to Athens. I spent the weekend with Kate, Sarah and Darrell roadtripping around in a car we rented. It was liberating to have a car and drive through the mountains and valleys of small town Greece. I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful this part of Greece is. It’s a stark beauty, with steep rocky mountains of a purplish-grey color, skies that are perfectly blue, water that makes you realize what color Agean blue is, and trees that are heavy with oranges. It’s a delicious beauty that you drink in madly but can’t get enough of.

We headed out early Saturday morning towards Sparta and the center of the Peloponnese. It’s strange, but the ancient towns that are so well-known really aren’t worth writing home about these days. So instead of stopping in Sparta, we went a few kilometers outside of town to Mystra, an extremly well-preserved ancient city. We spent a few hours exploring the churches, monastery, fortress, castle and random buildings that remained on this huge hill. It’s a great time of year to go exploring, because the weather is beautiful but the crowds are small. Leaving Mystra, we headed south to the middle peninsula, stopping at the top in a town called Gyflio. Gyflio is on the water, but it isn’t a tourist town, which made it all the more charming. A sailboat regatta was taking place when we arrived and it all looked picture-perfect. We took a room in the house of an older Greek woman, who was as sweet as could be and cooked us a mean breakfast of homemade donuts and other sweets the next morning. We spent the afternoon/evening at the beach, which was sandy except for the perfectly smooth multi-colored pebbles along the waters’ edge. The pebbles reminded me of the worry stones my grandpa gave to me when I was young, so I picked up a few and tucked them away in my bag. The sunset was a fabulous cotton candy pink and blue creation. Dinner that night was wasn’t even really in a restaurant but in a wine shop where the owner cooked for you on demand. Very small, homey, and amazingly delicious. The best food in Greece hands down.

Day two we spent driving around the Mani peninsula, which is again gorgeous. I know I’m overusing the description but I can’t help it. Our first stop was a cave which we toured by boat and then by foot. It was a neat experience. I was impressed with the navigation skills of our guide…some of the passages were quite narrow and made dangerous by protruding stalactites and stalagmites. Further down the peninsula, we stopped in the town of Vathia, which is now home to a single-digit population, but used to be home to few hundred people who lived in stone tower houses. The Mani people are known for being traditional and conservative. They are also known for their feuds. Up until the end of the 19th century, families would have huge feuds that would last decades in which the object was to eliminate every male member of the opposing family. It was for this reason that they all lived in stone towers, which they continually built higher in the hopes of surviving. I don’t know what brought about these feuds, but they were quite intense. Also interesting was the fact that none of the doors in the town seemed to be over 5 feet tall. Small, angry people it seems.

Day three we explored Monemvasia, which is this Rock of Gibraltar type formation. It’s an island which is connected to the rest of Greece by a causeway. From the mainland, it looks like nothing but a rock, but when you go out to it and go around the rock, you find an entire town that faces out to sea. It’s pretty cool, but kind of touristy. We spent the rest of the day driving up toward the part of the Peloponnese close to Athens. Distance-wise it’s not that far, but the driving is on tiny, windy mountain roads so it took a long time. It was a great drive though, so no complaints from me.

Day four we checked out Argos, of Jason and the Argonaut fame, which really wasn’t all that interesting. We also climbed among the ruins of ancient Corinth, the city to which Paul wrote his famous epistles. Corinthians 13:1-8 was quoted in multiple places in multiple languages. It was a nice connection to the familiar for me. We arrive home back in Athens in the afternoon, relaxed and pleased with the success of our trip. It was as if we’d finally seen Greece, and it was a wonderful experience.

So that’s it in synopsis…not brief I know, but I really did cut out quite a lot. I hope to be able to post more this week to expound on some of the more interesting aspects of the weekend, including the golden kazoo, the funeral we witnessed, forty-five minute breaks in the showing of tv movies, the old woman we stayed with, and the elderly people and their donkeys… I know you are on the edge of your seat. I’ll do my best to deliver.

Friday, October 24, 2003

I Wanna Live Where the Green Grass Grows

I'm not a city person. I've decided once and for all. Some people talk about how being in the city makes them feel alive. In the hustle and bustle of downtown, they can sense the pulse of life. Something about honking horns, revolving doors, the rush of traffic, and crowds of people appeals to them. I don't feel that way at all. In the city, I feel claustrophobic, as if the whole world is squeezing in on me, crushing out every bit of life. It seems to me that life is out there somewhere, but that I can't reach it, and I'm stuck running after it without any real chance of catching it. The garish sights and sounds overwhelm and confuse me so that I feel as if I can't even think. I come home exhausted, usually without accomplishing anything.

I want to live somewhere where I have a patch of grass that is all my own. I want trees and maybe even some water. I don't want a skyline; I want a horizon. I need somewhere I feel like I can breathe, think and exist. It doesn't have to be out in the middle of nowhere necessarily. In fact, I'd like to be near a city. I am not so backwards as to think that the city has nothing to offer. If you want the arts, if you want museums, if you want need a city. I know that. And once in a while, I enjoy the city in all of its dirty glory. But I don't want to live right in the heart and soul of it, because for me, it is an empty soul. Despite the thousands of people running around, I feel lonely in the city. Outside of it, I can be completely alone, yet never feel lonely. I'd much rather keep company with nature than with strangers.

I don't think I ever want to live in a city bigger than Louisville. It's the perfect size. It has the right amount of green space, the right amount of city, and the right amount of places to go out. I'm not sure if it's the biggest small town I know of or the smallest big town. Either way, it works for me. Strange isn't it...the one place I couldn't wait to leave when I was younger is now the measuring stick for every place I would ever consider living.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Click Your Heels Three Times

Hanging in the halls of the middle school is a flyer advertising a meeting of the Refugee Club. At the bottom of the flyer is a quote: “There is no greater loss than the loss of one’s homeland.” This quote caught my attention, and the other Teaching Fellows and I got to talking about it. Was this really the greatest loss one could suffer? We started discussing the things that would be most unbearable for us to lose, and while there are many things we would not want to give up, there really are very few things that would be absolutely unbearable. Family, health, and intangibles like freedom, love and intelligence. One of the other Teaching Fellows argued that his homeland would not be the worst thing to lose. I wasn’t sure. The more I pondered it, the more I felt like it just might be the greatest loss. Perhaps I feel this way because I have a very dear attachment to my home, or maybe it’s because I take a very broad view of what home is. Home is definitely family. It is also freedom and love. In a sense, it is health because it is where I feel the most whole and well. It is who I am, so losing my home would be like losing myself.

In arguing that the loss of the homeland would not be that great, the other Teaching Fellow pointed out the fact that for all practical matters our homeland is lost to us this year. We live under the laws of another land. We are surrounded by a foreign language, culture, and religion. All of this is true, but I still don’t feel as if my homeland is lost. There is a huge difference between choosing to leave your country and being forced from it. When I am frustrated by my current home, I have the security of knowing it is temporary. I know that my home is still there and that upon returning I will find it almost the same as it was when I left. I know that if I really wanted to I could be home within one day. It would cost me a lot of money and would require hectic planning, but it could happen if I wanted or needed it to.

To be a refugee, to be someone without a homeland, must be terrifying. Not only is your future uncertain, but your past is nothing more than the few memories your mind is able to cling to. What must it be like to be forced out of your homeland by war, political chaos, disease or death? Could you imagine leaving your home and knowing that you may never return and that even if you do it will not be the same place that you knew? I choose to travel, to go to new places and leave behind old places. I will probably live in a multitude of different places during my lifetime. But I am not homeless. I have my home, and I can return to it whenever I want. And even if I am not there, I have the peace of mind of knowing that the one place in the world where I am known and understood and comfortable is there and waiting for me. It is my home, not only in my mind, but also in reality. In this world, I have a place where I belong. There are so many who do not, who understand in all its literal terror the phrase “You can’t go home again.” They may find a house, a job, a life in a new place, but still, I think, they must be homeless. Home is so much more than a place. It is a feeling, as warm and soft and comforting as the baby blanket your mother has saved for you to pass on to your children. Home is where we come from and where we aspire to. It is who we are and who we hope to be. We all deserve a place where we can go and say that we are home. We all deserve ruby slippers.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Wedding Bells

My cousin is getting married today, and I, obviously am missing the wedding. So in lieu of my presence I am sending my very best wishes. I hope that today is a beautiful day filled with wonderful moments.

Traditional Irish Blessing
May God go with you and bless you,
May you see your children's children,
May you be poor in misfortune and rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness from this day forward

Congratulations Michael and Laura!

Monday, October 13, 2003

Penny for Your Thoughts

Sometimes I just want to walk up to people and ask them to tell me a story. It doesn’t have to be their life story. In fact, I’d prefer it not be. I want a story about one single moment in time. I want to hear whatever they have to tell me, whatever it is that sticks out in their memory like the streaks in the sapphire sky left by a passing plane. I wonder what they could show me, where they could take me, how much they could make me understand. What would you tell if someone came up to you and asked you that question? What is your story? You know, the one that makes your eyes glaze over and your mouth curl into a smile. The one story that transports you to a place so real that you swear the smell of that place and time is drifting on the breeze.

Yesterday Sarah and I went for a run and ended up atop a mountain/hill that is pretty close to our house. From the summit, it seems that you can see the entire city, although all you really see is maybe one or two tiles in the mosaic that is Athens. The path to the top is paved, although it seems as if they simply poured asphalt over top of gravel, all of which is now falling away in large chunks. It is steep and uneven, but it winds around so that you get views from every angle. From one side you can look out and see the neighborhoods in the area I live. From another side, you can see the Olympic Stadium, currently under construction. And yet another view allows you a glimpse of the sea and even the islands, which seemed to have been painted over by the pink and blue of the sunset. It was the perfect time of day to be there, because light and shadow marbled the entire view and the orange fire of the sun set the whole city aglow.

Having felt caged by the city, the mountain was a perfect escape, and Sarah and I enjoyed it in silent awe before heading down. As we rounded yet another curve, we caught sight of two older women who were climbing up. They must have been over seventy and were both dressed nicely. They wore calf-length skirts made or coarse cotton or wool, long cardigan sweaters that they had probably made themselves and dress shoes. One wore orange-red lipstick. The other wore large glasses. One leaned on a cane for support; the other leaned on the one leaning on the cane. Their hair was white and wispy like freshly picked cotton, and it was pulled back neatly from their faces. I don’t know if they noticed us, but about the time we noticed them, they stepped off the path into the scrub brush. They stared down at the city below, and the one with the cane picked it up and pointed with it. For a while, she held it out, beckoning at something and speaking to her companion. What she said, I don’t know. I wasn’t close enough to hear them, and even had I been, I wouldn’t have understood the language. But I am certain she was telling a story. Maybe she was pointing to a place she had recently been. Maybe she was pointing at something that was no longer even there, but in her memory was as real and fresh as the evening breeze. Maybe the story she was telling took place when she was ten years old and Greece was caught in the middle of a decade of war. Maybe the story she was telling took place only the day before. It doesn’t matter. It was her story. It was a moment that she had captured and was forever hers.

They didn’t stay that way long. Gingerly they moved back onto the path and continued slowly up the mountain. Sarah and I continued down. We passed each other, and said hello. We will probably never meet again. They had their own stories to live and tell, just as we had ours. Yet in that one passing moment, we forever became characters in each other’s stories, perhaps in the stories that we will someday tell if anyone ever asks us for our story.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I'm Nobody. Who are You?

Actually, I’m Theresa. Or T, if you’re a member of my family or a close friend. Mary Theresa if you’re a family member on my dad’s side. Theresa Mary Margaret Zimmerman Dowell if you’re my mom’s dad. Theresie-Weesie if you’re Cristina. There’s a whole slew of names I’ll gladly respond to. You can probably even make up a new one, and I won’t mind.

If you live in the country you’ve always lived in...if you work with the same people every day...if you are near your family and friends, you probably never give too much thought to being called by name, because you hear your name called out all the time. When you hear your name, you probably just respond without ever thinking about the intimate connection you have with that one word. Although you didn’t choose it and although you may not necessarily like it, it is yours and at some point in your life you became it. I am Theresa. Theresa is me. I can’t be anyone else. I don’t want to be anyone else.

And that, my friends, is why living in a foreign country can be really hard. When you move somewhere where you know no one and you can’t speak the language, you lose a very important part of your identity. You lose your name. People talk to you, but they don’t address you. Your name is lost to them before the introduction is even over. Here the kids refer to me as “Missus” or “Teacher.” Sometimes I don’t even get to be a single nameless person…I’m “one of the Teaching Fellows.” I remind them over and over of my name. I tell them that they can ask me as many times as they like. But they don’t. It’s not that they are trying to be rude; they just don’t realize how important it is, and they probably feel like it’s rude to make me keep repeating it. I know, because I’ve often been guilty of the same crime. If you do the same thing, trust me, the person would probably rather have you ask a million times than have you never address them by name.

On long days when I’m not even once addressed by my name, I remember being young and watching Cheers, not because I liked the show (or at all understood it), but because I liked the theme song. Perhaps it’s silly and sentimental, but it’s also true. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came. You want to be where you can see troubles are all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name.” Sometimes, really, that’s all I want.

But then there are moments like the one that happened Friday afternoon as I made my way up the stairs to my last class of the day. Aris, a student in my SAT class, passed by, smiled and said “Hi, Theresa.” I know he didn’t think anything of it, but I almost stopped right in the middle of the stairs and hugged him. I’m sure he would have thought I was out of my mind, and for a moment, I may have been. It was just one word, but it was my word. It was me. I was…I am somebody. I’m Theresa.

Friday, October 10, 2003

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato

I always buy my tomatoes from the same man. His tomatoes are delicious but that’s not the real reason I buy from him. I don’t know how his prices compare to the other booths, but I don’t really care. I buy my tomatoes from him simply because I like him.

If I had to give him an age, I’d guess that he’s between sixty-five and seventy. He’s a short man with a round belly, over which he always wears a v-neck sweater. Today it was dark red. His face is round and he’s mostly bald except for a bit of white hair around the edges. I have this sneaking suspicion that he is related to Santa Clause. He is the type of man who is undoubtedly an excellent Grandpa. I don’t know his name, and I feel kind of guilty about that. He deserves a name. I think I’ll ask him next time I go to the market.

Tomato man, as we fondly refer to him, gave Sarah and I a smile and a wave today as we walked past him. He knows that we always walk to the end of the market first before making our way back, stopping here and there to buy oranges, zucchini, grapes, and whatever other produce appeals to our senses. He knows that when we get to his booth we’ll fill our bags with tomatoes and a few cucumbers. And every week after we’ve filled our bags and he’s weighed them and told us the price, he sneaks a few extras into our bags as gifts. Today while we filled our bags, he took a cucumber, peeled it, and offered us each half as a snack. Last week, when we told him (through Despina) that we were planning to make tatziki, he helped us pick out the perfect cucumbers for our first attempt at the Greek specialty and then gave us an extra one just in case we needed it.

The free produce is nice, but we don’t really need it. The prices are so low we could afford to buy more than anyone could ever eat. We appreciate it, not for the money it saves us but for the gesture. Tomato man makes us feel welcome and wanted in a country where most of us know no one. I buy my tomatoes from him, because out of the many customers he deals with every week, he remembers and acknowledges us. He doesn’t speak English and we speak very little Greek, but with him I am reminded that communication goes far beyond speaking and that language should never be used as a barrier. And it doesn’t hurt that he is one of those people who smiles with his whole being. You can’t help but want to be around people like that.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Hasta La Vista Respect

Last night we were watching the European edition of CNN, and they were reporting on the governor’s race in California. A British correspondent had been sent to California to cover it, and the man was loving every minute of it. The circus that is American elections had him practically hysterical. I think he may have been trying to impress Hollywood with his theatrics. But who can blame him? The story he was covering should have been on Saturday Night Live, not CNN. It’s hard to practice serious journalism when the story is ridiculous. The Terminator vs. a man that looks like a mole. A state that has an economy bigger than the national economies of most countries in the world, and this is the choice we get???

What will America come up with next? God forbid we ever elect someone with real ideas, someone who has a clue about how the majority of Americans live. I have my absentee ballot for the Kentucky gubernatorial race sitting here on my desk. I’ve filled out most of it, but I haven’t chosen who I’m voting for governor. Do I choose the man who thinks that education should be financed through gambling? Or do I choose the man whose slogan is “Restoring Hope,” as if we’re all so destitute that we’ve lost the only thing left in Pandora’s box? And who should I elect to be attorney general…the man with the drug problems, the man who was charged with arson, or the man who doesn’t pay his child support? Such choices. Free elections – the basis of democracy. Yet without a single worthwhile candidate on the ballot how strong is our democracy?

We need smart people to run for office. People with strong ethics and broad visions. We have these people in America. I know them. They are teachers, small business owners, farmers, stay at home parents. They are my friends, my family, my colleagues, and my neighbors. They know what it is to be an average American. They’d do a fine job of representing me. The problem is the small print. How free are elections when the campaigns are multi-million dollar affairs? Don’t even begin to tell me that you can’t buy votes.

I can’t wait to tune into CNN tonight to watch the anchor try to compose herself when they return to the studio after the report on the Terminator’s victory. I love watching the world laugh at us. I’d laugh too…except I’m afraid I might end up crying.

Monday, October 06, 2003

What Might Have Been

All I was doing was standing at the bus stop. Just standing there. Glancing at my watch. Checking the sign to make sure I was looking at the right times on the right day. Scanning the streets to see if bus 602 was in sight. And then it happened. The words every woman wants to hear were spoken to me. “I will love you forever.” This was it…my happily ever after.

Too bad I didn’t know the man who told me this from Adam. He had approached me asking a question and I had replied with one of the few Greek phrases I know: “I don’t speak Greek.” Apparently there is something in those words that makes men fall madly in love with you. If anyone’s looking for a man to profess undying love to them, let me know and I’ll school you in the proper pronunciation of this erotic phrase. It’s potent, so use with care. But I must warn you…there may be a slight qualification on it. Before he declared his love but after I said my line, the man looked at me and said in pretty good English. “Ohhh, blue eyes.” Dangerous combination I’ve got. Look out world.

But the bus came, I got on and left Kostas (I think he told me his name about fifty times) standing on the curb. I broke his heart. I’m hoping he can look back on the memories and smile though. For a few brief moments, it was true love. I didn’t say more than ten words. I shot him dirty looks. I kept checking my watch, the street, the sign. He madly declared his love. My one phrase, my blue eyes…he was swept away. It was just like the movies…love at first sight…or first word. I hope that tonight he can close his eyes and remember just how blue my eyes were as I shot him dirty looks.

Sadly, I don’t know how many more men are going to fall for me. I started my Greek class today. Soon I’ll no longer have use for my deadly phrase. Kostas could have been my last chance. I sure hope I don’t regret getting on that bus and leaving the man who would love me forever standing in front of McDonalds. When I’m fifty and alone, I’ll sigh, think longingly of him and wonder what might have been

Friday, October 03, 2003

Put A Hole In My Head, Dear Liza, Dear Liza

Yeah, you know the song I’m referencing. Slightly different words, but after getting to hear it over and over for one class period and after spending an entire day at the elementary school, these words more accurately reflect my thoughts. I’m pretty sure that anyone who teaches elementary school kids could probably be certified. One day a week there and I think I might go insane. It probably doesn’t help that I have to ride the bus with them both to and from school.

The buses themselves are interesting. To begin with, the kids take tour buses to school. No plastic vinyl seats with holes torn in them for stuffing spitwads and other such valuables. No tricky windows that are almost impossible to open. No emergency exit door at the back. These kids get cloth seats, window shades, seat belts even! And they also get a bus matron. I have no idea what else to call her. She is a woman who rides in the front seat of the bus, tells the driver where to go, keeps track of what time it is when the bus arrives at each stop, and marks off the kids as they get on and off the bus. She also rises regularly to yell at the children in an unbearably high-pitched shriek and then to react melodramatically to every little thing they do. For some reason, people here haven’t caught on to the fact that yelling without any follow-up action does not intimidate anyone into behaving. I, personally, am much more annoyed at 7:45 in the morning by the screeching woman than by the rumbling children.

Elementary school is like a cross between a daycare, a zoo, a mental hospital, and a circus. I am not sure what to think of people who choose to spend their lives working in such an environment. Sure, they do important things. Teaching kids to read for instance. Noble. Crucial. But oh dear God. The hand-holding, the repetition, the theatrics, the unadulterated insanity. I’m not sure if these teachers are saints or if they have a few screws missing. If it’s the first one, then I’m definitely not cut out for the role. And if it’s the second one, I just need some more time at the elementary school and I’ll probably be a perfect fit. Apparently my head’s still screwed on too tightly at this point. I’m all for it staying that way.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

What's Wrong with Middle School

I never imagined I would be saying this, but I think I like middle school kids the best. Well it's actually more like junior high here, since it is 7th, 8th and 9th grades. I don't know if I'd say the same in the U.S. - I've never even been in a true middle school - but so far that's the way I feel here. The kids in the middle school (gymnasio) are so eager to please. They volunteer. They have things to say. They do what you ask them to do. The kids in the high school, on the other hand, just might be vegetables. They stare at you like you are a martian or as if they've never heard English before. I don't think it would matter if I spoke to them in Greek. They'd probably still look at me as if they'd never heard it before.

I don't know if that's the way it is in America. I've tried to think about my own experience, but I can't see it objectively. I don't know what it must have looked like through my teachers' eyes. Are all high schoolers comatose? Does the school system here create such an atmosphere? For most students here, school is only the beginning. They spend hours and hours after school every day attending lessons which cover practically everything they already studied in school. Seniors in high school do hardly anything at school, because they are studying for massive national exams which are apparently the most important criteria for admission to Greek university. For being such a laid-back culture, the amount of stress put on students to succeed academically is out of this world.

So I don't really feel like I get much out of teaching the high school students here. I'm just filling up the hours they are required to spend at school. The middle schoolers, however, make me feel like I just might be doing something worthwhile. When I teach a class and it goes well, it's like a small victory. I like the feeling. But I don't know if I could maintain that feeling. I don't teach anywhere near full time, and I'm still pooped at the end of the day. Teaching, especially in America, is hard work. There is so much work to do. So little pay. So little recognition. So many battles to fight every single day. There's no way it all balances out. I think you might need to be more optimistic than I am to least to teach well.