A Week in Greece #2: First Week in a Daily Greek Class

Υεια σασ!  Τι κανετε;

Δεν ζερω ελλινικα ακομα, αλλα καταλαβαινω λιγα.

This week has been all about GREEK.  I’ve gone to class for three hours a day (we’re supposed to get a half hour break, but some days we get only fifteen or twenty – one day we went over by half an hour).  It’s crazy intense.

Every day I leave feeling like my brain is about to explode.  This is compounded by the fact that my classmates have lived in Greece for several months.  When we practice speaking in class, they’ll throw in phrases they’ve heard or learned, and it’s all I can manage not to throw a fit and scream, “You can’t say things we haven’t learned in here!!”  I feel very dumb, especially since the girl who struggled the most dropped out.  I’m now definitely in the bottom three.

It’s easy to focus on that, because, well, perfectionism.  But on Wednesday I skyped with my mom and later with my grandparents, and I read them a paragraph from my textbook.  I mean, I read it in Greek.  “Do you know what you read!?” my mom asked.  “Yeah,” I said dully, because I’d mispronounced “δυο.”  “WOW,” she enthused.  “Three days ago you didn’t know any Greek.”  

Well, THAT’S TRUE.  And that’s what I keep telling myself.  I may be the dumbest in the class, but I am five million times smarter than I was just one week ago.  I have two hundred flash cards of vocabulary that I go through every day, and that only covers the first three days.  I had to buy several small notebooks to include the other two days.  The pace is crazy, but our teacher, Ροσα (Rosa), is gregarious and friendly.  When she made me read a paragraph out loud in class, but switching the first person verbs and pronouns to third person, I stumbled my way through but DID IT.  She cried, “Θαυμα, sweetie-μου!” and everybody kind of cheered.

I really like my fellow students.  Nir is an Israeli guy creating a Greek-Hebrew community in Athens, and we walk twenty-five minutes to the Syntagma metro station together after class.  Elvira is a former anarchist, current free spirit from Switzerland.  She and I hung out during one break, and we tried the untreated oranges that line the streets, then immediately spat the pieces on the sidewalk because people were right – they’re intensely sour.  Emi is a Hungarian girl dating a Greek man, and she is fearless about boldly putting together Greek sentences on the fly.

On Friday, Elvira and Emi and I went out for tea (τσαι) to celebrate being done with class.  I really like them, and I’m already sad that when this class is over I’ll probably never see them again (they live near the center while it takes me 1.5 hours to arrive).  There’s a certain sort of person who moves to a foreign country, and an even more specific sort of person who chooses to take an accelerated course to understand the language.  So we all sort of understand each other, and have an appreciation for culture and differences and experiences.  Even though Elvira believes every action we make should be consciously political and Emi wants to be married with two kids and I’m somewhere in between, we got along wonderfully.

The whole week was consumed by this class, since I was gone from home around seven or eight hours, and when I got back to my room I had to start my three hours of homework.

But on Friday, after tea, I had just gotten back to Doukissis Plakentias (where I switch from the metro to the bus) when Erik called.  “We are meeting at the center at 7,” he said.  “You will come?”  Flashback to last Sunday, when Argyris told me that Erik works at a center for Albanian children and was looking for someone to teach English clubs. “You should do that,” he said.  “Uh, okay,” I agreed, happy to let someone else create my schedule.

I headed back into Athens on the metro, switched lines, and waited for Danae and her friend to find me.  They took me to the center (which I’d apparently visited nine years ago) where I was confronted with chaos.  Kids and teens and young adults were yelling and laughing and playing games.  I was 100% overwhelmed and HAHA, there was no chance of me trying out my Greek skills.  One group started playing Jungle Speed, so I attached myself to them and noted with fondness that it had been nine years ago that Erik and his Greek friends introduced me and my American friends to Jungle Speed for the first time.  Even weirder, after we wore out that game, someone pulled out Bang! and I tried to kill a little kid sheriff.  Good thing I got that game for my brother for Christmas, so I remembered most of the rules.

Danae went back to the school with me.  She’s young and in self-professed emotional turmoil, so when she found out that I’m a counselor, she happily dumped all her questions and worries on me, and it felt SO GOOD to be in my element and know what I was doing.  She’s also really fun, so the two hour trip home went quickly.

I was supposed to go back to the center today, but I had four hours (and counting) of homework, and also I just didn’t think I had it in me to be happy and sociable again.  I’ll go on Fridays, I think, and whenever they decide they want to do English clubs, I’ll go then too.  But I used SO MUCH of my mental and emotional reserves this week, and I just wanted to hole up in my room and avoid interaction with everyone.  Which I did.

I think I’m ready for next week.

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4 thoughts on “A Week in Greece #2: First Week in a Daily Greek Class

    1. My professor keeps saying, “Greek is very easy!” And while I am beginning to understand what she means (letters that can always be sounded out, patterns of gender/plurality)….that is still a horrible thing to say to beginners!! Haha, it sure seems difficult to me. 😁

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