It’s been a month! I’ve officially stayed in Greece longer than anywhere other than Senegal (this week I passed the Mongolia mark). I’m happy with this milestone – although I’m missing my homes in the United States, there’s nothing about Greece that I actively dislike. It’s a really nice place to live.
As always, my life continues to revolve around my Greek class. I was planning on saying, “Only one more week!” in this post, but on Thursday I talked with Dina and Argyris and we decided I should go ahead and take the Intensive Level II course. It starts immediately after this one ends, and it will be FOUR hours a day, but for only three weeks. I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.
However, if I’m going to continue studying Greek, this is definitely the best option. 1) I will continue to study with Elvira and Emi, and I really like my new friends. 2) It will be taught by Rosa (my teacher the first two weeks) and she is fantastic. 3) I used to think I needed a break to let my knowledge settle, but when I gave myself last weekend off, I wound up forgetting a million things. It’s better, I think, to keep going. 4) I will be done on March 4, which will be when House Damaris renovations will be winding down and furnishings/planning will be winding up!
But still, I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been taking this class for three weeks, and instead of nearly being done, I have FOUR more weeks to go. But the weekends are good because I get away from my talented classmates and am encouraged by how much I have learned. On Friday I went to a souvlaki take-out place near the school and said, “Παρακαλὠ, ἐνα σοὐβλακι κοτὀπουλο και…fries. Ευχαριστὠ.” The guy at the counter smiled widely, asked if I wanted it on a stick or in a pita, and he taught me how to say what I wanted, and I felt….like a traveler, not like a tourist.
But still, I’m overwhelmed. (Can’t you tell, since that is the first sentence of both these paragraphs?) Dina called me this morning and asked if I wanted to go shopping for shoes. I said yes, and she said she would be there in sixteen minutes. “Uh, can you make it thirty?” I asked. “I’m still in my pajamas.”
When I told Dina about being homesick, she told me, “Please always tell me if you need time off. Forget about Damaris. Forget about class. On Sunday, if you don’t want to go to church, tell me and I will not get you.” My perfectionistic anxiety dissipated a little bit. When I am stressed, the worst thing someone can do is tell me to get over and go out anyway. Someone kindly reminding me that I am allowed to be as reclusive as I want is exactly the encouragement that reminds me people are lovely to be around, so why not spend time with them? “I want you to be honest with me,” Dina continued. “I have three sons, and now I have a daughter.” She pulled out two bags of snacks that she had bought for me, which is exactly something my mother would have done.
We went shopping at an outlet store. I found boots to replace the ones that were falling apart before I even left the States, and then we went to Ikea, where I bought a €5 table and a dish rack. We ate lunch there, and it was all just familiar enough to be deeply comforting.
I’m really glad that Dina and Argyris are so attuned to self-care. They have not made me feel even a tiny bit guilty for not doing enough. Usually they are the ones saying, “Stop offering to help us with fundraising! Just do your Greek lessons and rest!” When I told them on Thursday that I was feeling homesick, Argyris suggested I take an entire weekend off. So next weekend, that’s what I will do! To celebrate finishing Level I and emotionally prepare myself for Level II, I’m going to Sounio with Anthi on Saturday, and then next Sunday I’m skipping church and being lazy all day. I cannot wait. Even the promise of getting outside the city and seeing something new has me all peaceful inside. Plus I’ve spoken with Sanjay and Chrisette, and we’re planning to make a roadtrip to Delphi when they visit next month. There’s a lot going on, but it’s with people who I trust and who make me feel safe. I’m glad that I’m here, and I cannot wait for this dumb culture shock stage to pass through me, because this place and these people are awesome. I’m ready to enjoy them with a full heart.