After an exciting but restful weekend in Bucharest, I came back to a chaotic week in Athens.
On Monday, we tried to begin having Day Program classes at our new offices. This meant starting with a couple hours of new rules and a lot of questions about the rules. Mostly we talked about tardiness and absences, and this is still a topic I feel conflicted about.
Our program is meant to model a school or work environment, and we want to hold participants to similar standards so that when they seek employment elsewhere, they will be used to the routine of being on time for things. But we have participants from diverse cultures, and I think this is at least partially responsible for the serial tardiness of some of the women. I don’t know how much my desire to enforce timeliness is for their benefit or if it is for my own cultural comfort.
But other than that, it was really nice having classes in a new space! Or at least, it was on Monday and Tuesday. By the end of Tuesday, more and more workers were arriving to finish air conditioning installations, wall dividers, etc, and it was becoming increasingly ridiculous to try to be vulnerable or thoughtful with all the chaos around us. We cancelled classes for the rest of the week, but planned a special event on Friday.
It was almost disastrous, and I was SO pissed, because I told the women a fake time to show up, knowing that they would be late. Still, I wound up standing at the metro station for half an hour, at which point I decided to go on without them. I met up with the two people who were meeting us downtown and found out that THEN, the women were leaving the house. They met us one hour and fifteen minutes after our scheduled appointment time, and as I mentioned, I was PISSED. I am generally a pretty laid back person, but apparently time issues have their claws sunk deep in me.
But then they showed up, and…they were all dressed up! They’d done their hair and put on makeup. They were wearing nice clothes and jewelry. The baby was outfitted with everything he could possibly need. And I realized – this was a really special event for them. It was a chance to get out of the house, to explore the city while feeling safe, to be TOURISTS and just enjoy life for a while. My annoyance drifted away as I became consumed with love for them, which is like, the whole point of everything.
We spent a couple hours at the Acropolis Museum. Two of the women only speak Spanish, so we mostly pointed at statues and imitated their poses, laughed at each other, and then got told off by tour guides. We had to stop a lot because two of the women are pregnant, and the new mother got increasingly terrified because she kept static shocking people and she thought she would hurt her baby. A quick phone call to our Spanish interpreter prevented her from going home early, and I just kind of…loved my job? The weird things that happen! Never a dull moment!
We got coffee and sat around in the sun together for awhile before heading home. On the metro, I was acutely aware of the fact that I, a white person, was hanging out with three black women. There aren’t a lot of black people in Athens, and I wondered how people saw me, and then I thought, oh God, this is only a tiny taste of what they must think and feel at all times. How exhausting to be a minority, always conscious of being “other” and wondering if that will cause you trouble or harm.
That was a lot of work stuff, but I did manage to have some fun this week too. I went out with Olga and Haley (an American who works with Samaritan’s Purse) to Little Kook on Monday. Olga and I had some prime roommate bonding, such as one Complaining Night and another Wine and Cheese and Jane Austen Movie Night. And on Friday, three women from the Bible School came over for, well, another Wine and Cheese Night. Today is Saturday, and I’ve been lazy while waiting for laundry to finish. Tonight I’m going out to an Iranian restaurant for Danielle’s birthday, and the celebrations will continue tomorrow after church when we all watch a bunch of cat movies to celebrate the thing that bonds us all together (besides being ex-pats in Greece).