On The Eve of Destruction

2 May

As a small, elite few may know, there has been some action in Greece lately.  While I haven’t ever addressed any political issues thus far, and don’t really plan on doing it in the future, the questions about the Greek financial crisis and what it’s like to be in Athens during such a turbulent time have piled up as the months have rolled by.  To be quite honest, I am not, in any shape or form, an authority on Greek current events.  Yes, I live here, and yes, I work with Greek people and come in contact with Average Yannis’s everyday.  But considering I can’t read or speak or understand the Greek language, it makes it hard to stay up-to-date on the news, leaving American/British newspapers as my only source of information.  This is completely fine, but it means that I don’t know anymore than any of you who ask me questions after reading the same exact articles I’m finding on the web.  But, in an attempt to quell the questions, I’ll put in the two cents that would probably be better spent at a taverna to help the Greek economy.

I don’t live in Athens.  I know, I’ve been lying to everyone for 8+ months now.  I live in Palio Psychico, a sleepy, leafy (for Greece, at least) suburb of the major city.  While the center is simply a bus and metro ride away, the culture is entirely different.  I live in the Bel Air equivalent to Greece, where the wealthy reside and the rich kids sip their Starbucks and discuss which Ivy League school they’ll attend if they decide against Oxford or Cambridge.  Psychico is not exactly a great representation of the rest of Greece.  The children I teach are privileged, and their parents are swimming in money when they’re not off vacationing in America or their island homes on Mykonos.  There are of course students on scholarship, but my school is known as the most prestigious school in all of Greece in one of the chicest suburbs, so you do the math.  What I’m trying to say is that, no matter how much these kids may act like they are affected by the crisis, or how much they may bitch and moan about the EU and Germany and whatever else they overhear their parents say, they are still wearing their Abercrombie outfits, they are still traveling over the summer, and they are still living the same exact life to which they have grown so accustomed.  Leave it to Serena Van der Woodsen to argue for the plight of the people while munching on an overpriced salad after a shopping trip to Barney’s.

I’m not saying this to put down my school or the students and their families.  I’m saying this to show that I’m not in the heart of the action.  I usually find out about protests the next day from my mother who watched Brian Williams report about chaos erupting in Greece.  Unless I happen to venture into the center of the city on the right day and at the right time, I am completely oblivious to the riots, the protests, and the discontent in Greece.  There are only a few times that I am truly affected by the current situation, and these all revolve around strike days.

Greece has strike days.  Greek people love to strike.  They consider it their right and they feel that everyone should realize how hard they have it in the form of them not working for a day.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to sympathize with a people who have one of the lowest retirement ages in Europe, who as a society praises tax evasion as the 2nd coolest thing to hit the country after fanny packs, and who overstaff their offices with idol workers who don’t truly value the idea of customer service.  Not to mention that women must take leave in their 8th month of pregnancy, and then are rewarded with a year off after birth, equaling a grand total of 14 months maternity leave.  But to Greeks, they are overworked and underpaid, and this calls for striking.  To be honest, most of the strikes don’t affect me personally, except for the worst strike of them all: Transportation Strikes.

The transportation workers (bus, trolley, tram, and metro…and sometimes taxis too) have pretty much been striking on a weekly basis, garnering absolutely no sympathy and instead stirring up annoyance in the rest of the population that cannot get to work or run their errands as a result.  On two occasions I’ve lost pay after not being able to make my tutoring appointments, and I’ve had to live with an empty fridge due to my inability to get to the supermarket.  I’m not sure what striking will do, considering nothing is coming from it, and they are just, in effect, taking a day without pay, but as it causes a major burden to everyone else who relies on transportation to get to work and make a living, I personally think it’s pretty damn selfish.  I’m pretty damn liberal, and will protest with the best of them, but to me, this is simply absurd.  I believe one should protest to effect change, not keep change from happening.  A protest should show discontent for the present and a drive for a better tomorrow, not a complacency for the broken system that is the present and a discontent for the realization that said system must change.  As for the transportation issue, not only is there basically no bus schedule, meaning they can show up at the stops whenever they’d like, but they also smoke while driving and talk on their cell phones.  Add to that the previously mentioned early retirement age and evading of taxes, and it suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.  Yet they complain that they need more money from a government that has none.  Hey Greeks who are up in arms about pay cuts, or simple non-pay-raises: If you want a better tomorrow (or in Greece’s case, a mere chance at a tomorrow), you have to realize it’s time for sacrifice, not greediness.

I’m no expert, and I don’t want to get political.  I’m just trying to say what I’ve noticed throughout my time here.  In my opinion, there needs to be an acceptance of reality, rather than blind striking and the mentality that “it’s not my fault this happened, so I shouldn’t have to deal with it.”  If the country is to truly make a comeback, it’s not Germany or the IMF or any other outside sources who can make it all better.  Bailouts will come and go, but the stubborn and passive Greek mentality, it seems, is unfortunately here to stay.

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2 Responses to “On The Eve of Destruction”

  1. Jillian Levi July 26, 2011 at 12:44 am #

    Missed tutoring sessions? Did you tutor students as a way to make a second income?

    • Allyson July 28, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      Hi Jillian! Yes, once the school year begins you’ll see that many parents of the elementary school children call the fellows for private tutoring lessons. These lessons are usually 1-2 times a week, ranging from 1-2 hours. They pay really well and you can make really great side money this way, and it’s great for the families as well because the fellows still charge less than a professional tutor, and it offers their children a young, fresh, native speaker. I only took one tutoring job, though depending on how ambitious you are or how much money you’d like to make, you can pick up more as well.

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