We take an early cab to the airport and exchange all of our forints back to Euros and we are off for a short flight to Prague (scene of the 15 dollar cokes) and then a connection to Athens. We arrive in Athens and it’s about 15 degrees warmer so we peel off layers of wool in exchange for cotton. Our host, Krini (Tina Mondatit) of the Mediterranean Women’s Studies Centre is meeting us at the airport. We exit via “nothing to declare” and after looking around for a few minutes a woman with dark hair and sunglasses approaches us and asks if we are the GGOT’s. She welcomes us to Athens. We jump in a cab and are off to our hotel. Tina makes sure we are all checked in (she insists on inspecting our rooms) and we settle in. It is about 5PM now and we are hungry and tired. We figure a quick bite and off to bed. We ask the front desk where we can have a meal and he points us in the direction behind the hotel that looks a lot like Rodeo drive – Feragamo and Gucci stores amid small cafes where everyone is smoking like chimneys. We share a few salads and a pasta ( a bit on the sweet side) and off to bed. Tomorrow Tina will pick us up to take us to our poster workshop location.
The breakfast is vast with lots of choices – (thank goddess we are back to the huge breakfast buffet) - we all meet Tina in the lobby who puts us in another cab for the trip to the suburbs for our poster workshop. We arrive at the home of Zoe who is a professor and art lover. She has turned her living room into a screening room/studio and here is where we will lead two days of workshops. We are set to start at 10am but now realize that everyone will be there at l0:30 so we enjoy coffee on the terrace and get to meet the women who are the early birds. There is someone organizing a queer festival, a student, a visual artist, and Katy, the director of the women’s study center. Maya is able to hook into the internet and sets up her camera to stream the workshop live. Because there is a screen on one side of the room we are able to show our posters to the group. But first things first, Julia takes over and we begin intros and warms ups – the name game. The women in the workshop (they have restricted it to women only) are all very chatty and upbeat. We laugh and lot and get to know each other before we all sit around and view posters and other images Maya has organized to get us into the poster making mood.
NOTE on ATHENS: We were scheduled to do a street theatre workshop here but there are protests daily in Greece because of the bad economy. People have not been paid in two years, the Greek budget is broken, pensions are being taken away and the people are frustrated. Even though all of the protests we saw were peaceful ones we did go into the section of town where university students lived and there were police everywhere. A young man had been shot in the back fleeing police last year and that was the reason given for all the militia. Given the political climate, Tina thought it was much wiser to host a poster making workshop instead.
We begin working on posters. Many of the same issues come out of the group – the lack of solidarity in the women’s movement, stereotyping of women and the local elections coming up. Women in Athens feel powerless against the status quo. Three groups emerge and begin to work on their posters.
The women of Athens are animated and talkative. So much so that the groups have a difficult time coming to a consensus on their poster. Julia and I float around the room guiding the groups to some kind of agreement while Maya monitors the live feed and reactions from those watching. She also uses her computer to help one group make a poster – “One for All” is the title and it centers on women and unity.
We present the posters and discuss. Everyone has something positive to say and all are excited by their collaborative work. We end up going over time by an hour and a half because of the lively discussions that evolve from the workshop. Tina and her sister take us all out for a very late lunch….delicious kebabs, restina wine and Greek salads. Then we head back to our hotel for a rest.
That evening we head off to the plaka district for some sight seeing and a drink – we are still full from lunch. We walk thought the touristy section and are intrigued by all the outdoor restaurants and the aggressive hosts who try to shoo you into for something to eat. One host lets us sit down for a bottle of wine – he looks like barysinikoff and offers us all complimentary ouzo to start. When he suggest a plate of carrots to go with wine Julia laughs in his face….carrots with wine? Ok, we agree and chomp on cucumbers and carrots with our bottle of red. When in Greece….
In the morning I head off to the new Acropolis museum while Julia and Maya sleep in. The museum is gorgeous – a striking design full of glass, marble and fabulous images of female goddesses. No photos are allowed but being the GGOT that I am I manage to break the rules and sneak a few in. I stop for a full fat cappuccino (nothing but on this tour) before picking up Julia and Maya for our second workshop. This time we take the public transport train (clean and efficient) and head to the workshop.
Tina meets us at the train station and explains that not as many people are signed up for today, Sunday. But we find the small group of about 6 women very similar to the first one full of conversation and energy. I decide to make my own poster today , inspired by the tons of female images I have seen at the acropolis museum – “Bring Back Athena”. Sidebar: One lesson I have learned on this tour is just how much American women do have in terms of services like hot lines, shelters, programs for abused women. The workshop again goes over an hour and a half and we end about 4PM. The sun is still bright and sunny and we head off for a bite before we have to meet workshop member Vilma who is interviewing us at the hotel for a publication she writes for in Athens.
We meet Vilma and her partner Eletheinai in the lobby and Tina shows up as well. After the interview we all decide to go out for a meal and they take us to the section of town where the university students live. It is heavily guarded by police (for some reason they think that the uni students are the most dangerous) and we sit outside enjoying local Mediterranean inspired foods tsikik, kebab, and local wine.
We walk back to the hotel and Vilma offers to drive us to the beach the next day, but it rains that morning so the beach is off. We head to the Acropolis with our gorilla masks anxious to take photos in the theatre of Dionysus but when we get there we are yelled at by the guards who confiscate our cameras and insist that any photos in gorilla masks be deleted. No making fun of theatre or Dionysus they explain. No posting silly photos in site on facebook. No comedy in the acropolis site! Wow. How weird, seeing that it originally was a mask there. We go up to the Parthenon and sneak a few photos and enjoy the amazing acropolis. We walk back to the hotel and pack and rest up before meeting V and E for pastries pre dinner.
Vilma takes us on a tour thought some interesting parts of Athens including the art center, a traditional Turkish pastry shop and ending at a bar where we share beer and they tell us the story of their relationship. I am struck by their classic love story – isn’t love a universal concept. We have many laughs as Vilma reads our coffee cups after Turkish coffee.
They take me on the train back to the hotel and we hug and kiss good buy. I have a feeling that we will meet again. And in fact at this moment we are writing a grant together do create a multi media theatre piece about lesbians in Greece together next fall.
In the morning I am met by Anastasia (Tinas sister) who puts me in a cab to the airport. (Julia is staying an extra day and Maya will stay for an additional 10 days)
After 14 hours I am back in NYC where it is HOT and humid.
The longest GGOT tour yet. The most satisfying. We met and engaged with the most people ever. Now three more countries to cross of the list.
October 26, 2010