Sunday, July 15, 2007

No matter what, you land with a thud. A dull hard whump that no one can really hear but yourself. And where you are now, there are people there, and where you are coming from, there are people there too. So where are you? Half way here, half way there, you are in the in between space. You are on an island.

I was not sorry to leave, I am not sorry to be home. Still, it was not easy to leave, nor is it exactly easy to be home. In the time that it takes to adjust to jet lag, I have re-adjusted to a version of my old life, which has magically become my new life. The place that I left, the year that I finished, the people who have slid out of my life as easily as they slid in, all of it is as foggy as a dream now, one that I thought I would be able to describe, only every time that I try, I realize that I don’t want to.

Monday, July 02, 2007

It isn’t my story to tell. It never was. It is not even close to my story, although my life, our lives, did for some time intersect. It is a hidden story, one that does not exist on paper or in books. It is not told to family and only nodded at among friends. It is a story so full of secrets and hopes and sweat and tears and fear and memory and future and past that it hardly exists in the present. It is the story of stories. The story of the world countless times over. The story individuals who are lost, who are found, who are confused and hurt and proud. Individuals who were my friends, but whose community I could never join, and whose stories I could partake in, but not share with others.

My life in the Ghanaian community of Athens was flavored with hope and mistrust. My friends wanted something from me that I could not give, and I wanted something from them that I could never have, never really understand. Nearly all of my friends in Athens were Ghanaians, my boyfriend was Ghanaian, and the experiences of my year hovered somewhere between Ghana and Greece and the United States. It was a triangle whose corners never quite met, and I was floating in the lost space between. I kept reaching toward one place, but the moment I felt close I was shoved back and made to reach for another. I never found a balance, I was always between, I never reached any of my destinations.

Thinking about it from the other side, it feels inevitable that things developed the way that they did. I was never hurt, I was only confused. And I didn’t hurt anyone else, although there is always the disappointment. It was a series of misunderstandings that I fell backward into, misunderstandings based upon miscommunications based upon hopes on both sides that never materialized. It was not my fault and it was not anyone else’s. It just wasn’t my story to tell.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another Hog Heaven?

It smells like body. It smells like game. The floors are wet and men stand waiting, their white smocks covered in red brown blood. It is an enclosed market, but the ends of the rows are open to the outside. From the sidewalk, you can smell raw meat. Some days there are scraps of flesh, pools of blood beside the public dumpsters that are shared with a bank. Inside, there are the men holding cleavers and knives. They stand beside grinding machines. They call out from in front of giant fluorescent-lit cases, laughing with each other, enticing customers. They are jovial. They are jokesters. They know body, so they know themselves. Each man has a stall, each stall a case. Inside hangs the meat. It is all meat, every meat, red meat, white meat, fatty pork, rabbit, game, goat and sheep. Heads hang, suspended by chains in mid air, eyes half closed, eyelids missing, eyes shut, their faces death masks, future suppers, suspended between their former lives and the strange place where they are now, so far from their bodies.

To see the meat is astounding. Massive sides of beef, shimmering with red muscle and yellow fat, hang on giant silver hooks, the flesh punctured fiercely and somehow supporting the incredible weight. Delicate rabbits hang, their tails and tiny feet still covered in downy fur, their stained teeth long in their heads. Rows of feetless chicken, their necks tucked neatly under their wings. Skin? No skin? There are piles of slippery brown livers waiting to be weighed and sliced, pyramids of pork shops, ready ready ready. It is a place of life and death, of fascination and fear. Eyes open wide when they first enter. Skin touches skin as people pass one another. Fat, muscle, bone, tendon, hair, organ, look at us. We are all bodies. We are all shimmering, we are all hungry, we are all looking for exactly what we want.

The meat men stand firmly in front of their cases. They hold shiny knives that they sharpen often. They call out to you as you pass. Prices! Deals! When I am alone, they call out to the young lady, bloody knife in one hand, eyes on my breasts. They stand beside round chopping blocks, heavy and worn. Sturdy enough for a man to disassemble a side of beef, small enough to fit comfortably in front of a stall. The men know meat. They know parts. They can carve the flesh of an animal as easily as a child carves soap, as precisely as a sculptor. The sound of their working is something that you will not hear anywhere else. The dull thud of meat hitting the block, the slide and thwack of knives slicing. I have left the market with meat in my hair. I have left with the taste in my mouth, the smell in my nose. Smell this. It smells like body. It smells like game. It is the most familiar smell, but it is like nothing I have smelled before.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Last week I learned that in exactly one month I will be at home in Minnestoa, and three months from then will be in London. It was a surprise to learn these things, although not an altogether unwelcome one. I miss Minnesota -- our house, my sister and mother, the softness of the summer air, cooking outside in the evening. I have begun to think of Athens in the past tense, and wonder how I will describe my time here. One can’t really. Ten months is far too much to say anything about when someone asks. I imagine that the most difficult thing will be in speaking with people who dream of Athens and of Greece. My time here has not been easy, and has had little relation to almost everyone else’s ideas or memories of this small nation. My view of life here has been from the bottom up, my closest friends are the people who many Greeks want little to do with. It is a curious way of experiencing a country, espically one which looms so large in Western imaginations. With just over two weeks left at Schedia, and then two weeks with my father after that, I am winding down. It feels good to do this, although it will be bittersweet to leave.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

From Santorini

This weekend I realized that people almost never speak to me on the street anymore. At first I wondered why this was, and then I realized. I am no longer open. The men who whistle do not have hope in their eyes, it is just a reflex. The people in shops know that I am not looking for gifts to bring home. I am no longer a foreigner here, but neither am I a local. Hovering in between seems to be the place where I am bound to end up almost wherever I go, and it is a place that I am growing to be comfortable in. Neither an insider nor an outsider, and as places in a society go, I suppose that this is a pretty good place to be.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

In the past week, I have begun to leave Greece. I have just over one month left, and I have noticeably started to slow. I can feel myself taking stock and checking out. I have been begun retuning borrowed items to friends who generously lent me this and that, and I catch myself looking down streets lovingly, as if this were the last time I would see them. It is strange bracing yourself for another big move, especially because I am still not sure exactly were I will be going, whether option A or option B will take effect.

As I have spent the past seven months trying figuring out where I am and what I am doing, I am now thinking about how to exit this odd city gracefully. Leaving is never as easy as I would like, and not matter how I try, there will be untied strings at the end of my stay here. Many of my Greek friends here are astonished at the way that my life seems to be going; leaping sideways between places and families and friends. Happy or not, they are strongly rooted here, and they shake their heads when I tell them my plans. My African friends know this kind of life, and the shake-ups that always happen with movement. They smile knowingly when I say that I am going, and they ask if I can take them with. Back to America? Maybe. Sort of. What kind of answer is that? I suppose that everyone wants to find his or her perfect home and there are many of us who are learning to make our homes in the space inbetween.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

So what is your favorite color - blue or white?

Images taken in stolen moments on Paros.