Much has gone on since my last “Greece journal” entry here on wordpress. The past ten days Kali and I have been living in the Long’s house with out parental supervision. Kali and I held the first (and so far only) Bible study with the church’s “youth/young adults group.” I had my real frustration with a Greek, and my first phone confrontation with a Greek (although I apparently took it much more personally than the Greek…but no harm done!). I rode in a Greek taxi for the first (and so far only) time. A fellow foreigner and I conversed about God just last night (also a first). One day, I cooked lunch instead of Kali…and the meatball soup turned out very well! Delicious! I also baked for the first time in Greece…and the mini apple pies were disgusting. Ick. I have been teaching English without a translator, a learning experience for sure! I also began volunteer work with A21. My more stylish and creative side has been showing itself in random ideas I have for decorating, in using/re-using things I own (mainly clothes), and in re-discovering interests I have. A couple of parties have taken place at the Long’s (both of which included baking cookies!). Kali and I became connected with Agape (a gathering of Christian young adults here in Thessaloniki), and went to their prayer meetings and a party with them too.
However, as much as has gone on since my last journal, I feel as if not much has gone on at all. This ties in to the lack of progress I see in my “spiritual” work here in Greece. Perhaps if I were more dedicated to my God…others would also be more dedicated. I cannot expect them to do what I myself fail to do. If I spend hours imbibing movies and television, mindlessly surfing the web, how can I expect teenaged Greeks to do differently? Innumerable amounts of time have been spent on public buses (I think I have found a solution to this time waste – knitting! And reading). I have seen several movies, thankfully at least with other people – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and Donnie Darko. Working at the bookstore, running the cash register, has provided a slow and easy beginning to half of my mornings this week.
Gah. Enough complaining. On to the recording of the more interesting parts of my life here.
Interesting insight #1: I am coming to better understand, or at least have pity/compassion for the plight of illegal immigrants. Just as a note, this insight took much more than the District 9 allegory to sink into my heart.
Two of the guys I know from church have immigrated to Greece, one from Albania, and one from Afghanistan. Both are good guys, hardworking, and are both from Muslim backgrounds. One thing I can understand about their situation is the language barrier – I am having my fair share of difficulties, frustrations, and feelings of isolation, simply because I do not speak Greek. I am not be able to understand any other part of their situation – being cut off from family and friends, not having people to take care of and/or provide for me when I am in need, having to search for work in an alien land, not identifying with religious services or practices (the list would go on if I were more knowledgable) – but I can find solidarity with them in the fact that the three of us are foreigners here. We do not quite fit, as much as we may try or pretend that we do.
Last night, the three of us went to the Upper City of Thessaloniki for coffee. We explored part of the castle wall, and one, I’ll call him Jim, speaks English well, so he and I talked quite a bit. The most interesting parts of our conversation revolved around travel (“where would you go if you could go anywhere?”) and God. It was very interesting to hear Jim’s view of God. He is Muslim, but his understanding of God definitely seems to be shaped by his experience in Europe. He, like many European philosophers of a few hundred years ago, believes that God is far off. Not really interested in his life. Deism, mixed with a bit of Muslim tradition, seems to be his system of belief. Jim seems almost glad to have shed some of his Muslim practices in Europe’s post-Christian climate, but still holds to some distinctly not Christian attitudes. Whether they come from Islam, European secularism, or a mixture of both, I do not know. It breaks my heart to see him and the other young man, as far as I know, care less about God. Or at least not be at a place to openly discuss what is going on in their quest for Him.
Insight #2: the Europeans I hang around are much less interested in talking about God and religion than I had hoped, and I am much too nice (cowardly) to force the topic. -_-
Insight #3: it is very easy to just be nice to people, hang out, go out for coffee, and not force the topic when you are a visitor in a foreign country. I feel as if I almost do not have the right to do that, as my actions my jeopardize the longterm work of the Longs.
Insight #3 is related to #2, but also intersects with my volunteering at A21. I go to the shelter twice a week, help with the outdoor activities and their creativity time, eat with the girls, drink coffee with them, talk with them, laugh with them, and in general have a good time. And I am sure I am helping the girls. But I desire to do more for these girls than make them smile, lighten their day. I want them to know Jesus, who will lighten all of their burdens. Yet, I am only a volunteer. The position is only temporary. And I only began helping there last week. I am doing a good thing, but I can only do so much, according to A21’s rules and according to the rules of human relationships.
I have a lot to learn. Good thing I don’t have to know it all. Now the trick is to stop pretending that I do.