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My adventure in Thessaloniki began. By Maria Petkova November 18, 2013

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A few weeks ago I did not know much about Thessaloniki and now I can’t wait to discover the city. I know that I have to have an exploratory spirit and patience so that at the end the city could reveal some of its secrets to me.

Fortunately, for my first day in Thessaloniki I had two guides – my old Greek friend – Alexandra and my new friend Burak. The first place they took me was Aristotle Square. I was fascinated by the vast space that the square occupies.Then we went to the White Tower where we could relax in the small park next to it and enjoy the beauty of the sea and the reflections of the city lights. It was Saturday, so people were out to have fun, cafes and restaurants were crowded and everywhere I could hear music and laughter. Not only the nightlife is pulsating, but also the cultural one is. Thevery first day I visited the film festival of Thessaloniki, one of the many cultural events that the city offers. The cinema is located in one of the oldest parts of the harbour next to the museum of photography, cinema and the museum of modern art.

The following two weeks I spent most of the time with my roommates who are also volunteers in U.S.B.I’m usually a kind of shy person and I build trust with people slowly and that’s why I was really surprised with the fact that we came close so fast and on the third night we already shared and talked for very personal things about family, love, our joyful moments in life as well as more tragic ones. During this short time we laughed, danced and sang. Kris (Germany) and Ricardo (Italy) bought a guitar- what a great idea. So, they offer a free concert for us every night since then. Of course except having fun we did some work.I had the opportunity to get to know more closely the activities of the U.S.B. as well as with the people who work there.We set the first tasks according to our own interests as well we visited a conference organized by the British Embassy. It was a public debate addressing young people’s participation in politics. The presentation was very inspiring, but it placed more questions than providing answers to the problems.

My first impression about Greeks is that they know how to enjoy life and are always ready to help you when you need it. Everyone is very friendly towards me, and their approach to things is positive.People say that every beginning is difficult but mine wasn’t. This maxim doesn’t apply to them because they are easygoing and they mix work with pleasure and the boredom’ is a forbidden word.Hereafter I will learn more and more about Greece and I have the feeling that my adventure will be amazing.

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Saloniki, old and beautiful like a wine. By Necdet Burak Özyurt November 15, 2013

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ImageEverything happened suddenly. The time that I started feeling hopeless for my applications about doing an EVS, someone called me and said to me ‘your EVS application is accepted, you will go to Greece.’ Aha! It was my dream. The idea of going to Greece, specially to Saloniki, and live there for 10 months from where my grandparents left in 1912, excited me. Everything happened suddenly. I was going to Saloniki, to United Societies Balkans (U.S.B.) which is my new family.

I came to Saloniki on the 7th of November. It was a sunny day. Also it was my first travel with plane, that’s why it was so interesting for me. Finally, I couldn’t escape from planes forever. Olympia Datsi my mentor and Aris Parashou, my EVS coordinator, picked me up from the airport. It was a very kind gesture. After that they showed to me my new home and I met other volunteers, my new friends. They welcomed me so friendly. But if it is your first time in abroad, it’s not easy. It was needed in the beginning to discover Thessaloniki with my photo camera in order to touch city’s face. That experience affected me a lot. Yes, I knew that Turks and Greeks have so many similarities but to see this position and feel it, it’s so different and affective. Also I knew it before that I didn’t come to a totally European city. Through my eyes, Saloniki looks similar to Istanbul and Izmir; a city between West and East, Europe and Asia, modern and traditional. It seems so rich to me. I continue observing this wealth in the streets of Saloniki. This city lives with its history and still carries the culture of the Romans, Byzantines, Turks, Jews and Greeks. Thessaloniki is at the same time an old and beautiful city like a wine. I understood now, why the King Philipp, Alexander the Great’s father, gave to his daughter the name, ‘Salonika’.

In the U.S.B., I work with Spanish, Italian, German and Bulgarian friends. Also I live with them. It was my dream too, to touch each other’s cultures and to learn something about them. By the way, I start learning Greek. I attended a Greek course 3 years ago in Istanbul but I couldn’t continue it and now I have a great chance to attend a class and speak Greek. I can read Constantine P. Cavafi’s poems in originally texts, now I have that chance. I have many hopes and expectations for my volunteer term.

As I said my grandparents came from Saloniki to Minor Asia. I feel special things about it. I remember of Manolis who is one of the main characters in Dido Sotiriu’s novel (Matomena Homata). I greet him from Saloniki! Ironically I have a new family in this city.

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* Necdet does his European Voluntary Service, supported and funded by the Turkish National Agency under the Youth in Action programme. His Sending Organization is TREX-EVS (http://www.trexevs.org).

Nice to see you again, Thessaloniki! By Ignacio Prados Ansede October 16, 2013

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This article starts with a lie. To be honest, the whole point of this is a huge lie. I was told to write my first impression about Thessaloniki, like if this was my first visit to the city. And it is not, this may sound weird, but I know the city quite well.

My actual first impression of the city took place four years ago, at the end of September, when I arrived to a country, where I had never been, to start my Erasmus year. It was a rainy day, I was tired and the first thing I thought about Greek language at the Thessaloniki airport was that I would have to solve an equation to get out of there. Luckily, I did not have to and I was able to take a taxi thanks to my nonverbal communication. After nine months of good experiences, great trips and an uncountable amount of ‘souvlakis’ and ‘bougatsas’, I came back to Spain to finish my degree, study a Master and find myself in a jobless situation (like almost everyone in Spain) until I got the chance to return to the city where I lived so much. And I just took it; I had many good memories about life in Thessaloniki and Greece in general.

My “second” first impression was much better than the previous one. At least there was someone waiting for me at the airport, Olympia, who took to my new flat in Agios Pavlos where I could rest after a whole day of trains and planes. If you come, don’t be scared because of the climbing, you will get used to it and you will develop steel knees and an amazing ass (I am still waiting for that, though). And the following day I went to the U.S.B. office where I could meet all the welcoming staff and start to get a view of what I will be able to do the following ten months during my EVS here.

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The first week I checked if the city had changed, and if it had, in which ways. I started with my priority number 1: food. The ‘souvlaki’ place called Delicatessen is still open and the food there is as delicious as the name indicates. Valentino ‘crepes’ (pancakes) in Navarino are even greater and the streets have just the same smell I used to love, a mix between grill, coffee and cinnamon. And yes, ‘frappe’ is still Greek national drink, neither ‘ouzo’ nor ‘tsipouro’, ‘frappe’, that’s the word. Then I checked the nightlife and I found out that Valaoritou turned into a kind of ghetto with thousands of people are gathering for a beer in one of the fancy bars that opened the last years and that these crazy and cheap parties in the campus area are still going on. Finally I checked my Greek language skills to find out I almost forgot everything and I can barely nod my head while saying ‘nai, nai’, but it is a start.

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Changing to the bad things, I noticed that mosquitoes are my main enemy in Greece, but I guess this is just my problem and no one’s else. Traffic is as crazy as it was and I am still getting used to the Greek way of crossing the street that it can be summed up like this: run for your life! And yes, neighbours seem to not like us very much specially during the silence hours and we are supposedly making some noise.

And that’s all I can say by now, this is my second first impression of a city that is crowded by young people, cultural activities and nightlife, a city where life is nice. If you are thinking about coming here, don’t hesitate anymore, do it. Don’t let anyone else to tell you his or her first impression and live it by yourself.

* Ignacio does his European Voluntary Service, supported and funded by the Hellenic National Agency under the Youth in Action programme. His Sending Organization is Asociación Cultural Ingalicia (http://www.ingalicia.org).

My First Impression of Thessaloniki. By Diego Domínguez García October 7, 2013

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I arrived at the International Airport of Thessaloniki on September 6th. It was 11 in the morning and it was hot (26 degrees). I was carrying 45 kg distributed in three bags. I had left my hometown the day before and I had only slept two hours. I was tired, really tired, but at the same time I was thrilled to start a new adventure in my life. Probably, the best adventure in my short lifeI arrived at the airport and Aris and Olympia were waiting for me. I was glad to hear that he preferred to be called Aris instead of Aristodimos, since it is a name too long and too Greek and I could have mispronounced it easily.

Both of them helped me carry my luggage. Aris took the biggest bag while holding on the other hand a big glass of coffee. It wouldn´t be the only time I saw that big coffee that day, neither during my first week. I started to realize that Greece is not only a place of feta cheese, but also of coffee.

Moving on, we entered the car. While I was fastening my seat belt, I felt Ari´s eyes on me. He was staring at me saying “C´mon. We don´t do that in Greece. You´re too legal”. It was surprising for me but I kept my seat belt fastened, not because I did not trust Aris, but because I usually do it. Then, I saw that all the drivers did not fasten their belts, and almost none motorbike rider use his or her helmet. Nothing happened during the trip and we got safe and sound to the apartment.

When we left the apartment to go to the office I thought: “Nice, we are going down”. I was being too naive. I did not realize that if you go down, later you must go up. And both home and office are way too up. Nevertheless, if we look on the bright side of life, we are saving a lot of money in fitness training. The problem the first days was the high temperature. I am a Scottish Spaniard and I am not used at this.

Although it was sunny and hot, there was also water in Thessaloniki. And I am not talking about the Aegean Sea, not even the rain. I am talking about the glasses of water served at the pubs. The first time I ordered a loykanikopita (sausage wrapped in foil pie) I was not expecting a glass of water. If I knew it, I would not have ordered a coke. Neither was I expecting another glass of water after ordering a beer in Agia Sophia. Maybe it was too polite for me.

However, none of these anecdotes is part of my first impression. Since an “impression” is “an effect, feeling, or image retained as a consequence of experience”, my first impression of Thessaloniki is the image of the view of the city from our balcony I have kept in my mind. The pure white of the city against the brave blue of the sea. The yellow sun turning into orange on the walls by night. A city that sounds like music and keeps on dancing as time passes by.

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* Diego does his European Voluntary Service, supported and funded by the Hellenic National Agency under the Youth in Action programme. His Sending Organization is Asociación Cultural Ingalicia (http://www.ingalicia.org).

Thessaloniki, here I am! By Riccardo Rossi* September 19, 2013

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On Sunday first September night I touched down at Thessaloniki international Airport (Greece) after having been stuck at the Athens airport for 30 minutes due to a problem with Aegean Airlines. Honestly, when I was waiting for the flight to Thessaloniki at the Athens Airport the first feeling I had right off the bat was: It is a really good start!!!!!!!!!

Some United Societies of Balkans staff came over to the airport to pick me up, and took me to my new home. Once we went there I got to know those who will be my new flatmates. At first blush, I thought that they are not so bad people to get along with! Same impression I had for my new roommate. He is from Turkey but he speaks excellent Greek as he has been studying it for four years, and he has also been living in Thessaloniki for seven months. I am really happy to share my room with him, because he is such a funny person to stay with. I have been in Thessaloniki for almost three weeks now, and I have already begun to get the feel of the city. First impressions are important, but they should be appreciated for their fragility. So far, everything I have felt about the city is something special to me, but I also guess that time will expose my first perceptions in a wrong or right way; it does not matter. However, at first glance I could notice some clear architectural differences between my country and Greece by just having a look at buildings such as churches, cathedrals, castles, and so on. Throughout the downtown buildings are old and beautiful, small shops are favoured over the larger stores. Thessaloniki is surrounded by green mountains, and you can have an amazing view of the sea by staying in the upper part of the city where the fortress is.

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As far as I can tell, the city is a lively place rolled up in a relaxing atmosphere especially by evening, which gives you the feeling that time goes by slowly. Although, I would say that the city has a particular feature: it becomes noisy at night and hectic at overnight. There is a variety of activities at nights, most of all in the weekends, such as concerts which are often held in the University, discos, and bars. I also realized differences between Greece and my country become so subtle, referring to the fact that people have many different ways of enjoying life, especially the night’s one. As it happens in my country here you can find “certain people” – e.g. with a particular way of dressing, of looking -, according to the place that they stay in. I would say that in general the city is open to a variety of ways of being, and it also allows you to be as you are. Another aspect which has aroused my curiosity is the fact that in Greece siesta’s hours are granted by the law. It sounds strange at least to me, and I did not know before came here. As far as I experienced the people of my district Agios Pavlos are friendly to the tourists, but not so much during the siesta’s hours. Over the siesta’s hours in this neighborhood anyone stays in silence, and if you might make any single subtle noise you would be scold by the typical whistle “shhhhhhhhhh”. If you walk on the district streets in the summer period, from 14.00 to 17.00, you cannot hear a pin drop. Truth be told, I did not notice this attitude of people in each part of the Thessaloniki but only in my neighborhood, where perhaps residents are such law abiding people. Even so, I am so happy about the fact that residents appreciate to hear my huge efforts in speaking Greek. So far, I am just able to get cigarettes in Greek and vaguely greet people. It is really funny because I am totally panicky whenever the shopkeeper tries to tell me something else. However, I will have time to learn Greek as well as I will have time and eagerness to discover the desires, fears, secrets, and perspectives of the city. Finally, I would like to conclude by quoting one of my most favourite Italian writers, Italo Calvino. Once he wrote about the cities: “Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”

*Riccardo does his European Voluntary Service, supported and funded by the Hellenic National Agency under the Youth in Action programme.

“MP3s – Multipliers for Peace in 3 steps” vol. 01 May 29, 2013

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Τετάρτη 22 Μαΐου 2013

Το νέο πρόγραμμα κατάρτισης

“ΜP3s – Multipliers for peace in 3 steps”

(Πολλαπλασιαστές για την ειρήνη σε 3 Βήματα)

ξεκίνησε!

 *English Text Follows.

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Το σχέδιο κατάρτισης “ΜP3 – Multipliers for Peace in 3 steps” λαμβάνει χώρα σε ένα από τα πιο όμορφα φυσικά τοπία της Βορείου Ελλάδος, στο Χολομώντα της Χαλκιδικής. Τη Δευτέρα 20 Μαΐου, κατέφτασαν στο αεροδρόμιο της Θεσσαλονίκης 20 νέοι από 10 διαφορετικές χώρες της Ευρώπης, των Βαλκανίων και του Καυκάσου (Αρμενία, Γεωργία, Βουλγαρία, Ρουμανία, Ιταλία, Δανία, Ουγγαρία, Κύπρο, Τουρκία και Ελλάδα). Παρόλο που οι συμμετέχοντες ταλαιπωρήθηκαν λόγω των πολλών μετακινήσεων και των δυσκολιών που αντιμετώπισαν, ορισμένοι, για την έκδοση βίζας, η διάθεση τους ήταν ιδιαίτερα ανεβασμένη. Οι νέοι, ηλικίας 18-30 ετών, από την πρώτη κιόλας βραδιά επιδίωξαν να μοιραστούν μεταξύ τους τις προσωπικές τους εμπειρίες και αντάλλαξαν πληροφορίες σχετικά με τις χώρες καταγωγής τους. Οι περισσότεροι από τους νέους επισκέπτονται για πρώτη φορά την Ελλάδα και ιδίως την ορεινή Χαλκιδική.

Ο ίδιος ενθουσιασμός επικράτησε και την επόμενη μέρα, όπου τα πρώτα σεμινάρια πραγματοποιήθηκαν με επιτυχία. Η βασική θεματική ήταν η εισαγωγή στο πρόγραμμα και τους στόχους του 10ήμερου σχεδίου κατάρτισης. Με την καθοδήγηση των εκπαιδευτών, τη δεύτερη ημέρα του σεμιναρίου επιδιώχθηκε η συγκρότηση  ομάδων, καθώς η εξαρχής θέσπισης τους είναι καθοριστικής σημασίας. Οι ομάδες συγκροτήθηκαν από άτομα διαφορετικής ηλικίας και εθνικότητας, με σκοπό να επιτευχθεί η καλύτερη γνωριμία των συμμετεχόντων και οι στόχοι του προγράμματος, μέσα από μεθόδους μη τυπικής μάθησης, συζητήσεις και την ανάδειξη των συγκρούσεων που υπάρχουν σε αυτές τις χώρες και κοινωνίες.

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Η ημέρα ολοκληρώθηκε με το καλωσόρισμα των κατοίκων του χωριού Ταξιάρχη, όπου δόθηκε η δυνατότητα στους νέους να έρθουν σε άμεση επαφή με τους κατοίκους του χωριού και κυρίως με τους συνομήλικούς τους. Στη συνέχεια πραγματοποιήθηκε η διαπολιτισμική βραδιά, όπου οι νέοι παρουσίασαν τα παραδοσιακά εδέσματα της χώρας τους και γεύτηκαν αντίστοιχα τοπικές νοστιμιές. Τέλος, η βραδιά ολοκληρώθηκε με πολύ χορό, χειροκρότημα και όλοι οι συμμετέχοντες έφυγαν με τη γνώση ορισμένων ελληνικών λέξεων. Η στήριξη του Δήμου και της περιοχής, αποτελεί καθοριστικής σημασίας για την πραγματοποίηση του προγράμματος.

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Το σχέδιο κατάρτισης “ΜP3s – Multipliers for peace in 3 steps”, διοργανώνεται από τη μη κυβερνητική οργάνωση “Ενωμένες Κοινωνίες των Βαλκανίων”, με τη συγχρηματοδότηση του Ευρωπαϊκού προγράμματος “Νέα Γενιά σε Δράση”. Το πρόγραμμα στοχεύει μέσα από τη μέθοδο των 3 βημάτων – ειρήνη με τον εαυτό μας, ειρήνη με την κοινωνία και το περιβάλλον καθώς και ειρήνη με τις άλλες χώρες- στην εκπαίδευση πάνω στη διαχείριση κρίσεων και την ειρήνη.

Η συνέχεια έπεται τις επόμενες μέρες, ενώ οι συμμετέχοντες καλούνται να αντιμετωπίσουν ακόμη μεγαλύτερες προκλήσεις. Άραγε, θα καταφέρουν οι νέοι διαφορετικών εθνικοτήτων, να διαχειριστούν θέματα κρίσης και να θεσπίσουν πρώτα από όλα ειρήνη με τους εαυτούς τους; Αυτό θα φανεί τις επόμενες ημέρες…

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The new training course

“MP3s – Multipliers for peace in 3 steps”

has started!

 

The training course “MP3s – Multipliers for Peace in 3 steps” takes place in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes of Northern Greece, in Holomonta of Chalkidiki. Twenty youths from 10 different countries of Europe, Balkans and Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece), have arrived on Monday at the airport of Thessaloniki. Despite the hardship of participants due to many transportations and difficulties concerning visa edition, their mood was still very good. By the very first night, youngsters between 18-30 years old were eager to share their personal experiences with each other and exchanged information about the countries of origin. For most of the participants this is their first visit to Greece and particularly to the mountainous Chalkidiki.

The same enthusiasm continued and the next day, where the first workshops have been successfully held. The main topic was the presentation and introduction to the seminar and its ultimate purposes. During the second day, the trainers together with participants managed the most critical challenge, the forming of groups. The groups formed by youngsters of different ages and nationalities in order to know each other better and achieve the project’s aim through the methods of non-formal education, discussions and highlighting the conflicts that exist in these countries and societies.

The day ended with the welcome of the locals from the village Taxiarchis, where participants had the opportunity to come into direct contact with the youths of the same age. Then, the intercultural evening took place, where youngsters presented their traditional dishes and tasted local delicacies. Finally, the evening ended with dancing, clapping and all participants having learnt certain Greek words. The support of the Municipality and region are crucial for the realization of the program.

The training course “MP3s- Multipliers for peace in 3 steps” is organized by the non-governmental organization “United Societies of Balkans”, with the co-funding of European Programme “Youth in Action”. The project aims through the method of three steps – peace with ourselves, peace with the society, environment and peace with other countries – to educate participants on conflict management and peace.

The next days, participants are asked to face greater challenges. First of all, would they achieve to make peace with themselves? We will see the next days …

40° N. On the same parallel. By Matteo Scarpa May 20, 2013

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I’m just sliding on an imaginary line drawn on our mother Earth. 40° N. Going East.

Henry Miller is stuck on my mind again. Do you know him? I don’t know him, neither. I’ve never met him but cannot get rid of his most famous quote out of my mind. It’s chasing me in every step of my life.

They said me: “In three days you’ll leaving, pack your stuff!”

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Destination: 40° 38′ 0″ N.

Bene, Vado!

“Κανείς δε μένει χωρίς πατρίδα, όσο θα υπάρχει Θεσσαλονίκη.” (Νικηφόρος Χούμνος)

I would have learnt that some days later.

No doubt about it.

Fate, sometimes plays with you and you recognize it just after. Laughter and smile will appear on your face if you take it just as it is. You move on. You just move. You know you’ll miss your friends but you move. You move for the sake of that hungry soul you bring inside.

I’m coming back to a place to which I just happened to pass by in November 2011. Few days here on the Greek soil were enough to see the beauty of a culture that has never lost its charm. How many times around Europe, Greek friends have told me “Una faza una raza” [“One face, one race”] with that greek-italian accent. That’s more than just a saying, that’s a pure truth. Astonish people and smell flavors of history everywhere, again and more. Clouds of smoke, cozy taverns, sounds and traditions, dancing feet and loud voices. Seems I’ve never moved so closer to my home.

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Flashbacks walking downtown makes you take unknown paths unconsciously knowing already were you are going to end up. Mystery of human minds, reality of human life. My life here and now. That’s nothing more going on through my mind.

I just contemplate the city up from the Heptapyrgion. Blue immense sea after a crowded and indistinct mess of houses and buildings, all spiced up with a stunning sunset that can recharge you in no time.

On these coordinates I just started to make things happen. On these coordinates mother Earth can feel my steps now, who knows till when. In the meantime Henry Miller reappears and slowly shows me that new way.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

Henry Miller

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Don’t judge a book by its cover! Από τη Φωτεινή Καραμούζη April 18, 2013

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20 Μαρτίου 2013. Η ώρα είναι 8:30 το πρωί και το αεροδρόμιο της Θεσσαλονίκης πλήττεται από την αδιάκοπη κίνηση ταξιδιωτών. Άνθρωποι είτε μόνοι είτε με παρέα. Αναμένοντας την ένδειξη επιβίβασης βλέπω ένα πρόσωπο γνωστό και συνειδητοποιώ πως τούτο το ταξίδι θα προσφέρει κοινωνικές σχέσεις.

Το ταξίδι συνεχίζει και το μεσημέρι με βρίσκει στην πόλη του Bergamo. Μια πόλη χτισμένη ψηλά σε λόφο, με τείχη να υψώνονται στους ουρανούς θαρρείς τα σύννεφα πασχίζουν να αγγίξουν.

Επόμενος προορισμός Παλέρμο! Η ώρα δεν άργησε και πολύ να φτάσει που πάλι ο χρόνος θα με έβρισκε με μια βαλίτσα να περπατώ αναζητώντας τρένα. Χαμένη σε βροχερά μονοπάτια. Το τελευταίο τρένο απέχει μόλις μια ώρα από τον τελικό μου προορισμό κι όμως ήδη οι δεκατρείς ώρες ταξιδιού σκιαγραφούνται στις ρυτίδες του προσώπου μου και στα υγρά κόκκινα μάτια μου που εξουθενωμένα πια αναζητούν καταφύγιο μετά την παλίρροια εικόνων που υπέστησαν σήμερα. Τα φώτα της πόλης του Παλέρμου αχνοφαίνονταν από μακριά και ο μακρύς συρτός ήχος του τρένου δυναμώνει περισσότερο την αναμονή μου. Τα χέρια μου ανήμπορα να σηκωθούν, να σκουντήξουν το διπλανό μου που κοιμάται. Καθώς το τρένο σέρνεται αργά στις ράγες, η πόλη σιγοψιθυρίζει στα κρυφά λόγια σειρήνας που σε καλούν ταχέως να την ανακαλύψεις. Πρώτη αίσθηση η όσφρηση που πλημμυρίζει θαλασσινά την ώχρα της νύχτας κι έπειτα η ακοή, η όραση, μια πόλη νεκρή από φως μα ζωντανή στο σκότος και στο μυστήριο. Πέφτει η νύχτα στο Παλέρμο!

21 Μαρτίου 2013. Οι πρώτοι συμμετέχοντες καταφτάνουν στην αίθουσα συνεδριάσεων, δειλά, καλημερίζοντας τους πιθανούς τους φίλους και συνοδοιπόρους στους δρόμους της Ανθρώπινης Βιβλιοθήκης.

Κι η μέρα ενώ ξεκίνησε συννεφιασμένη και σκοτεινή, αρχίζει ν’ ανθίζει χαμόγελα στα παιχνίδια γνωριμιών και συνεργασίας εκεί κάπου στους διαδρόμους ενός καθολικού μοναστηριού που ήτο σιωπηλό μόνο. Τώρα άπληστα μάτια το τηρούν σα να’ ναι αξιοθέατο σε τούτο το ταξίδι αναζήτησης του εαυτού σου μέσα στους άλλους. Χέρια ενώνονται, μάτια αρχίζουν ν’ αγαπιούνται, η ακοή και η όσφρηση μαρτυρούν τα χιλιόμετρα που ξεχωρίζουν τον καθένα, αφού στο τέλος συνειδητοποιούμε πως την ίδια εικόνα αλλιώτικα την ενσωματώνουμε εντός μας.

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Το απόγευμα μας βρίσκει στο καφέ του κόσμου και εγώ να μιλώ για τα ξενιτεμένα σου όνειρα, εκείνα που μετανάστευσαν στο μέλλον και σ’ άφησαν άστεγο να αναζητάς τους χίλιους ήχους των προσφύγων. Κι έπεσε η νύχτα ξανά στο μυστηριώδες Παλέρμο και μένα με βρίσκει στη μέση μιας σκηνής να χορεύω τραγούδια μιας πατρίδας και να πετώ τα παπούτσια μου στα παρασκήνια!

22 Μαρτίου 2013. Είναι παράξενο όταν η μέρα ξεκινά με μια ερώτηση. Εκεί που η σκέψη αναζητά τη γνώση. Βιβλιοθήκες στο μυαλό που αναμένουν επισκέψεις και συζητήσεις των μελών στοχεύοντας στων ανθρώπων τα δικαιώματα, σπάζοντας στερεότυπα και καταργώντας προκαταλήψεις. Κι οι λέξεις να γεμίζουν τις αυλές, βοή ανθρώπων να μιλούν για ιστορίες αλλόκοτες, ιδέες που αιμορραγούν, να μοιράζονται το χθες, να ονειρεύονται μαζί τις αυριανές καλημέρες και οι διακρίσεις να μαστιγώνουν τον αέρα, έτοιμες να εισχωρήσουν στον ιερό χώρο των πολιτισμών. Μα οι κολόνες μιας μονής, στυλοβάτες, κρατούν ακόμη μακριά, πέρα από τα τείχη τα σκοτεινά στοιχειά των αναγνωστών εκείνων των βιβλίων.

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24 Μαρτίου 2013. Η  προετοιμασία γίνεται φωνή και η φωνή κινητήριος δύναμη. Οι ομάδες να δουλεύουν πυρετωδώς. Χαρτιά, μολύβια, χρώματα και σπάγκοι, δημιουργούν πολύτιμο υλικό για να γίνει ένα γεγονός παράξενο! Δικό μας! Ολόδικο μας!

Το βράδυ μας βρίσκει περπατώντας τους ενοχικούς δρόμους της πόλης, μιλώντας με ντόπιους και κάνοντας αφισοκόλληση ως το πρωί διαφημίζοντας το όραμα μας…προωθώντας μια ιδέα!

25 Μαρτίου 2013. Τούτη η μέρα είναι που άνοιξαν τα βιβλία. Ανοιχτές σελίδες και πνεύματα να ξεπηδούν, να πετούν τα γράμματα στο έδαφος, να τρέχουν ξέφρενα στους διαδρόμους του μοναστηριού, να χτυπούν με μανία στις κολόνες να κάνουν το θόρυβο αφόρητο, να θέλουν να εισακουστούν.

Κι έπειτα σιγά-σιγά να επιστρέφουν στα βιβλία τους, να χώνονται κρυφά κάτω από το εξώφυλλο και να σωπαίνουν επιστρέφοντας στη ρουτίνα τους, σε αυτή που ένιωθαν εγκλωβισμένα μα και ασφάλεια! Τελευταίες ώρες αξιολόγησης και να που η φωνή όση κι αν έχει ειλικρίνεια δεν εννοούν να την αποδεχτούν! Γιατί τότε άραγε να σε ρωτούν αφού την απάντηση σου δεν προθυμοποιούνται να ακούσουν;

Τελευταία μέρα. Οι εντυπώσεις πολλές, μύριες, σα τα αστέρια που πασχίζαμε να μετρούμε σαν παιδιά. Καλές, κακές δεν έχει σημασία πια, ασήμαντες θα μείνουν στο χρόνο. Σημασία δίνει η Ανθρώπινη Βιβλιοθήκη στην καρδιά μας κι εκείνη η ανέλπιστη κραυγή των βιβλίων να εισακουστούν! Τούτη είναι η μοίρα μας πια…. Να ανοίξουμε τις σελίδες τους στους ανθρώπους γύρω μας! Να δώσουμε φωνή στις σιωπηλές ιστορίες…

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Φωτεινή Καραμούζη

Συμμετοχή στο Training Course “Human Library – Fostering Dialogue to combat discrimination and promote diversity” 20- 27 Μαρτίου 2013 μαζί με τον Κυριάκο Πατσίδη εκπροσωπώντας τη ΜΚΟ, «Ενωμένες Κοινωνίες των Βαλκανίων».

ΔEMOKRATIA – the Way of the Cross By Lisa Ambrosio April 3, 2013

Posted by usbngo in Older Posts.
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“ΔEMOKRATIA – the Way of the Cross” is a documentary by Marco Gastine, which follows the election campaign of four candidates from the most important parties (Nea Democratia, PASOK, Golden Dawn and Syriza) for the Parliamentary Elections of May, 6th 2012.

The film was screened during the 15th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. The director, Marco Gastine, was there and by grabbing the chance of his presence we managed to have a very interesting discussion with him. To the interview below you can read what the director told us about his work and about the Greek politics.

Now the Greek political situation is on the focus of the international attention. What is the situation of the main political parties?

There is a kind of small political revolution here. After the fall of the Dictatorship in 1974, “PASOK”, the Socialist Party, and “New Democracy”, the conservative party, they were protagonists of the political life and they stayed in power for thirty years in alternation, one after the other. Now these parties are almost collapsing, especially the socialist party, which, in general elections in 2009, it had more than 40% of votes while in the elections of May 2012 it got 10%. The same happens with “New Democracy”, a little less because they were not in charge; now they are around 15-18% and they were more than 40%. On the other side, there is this incredible raise of “Syriza”, the radical left party, that was less than 4% and now it could be the first party and of the neo-Nazi party. This is the result of the crisis, because the anger of the people makes them aggregate in the two extremes, one of the ultra-left and one of the ultra-right.

Both Syriza and Golden Dawn are new in Greek political scene. Do they have a stable base and militants?

They are not so new parties. Actually “Syriza” has a long story: there was a split in the former Communist Party, because of the intervention in Czechoslovakia, so two directions of the communist party were born, one in Greece, the Communist party of Interior, and one in Moscow, which became the Communist party of the Exterior. In the beginning the Communist party of the Interior was stronger but, after the fall of the Dictatorship, it became the opposite and the Communist party of Exterior, which had a popular basis among workers, became the official one, while the Communist party of Interior became a party of intellectuals. This last one is the root of “Syriza”: there were some evolutions and some splits, until a few years ago when the last split created on one side the official “Syriza”, more radical, and on the other side “DIMAR”, a social-democratic party. So “Syriza” is not a new party. It has a basis among teachers and intellectuals, in the middle class, and just a little in the popular class. With the fall of “PASOK”, they are solidifying in the trade unions and among state workers. On the other side, “Golden Dawn”, the neo-Nazi party, is a very interesting phenomenon: it was a very small group which was created at the fall of the Dictatorship, in connection with its former members, and for many years they did only an ideological work. In the last decade they started to make propaganda and political action, very violent, and they started using demagogy against the immigrants, even before the beginning of the crisis. It is very shocking but also very interesting to see that now they are one of the most organized parties in the popular areas: they use the fear of old people to be stolen, linked to the raise of criminality, and they present themselves as the only ones who will defend the old people, put order in the streets, cease the illegal immigration. So in many popular areas are quite well implanted. They organize local base, as the Communist party was doing before.

In your movie we could see the “Golden Dawn” as a very aggressive group, but very poor in contents.

Their leaders have been developing a clear neo-Nazi ideology for many years, but now they have passed to the phase of propaganda and they know, very cleverly, that they can grow with very little ideology, mostly directed against immigrants, because of the crisis. The more violent they are, the more they grow. For example, just after the elections there was a TV programme, with four members of the Parliament, one from “Syriza”, one from the official Communist party and a young member of “Golden Dawn”; he was very aggressive against the others since the beginning of the show, and in the end he threw water and gave a punch to the Communist party member. Then he left the studio and the police was looking for him, but he left the town and nobody caught him. After this episode, the “Golden Dawn” raised in the public opinion. So, they know they can get result with a very simple but violent rhetoric. That is the reason why is very difficult to fight them. And many people are desperate, because they have been unemployed for many years, they still have no job, they lost everything, so they believe in simple things.

People do not trust anymore not only in political parties, but in the whole institutional system. How is it possible? And how is it linked with the crisis?

Greece was living a kind of lie in the past years. After the Second World War, Greece could not develop as a European country, because of the British intervention not to let the Communist take the power, then there was the Civil War and later the Dictatorship. It is just with the fall of the Dictatorship and then with the fall of the Soviet Union, that Greece could develop its economy. Thanks to the help of European Union and tourism, money was coming and people started spending much more than what they could earn. The economy was going well, a lot of cheap workers from Bulgaria, Romania and Albania were coming, so a middle class could develop. And suddenly, with the crisis, everything falls down. The people realized that the system was very corrupted and they did use these assets to encourage the real development. For example, the agricultural industry received many subsidies, but nobody asked for results; so instead of developing quality of production and modernizing it, the farmers used that money for themselves, with the complicity of the political parties. The same happened with the Trade Unions, which were giving jobs to their members. Now, people say that parties and unions did not tell them the truth, but actually nobody wanted to listen to the truth, because everybody was making profits with the system and this system has collapsed with the crisis. People are angry with their politicians, but they were part of it.

In this extremely difficult context, which is the function of a documentary?

It is cynical to say that, but crisis is a good thing, because people now have to face the situation as it is. That is why we make documentaries, because we are in love with reality; they could seem objectives, but they are not; it is just a way to see the reality. Few years ago, we could not make this kind of films, because people did not want to face their fears. This is what I want to make with my films, not to judge but just show people as it is. I want to make people conscious about themselves, with their flaws and their qualities.

What are the future prospects for Greece?

A good effect of the crisis was that people understood that they could not afford it alone, so new solidarity relations were born. You can see it everywhere, even among film makers, we created an association that was not existing until now. We make films with no budget, because there are more and more documentaries and less and less money and if we put our forces all together, maybe we can find a solution. Of course, it does not work for the country. For this economical and political problem in a grand scale, I am not very optimistic. I do not believe in these easy solutions that the populists offer us. Maybe Greece made more mistakes than other countries, but does not work anywhere; it is making the common people poorer and poorer, while a few minority gets richer and richer, but we cannot pay anymore for the banks and one day the small countries will start to refuse these politics, like Cyprus did. You cannot see very well where the crisis is. Many people come to Greece and see the cafeterias full and just a few homeless people on the street, which is something you could not have seen a few years ago. But if you go inside the life of the people, they do not have money and many do not have anything to eat. It is like a building going into the ground; that was living in the fourth floor, now is on the second, who was in the second level now is on the ground and you can see this building collapsing slowly. And the political class, the European leaders are not conscious about it; they just impose solutions that are not suitable for the everyday life of the common people; it is not tragic yet, but it will become and for many people it is very difficult, especially for the young generation. I cannot tell solutions and I cannot tell what is going on, but I do not think the situation will get better by itself. Let’s create our wealth, and not keep on giving money to banks, that will not give it to the society.

ImageMarco Gastine is a Greek-French film maker who was born in Paris in 1952. Since 1978 he lives and works in Athens, where he studied Film Directing. His work is always focused on cities and their people.

A piece of kosher text By Ayşe Burcu Atabey April 2, 2013

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Believe or not, throughout the 6 months that I have been living in Thessaloniki the biggest problem I had to face wasnot the integration in the new society or homesickness. Actually I was not able to notice that I had such a big problem – until I got tired of pasta and tuna fish that I always eat. There were even nights I found myself in a situation in which I felt like crying, even getting crazy and escaping to Turkey thinking about the food of my mother in despair. Yes, my biggest problem was the lack of that kind of completely perfect dinner with, I do not know, soup, meat…

In Turkey, for breakfast we have a menu which consists of olives, cheese, honey, marmalade, tomatoes and eggs and which is completed with a glass of tea. Let’s put it this way. In none of the European countries there is the same breakfast culture. But I have nothing to say since I can find all these stuff in Greece and put them on my breakfast table. Nevertheless, imagine yourself preparing soup, beans and rice menu upon coming home with exhaust. It is impossible to be able to do this every time. It is more impossible if your experience with the housework is not so great. It is even more impossible if you are lazy to cook. So every time it is pasta which saves your life!

When I got so sick and tired of eating pasta, I asked my Serbian colleague in the office who brings those delicious meals like beans and stuffed cabbage to work every day if she could bring lunch to me, as well. Of course she could, with pleasure! But the problem did not disappear this way. I, who did not spend a day without eating steak or chicken, turned into a big vegetarian because of halal meat issue. I would not eat the meat of any animal which was not cut in the name of the Creator. You can never understand how depressed I was because of this!

Since my roommate is Greek and she knows Thessaloniki very well, I asked her to find me halal meat. She, as well, knew how I was longing for real food and how miserable I was. She was going to find me what I asked for. But in Thessaloniki there is not a big Muslim community, how come we could find halal meat? Eventually, I decided to take action, indeed it was what I had had to do in the beginning. I searched about the standards of the kosher food and the restaurants of the Jewish, who are quite a lot in Thessaloniki. The standards of the halal and the kosher meat were almost the same. And there were two kosher restaurants which got their certificates from the rabbi in Thessaloniki. I said “hayde, pame” (let’s go) to the Jewish restaurant!

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Together with my roommate Christina, we were talking to the receptionist of the hotel where the kosher restaurant was, thinking how strange maybe we seemed to him. Yes, there was kosher food that evening, but probably she did not understand what exactly we wanted and that was why she did that most strange thing I have experienced in my life and called the rabbi to the reception to talk to us! The rabbi was a very nice person in his middle ages with a haji appearance. Most probably he was an alien like me and did not know Greek like me. He welcomed us in a very friendly way. I told him I am a Muslim, I could not eat meat here, but as I understood the standard of the kosher meat of the Jewish is almost the same as of ours so I could eat kosher meat. The rabbi confirmed me and invited us to the restaurant upstairs.

In the restaurant there was just a group of Hebrews as guests apart from us. Christina was saying to me she was experiencing something strange that she would never forget in her life and always tell everyone, looking at my face. I was feeling the same. Thessaloniki, this hotel, the rabbi, the Hebrews and that kosher meat… A unique dinner… Upon learning there was not kosher food every time in the hotel but they were serving it because there were Hebrew tourists, I said “yes, the Creator is with me!” The dishes were coming one by one. Within our chat, we ate the warm vegetable soup with great pleasure. It was so delicious as if my mother cooked it. After came our salad, just of my taste, with tomatoes, pepper, lettuce and onions. During the period I have been here as oppose to what I do in Turkey, I had not eaten one single plate of salad with onions.

Our chat was deepening and while I was having the best time of my life eating my kosher meat, I was telling Christina the beautiful story of the beautiful prophet Joseph, from the veil to the palace. Christina asked me why this story is important for Muslims. I explained her that all the prophets are important for us as, all of them were sent by the same Creator. When we were eating our apple desserts with cinnamon, the rabbi came to us to ask if we liked the food and to say goodbye to us. That evening kosher dinner, the following day synagogue and then Ayşe and Christina are Jewish I was joking…

While leaving the hotel I was thinking that I should come here frequently and organize an intercultural event there with the volunteers of the NGO, United Societies of Balkans, where I am a volunteer, as well, at the present time. Salamaleykum!

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