Monday, April 19, 2010

Volcanos and Indians

I give myself 25 minutes. Whatever comes out of these tired fingers is exactly what will be posted.

Today a stringy, pensive man sat quietly on top of Lycavitous Hill, sitting in the serenity that goes along with high places and the humming chaos of the city far below him, past the trees, past the cars parked on the sidewalk, past the people sitting in the cafes... that was where the chaos was.

Until a black Mercedes Minibus wheeled up and eight Indians poured out, laughing, grabbing each other, running to the ledge overlooking the view. A redhead and a tall, ageless man with a white moustache came after them.

A girl approached the man (who had nearly lost his nose in the onslaught from the East) Excuse me, but could you please take our picture, all together?
The redhead and the ageless man were enveloped by brown and the stringy man, who so happened to be an Englishman, obligingly began snapping pictures of the strangers who had shattered his peace and did so without so much as a twitch of a frown. It didn’t mean that he didn’t return to his bench, to the exact same expression he was wearing with his long leg hitched over in the same tight hug that he was found in, but all of this was observed, by the redhead, who chalked it up to another brilliant example of how you can completely alter another person’s existence with a five minute encounter.

The Indians were a flight crew that landed in Athens because if they hadn’t their plane could have been filled with volcanic ash and fallen like a sparrow straight out of the sky! They had pooled together their waning funds and decided to make the most of it. At least they could see a city. It was a job handed to us roughly twenty minutes before we were due to arrive and it set the tone of the whole day.

Before the Indians arrival, I myself was in a pensive cloud, desperately trying to understand “what does a Turkish woman want?” I only know one Turkish woman and she is a self-proclaimed Sufi mystic, studying in Italy, and I would hazard the assumption, she’s not a cut-and-paste copy of anyone, and before I even have time to tell you why I was going about trying to do a cultural study I was getting a phone call telling me to be out in front of Parliament to collect said Indians and “show them some fun.”

I think they had fun. I think this because three out of the seven had a beer can in their hand from the moment they got out of the van until the time I dropped them in the hip area of Gazi for dinner, where I believe they made the switch to ouzo. We climbed up the glassy stone of Aereopagus Hill, me in my cowboy boots (no kidding! I mean I didn’t know I was going to be leading people around today, after all.) and they kept handing me their cameras, “Paige could you click for us?” and then “Come, Paige, come!” and someone else “clicked,” with me in the viewfinder. They bought worry beads and ate gyros and kebabs in Monistiraki Square with gypsies and chalk-white street-performers (statues of all things) coming up and harassing them for a handout. Me, still a bit uncool when it comes to batting these guys away, I was frantically digging in my bag for a coin saying “Figo! Parakalo!” Which I’m fairly certain is the equivalent to saying “ I leave, please!” So it’s a wonder that they didn’t.

They still had fun. They called me the best tour guide ever. I’m not going to let it go to my head.

I cannot help it. It makes my head swim, it makes it difficult to plan, but I love a little chaos. I’m so happy that an Icelandic volcano erupting for the first time in over a century and a half brought flight attendants of an Indian Airline from Delhi to interrupt my stewing over a theoretical situation involving wealthy Turkish ladies, completely imaginary, who may or may not arrive and use our services. Someone, I believe a shop owner in Plaka, asked me how I like Athens compared to Texas.
“Well, I’m never bored here.”
“No! Here, every day, you’re like Indiana Jones!”
Wielding off gypsies and painted up street prefomers and doing your duty to present one country that isn’t yours to people from another country you’ve never been at all, ending up in a bunch of photographs of people you might never see again in your life, but in those pictures we look like old friends.

I cannot help it. Deep down, I really love it here.