Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Failed Rabbit Killer: November on a Greek Island

People have been asking me a lot if I’ve been affected by the economic crisis in Greece. It will take a while for changes to affect life here, though I have just heard that our local boat connection to Rhodes, the Sea Star, is stopping for a while due to lack of funds. We still have two other boats that stop in a couple of times a week, but there was something quite social about the Wednesday trip on the Sea Star.
It’s a good job we went last week. While I spent hours choosing teaching books and ink cartridges and a newspaper and warm winter socks and organic muesli, Stelios went to the supermarket and stocked up with brown rice and pasta and flour and dark chocolate. Just as we were staggering to the boat laden with bags of goodies unavailable in Tilos, Stelios had a phone call: his fishing mates ordering fifty euros worth of home made baklava and ice cream from a well known place. No food shortages here then, just yet.
I also did something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. No, not that, I did that ages ago. I mean I took my recycling over to Rhodes. Yes, I took a big bag full of plastic and glass and deposited it in the recycling bins outside the old town. Good old Stelios didn’t mind my eccentric behaviour and actually helped.

‘I am a failed rabbit killer,’ said Stelios the other night – as we figured out after rummaging in the dictionary for a while. He would love to hit a rabbit ‘accidentally’ while driving home, and cook it up. Not in my kitchen, I said, remembering what skinned rabbits looked like in the butchers’ shops in France.
But I’m happy to receive oranges freshly picked from the trees, and bags of fish. Last week he told me he’d bought four kilos of local pork; stupidly, I expected it to come as steaks, not just a large section of pig. But he stomped in with his fishing clothes on and proceeded to chop it up like a serial killer. (Not a failed rabbit killer.) Meanwhile, I am still foraging a few tomatoes and courgettes, lettuce and rocket and basil from the garden.

On the subject of shopping, the supermarket in Megalo Horio, after its new aisle arrangement in the spring, is delightfully chaotic again. But it has pretty much everything hidden somewhere, if you have the patience to find it. (And frankly, if you don’t have patience, what are you doing on a Greek island?) I asked Eleftheria to help me find some coloured pencils in the ‘stationery section’, which looks a bit like a few teenagers’ school lockers which have not been tidied all year. She gamely rummaged around for a while and said her little boy Kyriakos had probably taken them, hunted a little more under some random stacks of paper (sounds of things falling off the shelf at the back) and eventually found exactly what I was looking for. If you’re thinking Eleftheria sounds like a very nice person, you would be absolutely spot on. I took my pack of pencils to the English lessons – and on opening the packet, found that a little boy had indeed been in there. Red pencil missing and another broken.

Teaching English is gradually becoming something of a joy. I am learning that if the younger class gets too chaotic, you get them to draw seahorses and give everyone gold stars.
The little girls arrive early and write the date on the board and usually Maria tells me with great fervour about something she’s been doing – last week it seemed to be dancing on ice. At some point in the class there is always some outraged shouting about someone making fun of someone else, and who started it, and who said what, and it is hilarious to watch their tiny serious faces and their tiny hands calling for justice. I ask them ‘Kai pios pethane?’ Who died? And they smile sheepishly and say ‘No-one…’ and we get back to work.
I hid little animals around the classroom for a treasure hunt, cunningly designed to get them to practice some language; the kids spotted all the animals within seconds of arrival, but were still thrilled by the game. And yet when I tried some songs I’d downloaded from the internet to help with learning colours, Michaelis asked if we could listen to ‘Back in Black’ instead. They also have an inordinate love of photocopies. The rumour runs around the room if I have some: Fototipies!!!
One of the smaller children moved up to the bigger class; the little ones all told me they were sad that he wouldn’t be with them any more, and asked if he could just sit in the classroom with them for company. The older class are at least as wonderful. One exercise in the book involved writing about ‘your best friend’. ‘Miss?’ asked Chris. ‘Can I write about more than one best friend? Because I have five best friends and I don’t want any of them to feel bad.’