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Expats report: “Fragments of a life in several places across Greece”

We love to hear by expats writing about their experiences from their life in Greece. Jacqueline Paizis, an author and KTG reader sent us her “fragments of a life” here and told us also about a book she wrote, a novel “the Cleaner of Kastoria.”

Greece has been part of my psyche since I was nineteen years old. I have two adult sons whose father is Greek and they have both married Greek women.

My experiences of living in Greece are all very different.

Firstly, in Athens, where I taught English in a downtown Φροντιστηριο. Athens in the 1980s was not the same place it is now but the wages haven’t improved much! I owe my first teaching experience to a small classroom stuffed with 30 students ranging in age from six to eighteen. They had those desks on the edge of the chairs that could hardly accommodate a text book. I was so nervous I nearly ran out. But I loved Athens especially in the winter; the scent of fresh oranges in the local agora, the whiff of the north wind blowing down from mount Parnitha, the taste of fava in our neighbourhood taverna. This was a simple, traditional Athens where we could make our drachmes stretch.

My second experience as an expat was my year in Corfu, again as an English teacher. I rented a small balcony flat in the southern village of Benitses which is a beautiful place once you head up the hill through the narrow passages. From the front I had a view of the Ionian Sea and behind me the hills and interior villages of the island. I travelled into Corfu town on the Number 6 bus to teach at a school that consisted of two small classrooms, a toilet, the director’s office and the corridor. Sometimes I had to teach my lessons in the corridor and I soon realised that my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training was not relevant here. All that mattered was how many marks out of 20 the student achieved.

I went to a Greek teacher once a week and we spent the lessons reading Greek literature, articles, watching TV and talking. I had the pleasure of reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family & Other Animals from an old Greek edition given to my teacher when he was a child. He tried to find a copy for me to give me as a leaving present but sadly it is out of print in Greek.

My third, and I suspect last experience of being an expat is in Kefalonia, the largest of the Επτανισια, verdant and very beautiful.

Here in Kefalonia we have finally bought a little house in a small village in the municipality of Leivathos and this is where I wrote most of my second novel.

My first novel, The Cleaner of Kastoria, is about a young girl who escapes from her village at the beginning of the Greek Civil War in 1947. You can find it on www.lulu.com/spotlight/cleanerkast or Amazon as paperback and eBook. You can also read my writing blogs if you go to jacquyp.blogspot.com or @writingjacquyp.

Book Review

By Anastasios Vamvakas

05-May-2016

A compelling account of the life of a former Greek Civil War guerilla fighter. Through flashbacks and the heroine’s own reminiscences, the writer sheds light on a troubled era of Greek history which still remains largely uninterpreted and has left a lasting legacy of bitterness between segments of the Greek population. The motives, hopes and subsequent frustration of the Greek Democratic National Army fighters are laid bare in the heroine’s simple, everyday yet powerful language, along with a host of issues which are totally relevant to this day, such as women’s and workers’ rights, as well as the rise of racism and the class divide in Greek society. Drawing on interviews she conducted with real Greek women who had fought in the Civil War, Jacqueline Paizis has managed to create a poignant story with a distinct, original Greek flavour throughout. I heartily recommend it!

PS If you also expat and want to send us your own experience from living in Greece, please, do so in an e-mail to: keeptalkinggreeceATgmail.com

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