From Alex to Athens and back; two different worlds

There were a couple of things that were really appealing about teaching in Egypt. One was that the assignment was in Alexandria not Cairo with its twenty three million inhabitants. Alexandria was on the Mediterranean and our apartment was to be a ten minute walk from the sea. What was not to like about that?

Which leads me to the other point. Alexandria is a stone’s throw from the European Mediterranean coast, in particular, Greece, historic and beautiful, especially the islands of the Aegean. Greece has been in the news like many countries in this part of the world for all of the wrong reasons…the Grexit problems with the European Union and its bankers; the refugees washing up in their shaky boats on some of their islands and a general image of despair. But look at the map I kept telling myself and Judy. A flight from here to Athens takes one hour and forty minutes. Like flying to Quebec City from Ottawa. But the difference between Greece and Egypt, even Alexandria which was founded by a Greek, is hard to describe.

So off we went, leaving Alex at about four in the afternoon and arriving at our little hotel in Oia on the island of Santorini by nine that evening. We had a transfer in Athens to catch our flight to Santorini that was hair raising to say the least but we turned on the after burners Laurie McLean style and just caught the flight on time. It was just what we needed. Santorini is a beautiful island, very rocky from the earthquakes and lava spills of the past but with breathtaking, stunning views. We travelled around the island on local buses which were very plush but cheap (1.8 Euros). Our accommodation at Maria’s Place was simple but clean and comfortable and we had five days to relax. The last five or six weeks at school have been intense, with extra time and work, so we felt like our vacation was earned. We also had two nights in Athens at the end of the week which we were a bit uncertain about, another big city with all that it entails. But we loved it. The metro is a wonder. It took us from the airport to our hotel and back easily and comfortably. They play classical music at the metro stops which felt very soothing. Maybe that is what we need in our classes full of rambunctious Egyptian kids! They would probably look at us like we had two heads.

Greece feels very European. Most people seem to speak good English. They are quite laid back although I did talk with a number of them about their eight years of austerity which have been and still are difficult. Everyone wants to get paid in cash and they are willing to make deals to see it happen, even hotel keepers. They are limited to four hundred and fifty Euros a week for interac withdrawals. Pensions have been halved. Life is not simple.

So we jump on our Egyptair flight to Alexandria and, before the plane is even taxiing down the runway, a huge brouhaha breaks out in the seat in front of us between a mother and some fellow sitting in front of her who I think made the mistake of saying something about her noisy children. Big problem! All sorts of passengers and personnel converge to comfort the mother. The unfortunate fellow is moved to the back of the plane somewhere and two minutes later, it is as if nothing has happened. Interestingly, we didn’t even blink. Home sweet home. Back to the noise and the chaotic, tumultuous energy of Alexandria. Our sweet, restful vacation finished with a bang.

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