Friday, 24 May 2013

Today I...Got Another Touching Gift

Today I taught my final lesson with one of my favourite classes - and most testing class, may I add. A constant spur of hormones and smiles, I have had a lot of enjoyment teaching these girls and I have realised that I am beginning to gain more out of our relationship than I thought I ever would. By connecting with these young girls and learning about them, Inow have the hunger to learn more about my younger sister.

My relationship with my sister has always wavered, as is the classic tale of young siblings. You have those brothers and sisters with that angelic relationship. You know the ones. The chuckles and smiles, inside jokes and quality time. Very unnatural and very unbearable. Real brothers and sisters tear chunks out of each other and find sickening pleasure out of the other's misery. True one upmanship. True family bonding. All this aside, they still have each other's backs. From these girls that I have bonded with over the year I have gained a desire to be more active and interested in my own sister's life and interests. Don't get me wrong, I will never go to a One Direction concert (in fact, I may host a parade on the advent of their inevitable disbandment), but I am making it one of my goals to have more of an active interest in her life.

So, to conclude my time teaching these students, they gave me a sheet of paper during a relaxed exam practice lesson for their speaking exam. To them, it was probably nothing as they doodle this kind of thing in each other's books in every lesson, but for me it means so much. I am considering getting it immortalised along with a few other pieces of memorabilia. These are the spoils of a long testing war, after all.

Well, isn't this statement a little prideful...and completely true...
I really don't know whether this was a joke or a mistake. Either way, it is really awesome.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Real Talk: For Those With Me

Writing this may be in vain. This simply sits as a thank you to every single person I have met over the duration I have been living in Greece. I say it may be in vain because I am sure that the majority of my students have better things to do than read some fusty teacher's thanks splayed on the internet, thus this will be read only by those of you who actually follow my blog regularly. Many of you are Russian. I have never met a Russian in my life, so the fact that I have a following there is pretty interesting. Anywho...

I have seriously enjoyed my year. As with everything, it has had its ups and downs. Up; I have met some truly inspiring people. Down; I have built an extension to my waistline. Up; I have been to places more beautiful than I ever thought I would. More beautiful than the inside of a Gregg's bakers. Down; I went to the hospital. Up; I tried something new and it moved me. Down; I think I am addicted to coffee. Up; I now love coffee. This could go on forever.
The Bridge: A view from my coffee this afternoon.

According to one of my students my time inside the hospital changed me; made me less funny. Apparently, before my period of incarceration I was the funniest person he had ever met (one for the old pride, perhaps even to be scribed on the tombstone), but when I came out, it was like something had 'happened'. There is no debate that in my writing there is less humour of late. Nice little pictures of nice little locations. Factual information regarding my daily doolallies. The gradual disappearance of the word 'shid' signifies that this has secretly become a real blog and not just me being angry at things like employment and sweaty men at the gym. This will likely change as I move back to England and re-enter the void.

Before I see another Great British chav*, I have still got a few more weeks of work left in me. With this in mind, I offer the most sincere thank you to the students who finished their studies with me last December and to the students that have completed their studies today. 'Congratulations' and 'Good Luck' in the future. To those who haven't yet finished - apologies, you are still in the thick of it...for now.

As I said previously, this message will probably not reach the right eyes. Why not tell them personally, you ask? I am but a modest man. If I speak so openly with emotive intentions there is the possibility I could have my man license revoked.

*This image does not belong to me and this fact makes me incredibly happy.

Today Alone in a Swanky Hotel

Swanky 'otel
Today is exam day. A taxi has brought me from my early morning lesson (8:30-10:am - on a Saturday) to the Hotel Βυζαντινο (Byzantine) where the exams are being held. I couldn't be there for the students when they entered the exams at 9:30, but I had promised them that I would be there when they came out. So I brashly find a table in the middle of the elegant dining area and ordered myself a beverage, whilst trying to look as 'suppish' as I possibly can. Despite my greatest effort, which included wearing my shades indoors, I could not help but feel a streak of nerves passing through the base of my stomach.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Today I... Bite my Nails to Nubs

Today I - well, tonight I - am slightly nervous about the outcome of the following day. Nine months of teaching leads to this. Ten of my students are taking their English exams in around 9 hours and I can't help feel for them. I remember being a little shid myself on exam day. All jittery. Competing to be the coolest in your little social clics. 13 HB pencils and quietly reciting a few revision notes in your own head. Yeah, I am glad I will never have to go through that again. You'd be amazed at the level these students have to learn English at. I reckon over 70% of the people I know in England wouldn't know half of the things that my 13 year old students know. These are truly intelligent children.

I am doing anything to try and relax; I have already been out for a two-beer rendezvous with a friend. Fortunately, I have come across an article I find pretty perplexing. It is about a faith healer with a difference and the response by certain British officials about his upcoming tour around the country. This kind of progress in humanity makes you realise why wrestling is the most popular sport in America. This is not a knock at Americans as I watch wrestling myself, but I don't think that when I had a gippy tummy I would pay a 250 lb pay-as-you-go priest to dropkick me in the gut. It's obvious that the average American will  see this kind of phenomenon as insane, but why has this man not been sectioned yet? The strangest thing is that I am now searching for proof of this behaviour other than testimonial in hopes that it really isn't true. Maybe I am the insane one.

Insanity aside, wish me and my students luck for tomorrow! As an intelligent man once said, 'To infinity and beyond'.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Today I... Went to Corfu for Only Ten Euros a Night

Today I begin reflecting on what was perhaps one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. This week I got to share my year in Greece with two of my closest friends. After a short stay in Corfu, my friends and I travelled 3 hours by coach and ferry to my hometown of Arta. When I was planning the week, some of my friends asked me why we didn't just spend the week in Corfu, and I told them that I didn't want to show my friends Corfu, I wanted to show them my life.

To begin with, I must open with a recommendation of the Vrachos Hostel (Sun Rock) on Pelekas Beach. For ten euros a night (an extra ten if you want breakfast and dinner) it is a bargain to say the least. Family ran, and frequently frequented by young European travellers, it is an exceedingly friendly hostel with an absolutely breathtaking view. I am planning on spending a day or two in this resort prior to my flight home from Corfu.

The ferry ride was an experience too. The views from the side never ceased to amaze. The sea was grooved and patterned on the surface like a deep blue carpet floating and moving to the motion of the waves. There were clouds in the sky and, when reflected by the sea, created an amazing image that was so easily to capture. We were quite silent as a result of the awe-striking scenery and a lurking hangover. Whilst Joe busied himself trying to do the Kenny Everett cigarette trick followed by a celebratory point and click, Khalisha and I spent the best part of the journey just being tourist and snapping the sea. From here on it was a sleepy coach ride to Arta.

When we arrived in Arta I gave a quick tour then we headed to Menidi to enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the dreamy seaside town and drown in a surreal sunset. Then we went back to Arta and ate a hearty meal at my good friends restaurant before ending the night with a beer or two at a local bar. Over the next two days we went to Lake Zirou, the famous Bridge of Arta, and countless cafes and bars. They also forced me to perform a few songs at a local acoustic night, which led me to realise that I don't learn full songs as I - in a mildly intoxicated manner - performed loose, yet decently-received, renditions of Eric Clapton, Queen, Bon Jovi and (to the enjoyment of Joe) Take That. This was the first ever time I have ever performed alone so I was pretty shaken even though there wasn't really a crowd. In the past I have been able to hind behind the cover of my bandmates; I felt exposed, but ultimately glad I did it.

As they were leaving, we had a discussion about the five days that they had spent here; about the hospitality my friends had shown, the beautiful places, the fantastic lifestyle and how different, as well as similar, this small town life is to home. It was an amazing way to start rounding off an amazing year living here. Now all that is left is final exam practice for my students before there exams over the following month.

Hashtag: squeakybumtime.

Khalisha proud with her graffiti skills.
Joe and Ian.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Today I... Want Music Back

Today I realised that I am so close to my return to the British Isles that I can taste a fresh lamb hotpot and see a chilled pint of cider in a beer garden. With this in mind, I am developing a more serious mentality toward my future. I have re-buffed my CV somewhat and am scouting the job market for vacancies which would be apt for my level of skill and education. I am definitely reluctant to become acquainted with barwork again and I do not wish to teach English children, as I feel that I would have very little patience for the tribulations that I have heard that they can create. There is only enough room for one God complex in my classrooms after all....and that's mine. On an employment level, I am still clutching at straws, however am attempting to build an action plan. I am not so scared about my immediate future per se, but I do need to dig my feet in and use more foresight.

On another note, I am excited to get back to England and try to make music again. The happiest I have ever been in my life was when I was on stage with my four best friends, touring England in two small cars, sleeping on service station carparks and being surrounded by great company and meeting new people. Travelling broadens the mind. I can fully appreciate that having lived in Greece the best part of a year and having met the most interesting and different people I can imagine. Although this is still Europe the manner of life is far different; much more relaxed, which has helped me alot.

One of those Terminator styled enigmatic return of the
chosen one images. Very pretentious.
As I have previously stated, it is important to know your limitations in life. I will never be the next Jimmy Hendrix or Freddy Mercury. My level of talent stops at mediocre, yet this doesn't say anything for my level of ambition and passion. I love writing. When I pick up the scent of a melody, I fall in love with my work and hold an immense pride in the words I weave. In no way is this arrogance or vanity as I am my own largest critic. Before I produce a single line I like, I must go through 3 or 4 hours of hatred towards my work. Then the following day I may disgard that single line altogether. The final product may not be of the same calibre of what you hear on the radio, but I can argue that I am not educated in commerciality or music in any way shape or form. My grasp of musical knowledge is simply what I think sounds good. I know people who write music intrinsically - like  a science - and I watch them in complete awe as I edge closer to the cold realisation that I will never be adept in this field. My area of proficiency falls solely in words. It's just a shame that the words don't always come. I hope that the journey home will help me find my feet.

Continuing the idea of knowing your limits, I don't expect to find fame through music like I was once did. Last year I was adamant that it could be acheivable as I was surrounded by talented musicians whom I enjoyed working with. I wanted to capture this feeling, hold it and escalate it onto a larger scale. I had ideas and ambitions but I was moving too fast. It was an incredibly shallow mindset to have. Now, after a year, I understand that there is a beauty in perfection. If you really want something, don't wait for it to come to you and definitely do not rush it. Do it right. Nurture it and give it the attention and care it needs. The ideal situation for me would be to return home and write music. Just write and write. Write until we find songs that we are all proud of as 5 people from different musical backgrounds and tastes. A true challenge. I haven't discussed this with the boys as of yet, but I miss music. Like I said before, I am nothing special when regarding musical talent, but music is very special to me and having it out of my life for a year has left me raring to go again. This is to the utmost bemusement of my mother. She wants me to grow up. Sorry, mum.

If you are interested in listening to my band's recordings, feel free to click the link below:

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Real Talk: The Future

As I will be moving this blog back to England in coming months the content will become different. No longer will the topics be about Greece, for the sole reason that I will no longer be residing in the country. Perhaps my focus will fall upon music. Maybe suggesting smaller acts to fit peoples' interests. Maybe commenting on the behind the scenes of what it takes for a working class act to step through the ropes and give a fight. Either way, the style will be the same; honest and through the gauze of false authority. Hopefully, I can keep your keen minds engaged. Being an easily opinionated grouch should be entertaining enough.

So here's to the future of this blog and, in general, my dwindling sanity.

Today I...Finish Off the Hospital Banter

Three weeks on, and enough people have convinced me to conclude my stay in the hospital. I was planning on letting dead dogs lie, but I guess that I need to get this nonsense out the way. Initially, apologies for lack of activity of late. It's so hot in Greece I can barely complete a thought.

Pre-warning, graphic description involving reference to bodily fluids/functions (poop).

So, if I must be blatantly honest, during my period in hospital I got 'examined'. As you can imagine, my friends have all got a good little kick out of this. This sort of interaction with your doctor is associated with emasculation with 'the lads', so I was on the receiving end of a bit of stick (innuendo unintented). The unusual thing about this, however, was what the doctor did arterward. Upon completion his brisk and violent examination he felt it necessary to wave his still-gloved hand in my face and, for some unrelated reason, started shouting at the nurses, "I am not Muhatma Ghandi," several times. At this point I began to question the legitimacy of this man's medical license as he continued to convey early signs of a postal rampage onto his subordinates and barking at me as if I was a dog. I know that people have bad days, and people are entitled to be a bit stroppy on an given occasion - you simply can't take that away from a man - but if he is conducting internal examinations of people with an unbridled rage issue...well, perhaps he should just learn how to suppress these feelings for the sake of professionalism. Remember, I am in no way an authority on professionalism in the workplace, but patients should be handled with a little more subtlety and tenderness. Popular opinion is that this is a common attitude by some doctors.

One positive point from my second day was that I got a full nights sleep. Unlike the first night, there was no interruption from gossiping nurses and doctors in the early hours of the morning. It turns out that they were all taking a little nap. Bless them.

The next day, an old man kept coming into my room and using my toilet. I was under the impression that I had been separated due to the contagious nature of my illness. I couldn't blame the man, he didn't have a room and he had nowhere else to go; the only problem was that he kept missing the pan. Due to the fact that I was in the urology ward, and that I have little knowledge of urinary infections, I found myself regularly disinfecting the bathroom prior to engaging it myself. Thus, a little planning and time management was needed if I was ever to venture to the receptacle, but I don't think that, realistically, I can write this into my CV.

When I saw the nurses next, they moved an elderly gentleman into my room. I took this as a sign that I was better and would be out soon. The man seemed nice enough, despite the language barrier. His family were coming and going all day and night. In fact, his wife never left and they didn't sleep until 4am and they left the lights on. I didn't complain. I just wanted to do my time and get out. The man didn't seem to be paying heed to doctor's instructions and kept finding himself in a lot of pain, at which the doctors and nurses kept having to re-enter the room and scold him like a dog that had shid on the carpet. It got slightly uncomfortable when a doctor (with nurse in tow) performed a procedure on the man. He was definitely in a lot of pain and I didn't know where to put myself. There were no curtain dividers so it was constantly in my peripherals. Fortunately, the Champions League was on, so I could block it out slightly. Not an ideal situation for me. Nor for him.

My condition meant that all I could eat was noodles and water; flavourless cuisine that still sits on my breath now. When I was in hospital I craved very specific kinds of food: a yoghurt flapjack, a yorkshire pudding, any chocolate, a chocolate milkshake, a Chinese buffet. You only realise what you miss when you go without.

I am out now, and it is seriously too hot to re-read this article or to develop any pride over the words that have been produced today. Hopefully, I will start writing again soon. Until then, my main objective is to stay out of hospital.