I’m Not Losing My Kefi (Spirit) Just Yet

Recently, after landing at Venizelos Airport in Athens, I took a cab. The cabbie’s words are still ringing in my ears like a hammer: “My son is a mechanical/electrical engineer. What can he do (here in Greece)? I see him taking over the taxi in a few days.”

Through my airplane window, I saw the sweet, brilliant Mediterranean light shining down on the Greek islands, dispersed throughout the beautiful blue sea, and I wondered: are they inhabited? And are people living them able to enjoy them?

A trip back to the homeland is always a sweet experience. The trip back is the best part of it – the time when everything seems so perfect, molded by time and distance. There is the desire for everything to be perfect. That is how we Hellenes abroad want Greece to be – perfect.

We compare ourselves to other ethnic groups that populate these multicultural American cities in which we live. We become competitive; happy when we excel, and sad when we lag behind.

My conversation with the cabbie picks up. He is from Northern Epirus – “a true patriot to the bone.” A former building contractor, “But now that business is dead; thank God I bought this taxi.” He voted for Alexis Tsipras for Prime Minister the first time, but not the second.

I observe that traffic is sparse. “I guess it’s still too early in the morning,” I comment. He gives me a strange look, as if I’m nuts for thinking that’s the reason.

The new Parliament was sworn in on October 3, with Archbishop Ieronymos presiding. But half the members did not take their oath on the Bible. I really wonder how this humble clergyman feels when he watches their deprecation of religion and contempt for him. Under the circumstances perhaps it would be best to have two swearing-in segments next time: one religious and one secular.

In what other country – Greece is likely the only one – do elected officials overtly ignore the constitutional and do as they please.

Moreover, the two leading vote-getters in the Sept. 20 elections – the winner, SYRIZA’s Tsipras and New Democracy’s Evangelos Meimarakis – avoided one another altogether; they didn’t even say hello.

It was late afternoon when I stumbled upon the book exhibition at Zappeion. A lot of kiosks and people, but very few sales. Most of the books were translations of “revolutionary” works written in the decades of the glorious past.

It reminded me of another cabbie who told me with absolute certainty and equally absolute disappointment that he still supported Tsipras, “although he is not going to fulfill the leftist revolution as he should have done.” Maybe he was at that book expo, too.

We Greeks surely gab too much about politics and too little about work. As for me, I’m going to listen to the sage advice of that cabbie from the airport, who told me: “I’m not losing my spirit.”

Neither am I (not yet, at least).