This morning, I left the house and went to drop off an art proposal at the American Embassy, not realizing what day it was: December 6. I dropped it off and then I walked on Vas. Sophias towards Syntagma square to the post office. But lo and behold, as I was getting closer to the center, I noticed hundreds of cops everywhere but not too many civilians moving around. After that sight, it was evident that something was happening. Suddenly I notice the policemen are all wearing gas masks, so I continue moving towards the post office. As soon as I pass the cops, I began to smell something strange in the air and my eyes began to itch like crazy. So I turned around and headed back ~ ran back ~ I was panicking ~ I was losing my breathe ~ the mascara was all over my face and inside my eyes ~ I couldn’t breath ~ I tried to cover my mouth and nose with the piece of garment ~ I was running in opposite direction ~ no one asked anything ~ I couldn’t see ~ I am wiping the tears and the mascara with my scarf ~ I stumble upon a tapestry shop and I see three people inside. I ask them if it is ok to come in. They say yes, so I go in. the itching was insupportable by now, two people spoke English, and one didn’t. Dimitri tells me that the worst thing I can do right now is wash my face, so I don’t, I just sit there while they go on talking about how bad the situation is in Greece. And all I can think of is that if I were to die in this moment, I was so happy to have landed in the hands of these three strangers. In the meantime, Nelly, the lady that didn’t speak English begins to offer me treats. She starts off with a nice bread stick with sunflower seeds. When she notices that I am done with it, she offers me a glazed treat, made of a specific baby orange native to Greece; after that, she brings out a delicious slice of chocolate cake. By now, thirty minutes had gone by and the itching had subsided. I was feeling much better. I asked Dimitri if he would please write the name of the glazed oranges for me and the name of the shop where they bought them. As he was writing the name of the treat, all I could think of was how these three individuals, strangers to me when I walked in, felt like the encounter with lifelong friends, as I would walk out. Early today before I went off to the Embassy I completely forgot…didn’t stop to think about the commemoration of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, a 15 year old that was killed in a fatal shooting by a policeman on December 6, 2008. And this was the reason for all the policemen in the streets and the presence of tear gas in the air. This was my Athens today, never made it to the post office but in the midst of all this turmoil and having inhaled loads of tear gas, I met three amazing people that reminded me of the generosity that abounds in the world still.
Blanka, 40, Greece