Categories
Learning

21 October

1994. Rhodes, Greece.

Two days of thunderstorms. And the rain, the rain! The streets become rivers, the air so drenched it is hard to breathe. Nothing feels dry, indoors or out. Dreadful road accidents leave a trail of casualties – four British tourists drowned in Archangelos. Concerned colleagues make sure I have lifts to and from work, and students keep advising me to be careful (especially after the tourist accident – the British obviously can’t handle rainy weather). On a dash into town I manage to reach the bank and withdraw my rent money for the Cretan florist. By chance, I bump into a couple I know who are leaving Greece to go and live in Sweden. We make time for coffee in a café full of the sound of dripping. I wish them well, they are good people. By the time I hand the rent over, the brown paper envelope containing my hard-earned drachmas is, just like everything else, completely sodden. The landlord nods, smiles and spreads the notes out on the shop counter to dry. I leave. My Level 1 class is calling (not very loudly, mind you). My beginning students learn many weather-words as we watch the drama of the storm unfold outside, safe in our (almost-dry) room. There are unlimited ways to describe rain. I’d not realized this before. 50 minutes with Level 1 in a downpour will teach you this. In the break, splash across the road to the main building to receive phone calls, trying not to be jealous of those who have landlines at home. By the way, I fail miserably at the not-being-jealous thing. Once in the main building, I have to queue for the bathroom. After five minutes, I’m in and I try to dry off. Don’t know why, but I do try. Then, I hang around, feigning casual disinterest, in the office. I circle the phones, to no avail. One of the secretaries has a worried mother in Athens who needs to know her middle-aged daughter hasn’t drowned/ been swept out to sea/had lots of other bad stuff happen because of rain that only distant mothers can imagine. That’s that, then. Break over, I swim back to spend two fun hours teaching one-to-one (there are few times I am able to use that phrase; those words, in that order) with the student known to other staff only as ‘Jane’s Albanian’. My callers get through while I’m in class. The not-drowned secretary leaves me notes, all of which say the person will phone back. If they can, of course. My lift home from work on Friday night, sparing me from the rain, is on a scooter – seriously. Wetter than walking – how is that possible? Forget the wet for a while at a birthday party. One of my colleagues is celebrating her 22nd, and a large group of us squelch noisily into a nearby pizzeria where a good time and many beers are had by all. Diving back into the rain on the Vespa gone midnight, I reflect that tomorrow I will have a sore head and wonder if I will ever feel dry again.

(Taken from the diary I kept at the time)

Categories
Learning

Tuesday 23 November 1993

(This is taken from the journal I kept when I was the English teacher on Symi aka ‘The Rock’. To afford privacy, I have removed people’s names).

Bright skies give way to thunder, hail and rainstorms. The street by the school becomes a river and the side stairs to my apartment a stream, as hail bounces then floats away. Just in time, I rescue a cassette of music left for me at the gate – miraculously, it is undamaged and I listen to it while waiting for the storm to abate. A phone call – do I like the music? Yes, I do. There’s a funeral for a fisherman’s mother and the dark, somber day, with threads of light and patches of sunshine, seems appropriate somehow. She died on his name day, yesterday. I choose not to go to the funeral and instead, in a brief dry spell after lunch, go for a thoughtful, quiet walk with a good friend and her dog. The Nissos Kalymnos made it in this morning and there’s almost a party atmosphere as people emerge from winter hiding into the sunshine, while it lasts. Over-confident, I outstay the sunshine and the heavens open while I’m out. I take refuge in the doorway of the Ionian Bank. There’s a group of us, sheltering in different doorways, all caught out by the rain – we shout to each other and laugh. Oddly, we’re able to shout things we wouldn’t normally even say to each other – careless of others and convention. It’s cathartic. We agree, loudly, that we’re mavericks, before one of the men shouts over that I look like a cowgirl and that’s why he and his wife entrusted their children into my care at the school. In the absence of an alternative, I take this as a compliment (being a cowgirl was, after all, my second choice of what-I-wanted-to-do-when-I-grew-up, after being a Lost Boy was ruled out by my kind, but insistent, father). I do make a mental note to watch his children more carefully in future, though. Back at school, teaching was OK, though early turnout was low because of the weather. During the afternoon, various people jump in through the door to dodge rain and hailstones. The children take it all in their stride and classes continue uninterrupted, though in a slightly giddy Noah’s Ark-type way. Various phone calls in the breaks between classes to check I’m OK – the weather reports having traveled beyond The Rock. After school, I walk to Elpida’s for company, a drink and something to eat. There’s a female Greek teacher on the island; tall, slim and pretty – she’s flavour of the year. She’s not at the cafe, a group of her admirers are. I become an agony aunt as they all clamour for advice on how to win her over. I give it my best shot, but this wears me out by 11pm, so I leave. On the way back, I stare into the now clear night sky and see a shooting star.

Weather report: sun, warm, torrential rain, hail, bright, rain, storm, (funeral), rainbow, clear, damp, dark. Good night.

Published on axrhodes on 23/11/2013