Μιλάω, μιλάτε, μιλάει — I speak, you speak, he/she speaks.

How awesome is today? Today I don’t have class until 2, and then it’s a class on ancient Greek theatre and the cult of Asclepios, followed by my first Greek lesson. That is a lot of awesome today.

I’m thinking this morning about language. (I’ll probably post later about theatre and healing and how freaking cool that class promises to be, but for now, language.) I got up this morning, checked my e-mail and wrote a long response to my director about staging ideas for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, started chatting with friends in the States who are just getting for bed, thought about where my parents must be in New York by now — all in English. I picked up my computer and headed out to the kitchen to make coffee and eat some breakfast.

And heard, from the street, someone calling to someone else, “Ne, ne” — “Yes, yes.”

Nancy asked us yesterday in Journeys class what part the language barrier played in our decision to come to Greece. And that is something I think I should think about. This time last year I was certain I didn’t want to go study somewhere I didn’t know the language, and even after about five and a half (cumulative) years of Spanish, I didn’t want to study in Spain or South America. I wanted to go somewhere where everyone spoke English.

I ended up in Greece . . . where admittedly most people do speak some English. So far I’ve met two shopkeepers who responded with a firm “ochi” when I asked if they spoke English. Most of the rest have spoken at least a little.

But I find the language barrier a lot less daunting than I was expecting. It helps — ooooh lord it helps — that I studied some Greek before coming. It’s true what they say: even being able to say “Good morning, how are you? I’m very good, thank you” will make people perk up and smile. Being able to ask “Do you speak English?” in the native language makes people more sympathetic to you, even if they can’t be more helpful — once I know she doesn’t understand me, and she knows I don’t understand her, we can proceed from there, even if the place we proceed to is just politely smiling at each other and not talking.

All of us are beginning to work Greek into our daily lexicon: everyone’s got ya sas down by now, I think, and everyone’s trying efcharisto (with various mispronunciations). The joke right now is saying ne ne to everything, (pronouncing it “nay nay” as opposed to the more correct “neh neh”) so that we get used to saying something that sounds like “no” to us when we mean “yes.”

Yesterday, Rachel, Dani and I walked to Syntagma Square to pick up Dani’s friend and our fourth roommate, Lauren. We took the tram home — which meant buying metro tickets from a ticket kiosk. I went first, since everyone looked uncertain. (I was uncertain, too, but . . . nobody else speaks any Greek.) “Ena?” I tried, and gave the guy a €2 piece — and got a €1 piece and a ticket back. Success! “Efcharisto!” Rachel followed my lead, with similar success. When Dani and Lauren went up, they looked uncertain, and as I was coaching from the sidelines, the man in the kiosk was laughing and prompting them. “Ena,” holding up one finger. “Ena.” One.

Moments like that give me a little firework burst of delight in my chest, the same display that goes off when someone asks me a question about a play that I can rattle off the answer to. I know something useful, and I know how to apply it. I try to keep those fireworks inside, because I hate coming across as a know-it-all, but the triumph is there anyway.

Just a little bit of prep has made such a difference — and it’s still not nearly enough. I wake up every morning thinking in English, and the sound of people conversing in something other than English is a much needed part of my morning routine. I am not where I was; this is not home.

Except the truth is, it’s just not home yet. Maybe, by the end of my time here, I’ll be able to write a whole blog post in Greek — very simple Greek, but Greek. That’s when I’ll know I’ve arrived.

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