Way back when I was 9 years old my Grandparents returned to Greece after 25 years of exile. They took me with them. I had grown up being told the kids in Greece were a lot tougher than us Aussie kids. They had survived a civil war, famine, a dictatorship and when they reached 18 they had compulsory military service. I imagined Greece was going to consist of these derelict buildings that had been destroyed by bombs and missiles, and I imagined the kids would be constantly playing soldiers and getting into physical fights all the time. So I was a little anxious about the local kids. One thing I did know is that they played soccer. I was convinced they didn’t play rugby or cricket because they had not been exposed to it so I packed away a rugby ball, and a cricket bat and ball, much to my Grandma’s frustration. I told her I had important things to do converting the locals to truly fun sport.
I thought I was going to see amazing sites from around the world during the plane flight over. However there was one factor I had not taken account of. My Granpa. It seems he had the same idea. The conclusion to this dilemma was he paid for the trip so he gets to sit next to the window. I was going to spend 22 hours sitting down behaving, occasionally getting a glimpse of something from the window as the plane banked left and right. 22 hours is a damn long time when you have nothing to do but sit and when you are 9.
We landed a few to take on fuel and more passengers which gave us an hour or so to stretch our legs in the airport. After a particularly long flight we landed at this airport that was packed with military planes. Could this be Athens? I know they had just come out of a military dictatorship and that they had recently had troubles with Turkey. I was excited. As a kid obsessed with all things military I was in heaven with all these warplanes. I heard a muffled announcement over the speakers. “Come on Yiayia! Papou! We’re here” So we each got our luggage and started to depart the plane. We watched patiently as the flight attendants politely farewelled everyone departing. Before we got to the door of the plan e an angelic flight attendant asks if we’re getting off at Tehran. I said no this is Athens. “No dear, you are still far from Athens. This is Iran not Greece” My grandad gave me a dirty look and said something like “Dumbass kid” to my Granma. So back we went to our seats.
Trying to win me over My Grandad asked if I wanted to sit in his seat as we flew over the deserts of the middle east. I happily agreed only to see banks of clouds obscuring any view of the land below. Nevertheless I loved looking at the clouds catching glimpses of the land below. We finally got the announcement that we were flying into Athens so I had to take my original seat. The first thing I saw from the plane was the Acropolis. After 9 years of hearing about the history and achievements of the Greeks I was going to experience things first hand. Both my Grandparents were tearing up as we saw more and more of Athens. To my dismay there were no signs of military activity anywhere in or around the airport. That same angelic flight attendant asked if we wanted to get off at Athens and my grandparents reassured her that this was our correct point of departure, profusely thank her. I quietly slipped past, embarrassed. In the actual airport were dozens of armed soldiers, fingers on the trigger of their machine guns. Once again my spirits soared. My grandfather pulled me aside and gave me a stern warning to not go anywhere near the soldiers and that these guys were different. They had just come out of an armed conflict and were constantly on edge. And even though I was curious about their guns and uniform they would not be overly friendly.
to be continued….
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