Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Holy Tuesday

OK. I don’t know if you read what I put up about Easter, but today is the Wednesday of the Orthodox Holy Week. Things around here are starting to get a little crazy. I’d say more than a little crazy. Greeks are like bears in the fact that they work hard all summer and then they kind of hibernate in the winter. Easter is an excuse for things to start to get going because 1.) it is religiously a restart to the year and 2.) so many tourists come that it proves to be a very lucrative endeavor to have your store open and running by then. So, I have been on a kind of sleepy island for the past two weeks that has suddenly awoken.

Another traditional thing during Easter time is to clean. It’s surely where the idea of spring-cleaning came from. If Christ is going to be resurrected, we may as well get everything clean and shiny for the rest of the year. So, for the first time all winter, people are actually working during the afternoon siesta trying to get their floors washed and buildings cleaned. It is also the time of year when they do the major construction repairs to their houses. Any area that needs to be plastered is re-plastered, and white washing is done if the current job isn’t pristine.

Another major thing is the repainting of the lines on the streets. Traditionally white was painted around each flagstone in the street to provide illumination in the moonlight (before streetlights). The islands have now become very well known for this street painting, and it is a mandate (at least in Parikia) that all lines be repainted once a week. It holds to tradition (and tradition is a VERY Greek thing) as well as fulfilling the expectations of the tourists.

The school needed to do this in several places, so I volunteered to help. We painted the lines all around the Plaka outside of the school. It was a lot of fun. I learned some things actually, and I’m going to put it on the course description of the things that I did while I was in Greece. After all, it is ancient street restoration isn’t it?

The holy week has thus far been uneventful for me. Palm Sunday was a lot of fun because I got to go to the church and listen to them chant out all of the traditional things. There are church services every day that go over the week before the death of Christ, but them being usual services and done in Greek, I haven’t attended any of them. The churches will soon be all decked out in flowers and purple, and the priests will have on their best attire. At that point, I will sneak in with my camera and get some shots of this beautiful time.

The one thing that I did end up getting was some traditional bread. It is sweet bread in the form of a ring covered in sesame seeds. It actually tastes quite wonderful. Though the Greeks eat tons of this anyway, it is traditional to make it on Holy Tuesday. The bakery was LOADED with it, and I went and bought two of them for just half Euro each. I got to share them with some of my friends, and I was glad to have taken part in that tradition.

Today and tomorrow are relatively uneventful, but all the excitement comes on Friday and Saturday. Friday is Good Friday. This is the day that Christ was crucified. It is a very sad day. Everyone wears black and the bell in the church tolls all day long (as is traditional when someone dies). The young women decorate a tomb with wildflowers, and people spend the day going to visit it. Nothing sweet is eaten (and in many cases nothing is eaten) because when Christ asked for water, he was given vinegar to drink. On this day there is a very late service (I believe at 10 PM) where they take the tomb off of its position in the church and parade it around town. There is a very beautiful moment when the lights of the church go out and then the priest lights a single flame. Everyone has candles, and they must light their candle with that flame. These are then taken home and three black crosses are put over the door to keep evil spirits out.

Saturday night is the actual Easter service. It is very late because after it, all of the restaurants are open and ready for business as LENT is over, and meat, oil, milk, cheese, etc. can be eaten again. I have never been in Greece when Lent was not going on, and I am excited to see meat again heavily in restaurants (not that it’s not easy to get during Lent).

As for me, I’m enjoying my little break here. I have spent time in the darkroom and time in the painting studio. I am preparing for Jared to come by picking up any loose ends needed before he arrives (like buying food, etc.)

I am also working with my school at this point to get them to give me credit for the work I have done here. They are quite picky, but I spent the entire day yesterday working out things, and I think I have outsmarted them. When I return from Greece, I should have relatively little left for me to have a degree in Art History (as I have been working toward for so long).

Today, the wind has come up from the south and we again have a sirocco. This is the 5th one since I’ve come. A sirocco is when the wind comes up off the Sahara desert and carries the warmth with it. It is funny to go outside because you think that the weather is going to be so cold because the wind is blowing so hard, but if you go outside with more than a t-shirt you sweat to death. On the south side of the island the wind is blowing so hard that your body can be at a 45-degree angle to the ground and the wind will hold it’s full weight. There are many odd things that happen during a sirocco. Mainly, the sky can turn a dark, deep shade of Amber from all of the sand traveling in it. On a less grand scale, people get headaches, have bad dreams and go crazy in general. There is a saying that if a sirocco has been blowing for more than three days and someone commits a crime of passion that it will be forgiven. You have to experience it to understand it’s strange effects.

Ok. I hope that this is enough of an update for you because I have nothing left to write up on. I will fill you in on how the rest of the holy week goes.


DD said...

Great write-up--I particularly liked the stuff on the sirocco. Your grammar teacher asked me to point out that "its" (as in "its effects") doens't have any apostrophe, dammit! (That's just the way he is.)

Richard said...

Carol, Gerald Qvale and I were in Paros in 1997. Spent 2 days and then onto Santorini. I remember the church you talk about. I also remember walking the streets and going to coffee early AM with the locals! Fun to relive it through your blog!