The first time in Athens

The plane swooped around above the Aegean sea for the last time. Blinded by the vast sparkling turquoise shining in the afternoon sun like a million diamonds, I hurriedly shut my eyes. However, the fear of missing out on this spectacle outweighed my fear of blindness and so I watched on, my eyes watering in the process. As the sea and the sky merged together, I imagined myself piercing through the air like a bird basking in my newly found freedom.

The pilot’s announcement resonated inside the cabin; we were preparing to descend. The last thing I remember before the touch-down were extensive mountains stretching in the distance and white, fluffy waves smashing quietly against them.

As I drew a €100 note out of my purse to pay for the bus ticket, the cashier surprised me with an abrupt ‘Polski?’

- Yes, why? - I asked.

- ‘Cause you Poles always pay with a €100 note for your bus tickets! - the woman cringed.

I got on the bus which was supposed to take me to the estate agency I’d made arrangements with back in Warsaw. Bright, crowded, not particularly clean and filled with exotic greenery, the city didn’t seem very different from what I knew other southern capitals to look like.

I spent almost two hours at the Omonia Square waiting for the estate agent who was supposed to meet me there but was uncontactable. I tried to pull myself together as I fought off an engulfing sense of fear. There I was standing on foreign soil, pushed about and nudged by busy Athenians rushing to and from their offices. I stood there alone, invisible, and, since my estate agent had abandoned me - homeless! Then suddenly, drawing on my recent plane memory, I was consumed by the vast Mediterranean turquoise again.

I sat atop my suitcases. ‘Come on, Margarita, pull yourself together for goodness sake! Let’s revisit the phone situation.’ - I whispered to myself switching my phone off and on again. The screen displayed a foreign service provider. I contemplated calling the estate agent’s office but was mindful of the cost of such operation. ‘What the hell!’ - I dialled the number… ‘Phew! I’ve got a signal!’ - I squealed with relief. A moment later a woman picked up on the other end. Hearing my pathetic attempts to speak her language, she promptly put me out of my misery and switched to English. And guess what?! They had forgotten about me! I could have sat there until the next morning waiting for… oh, I don’t know… Godot perhaps!? CLASSIC South.

About a century later I was met by the lovely and talkative Oxana - the agency’s Ukrainian representative (apparently moving to Greece was synonymous with becoming a polyglot!) - Noo, zyenshchinya, nye rozstraivaysa. W dva, tri dnya chto ta dla tyebya naydyom. Ty porozgavarivay z Visiey, ona vasha. Vsyegda eta lutshe... A Gabi vazmyot tyebya v svoyu kvartiru, eto Romana. Zyvyot sama y vazmyot myenshe chyem hotel. - Oxana picked up her mobile phone and called her colleague - ‘Yasou, Vasili. Ti kaneis? I have the writer lady, we’re coming to the office.’

I found the estate agents on the internet. They swore by their seventeen-year industry experience, high market demand and impeccable website. After numerous consultations with friends and family, they seemed transparent enough to trust.

After a short car ride, Oxana and I arrived at our destination - an archaic building with a highly questionable lift. After expressing my enthusiasm for the stairs, I learnt that the office was located on the eighth floor so the lift it was! When the squeaky double doors slid open, the smell of dust and freshly roasted coffee filled the air. I felt overcome with relief. Finally someone looked after me AND there was a prospect of sampling traditional Greek coffee - what perfect material for my upcoming blog! I smiled to myself. Life was good again.

We proceeded into the hallway. While I didn’t expect luxury, what I thought was a reputable company’s office resembled an old, abandoned council estate with two tables and a few chairs. The hallway was occupied by a multi-national bunch whose tattoos, piercings and scars scared the life out of me. My newly found inner peace was abruptly taken away by a coughing fit caused by a string of cigarette smoke blown straight in my face by one of the clients. ‘Do I run for the hills or see how deep the rabbit hole goes?’ - I thought to myself, horror painting on my face. ‘And you call yourself a writer, you little sissy?’ - I heard a shaming voice and snapped out of my dilemma. To this day I’m not sure if it was my conscience speaking or Vasilis, the estate agent who ushered me in at that exact time.

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