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June 24, 2011

I love the extended usage of the word Bravo! here. My connotation of the word has been limited to a crowd applauding as the cast of an especially moving opera takes its final bow. Not here; the Greeks say it often in conversation, enthusistically where we might say to someone: “Good job! I’m so glad you are doing that!” It ranks right up there in charm with the “two cheek kiss” greeting.

I finally found the gorgeous view of the Acropolis that is posted on the UIndy website for this campus. It’s on the rooftop of my very own class building. Who knew? My professor showed it to me earlier this week and I’ve been back up there twice to study. The school inhereted some very nice tables and chairs with umbrellas from the 2004 Olympics. Who cares that the Budweiser logo is permenently stamped into the metal? I can go up there and read Zorba in the shade of an umbrella, take in the breeze, and glance up at the Acropolis. I wanted to shed my clothes and sun myself for just 15 miutes this morning, but I thought better of it. It is a school building after all. What if I got expelled for sunning nude on the rooftop of my school? I honestly don’t think they’d think a thing of it, but I’ll refrain.

Last night, I was invited to attend the dress rehearsal for the opening cermonies of the Special Olympics which begin this week in Athens. It was one of those frantic “drop everything and come right now if you wish to go” things. In true Greek fashion, few details were provided and I had no idea where I was going or what I was getting myself into, but I went. I am so glad that I did.

I was guest of Marwa, a Greek resident, fellow student here at UIndy, and native of Iraq. She’s sweet and gorgoeus and smart and my new friend. As many Greek college students are, she is volunteering at the Special Olympics and was granted two tickets for the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremonies. Mary and I had toyed with the idea of seeking tickets for the actual opening ceremonies, but we had decided not to invest the 50 euros in tickets.

Marwa and I walked to the open stadium which was built to house the the first “Modern Olympics” in 1896. We were to meet her mother where the gates were scheduled to open at 6:30 P.M., and of course, they did open, at about 7:00. I’m here to tell you, you have never waited in line for anything until you’ve experienced waiting within a crowd of Greeks. I’ve never seen anything like it. If you don’t stand pushed tight against the person in front of you, someone will push past you to fill in that 2-inch gap. There we stand, skin to skin, sun blazing overhead, sweat dripping down our backs. If there is to be a crowd, there will be guards and crowd control is impossible. People shout and push and yell out things to the guards and each other. I have no idea what they are saying, but they say it with passion. The people in charge seem as if they are completely unorganized, doing the things that might have been done the hour before the crowd forms a queue. It’s just crazy.

Anyway, the dress rehearsal was conducted just as if it were the real show and what a show it will be. If you get the opportunity to watch it on TV, do! Vanessa Williams will co-host with some gorgeous Greek singer with whom I was unfamiliar, but the Greeks went crazy when he appeared. Although it was just his band who played at the rehearsal, Steevie Wonder will perform in the actual show. The really big stars had stand-ins, but most of the performances were conducted just as they will at the actual ceremony. The speeches were all read by stand-ins. The funniest thing was when they announced the Prime Minister of Greece, not a popular guy right now, and the crowd booed and the stand-in could not stop giggling and they just kept showing his face on the huge screen. The more the crowd booed and laughed, the more he played the part. A stand-up comic was born.

The parade of athletes was practiced with volunteers marching across the mamouth stage. Country after country was called, some I had never heard of. In true Olymic sprit, I sat next to my new friend and her mother, as we applauded together for their home country, Iraq and other Arab Nations and she shouted Bravo! for the United States. We stood together as the Greek National Anthem was played.

There was a impressionistic musical/dance version of The Odyssey complete with sirens and one huge eye illuminated on the screen. It was all fascinating and much like the opening ceremonies of the regular Olympics.

They showed a touching video of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the history of the Special Olympics and a group of past Special Olympic winners lined the stage, each taking his/her turn at the micorphone sharing their victories from the past year. One Down’s Syndrome young man proudly announced that his lastest victory was being the best man in his brother’s wedding. The crowd cheered and he beamed.

The overwhelming message in song and speech and enterpretive dance was one of overcoming predjudice toward those who are different. The Special Olympic athlete’s creed is: “Please help me win. but if I can not, let me be brave in the attempt.” I watched performers, past athletes, and athlete representatives, and witnessed much bravery displayed in that historical stadium. It was almost midnight when we left, long after had I watched the sunset behind the Acropolis which is always in distant view here. My bottom was tired and sore from sitting on those well over 100-year-old, carved-rock benches.

My final thought was . . . Bravo!

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Debi Dixon

Debi Dixon

The Universe is guiding me on an incredible adventure: my Plan B. I write here to share bits of my Odyssey, hopefully to inspire, encourage, or extend the virtual hand of friendship.

When I quit teaching in 2014, I could never have imagined the growth I would experience through travel, writing, reading, therapy, and introspection.

I believe human connection and compassion will go a long way toward our healing, and the best way to connect and feel compassion for one another is through the sharing of our stories.

Thank you for joining me here. I appreciate you and may we grow together.

Inspirational Quote

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”
~Joseph Campbell

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