From Hope to Labyrinth: Summer Exhibitions Review

By Maeva Chargros

Besides reading all days long, summer holidays are also a perfect occasion to visit some museums… or enjoy some festivals. I had been willing to go to the Rencontres d’Arles for years: I finally managed to go there last month! This festival allows you to stroll through the streets of this centuries-old city while visiting various photography exhibitions. Art photography, photoreportage, experimental, contemporary art, light and sound, video artworks, you name it! If you’re a visual art enthusiast, Arles is definitely the place to go to during the summer! Here is a very small excerpt of what can be seen during this year’s edition (open until September 23!), as well as some comments about two other exhibitions I’ve been to, both in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

DSC_2576 Continue reading “From Hope to Labyrinth: Summer Exhibitions Review”

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Summer Exists So You Can Read

By Maeva Chargros

Any decent human being knows this very basic fact: extreme temperatures exist so you can read without feeling too bad for not doing what you were supposed to do. In my case, I put the “extreme temperature” boundaries around +25°C and -25°C. When the weather gets warmer or colder than these, my brain automatically switches to the “non-stop reading” mode. Therefore, this summer’s heatwave gave me the very pleasant opportunity to drift away from Central European topics, back to my earlier shores for a few days. Let me introduce you to three amazing Nordic writers!

FINLAND & ESTONIA: Norma, Sofi Oksanen.

It is hard to be concise and objective when mentioning this writer whose novel Purge (Puhdistus in Finnish, Puhastus in Estonian) literally changed my life forever – and for the better. Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish-Estonian writer who likes to draw humanly touching portraits of women and their – usually complicated – past, present, and future endeavours. In Norma, we meet a young woman whose mother just killed herself without giving any warning sign of such psychological despair before this fateful morning. She struggles to understand what happened during the last few days of her mother’s life and starts realising the story behind this violent death dates back to decades, even centuries ago – and involves four different continents. Continue reading “Summer Exists So You Can Read”

“She works hard for the money”: Euroculturers’ most random summer jobs

Helen Hoffmann │helenhoffmann@outlook.com

My first summer job was shit, and I mean this literally. When I was still in school, I worked in a local hospital as an underpaid cleaner and helper to the nurses. Not born an early riser, this meant dragging myself out of bed every morning at 3 a.m. to start my shift at 4.30 a.m. One day, my boss asked me to clean a bathroom that was “quite contaminated”. After that experience, which as mentioned was literally crap, I could clean anything I ever encountered in my many student homes. That summer I learned that with gloves, I can face most anything.

“That summer I learned that with gloves, I can face most anything.”

Summer is already here but you might still hope to be spending your Euroculture-free summer working at a nice place. Maybe that place, too, will turn out to be a little out of the ordinary. And possibly you will get some useful lessons for life there – with or without gloves.

I wanted to know where other people have worked to make a part-time living so I spoke to three former summer workers in the MA Euroculture network. Testing alcohol levels, teaching history to ignorant tourists, interviewing celebrities – Euroculturers have had some peculiar jobs.

Rieke: Hunting drunkards

RiekeWhen Rieke applied for her summer job, she could already sense that it was a job out of the ordinary. A bunch of weird people, a lot of strange interview questions. “When my friend and I got out of there, we burst out laughing!”

“A summer job with handcuffs”

Still, she and her friend decided to take the job and the next thing they knew they were standing in big fairs in the German countryside with handcuffs. She was sent out as a “Promille-Girl”, an alcohol tester dressed in a fake police uniform and equipped with a measuring instrument to check people’s breath. What is feared on roads, proved to be popular among party people.

“Some people even handcuffed themselves to me

and stole my police hat.”

“You didn’t have to know much,” Rieke remembers. During daytime the job was easy, but when night fell and alcohol levels rose, fair visitors would crowd around her. During working hours she had to be completely sober of course – but everyone else was heavily drunk. “A terrible situation!” she recalls. “Some people even handcuffed themselves to me and stole my police hat”, Rieke laughs. It was mostly men who wanted to test their alcohol levels and sometimes even deliberately drank a shot before. Not everyone trusted the measuring device though. “Some doubted the results and sometimes we got an “Error!” message when people had way too much alcohol in their breath.”

The “Promille-Girls” charged 2,50 euro for testing, but only got 20 cents of that themselves. On a good day, they would earn 90 euro each. Rieke only worked as a “Promille-Girl” for one summer. “Getting to the fairs often took a very long time,” she says. Before and after this alcohol experience, she worked in other promotion services – with less of an alcoholic element.

Rieke studies MA Euroculture in Groningen and Bilbao.

Giota: Giving history lessons to tourists

As a sales person for tourists in Athens, Giota did not have ideal working conditions: a normal day meant 11 hours of work with a rude boss that liked yelling at employees. But the salary was okay and the co-workers were great. “I was working six days a week and I never knew when my day off would be. But I needed the money so that I could stay in Athens.”

“You sold me a broken Parthenon!”

Giota’s favourite customers were from the USA and India. Working with tourists was at times even amusing. “Once a guy came and wanted a miniature of the Parthenon. I gave him a replica of how it is today and he replied that he wanted another one because the one I gave him was broken!” The customer was not joking and Giota had a hard time educating him about the state of the ruins. In the end, she told him that he could buy the other half in London where half of the real temple is today!

“I learned that I can do anything if I want to.”

Even if the job was not always enjoyable, Giota feels that she gained some useful insights. “First of all, I learned that I can do anything if I want to. If I want, I can go past limits and work many hours.” Her interest in working with people from abroad was also fostered through her job as a tourist helper. It helped her to realise the differences in culture and mentality.

She quit her job after a while and is now looking for a Master’s programme. MA Euroculture would be an interesting choice to her.

Giota is from Greece and likes The Euroculturer magazine. She heard about it through her friend Penelope, our News Editor.

Murat: Interviewing KGB agents

Murat Tutar had a television intermezzo in his most random summer job. For three weeks last summer, he worked at a TV channel inMurat Tutar @ Haber Türk TV his home country of Turkey. “It was everything”, he remembers, “Fun, passion, pain, gossip, lies, discipline!”

 “You discover what is happening behind the screen.”

Working conditions were, however, precarious. No contract, no payment, no insurance, but he wanted to gain experience in the media world. Like so many other students working in summer jobs or unpaid internships, he recounts feeling “like a slave” at times. Murat describes the TV station as the CNN of Turkey: to get the opportunity to work at Habertürk TV was in itself a success. “You actually learn a lot in a short time”, he sums up, “because you discover what is happening behind the screen”. How to prepare a broadcast, talk to people on the streets, search for news, as well as familiarising himself with the rules and regulations of media work was part of his job. Knowing everything was the dictum.

His position was very informal: he was an intern, correspondent, interview, advertiser, and reporter – all at the same time. “You just go and work there, you learn, show what you can do”, Murat remembers. The employers wanted to see if he would be suited for a job at the TV channel. Getting hired was an option, but the Euroculture office called and offered him a spot in Krakow instead.

“Anna Chapman is in Istanbul now. Go find her and do an interview!”

The most exciting incident happened one afternoon when Murat’s boss walked in and asked if he spoke English. “Here is your mission”, his superior instructed him. “Anna Chapman is in Istanbul now. Go find her and do an interview!” A lot of questions popped into Murat’s head. Questions that he had to answer in the five minutes before the cameraman and the taxi were ready. “Who exactly is Anna Chapman, where is she, and how can I find her?” In the streets of Istanbul, with a population of 14 million, Murat set out to find the Russian ex-spy and now TV host, Anna Chapman. He did manage to find her, in a café, and convinced her to accept his interview request. “It happened entirely spontaneously. That was what I liked so much about my job: you go into the office in the early morning and it seems like nothing is happening, but then suddenly everything is turned upside down because of a particular piece of news,” Murat explains.

After this job, he does not watch the news like he did before. Working at the TV channel changed his perspective: “I know how much they cut and skip now. I don’t believe everything so easily any more”. To see the whole process of research and broadcasting was an enriching experience for him. Murat had taken media classes before, but real-life TV was a whole new world. Still, he is glad today that he exchanged the TV camera for the student’s desk again. “Euroculture is so many amazing topics to discuss. It’s new and exciting”.

Murat is a current MA Euroculture student at Jagiellonian University, Krakow and Palacky University, Olomouc.

What was your weirdest or best summer job? What do you think about working conditions for part-time workers? Let us know in our commentary field!

Helen new profileHelen HoffmannCreative Editor

Helen is from Germany and studied BA History and Gender Studies. She studied Euroculture in the University of Göttingen and Uppsala University, and did an internship in the PR department of the German-Swedish Chamber of Commerce. Her passion is to dive deep into the Swedish-German relationship and deconstruct the German über-idyllic image of Sweden. This summer, she works with visitors coming to Stockholm. Her interests are film, literature, Liechtenstein, the Eurovision Song Contest (and not ashamed to admit it), and everything printed – even TV magazines. She’s also fascinated with communication, marketing and commercials, socio-cultural trends and psychological phenomena. And of course, her interests include the Swedish Royal Family (she will never forgive Jonas Bergström for what he did).

Feature Story − The Home I Left, the Home I Found : A Vacation in Greece in the Middle of the Crisis

And I say “This is what life should be like. There is nothing else”. I believe it. I am convinced. And Yota smiles and nods. And for a small fleeting moment, I feel as happy as I can possibly feel. There are no more problems in the world, just the sun and the sea and the smell of salt in the air. And I realize that no matter how far or how close I am, this is my home. The home I leave, but the one that always beckons me back as a siren.

Penelope Vaxevanes | prosiliomani@hotmail.com

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in Greece all problems cease to exist in the summer. When the sun becomes blinding, when the heat becomes intolerable, when everyone starts talking about islands and beaches and cocktails in summer clubs, annoying everyday problems start to fade in the Greeks’ minds. The summer is here and it is taking over everything.

And it was like that that I landed in Eleftherios Venizelos airport on the last night of June, after a 17-hour long trip, with the temperature reaching 30 degrees at 2 am, making everything and everyone uncomfortable. But I was home after ten long, long months. Home, in my bed that seems foreign. Home, at my house, that seems strange, yet familiar. Home, where my mother has to remind me all the time that we do not flush toilet paper, because “You are not in Germany”. Home, in a neighbourhood where everything feels and seems the same. Home in the big city you always love, even when you hate it so much. Home in the country that has changed in ways that are so subtle, yet so dramatic, in ways that are cruel yet delicate, in ways that I could never really describe to someone that has not experienced it first-hand… and yet, I’ll try.

The first few days pass in a daze, with a never-ending array of coffee dates and dinner dates with friends and family that I haven’t seen in months. They ask you to tell them how it has been. What do I answer? How could I, ever, describe how it was? Can I tell them about any little detail of 10 months split in three countries? Can I tell them about everything I lived and felt? How changed I feel? But I do talk, because they expect me to and I see them smile and say how jealous they are and how all that moving from country to country must have been so exciting and fun. Most of it is not, but I really don’t want to sound ungrateful and they don’t want to listen to me being a little over-privileged brat.

And then I ask about life in Greece and I offer my first impressions. What are my first impressions? Everything seems the same but feels different. “Everything has gotten so cheap”, I offer. They do not agree. It doesn’t matter if something has gotten cheaper when you cannot afford it either way. “The coffee is less than three euros”, I offer again. “How much is it in Germany?” they ask.  My argument, suddenly, becomes very weak.

They are right. All of them. But I am too. Everywhere you look, you see small restaurants that offer cheap, simple food. The number of gyros places has tripled in my area because you can have a big meal there for less than 5 euro. It is good, affordable food and a chance for a family to go out and enjoy a meal. The nightlife booms. Everywhere you go, there are new bars. You can hardly find a table to sit on a Monday night. When I point that out I always hear a cliché “Greeks will cut from their food, but they will never cut from their fun time out”. It is true. But what is also true, is that all these new bars that have opened offer good, inexpensive drinks. Sometimes with no proper service, sometimes in plastic cups, but still the quality of the drinks is high. And then, there are all these new Greek beer breweries. Ten years ago, a Greek beer was a joke. Not anymore.

I walk to the centre of my suburb in Athens, Halandri, one warm evening in July. I am with my best friend Electra and her boyfriend Matt. For as long as I remember, since we were small girls, we have been talking about living abroad when we graduated from university. She has been living in London for more than three years, but now she is moving back to Athens and Matt is joining her. They want to open a bar like those I described. It is very difficult but, in this market, to me, it doesn’t seem like the worst idea. And like this, Electra becomes the only Greek I know that moves back to Greece instead of going as far away as possible.

One steaming July morning, I find myself in the Piraeus port of Athens, at the house of my friend from my Erasmus days in Lyon, Ioanna. She is a new mother. In what is a true marathon visit, we talk about everything that has happened since I last saw her at her wedding. The baby, the jobs, the family life, our Master’s degrees, our times in Lyon, all mingled together with food, sweets and coffees, until it’s late and Dimitris, her husband, comes back from work. He owns a small ship cleaning company with his family. Conversation turns to the crisis and how difficult it is to raise a child in this economy, how their mentality has changed in one year but also, how lucky they are to be able to have the life they have. Ioanna tells me how depressed she becomes when on the train to Athens, she just sees gloomy faces. “No one smiles”, she complains. And I think about that. Have I seen anyone smiling genuinely? Was the smile reaching their eyes?

The last part of my vacation is, as expected, the vacation part. I take the 12 hour ship to Kos with my friend, Yota. For almost two years she has been working in a tourist shop in the posh tourist shopping district of Plaka, in the centre of Athens just below the Acropolis. Plaka is booming every summer with tourists trying to find the best kind of souvenir from Greece. We joke all the time about how I do a Master’s in Euroculture and she did a Master’s in fake ancient statues sale. She has been recently forced to quit because she was no longer affordable for the business. In one year, the new labour laws state that they can hire people who are aged 25 and under, and pay them half of the standard 8 hour minimum wage. It’s supposed to be a solution to the huge unemployment rate for people aged 25 and under. Being over 25, suddenly, becomes the worst feature on someone’s CV.

And we arrive at the port of Kos, an island that used to be cosmopolitan, rich and a huge tourist attraction for foreigners, especially English and German, in the 1980s and 1990s. At the bus station, waiting for the bus to the village where we will stay, we learn that this is a dead summer. It’s not that the tourists are not coming to Greece. It is that they are going to huge hotels that offer all-inclusive accommodation with three meals, snacks, and all beverages in their holiday packet, therefore leaving nothing for the local businesses of the islands. Tourism still represents more than one fifth of Greece’s income but the future seems uncertain. Another part of Greece’s future that seems uncertain.

And finally we are at the sea, and the sun shines brightly, and we relax in a way that you can only do one meter from the blue sea, the sea that is the only thing that I miss abroad, the sea that is part of the Greek DNA. And suddenly, as if by a miracle, no problems exist. I do not think about the year that lies ahead. There is no Master’s thesis to write. I don’t have to move to Hamburg where I know no one. Yota is not unemployed. The crisis is forgotten. We have only one concern: how fast can we get tanned without getting cancer?

And when we are burned beyond recognition, and we cannot ignore our bellies that want to be fed, we move to the little tavern, where (illegally) the tables are 50cm from the waves, and we eat the Greek salads and the fried calamari and the fresh fish, and we both smile. And I say “This is what life should be like. There is nothing else”. I believe it. I am convinced. And Yota smiles and nods. And for a small fleeting moment, I feel as happy as I can possibly feel. There are no more problems in the world, just the sun and the sea and the smell of salt in the air. And I realize that no matter how far or how close I am, this is my home. The home I leave, but the one that always beckons me back as a siren. The country that is in deep trouble, but always finds a way out of catastrophe. The country where nothing works but everything somehow makes sense. My home, Greece.

If you liked Penelope’s article, also read Darcy vs. the modern girl

Penelope Vaxevani, News Editor

Penelope is from Greece and studied French Language and Literature in the
Philosophic School of the University of Athens. She studied in the University
of Göttingen and Jagiellonian University, Krakow, and hopes to fulfill a career
in Cultural Diplomacy.