By James Haynes
To learn valuable lessons about Greek culture, you can visit the Hellenic Republic’s many famous museums and archeological sites. Or, you can run some everyday errands.
With a mostly free day on Saturday, I had the time to get out into Athens and explore. One chore high on my list was to get a haircut. Since the voltage in my hotel room was too high for my clippers to work, I had to visit an Athens barber.
Full disclosure: I had never been to a barbershop, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. My dad had always cut my hair when I was younger, and taught me how to do so myself when I went to college. The last time I considered going to a barbershop was last summer in China, another time when my clippers didn’t work. I decided against getting a haircut, though, since I wasn’t sure how well it would come out with a Chinese barber.
The one I chose in Athens was Cool Nick’s Barber Shop. (The proprietor, Nick, gave me permission to mention them on this blog.) I had seen good reviews for the place online and found it after a mile-and-a-half walk from our hotel, a little past the tourist district around the Acropolis.
The place itself was small, a one-room shop with three Greek customers already there when I arrived. A model Ferrari, maybe a foot long, rested on a little table next to my chair. After waiting for a couple of customers to get finished, it was my turn. Though I didn’t know any Greek, Nick knew enough English for me to be able to get across what I wanted. His clipping motions were smooth and coordinated, like he was painting with two brushes. At the end, the 10 Euro cost seemed reasonable, especially considering it represented my entire haircut budget for the last couple of decades.
On Sunday, I visited the Greek Evangelical Church of Athens, which is a member of the oldest Protestant denomination established in the country. The church is located across the road from the Arch of Hadrian in downtown Athens. With four rows of about 15 wooden pews, the decoration is minimal, especially compared to the icon-filled churches of the Greek Orthodox Church.
During the service, which was in Greek, about 15 students from South Korea wearing blue jeans and matching t-shirts with a logo reading “Father’s Love,” sang “Amazing Grace” and other Christian hymns as part of a choir tour they were doing in Athens. Besides the students, there were a number of other guests from other countries, who were easily spotted since they wore headphones to pick up the service through an English translator.
Most of the Greeks were middle-aged, though there were some families with children. Dr. Giotis Kantartzis delivered a sermon on Matthew 11:20, and emphasized the “yoke” of Christ, or Christian commitment as being a relationship rather than a list of laws. Following the service, he introduced me to one of the summer interns, who turned out to be a friend of mine from my church back in elementary school.
While these experiences may not have been as exciting as some that our team undertook and reported on our blog, they would be familiar to anyone working as a foreign correspondent. Mundane tasks like getting a haircut, while perhaps not generating great enthusiasm or eagerness, offer a feel for the communities in which we report. Even if these experiences don’t end up making it into any news stories, they will remain in our consciousness as we shape the final contours of our articles.