Travel notesIssue 06 | August 2009

An American in Athens, or In Ambelokipi, I Pretend I’m Greek

by Rebecca Newton

Oriste? Can she help me?

I smile. I speak. In that brief instant, I’m Greek. Dhen milao elinika. Milate anglika?The words I speak betray my ignorance: I don’t speak Greek. Do you speak English?

Ohi, she says, tipping back her head in a gesture that seems almost non-committal. It must have something to do with the warm climate. She motions for me to follow her. 

We exit the shop and go next door to the snack bar. I can’t tell what the woman is doing, but I know she’s telling the shopkeeper about me, the American. Soon we’re joined by a friendly middle-aged man with frizzy hair and thick-lensed glasses. You are from America? he asks.

Nai, nai, I reply, tucking in my chin. It sounds negative, but it means yes. I’m an American, no denying it, but let me make my confession in Greek. Then I will proceed to explain my mission. In English. Very slowly, as if I am speaking my mother tongue as a second language. I tell him that I want to see the piece of fabric in the window.

We step back into the sunlight and then into the dark of the fabric store. The three of us. Do I want to see the black fabric or the brown? I motion toward the brown. The woman firing her questions at me in Greek. The man, interpreting. She wants to know, he says, she wants to know why are you are in Athens? The woman is undraping the mannequin in the front left window display. Do you like it? The question refers, I think, to Greece, but I’m being handed the fabric now.

Nai, nai. Para poli.Yes, yes. Very much. And I mean both the fabric and the place.

She says you should come back to Greece. Greece is good!

Poli kala, smiling. Very good.

You want it? waving at the fabric.

Parakalo, smiling. Please.

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About the author

Rebecca Newton has been a writer from a very young age. Her earliest attempts with the pen appeared in her grandparents’ mailbox in the form of illegible scrawl on scrap paper. In recent times, her writing has endured the scrutiny of a more critical audience among the faculty at College of the Ozarks where she is finishing her B.A. in English.

Read our current issue:


Two poems by Anne Babson
Vignette, Townhouse, 9 a.m. by Troy Cunio
Night Becomes Day Over the West by Megan Foley
Yukon River Aurora by D. B. Goman
Two Poems by David Havird
Cretan Love Letter by Emily Linstrom
Holland by Rick Mullin
Fear in Kenya by Kristina Pfleegor
The Lounge Lizard by Ed Shacklee
Two Poems by Sarah J. Sloat
Night Flight by Vicki Stannard
Koinonia Farms by Alina Stefanescu
Thessaloniki, Four a.m. by Anastasia Vassos
Imaginary Oceans by Jason Warren
Two Poems by F. J. Williams

Postcard prose

It’s Salty by Kelly Hill

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Anchorage in the Great Land by Karen Benning
The Value of Small Money by Megan Hallinan
Screensaver by Sandra Larson
Thirty Cents by Tommy McAree
Gokarna by Kate McCahill
Going Places by Rachel Miller-Howard
Susanville CA: Notes From The Road by Susan Volchok