A Tale of Two Chinese: my research on Luo Niansheng (1904-1990), the first Chinese student at the ASCSA

* By Yun Shi, BA-student of Archaeology at Leiden University

Three years ago, my very first visit to Greece was at NIA for the Modern Greek course. During that stay, I learned about the excavation at the Ancient Agora by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). I applied for the excavation after going back to the Netherlands and got an offer in March 2020. After two years of cancellation, finally I am able to dig in the heart of Athens this year. As I started to read up for the coming excavation, I came across a blog post by ASCSA Archivist, Natalia Vogeikoff-Brogan about the first Chinese student to study at ASCSA (Vogeikoff-Brogan, 2020). Luo Niansheng (1904-1990), or Mao-Te Lo in ASCSA Archives, is one of the most influential translators of ancient Greek text in China. The version of Illiad I first read (also the first Chinese version) was translated by him and his student. Chinese sources mention his year in Greece, but never with photos or documents. I was immediately tempted to go to ASCSA to research these materials and share them with Chinese academia. I also want to make his influence better known in the English-speaking academia.

This is why I come to Athens a week before the Agora excavations begin. I spent four days in the ASCSA Archives researching correspondences and documents about Luo. His journey to Greece is far from smooth. First, there was an issue with admission. In a letter dated March 13, 1933 to E. D. Perry, Professor of Classics and Secretary of ASCSA’s Managing Committee, Luo wrote:

“…To enter that classical school is vitally important for me. I can never secure another opportunity going to Greece in my life, if I fail this time. And I will never close my eyes when I die, without seeing the golden Mycenae…My future life will chiefly be spent in translating and imitating this great literature directly from the Greek; instead of from the modern languages as we used to do in my country…” (American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Archives, AdmRec, Lo to Perry, March 13, 1933).

After admission was granted, he had problems with limited visa duration. During his study at ASCSA, he had to “fight a battle on two fronts, English and Greek” and take extra tutoring from Prof. Thomas Means (American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Archives, AdmRec,  Means to Stillwell, January 25, 1934). Some of his younger American classmates also bullied him. Despite adversities, he finished the academic program and submitted a School Paper titled “OEDIPODEIA”. In 1936, building on this paper, he published his translation of Oedipus Rex. In the preface, he thanked Prof. Thomas Means for his guidance on the topic in 1933-34.

Returning to China in 1934, Luo stayed true to his own words, and spent most of his life translating ancient Greek classics into Chinese during wars and political turmoil. Fifty years later, in 1986, Oedipus Rex was staged and performed in China for the first time. The script was based on Luo’s 1936 translation and the director was his elder son. The play was an instant hit, and the Greek government invited him to the second International Meeting of Ancient Greek Drama in Delphi. He did secure another opportunity to go to Greece, but only because he was able to go there the first time. His year at ASCSA had a profound impact on his career, and by extension of his readership and influence, on the reception and perception of ancient Greece in China.

Left: Title page of Luo’s 1934 School Paper, “OEDIPODEIA”, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Archives, AdmRec, Unpublished Student Papers

Right: Poster of the 2nd International Meeting of Ancient Greek Drama signed by participants, thepaper.cn

In an essay about ASCSA, published in 1941, Luo wrote:

“The major European countries all have Classical Schools in Athens. Despite that we cannot afford such institutions, people should go there and do some embodied learning. Right now we need exactly that kind of learning; such a method is precious.” (translation by me).

For me, Luo’s story hits close to home, not only because I read his work and appreciate his massive influence in China, but also because I, too, benefited greatly from Foreign Archaeological Schools in Athens. I am extremely gracious for the precious opportunity to work with both the American and Dutch Schools, as to this day China still does not afford such an institution.

To end this piece, I would like to quote a Dutch archaeologist, Emilie Hapel (1894-1980), on her experience of working with multiple Foreign Archaeological Schools in Greece long before NIA was established:

“Who doesn’t belong anywhere, has a chance everywhere (Songu, 2019, p. 50; see also Songu, 2020).”

Reference

Songu, F. (2019). Emilie Haspel’s Griekse jaren. Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie, 60, 47–53.

Songu, F. (2020, November 1). “Who Doesn’t Belong Anywhere, Has a Chance Everywhere”: The Formative Years of Emilie Haspels in Greece. From the Archivist’s Notebook. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://nataliavogeikoff.com/2020/11/01/who-doesnt-belong-anywhere-has-a-chance-everywhere-the-formative-years-of-emilie-haspels-in-greece/#more-4632

Vogeikoff-Brogan, N. (2020, October 4). “Mr. Lo”: The First Chinese Student at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, 1933. From the Archivist’s Notebook. Retrieved June 10, 2022, from https://nataliavogeikoff.com/2020/10/04/mr-lo-the-first-chinese-student-at-the-american-school-of-classical-studies-at-athens-1933/

GRAPHIC WANDERINGS: FINDING STORIES IN URBAN SPACE 

with (and by) Tânia A. Cardoso *

There is more to the practice of walking in the city than a passive movement, simply dictated by the external stimuli of the city. To Rebecca Solnit (2001: 16): “The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it”. 

When drawing while walking the city, one’s wanderings through the streets match their steps with their surroundings in a constant response movement between their senses, feelings, and memories. The constitution of these close encounters in urban space is simultaneously recreated on paper. Original plans of paths through the city are usually conditioned by interesting textures, sounds, smells and other strong signals and factors such as feelings of security, thirst, hunger, bathroom needs and muscular pains.

Starting at the Netherlands Institute at Athens, we walked a path together with our sketchbooks through the city of Athens until our endpoint, Klafthmonos Square, Comicdom Con 2022 artist’s alley location. We focused particularly on exploring urban space through close observation in a mobile and creative way based on playful psychogeography and graphic journalism methods. 

Photo Willem Ledeboer, walkshop, 16 April 2022

Participants created a rhythmic succession of movement and pauses as something grabbed their attention while scanning near and far for elements in the urban landscape and for (hi)story layers. Slowing down or speeding up (prolonging the drawing or not) depended on our senses and time (or lack of it). In this sense, our collective sense of place was in constant becoming through our movements in urban space and in our drawn creations.

With the help of Nicholas Karachalis, we explored the streets of Plaka and Psyri. We explored how to closely observe urban space through walking; to find stories in the city through our senses and memories; and to translate these stories and mappings into the drawing. We engaged with three main questions. First, what happens between points A and B that we cannot see on a map? What layered presences and absences can we discover in urban space? And finally, how can we use the language of comics to reveal these stories and sensations to others? 

Photo Nicholas Karachalis, walkshop, 16 April 2022

The aim of this walkshop was not to present a single and definitive answer to these questions but to have the participants engage with urban space through a different methodology and experiment. Through this playful walkshop, I hope to have shifted attention and brought awareness to questions related to urban issues and reportage art, along with the importance of aesthetic expression and storytelling in revealing these urban stories to others. 

Each participant achieved a different result. Each sketchbook tells a personal story and focuses on different aspects of our collective walk and our individual perception of these Athens neighbourhoods. Some participants focused on interesting details; others on urban elements that reminded them of personal memories; others on the path, using it as a connecting thread between different aspects of space; others used colour as an expressive method to convey sensations and feelings. I, for example, focused on sounds that shifted from loud to quiet, nuisance to pleasant. The aim was to experiment with following our senses and intuition letting serendipity draw our attention in space. Every participant was heavily engaged in using the materials and conditions they had to reveal and articulate their sensibilities and experiences of being -in and -with the city of Athens through the drawings they created. 

Sylvain Adam, walkshop drawings, 16 April 2022


Vagelis Kolotsios, walkshop drawings, 16 April 2022


Tânia A. Cardoso, walkshop drawings, 16 April 2022 (Click on picture for larger image)


Photo Nicholas Karachalis, walkshop, 16 April 2022

Again using Solnit’s (2010: 8) words, this time in Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, “while my story is mine, my map of San Francisco is also potentially yours”. I end this short text by suggesting that experiences of mapping through drawing such as these resonate with the collective meaning of the city we draw. They perform affect. The city of Athens affected us during the walkshop and the drawings we created will (when shared) affect others. This means that through these drawings and stories we generated different portrayals of the same city of Athens. Although based on sensorial practices and personal experiences, sometimes half-imagined, these drawings become a sort of individual testimony that deeply resonates with collective memories and experiences.

Solnit, Rebecca. Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas. University of California Press, 2010.

—. Wanderlust: A History of Walking (e-Book). Penguin Books, 2001.

* Tânia A. Cardoso is an illustrator, urbanist, and PhD candidate in artistic research at the University of Amsterdam investigating the potential of illustration as a form of urban communication. Her artistic practice as research is based on the ground-based experience of the illustrator and explores the poetics of everyday life connecting urban experience, place and imagination. Her illustration work has integrated several international collective exhibitions; was awarded the “Worldwide Picture Book Illustration Competition” 2015 in the Netherlands, the “Gorsedh Kernow Creativity Award” 2017 in Cornwall, UK and was a finalist for the “Women Cartoonists International Award” 2019 in Normandy, France.

Sharing

Living during the COVID 19 period means among other things, that you can’t move about a lot.  You have to limit yourself to places nearby and leave your travel plans hanging. It means that you have to keep distance and recede. Sharing becomes more difficult but never ceases to be essential.

Due to movement restrictions students and researchers are not able to visit us and our library is too quiet without readers. It did not take long before we figured out that there was another way we could share our books with them.

A collective project began during which we made a list of all the double books we could give away for free and shared it with the other foreign schools in Athens, the Ephorates of Antiquities in Greece and other parties that might have interest in them.

It was an amazing experience!

The interest was surprisingly big and after almost 5 weeks of organizing, packing and arranging deliveries, our double books found new ‘homes’ where they can be read, used and appreciated. There were about 320 books in our list and we are now left with about 40, mostly Dutch.

Feeling pleased that we could share these small gifts with our colleagues and friends in Greece while creating space for new arrivals we handed out the last books today. Hopefully until next time.

From Development Grant to Book Chapter: In Search of a World Beyond Capitalism

By Solange Manche, PhD Candidate in French at the University of Cambridge

I arrived at the NIA in September 2016. I’d been awarded a development grant enabling aspiring academics to carry out a three-week research project. This summer, I was very honoured to see a chapter based on my findings in Athens published in an open access volume edited by Barnita Bagchi, Urban Utopias: Memory, Rights, and Speculation. As I am rereading my application for my stay at the NIA, I realise how much my initial project and thinking about the subject changed. Academic research can be a long, and sometimes frustrating, process. From grant to book chapter, my experience at the NIA and the publication that followed taught me how research evolves, takes shape, and above all that it needs the time it does.

My undergraduate studies had been punctuated by budget cuts in the arts and higher education, followed by protests, occupations, and various other acts of resistance. It was within the context of the Dutch student movement against the general marketisation of the university—the New University—that I got interested in political activism and people’s ambitions, current and past, to actively defend their social gains and to build a better future. As a student of the Humanities Honours Programme at Utrecht University, I was part of a research collective interested in the question of Utopia, as a literary, cultural, and political phenomenon.

Exploring the philosophical debates surrounding utopianism, the history of the term as a means to discredit political opponents, and its recent comeback in popular discourse, I stumbled upon a documentary by Yannis Youlantas Ne vivons plus comme des esclaves (2013)(Let’s not live like slaves). Showing how people in Greece were resisting austerity by self-organising and creating new networks of solidarity, the film equally follows many of Exarcheia’s inhabitants, an anarchist neighbourhood historically associated with the Polytechnic Uprising against the military Junta in 1973. I’d been following other communal projects before, such as Rojava, (Kurdistan) Free and Real, (Greece) and the communist municipality of Marinaleda (Spain), among others. But what distinguishes Exarcheia from other autonomous communities is its placement within the heart of a capital city.

Although ideologically clearly anti-capitalist, what I wanted to find out is to what extent Exarcheia could in fact detach itself from the capital that runs the capital. The question of the possibility of building parallel subsistence economies was my main focus. I think that this inquiry remains an important one today, as unemployment, underemployment, and precarity are not simply caused by austerity policies or economic crises but also by the fact that, on a global scale, an increasing number of people became exclusively dependent on wages.[1] Based at the NIA, I quickly found out that Exarcheia was by far able to be self-sufficient, the problem starting with rent. Telling from the interviews I conducted, there was also no reliable and consistent provision of food. Apart from the barter of clothing, books, and other durables, there was no way out of wage labour or the ultimate reliance upon someone’s, or some form, of earnings. The structural inability to completely retreat from capitalism should not be a reason to discredit the tremendous efforts of the inhabitants of Exarcheia to create another way of living, to oppose social injustice, and anti-immigration policies. But there was another form of political strength that I noticed and that was located somewhere else, in what I consider to be its Utopian quality.

In the book chapter, I explore this comparison by re-considering Utopia as a literary genre in spatial and temporal terms. Building on the example of Thomas More’s Utopia, (1516) I focus on how the narrative captures the telling of a story, technically called a framed narrative, about a place visited by the narrator’s (named Thomas More) interlocutor Hythloday. The account of Utopia is thus never a direct account. It has travelled from a society that radically distinguishes itself from the world in which its account is being presented. This same movement between the discovery of an unknown place and its mediated dissemination in the larger world is mirrored within the reading process itself. The reader, once having finished the book, finds themselves in the same position as that of the narrator: they’ve just been transmitted the story of a place that is profoundly different from their own day-to-day experience.

In the last part of Utopia, More recounts the discussion about Utopia that follows from Hythloday’s tale and finishes with the enigmatic closing lines: “while I can hardly agree with everything he said […], yet I freely confess that in the Utopian commonwealth there are very many features that in our own societies I would wish rather than expect to see” (107). So, Utopias are perhaps not really about the feasibility to realise an ideal society, but rather function as a disruption of the everyday that triggers imagining a better future. This is what I recognised in Youlantas’ film, in Exarcheia itself, and how accounts of it travel and do not only nourish the imagination of the Left, but are equally fascinating to a much broader segment of the population who’s well-aware that there needs to be an alternative to austerity.[2]

Reading Utopia can be a disenchanting experience, a cold and static description of the laws and customs in a (non)place. In comparison to Hythloday, who did not seem to have made many friends on the way, my research journey was more successful. I would like to thank my interviewees, all the people in Exarcheia who helped me find my way, and in particular Grigoris whose knowledge about the neighbourhood has been invaluable. I am very grateful to the NIA for their interest in my project and having welcomed me at the institute. The ultimate publication of my findings wouldn’t have been possible without the superb publishing competences of Jadavpur University. I am very happy that the book is an Open Access publication and can be freely accessed on their website. It couldn’t have been more appropriate to write about Exarcheia than as part of this project that prizes Global North-South collaboration at its heart.


About Urban Utopias: Memory, Rights, and Speculation:

The social dreaming of Utopia is the object of both fantasy and quotidian reality in the world of today. The concept of utopia has travelled across boundaries of time and space, and manifests strongly in cities, which function as sites of hope and desire. With the rise of technocratic and neoliberal agendas across the world, global imaginations of the urban future have often excluded the more urgent questions of justice and human rights. This volume, the fruit of a first collaboration between Utrecht University and Jadavpur University, comprises ten essays by scholars based in, or with roots in, the Netherlands and India which foreground issues of rights, memory and justice in the speculative imaginaries of urban utopias in South and South-East Asia, and Europe. Embedded in literary and historical studies, this book enters into a lively engagement with questions such as: How do memory and utopia intersect in the urban? What debates and contestations emerge in the framing of the city as a place of hope, desire, and future-making? In sharp and studied contrast to speculations of the capitalist kind at the heart of urban real estate development and planning, this volume examines and uncovers new speculative insights on alternative imaginations of the city.

An interview with Abhijit Gupta about the collection will soon appear on the website of Jadavpur University Press. Abhijit Gupta is Professor in English at Jadavpur University and director of Jadavpur UP.


Solange Manche is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge. Her work looks into the recent resurgence of the critique of political economy in contemporary French philosophy. Working on post-crash individuation, financialisation and new forms of labour, she focusses on the thought of Catherine Malabou, Frédéric Lordon, and Bernard Stiegler. Other aspects of her research include: social movements, French cinema activism, and the reception of Hegel and Marx in France.


[1] Aaron Benanav, ‘Automation and The Future of Work — I’,  The New Left Review, no. 119 (October 2019): 36-7.

[2] In the Netherlands, a documentary featuring Exarcheia was broadcasted on national television (Tegenlicht) and numerous accounts about the neighbourhood’s efforts to house and help refugees were published in the international press.

First Month Experience in Pandemic Restricted Greece

By David Brown

My experience so far has been delightful and productive. Coming here on a three-month study grant to collect data and finish of my research masters has proven to be successful. Despite the turmoil at the beginning of the calendar year when I was first applying for this grant to come to Greece for my research masters, I can say that I am glad to be here studying and working away.

My research master’s thesis uses   geometric morphometrics on the bronze swords of the Shaft Graves at Mycenae, in an attempt to update and clarify the current 90 years old typology on these swords. After co-ordinating with the National Archaeological Museum, during the first Monday and Tuesday I was able to take scaled photographs of 48 of the swords housed at the museum for my analysis. There were 28 Type A and 20 Type B swords. This process went very smoothly and progressed at a rate that both me and the museum staff were surprised at the rate that we managed to achieve this task. The staff did look after me very well and were very kind and friendly. Hopefully in the future I will be able to work with them again on a PhD or other project.

Now, Athens.  This is a city that is still lovely and vibrant despite Covid19 and the restrictions that exist around the world. Here in Greece I feel safer than I did back in the Netherlands. People are following the rules, masks are being worn in and out of buildings, as well as their being regular cleaning of handrails, stairs, public transport, streets etc. Here I feel comfortable to travel around on public transport, using the buses or the metro. Even running here has not been a problem, although running at night with the hot temperature has produced a rather good work out.

The NIA itself has also been better than I expected in terms of my feeling safe.  There is regular cleaning here as well. I feel relaxed and clam despite the overall situation of Covid19.  I am enjoying my experience here, such as studying in the library or in my room, relaxing in the common area and even cooking. With the supermarket around the corner, I have been cooking regularly for myself. Although I do wish there were an oven here, but that might just be the British thing in me wanting to cook roasts, hunter chicken and good old oven fries.

It can be lonely here at times, but the staff at the NIA are very friendly and willing to talk, so I do not feel as alone as I could be. I am in regular contact with my family, my partner as well as my friends. I have also joined up with a local rugby team here (Yes even in Greece rugby is still played). They are a very welcoming and friendly bunch that have so far welcomed me with open arms. Subsequently as I stay here longer and longer, I am sure I will be involved in activities involving them.

So, all in all, my expectations when coming here, was that it would difficult because of lockdown, with limited travel outside the NIA and National Archaeological Museum. Yet this is not the case, with the following of the rules by the people, and a pro-active government in implementing the rules. This appear to have allowed a safer feeling in traveling than I did in the Netherlands. Plus, with the progress on my Research Masters, what more could you ask for

David Brown, Research Masters at the University of Groningen.

The Hand Wave

Five years ago I wrote this short text. I was reminded of it today and felt like sharing it with you, since I believe it is still relevant…

The Balcony

It’s the light on the fourth floor of the apartment building to the left of us. Or on the second floor. Or on the third. Often it is hard to separate the floors of Athenian apartment buildings. Sometimes there are four people inside. Sometimes dozens. I’ve seen elderly people, young men, couples. I hear children and infants. Laughing, crying. They are our new refugee-neighbors. And every couple of days there are new ones.

The reception of cellular phones always is a problem when you’re living in an apartment building, looking at the inner courtyard. So you better go out on the balcony if you want to make a phone call. Just before I made this picture, a couple was sitting on the floor of the balcony. A young man. And a young woman, wearing a beautiful blue scarf. They were making a phone call. Informing the people back home? Inquiring about what the situation is at the next border? Inquiring about the situation at all borders standing between them and their final destination?

The tenants of the apartment (I wonder how much rent they are requested to pay) do have electricity. And water, since washed clothes are hanging to dry. A blue sweater. A pair of trousers. Or baby clothes. I suspect they probably lack a lot. Like toys for the children, maybe. Or an Internet connection. I suspect they lack a lot, but I’m sure they definitely miss even more. Like home. Like friends and relatives. Like the shady tree on the corner of their street, or the sweet smell of a summer evening. Like decent human interest. Like a smile.

All of a sudden I feel guilty. I don’t know anything about them. Not about them. Not about the previous ones I heard discussing yesterday. Not about the ones staying there before them. And probably not about the ones arriving tomorrow. I feel guilty for my ignorance. And for my busy, always busy, always too busy daily life. I know it is stupid, but all of a sudden I feel the urge to wave at them. For no other reason as to let them know that they’re not invisible. That I see them. That I want to see them and let them know that I do so. It was an awkward wave. At least as awkward as the way I felt.

After two seconds the young woman with the beautiful scarf waved back. And I think I saw her smiling. Or I want to think so.
Godspeed! Be safe and take care! And thank you for reminding me the basics.

Willem Ledeboer is deputy director and liaison officer of the NIA. He has been working at the institute since 1996. His interests include modern Greek history and the history of the Jewish Communities of Greece.

My first online teaching experience

by ADAMANTIA PANAGOPOULOU, PhD Candidate at Leiden University

I would like to talk about my first online teaching experience on 8th September 2020. I had to teach ‘CONSERVATION AND PHYSICOCHEMICAL STUDY OF METAL ARTIFACTS IN THE CRUSADER PERIOD’. The Leiden University and the Netherlands Institute of Athens (NIA) did an amazing job switching to online learning very quickly.

I had six years experience of in-classroom teaching, and I was ready to embark on teaching an online class. I did not know what to expect or how difficult it would be. One important question that remained on my mind was how I would be able to connect with my students. It is difficult to establish connections online, and I learned from teaching face to face in a classroom that connection is key to student engagement. Online teaching allowed me to function at optimal level mentally and emotionally. I used every aspect of my skillset and imagination. My scope was to keep students engaged and curious. How do you make people listen to you online? Question of the era. Furthermore, one of the most overwhelming and utterly enjoyable aspects of this job was getting to envision a course. What is the best way to explore a subject in twelve online classes and how did I want to do it? At first, I felt absolute freedom to explore and make connections to topics. Brainstorming in all its glory, random ideas for class topics, assignments and activities. The endless possibilities give way to general points that take on a narrative, which is then whittled down to twelve online classes.

This was actually the first time I would do online courses. I was fairly nervous when I started. I needed to hold their attention, engaged them intellectually and connected them emotionally while carrying out the process of knowledge sharing. Students grasped the main concepts of the unit, but when there was perceived doubt that they were not fully comprehending abstract ideas, then I tried to show an alternative learning method by videos. At the end, students were required to answer three questions that connected to the unit topic. There was a two way exchange of energies. I tried to approach students with openness and flexibility.

My first teaching experience taught me a lot about myself, as a future online educator. For example, I always knew that coming up with lesson plans was not easy, so I’m glad that I was able to have this experience to prepare me for it in the future. I also learned that I do not have a good sense of time when I am teaching, so I now know to make sure to make a schedule of what will be done at what time. This job really let me explore my love for being organized, more than any other job to date. In my view, teaching is like a performing art. No amount of reading or attending workshops will prepare me for the challenge. I only get better with practice. For all my inexperience, I hope I made at least a small contribution to the students’ learning. Whatever the future holds for me, I hope to always be a sharer of ideas; ideas that follow a narrative and can be broken down into weekly goals with further reading tangents and fun assignments.

Easing the lockdown in Greece

by Winfred van de Put, director

The staff of the NIA  has been working from home the last couple of weeks, as best we can; I have a three year old toddler who wants to be entertained (just too young to be playing by himself for longer periods), so my time is unfortunately somewhat limited and frequently interrupted. We connect through Facebook chat, now moving to Viber, and Zoom. Working from home works quite well for some of us, so I’m sure we will keep on doing this in the future, even if everything has truly returned to normal (if this will ever happen). The isolation has broken with a very tough tradition in office work: that it is physical presence that counts, not the actual work done. One of the few benefits we may learn and gain from this otherwise miserable episode…

The measures in Greece have been largely successful (although one hates to think of the consequences for all the small tavernas, businesses, freelancers, but also for the most vulnerable group of all, the refugees). From next week,  there will be relaxation of some measu-

DSC_0123

The gate to the NIA auli seems more closed than ever…

res, under constant surveillance of the behavior of both people and virus.  With education, Kindergarten and academia come last, and within schools all sorts of safety measures are in place. It is vital for the Greek economy that the tourist season is not lost, so from June onward there may also be some relaxation in travel restrictions, but this is all very unsure and it can be changed any minute. 

 

But what does it all mean for the institute? We can go and work there more easily, for which we will make a schedule to avoid rush hours and only incidentally working together at the same place. Working from home still remains important during this normalizat

ion period (official policy). But what is most important: in the foreseeable future we cannot receive guests (hotels and guest-facilities only gradually will start to reopen from June onward), and we cannot organize courses or lectures/conferences. Our activities, such as courses and conferences that can be rescheduled and research by students who have received a grant, must all take place from September onward, provided there is not an autumnal second wave of infections. Everything’s unsure, this is hard enough to deal with as individuals, but it is also very frustrating for an institute that exists to be a home to students and researchers abroad.

We are thinking of ways to be visible during this period, for instance by means of this blog, putting recorded lectures online, or even organizing online lectures. There’s quite a lot of work at the institute that would be hard to do with the presence of guests (reorganizing the library for instance). But it is still a bleak shade of what the institute would be without the virus..

This said, the most important thing is to stay safe and come through this period unscathed. For us, staff of the NIA, and for you, dear friend of the Institute. Stay safe!

Pause

Pause

Emmy Mestropian-Makri, secretary NIA

As you all probably already know, due to the general situation caused by the Corona-virus, the NIA closed its doors on March 8, postponed all its activities and restricted its services. This changed the way we work and communicate, as we all work from home, but most importantly changed the way we think. We are more flexible, more understanding and patient and we are not trying to control the uncontrollable. Crises in general have the power to change you. And change is often seen as a key component of life.

Greece is well aware of this as it has been experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis for almost 12 years. During the crisis various changes occurred to its people. Informal groups of citizens offering social solidarity have been created, such as ‘time banks’, whereby citizens have spent part of their time serving their fellow citizens. People became members of groups, functioned collectively and changed the sad atmosphere of the crisis somewhat. As Durkheim has argued morality begins where there is attachment to a group, whatever group that is.

Nowadays, the short stop of all activities worldwide caused by the virus keeps us isolated in our homes. But we can still interact in other ways such as this blog. Despite the negative consequences the virus might have, it will most certainly bring along changes, new challenges and re-definitions, definitely giving earth a break. Perhaps somewhere here in the midst of this small stop of our everyday lives we can find the time we are all constantly looking for. Relax, study, contact friends and family, stay in and stay close. We are all still accessible by phone, email, Facebook and twitter and willing to be of assistance any way we can. We hope to open soon and catch up all our old but also plenty new activities and welcome you once again to our NIA group as soon as possible!

Coronavirus lockdown @NIA

A personal blog from the director, Winfred van de Put.

As you may have read on our Facebook page, the Netherlands Institute was quick in reacting to the Corona virus threat, and the state measures caught up with us very quickly. Greece is in lock-down, and we are facing the brutal reality of cancelling a huge part of our activities. Most important, however, for me as director, is to ensure the safety of my colleagues (the guests were already back home from the 8th of March). I didn’t need the measures of the Greek state to ask my colleagues to work from home if they could, but for the guards and the cleaning staff, who HAVE to be at the Institute for our work, we made arrangements and a nice schedule which would enable them to keep on doing some work at Makri 11.

As the crisis became rapidly more severe, I realized that I was putting them at risk merely by asking them to move to between home and Institute (they all live quite far away). So quite quickly we decided to keep them at home as well, rather than let them do work they can also do in a few months’ time. Now we only will visit the institute if it is strictly necessary – for some of us it may be a welcome walk (or bike ride), while the lock-down restricts our movements outside to the bare minimum.. But still we will of course not go there unless we absolutely have to. It is no fun at all to move through a deserted city you know as a busy, vibrant metropolis.

On this festive 25 March there is little festive about the mood in Greece. The figures of the run of the disease are relatively low, compared to other countries, because stern measures were taken at once, and they were rapidly changed when they turned out not to work (closing the beaches almost instantly when a threatening lock-down and nice weather caused a run on them, for instance). We can hear the F16 jets and helicopters passing over our heads, and that’s about all that reminds us of the fact that 199 years ago, the rise against Ottoman rule commenced.

In the meantime, we have to organize our work so that our time at home is not entirely lost. I still have a yearly report to make, with the help of my staff; since we have access to our digital data, most can be done at home. We may use the time to work on our communication, such as a new flyer and maybe the English version of our website. There’s also the policy paper 2021-2024 to be written… All the while, a 3-year old toddler started to ask ‘why’ questions yesterday and runs around being in turn a cat, a car, a dinosaur, a school-bus, a ghost, a bridge, a policeman and a monster (and sometimes simply Tommy). Great fun, but.. I wonder how other parents manage, because this is probably an experience I share with millions of parents across the world. Probably lots of TV and computer games..

The most important thing, though, is to take the situation seriously and to stay healthy. Not only keeping the virus out (I wonder who are the volunteers for this ‘herd immunity’..), but also keeping sane mentally, as the situation gets on everyone’s nerves. Doing sensible things may help, so I hope working from home, home schooling and forms of remote teaching are actually going to work. Also for the future; especially working from home turns out to be of great benefit to mother nature…

For now: stay safe, and don’t forget those who cannot take care of themselves under these circumstances.