After my first night in Pireus i wake up in the hotelroom with Andreas V in a bed to my left and Maiken in another bed to my right. We assemble in the lobby a little before ten to get some food before Georgious is going to take us to the old-town in Athens. One look at the menu tells us that breakfast is better to be had someplace else. For my own sake, it is because there is no way to avoid bread, which my stomach does not handle very well. For the others, the menu just don’t look very appealing after a night on the town. After a cup of coffe we head out.
Georgious guides us to the train station, warning us to keep a close eye on our belongings and not to wear anything green, as it apparently might be interpreted as supporting the wrong football hooligans for that area.
After about twenty minutes on the train, we get off and start walking along some rather picturesque roads lined by old buildings and important historical sites. Most of us – and me, Andreas S and Marthe in particular – are getting ready for breakfast. We look longingly at the various street cafes in the area as Georgious takes us by them, his mouth delivering a constant stream of historical information that probably would have been very interesting if we hadn’t been so hungry.
We start out at a good pace and Georgious says we should hurry. After a little while he stops and tells us that if we take a small detour, we can get some good views of both the Akropolis, and other interesting places, and reach a good restaurant in about 30 minutes. We take him up on the offer and start walking again. For some reason we aren’t hurrying any more.
Our pace grows ever slower as we pass beneath the Akropolis and other places of interest. After a while we start walking through small walkways and streets covered by even more restaurants. We pass them by, Georgious sometimes stopping to change a few words with the ushers that are eagerly trying to convince us that this particular restaurant has the best food in Athens. My mind is sluggishly registering that we are moving back and forth through ever more sidestreets rather than in a straight line. Georgious’ pace becoming slower and slwer while his mouth is moving faster and faster.
I comment on my hunger. Georgious replies: «This is a kind of practice. We need to work in all kinds of situations. Also when starving. Show me what you’ve got when there’s nothing left to give. This is where you’ll develop. And remember: When the going gets togh, the tough gets going.» I accept, more through exhaustion than anything else. It’s been two hours since we were promised food. I am tagging along like a zombie, my feet pulling my body along after the others without intervention from my mind.
We stop at a shop selling t-shirts. Georgious and Dimitris discuss gifts to by to Bjørn Eirik when he arrives. Some of the others move on down the street in the hope that this will move things along. I just stand. Alone. Outside the shop. I have reached some kind of trance where Kristian no longer exist. Neither does Kristians hunger. Neither is space. Neither is time. There is just the standing.
Through this haze i register Marthe coming up the street. Her face a pale white intersperced with red blotches. Her eyes looking straight ahead and unwavering like she is looking straight through everything there is and into the eternity beyond. She moves in a straight line, making the crowds in front of her move out of the way and close behind her like Moses parting the ocean. “Where’s Dimitris?” she demands. I point lazily to the shop and she goes in.
A short while later she comes back out and starts walking down the streets again. A rather flustered looking Dimitris also is coming out with his present for Bjørn Eirik in his hand, followed by Georgious.
“Okay, aaaah… Maybe we go get some food now.”
I guess there’s no question this time who is the tough girl once the going gets tough.
We eat at Ice Grill, staying there for a couple of hours just enjoying the feeling of having food in our stomachs and being able to enjoy our trip again. Then we head back to the hotel and get ready for some more ours of practice at the dojo.
Practice is off course excellent. Dimitris is doing the first class just like the day before, but this time he is better prepared. He takes us through various breakfall excersizes that are completely new to me before showing us techniques that put ever more focus on our ability to quickly adapt and flow together to be able to avoid loosing contact or meeting the mat in painful ways. Being his uke, I am being led through some quite interesting breakfalls.
Georgious’ class reverts again to the fundamentals of body movement and positioning. Knowing that Georgious is working exactly the key principles and areas where I most desperately need to develop, I try to soak it all in, avoiding all potential distractions and above all trying to get away from this pretty Greek girl. She is looking straight at me, and every time I notice, she puts on a brilliant smile that keeps throwing me off balance. I try to navigate the crowd on the mat, working the edges so that I get to be on the opposite side as often as possible. This is how I discover that Bjørn Eirik Olsen Sensei has arrived and is watching the practice. Although I usually take pride in trying to be my own worst judge when scrutinizing my technique and looking for things to improve, the eyes of the Norwegian Shihan upon me throws my already failing concentration completely out the window. I have placed myself between the rock and the hard place, and it definitely does not help that the rock is exceptionally pretty. Battling my hunger earlier this day was nothing. This is the true challenge where I get to test and develop my inner strength.
We finish practice like the day before. We go out. We eat. Not being so hungry this time, and seeing again the faces from the mat and the night before, I finally start getting in touch with the Greek aikidokas on a more social level. Just as they are on the mat, they are also an outgoing, smiling and pleasant bunch to be with outside of the dojo.
Going back to the hotel, Marthe is again urging us to hit new clubs. I decide not to join this time as I am feeling overwhelmed by all the impressions and experiences of the day. I go to the hotelroom, falling asleep the instant my head hits the pillow.