Marina Sarli is an Italian NGO veteran who found her Ithaca in Athens. She is this week’s featured Out-of-Towner, offering us personalized views, insider experiences and know-how of Greek life.
Marina Sarli. Although I was born and raised in a city in the mountains, my parents decided to give me a name that means ‘’she, who came from the sea.’’
That’s a regular cause for laughter among my friends, since nobody seems to understand what I do. I will give it a try, though. I am doing a job I really like. I work for NGOs as a consultant, project writer, manager and trainer. I am very active in Greece with the two associations I’ve founded, Fair Trade Hellas and the Greek Bank of Memories. Because of my job, I basically live on a plane, from Athens to Italy, to other EU countries and mainly to Brussels, where I work with policy and advocacy for sustainable development.
I’m always late, but not for the serious stuff, so 18 years ago I didn’t miss the appointment with my husband and 6 years ago with my daughter, who came to make my life more chaotic but richer.
Where on earth I am from
I am from Potenza, a small town in the south of the unique country that is Italy. Although in the south, Potenza does not share the usual Mediterranean weather. Potenza has the second highest altitude in Italy, so I grew up surrounded by mountains and snow. Nowadays, I say that I am generally from Italy, since my family has moved to Modena, while my friends and work keep me often around Tuscany and in wonderful Rome.
Rate your homeland vs Greece
The incredible beauty of the Italian towns versus the incredible beauty of the Greek sea. I do not agree so much with that “una faccia, una razza” (one face, one race) phrase implying that Greeks and Italians are the same. For example, one evident difference between Italians and Greeks is that the former have a goofy approach to life, while the later a complaining one. The good thing is that they are both good at taking initiative in order to survive in the best way possible.
I came to Greece because…
I fell in love with a Greek man. And then I fell in love with Greece. I am still with the same Greek man I met 19 years ago, and I am still in love with the country that I encountered 14 years ago.
I’ve fallen in love with…
The color of the sky – this blue is so exclusively Greek. The weather of Athens and the fact that, 360 days a year, I know I’ll have sun around me. The way details of the city can surprise me, from Pittaki street in the district of Psyrri, to the aroma issuing from some hidden corner in the chaotic center of Athens. The food, the people and how genuine they are, the substance against form, the heterogeneity of the people. Sometimes I go to Italy and I feel that we are all like clones, dressing the same and following the same model. Greece, on the other hand, leaves room for one’s personality to develop. It’s as if there’s some sort of existential anarchy that makes even the most decadent corners of contemporary Athens seem beautiful – as if the decadence was an aesthetic choice.
I get mad because…
1) Of bureaucracy. I could tell of the thousand times that made me think ‘’Enough! I am packing and leaving! I am going back home NOW.’’ But then I exit the public building, I see the light of the Greek blue and I never pack. 2) Greek spelling: simply OH MY GOD!
If I knew then what I know now…
I would not have underestimated how quickly you can gain weight with the best chef / Greek mother-in-law near you.
Greece in the palm of my hand…
Pebbles from the beaches and the sea I love.
MY FAVORITE PLACE TO:
“MANI MANI” restaurant in Koukaki / Acropolis
watch the sun set:
party all night:
I’m not a party animal, but Gazarte
At the second Kourvoulia beach in Ithaca. My summer starts there.
Ropa Lavada or any other non-mainstream shop
watch the world go by:
On the stairs of Odeon of Herodes Atticus, with the Parthenon right above me and the people walking in the pedestrian area in front of me.
If not on my sofa, then the National Gardens in Athens
connect with Greek culture:
In any taxi cab
The one and only Ithaca, even though I have my shelter in Italy too.
feel like a local:
In Varvakeios Agora (Athens’ central Market place)
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