I have been in Athens for a little over a month now, and I still haven't touched Michael Stipe. Aside from coming into physical contact with major celebrities, I have at least one other goal. I'm trying to learn as much Greek as possible. My major linguistic learning centers have been eateries: bakeries and, of course, Stavros'. Almost everyone here speaks a little English, enough to order a Greek salad or an Amstel, but that does not make for a good learning environment. Typically my cover is blown: I am American. Maybe it's the unkempt hair or the lackadaisical manner of dress or the pink sunglasses, but I usually end up with a "yes?" or a "hello." The absolute worst is when I still try to throw some Greek at them and get English back, but this phenomenon seems restricted to major tourist centers, where it is simply quicker and easier not to bother. 

If I can't get my point across, or if I'm asked an unfamiliar question, a catalavenate aglika (do you understand English?) is met with a "yes," and the matter is resolved. A couple of days ago, at a new-found bakery in the back of our neighborhood, Pangrati, my abilities were put to the test as my catalavenate... was met with a then catalaveno---I do not understand English. This was the first such response I had gotten: you don't understand English? Excellent! (This is generally a good sign) But how am I supposed to figure out what is inside that delicious looking pastry? So I mumble and point and shrug my shoulders. 

"Patata." (Educated guess: potato)

Okay, but in any food order there is one crucial question about which Ron and Dom are both familiar: 

Ohi kreas? I ask. (No meat?)

Ohi, I hear, followed by words too fast to catch and some smiles. I think this woman is wondering why I wanted to try English to begin with. I hear cala which means good or well. I'll just pretend she said I speak Greek well. I pay, proudly, and walk off with my delicious (thavmasio) potato (patata) pie (pita). 

Oh, and the most important Greek phrase I have learned so far: ena duplio espresso sketo,  parakalo (one double espresso no sugar, please).

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