Friday, 15 February 2013

School trip

I attended a school meeting yesterday to discuss an upcoming school trip to Athens, where we were told about the itinerary, which is as follows:

- overnight ferry boat to Athens,
- guided tour of the archaeological site of Acropolis
- guided tour of the Acropolis Museum
- lunch at Goody's
- guided tour of the Greek Parliament
- trip to Attica Park (a zoo)
- overnight ferry boat back to Hania.

Lunch at Goody's?! On a Greek educational school trip?! I made my objection known to the headmaster. He challenged me by saying that places like Goody's have ISO certification. He also added:

"I could have chosen McDonalds because it's across the road from Parliament, but I preferred Goody's because it's Greek."

Not a single mention was made about the quality of the food, the edcuational aspect of the trip, the cultural or the moral aspects of taking kids to a fast food restaurant when there are campaigns these days to make people aware of the nutritional content of their meals, and never mind the statistics which state that the fattest Greek kids are the Cretan ones.

I told him that this is not really trustworthy in light of the recent horse meat scandals. And he said:

"Horse meat scandals? Pardon me, but I don't know what you're talking about."

He had no idea about the horse meat scandals (yes, really truly - there are many people in the world who do not give a fuckadoodle about first-world-problems!), but this is not solely his fault. There is a journalists' strike in Greece at the moment; but even the journos who aren't striking do not mention this subject at all in the Greek papers/channels I read/hear (we clearly have far more serious concerns to discuss in this country). In fact, I was astounded that no one in the room (15 mums and 2 dads) showed any sign of recognition of the issue. (And one person simpy chided me: "Have you been to a souvlatzidiko lately?") In my opinion, this shows how much rural and socially isolated Greeks know or are interested in 'foreign matters', and maybe just how detached they are also becoming from their own food chain at a time when others elsewhere are questioning it.

There is nothing wrong with a Goody's meal. A junk food treat every now and then is a great way to boost morale in a very depressed restrictive environment like ours can be at times (it's not all sun, sea and sand in Crete, especially in winter). It is fun to eat such a meal every now and then, adhering to the principle of  'everything in moderation', as my ancestors used to preach. My objections are NOT based on the fact that this is a Greek educational school trip which combines elements of Greek society that are internationally renowned, which stand as a testament to Greece's contribution to the world's heritage. My objections derive from the great effort I have made to teach my children good eating habits. (This was thankfully voiced by one - only one - other mother in the room.) At any rate, we have a Goody's in Hania. Why do we need to go to Goody's in Athens, when there are plenty of other different places in the same central area that we can choose from?

As an aside, the headmaster did explain to the parents that they are welcome to go to any other place they want, but the unaccompanied ones will go to Goody's - because it's ISO certified, and if you don't know anything about horse meat in burger mince, then it isn't an issue is it? Ignorance is bliss.

As I mull over today's events and I prepare myself for tomorrow's showdown (where I believe that the person backing down will not be me), I bake a lot - it is a solitary activity which allows me to talk to myself as I prepare my case.

My problems could have stopped at the Goody's episode, if I were simply a complacent person. I was saddened by the parents' response to the itinerary: "The children will get so tired of listening to tour guides!", "Why so many archaeological visits?", "Are we obliged to enter the Acropolis with the kids?", and a whole host of other mutterings that will highlight mainly the low level of social education that exists in my society. The mothers actually had the audacity to ask the headmaster to tell the tour guide in the Acropolis museum to keep details to the lowest level and to get the tour over and done with quickly (!!). And the headmaster agreed with them (!!!!!!!!).

I was particularly distressed when I heard that it was likely that only the children would be allowed to enter Parliament (due to the current Greek political scene), while the parents had to wait outside the meeting chambers. I had wanted to accompany my children on the school visit for this sole reason. You see, I never learnt about modern Greek history when I was at school, only the very rudimentary elements of ancient Greek history commonly taught in Western societies. If I can't enter Parliament with them, then what I would be doing accompanying them on this not-so-cheap trip? At ~€100 per child, and €125 per adult (including ferryboat tickets, but not all meals, but we pay entrance fees at archaeological sites, whereas the kids don't)? If it's for the hedonistic value of having an expensive coffee under the shadow of the Acropolis, then I can find a cheaper way to do this.

In the afternoon, I called the teacher and told her that I have decided to send the kids unaccompanied, as  a few (a grand minority, compared to the accompanied children - υπάρχουν λεφτά!) other parents are doing.

"But we've already stated the numbers in the tender" she said, meaning that they are advertising the trip in the state gazettes. "This is putting us in a difficult situation (naughty Mrs Verivaki, it's all your fault), and besides I don't really want to take the responsibility for two extra children (what about the other five unaccompanied kids, who will be accompanied by THREE teachers!), and we've already sorted out the accomodation in the ferry boat cabins..."

You've got to be kidding me! The trip isn't until MAY of this year and that's three months away! So what is she suggesting? That I send one child and not the other? That I send them both and accompany them? I'm in for more hammering tomorrow when I see the headmaster to explain to him why I will NOT come on the trip, and I don't think it's going to be me backing down.

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