End-of-Year Shenanigans and the Best Night Ever

Last weekend, the American Farm School (where I live and teach) held a graduation ceremony for both its secondary school students and its college students. As I taught at the secondary school and have many friends at the college, this was a big event for me, and it was great fun to watch my friends graduate.

A side view of the graduation ceremony, outside Princeton Hall on the American Farm School campus.

Two of my students were the emcees for the ceremony, while three others played in the band!

My friend Stela from Moldova was the college valedictorian, and I helped her with her speech. It turned out great!

Photo by Nazli Gurkas

This little fellow was given out with one of the awards! A calf traditionally accompanies one of the awards given to a graduating student, as this is a farm school after all.

All the graduates sang a few special Greek songs for the audience during the ceremony.

As soon as the ceremony was officially over, the high school students broke out in singing & dancing all together in celebration!

Me and some of my friends from the college--Alym from Kyrgyzstan, Toni and Ivan from FYROM, and Ionel from Romania.

My boys! These three gentlemen from Kyrgyzstan, FYROM and Romania were roommates, and I was That Token American Girl Who Was Always Hanging Out in Their Room. Aww.

Me with Elena from Romania and her award for academic excellence! When I worked with college students on their dissertations, Elena was one of the most wonderful students to work with.

Me with my friend Ionel during the ceremony.

As for the after party, what would any (ir)responsible college graduates and friends do after a graduation ceremony in Greece?

It starts with a B and ends with an ouzoukia!

The bouzoukia is a veritable institution in Greece–think nightclub gone shamelessly glitzy, audience-participation oriented and covered in flowers. I know that sounds strange, so let me explain!

When I entered the bouzoukia (after a quick gyro stop, of course), I came in to find a singer wearing a ridiculously ostentatious outfit, belting out a cover of a popular Greek song on the stage. The backup band consisted of a few bouzoukis, a drummer, and a synthesizer. Periodically, the singer would disappear with a flourish, and a whole new singer would appear in an even more ostentatious outfit for a few numbers before switching yet again.

Photo by Nazli Gurkas

One of the singers who performed at the bouzoukia when we were there. Check out all those flowers; this was taken early in the night, too!

The singer after this one was wearing the most sequins I have ever seen on one garment in my entire life.

During the singing, the audience largely participated in drinking, singing, dancing (with friends, on the tables, and often on the stage!), and throwing flowers onto the stage. The waiters bring tray upon tray of flowers out to the crowd, and the crowd in turn throws them onto the stage at the singer.

So… how was my first bouzoukia experience?

It. Was. Awesome.

I’m not sure I can even really give you specifics. The whole night is a blur of laughing, dancing and celebrating. I talked with my friends. I threw flowers. I danced. A lot. I drank. …A little? Heh. (Cough.)

Me and my friend Nazli from Turkey. Look how cute she is in her red dress!

This one picture almost sums up the whole night. The only missing piece is that I'm not dancing.

Thaaaaat's better.

Notice the flower from bouzoukia actually stuck to the fake flower I'm wearing in my hair.

This is how my Balkan friends often dance: everyone will kneel on the floor in a circle, and then they'll take turns going into the center and doing a sort of slow solo dance.

My tablemates were from Romania, Moldova and Albania. I will miss that so much when I go home!

During the school year, I woke up every morning at 6 for teaching. Because of this, I had to go to bed at 10 every night, and was constantly disappointed by all the fun I was missing in the dorm.

But on bouzoukia night, my friend and I were the last to leave.

Those of you who have Balkan friends know that this is no easy feat. All year, I was constantly bowing out of social activities just when they were really getting going because I had to go to bed. But this time, Ionel and I were the last to leave! It was 6 AM when we finally got in a cab to go home. The cab driver was unsure of where the American Farm School was, and, for some reason (can’t imagine why!), I suddenly spoke fluent Greek! 🙂

Greece (and my Balkan friends in general) has taught me so much about letting loose and having fun. To me, my bouzoukia night felt like the ultimate culmination of what Greece has given me personally. While dancing, I had an epiphany that made me grin like an idiot: this was my Zorba moment! My dancing may not have taken place on the beach, but my bouzoukia night was a great way to celebrate how much I’ve changed for the better, and everything Greece has given me. It was a night I will never forget! Many thanks to my awesome friends for the good times. I will miss you all dearly.

Στην υγειά σας,



About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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3 Responses to End-of-Year Shenanigans and the Best Night Ever

  1. doranyc says:

    Yammas! I feel totally gypped that I didn’t get to experience a Bouzoukia when I lived briefly in Greece. But we were in teeny tiny village anyway so… I did get to go to Club Mad in Athens which was surreal. Dunno if it’s still there – it was back in 2000. We walked in at random, a whole group of us Americans, and we felt as if we had crashed the Goth kid’s party back home. LOL And they couldn’t BELIEVE that we were dancing to Depeche Mode and The Cure. Too cool for school, those folks. Good times. I miss that country. *sigh* Drink an ouzo for me!!

  2. Pingback: End-of-Year Shenanigans and the Best Night Ever » Greece on WEB

  3. Sounds like a perfect farewell celebration to me! Happy travels and safe return – it seems like Ι remember that you pack up soon, right? If you are back out here anytime soon, I’d love to meet you! 🙂
    Γειά σου, Μιχαέλα

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