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.
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.
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.)
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.
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