CHECK AUTHOR'S NOTES FOR CONTENTS LIST

Monday, December 2, 2013

EPISODE I - IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS, "THE LIGHT".


IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS "THE LIGHT".

(Mr. Leousis waits for the students to quiet down and begins talking to them.)

Your teacher has left some work for you to do but if you cooperate with me, I will entertain you by telling you a story. We can decide together for you to do your assignment while I tell you my story. If you do not want to work simultaneously, I need you to promise me you will complete the assignment for homework. Now let's see how many would like to work on the assignment only and no story?"

(No hands go up.)

Hands up how many of you would like to hear, the story, while you work or do the work for homework?

(All hands go up.)

Fine then, let's begin. My name is Elias Leousis, and you can find information about me on YouTube; you will find me there by typing my name along with the subject of Computers in Education. I was the first teacher in North America to introduce the microcomputer in a formal manner, at the elementary school system. All this was accomplished, through the participation of the Ministry of Education of Quebec, along with the cooperation of the Departments of Education of McGill University and Concordia University, just to name a few.
Among other achievements in education, I have served as a school principal, science department head, founder of a technical educational institute, etc. I am not telling you this...,

(That moment, there is a knock on the door. Mr. Leousis goes over and opens it. Its a tall Afro-woman.)

Excuse us.

(She begins to wheel in a young girl in a wheelchair. She is a "special-ed child," gangling hair and with diminished control of her body movements. The young girl seems  somewhat embarrassed for the intrusion. She is wheeled in and placed at the front of the class, near the door. Her attendant, the Afro woman, nods at Mr. Leousis, and leaves the room. Mr. Leousis, goes over to this young intruder, and with a warm, soft tone looks into her eyes, smiles and says...),
Welcome, I have been waiting for you.
(He then moves away and proceeds to address the students where he had left off.)

As I was saying, I am not telling you all this to impress upon you how important I am but just to mention some of the important events in my life. But today, I am just a substitute teacher, standing before you replacing your teacher for the day, and there is a reason for this as I will explain later.


(Mr. Leousis attends to his computer which is linked to the class, SmartBoard. Soon a map of Europe is projected.)

I was born in a country next to this one.

(He points to Italy, which looks like a boot.)

Does anyone know which country this is?


(Several students call out, "Italy.")

Yes, Italy. And next to Italy is another country.

(He now points to Greece-Hellas)

Do you recognize which country this might be?

(Greece is another call from students.)

Yes, Greece. However, if you were to go back to ancient times, visiting these people, Italy or Greece and refer to them as Greeks or Italians, they would look at you in a strange way.

You see, about four thousand years or more, up here,...

(He points to where current country of Austria is located and draws a point and continuous.)

...two brothers, leaders of their tribe, by the names of Remus and Hellis, sent scouts to investigate lands both Southeast and Southwest to here.

(He points to currently named Greece that is located Southeast and Italy located southwest from that point.)




Their scouts returned back both convinced that they had found the best lands for their tribe by the Mediterranean Sea. And so it was, that the brothers decided to split their tribe in two. Remo and his followers established themselves in what was to become known as Rome. The followers of Ellis, established the lands of Ellas. Today, you call this place “Greece” and the people from there "Greeks," this is a historical error. I want you to know that I am not a Greek, but an “Hellene or Elline”. The place upon which I “came to be”, is called Hellas or Ellas. As you go through school and learn more about my origin and my ancestors, you will find out why today, it is widely acknowledged that from this land, has come “The Light” of Western Civilization.

I was physically born in the southern part of Greece (Hellas). Here, in a place known today as, Tripolis in the prefecture known as Arcadia. My, "identity" and who I am today, was given to me here, in what is now called “Elefsina or Eleusis.”

(He circles the Peloponnesian peninsula, placing a dot at the center, writing 'Tripolis' and another point where current Elefsina is located on the board. A curious student puts up his hand and asks.)

Sir, what do you mean, "your identity, or yourr name, "Eleusis”?".
Very good, someone is listening. Well, I do not want to get off topic but those of you who “really” listen to my story, will discover, much more than is, “given to you.”

(Mr. Leousis uses his two middle fingers to emphasize “given to you.”)

If you are curious about what I have just said, please look up Elefsina, and you will understand. I have put the web link on my blog to make things easier for you to follow. That is why I encourage everyone to read my story online at the weblink, http://canadianstoryteller.blogspot.ca/. There is so much more to my story that I can reveal to you here, given the limitations of class time: Learn by discovery and you will grow.
(Without warning, to the surprise of students, he calls out.)

"προσοχή, ανάπαυση. (Attention, at ease!)

(He stands at attention and then at ease. The class is surprised by his shout; everyone is now alerted to what might follow next.)

As a young boy, I lived in this beautiful world. Each year, from all parts of the Peloponnesian area as many as two thousand young men between the ages 17-18, would come to Tripolis. There, they would be enlisted into the army where they would serve for up to two years.

(He draws radial lines, radiating from Tripolis, to demonstrate the coming of new recruits from different regions.)




I remember, at the beginning of the year, chairs would be lined up next to each other, outside the main entrance to the barracks. These chairs would be lined up, side by side. Small spaces would be left between each chair, to allow the many so-called 'barbers', to move about their victims.




(As he speaks, he reaches out, gets a few chairs, and lines them side by side to demonstrate.)

Behind each chair, in waiting at least, ten new recruits deep would wait their turn to be tormented.

Each soldier, sitting on the front chair, would be draped in turn with a white sheet. As part of the initiation ritual of the new enlisted young warriors, their hair would be cut with these mechanical shears. Those shears were nothing like the electric shavers of today; those were mechanical clippers, which sometimes would jamb and pull a tuft of hair "ouch!"

(A sight of "painful" grimaces would suddenly appear on the faces of students in the audience.)

I remember too, other soldiers with these 'spray pumps', spraying the hair clippings, which were strewn all over the place, with this chemical known as D.D.T. Has anyone heard of this chemical?

(Student's faces are blank.)

Well, the World Health Organization, years back, banned D.D.T. Its ability to linger on in the environment and lodge itself in muscle and fat tissue makes it very toxic to living things, especially those animals high up the food chain. I have this chemical lodged in my body from way back then. Perhaps some day, if I die from cancer, it will probably be from my exposure to this harmful chemical, when I was a child. Some of you, also probably have some traces in your bodies; can anyone guess how it got there?

(A student puts up his hand and remarks.)

"From our parents?"

No, not really, the sperm and egg from which you came from would probably not be the agent. How many of you like to eat fish, like lobster, shrimp, catfish, etc. also known as bottom feeders? Well, as you can imagine, this pesticide, D.D.T., was widely used and very popular to control all types of pests. I remember my grandmother, just pumping the stuff into the house, while we moved about within:  People thought it was good for you. (He chuckles.). D.D.T., was not only used to control such nuisances as lice; the reason for the soldiers spraying the cut hair. It was widely used on crops on farms, livestock, etc. because of its efficacy to kill insects of all types. One of the most deadly, observable consequences, this pesticide had was on the Bald Eagle of North America.

For a few years prior, bird enthusiasts as well as scientists, were noticing a decline in the number of Bald Eagles. Studies of living birds could not find any direct link to the bird's health, yet their numbers were diminishing at a fast rate. Soon after, the researchers realized that new hatch-lings would not survive because their eggshells would not form correctly and thus, the soft shells would expose the young to premature deaths. It was a strong alarm on the impact this deadly chemical was having on the environment and hence, D.D.T., was banned outright throughout the world.

So today, when I say, that some of you may have traces amounts of this chemical, you probably picked it up by eating bottom-feeding sea creatures. Such creatures, having been exposed to the D.D.T. that was washed to the bottom of the seas from the land, over the years. However, I do not want to alarm you. The minute quantities, you might have in your bodies, are so minuscule, it is hardly worth mentioning. I do want to alert all of you to the dangers in our environment from using such "deadly" agents. In addition, do you think we as humans have learned anything about the harmful use of pesticides in our environment?

(He pauses, for student' hands to go up).

Yes, indeed, "We have learned very little." When you have time, have a look what pesticides are doing to our world today, by killing one very important insect. Does anybody know, which important insect I am referring too? (An enthusiastic student puts up his hand calling out - The killing of the bumblebee!) Yes, (Mr. Leousis, responds.) "Today, we face mass starvation, the world over because the pesticides, we are using, are destroying our "pollinators." You all know what that is, correct? (He moves to a slide showing, Avvaz.org and a feature of a bee seeking the nectar of a flower).





As it states here, "Right now, billions of bees are dying. Already, there are nowhere near enough honeybees in Europe to pollinate the crops, and in California -- the biggest food producer in the US -- beekeepers are losing 40% of their bees each year.

We are in the middle of an environmental holocaust that threatens all of us, because, without pollination by bees, most plants and ⅓ of our food supply will not be produced. We can discuss this topic at length if you like. I studied biology and have obtained my Masters in Biology, so I know something about this topic.

However, I don't want to stray too far from my story but since I mention the word, "holocaust," does anyone know what "the holocaust is?" (There is total silence. Mr. Leousis calls out.) "Lest we do not forget!" 

(He proceeds to explain to the class some of the gory highlights of "The Holocaust". How millions of Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities suffered because (He quotes), "These people were different.") I would say, "Special colors of the rainbow. But still part of the rainbow of humanity". (He catches himself drifting into another subject area in which he is passionate about and stops.) Nevertheless, let us move on for now with my life story.

Each morning, (He stomps his feet again, marching and calls out), "ένα, δύο, ένα, δύoo" (One, two, one two). Soldiers would march outside my home, going for their early morning exercise, a call for me to wake up and ready for school. It was an amazing world! You people think you have playgrounds. (Mr. Leousis remarks.)

In my world, we had "the real thing"! Imagine, large pools of water, many times the size of this classroom, contained in these gigantic cisterns, holding thousands of liters of water. Soldiers in training used these large pools of water to jump or cross large bodies of water.

(Mr. Leousis now projects and image of a soldier climbing an obstacle, while dangling from a rope.)



Large ropes would be hung from the center of each cistern so that one could swing from one end to the other, like Tarzan. (He pounds his chest.) If you failed to get to the other side, "Bloop", you would land in the water, drenched in the process at the laughter of your friends. After surviving the obstacle course of the pool of water, you would then have to climb up and down an obstacle course. At times, only to be knocked to the ground by your friends, who would themselves slip and fall over you. Next, you would rush through, under and above, the barbed wire, obstacle course. This was something you would not take lightly. One false move and the sharp wires would tear into you. The cuts and scrapes, healed by your "licking", with your saliva. But the tear of your clothes, would be the most painful of all because your, "Giagia" (grandmother) or mother, would exercise a "lynching." (He motions the action of spanking, which pronounces a smile from the faces of students.)  Just the cost of enjoying the thrill of "a soldier" in the making! (Mr. Leousis breaks into laughter).

One of the best thrills we had was to follow soldiers as they marched out from their barracks to the shooting ranges. Tripolis is surrounded by high mountains and within 20 minutes, you could march to one of the many target ranges nearby.

Soldiers in columns of two would carry their armaments, rifles, machine guns, and small cannons. (He marches, pretending to carry a rifle over his shoulder, a machine gun over in front of his chest, held by his arms or pretending to pull a small cannon on wheels.). Before long, my gang of up to eight or more kids, some girls included, would be a witness to large explosions, pulverizing the sides of mountains. (He motions his hands in an expanding fashion while making the sound of an explosion.).




"Bhwew, bhew, bang, bang, bhew". The smell of gunpowder and dust, fogging our eyes. The thunder of it all, would for a forgetful moment, cause "elated fear", to be displayed as masked joy in our faces. Just like your first ride down a roller coaster; we "were used" to it. Although the target practice was exciting in its own right, the reason for us being there had a more of an "enterprising" goal:

As the calls of the "one whistle," would direct soldiers to begin shooting, reload, begin a new volley, a "two whistle" blow, would mean cease-fire. A three-whistle blow would end the training. We waited. Again and again, the soldiers would enter into their mechanical ritual of fire and thunder. Claiming if not but to each other that as warriors of the smoke and thunder, somehow, they had earned their passage, "earned their names." They had "seen" the invisible enemy and conquered him.

We waited for "the prize" to come but so as to be part of the action, our gun shaped hands, would have us shoot and kill each other in an unfolding drama at play.  Well hidden behind the pine-cone trees, which sheltered us from the elements and discovering eyes; we fought our battles. What do you think would happen to us if we were to be discovered? "Paoow." (Mr. Leousis makes a slapping gesture.). After a kick or a slap, the soldiers would grab us by the ears and chase us away.

Well, soon enough. Some two hours or so later of gunfire, "Bang, bang, bang", machine gunfire "brrrr, brr, brr bang"  and monstrous explosions "bhew, bhew". (He gestures by expanding his arms and chest displaying the large explosions.) Tearing away at the mountainsides, at a one, two, three calls of the whistle, all would come to a peaceful tranquility. Soldiers would gather their wear, line up in the manner of which they had come and just march away. We waited.
Soon after, the thunder of it all would be invaded by the tranquility of the chirping of some daring birds reclaiming their air space and nests. The wind, having washed away the bitterness of the explosions, fought hard to wash away the lingering sounds of the soup of sun-soaked, natural as well as man-made, soot of dust.  In the distance, the phalanx of soldiers, now only a remnant of a dusty spectacle, too far to be distinguish. Quite distant from their reach, the liberated scouts would quickly emerge. What do you think we had patiently waited for all these two to three hours? (Some students call out... "to look for guns." ...others make snotty and various remarks.) Not really. Do you think soldiers would leave their guns behind?" (Mr. Leousis turns to the board while asking.)

"Have any of you seen a real  bullet?"



(Some hands go up. Mr. Leousis now projects the image of a bullet, "erected." )

(Some students burst out in contained ironic laughter for this "inappropriate thought".)
Do not let your imagination get the best of you.  (Mr. Leousis calls out, at the burst of giggles.)

Well, there are three parts to a bullet. (Mr. Leousis demonstrates on his drawing.) This bottom here is the capsule part. It is filled with a bit of gunpowder, covered over by a soft foil. When the hammer of the gun strikes it, it causes a small spark; igniting the larger amount of gunpowder in the chamber.

(He points in the drawing, where the gunpowder is located as he speaks).

Whose explosion forces the front end, the lead, to be forcibly propelled out towards its intended or not intended....  (He stresses this intent.) ...bull's-eye target; killing an animal or human.

(He brings his finger to his forehead, suggesting a bullet through the head.)
My gang and I would wait to collect any spent bullets left behind by the soldiers. The soldiers were required to collect the spent bullets, place them in these wooden boxes, which they had brought them.  But a few of these bullets would be embedded in the rough gravel terrain. This mountain terrain had been obliterated over the years from the constant bombardment of these invading armies. Soldiers tired and disoriented from the constant noise, dust, and adrenaline rush and fall, would just not bother with those spent  bullets covered over or out of reach. In their wait, to be claimed, were soon to invade the more eager prospectors of brass; "The children in wait." That is when "my gang and me," would swoop down from our hidden nests, long after soldiers had gone and search the grounds with the eyes of a prospector of gold.
"βρήκa μία, βρήκa μία - (Vrika mia, Vrika mia!")  (Mr. Leousis would call out, breaking into a dance.)

"Ha, hah, ha - βρήκa μία!" (Found one, found one.)

( Mr. Leousis would now place his hand by his nose and make all types of childish pronouncements, indicating the delight of the child in the grounds. Jumping up and down,  raising and slapping the side of his foot, like a Greek "Evezon", he would dance the "Kalamatiano.").
"βρήκa μία." (I found one!)

(Mr. Leousis would translate. Soon after, he would pace a few steps here and there, stopping at certain students sitting anxiously at their desks. After gaining the student's attention, he would mime to them if they had spotted a bullet on the ground in front of them.  Pretending that the classroom was now the stage upon which the story was to evolve, each student now realized that they had involuntarily entered  "the stage".  Some students were bewildered, not knowing how to respond. Others, who had caught on, pointed to the ground in front of them; nodding that there  was a bullet near their desk in the ground. Soon after, Mr. Leousis to call out:)
"βρήκa μία." (I found one! And proceeds to the ritualistic dance of joy, once again.)

One day, my best friend Kosta, calls out to me, "Pame gia sferes?" I respond, "Ti les, ise trelos, o ilios pai na pesi. "Pok, kok, kok - kota", Kosta Responds. Ego den ime kota, eme leondas".
(Mr. Leousis, after pounding his chest as he speaks. Then he calls out, "translation.")


Mr. Leousis and his friend Kosta, near the firing range.
At first, Kosta challenges me to go looking for bullets, and I respond, "Are you crazy, the sun is about to set?" "Pok, kok, kok", Kosta calls out. "You are a chicken." "I am not a chicken; I am a lion!"

(Mr. Leousis reiterates again, pounding his chest for effect.) "Let's go!"

Within 25 minutes, we are arrive at the nearest firing range ready to mine its precious riches. Immediatly Kosta is off rasing to be the first to make a claim of this productive field of gold; he soon calls out, "Vrika mia, vrika mia!". As he enters the ritual dance of joy,  he pauses at the same time to make faces at me, challenging my luck. I immediately expand my search carefully looking, searching, for any signs or glitter. "Vrika mia, vrika mia." again, Kosta calls out and yet again and again, tormenting my ego. Before long, my frustration, anger at myself and jealousy of Kosta's success, blinds me to a bullet just in front of me. Frustrated to the nth degree, I turn to Kosta and with my fingers expanded, I give him the sign of a serious course, "Na!" (A "mountza" (μούντζα [ˈmund͡za]) )

The silence of Kosta brought thoughts of satisfaction yet worry and concern about my friend Kosts: "Had I clipped his winds so much so that he was dead silent or was he in some type of danger? My egotistic gloat/worry, was only to last a few seconds, shattered by another exhilarating call from Kosta:

"Oo po po, pou na dis, pou na dis." (On my, what you should see, what you should see." Kosta calls out.).

As he raises his arms in glorious delight, Kosta calls out again, "Vrika mia zondani, mia zondani!" ( I found a live one, I found a live one!)  

(Mr. Leousis translates.)

Looking into the distance, I could see Kosta, having bent over, like an animal clawing away at the dirt with his nails, trying to dig out - "The live one." Before long, he would be raising his hand like a native Indian, chanting his warrior's chant while raising to the sky Gods of war, his deadly weapon.  

Now why would he be so excited, (Mr. Leousis asks the class. A student calls out.) "Because he can shoot with it". (Mr. Leousis cautions the student that he should first put up his hand before calling out. He proceeds to explain.)

No, 8-9-year-olds, do not have guns, what else? (He then turns to another student, who had been waiting patiently with his hand up.)

For the gunpowder? Excellent, yes, for the gunpowder. We would use the gunpowder with the aid of the older boys of 12-15 to build fireworks! The older boys had cautioned us about handling live ammunition. We were to bring such live bullets to them. Using a set of pliers, they would be able to remove the lead part from the brass casing and empty the gunpowder. (Mr. Leousis, demonstrates how this was done.)

As I rushed to see his discovery, Kosta had now rested before a boulder nearby, and he begun to bang the head of the bullet, trying to loosen its contents. I immediately ran over, calling out to him, "Ise trelos, den thimase ti mas ipe o theos?" (Are you crazy, don't you remember what Uncle told us?)

Now, in those days when adults spoke to you, men or women, you would never address them by their names, you would simply refer to them as "Uncle" or "Aunt". So this uncle had told us of what had happened last year in one of the fields. A child got a…

(He pauses in silence as he points with his finger to his forehead; indicating a bullet through the head. Student's eyes open wide, and their mouths drop in this deadly acknowledgment.)

"Ah re vlaka, pistevis ti sou lene." Kosta calls out in a disgusting fashion. "Afta mas lene na mas fovisoume.. ahh re Kota, pluck, pluck pluck." (Ah, do you believe everything they tell you, they say these things to scare us, chicken!).

With visible rage on my face for having been called a chicken once again, I rush over. Grasping the bullet from his hand calling out. "Ego den ime kota, ime leondas" ("I am not a chicken, I am a lion.")

(Mr. Leousis, growls again, while pounding his chest).

As I turn to move away, Kosta lashes a kick at me, simultaneously grabbing my shoulder, calling out: "Dose mou tin sfera mou, ine dikimou." (Give me my bullet, it is mine!) I return with a "deadly kick," between the legs.

(Students laugh, some boys grimace.)

Kosta falls to the ground in pain, and I walk away, "I am the lion!" I raise the bullet above my side as a warrior raises, his "killing weapon" to the Gods! I move out to a large boulder lying nearby and begin.

(Mr. Leousis now moves towards the desk where "the intruder" is located near the door. He mimes to her, to cover her eyes, he gently taps her on right shoulder and whispers to her asking, "if she has insurance"; smiles pervade throughout the class, followed by some giggles. He taps his fingers on her desk with his right hand, each time moving his left hand to shield his face and cautions the girl in front of him to do the same. By the second tap, there is a deadly stillness in the air as the students anticipate what might take place next. On the third tap, Mr. Leousis cries out in a wailing cry. Grabbing his head in tormenting pain, he cries out!)

"Owww oww." The pain, the pain. My head, my head is spinning. Look, look at the gunpowder shear on my hand and face.

(He begins to show the back of his hand, demonstrating his pain while now raising it towards his face. He now calls out in greater fright and pain. After lowering his hand within eyesight, he calls out once more.)

"Oh, no, oh no, my eardrum is bleeding; I have burst my ear drum."

(Mr. Leousis, raising his voice, in more agonizing, louder pain!)

"Oh, no, oh no! And my head, my head, is in horrific painnnnn! "

(He covers his face with both hands and shakes while continuing, "the pain." He moves forward towards other students in the row, pausing in front of them, staring at them in a pleading cry for help to relieve his pain. Students are now, "in the scene", their minds questioning this theatrical performance if real or act. Their faces mimicking the horror in their eyes and face, they too are grimacing, his pain.)

And, what do you think my friend Kosta, does when he sees all this?

(He points with his hand as to notion flight.) He runs away from fear. I am now left all alone.

(As he moves further down the row of desks, he calls out...)

And, and, that Light, that Light, what is that Light, that is blinding me, what is that?

(Mr. Leousis, now points to the distance of the back of the room as he calls out.)

And there is this boulder in front of me, blocking my way, I must get over it! The Light, that Light is calling. As I grasp, the boulder's razor cut edges to climb over. Awwwww...".

(He now cries out in more forceful, stronger agony, than before, landing in front of a student's desk, sitting in front of him while raising his right knee, crying out. )

Oh, no, oww. I have cut myself! I have torn apart my knee! Can you see, can you seeey,  the blood pouring out? Can you  see the flesh, deep inside?

(He raises his blood soaked hand as he lets another cry...)

And that Light, that Light!

(He begins to move forward, avoiding "schoolbag" obstacles and then, "Bang!" he slaps his hands on desks on each side and in a more solemn voice, calls out.)

And that is when I collapsed!

(He now turns around and moves to the front of the class where he rests on one of the chairs set there earlier; still breathing heavily from all the theatrics.)

I don't know how long I lay there, but all I can remember, was slowly, very carefully, coming to consciousness. Opening and closing my eyelids, checking for reality. A yellow-orange color, staring intensely at my face. It was the bright moonlight of a full moon. As I fully opened my eyes, I began to see the outline of the moon that just sat there a powering satellite, a spaceship of the sky. Soon after, the sounds of "chhhhch,chhhh chhh, owwowo, ow."

(Mr. Leousis tries to mimic the sounds of the night in the wilderness.)

"Aooww, owoow, ayooo", began to fill in the background of this moonlight spectacular play in my eyes as I unconsciously played hide and seek with my eyelids. My head still spinning and throbbing, I moved my left arm to my side to try to stand up. As I did this, I moved my right hand up to balance and I see, "the blood." I immediately realize what had happened earlier, fear grips me, and my mouth began to rattle my teeth, gnawing at my skull. I cried out in desperation, when I realized the impossible as I looked down at my knee.

(Mr. Leousis now raises his leg on top of the front desk. The startled student pulls back, eyes open.)

Do you see, do you see, it's gone! The wound is gone!  

(He cries out once again as he describes the wound that was inflicted on him, the blood gushing, his innards, the deep cut into his muscle, all gone.).

The blood is there, but where is the wound? (He cries once again.) I begin to panic even more.

I feel I "wet" my pants. I have wet myself! (More nervous giggles from the class.) Although my legs are numb with fear, my pulse rate explodes, my heart racing like never before, forcing me to run and run I do. Trying to avoid cuts and bruises on my naked feet, I just run at times, taking flight in leaps and jumps over rocks and thorny bushes. I am unstoppable.  (Mr. Leousis, in motion pretends to walk on the spot like a locomotive train, huffing and puffing at time choking from lack of breath). I want to go home; I want to see my mother, my grandmother - to feel safe.

In a short time, I arrived at the bottom of the hill and looked up. There, staring down at me, was the most beautiful person in the world, my 'Giagia', my 'Nona', my grandmother. She called out, "Pou ise ahronigo, o pateras sou tha se skotosi." (Where are  you "prime," your father is going to kill you?) Without any breath left in my lungs, choking and gasping, I gave it all and I ran up the hill into her arms.

Mr. Leousis and his Giagia.
Now, my grandmother was a short-stalked person of large girth. (Mr. Leousis, extends his arms wide to show size). But when I fell into her soft "pillow" body, it was heavenly, "momentary", safe place. Instantly, I feel a whack on the side of my face..., (He shows where he has been slapped.), ...stinging me back to reality. Nicknamed "The General", by my father, my "Giagia", is now ordering me to go and wash up in the bathroom. (Students laugh.).

Let me describe to you the washroom of that day; it wasn't anything like today: It consisted of a hole in the ground, where you did both your small and big. (Students giggle.) A wooden tub nearby of about two meters in length and half a meter wide. Next to it, was a pail of water, room temperature, which you would pour into the tub and wash. And so, I took off my shorts and then my peed underwear and got into the tub. I tried washing as much of the blood as I could by the use of "the soap"!

Oh, "the soap", let me describe it to you. It consisted of this "brick" made by my grandmother. She would boil the fat of pigs, to which she would add "ashes" or lye  as they call it, to create suds. Rubbing it on your body was like scrapping sandpaper until suds would form.

So I made believe that I washed. I got out, put on my pied underwear and ran to the safety of my bed. I covered myself with this, blanket. Do you think this was a "fluffy- duffy", blanket, you people use today?

It was as bad as the rough soap. I think it was made of horsehair! When you covered yourself with this blanket, over your naked body, it was rough as rubbing the  soap, I described earlier; really harsh. Normally, when going to sleep, you would wear a nightgown of sorts. Just like the one worn by Scrooge in Victorian times, in the movie which most of you may have seen at around Christmas time: You would wear this type of gown not only to keep you warm but also to protect you from abrasion caused by the rough horse blankets used then.  I was not about to ask for such a night gown from "The General."

(Mr. Leousis mimes the possible slap he might receive from his grandmother for his truancy.)

The "security of the  blanket", would do. Covered there up to my mouth, I waited.

(Mr. Leousis, using his fingers begins to count 1,2,3,4,5 silently.. he lets out a scream).

"Waaaaaa!" It was my mother. Having gone  into the bathroom to check up on me, seen the blood... "She -  went - bal-listic!" I could hear the two women, "blab, blam, blab", arguing and so I dug deeper into the protection of my invincible shield of "the blanket". Then, determined footsteps, could be heard  coming towards my refuge.

(Mr. Leousis, paces to the count of 1,2,3…)

It was my mother! She rips away my blanket exposing my near naked body.

(Mr. Leousis demonstrates his position in bed while trying to grimace the face of a young, scared boy.)

She then begins to knead at my body. Turning me over, again and again, lifting my arms like a seasoned pathologist, on T.V.

(He now raises his voice and calls out to the class.)

What do you think she was looking to find?
(A few calls from his audience suggest, "wounds, blood," etc.)

Yes! (Yes, Mr. Leousis emphasizes.) She was looking for wounds and where all this blood had come from, which she found in the wash-tub. Except for this circular, lacerated scar…

(Mr. Leousis, makes a drawing on the board as he describes this seal.)

...I had from birth on my right shoulder. My Giagia, used to call this my Olympic seal, my wreath. My father had a similar scar on his shoulder. It disappeared right after I was born. Curious, it must be some inherited trait because my son Nafets, also has one in the same location. Funny thing too, my scar disappeared, right after my son was born, just as it had done from my father, when I was born?


(Mr. Leousis, chuckles at this mention of the scar coincidence", simultaneously raising his eyebrows as if he knows more than he is telling.)
Other than that, hardly a scratch from all that had happened to me on the firing range in the forest that day. Puzzled and without a word, she covers me again with "the horse blanket", paces out, 1,2,3... (Mr. Leousis paces away, pauses, turns around and returns). She then returns, feels my forehead and calls out; "Popopo, popopo, ehis pireto. Avrio, tha pame sto giatro. Den tha pass sholio". (My, my, my; you have a fever. Tomorrow, we will go to the doctor. You will not go to school.) Happy of the news of "no school", a gratifying elation breaks in my heart as I try to mask my face from breaking into a smile. She walks out only to return. She once again touches my forehead for reassurance of what she had felt was true. Once again, she walks away chanting her,.. "popopo, popopo, popopo….popopo", as she moved into the distance like a small moped... "popopo...". (Students smile at the scenic description.)

Next morning, I was at the window, mocking and teasing my friends, lip wording, "Den eho scholio.. ahahaha!"... as they passed by my house, down the hill. (I have no school, I have no school.)

You think you have uniforms?

(Mr. Leousis, pulls at his shirt as he speaks.)






"Huh!" When I was going to school, we had to wear these full bodied uniforms called "Podies". They had buttons by the side. (He demonstrates the bottoms on his right side of his chest. He then lowers his arms to show the length, just above the knees.) Just like modern day chefs wear, over their clothes, which are usually white in color and down to the knees. But these "Podies", were not white but a "hachi" color, just like the green board here. (He rubs against the blackboard (green board) with his finger.)  Some time later, my mother commands me, let's go, "pamai!"

Now, in those days, parents did not talk to you as they do today: Have you eaten all your vegetables? Have you done your homework or brushed your teeth? (Students become more curious.) They just commanded you to do this, that and the other. Many times you would get a whacking. "Just because." Just because you did not hear what they had ordered you from the other room, too distant to hear. Or "just because", so you can behave the rest of that day. (Some giggles break out.) Ready as "ordered", we went. Now, how do you think we got to the city downtown?

Do you think we took a taxi as you might do today? (A student calls out, "Walked!"), Yes, we walked! You didn't just call a taxi or take your car as we do now days. You walked. Twenty to thirty minutes, "A walk in the park." Everybody walked those days. My walk to school was a least twenty minutes each way, and I never thought of it as distant. Soon after, we arrive at the center of Tripolis.

Tripolis was an averaged sized city of about thirty thousand people, sometimes the soldiers outnumbering the civilians. The tallest building then, was the church steeple of Saint Vasilios; all buildings were no more than two stories. We walked up to the second floor of the clinic, and we sat in these wooden thatched chairs.

As we waited, I would use my imagination and make believe that I was a pilot, soaring across the sky or a train conductor, traveling throughout the land. Such noisy behavior, would annoy my mother's patience, beckoning a slap wherever she could land one. With "isihia!" (Quiet!) Moreover, a "pretend" byte of her lips as if I had committed some serious sin. (Mr. Leousis, bites the side of his forefinger to demonstrate.) After a few minutes of our waiting, in walks this lady in white, "Kiria Maria", the nurse.

(Mr. Leousis, now in character of "Kiria Maria", pretends to walk and move as she would, across the floor.)

She was wagging her rear end,  left-right-left as if she was sexbomb queen, though nothing of the sort.  "Aaa, Ti kanete k. Leousis" (Ah, how are you doing, Mrs. Leousis, she calls out to my mother.  With my mother responding back.) "Oh, kala, kala, esis." (Oh, good, good, you?) Then, they get into this "Gossip." This gossip, gave me the opportunity to return to the all important things in life, play! Finally, the nurse asks my mother, "Giati eisaste edo?" (Why are you here?). "To pedi, ehi pereto." (The child has a fever.) "Endaxi, tha fonaxo ton giatro". (Alright, I will call the doctor.) She walks out like a performer moving off stage. Within a few minutes, the next character drops in. It's doctor Mandemis.

(Mr. Leousis, now in character of "Dr. Mandemis", pretends to walk and move as he would, across the floor.)
A stocky man is swaying somewhat as he walks like a King Penguin from his massive weight; stethoscope dangling over his shoulders. The very doctor who had delivered me at birth. "Ahhh kiria Leousis, pos pate. Ke esi mikre "Liako"?" He squeezes my lower jaw and cheeks in his massive hands, as if petting a small animal. (Mr. Leousis-Dr. Mandemis, uses his right hand to squeeze and demonstrate the squeezing of his youthful face.)

Ahh, Mrs. Leousis, how are you and how are you, young Liako?  "kai, o k. Leousis, pos pay me tin photographiki " (Mr. Leousis, how is he doing with photography?)

My father was a professional photographer,  working in the barracks, taking pictures of soldiers; pictures that the young recruits would send home to family and loved ones.

And on and on and on, the exchange  took place between my mother and Dr. Mandemis. Just like with k. Maria, earlier, in total ignorance of my existence. So I returned to play while they exchanged niceties for some time. Finally, the doctor says, "Ah, ti ehi o Liakos?" (Oh, what does Liakos, have?)

My mother almost having been startled by the sudden brakes on their exchange, repeats her mantra: "To pedi ehi pireto." (The child has a fever.) "Gia na do."( Let me see.) Dr. Mandemis (aka. Mr. Leousis) responds as he turns his back to them and moves  in  the direction of a glass jar. A jar possibly filled with alcohol as it sits on this cart nearby.  In this jar, standing upright, a number of mercury thermometers are to be found. He takes one and returns back to "Liakos" and his mother. (Mr. Leousis, moves to the blackboard as he speaks.)  Let me first describe to you what a mercury thermometer.

(He draws a bulb thermometer on the board and stresses the contents of the bulb. )

A mercury thermometer contains  a metal known a Mercury. Mercury has the properties of  remaining liquid  at room temperature. Such thermometers have since been banned since the late sixties because the Mercury is highly toxic. If one were to break in your body, your mouth for instance, the released mercury  would poison you. Does anyone here know the average temperature of a human in degrees Celsius?

(A few hands go up).

Yes sir?  (He nods at one of these students?)

"Thirty-seven?" (The student calls out.)

Yes, between, 36.6 - 37.10 C! 
(Mr. Leousis repeats as he marks  the location on his blackboard thermometer  by drawing a line on the board. )
You see,  if I were to take everyone's body temperature in this class, provided that we are healthy, we would obtain an "average" of about 36.7. Females will have a small variance, depending on when during their monthly cycle, we take their temperature. Also too,  from where we take the temperature, the mouth, from your ear,  armpit or if you remember when you were a baby…

(He motions as a way of a rectal insertion - giggles break out. Mr.  Leousis, now walks to the front of the class and begins to imitate, Dr.  Mandemis, handle the thermometer as young "Liakos" sits in his chair.)

He (Dr. Mandemis) inserts the thermometer in my mouth and begins to look at his wristwatch.

(The young, Mr. Leousis, "now, aka. Liakos", shows that he now has something bulging from the left side of his cheek.)

(Mr. Leousis, "now, aka Dr. Mandemis"  looks at  his wristwatch on his left hand, his  fingers popping out in a 1,2,3 motion. "counting".)

He (Dr. Mandemis) then takes out the thermometer, looks at it and gives a sarcastic laugh, "Hah, ha, ne!". Then, he grips the thermometer, tightly on his right hand and shakes downwards. (Mr. Leousis, now stops the mime of Dr. Mandemis and addresses the class once again.)

Do you know why he shakes the thermometer downward, he asks the class? (Everyone is silent. Mr. Leousis returns to the green board to which he had drawn the thermometer earlier.)

You see, every time you used a thermometer, the liquid would rise to a point indicating your temperature. Thereafter, you would have to shake it downward, like this... (Mr. Leousis, demonstrates.) ...to push the liquid metal back into the bulb before proceeding to take the temperature once again. Dr. Mandemis, thought that the reason for the "unusual" reading... (Mr. Leousis, moves both hands with two extended fingers on each to show quotes for the word "unusual".) ...had something to do with that particular thermometer having been "incorrect"... (He quotes the word "incorrectly " once again.) ..used.  (He now returns to Dr. Mandemis character.)

He now places the refreshed thermometer in my mouth and stares at his wrist watch. (Mr. Leousis, once again, mimes the count of 1,2,3 counting the minutes.) He (Dr. Mandemis), then pulls out the thermometer, stares at it with disgust and in anger. Tosses it in the bin, while calling out, "Maria, fere mou ena kenourgio thermometro koritsi mou!" (Maria, bring me a new thermometer, my girl).

Maria "wags-in", a small package in hand and hands it to, Dr. Mandemis. He tears the package open and pulls out a brand new Mercury thermometer. He now is going to do everything properly: He first shakes the thermometer down to the point where you can see this large trunk of an arm drop suddenly, again and again. (Mr. Leousis, aka, Dr. Mandemis, demonstrates.)

He then inserts it into the child's mouth (Liako) and stairs at his wristwatch. Some three minutes later, he removes the thermometer from my mouth, pauses for a fraction of a second; during which his eyes enlarge tenfold as his jaw drops. He yells out! "Kiria, Leousis, kiria Leousis, to bedi, to pedi, prepi na ine necro!" (Mrs. Leousis, the child should be dead! (Mr. Leousis the class teacher, rushes to the blackboard and places the number "44.5", turns around in silence and stairs at the class, in a bewildering facial expression. This is followed by a sigh from the students in the class.)

Immediately, my mother cries out, "Mi lete etcsi giatre", as she reaches over and hugs me; the tears running profusely down her face. "Mi lete etcsi!" (Don't say this, doctor.), She repeats herself, squeezing the breath out of me.

"Maria, Maria," Dr. Mandemis (aka. Mr. Leousis) calls out. "Fonaxe to giatro, Papadopoulos - amesos! Pestou na tsakistsi amesos edo!" (Call Dr. Papadopoulos. Tell him to break legs and rush here immediately!)

(Mr. Leousis, now in his teacher's profile, now addresses the class.)

And that, ladies and gentlemen is Episode I, known as "The Substitute Teacher" on which  my Odyssey of life begins and my stories unfold.  (Mr. Leousis now bows gently to much applause from the class. Hands go up asking for more.)

I will be more than happy to continue my stories next time I am asked to substitute for your class. (Anxious hands go up.)

(Sir, what is your next story called. One student calls out?)

Episode II, known as "The Gypsy." (Mr. Leousis, responds.)

(At the sound of the bell, students continue to applaud with a number of them, surrounding Mr. Leousis, with multiple questions.)
By Elias Leousis,
(Η αγάπη είναι το μελάνι, η σοφία είναι το μήνυμα.)
Love is the ink; wisdom is the message!




2 comments:

  1. From time to time we all ask ourselves what type of story would our lives comprise if we were to narrate it: what it means, what it emphasizes, what form will it assume. Mr. Leousis in this installment gives us (and his students) an image of his childhood experiences in his home town and draws us in to his world, making us think critically about our own life experiences. He delivers his story in a dramatically engaging way and thus creates a link between literary form and life itself. His use of characters, plot and points of view (his giagia, mother, soldiers, doctor, etc.) in a dramatic way tells us that we all make sense of the events of our lives by weaving them in narratives such as the one narrated here. Mr. Leousis's type of storytelling is an asset in the classroom, and as an educator I appreciate it tremendously and take comfort in the knowledge that teachers like him can teach us something about how to reach young learners.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you John for your eloquent words. Your thoughtful and analytical description of my work, empowers me to continue my journey of bringing the creative art of storytelling to our teachers and their students.

      Delete

Thank you for your comment.
"May The Light shine bright on your journey of life."