This place has been rather quiet lately. My last post here was more than 8 months ago, and this blog wasn’t exactly teeming with life before, either.

Standing in the digital space of what used to be my dimension feels like returning to my teenage bedroom and coming face-to-face with a caricature of who I used to be. Still, caricatures are quite good at jogging the memory. Here it is, disused, but not as dusty as one would expect – 80% of dust consists of dead skin cells and here there’s no-one it can be shed off of, after all. The walls are still covered with posters of bands I still like (or think I do) but never listen to anymore, and the corkboards still have pictures pinned on them of my younger self together with old friends I’ve lost all contact with. Did they move away from me or did I move away from them? The question is as pointless yet painful as ‘why must there be death?’, or ‘can oil and water ever be lovers?’

In the almost 10 years I’ve had this blog, my WordPress backend tells me that I’ve written 985 posts – a respectable number, but way too close to 1,000 for comfort. If I’d kept posting my earworms and the handful of Goodreads and Game 2.0 reviews here I haven’t shared, I could have done it, but right now the achievement seems hopelessly trivial (it’s no accident I’m calling it that).

I’d been meaning to write this closing post for a longer time than I care to admit. What had been stopping me until now is that I thought I’d be ‘betraying’ a part of myself. I realised at some point that there’s no shame in letting the past be the past.

I was thinking recently what I feel about the entity Cubilone. Am I Cubilone? Hardly anyone calls me that anymore, because most people I share my life with today don’t remember the time I identified myself as Cubilone. They didn’t know me, and I wasn’t aware of their existence. In time, no-one will remember. But let’s not go there.

Are an acorn and the oak tree it grows into the same ‘thing’?

I am now 28 years old. White hairs have started to make their timely yet not wholly unwelcome appearance in my beard. The unibrow hairs I regularly pluck were the first ones to go white, actually. I started using the nickname Cubilone when I was 17. I can’t recall if it was for Hi5 (yikes), MySpace or some other website where I felt the need to hide behind a mysterious-sounding nickname. It was an alteration of the even older handle CuBiCLe, a nickname I had spontaneously chosen for myself to play CounterStrike with friends at DaSilva, the first hit netcafe in Nea Smyrni. When I chose that name for myself, I’d barely count as a teenager.

The me who first called himself Cubi.
Sometime around 2003, the me who first called himself Cubi. Or, if you’re catching pedant from reading me, an uncharacteristic photograph of me. What I can tell you is that, although I hated hairgel, I knew the cool kids loved it, and I was dying for their acceptance and appreciation.

For years I preferred not to talk too much about the true origins of the name Cubilone (and CuBiCLe) – as you can tell, they wouldn’t win any awards for originality. But now I wish to share this story with you in greater detail.

CuBiCLe’s true origins probably stem from ‘GameCube’ (I was an obsessed Nintendo fanboy at the time), but I really think it also had to do with reading/watching either The Sorcerer’s Stone or The Chamber of Secrets and subconsciously catching the word ‘cubicle’ from somewhere therein – Hogwarts toilets did feature rather prominently in both stories, after all.

Pretty soon, I was just Cubi. Eventually, I added the extra suffix “-lone” because it reminded me of ‘alone’ and it also kind of sounded Elvish. I don’t remember how vocal I had been about what the word ‘cubicle’ meant, but I definitely didn’t want to be going around introducing myself as ‘toilet or office compartment’.

In all honesty though, I don’t imagine I kept quiet for long – my humor was way more self-deprecating back then that it is now, and embarrassing myself for laughs is something I had not yet developed the pride to start avoiding. Today, I seek guidance from that part of me who didn’t feel threatened by the completely imaginary prospect of being embarrassed.

I have so many memories of love, friendship and joy connected with the name Cubi. It feels like by giving up on the name, I’m giving up on the memories, or even worse (?), the people I share them with. It is, however, some consolation that my memories of loved ones calling me that are probably just mine. You know, memories are some volatile, fleeting, malleable things; blindly assuming I share certain ones with people I care about is a recipe for disappointment. So I won’t assume that.

Still. For that, and for many other reasons, I know that I’m not giving up on the people, on the memories. That would be just me taking myself on my beloved guilt trips. No; this whole thing? It’s just about me. Just for me to grow out of my skin, leave my cozy, comfortable cocoon behind.

So, am I still Cubi? Am I QB, qb? Am I Cubilone? Today?

Cubilone is me. He’ll be me as long as I live. But I’m not Cubilone.

*holding breath*


This marks the end of Cubilone’s Dimension. This open diary I would turn to whenever I felt lonely and thought that writing something would make people in general interested in me or help them understand me, no longer serves me. It might still serve Cubilone, but it’s not serving Dimitris.

If you’re reading this, you might be interested in reading some more of what I’m planning to start writing soon. I’m obviously too vain to not have some kind of personalised web presence that’s not plebby like Facebook, and most of all, I have really missed writing (in case you’re wondering: yes, with the goal of making people interested in me or to help them understand me).

I do hereby present you, my new site, which at the time of writing is still not ready, but I’m kicking myself into action. I hope I’ll stick to that one for longer than what Cubilone Dimension felt comfortable for.

As for the fate of this blog? It will stay online until December 7th, which will mark the 10th anniversary of when I registered it. I don’t plan on renewing the domain name, so I only know that “” will become available soon. In case you’re interested to grab it and use it to swear at me with really big letters.

The 985 posts? I’ve yet to really decide, but I don’t think I have the heart to lock them away or even delete them forever. Not yet…


I finally did another B&W film some days ago; it had been sitting in my fridge looking at me for far too long. I hadn’t touched my vat, chemicals and spools in almost three years, either, film and developer sitting there with an expiration date years before even then.

Who says great photographs can’t come from “expired” consumables?

It was after the Spotters Weekend was over, which is where I had spent the majority of the roll. I had just a couple left to round off the complete thirty-six plus the one or two extras at the end and couldn’t think of what to shoot last to get done with it. I took a couple of selfies and prepared my developing gear.

I was sitting there in my bathroom, all sources of light blocked, tools “arranged” in front of me – or, if you prefer honest descriptions, lying around in a way I had to feel around for them every time I needed to switch one. I started by trying to, as you would, unwind the film onto the spool which would be used as its case to neatly bathe it into the developer, but I just couldn’t get the roll to fit in right. Something jammed, the film wouldn’t be picked up by the lever and it wouldn’t unwind. I must have been struggling there blind for what must have been more than 45 minutes for something that in the hands of someone who “knows what they’re doing” wouldn’t take more than 5 at most.

By that time, I could feel that I had almost ruined the edge of the film and the last pictures of the roll by all the bending and creasing I had submitted it to. I knew that force wouldn’t cut it (I could fit some pun here if I tried hard enough), but I was getting a tiny bit desperate.

I considered bailing: turning on the bathroom light and instantly burning the pictures white with light forever. At least that way I would escape that limbo between art and frustration, sitting there in the darkness getting nowhere.

If you’re waiting for some dramatic turn of events, there wasn’t one, but indeed it was a turn that saved me. I just tried twisting half the spool while holding it vertically instead of horizontally, and that somehow did the trick. Relieved, I winded the film into the spool, placed it into the tank, turned on the lights and proceeded with development.

A few hours later, this turned out to be the last shot of the roll.


I’ll admit I’m quite happy with how I look in this picture, but what I love are the chaotic, random little blemishes that pepper it from my mishandling it. Together they make for quite a unique selfie, and a selfie it is alright, clumsy self-inflicted marks and all. It just wouldn’t be the same if it had come out “perfect”. In  fact, the way it’s come out (just look at the right of my head, the contour of the… what is that anyway?) I think it is superior* in every way apart from visual fidelity I suppose.

At the very least it’s a happy accident. In chaos we trust – which is just The Flow dressed up in its cool black suede suit.

Some more highlights from that roll, in case you’re interested.

*Film photography is, in my mind at least, being slowly relegated to what painting and drawing turned into after film photography itself was invented: an art form formerly used for picture perfection now rendered obsolete by some newer technology – in this case digital photography. You could say that painting was liberated and all kinds of artistic breakthroughs were had only after photography was invented and artists didn’t have to portray their subjects in any kind of technically immaculate way anymore – that would be the photographer’s job from then on. Similarly, free from the requirement that it should mainly display things “the way they really are” – we have phones and mirrorless cameras now for that – film photography can now be safely re-examined as a separate medium with its own specific physical limitations and artistic advantages. Like painting.




Koholint Island, Σαμοθράκη: δύο νησιά που πλέουν εντός κι εκτός πραγματικότητας…

Zeruda no Densetsu Yume o Miru Shima, 1993

Τώρα στον στρατό κατέβασα απ’το Virtual Console στο 3DS το Link’s Awakening, το πρώτο 2D Zelda που έπαιξα και από αυτά που δεν είχα τερματίσει ποτέ.

Όταν πρωτοείχα έρθει σε επαφή μαζί του ήταν στο παλιό μου Game Boy, δεν θυμάμαι αν ήταν στο κίτρινο το τούβλο ή το πράσινο το τουβλάκι. Μου το είχε δανείσει μια συμμαθήτρια στο δημοτικό… ή μήπως ήταν ο Μανώλης; Χμ… Η πρώτη και μόνη μου επαφή με Zelda τότε ήταν ο μικρός βωμός που είχα στήσει στο δωμάτιο μου για το Ocarina of Time. Ήμουν γύρω στα 10.

Δεν θα έλεγα ότι μου είχε κάνει κλικ. Το αντίθετο. Πέθαινα πολύ, δεν το καταλάβαινα, βαριόμουν που έπρεπε να μαζεύω ρούπιες για να αγοράζω αντικείμενα…

…έπρεπε να περάσω αυτό το ηλίθιο ραψψόον 20 λεπτά μετά την αρχή:


Ε, σύντομα άρχισα να παίζω Survival Kids και Pokemon Blue… και το άφησα.

Το ξανάγγιξα στα 22 σε έναν emulator στο laptop μου στη Δανία, ορμώμενος από φίλους που γνώρισα στο μεταξύ που το έβαζαν πολύ κοντά στην κορυφή της λίστας με τα αγαπημένα τους games ever, δει Zelda. Έφτασα μέχρι το τρίτο dungeon πριν να βραχεί και αχρηστευτεί ο υπολογιστής μου, μαζί με τον σκληρό όπου κατοικούσε το αρχείο μου, από μια μυστηριώδη και πολύ μικρής έκτασης πλημμύρα.

Το Όρος Σάος με ένα αβγό πάνω. Όχι ε;
Το Όρος Σάος με ένα αβγό πάνω. Όχι ε;

Το κατέβασα ξανά ένα βράδυ στον θάλαμο στην Σαμοθράκη δια της νομίμου οδού αυτή τη φορά, απ’ τα 6€ που είχαν μείνει στον λογαριασμό του eShop μου. Χρησιμοποίησα το κινητό μου ως WiFi πομποδέκτη και με τα τσάμπα gigabyte με τα οποία η Vodafone  με σαγήνεψε ώστε να γίνω πελάτης της, πέρασα την πύλη στην πλούσια παιχνιδοθήκη του ηλεκτρονικού καταστήματος της Nintendo, και η περιπέτεια ξανάρχισε.

20τόσες απολαυστικές ώρες μετά, μπορώ να πω ότι κι εγώ ενώνω πλέον τη φωνή μου με όσους λένε ότι το Link’s Awakening είναι το καλύτερο 2D Zelda στην ιστορία της σειράς και σίγουρα μεταξύ των αρτιότερων παιχνιδιών που έχουν δει  τα μάτια του κόσμου γενικότερα.


Το πόσο αντιδιαμετρικά άλλαξε η άποψη μου για το παιχνίδι μέσα σε αυτό το διάστημα είναι κάτι που μου κίνησε την περιέργεια, αν και δεν θα έπρεπε: γιατί, μήπως μου άρεσε να τσιλιμπουρδίζω με φανταστικά κράτη και να αμπελοφιλοσοφώ όταν ήμουν μικρός; Τέλος πάντων: τι είναι αυτό που είδα στα 27 μου που δεν μπορούσε να δει το 10χρονο που ήμουν τότε, αν ήμουν εγώ αυτός· αν αυτός ήμουν εγώ; Γιατί απόλαυσα το Link’s Awakening περισσότερα απ’ όλα τα Zelda που έπαιξα τα τελευταία χρόνια;

Η αλήθεια είναι ότι πιτσιρικάς ήμουν όπως ανέφερα επηρεασμένος από το έπος και τη φαντασμαγορία του Ocarina of Time, το πρώτο μου Zelda, που όλοι λένε ότι είναι σαν το πρώτο φίλι: κανένα δεν μπορεί να συγκριθεί με το πρώτο… Βασικά όχι, τελείως λάθος παρομοίωση, τι γράφω! Το πρώτο μου φιλί το θυμάμαι αλλά μόνο για το πόσο άβολη ήταν η προεργασία και πόσο χάλια ήταν το ίδιο! Ας πούμε ότι ήταν σαν την πρώτη φορά που… σκατά,  τι παιδική ηλικία είχα… την πρώτη φορά που έπαιξα Mario 64?

Όχι, δεν ήμουν απλά επηρεασμένος από το Ocarina: μιλάμε για σαγήνη. Μπροστά σε εκείνη την εμπειρία, το LA μου φαινόταν ξεπερασμένο, σαφώς φτωχό από γραφικά, παρουσίαση και ιστορία. Η μετάβαση από τα ρεαλιστικά 64-bitα (και καλά) γραφικά  του N64 στο ασπρόμαυρο, σκοτεινό, θολό Game Boy μάλλον εξαρχής δεν είχε τις καλύτερες ελπίδες, και αναρωτιέμαι ένα 10χρονο σήμερα αν θα είχε την υπομονή να δοκιμάσει παιχνίδια που στο μυαλό του είναι ξεπερασμένα, όπως το Ocarina of Time καλή ώρα, του ’98, όχι το remake στο 3DS,  να τρέχει σε έναν αναλογικό καθοδικό σωλήνα. Παιδιά γεννημένα το ’06 δεν θα εντυπωσιάζονταν, λέω εγώ.


Το ίδιο το LA δεν ήταν αρκετά επικό, αυτό που θα αφήσει ένα 10χρονο αγοράκι να μείνει κάγκελο. Και όπως και να το κάνουμε, σαν παιχνίδι είναι δυσκολότερο από το OoT, και εγώ, χωρίς τόσο καλή γνώση αγγλικών τότε για να πιάνω τις μερικές φορές νεφελώδεις βοήθειες και κολλώντας συνεχώς, έχανα το κίνητρο μου.

Κάπου εκεί θυμάμαι να το είχα παρατήσει. Source
Κάπου εκεί θυμάμαι να το είχα παρατήσει. Source

Μπορεί αυτή βέβαια να είναι η γνωστή κατάρα των δανεισμένων games που όλο και κάποια παγκόσμια αλήθεια θα αγγίζει: ότι παρατάμε πολύ πιο εύκολα παιχνίδια που δεν είναι δικά μας. Στην περίπτωση που τα επιστρέφουμε, δηλαδή.

Πάντως, δεν θα κρύψω ότι ακόμα και με τα χρόνια εμπειρίας μου πάνω από οθόνες και χειριστήρια, αν το LA τώρα δεν είχε από μόνο του την λειτουργία Restore Point, παρμένη αυτούσια από τα κιτάπια οποιουδήποτε emulator, ακόμα θα έφτυνα αίμα σε μερικούς (μια χούφτα ντε!) αρχηγούς και γρίφους.

Σαν φαινόμενο πάντως, η ενσωμάτωση τέτοιων μορφών εξοικονόμησης χρόνου από τις ίδιες τις εκδότριες εταιρείες που επανακυκλοφορούν παλιά παιχνίδια τους είναι κάτι που αξίζει μια πιο διεξοδική ανάλυση—βλέπετε επίσης τα “game boosters”, λέγε με cheats,  στις πρόσφατες μεταφορές των FF IX και X στο Steam. Εγώ πάντως είμαι υπέρ τέτοιων μικρών παρεμβάσεων, για καθαρά πρακτικούς λόγους.

Πριν πείτε κάτι του στυλ ότι χαλάει την αυθεντικότητα του τίτλου μια τέτοια κίνηση, οφείλουμε να παραδεχτούμε ότι ποτέ δεν μπορούμε να βιώσουμε το «αυθεντικό»: οποιοδήποτε πολιτισμικό προϊον και να πάρουμε αποκτά νέα ζωή όταν κάποιος το πιάνει σε μια εποχή διαφορετική από αυτήν όπου δημιουργήθηκε (λες και όσοι το παίζουν την ίδια χρονική περίοδο αποκομίζουν τα ίδια…) γιατί είναι αδύνατο να εξομοιώσουμε τις «αυθεντικές συνθήκες εμπειρίας» του. Όποιες κι αν είναι αυτές. Όση πολλή ή λίγη σχέση έχουν με αυτό που φαντάστηκαν οι δημιουργοί.

Άλλο να παίζεις το Link’s Awakening σαν παιδί πριν το φροντιστήριο όταν δεν υπήρχε Ocarina of Time και για να παίξεις Game Boy έπρεπε να αλλάζεις 4 μπαταρίες ΑΑ κάθε 3 ώρες, κι άλλο στην deluxe έγχρωμη έκδοση του με δυνατότητα επαναφοράς σε μια φωτιζόμενη οθόνη. Για να το πάω αλλού: άλλο να διαβάζεις το 1984 ενώ ο απολυταρχισμός ήταν συνώνυμος του κομμουνισμού, άλλο σήμερα που η Alphabet/Google και η κοινωνία της καταγραφής προσωποποιεί, ή καλύτερα αποπροσωποποιεί, τον ίδιο τον Μεγάλο Αδερφό. Άλλο το βινύλιο σαν status symbol μουσικού γούστου, κι άλλο ως ένα κοινότοπο μέσο αναπαραγωγής μουσικής. Θα είχε φανταστεί ο Fritz Lang ότι δεκαετίες μετά το magnum opus του, το Metropolis του 1927, θα υπήρχαν συζητήσεις για το ποια συνοδευτική ενορχήστρωση για τη βωβή ταινία του θα ήταν ανώτερη μεταξύ ειδών μουσικής που κατα τη διάρκεια της ζωής του παρέμεναν στο αχανές μέλλον; Όσοι είδαν το Häxan χωρίς No Clear Mind, θα είχαν κάποια συναισθηματική αντίδραση παρόμοια με τη δική μου; Νομίζω καταλαβαίνετε τι εννοώ.

Για να τρέξει το 3DS σε αυτή την λειτουργία, κρατήστε πατημένο L + Select όταν ανοίγετε το παιχνίδι από το Home Menu. Η default μορφή απεικόνισης είναι stretching στην ανάλυση του 3DS.

Με δεδομένο ότι η πραγματική εξομοίωση είναι εκ των πραγμάτων αδύνατη, αφού πέρα από τον τεχνικό τομέα παίζει μεγάλο ρόλο τελικά και το ευρύτερο πλαίσιο και περιβάλλον για τη βίωση ενός πολιτισμικού προϊοντος, είναι ευχάριστο το ότι δίνεται μεγάλη δημιουργική ελευθερία στους developers να παίξουν με το τι θέλουν να κρατήσουν «αυθεντικό» και τι όχι. Οι καλύτεροι εκμεταλλεύονται τις δυνατότητες αυτές με πολύ ενδιαφέροντες τρόπους.

Στην παραπάνω φωτογραφία βλέπουμε το 3DS μου να τρέχει το Link’s Awakening σε native resolution με ένα GBC visor που υποστηρίζει 3D απεικόνιση. Προσοχή: ο εξομοιωτής, όχι το παιχνίδι, είναι αυτός που παίζει στις τρεις διαστάσεις. Μάλιστα. Είναι κάτι το διακριτικό αλλά πολύ όμορφο και αφάνταστα ικανοποιητικό: αν το 3D είναι ενεργοποιημένο η οθόνη του Game Boy φαίνεται λίγο πιο πίσω, λίγο πιο μέσα από την υπόλοιπη οθόνη, όπως στα παλιά GB το πλέγμα σημείων (dot matrix) ήταν πίσω από αυτό το τζαμάκι που γρατζουνιόταν, ράγιζε και ξεκολλούσε, την εποχή που οι οθόνες των φορητών ήταν ετερόφωτες, σαν  μοναχικοί αστεροειδείς στο κρύο διάστημα.

Λέγεται μάλιστα ότι αν τελειώνει η μπαταρία του 3DS, πέφτει και σε φωτεινότητα το κόκκινο ledάκι του power, αλλά αυτό δεν το έχω δει με τα μάτια μου.

Δεν είναι δικό μου, καλώς-κακώς.
Δεν είναι δικό μου, καλώς-κακώς.

Βασικά, καλή όλη αυτή στροφή στο θεωρητικό και αφαιρετικό που μου βγήκε αβίαστα ως συνήθως, αλλά ας επιστρέψω στο παιχνίδι.

Στο Link’s Awakening λάτρεψα το πόσο ελαφρά τη καρδία παίρνει το ότι είναι Zelda.

Μεγαλώνοντας ανακαλύπτω ότι η επικούρα με κουράζει: το D&D το βαριέμαι πολύ πιο γρήγορα απ’ ότι θα ήθελα· ο μόνος λόγος που τα Lord of the Rings δεν μου φαίνονται κάθε φορά πιο τετριμμένα είναι επειδή απλά τα σπάνε στην εκτέλεση, και κάθε ταινία η οποία καταλήγει να είναι για το σώσιμο του κόσμου από την καταστροφή—θανάσιμο αμάρτημα σχεδόν κάθε άνιμε!—με κάνει να σταυρώνω τα χέρια μου και να κοιτάζω τα φρύδια μου.

Με τον ίδιο τρόπο, παρ’όλο που το Ocarina of Time, η επιτομή του Zelda Epic, είναι χαραγμένο στον συναισθηματικό μου πυρήνα, η ιστορία του μου φαίνεται πλέον παιδική, απλοϊκή. Ίσως επειδή πολύ απλά είναι ένα παιχνίδι για παιδιά; Ίσως γιατί κι εγώ το έπαιξα στην ώριμη ηλικία των 10; Ίσως; Βλασφημία!


Αντιθέτως, το Majora’s Mask, ενώ όταν το πρωτοέπαιξα δεν με είχε κερδίσει τόσο πολύ, τώρα πλέον το βάζω στην κορυφή των Zelda γιατί ιντριγκάρει τον ενήλικο Hall: σπάει τα καλούπια της σειράς, ξεφεύγει από τις νόρμες, προκαλεί τον παίχτη, είναι πιο προσωπικό, εστιασμένο στους χαρακτήρες και τις ιστορίες τους, και το σώσιμο του κόσμου απ’το καταραμένο φεγγάρι σημαίνει το σώσιμο των προσωπών που γνώρισε. Η Termina είναι οι Terminans. Γενικά δημιουργεί μια αύρα μυστηρίου γύρω απ’ τον εαυτό του. Kαι φυσικά είναι ακαταμάχητα cool.

Το Link’s Awakening σαν τίτλος θαρρώ πως είχε έναν αντίκτυπο πάνω μου παρόμοιο με αυτόν του Majora’s Mask, αν και διαφορετικό. Το παιχνίδι δεν έχει Ganon (σχεδόν), δεν έχει Triforce, δεν έχει Hyrule, δεν έχει Zelda! Οι μισοί εχθροί είναι παρμένοι από παιχνίδια Mario. Τα 8 αντικείμενα που πρέπει να μαζευτούν είναι μουσικά όργανα, όχι κρύσταλοι, πολύτιμες πέτρες ή εμβλήματα. Η ιστορία πάλι έχει να κάνει με το σώσιμο του κόσμου… ή τουλάχιστον ενός κόσμου, ο οποίος, όπως και στο Majora’s Mask, αφήνεται να εννοηθεί στο τέλος πως είναι καταδικασμένος, είτε σωθεί είτε όχι. Γιατί, αλληγορικά μιλώντας ή και οχι, η περιπλάνηση είναι εσωτερική, και κάθε ένας από εμάς είναι ένας κόσμος (και ο Λινκ είναι ένας από εμάς!)

Το βρίσκω για κάποιο λόγο πολύ αστείο που τα screenshots στο ίντερνετ είναι στα 160*144 pixels του Game Boy κι αν έχεις ΗD οθόνη δεν βλέπεις την τύφλα σου! Για στάσου, αυτός είναι ο Wart απ' το Super Mario Bros 2, αλλιώς Doki Doki Panic?!
Το βρίσκω για κάποιο λόγο πολύ αστείο που τα screenshots του LA στο ίντερνετ είναι στα 160*144 pixels του Game Boy κι αν έχεις ΗD οθόνη δεν βλέπεις την τύφλα σου!
Για στάσου, αυτός είναι ο Wart απ’ το Super Mario Bros 2, αλλιώς Doki Doki Panic?!

Μόνο και μόνο από αυτά για ορεκτικό φαίνονται ξεκάθαρα τα φόντα της εικονοκλασίας του Zelda IV, η οποία βέβαια μόνο σε μας 23 χρόνια μετά κάνει αίσθηση, γιατί τότε, το 1993 όταν πρωτοβγήκε ασπρόμαυρο, οι μονόχρωμες εικόνες τις οποίες σήμερα φαίνεται να σπάει δεν ήταν ακόμα τόσο συμπαγείς· ήταν τάσεις, όχι χαρακτηριστικά μιας σειράς. Όπως προανέφερα, η Nintendo δεν ήξερε ότι το Link’s Awakening θα ήταν αντισυμβατικό Zelda, γιατί ακόμα δεν υπήρχε η σύμβαση να το περιορίσει.

Μετά το Ocarina, από μόνο του ένα remake του Link to the Past, ό,τι έμελλε να παγιωθεί, παγιώθηκε. Το Zelda ταυτίστηκε με τη φόρμουλα της πλοκής χωρισμένης στη μέση όταν ο Λινκ πατάει το πάδι του στον παράλληλου κόσμο του τίτλου, μοτίβο το οποίο για πρώτη φορά εισήχθησε στο LttP: εκεί ήταν το Dark World, στο Ocarina ήταν τα 7 χρόνια στο μέλλον, στο Twilight Princess ήταν το Twilight Realm, στο Skyward Sword ήταν ο κόσμος πάνω από τα σύννεφα κι αυτός κάτω από αυτα, κοκ. Στο πρώτο Zelda, αντιθέτως, η εξερεύνηση ήταν πολύ πιο ελεύθερη, και τα 8 μπουντρούμια μπορούσαν να εξερευνηθούν και να κατακτηθούν σχεδόν με οποιαδήποτε σειρά. Το Link’s Awakening απ’την άλλη νομίζω βρίσκει τη χρυσή τομή μεταξύ της ελεύθερης εξερεύνησης στο πρωτότυπου και της πιο δομημένης στους επόμενους τίτλους.

DX και original. Source
DX και original. Source

Κάπου είχα διαβάσει (το βρήκα) το εξής έξυπνο: αν ζήταγαν σήμερα από κάποιον να φτιάξει έναν πνευματικό διάδοχο του πρώτου Zelda, σίγουρα δεν θα έφτιαχνε κάτι παρόμοιο με το Link to the Past αλλά κάτι εφάμιλλο του Dark Souls. Εγώ λέω ότι θα ήταν κάτι μεταξύ του Dark Souls και του Link’s Awakening.

…τι; Δεν μπορούμε να ονειρευόμαστε εμείς;!

Τέλος πάντων, γιατί πάλι μακρηγορώ. Δυο-τρία πράγματα ήθελα να γράψω και κοίτα τι έγινε.


Το Link’s Awakening έχει καταπληκτική μουσική.

Διαφορετική σε ύφος απ’ του Koji Kondo γιατί συνθέτες ήταν οι Minako Hamano και Kenji Yamamoto, οι οποίοι μετά έγραψαν τις μουσικές για τα Metroid. Κι όμως.

(θα το έβαζα στο Earworm Garden αλλά το κράταγα γι’ αυτό το post!)

Better than the original overworld theme by far. Seriously.

Κι ένα ρεμιξάκι απ’το 25yearlegend του ocremix.

Το Link’s Awakening έχει χιούμορ, και καλό χιούμορ.

Σπάνια γελάω με παιχνίδι έτσι, πόσο μάλλον με Zelda… Η αγγλική μετάφραση ήταν διαμάντι και ταίριαζε πολύ στο ύφος του «δεν με παίρνω υπερβολικά στα σοβαρά» που το διακατέχει. Έψαξα πολύ να βρω screenshots από τις στιγμές που μου φάνηκαν πιο ξεκαρδιστικές (σοβαρά γέλαγα δυνατά) αλλά δεν βρήκα κάτι αντιπροσωπευτικό. Μάλλον γιατί είναι διάσπαρτες παντού! Αντ’ αυτού, μάλλον καλύτερα, ορίστε μερικά δείγματα απ’ το σενάριο (script):

* - Christine is a goat.

Christine : You don't know the proper etiquette when dealing with a lady, do you? You should have brought flowers or something, then I might be inclined to talk with you...Oh yes, in my case, hibiscus are best...

* - With the item available:

Christine : Oh, you brought me a hibiscus! How sweet! Well, since you are such a gentleman I have a request to make of you. Will you listen?

Christine : I would like you to take this letter to a Mr. Write who lives on the border of the Mysterious Forest, please!

<game> : You traded <Hibiscus> for a goat's letter <Letter>! ...Great!?

* - Subsequently:

Christine : You know, sometimes I can't help eating a delicious piece of paper, even if it's a letter to my darling Mr. Write... How embarrassing!


$#  Mysterious Forest  #$

Signpost  : Mysterious Forest
            (It's a little bit mysterious)

Απλά φανταστείτε κάτι τέτοιο στην πινακίδα στο Kokiri Forest έξω απ’ τα Lost Woods. Αδύνατο, έτσι; Αυτό ακριβώς είναι που λέω.

Boy 3: Hey, dude! What do you think of Marin? Uhh... I don't know, I'm just a kid!

Boy 4: Dude! You're asking me when we started to live on this island? What do you mean by 'when?' Whoa! The concept just makes my head hurt!

Those boys are on some magic powder alright… Μόνο και μόνο που λένε τον Link dude είναι αρκετό. Jeff Bridges as The Link. Το έχετε αν προσπαθήσετε.

[ Magic Rod ]
You've got the Magic Rod! Now you can burn things! Burn it! Burn, baby burn!


[ Drawer ]
Link checked the chest. Wow! This is a nice chest!


Και μετά απ’ όλα αυτά, σου πετάει τη μαγεία από εκεί που δεν το περιμένεις:

(προσοχή, αλήθινα spoilers, αλλά πανέμορφα spoilers—γράφω για το τέλος)

Το τέλος:





links_awakening_ending Source

Μπορεί με τη μαγεία και τα χαχανητά να μου πέταγε επαναλαμβανόμενα εκνευριστικά μηνύματα κάθε λίγο και λιγάκι για power-ups και για το ότι και καλά δεν μπορούσα να σηκώσω πέτρες , μπορεί να χανόμουν διαρκώς στο Overworld, μπορεί να έπρεπε να αλλάζω συνέχεια τα αντικείμενα στο Α και Β… εκεί τελειώνουν τα «μπορεί». Το παιχνίδι πολύ απλά…

…δεν ήταν έπος.

Κάτι λέγαμε για αντισυμβατικότητα;
Κάτι λέγαμε για αντισυμβατικότητα;




Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, IntelligencePlease Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Some books I only review because of the sort of benign OCD I’ve developed that compels me to write something about every book I read; with others I can’t stop myself from going all-out, even if I didn’t enjoy reading them enough to award them 5 stars to begin with. With psychology and typology (personality type) books, the latter is almost always the case. Perhaps to a fault, I might add, for the wall of text lying beneath is arguably not the optimal way of transmitting this, let’s face it, difficult information. Still, I’m a reader rather than a video watcher… but I’m not the only one. ♪

As a review this probably won’t work, but that said: what if I finally accept that it’s not me writing a review here, but taking the opportunity to process, share and, in typical Hallographic style, lovingly re-transmit  the fascinating information, empathy and communication skills this book filled my mind and attention with, at least for a time?

Some books might not be for everyone or even five-star worthy as far as reading pleasure is concerned, but they do contain valuable ideas absolutely worth spreading, writing and talking about.

Watch me embracing  the fact that this is not going to be a review.

I read Please Understand Me II on my Android on .pdf. It is David Keirsey’s definitive 1998 update to his original 1984 Please Understand Me. He himself was (he died in 2013) the personality psychologist who created the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (link to the test as it appears in the book, it’s worth the manual effort to complete) and the Four Temperaments typing system. It shares its name with Hippocrates’ and Galen’s original four temperaments theory, which has for millennia sorted people’s personalities into choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and sanguine.

This archetype has survived to this day in its original form and has thus proved rather durable, along with various other ancient and medieval derivatives, albeit few people consider them as valid typological systems anymore (I’m of two minds about being a Nymph, according to Paracelsus). From Wikipedia’s article on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter:

Date Author Artisan temperament Guardian temperament Idealist temperament Rational temperament
c. 590 BC Ezekiel‘s four living creatures lion (bold) ox (sturdy) man (independent) eagle (far-seeing)
c. 400 BC Hippocrates’ four humours cheerful (blood) somber (black bile) enthusiastic (yellow bile) calm (phlegm)
c. 340 BC Plato’s four characters artistic (iconic) sensible (pistic) intuitive (noetic) reasoning (dianoetic)
c. 325 BC Aristotle’s four sources of happiness sensual (hedone) material (propraietari) ethical (ethikos) logical (dialogike)
c. 185 AD Irenaeus’ four temperaments spontaneous historical spiritual scholarly
c. 190 Galen’s four temperaments sanguine melancholic choleric phlegmatic
c. 1550 Paracelsus’ four totem spirits changeable salamanders industrious gnomes inspired nymphs curious sylphs
c. 1905 Adickes’ four world views innovative traditional doctrinaire skeptical
c. 1912 Dreikurs’/Adler’s four mistaken goals retaliation service recognition power
c. 1914 Spränger’s four* value attitudes artistic economic religious theoretic
c. 1920 Kretschmer’s four character styles manic (hypomanic) depressive oversensitive (hyperesthetic) insensitive (anesthetic)
c. 1947 Fromm’s four orientations exploitative hoarding receptive marketing
c. 1958 Myers’ Jungian types SP (sensing perceiving) SJ (sensing judging) NF (intuitive feeling) NT (intuitive thinking)
c. 1978 Keirsey/Bates four temperaments (old) Dionysian (artful) Epimethean (dutiful) Apollonian (soulful) Promethean (technological)
c. 1988 Keirsey’s four temperaments Artisan Guardian Idealist Rational
c. 2004 Gordon-Bull Nexus Model[5] Gamma Beta Delta Alpha

Keirsey’s Artisan, Guardian, Idealist and Rational types have come a long way indeed since the time Hippocrates classified  people by their over-secretion or lack of certain human bodily fluids: the system was developed upon many decades of research, observation, counseling and comparing the behaviour of his clients. It is not the only typology system to have been built on observation and the scientific method, but it differs from others in the fine points.

To be exact, whereas the Enneagram on the one hand—to name my favourite such system—separates people into nine categories based on their preconceived deficiencies of character, sources of insecurity and ambitions, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator on the other, probably the most well-known and used such system around the world, sorts people into sixteen categories by the order of preference of their eight types of Jungian cognitive functions, it is a person’s outward behaviour that goes to determine their Keirsey temperament.


Because Keirsey worked with Myers and Briggs and his system of typology is understandably an extension or “expansion” to theirs, his four types are basically the sixteen MBTI types divided by four. He noticed similar behavioural patterns between certain types and identified the connectors as the common letters in the types’ names, e.g. the INFP and the ENFJ are both intuitive and feeling types, which makes them both Idealists, while Guardians are SJs, meaning ESTJs, ISFJs and so on.


If you’re at all familiar with Jungian cognitive functions, you might know that the four core cognitive functions (thinking, feeling, intuiting and sensing), farther multiplied by two by being either extraverted or introverted in nature, are fundamentally separated into the perceptive ones, the ones we use to take in information about the external world (sensing/intuiting) and the judging ones, the ones we use to make decisions (thinking/feeling). The two letters comprising the name of the Keirsey temperament denote the combination of an individual’s preference in both perception and judgment.

Thus, for instance, NFs primarily take in information from the external world by using their iNtuition, and they mainly take decisions using their Feelings. NTs, respectively, also take in information about the world using their iNtuition. However, they do not primarily use their feelings to make decisions as the NFs do, but rather use their Thinking function.

It would follow that the four Keirsey types should be NF, NT, SF and ST, and indeed, before Keirsey came along, Myers and Briggs used to separate the sixteen types as so. Nevertheless, Keirsey did come along and observed that SPs and SJs bore far more behavioural similarities to each other than STs and SPs did. He incorporated his findings to his four temperaments theory and thus drew the blueprint for what I believe to be the MBTI 2.0.

Actually, maybe not an MBTI 2.0, because by itself the MBTI is still quite usable. In case however one wishes to combine different systems of typology in order to make more complete or nuanced profiles for people— combining the Enneagram with the MBTI so as to have an overview of both a person’s ambitions, fears and behavioural patterns, for example—i.e. for the purpose of synergy, the Keirsey Type Sorter works far better than the MBTI and in any case it can be a very effective, hard and fast way of identifying a person’s type; you can usually tell fairly easily and intuitively which temperament a person is, whereas with the MBTI and its sixteen whole different types it can be difficult and in any case requires a lot of experience.

The benefits of typing people themselves and why one would want to do it I’ll leave for another time, but I’m sure you can fill in the gaps depending on your own needs for better communication.

What I still haven’t got into at all is how this whole Keirsey thing works.


As mentioned earlier, Keirsey’s theory is only indirectly focused on cognitive functions. Rather, he speculated that, on one hand, people’s behaviour can be separated into two categories according to their use of language and expression: either specific/concrete or generalising/abstract. This often translates into “detail-oriented/pragmatic/moving from the specific towards the whole” and “big-picture/theoretical/moving from the whole towards the specific”, respectively.

This screenshot might help with developing the concept of abstract vs. concrete speech in your mind (pardon the peculiar white balance; I was reading in bed at that moment and had Twilight activated):


On the other hand, people use different “tools” for achieving their goals, which Keirsey identified as either utilitarian/pragmatic or cooperative. From Wikipedia’s article on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter:

People who are cooperative pay more attention to other people’s opinions and are more concerned with doing the right thing. People who are pragmatic (utilitarian) pay more attention to their own thoughts or feelings and are more concerned with doing what works. There is no comparable idea of Myers or Jung that corresponds to this dichotomy, so this is a significant difference between Keirsey’s work and that of Myers and Jung.

The pragmatic temperaments are Rationals (pragmatic and abstract) and Artisans (pragmatic and concrete). The cooperative temperaments are Idealists (cooperative and abstract), and Guardians (cooperative and concrete). Neither Myers nor Jung included the concept of temperament in their work. Jung’s psychological functions are hard to relate to Keirsey’s concepts.

In Please Understand Me II, Keirsey goes through not only the fundamentals of his theory and the characteristics of each type, he also has separate sections and detailed overviews for each subtype (the following is for INFPs/Healers);


breakdowns of each type’s strong and weak skills:


further breakdown for best-suited job in “diplomacy”-oriented fields, the NFs’ specialty (which include teaching, counseling, championing, “healing”, doing reconciliatory, cross-disciplinary work, e.g. between science and metaphysics, to name a pertinent example that fascinates me personally, etc):


A little clarification is in order here: NFs are natural diplomats and horrible tacticians — that could be why I love the big map in Total War games, enjoy Diplomacy (the game) and Dixit, tend to royally suck at the tactical battles in Total War and am absolute garbage in StarCraft II. SPs, on the other hand, are the complete opposite, and you can tell how SPs are poor at diplomacy, since they’re usually the types who most refuse to seek common ground or look at things from a different perspective, but are very good at looking at things practically due to their concrete/utilitarian duality. Conversely, NTs are great strategists and poor logisticians, while SJs are the opposite.

The following analysis goes on to portray common interests for each type (notice how Idealists “will be drawn to the humanities and might dabble in the arts and crafts but rarely stick with that sort of thing long enough to become more than enthusiastic amateurs“—professional artists are, more often than not, Artisans, due to their sensory, present-oriented nature):


or the way in which the different types have completely different orientations connected to time, the past, present and future, and which of these they favor. Note that Rationals understand time as intervals: “for them, time exists not as a continuous line, but as an interval, a segment confined to and defined as an event.  Only events possess time, all else is timeless.”


What distinguishes Please Understand Me II as an actually usable book is that, on top of everything else, it has detailed, separate sections on temperaments and parenting, leading people and romantic relationships. The latter I found particularly interesting: Keirsey writes that one of the major reasons many romantic relationships tend to fail is that partners make Pygmalion projects of one another, that is, we consciously or subconsciously try to make partners into mirror images of ourselves. If we first understand, then accept our partner’s temperament, Keirsey suggests, the relationship could only benefit from it and remain stable.

Furthermore, compatibility between temperaments vary: apparently Idealists and Rationals are natural fits, because we can understand each other’s abstract way of communication and perception intuitively—deep conversations, big ideas, little appreciation for small-talk, that sort of thing. However, due to both types being rarer than concrete Guardians and Artisans (for reasons unknown, concrete communicators are roughly double in numbers than abstract communicators—we’re precious little flowers, we abstracts), those types usually have a hard time finding well-suited mates.

I, for one, have been told that if some of my male Rational friends were female I’d fall for them hard, so there’s that…

Moving on, the chapter on temperament and parenting I found interesting as well, i.e. how parents value different things in raising their children depending on their own temperaments. For example, an Artisan parent will want their child to possess many different useful skills and will try one way or another to transmit them to it (long hours at language schools and martial arts classes?);  a Guardian parent will value security and stability above all else (urging their child to settle), whereas a Rational parent will try to inspire in their child a sense independence from other people and external influence.

Where this often goes wrong is that parents not only make Pygmalion projects our of their partners, they do so for their children as well, and so typically fail to take their child’s own temperament into account when it comes to its upbringing and relevant important decisions. This can and will alienate the child and make it feel unloved or that it has to constantly prove itself, among a slew of other avoidable psychological complications and complexes.

Interestingly, as far as we can observe and Keirsey claimed, temperament is not hereditary: it is determined at birth, does not follow parental patterns and is permanent for life. It is sort of arbitrary, selected at random at “character creation”, you could say. I find that little fact absolutely fascinating: that a big part of who we are is “predetermined”, despite the term being taboo in contemporary psychology and behavioural science.

Paraphrasing Keirsey, temperament is like a person’s hardware—just there, native, unchangeable, with radical, often virtually unbridgeable incompatibilities with other protocols—whereas character is software or an operating system that runs on that hardware. “[…] Thus temperament is the inborn form of human nature; character, the emergent form, which develops through the interaction of temperament and environment.”

What a parent can do to make sure that their child will thrive and not develop insecurities and low self-esteem because it feels as if it cannot fulfill its parents expectations, is identify their child’s temperament early on—it’s usually quite obvious from the 3rd or 4th year—and move with the temperament’s forces, not away from them or even against them: encourage their child to be itself, not what the parent would like it to be.

I can easily imagine a Rational parent, for example, being hard on their Artisan child for not being logical or even clever enough, or an Idealist parent trying to make their Guardian child more “alternative”, when the child just won’t stray from the mainstream. What the parents could be failing to see is that their children might have green fingers or a well-developed sense of honour and duty, respectively. Oh, the woes of an Idealist parent when their Guardian child wants to uphold the law for a living!

I’ve gone on long enough already. I will conclude this little here review/essay/introduction to Keirsey by saying that if psychology, communication and human relationships interest you at all, Please Understand Me II and Keirsey’s work in general is a must-read. Together with the Enneagram, typology can be a very powerful tool for understanding people, living and working better with them and, as important as ever, understanding and identifying one’s own worth and learning to go with, not against, one’s own temperament—one’s own nature.

PS: At some point while going through this book, I realised that my room-mates and colleagues in Sofia City Library and I were all different temperaments. An Idealist, a Rational, a Guardian and an Artisan all under the same roof! My memories of Zanda, Vicente and Maria and living together with them for nine months have been useful for imagining each temperament’s traits more concretely. Thanks guys!

One of each temperament in this pic
One of each temperament in this pic

View all my reviews


First things first: Colour films 1-3 are sitting in my hard disk and are not online, with few exceptions. Let’s add to these exceptions. December 2009, Mytilini.




I was also thinking of getting myself a new (used) large sensor compact digital camera, as I’ve finally missed taking pictures. But then I figured that spending so much on something which I wouldn’t get to enjoy almost at all because I’ll be in the army, is indulging on some fetish compulsive spending for no good reason, which ironically is the very definition of the festive spirit… Instead, I got a couple of rolls of colour film for my OM2n and got ready for action. Results soon to come.

It took some time (can you believe that individual photo shops do not develop film internally anymore? They actually have to send it out to be developed centrally somewhere and the whole process takes days) but here are said results. I spent most day scanning, messing around with histograms, scratching films, trying to figure out why artifacts appear on specific spots on all strips. Sarcastic or serious buckets of fun were had.

Film is awesome. Read this (it is available online). Be smart about buying film (like I wasn’t). Always use a tripod (I never do); that said, don’t be afraid to underexpose, if you can get a workable picture at 1/60 (most of mine are @ 1/30 and are a mess). Embrace mistakes and the physicality of the medium (or your shitty scanner). Like so:

Done with scratches and fluo green and black markers

Or so:


You should only remember one thing: there will be dust. And scratches. And at least 1/2 the film will come out shite. But the rest will be worth it. Hopefully.


If you liked what came out the other end, I’ve posted more of my experiments with film here and here (both mostly B&W). For the tiled gallery, try the Tiled Galleries Carousel Without Jetpack plugin.


Αλλιώς Detachment, Part Four

Θα μου επιτρέψετε να σας πάρω μαζί μου σε ένα μικρο τριπάκι αυτοψυχανάλυσης; Δέχεστε να γίνετε θεατές λιγάκι όσο εγώ ψυχαναλύω τον εαυτό μου σε περίπου 2700 λέξεις;

Το Planescape: Torment το θυμάμαι από τότε που είχε πρωτοβγεί. Μου είχε κινήσει το ενδιαφέρον γιατί η Καρίνα μίλαγε για το πώς έπαιζες έναν αθάνατο με αμνησία ο οποίος προσπαθούσε να βρει τη χαμένη μνήμη του. Τότε βέβαια εγώ ήμουν 10 και η Καρίνα, ξερω γώ, 17. Ακόμα δεν είχα παίξει το πρώτο μου RPG λάιτ, το Pokémon, πόσο μάλλον ένα έργο βαρέων βαρών όπως το Planescape: Torment και γενικά δεν ειχα βουτήξει στον κόσμο των PC RPGs τα οποία συνεχίζουν να με δυσκολεύουν 15 χρόνια μετα! Απλά τότε το πρωτοάκουσα, τότε το πρωτοσημείωσα ως ενδιαφέρον στο εμποτισμένο με Zelda, Mario και Star Wars μυαλό μου.

Το αγόρασα πέρσι σε μια προσφορά του GOG για, πόσο ήταν, 2-3€; Όπως πολλά άλλα παιχνίδια που μάλλον δεν θα παίξω ποτέ. Το κατέβασα, αν και ξέρω πολύ καλά ότι αυτά τα παιχνίδια δεν με πάνε, γιατί πόσος κόσμος μου ‘χει πει για τα Forgotten Realms και συγκεκριμένα για το PS:T; Μου είχε τραβήξει περισσότερο το ενδιαφέρον γιατί είναι πιο πολύ βασισμένο στην ιστορία παρά στις μάχες, και έχει έναν πλούσιο κόσμο με παράλληλα σύμπαντα. What’s not to love?

Το εγκατέστησα πρώτη φορά μήνες μετά. Το έπαιξα μια φορά και μετά δεν το ακούμπησα για 6 ολόκληρους μήνες. Το ξαναέπιασα στην Ουρουγουάη ένα βράδυ, και εκεί το έπαιξα κανένα 10ωρο συνολικά. Έλεγα στον εαυτό μου ξανά και ξανά «αυτό το παιχνίδι θα το τερματίσω, αυτό το παιχνίδι θα το τερματίσω», σαν μάντρα, ή σαν τιμωρία στον πίνακα. Ήθελα πολύ να το απολαύσω. Αλλά λίγο-λίγο έβλεπα ότι περισσότερο ήθελα να το παίξω και να το αγαπήσω παρά μου άρεσε στ’ αλήθεια. Το κλικ δεν έγινε, παρά τα mods και fixes που κατέβασα που υπόσχονταν ότι θα έκαναν «το καλύτερο παιχνίδι στον κόσμο ακόμα καλύτερο».

Τελικά κατέληξα να παίζω το παιχνίδι μόνο με οδηγο. Ξέρετε, ήταν το είδος παιχνιδιού στο οποίο πρέπει να ψάχνες 500 ώρες για ένα σπαστικό μυστικό, ακριβώς το είδος εκνευριστικού game που δίνει πολλαπλές επιλογές στην εξέλιξη της ιστορίας, όπως πολλά RPGs, αλλά υπάρχουν πολλές επιλογές οι οποίες είναι θα λέγαμε gamey, και είναι δύσκολο να μην μπεις στον πειρασμό να ξέρεις από πριν ποιες επιλογές να κάνεις κάθε στιγμή για να έχεις τον πιο δυνατό χαρακτήρα. Αναρωτιέμαι τότε όταν τα πρωτοέπαιζαν αυτά τα παιχνίδια πώς συμπεριφέρονταν οι παίκτες. Αφήνονταν, όπως αφήνομαι εγώ σήμερα στο Crusader Kings II, ή κι αυτοί έψαχναν τρόπους να το τιγκάρουν και να το σπάσουν;

Υπολογιστής που θα είχε τα system requirements του PS:T όταν βγήκε. Ποιο παιχνίδι του σήμερα που μάλλον λίγοι πρόσεξαν θα εκθιάζεται το 2031;

Λοιπόν ένιωθα ένοχος για όλα αυτά. Είχα τύψεις, σαν κάποιος ο οποίος πολύ απλά δεν πιάνει μια ταινία που όλοι λένε οτι είναι γαμάτη, όπως μου συμβαίνει με πολλές ταινίες anime, όπως το Paprika, ή όπως μου συνέβη πέρσι με το Interstellar. Όμως, αντίθετα με αυτές τις δυο ταινίες για παράδειγμα, που είχα άποψη σχετικά με το γιατί δεν μου άρεσαν, ανασήκωνα τους ώμους και απλά προχωρούσα, με το Plansecape: Torment ένιωσα σαν να έχασα κάτι, σαν να μου έπαιρναν την ευκαιρία να απολαύσω ένα από τα καλύτερα παιχνίδια που φτιάχτηκαν ποτέ, ή τουλάχιστον έτσι λένε.

Έτσι λένε…

Άσχετο αλλά και σχετικό. Ήμουν στην Κροατία πριν λίγες εβδομάδες για το Grow Creative. Για να μην τα πολυλογώ και για να μπω στο ζουμί, είχα ενα coaching session με μιαν άλλη συμμετέχουσα για εξάσκηση, στο οποίο εγώ ημουν ο coachee, το «θύμα». Είχα πιάσει λοιπόν το θέμα της εσωστρέφειας μου (για το οποίο κανείς δεν με πίστευε εκεί, όλοι με λέγανε σούπερ ανοιχτό, γιατί είχα επιλέξει απλά με αυτούς τους καινούργιους ανθρώπους να μην φοβάμαι να δείξω την πιο ευαίσθητη μου πλευρά, αλλά αυτό είναι άλλο κεφάλαιο). Μίλαγα για το πώς όλη μου τη ζωή νιώθω κάπως άβολα με το ότι είμαι εσωστρεφής, σαν να είναι ένα μειονέκτημα το οποίο πρέπει κάπως να εξισορροπήσω και όχι κάτι το οποίο είναι απλά κομμάτι της προσωπικότητας μου και ενδεχόμενα ένα δυνατό μου σημείο. Ίσως και να το αναγνωρίζετε αυτό ως κοινό πρόβλημα πολλών εσωστρεφών ανθρώπων και τη βάση πολλών περίεργων συμπεριφορών και ανασφαλειών. Καθώς μίλαγα στην coach μου λοιπόν, είπα κάτι του στιλ ότι για να τα έχεις καλά με τους άλλους, πρέπει να είσαι εξωστρεφής. Κι εκείνη με κοίταξε καλά-καλά στα μάτια και με ρώτησε: «ποιοι είναι οι άλλοι; Ποιοι είναι οι άλλοι των οποίων την έγκριση ψάχνεις;»

Για να γυρίσουμε μετά από αυτή τη διόλου τυχαία πράκαμψη: ποιοι είναι λοιπόν αυτοί οι άλλοι οι οποίοι έτσι λένε, και των οποίων την θεωρητική και πλασματική έγκριση ψάχνω όσον αφορά την ενασχόληση μου με τα games;

Ποιοι είναι αυτοί των οποίων την αποδοχή ψάχνω, αυτό το σιωπηρό νεύμα ως παραδοχή ότι τώρα ανήκω σε ένα φοβερό κλαμπ, που γι’ αυτόν τον λόγο επιλέγω να παίξω το παιχνίδι που λένε ότι είναι απ’ τα καλύτερα παιχνίδια ever;

Αφού το παιχνίδι δεν το απολάμβανα, τι ακριβώς ήταν αυτό το οποίο ήθελα να αποδείξω στον εαυτό μου συνεχίζοντας να προσπαθώ να το τελειώσω; Επαναλαμβάντονας από μέσα μου ότι πρέπει να το τερματίσω;

Προφανώς ήθελα να αποδείξω στον εαυτό μου ότι μπορώ να πιάσω ένα μεγάλο και απαιτητικό παιχνίδι και να μην το εγκαταλείψω. Ότι μπορώ να απολαύσω έναν τίτλο ο οποίος δεν βρίσκεται ανάμεσα στα είδη που συνήθως παίζω και να τον ευχαριστηθώ χωρίς πρόβλημα.Συνήθως δεν τα πάω πολύ καλά με παλιά παιχνίδια που δεν είχα παίξει μικρός, και το να τερματίσω το Planescape θα σήμαινε ότι θα μπορούσα να διευρύνω τους ορίζοντες μου με λίγο πιο κλασικά παιχνίδια. Τέλος, αυτοί οι άλλοι οι οποίοι λένε ότι το PS:T είναι αριστούργημα, είναι συνήθως ψαγμένοι, καλλιεργημένοι gamers με άποψη οι οποίοι μπορούν να διαβάζουν πολύ κείμενο, να ψάχνουν πολύ το lore με τις ώρες, να αφοσιώνονται σέ έναν κόσμο πραγματικά.

Το Planescape: Torment είναι σίγουρα απ' τα (λίγα) παιχνίδια που θα έκαναν και σε βιβλίο. Ωπ, το βιβλίο ήδη υπάρχει. Μήπως να διαβάσω αυτό αντί να τελείωσω το παιχνίδι;
Το Planescape: Torment είναι σίγουρα απ’ τα (λίγα) παιχνίδια που θα έκαναν και σε βιβλίο. Ωπ, το βιβλίο ήδη υπάρχει. Μήπως να διαβάσω αυτό αντί να τελείωσω το παιχνίδι;

Ολα αυτα είναι στοιχεία τα οποία, ας μην το κρύψουμε, το λιγότερο ζηλεύω λιγάκι. Παίζοντας το Planescape, γινόμουν κι εγώ λίγο πιο ψαγμένος, λίγο πιο έξυπνος και υπομονετικός, και με έφερνε λίγο πιο κοντά στους πραγματικούς φίλους του fantasy, κάτι που πάντα μου άρεσε σαν fandom και κοινότητα αλλά πάντα βαριόμουν την εμμονή με την medieval/LotR /high fantasy αισθητική, και είναι κι ένας λόγος που προτιμώ το World of Darkness, απ’ το λίγο που έχω παίξει, απ’ το D&D.

Πες μου ποιο παιχνίδι θα ήθελες να σου αρέσει, να σου πω ποιος θα ήθελες να είσαι, άρα, κατα βάθος, τι πιστεύεις ότι δεν είσαι, τι πιστεύεις ότι σου λείπει.

Δηλαδή  δεν πιστεύω ότι είμαι αρκετά έξυπνος; Ότι δεν έχω υπομονή; Ότι δεν είμαι ενδιαφέρων άνθρωπος και επομένως χρειάζομαι την ενασχόληση με κάτι τέτοιο για να εμφυσηθώ με λίγη από την γαμηστεροσύνη ενός γαμηστερού παιχνιδιου, μπας και μου κολλήσει κάτι; Σαν ψυγείο που μυρίζει γιαουρτίλα ή πιάτα που ζέχνουν αυγουλίλα, ακόμα κι αν τα εν λόγω γιαούρτια και αυγά αφαιρεθούν και κάθε εναπομείναν ίχνος τους σχολαστικά καθαριστεί, έτσι ήθελα κι εγώ να εμποτιστώ με αυτό το κάτι της Planescapeίλας;

Μπορεί να το πήγα στο πολύ ψυχολογικό τώρα, αλλά ο αρχικός λόγος που άρχισα να γράφω αυτό το ποστίο ήταν άλλος. Θα γίνει προφανής ευθύς αμέσως. Ναι, το αποφάσισα μόνο 1000 λέξεις αργότερα.

Ας πάρουμε το Έγκλημα και Τιμωρία. Αυτό είναι ένα βιβλίο το οποίο ξεκίνησα να διαβάζω πριν τρία περίπου χρόνια. Όπως και το Planescape, έχει εκθειαστεί από πολλούς στο περιβάλλον μου αλλά και εκτός αυτού φυσικά, καθώς θεωρείται ιερή αγελάδα της παγκόσμιας λογοτεχνίας, εκ των πραγμάτων κομμάτι του κανόνα, κάτι που δεσπόζει σε κάθε λίστα του στιλ «τα βιβλία που πρέπει να διαβάσεις αν δε θες να λέγεσαι μιαρή πλέμπα.» Ήθελα να το δοκιμάσω και ως μια ευκαιρία να διευρύνω τους αναγνωστικούς μου ορίζοντες, ορμώμενος γενικα απ’ το ότι συνήθωςτα κλασικά τα βαριέμαι γιατί μου φαίνονται τετριμμένα σε θεματολογία. Επειδή κάπου-κάπου νιώθω ενοχές γι’ αυτό μου το γούστο που αποκλείει τα κλασικά λόγω βαρεμάρας, που μου απειλεί το κύρος του εναλλακτικού, σκεπτόμενου ανθρώπου με περίπου τον ίδιο τρόπο που έχει όταν πιάνομαι στα πράσα να σκαλίζω την μύτη μου, ακριβώς όπως και με τα RPGs, σκέφτηκα πως ήταν καλή ευκαρία να δοκιμάσω στ’ αλήθεια τα όρια των γούστων μου.

Με λίγα λόγια λοιπόν δοκίμασα να το διαβάσω για πάνω κάτω τους ίδιους λόγους που δοκίμασα να παίξω το Planescape. Μπορείτε να μαντέψετε τη συνέχεια;

Με τα βιβλία νιώθω πολύ πιο άνετα να λέω «δεν πάω τους κλασικούς.»
Με τα βιβλία νιώθω πολύ πιο άνετα να λέω «δεν πάω τους κλασικούς.»

Δεν το τελείωσα ποτέ, το άφησα στη μέση.

Η διαφορά είναι ότι με το που το έκανα αυτό, απλά είπα «ίσως μια άλλη φορά, κάποια άλλη στιγμή στη ζωή μου», ξέροντας ενδόμιχα ότι κατα πάσα πιθανότητα δεν θα το τελειώσω ποτέ. Ότι αυτό είναι το γούστο μου, ότι από την λίγη και αποτυχημένη εναχόληση μου, δεν μ’ αρέσουν οι κλασικοί, μακάρι να μου άρεσαν φίλε, αλλά… Αλλά! Τέλος.

Εκεί που θέλω να καταλήξω, αν και δεν είναι προφανές μεχρι τώρα, είναι ότι κάτι με εμποδίζει το να πω το ίδιο με τόση ευκολία για το Planescape. Και κάτι μου λέει ότι αυτό το κάτι είναι ότι το Planescape είναι παιχνίδι.

Πάρτε μια στιγμή ταινίες, μουσική, βιβλία, σειρές. Ή γιατί όχι, ταξιδιωτικούς προορισμούς. Με ποια βάση επιλέγετε το σε τι θα αφιερώσετε τον χρόνο σας; Σας έρχεται αλήθεια ποτέ κάποιο άγχος ότι δεν θα καταφέρετε να επισκεφθείτε όλους τους προορισμούς που αξίζουν στον κόσμο; Έχετε την κρυφή ελπίδα ότι μια μέρα θα δείτε όλες τις ταινίες που θα λατρεύατε αν είχατε μόνο την ευκαιρία να τις δείτε όλες; Θα ανακαλύψετε όλες τις μουσικές που θα θέλατε να ανακαλύψετε; Τα βιβλία;

Δεν ξέρω στ’ αλήθεια για σας, αλλά αν μου μοιάζετε έστω και λίγο, θα σκέφτεστε ότι ο κόσμος είναι μεγάλος και δεν υπάρχει περίπτωση να τα βιώσετε όλα, και γι’ αυτό πορεύεστε με σημαία ένα υποβόσκον «ό,τι κάτσει». Αλήθεια, πόσο διαφορετικά είναι τα κριτήρια μας όταν γνωρίζουμε ανθρώπους και αναγνωρίζουμε χαρακτηριστικά που μας αρέσουν; Δεν ψάχνουμε τελικά όλοι σε μεγάλο βαθμό σε νέους ανθρώπους τα ίδια πράγματα που ψάχνουμε όταν ψάχνουμε ασχόλιες, αποδράσεις, ιστορίες για τον εαυτό μας στις οποίες θα μπορέσουμε να χαθούμε;

Κάποτε είχα διαβάσει για έναν Έλληνα ο οποίος είχε ταξιδέψει σε κάθε χώρα της γης και είχε ανακαλύψει ότι για κάθε ταξίδι που κάνεις θες μετά να πας άλλα δύο, κι έτσι καταλήγει η λίστα με τα ταξίδια που θέλεις να κάνεις να είναι πάντα τουλάχιστον διπλάσια σε έκταση από αυτή με αυτά που έχεις όντως κάνει. Το καλύτερο; Αυτο δεν φαίνεται να αλλάζει, είτε δεν έχεις βγει ποτέ απ’ τη χώρα σου είτε τις έχεις δει κυριολέκτικα όλες. Προφανώς ο κόσμος είναι φαινομενικά άπειρος. Κυριολεκτικά δεν διαθέτουμε τα νοητικά μέσα για να μπορέσουμε πότε να φανταστούμε πόσο πολλοί άνθρωποι και πόσες ιστορίες υπάρχουν, κι αυτό ευτυχώς κάποια στιγμή το αποδεχόμαστε φυσικά. Σχεδόν όλοι.

Σε αντίθεση με όλους αυτούς τους τομείς της ανθρώπινης εμπειρίας οι οποίοι είναι αυτονότητα και αυταπόδεικτα αχανείς, νιώθω εδώ και πολλά χρόνια ότι τα games δεν ανήκουν μεταξύ αυτών, το οποίο είναι περίεργο, γιατί φυσικά τώρα το 2015 βγαίνουν περισσότερα παιχνίδια παρά ποτέ. Για κάποιον λόγο όμως μου δίνεται η εντύπωση ότι αν ήθελα να παίξω ό,τι αξίζει να παίξω, αυτό θα ήταν μέσα στη σφαίρα του δυνατού. Ήδη έχω τα μισά συγκεντρωμένα όμορφα κι ωραία στο Steam Library μου. Πρόκειται φυσικά για πελώρια πλεκτάνη. Βέβαια, αν ήθελα ποτέ να χαρίσω κάποιο, δεν θα μπορούσα να το κάνω. Αυτή την αίσθηση της ντουλάπας που είχε μέχρι χτες ρούχα που χάρισες και τώρα είναι υπέροχα άδεια; Ε, αυτή την εμπειρία δεν θα στη δώσει το Steam ποτέ. Μα ποτέ.

Νιώθω ένα μεγαλύτερο άγχος να παίξω αυτά «που πρέπει να παίξω» κι ότι αν δεν το κάνω δεν θα είμαι τόσο ενημερωμένος gamer, παρά ας πουμε ότι πρέπει να διαβάσω βιβλία τα οποία είναι γνωστά και θεωρούνται must. Δεν θα σχολιάσω περισσότερο σε αυτό το σημείο το γιατί είναι σημαντικό για μένα υποσυνείδητα ή συνειδητά να είμαι ενημερωμένος gamer, νομίζω έγραψα ήδη αρκετά. Με απλά λόγια όμως, στα βιβλία μου φαίνεται σχεδόν αυτονόητο ότι τα γούστα καθορίζουν τον χώρο που κινούμαι και δεν χρειάζεται να διαβάσω όλα τα νέα best-seller για να θεωρώ τον εαυτό μου σωστό αναγνώστη. Το γούστο μου καθορίζει τις επιλογές μου. Με τα games αυτό δεν συμβαίνει. Το marketing των ενημερωτικών game sites κι όλου του τρόπου που έχει στηθεί η πώληση παιχνιδιών σε εποχές κρίσης φαίνεται να πιάνει πολύ καλά σε μένα, καταφέρνοντας να μου πουλήσει παιχνίδια μόνο και μόνο με την υπόσχεση του παιχνιδιού και τι αυτό θα μου προσφέρει, χωρίς απαραίτητα να το παίζω τελικά ποτέ. Είναι σαν το να ευχαριστιέσαι ένα παιχνίδι ως παιχνίδι να είναι το λιγότερο. Τι έχω χάσει ρε παιδιά;

Σίγουρα όμως δεν είναι μόνο το marketing. Πραγματικούς φίλους βιβλιοφάγους που να ακολουθούν τα τεκταινομενα δεν έχω. Ωστόσο έχω πολλούς φίλους gamers με τους οποίους νιώθω λιγάκι πιο αποκομμένος κάθε φορά που δεν μπορώ να συζητήσω μαζί τους ένα νέο παιχνίδι, πόσο μάλλον πιο συγκεκριμένα αυτά τα ψιλοάκυρα τα οποία επιλέγω εγώ να παίζω συνήθως και λίγους ξέρω με τους οποίος θα μπορούσα να μιλήσω για αυτά ή να τα παίξουμε μαζί.

Θα μπορούσε η ανάγκη μου να παίξω να είναι ενδόμυχος τρόπος να αντιμετωπίσω την αδυναμία μου να κρατήσω κοντά μου ανθρώπους με τους οποίους έχουμε συνεχώς λιγότερα σημεία επαφής και απομακρυνόμαστε;

Και μια στιγμή. Σε ποιο σημείο τέλος πάντων όλης αυτής της ανάλυσης θα έρθει να κουμπώσει το ότι μιλάμε απλώς για παιχνίδια; Για χιλιάδες πραματάκια τα οποία οποία έχουν κατασκευαστεί για να κονταροχτυπηθούν για το ποίο θα κερδίσει την προσοχή, τον χρόνο και τα χρήματα μας, όλοι πόροι περιορισμένοι, με πρώτον απ’ όλους να είναι προφανέστατα, αφού έχουμε την πολυτέλεια να γράφω και να διαβάζετεαυτά τα κατεβατά, την προσοχή; Είναι αλήθεια ότι μου δίνουν μια καλή δικαιολογία για να μην σκέφτομαι το ότι θα μπορούσα να δημιουργώ. Και μάλιστα λένε ότι ένας από τους λόγους που τόσοι από εμάς τους δυτικούς βολεμένους πάσχουμε από κύματα κατάθλιψης είναι ότι μας έχουν δοθεί τόσοι διαφορετικοί τρόποι να γίνουμε παθητικοί καταναλωτές media και πληροφορίας (μάλλον ποτέ ο δείκτης δημιουργίας/κατανάλωσης μας δεν ήταν πιο χαμηλά) και βρισκόμαστε να σπαταλάμε τόσον χρόνο, λεφτά και φαιά ουσία για τις συλλογές από παιχνίδια, ταινίες, σειρές μας κτλ, που τελικά ατροφεί η επαφή μας με το δημιουργικό μας κομμάτι και σιγά-σιγά μπαίνουμε στη διαδικασία να αναρωτιόμαστε: what’s the point?

Αν το παραπάνω όντως ισχύει, τι είναι αυτό που αποφεύγουμε πεισματικά να δημιουργήσουμε και με την πρώτη ευκαιρία, σαν αυτόματο ανακλαστικό, καταφεύγουμε στην ζεστή θαλπωρή της γνώριμης παθητικής καταναλωτικής, στο οποίο πατάει η βιομηχανία των games αλλά και διάφορων άλλων θεαμάτων;

Δεν θέλω να συνεχίσω να ανησυχώ και να προβληματίζομαι για ανούσια θέματα. Θέλω να δημιουργήσω, θέλω να ανακαλύψω. Θέλω να παίξω, αν όχι πάνω απ’ όλα, σίγουρα γενικότερα στη ζωή. Το παιχνίδι είναι ζωή. Αλλά θέλω ό,τι κάνω να το ευχαριστιέμαι, όχι να κάνω κάτι ελπίζοντας ότι κάποια στιγμή θα το ευχαριστηθώ. Δεν γίνεται να συνεχίσω να τρέφω αυταπάτες ότι μια μέρα θα έχω χρόνο για όλα, για όλους, για το παντού. Εσείς κι εγώ ζούμε σε έναν κόσμο όπου όλα φαίνονται να αιωρούνται  μπροστά μας, έτοιμα να τα αρπάξουμε. Αλλά όταν έχεις μπροστά σου 500.003 πράγματα αντί για 3, πόσο πιο δύσκολο είναι να απλώσεις το χέρι για να διαλέξεις ένα; Θα μπορούσε να είναι αλήθεια, όπως στο λινκ που μόλις παρέθεσα, ότι όσες πιο πολλές επιλογές έχει κανείς, τόσο λιγότερο ικανοποιημένος και ευχαριστημένος μπορεί να είναι; Εδώ σε μια ταβέρνα πας και σου παίρνει μισή ώρα να παραγγείλεις…

Επιστρέφω σε αυτόν τον προβληματισμό του «πρεπει να κάνω το ένα ή το άλλο για να είμαι ενημερωμένος/ψαγμένος/αποδεκτός και όχι επειδή με ενδιαφέρει πραγματικά» αρκετά συχνά, και νομίζω ότι είναι από τα μεγάλα μου μπλοκαρίσματα για να ξεκινήσω δημιουργικές διαδικασίες που τις χρειάζομαι επειγόντως. Τα games είναι από τα πράγματα που είναι μαζί μου το περισσότερο διάστημα γι’ αυτό είναι και πιο δύσκολο για μένα συναισθηματικά να κοιτάξω αυτό το κομμάτι του εαυτού μου πραγματιστικά και να δω ειλικρινά ποια θέλω να είναι η σχέση μου με αυτό. Πολλά από αυτά που αναφέρω παραπάνω σε σχέση με αυτό είναι απλά αρνητικά συναισθήματα και σκέψεις που με κρατάνε κάπου που δεν θέλω να ‘μαι.

Συγνώμη Nameless One. Μπορεί μια μέρα να μάθω την ιστορία σου και του κόσμου σου του Sigil με τις πολλές πύλες που όντως φαίνεται συναρπαστικός. Αλλά κι αν αυτό δεν συμβεί, απλώς θα παραμείνεις ένας ακόμα nameless one μεταξύ πολλών. Έντιμων, ενδιαφέροντων nameless με τους οποίους, πολύ απλά, ε… δεν έκατσε.


Σχετικό ποστ που έγραψα πριν δύο χρόνια: First World Άγχος


This post is a combination of two fantastic pieces of work: Daphne’s article on Erasmus+ she wrote a few months ago which comprises the bulk of this post, and Giorgi’s collection of Greek organisations that run European Erasmus+ projects that is a bit more comprehensive than the one Daphne put together. You will find that list at the bottom of the article.

 It can be a bit difficult to navigate through the vast, decentralised and chaotic field of European Youth Programs. That and the fact that  lot of it can sound too good to be true sometimes might discourage potential participants. Stick with it: it is true! The European Union’s allocation of funds might certainly be questionable in some areas (let’s not go there at this time, you know exactly what I’m talking about ), but there’s no doubt they’re investing tons of money in education and the future with Erasmus+.

Not all of it finds its way to the right hands, which could be said about all sort of freebie European Union money that’s come our way. However, you could definitely make the case that the same holds true for money as a concept in more general terms. But I digress—sorry, difficult to resist.

These big investments are part of a bigger picture, a plan so devious, its scope so ambitious, its goal so far-removed, it could only ever have been spawned in a bright, sterile meeting room in Brussels, in the incandescent depths of the HQ of the European Commission itself. Their goal, behind all of these lifelong-learning  and informal education bells and whistles, is the creation of nothing less than a common identity among young Europeans, a veritable European identity for the people who will have to deal with this shitstorm of gargantuan proportions heading our way, the true proportions of which we’re just starting to understand. That’s us, by the way.

I can’t tell if it’s working or not yet, or if perhaps creating this identity could be forming a barrier against the millions of non-Europeans that have started once again to enter European societies. But it can work; these programs teach tolerance and coexistence, after all. I do believe identifying as European can also mean accepting as European people who previously were not. It’s not, or at least it shouldn’t be, a limited-membership club. It wasn’t so in the past, and there’s no reason it should be now. That’s not how I look at peoples and nations at least and I’m glad I’m not alone.

Anyway. If we want to pull through this, all of this, as best we can, we need (informally) educated, internationally-oriented, risk-taking, adaptable and sensitive young people with a spirit of co-operation and participation. Erasmus+ programs are incredibly good at inspiring all these qualities in participants,  and more.

Ahem. This was supposed to be “just” a guest post. With this introduction of mine I was certainly planning to be shorter, I leave you to them. I hope this information proves useful to you. In fact, it can be quite life-changing, if you want or can allow it to.


Erasmus+ and youth opportunities resources for Greeks and the general public

This post has been long overdue. Since my first youth exchange in June 2013, I’ve talked with an ever-growing amount of people about what I do abroad, how I managed to find these projects, how it’s possible to do so many of them if I’m always broke as fuck and what exactly do I even get from them.

The last conversation I had was with the guys from the coding course I attended this week, and some of them showed great interest in what I had to say, since I already know a lot about these things. I absolutely despise talking, I get nervous and awkward and am unable to explain things properly, so writing is a much better way to get all this information out there.

So finally, here it is. A resource post with all the info and organisations I know about that have to do with youth mobility. Please, feel free to comment under my post if you are part of/know an organisation that you believe should be included in the list! Of course, I recognize that even my knowledge is quite limited compared to people that are actively involved in Erasmus+ as  part of an organisation.

First things first: What on earth is Erasmus+? (here is a bit more detailed page)

When people hear the word “Erasmus”, they instantly think that it’s all about the student mobility thing. Well, guess what. In short, Erasmus+ is the EU’s new programme for boosting skills and employability through education, training, youth, and sport. Before that there was Youth in Action.

The funding for the whole project is channeled to each country through the National Agencies. Through their pages you can find projects and information in your own language and contact them for inquiries.

So the lists that follow include NGOs that are either Sending (SO), Hosting (HO) or Coordinating (CO) organisations, or even all of the above! As copy-pasted from the programme guide, these mean:

    • Applicant organisation from a Programme Country: in charge of applying for the mobility project, signing and managing the grant agreement and reporting. The applicant can be a consortium coordinator: leading a mobility consortium of partner organisations of the same country aimed at organising any type of student and staff mobility.
    • Sending organisation: in charge of selecting students/staff and sending them abroad. This also includes grant payments (for those in Programme Countries), preparation, monitoring and recognition related to the mobility period.
    • Receiving (Hosting) organisation: in charge of receiving students/staff from abroad and offering them a study/traineeship programme or a programme of training activities, or benefiting from a teaching activity.
    • Intermediary (Coordinating) organisation: this is an organisation active in the labour market or in the fields of education, training and youth work in a Programme Country. It may be a partner in a national mobility consortium, but is not a sending organisation. Its role may be to share and facilitate the administrative procedures of the sending higher education institutions and to better match student profiles with the needs of enterprises in case of traineeships and to jointly prepare participants.

These may all sound kind of (or largely) unclear, so what essentially happens is, you find a SO in your country of residence, you apply for one of the projects they are offering (could be an EVS, or a training, or a youth exchange), you get accepted (or not), and you get to go to the country where that project is taking place. You’re hosted there by the HO. How to explain with clear, precise ELI5 wording what the CO part is still a bit unclear for me as well, so I would appreciate corrections and help here.

Personally, the crown and pride and glory of the Erasmus+ programme is European Voluntary Service, or EVS for short. It’s what I’ll be doing in the Netherlands from September 2nd.

Again, in short, if you are between 17 and 30, have spare time from two weeks up to a year in your hands, want to do something creative with your time, have no money to fund your interests, travel, meet other cultures and a horde of other like-minded people, EVS is for you. I strongly recommend it to people who are fresh out of university or school, have been unemployed for some time or just love travelling and experiencing new things. Or all of these! Important:

You will receive free accommodation, food, insurance and pocket money. The only thing you might have to pay is a small part of your travel costs.

Also important, you can only do EVS once in your life. If it’s a short-term project, you may be eligible to apply for a second EVS, but the time you spend abroad must be in total one year. Consider the possibilities carefully, because not everything is rainbows and unicorns. There are terrible projects out there, and people who just want to eat up the funding money. But don’t be discouraged like this – talk with people, do your research, ask me for recommendations and you’ll have the time of your life.

You can find ALL of the EVS projects here. You can search by country/town of preference and type of the project you want. The themes are extremely diverse. For example, I was a mentor of EVS volunteers who worked in TRAG, including therapeutic riding sessions for disabled people and of volunteers who worked in the offices of Greek Forum of Refugees.

In this European Youth page, you can also find other volunteering opportunities here, but I’ve never really participated in something like this so I can’t be of much help. Here you can find their Facebook page. I like organising things in lists, so I have put every page I’ll mention here in special list on Facebook. Good that it’s kinda worth it for something other than hoarding friends and stalking people.

Here we go then. It’s a clear list of NGOs that help you get involved with all the things I mentioned above!

Greek NGOs and other amazing groups of people:

This is not the best time for me to post this, because the Greek Nation Agency’s funding has been indefinitely suspended since April. You can probably discover the reason if you think about the state of the Greek political scene since the beginning of the year. What the suspension means is that there can be no projects implemented in the country whatsoever – no new EVS volunteers, no trainings, no youth exchanges, etc. The problems started way back of course, I remember the NA having financial difficulties for more than a year. BUT, you can still contact these NGOs to projects outside of the country – which I strongly advise you do. Most or all of these post regularly about new opportunites, be it short- or long-term. Keep in mind that even though I’m writing this in English so it can be accessed by everyone, a lot of the NGOs below have projects and information in Greek only.

You can also find some of these in the EVS database I linked above, if you search them by name.

I’ll start with this one as an honour, because I went to my first youth exchange through them. Everyone, meet

Based in Crete. I went through them to Finland, for a youth exchange called Creative Photography in the Finnish Wilderness, along with Garret and Dimitris. Gotta thank him for this whole business, cause he was the first to discover these things and went through Nuestro Mundo to Olde Vechte in Ommen, the Netherlands for a youth exchange in March 2013. That’s incidentally the organisation I’ll be going to for EVS.

Continuing with the organisation I was (am?) an EVS mentor for.

The Greek branch of Service Civil International. They will be my SO for going to EVS in Olde Vechte. They also organise a lot of workcamps which you can find out about in the page I linked here.

I know a couple of the guys involved here personally, and I love them. 😀

I think just their name is motivating in itself. Don’t be a couch potato.

Self-described as an informal group of ambitious people and filmmakers interested in new media & youth work.

I know their crazy dudette Antonia, who will never forgive me for taking away her tobacco.

You can also participate in workcamps through them.

They organised the last training course I went to, in Skoulikaria, Greece. They’re pretty new but have great aspirations.

I can’t remember how I found out about the rest of the NGOs, but probably through facebook shares or through people I met that knew them. Networking!

(Of course, there’s a lot more, and quite a few that are just Hosting/Receiving NGOs — meaning they can’t send out Greeks but only receive foreigners as EVS volunteers)

Other European organisations:

I will start with my favourite, since I’m going there for EVS in a couple of days. For a whole year! Woo!!

I strongly recommend attending at least one training/project happening in Olde Vechte, because you’ll start seeing your life change before your own eyes. I started with a youth exchange, and the place inspired me so much that I went back for a personal development training. From then on everything fell slowly into place and I decided it would be the best place for me to go to right now. There is an amazing amount of people who are working there, including the EVS volunteers and the trainers that come back several times per year to shake a bunch of young people up with their wise teachings.

OV is part of the Synergy Network, that organises trainings (either open calls or funded by the EU) for personal and professional development.

Right now the Spectrum Synergy project is ongoing.

Continuing in the Synergy business, I’ve also got to know some of the guys involved here. They’re real good! (They also have a wonderful partner page)

Moar Synergy. Their team has some amazing members and I’ve wanted to participate in some action with them for a long time, but I never got the chance. Soon, I hope!

Never had to do anything with these guys but I’m pretty sure they’re awesome too.

Welp, there’s also the Greek one. Starring my favourite mouse on their fb page.

Another NGO that is involved with Synergy and a long-term wish of mine to get involved in. Hungary.

More Balkan stuff, specifically Bulgarian. I went back and forth so many times in 2014 that it will always be in my heart, even though I wasn’t closely involved with any NGO there. Most of the info is in Bulgarian.

  • Balkan Kids| SO, HO (Hey David :D)
  • CVS Bulgaria | Facebook | SO, HO, CO
  • Suddenly I’ve forgotten half of the NGOs I got to know there. Ok. There’s still the EVS database.

Czech. Got to know through Šárka. 🙂

Cyprus! I visited (and was hosted at the volunteer’s places) both of them when I was in Nicosia (thanks to Toni :D) and later got to know Iliana from YEU in a training course in Bulgaria. Small world!!

Ok. This is getting really long, so I’ll now link to some more general resources which post about trainings all over.

First, here are some facebook groups (not my favourite thing because there’s too many posts):

Again, there’s quite a lot more of them, once you get involved they’ll start popping out like daises.

And some more pages and websites that can help you get into things.

Edit 31.08.2015: Panagiotis prompted me to add this one, it seems quite promising and I had been looking for something like it for a long time.

You can basically search for upcoming projects based on where you reside and where and when you want to go.

A network of eight Resource Centres working on European priority areas within the youth field. As part of the European Commission’s Training Strategy, SALTO-YOUTH provides non-formal learning resources for youth workers and youth leaders and organises training and contact-making activities to support organisations and National Agencies within the frame of the European Commission’s Erasmus+ :Youth in Action programme and beyond.

The Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organisations is an International Non-Governmental Youth Organisation that represents national organisations which promote intercultural education, understanding and peace through voluntary service.

The European Youth Foundation (EYF) provides assistance and funding for youth activities which promote human rights, democracy, tolerance and solidarity.


  1. Hellenic Youth Participation
  2. Youthfully Yours GR
  3. Προγράμματα Aνταλλαγής – Youthnet Hellas!
  4. Elix/ Ελιξ- Προγράμματα Εθελοντικής Εργασίας
  5. Youth in Advancement
  6. Citizens in Action
  7. Think Positive
  8. United Societies of Balkans
  9. System & G – Greece
  10. You in Europe
  11. SCI Hellas
  12. Erasmus+ Youth Greece
  13. Εrasmusplusyouth
  14. Εν Γνώσει
  15. Horizonsforyouth
  16. Greece in Action
  17. KANE Κοινωνική Ανάπτυξη Νέων / Social Youth Development
  18. UNESCO Youth Club of Thessaloniki
  19. E.A.S.T.
  20. Be pART
  21. Breaking The Borders
  22. Association of Intercultural Communities
  23. Youth for Exchange and Understanding
  24. interaliaproject
  25. Break the Couch



  1. Ευρωπαϊκή Εθελοντική Υπηρεσία
  3. Eurodyssey
  4. The SALTO-YOUTH Resource Centres provide
  5. Nuestro Mundo


General programs and sites:



Article originally posted in the Rights4Water Website.

Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America (after Suriname), with an area of 176,215km2, making it about 15% smaller than Belarus and 35% larger than Greece. A total of 3,324,460 people call it home and about 1,947,604 (or roughly 57% of the population) reside in the Montevideo metro area on the Río de la Plata. In fact, its urbanization rate is over 95%, one of the highest in the world. Meanwhile (and perhaps contradictory to the previous statistic), close to 93% of its territory is apt for agriculture or pasture, and with existing cattle numbers surpassing 12.000.000 in 2014, Uruguay is world champion of cattle per capita. To reiterate: for each Uruguayan that lives in an urban centre, there are 3.6 bovines living in its vast fields.

The fertility of Uruguayan soils would likely not be possible without its vast river network, which is mainly defined by Río Uruguay and important tributaries in its basin, such as Río Cuareim and Río Negro; Río de la Plata and its tributaries (including Río Santa Lucía, which provides water for Montevideo) and others. OSE is the country’s main public water company, while DINAGUA (the National Water Directorate), along with MVOTMA (the Ministry of Housing, Land Management and the Environment) and a number of other government directorates are responsible for managing Uruguayan water resources.

Major basins in Uruguay

Major basins of Uruguay

Privatization of management, with some exceptions, has been largely avoided due to the 2004 plebiscite promoted by the National Commission in Defence of Water and Life. The plebiscite, ratified by 64,58% of voters, resulted in a constitutional reform and the inclusion therein of the now famous Article 47. With it, the Uruguayan constitution was the first in the world to give the state sole authority over water management, making privatisation unconstitutional, explicitly stating that “users and civil society are to participate in all planning, management and control of water resources”. In addition, it declared water “a natural resource essential for life” and made access to water and sanitation “a fundamental human right”.

More than a decade later, management of water in Uruguay is now organised by river basins and hydrographic regions: they are the basis for the regional and basin councils regularly called by DINAGUA. These councils, which are meant to be tripartite, allow the participation of delegates from the government, the users (agriculture, pastures etc) and civil society, and are convened to discuss matters of water quality, regional development plans, emergency situations such as droughts, good practices etc. The inclusion of the citizenry in the management of water resources, as mentioned above, became a constitutional right as a direct result of the referendum. However, until now, these councils have been the only formal way of allowing the citizens to have any say in water management and control.

Regional council in Las Cañas, Río Negro

There have been more problems with the actual implementation of Article 47. Apparently, compartmentalisation of power over water resources has become a problem of management: “The water law (predicated by the constitutional reform) is based on management by basin; the territorial legislation law is based on management by political boundaries, by regional department”, says Carmen Sosa, current member of CNDAV and representative of the worker union of OSE in her interview to Rights4Water. “Since authorities for each river basin are so compartmentalised, we need to examine the difficulty of managing water in such a way. It was our inspiration to have a single organisation, a ministry of water, a ministry of the environment, which would bring all the powers together in a single place. For when authorities are so dispersed, when the responsibilities are so dispersed, in the end nobody’s responsible. Management is very complicated when there are ten different organisations in charge—and all with the same level of responsibility.”

Carmen Sosa

According to Mrs. Sosa, the state could make popular participation more viable by making the regional councils and the information discussed therein more accessible to the citizens. “Oftentimes the only thing people know about is the problems that they have: how their neighbour’s well dried up, or how their own water is polluted. But they do not have any information on the context and on what state the country is in for such things to happen.” Most of the councils are presently working with the most serious water-related problem the country’s facing right now: the contamination of the basins by run-off from its soy plantations and its pastures. We shall go more in-depth about this in our next article on water as a human right in Uruguay.


Ah, page, we meet again. Hello. Today I decided to write. Express myself, as it were. I fought the distractions… Avoided starting Battlestar Galactica Season 4, despite the fact that Season 3 ended with a bang, it did; I decided not to play Planescape Torment, even though I’ve just started getting into it (and for this kind of games it means playing 10 hours or so). In typical qb style, I even fought off work! I had a nice, warm shower, lay in my warm bed (it’s winter… still hard to wrap my head around it), put some music on that phone that still hasn’t taken full control—I chose Vangelis’ Cosmos—and now I’m here in this right place. The phone proved its supposed smartness by reminding me not to put the volume too high so as to avoid damaging my hearing. As tonight’s token act of proving to myself I’m an adult, I heeded its advice. Maybe the machines aren’t out for us. Pah, who am I kidding.

OK, let’s go. Today I fucked up.

Or, rather, I should say yesterday. But only today did I realise, so it counts as today. Once again I let my overconfidence that everything will be alright cloud my judgement—that sounds suspiciously like a “write 100 times on blackboard” punishment at Jedi school. Sigh… It is one of my greatest weaknesses, and many have noticed, especially those that know me well enough to have pierced at my essence that is invisible to me, similar to a bird who’s only ever known flight can never imagine what it means not to fly, or what sort of happiness a snail might know. Tell a bird it might be flying a bit too much and it’s gonna cock its head inquisitively at you like birds tend to do.

I just aren’t careful. I either want to move fast to be getting to the next task or activity, or, in the face of what we’d call danger in this case, I take that annoying, solipsistic view: “it won’t happen to me, no need to worry!” This is personhood’s very own little facepalm—no, that’s not a good translation of αυτομούτζωμα. I like to take pride in my care-free attitude, or at least the appearance thereof; don’t I know I’m constantly anxious about an entire small museum’s collection of “must-dos”. But that’s another story. I like to say that people don’t really have “positive and negative aspects of their personality.” They only have a single hunk of personality, and according to what side you look at it from, you see different things and judge to whim. Hey, that’s almost exactly like saying that people have personalities and those personalities have positive and negative aspects.

But let met put it this way. Take for example myself. I’m careless and carefree, right? Yes. But these two aspects of me aren’t separate; they’re one. It’s like those digestive biscuits that have chocolate on top. The chocolate is the carefreeness and the underside the carelessness. The whole thing is part of my personality, and the whole box of carelessfreeness, quielation, friendiculousness or abstrant, openular mind is me. I’m this box of biscuits that look the same, because I look the same no matter which biscuit of mine you’re eating. You smell me and taste me the same, and you either love me or hate me… or you might also not particularly care about me. Do you like chocolate digestives?

When I began writing about boxes of biscuits a few lines ago, the point to which I wanted to conclude was that we all are assorted boxes of still different biscuits down a supermarket aisle. Then, however, I chose to pursue the realisation that came to me while writing that yes! People are like food.

Some are so sweet you get sick of them after just a few bites. Others are simple but fulfilling. Others yet are only to be had at parties or thrice-a-year family dinners. You can find each type of person at the supermarket, but there almost always exist the same kind of foodstuff produced locally and tasting better, like that amazing Greek artisanal Nutella that’s not only better, it’s also cheaper.

Some are fancy, others to be enjoyed as part of a familiar routine, some are fresh and organic, many are rotten and/or appear fresh solely because they’ve been peppered with preservatives. We have changing tastes in people and so do we in food. Maturing tastes, perhaps? Some are hot, some are bland. But! The too-bland ones can always spice themselves up; the hotter ones will probably just leave you in tears and gasping for air. But so do onions, at least the crying part. Similarly, there’s a whole lot you have fond nostalgic memories of, but regret every trying them again 20 years later to see if they taste the same. Others are like heaven consistently forever… I presume, I wouldn’t know.

There are hard people, soft people, sweet, bitter, sour and… salty people. Many, sadly, are just plain meat but, although a selective omnivore I may be, it’s sadder when they’re vegetables instead. This is starting to have a Dr. Seuss rhythm to it.

Finally, you would never, ever consider that it’s the broccoli’s fault that Roberto (that’s my Italian coordinator here), with all his exquisite and discerning palate, hates it. I can’t get my head around it: how is it normal for us to think that a person has anything to do with whether others like them or not? Anyway, broccoli can rest easy: I hated it, HATED it when I was a child, you know, it was the archetypical go-to yuck food. Nooow, however, I sometimes even eat it raw. I love it. Broccoli just used to be too sophisticated for my untrained taste buds. There.

One of Terrence McKenna’s famous quotes goes: . qb’s version: “the cost of being sophisticated in this society is being the person-equivalent of broccoli.” Or, while we’re at it: sushi. Lentils with yoghurt. NOT eggs: they could crawl back into the chicken’s ass whence they came and I wouldn’t spill water for the dead. Beans. I was damn near allergic to the things most of my life. Now I can eat them no problem due to my insistence to eat them no matter my stomach’s complaints. I can imagine it quietly giving in after all this time: “okay dude, I get it, you took that little song about beans and the heart a bit too seriously, I don’t agree but I can’t stop you… you should know though that this IS going to put a strain on our relationship.”

Wow. This really worked. Remember? Near the top of this text it says I wrote “I fucked up”. It’s even the title of the post. But I’m better already. All day I’ve felt like shit because the bike I rode yesterday for 25km up and down Montevideo’s Rambla and took the following video,

that is, Laura’s bike she hadn’t rode in years and I paid 1000 pesos to have repaired and use it and got it 4 days ago… well, that bike was stolen. All I did was just leave it outside the Posada. Given, it was locked, but with a lock that cost less than 5€ and could probably only protect anything of any value up to that amount. Only today did I notice that all the locked bikes that had caught my eye on the pedestrian street Calle Pérez Castellano during the day, all those bikes I had subconsciously noticed to give my carefreelessness an excuse to run wild, were nowhere to be seen at night, and so was mine by next morning. I can just imagine it sitting there, alone, singing in the dark: “I’m old and rusty, though orange with some new parts e.g. pedals and handles, I’m safe from harm and theft !”

The worst part is that this bike had sentimental value to Laura, so having to tell her that I almost presented the her old bike to thieves and having to deal with questions such as “really, did you leave it outside?” was less than fun. The second worst part is this makes it the, what, 3rd time I’ve had my bike stolen.  Last time was in Denmark, where I idiotically left mt bike unlocked going to Danish class, forgot about it for hours after the lesson, went around town, only remembered about it that evening when I had to ride it back home and was all disappointed that the mere act of remembering about it hadn’t been enough to protect it from theft or bring it back.

August 2011, Denmark. This is like one of those “last selfies.”

And there was this other time somebody vandalised my bike parked at Sapfous in Mytilini. I was totally Anakin bringing back his mother from the sandpeople that evening. Only I didn’t slaughter anyone like an animal. I’m civilized. I only ever hold passive-aggressive grudges.

The carcass of my ride
The carcass of my ride on Minwos and Lavyrinthou. Notive the crooked front only wheel

Anyway, back to today. I went to the police office to report the theft as it was suggested to me I do, because apparently Ciudad Vieja is monitored 24/7 by video surveillance; by checking in their records from last night, the police might be able to find the culprit and track them from camera to camera, if they did stay within the boundaries of the Old Town, that is. I can tell you that if my bike is indeed located by the use of video surveillance tech, I’ll be hit by a small-to-medium-sized train of cognitive dissonance. I hate to be that guy, I know how fashionable it is to hate on the police (I don’t like them myself), but ever since my mum’s handbag was robbed and after declaring the theft and the police guys actually CALLING us home to tell us that the bag had been found at a place where “a lot of τσαντάκηδες leave their discarded prey”, it’s been easier for me to feel a tinge of empathy for people who support the police and are disdainful of anarchy. I mean, suddenly when it happens to you, it doesn’t seem so oppressive, does it?

Anyway №13 or something. I fucked up and writing this relaxed me a lot. Its intent was to be a kind of Post-It for futurue qbs to be wary of carelessfreeness, no matter how many times things turn out to be OK in the end, and to remember that it fucking sucks to let people, friends and yourself down and destroy their trust.

But hey, at the end of the day, I’m a chocolate digestive. Some will like me, some will hate me, some will simply not care about me, forget that I exist until I appear before them (at which point they’ll either choose to munch on me absent-mindedly or ignore me) and some will eat the last part of me that’s left in the box all crumbly and melted, but still like me and recognise that not all chocolate digestives from then on out will be crumbly and melty and that if next time I’m in no condition to eat on my own, just throw me on some ice cream or oats, that would be yummy.


Nuestro norte es el sur — Our north is the south

I was in Uruguay from April 14th to 27th!

It was my first time to cross the Atlantic, indeed the farthest I’d been from home since my last time in Australia in 2002.

What took me to the second-smallest country in South America was yet another you-only-pay-30%-of-travel-costs European youth project. This one’s called Grassroots Youth Democracy. In it, youth from Greece, Italy, Ecuador, Uruguay, India and Mauritius will participate in joint research on the water context of each participating country, which in turn will culminate in a media product and relevant campaign to raise awareness on the issue of water as a basic human right and common good.

Grassroots Youth Democracy is separated in phases and will take most of our time for the rest of 2015. Phase 1, which was the purpose of the trip I just came back from, was a week-long seminar on water rights in general. Participants had the chance to make presentations of what the water context in their specific countries is, and we also made a first draft of the plan we’re going to use for organising this international campaign between ourselves: who’s gonna do what, what our research methodology will be, what we’re going to with the data etc. After all, co-ordinating a local team can be hard; one strewn across four different continents? Yeah.

Phase 2 will take place in May in Rome and will consist of a media seminar: teaching the participants how to use a camera, do interviews, edit videos, update a website and such things I have the skills to help with. Thank you, University of the Aegean!

Phase 3, which will start right after Rome and last until mid-July, will have the participants from the extra-EU countries come to Greece or Italy and do a field research on the water situation in the respective country, that is collect data for articles, videos and other material to be used in the campaign. There will be interviews with NGOs, analysing stats and delving into the unique water-specific problems of that country. In Greece, for example, the participants will look into what happened with EYATH and its privatisation and how it was avoided by the resistance of the civil society through the 2014 unofficial referendum. They will also research the problem of the lack of drinking water in some Greek islands, such as Aegina, and the sometimes even more problematic solutions corrupted authorities have come up with to alleviate the situation. These are just some examples.

Phase 4 will start right after Phase 3 and last until September. Basically it will be like Phase 3, only the other way around: the Italians and the Greeks, of which there’s four of each, will do the same kind of field research in pairs in Uruguay, Ecuador, Mauritius and India. This is when I’m going back to Uruguay for two months, during the southern heart of winter! No Greek summer for me this year.

After all the above, we’ll collect all the data we’ll have got and make something out of it: a small book, an online database, a documentary, a social media assault… a little bit of everything. This will be our awareness campaign (and I hope it will end up a little bit more exciting than I’m afraid I’m making it sound here.) There will be a final conference/presentation of results but not a lot is known about it yet.

To be perfectly honest, Phase 1 in Montevideo, the one that just finished, needed more outdoors activities. The presentations and material discussed on water issues were interesting and our team-building was successful, but after a certain point I found it hard to concentrate on Powerpoint after Powerpoint and group brain-storming activity after group brain-storming activity. Being in the same room for hours on end with little chance of going out in the warm Autumn sun apart from during the short coffee breaks and the lunch (which was admittedly DELICIOUS and very vegetarian-friendly—THANK YOU CRAZY MARIO, cook of La Fonda!) made it much worse. During the first few days we saw practically zero of the city and at the end of each session I felt much more exhausted than I believe I should have.

No matter. In the end it was a valuable getting-to-know-you with the team and we did some important work. We will just have to work hard from here on out.

…what? You want to read about Montevideo and Uruguay, NOT the seminar? What are you, crazy?!

OK, get this: Uruguay is an extremely interesting country, given its small size and low importance on the grand scale of things. Sorry, let me rephrase that, because everything that’s ever taken place on this planet is of extremely low importance on the grand scale of things—low importance as far as human societies go; countries, politics… you know, that sort of thing. I mean, what do you know about Uruguay?

What I knew was that the country’s (now ex-) president donated 90% of his salary to charity and generally lived super simply, and that recently they legalised marijuana. That’s pretty much everything /r/worldnews would let through the filter. Ahem…

Let me tell you: both of these things are true.

Mujica with his three-legged dog and some maté. More on that in a sec.

José “Pepe” Mujica is seen as a bit of a populist in Uruguay itself, but here  are eight reasons why he should be missed by the rest of us, according to The Independent:

1.  He donated 90% of his salary to charity.
2. And lived on a farm.
3. He drives a 1987 VW Beetle.
4. And picks up hitch-hikers.
5. He legalised marijuana.
6. He leaves the economy in rude health.
7. He’s just not like other politicians
8. And all that after being shot six times and being put in jail for 14 years for opposing the country’s former dictatorship.

Have a look at the article for a few more details, it’s worth it. What are the chances a guy like this could ever be the leader of your country?

SWIM doing a preparation of a special Uruguayan herbal incense.

Now, that other thing. “You know that in Uruguay marijuana was recently legalised, don’t you?”, said one of the Uruguayan participants to me before I could even ask her anything about it. “Everybody does it here. Even ten years ago people in suits would light one up after work. The thing is, you can’t go somewhere to buy it. Not like that. You have to be a resident and a member of a marijuana club if you want to purchase it. But many people have a little plant or two at home and will soon offer you some!”

I suppose the above is true for young people, but who knows? It didn’t seem to me that marijuana use was 100% socially accepted in Uruguay, there must be some controversy remaining, but it looked close to it. I say they have the right idea. There really is zero reason marijuana should be as illegal as it is in such big part of the world. Zero. Addiction-related issues, whenever they arise, should be treated medically and psychologically, similar to the way alcoholism is treated, not be a matter of concern for law enforcement. This system has already been adopted in a lot of countries.  Have a look at this map caught from the wikipedia article on the legality of cannabis around the world:


But there’s a bit more to Uruguay than that.


What does this flag remind you of? They have the same number of stripes, too. Want another fun fact that goes with the similarity between the flags? Both Uruguay and Greece  were de facto created in 1828. But, as I learned recently, the Greek flag as we know it now was standardised during the military dictatorship. Before that it used to be simply this:


This was the state flag and the one we use now was the merchant and national flag, before the former was abolished completely.

Back to the other country with blue and white stripes on its flag.


Uruguay’s name comes from the river forming the natural border between it and Argentina. It is the indigenous Guaraní language for “the river where the painted birds live.” Beautiful image, isn’t it? It flows out into the that bay to the left of the map, the famous Río de la Plata — the river plate. It’s a hallmark and a point of reference for both Argentina and Uruguay. Some consider this formation more of a river delta than a bay, but really it’s somewhere in between: in Montevideo and even as far out as Punta del Este, the water is much less salty than normal. There’s no clear point where the río ends and the sea starts. Truly a unique formation.

Next: a brief overview of the country in video form. This video was funded by the Uruguayan Ministry of Tourism. I’m serious.

Uruguay es el mejor país: Uruguay is the best country. A semiotically complete touristic message if I ever saw one. We should try something like that back home.

In fact, there’s plenty of other policy “novelties” this country has going for it we should be trying out in Greece. Barring the relatively high cost of living, the not-too-great wages and the kind of plain landscapes (heh), in a few ways it really is one of the best countries out there. For a start, they have managed to stave off privatisation of their public sector almost completely, only selling off their mobile phone operators. Water itself has become a constitutionally-reserved state-managed human right since a relevant referendum was conducted in 2004. That’s impressive no matter what way you look at it. In addition, same-sex marriage has been legal for two years.

All the above together puts most of the “progressive world” to shame, let alone our backwards little country called Greece. Then again, Uruguay is a secular society, in stark contrast to our country where the embarrassingly rich church is still constitutionally connected to the state, which, just to remind you, means that Orthodox Christianity is taught at schools, priests are paid with our hard-earned IMF and European loan money (and pay no tax in return) and the country is still, for all intents and purposes, exclusively Orthodox. I won’t get started with nationalism and Greek superiority/inferiority complexes…

Tell me, how many people would you imagine enjoy the benefits of living in this little country? It’s whole population is barely that of Athens at ~3.5 million people, with roughly half of that concentrated in Montevideo. This bit surprised me, because I’ve always thought of South America as the land of mega cities. To illustrate, nearby Buenos Aires has a metro population of almost 4 times that of Uruguay as a whole, and Sao Paulo, which isn’t such a long way away either, is close to 6 times that.

For its modest count of human residents, this small country is the holder of a different record: it has the most cattle-per-capita ratio in the world: there are roughly 3.59 Uruguayan cows for each Uruguayan person. Impressive as that may be, note that this number still collectively accounts for just ~1% of global bovine populations.

Gauchos -- Argentinian/Uruguayan cowboys
Gauchos — Argentinian/Uruguayan cowboys

With so much mooing going on, you’d think the guys would have some decent yogurt. Nope… Even the “integral” yogurt, the one most similar to consistency to the ones we enjoy in Greece, contained sugar. This reminded me of Bulgaria, which most Bulgarians claim to have fantastic yogurt—supposedly very successful and sought after in South Korea. Needless to say, this legendary Bulgarian dairy product is nowhere to be found, or perhaps I tried it and just couldn’t tell the difference. What can I say, years of straggisto are bound to leave a mark.

Not all Uruguayan products are shoddy, though. Far from it. Mate (pronounced máte) is for Uruguayans what frappé is for Greeks, or, according to some Greeks, what it used to be, as freddo espressos have become more popular. Mate is an invigorating hot drink, like coffee or tea, ideally shared among a circle of friends. People drink it in wooden cups that slightly look like coconut shells but are made of gourd (or calabash). In it they drink the mate herb tea, which they infuse with hot water poured from a thermos and refill many times. It is drunk with a metal straw-like instrument called a bombilla (pronounced bombisha in Rioplatense Spanish). In the video below you can see an English speaker preparing mate.

I think I’ve written enough for now. I congratulate you if you made it this far! Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure, half of which are taken by me and the others by Martina.

Punta del Este
Punta del Este, a stop on the Greek team’s Atlantic Coast single-day road trip.
The wake of Eduarno Galeano. We were lucky (?) enough to have just arrived in the country when this great person passed away.
The wake of Eduarno Galeano. We were lucky (?) enough to have just arrived in the country when this great person passed away.
Street Art Montevideo
Street Art Montevideo
The view from Faro José Ignacio.
The view from Faro José Ignacio.
Plaza de Independencia
Plaza de Independencia
Each night a different team of participants had to prepare dinner... one of the highlights of the seminar for me.
Each night a different team of participants had to prepare dinner… one of the highlights of the seminar for me.
Enjoying empanadas with part of the group.
Enjoying empanadas with part of the group.
Quino and a quote by Eduardo Galeano:
Decoration at the Posada al Sur. A sketch by Quino and a quote by Eduardo Galeano: “Joy requires more courage than sorrow, for, at the end of the day, sorrow we’re accustomed to.”
Martina could easily pass for an Uruguana like this!
Martina could easily pass for an Uruguana like this!
Candombe, the beat of the Montevideo night.
View on the Posada terrace and old Montevideo--that's where the seminar took place.
View on the Posada terrace and old Montevideo, where the seminar took place. Unfortunately, not upstairs on the terrace.

For dessert:

There is a Milonga at the centre of Montevideo, a public place where people of all ages meet a few times per week to dance and learn Tango.

The song below can be heard most evening at the Milonga and, as I was told, features in the playlists of most tango meetings. It’s called the “Greek tango.” I’m sure you know it.