Listening to Giannis (not his real name) has been a pleasure. At his age of 80*, he's as lively as ever. Despite having medical treatments, he's feeling very positive about his own recovery, his life and family. He's obviously affected by the world news about Greece, Grexit and the politics of it all. I could listen to him for hours.
I told him he needs to write his own book about his life. He is looking forward to it in fact.
'All I need is to rest and recover in my hometown in one of the Greek islands, beside the river with just plants and the animals and birds chirping. Give me 3 months, and I will write everything down. I lived a good life. Life is never easy, but here I am.'
This has been one of my favourite in the blog series: 'Ward Dialogues'. If only I could jot notes while listening to him. These are just snippets of my mental notes from his wonderful adventure in life.
'My father was a farmer, at that time I hated to be like him. I wanted something different. I wanted to be a hairdresser.'- Giannis
The Gypsy Life.
I always worked everyday of my life. I only knew hard work. And I love it.
I lived many years in Australia, but I was born and raised in Greece, and now I live here in England. I am a gypsy!
On How He Started
I own hotels, restaurants and shops. But it wasn't easy. Never. It was always hard work. When people ask me how I did it, I could not explain myself how as well.
I arrived in Australia when I was a teenager. I do not knew the language, only a handful of money, my brother there and that's it. I did various jobs for months, put my money in the bank. I then tried to take a loan to start a business, and it started there.
Although I was already a hairdresser in Athens, I couldn't do that in Australia. I have to go to a school can you believe that?! So after work, I go to school to learn it. For 6 months, I barely slept. But I did it. So when the bank approved my loan, I started my hairdresser shop. It did well.
Then the bank offered me a loan again. So I thought I open a restaurant. After many years, then another one. I was already starting a family, it was a sacrifice at first. I barely saw my children, but I knew they understood why. I then shifted to construction and then eventually to owning some hotels.
On Leaving School at 16
It was 1960's. I left school when I was 16. I was good in arithmetic, I thought that's just what I need, the others, I'm not good. So I decided to leave school, I want to earn money.
My father was a farmer, at that time I hated to be like him. I wanted something different. I wanted to be a hairdresser.
I wanted to become an aristocrat, I always admired them. I lived in a small village, so I wanted to go to Athens. I would always wear nice clothes and shoes.
A Farmer's Boy
My father didn't like I left school. After finishing my work at his farm where he grows olives, vegetables including many animals, I would sneak at night. Using only a bike, I would ride many miles to the next village to learn hairdressing from a shop there. I did that for months.
When I learned how to cut hair and shave properly, I left my village for Athens by boat. When I got there, I met with some like-minded people and we opened a hairdresser shop. I was happy when I was starting to make money.
My father was strict but was very understanding. He also knew what was good for us. He already sent my older brother to Australia because he believes that will give us better chance in life. He sent him there to study and work. He's also planning the same for me. I don't like it.
I said to myself, I'm making money here in Athens, why would I go to somewhere where I don't speak the language.
Trip Down Under
My father sent me money in my bank account, 4,000 drachmas, for me to buy a boat ticket to Australia. You know what I did? I bought myself very nice clothes, coat, suit, tie, shoes, everything. I wanted to live like an aristocrat, who doesn't?
It was nearing Christmas, the boat trip was supposed to be in mid January, so I wrote my father a letter. I told him 'these clothes I did not buy from my own money, I used yours because I don't want to go to Australia.' He eventually went to my place in Athens, bought the boat ticket himself and waited until he saw me boarded in the ship. The travel itself was 45 days to Australia.
On Greek Politics
I feel bad for the people of Greece. everyone there is nice and works hard. It's the politicians. Everywhere politicians are the same. Elections are coming, the ones replacing the government, will be the same. I don't care if they have 10, 12 parties. They should just die!
Life in the Greek Islands
We almost grow everything what we eat. Vegetables or farm animals. We cook, and eat together. You'd see the blue-green sea across your house, that's the simple life everybody wants.
All I'm saying is, just take what life gives you. Life will give us rare chances, once they're gone, they're gone forever. If I did not dream of becoming of a hairdresser, I might be there lining up in the street of Greece wondering what went wrong. If I did not take that 45-day boat ride to Australia, what could have happened?
Live life. Nobody knows what will happen until we try.
I can't wait to get my hands on his book. I told him to get started. :)