Mary Sinanidis is an Athens-based blogger – amongst other things – so mesmerised by the chaotic country she lives in that she feels the need to deconstruct it and share it with the world through lists.
Greece Lists is a fledgling blog that began on a whim, she says. Influenced by so many of my unemployed colleagues starting blogs as platforms to present their work, Mary felt intrigued and wanted to explore this medium. And so she has, rather successfully with her lists constantly gaining in following and shares.
“My blog is just over a month old and, unfortunately, I still don’t know where I’m headed with it beyond exploring the pleasure and pain of living in Greece,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
“For this reason, half the posts are all about the red tape and futility of life here and the other half are about the exquisite beauty and amazing sights. As one reader so aptly put it on Facebook – ‘Does she love Greece or hate it? The author sounds like she’s on drugs’. And I guess my drug of choice is Greece.”
When asked if she is ever concerned that her posts might cause controversy she replies that “unlike objective journalism, blogging is subjective.”
As to why she chose lists? “It’s a chaotic country,” she says “and lists make it easier to deconstruct, understand and share.”
“[I try] to make order of the exquisite messiness of all that Greece is through the palatability of lists; to gather lots of important information scattered across the media about different issues all in one place so that it can be easier to register; to express my love, disappointment and fascination with the country I live in and count the ways; to have fun and explore the artistic poetry of lists and the challenges they offer; and to express that Aussie side of me that knows that to get from 1 to 10, it’s best not to skip the numbers in between.”
The posts on her blog are based on the way that she has filtered the facts and that at the end of the day, an honest open dialogue on varying issues can only be a positive, constructive thing for everyone.
“… It’s important for Greece whether it be through a cathartic blog post or any other way made possible bearing in mind that there’s less opportunity for different voices to be heard in Greek mainstream media – and I vouch for this as an insider,” she explains.
“My opinion may resonate well with a number of people who can relate but also trigger emotions of anger in others for different reasons ranging from unfiltered patriotism to their own socio-economic status that may blind them to some of the problems and contradictions that exist in society.”
Straying from her academic career in education, Maria stumbled into journalism in the nineties and fell in love with it. At the time she was living in Athens and worked at the prestigious Athens News, the only daily Greek newspaper in English at the time.
“That was before it was sold off and somebody ran off withe the money,” she interrupts.
She continued her career writing for established publications the likes of Kathimerini, Greece Is, FAQ, Odyssey Magazine and Proto Thema. Moreover, as a radio presenter she worked for the National State Radio and Television Network’s Voice of Greece (ERA5). Maria has recently started a collaboration working on an Athens city guide that showcases the exquisite beauty the Greek capital and contributes to several online publications worldwide as a member of the Greek Journalists Federation (ESIEA) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Apart from journalism and blogging, Maria is involved in creating academic resources such as books, CD-ROMs, exam kits etcetera for English language learners around the world and has also written for the site of the European Commission as well as prepared press reviews for the European Parliament.
“Writing has always been an expressive outlet and a way for me to make sense of things. It’s a need that began in childhood and continues on a professional level to this very day. I find inspiration in everyday life and the stories it flings my way.”
And boy does she have stories to tell!
Mary was still a toddler when her parents passed through Athens on their way to Sydney from Istanbul back in the Seventies. They bought a small flat – still under construction – in Nea Smyrni, a middle-class suburb south of the city centre, intending to return and raise her there after disposing of their Turkish citizenship. As members of the Greek diaspora in Istanbul, the family trapped by being forced to bear the brunt of Greek policies that wanted Greek teachers and clerics raising their children in hostile Turkey of the time so that the minority could be firmly planted as a last bastion around the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople.
“My mother, a principal at a Greek school in Istanbul, couldn’t get a Greek residency permit but was welcomed to Australia so much so that any view of returning to that small flat in Athens faded away,” Mary recalls.
“For this reason, I ended up growing up in a beautiful, organised country that was very hospitable but where few people could pronounce my name. If I were to choose between Greece or Australia I would choose both and neither as the place of real belonging that I so desperately yearn for is one where my ancestors are buried, where the people speak a language I do not know and that ultimately only exists in my mind.”
Even though moving to Greece from Australia initially felt like a step closer to ‘home’ she now, years later, finds herself regretting having taken such a bold step, yet the personal hurdles she’s come to conquer put her soul at ease.
“I can say that the daily struggle, complexity and challenges of daily life with its twists and turns in this country sometimes defy logic and justice, creating feelings of frustration,” she confesses.
“On the other hand, if I were to come to orderly, organised Australia I would probably regret not living in Greece because there have always been fragments of the Balkans painfully etched within my soul. One thing I don’t regret is the experiences I’ve accumulated over the years that have helped enrich me as a person. These life lessons have come at a huge price having given up childhood friends, beloved relatives and many opportunities.”
Mary admits that sometimes the thought of returning to the Lucky Country does cross her mind, as it gets harder and harder to let go when friends and relatives who visit her have to say goodbye at the airport.
Meanwhile, her eldest has announced her plans to head to Sydney after she finishes uni, faced with the same existential pains most Greek kids her age dread.
Unwilling to be another figure of Greece’s 50.3 per cent registered youth unemployment her daughter looks to New South Whales as a place where she will be able to make the contribution she wishes to society.
“I guess that the wheel will come full circle as she does the opposite of what I chose to do,” Mary muses.
“There’s a part of me that wants to follow her and another part that wants to do what my parents should have done back in Istanbul – stay put and defend my rights against the tide of social and financial injustice.
To read Mary’s lists go to www.greecelists.wordpress.com