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Greek Language and Culture February 2011 OMILO Newsletter
Dear friends,
The OMILO team has cut the “vasilopita” (*) some weeks ago, and started the 2011 season with a lot of optimism, promises to develop new ideas (to be announced later!) and energy to welcome all the new and ex-students to our various 2011 programs in Athens, Nafplion, Syros and Andros. (*) Vasilopita: The word Vasilopita is a compound Greek word which means the sweet bread of St. Basil the Great, the one that is cut at home on New Year’s eve or New Year’s day. The tradition of baking and cutting a special "pita" (which can mean a loaf of bread, a cake, or even a pie) is also followed by organizations, schools, clubs and companies during the month of January. The sweetness of the bread symbolizes the hope that the New Year will be filled with the sweetness of life, liberty, health and happiness for all that participate in cutting of the Vasilopita . When the Vasilopita is prepared, a coin is usually placed in the dough before it is baked. When bread is cut and distributed, the individual who receives that portion of the Vasilopita, which contains the coin, is considered to be fortunate. Usually it is cut by the senior member of the family or company. Portions of the Vasilopita are distributed as follows: The first portion is (usually in religious families) cut in remembrance of Jesus Christ, the other portions are cut for the members of the family including “the house”, and “the poor”. The recent years, more and more variations exist, according to the interests and hopes of those cutting the pie! This newsletter will have the following “subjects”: 1. OMILO-news 2. Examinations for the Certificate of Attainment in Modern Greek 3. Soutzoukakia 4. Crisis-news from Athens and Greece

1. OMILO- News
The 10-week courses in Maroussi, mainly booked by foreigners living for a longer period in Athens, started again from January 17th. Athens is becoming every year more and more cosmopolitan, and we have students from all continents in the world. Although it is possible to survive with English in Athens, fortunately a lot of foreigners realize their lives in Greece become more interesting when they can communicate in Greek and understand and read basic Greek. Apart from the “interesting” daily chats you could

have with your Greek neigbours, announcements for strikes , power cut-offs or road works are usually only made in Greek! So yes, it is really useful to learn the language, even when you only plan to stay in Athens! The next 10-week course will start from May 2nd. For those living abroad and in the mood to enjoy some Greek sun, culture and language lessons, the following 1-week intensive courses are starting in Athens on 21/2 and 4/4 . Despite the financial crisis in Greece, hotels, museums, theatres, movie-theatres, music venues and stores are all operating and trying to offer the best services and deals they can. And the good news : since they are mostly privately-owned, they never strike! For more information on the intensive courses, please have a look at http://www.omilo.com/cms/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=9&Itemid=13&lang=en If the fixed course dates are not convenient for you, bear in mind you can always pick your own travel dates and book a custom-made program (prívate lessons). In 2010 more and more students took advantage of this option and liked this flexibility. If you do not like to be by yourself the whole time, you can stay in a bed/breakfast and even book some lunches together with our teachers, tasting delicious Greek cuisine, while practicing your Greek! Have a look at the options on the following page : http://www.omilo.com/cms/index.php? option=com_content&view=article&id=17&Itemid=23&lang=en With more ideas to develop and more students joining our courses every year, we need more personel as well. Apart from the permanent OMILO-staff being Dimitris, Maya, Marina, Dora, Konstantinos and Christina, we are happy to introduce the next member “Mary”. Mary has been teaching already various OMILO classes since October and will be helping as well with the administration in the Maroussi school. She has been teaching Greek for many years in Germany and speaks German and English fluently.

2. Examinations for the Certificate of Attainment in Modern Greek
Πιστοποίηση Επάρκειας της Ελληνομάθειας As written in our little note 2 weeks ago, more and more students are interested to obtain an official degree in the Greek Language. This is possible since 1999 and organized by the Center for the Greek Language of the Aristotelian University of Greece by order of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religion. The examinations takes place every year, usually between May 10 and May 20th. The examinations are both oral and written, and can be taken in various centres all over the world. THe period for registration is between February and March. • For more information, please see their new website (not completely finished yet) at http://www.greeklanguage.gr/certification NEW ! Till 2010 the examination existed for 4 levels (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) For 2011 however, some changes occur: For the first time in May 2011 the examinations will be organized for six levels: Α1 (A1 for children 8-12 years old and Α1 for adolescents and adults), Α2, Β1, Β2, Γ1 and Γ2 . The dates, times and the examination fees in May 2011 will be as follows: Α1 (for children 8-12 years old) Tuesday 10th of May(morning) 55 € Α1 (for adolescents/ adults) Tuesday 10th of May (morning) 55 €

Α2 Tuesday 10th of May (noon) 65 € Β1 Tuesday 10th of May (afternoon) 65 € Β2 Wednesday 11th of May (morning) 73 € Γ1 Wednesday 11th of May (afternoon) 73 € Γ2 Thursday 12th of May(morning) Transformation from the old to the new levels Tα 2 νέα γλωσσικά επίπεδα Α1 (Α1 για παιδιά από 8-12 ετών και Α1 για εφήβους και ενηλίκους) και Γ2 και μετονομάστηκαν τα ισχύοντα επίπεδα ως εξής: - Α1 Α ⇒Α2 Β ⇒Β1 Γ ⇒Β2 Δ ⇒Γ1 Σημειώνεται ότι τα πιστοποιητικά που έχουν εκδοθεί έως τώρα από το ΚΕΓ για τα επίπεδα Α, Β, Γ, Δ θα εξακολουθήσουν να ισχύουν. For students wishing to do the registration and examination in Athens, please contact the Hellenic American Union Massalias 11B, 10680 Athens Tel.: 2103680900, 2103680910 www.hau.gr OMILO organizes a 1-week group course for the preparation of the Gamma (or B2) examination on following dates : April 4th till April 10th in Maroussi (North Athens) April 17th till April 22th in Nafplion (Peloponnese) Preparation for all other levels is possible with “customized programs” (see above).

3. Soutzoukakia!
Maybe something more relaxing than examinations (at least, for many of us!) : cooking! Here a culinary tip for the winter months! Now that winter finally started in Athens, everyone’s looking for ways to keep warm! In most of your countries the winter and cold lasted already many months, so what could be better than a hot, tasty dish from Greece’s great culinary tradition? Let’s learn how to make soutzoukakia (Greek sausage to those who don’t know): The word soutzoukaki (soo-tzoo-KAH-kyah) comes from the Turkish "soutzouk" or sausage. These meatballs are shaped like little sausage cylinders. They are lightly fried and then bathed in a winesweetened tomato sauce. They hail from Smyrni or modern day Izmir, and the spices are more Turkish than Greek, however they have been adopted by most Greeks as a traditional favorite. Ingredients: • 2 1/2 lbs. ground beef • 1 lb. loaf of crusty white bread with crusts removed • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced finely • 1 tsp. ground cumin • 2 eggs, lightly beaten • Salt and pepper to taste

• Vegetable or corn oil for frying • 1 1/2 cups sweet red wine, such as Mavrodaphne (Tastes as Porto and really nice ! Do not drink too much while cooking!) • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce • 1/4 cup olive oil • 1 tsp. sugar • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon Preparation: Soak the bread with water and then add 1/2 cup of sweet wine. Let the bread absorb the liquid for a few minutes. Squeeze out the liquid from the bread, crumble it and add to the meat mixture. Add the garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and eggs. Mix well and incorporate all the ingredients. Take a portion of meat about the size of a large walnut and form a sausage. Heat about an inch of vegetable oil and carefully add the soutzoukakia to the pan. Fry them until lightly browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels and set aside. While the soutzoukakia are frying, you prepare the sauce. Add a ¼ cup of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato sauce, sugar, and cinnamon and remaining cup of wine as well as a can full of water. Boil the sauce on a medium high heat until some of the water has evaporated and the sauce has thickened. Return the soutzoukakia to the pan, heat to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Allow them to absorb the sauce to become tender before serving. Serve with potato puree, rice pilaf, or fried potatoes. Good luck! If you have any problems or your sausages look very different from the photo, you could contact Marina at omilolessons@yahoo.com ! She is the most experienced cook of the OMILO team!

4. Crisis-News

from

Athens

and

Greece

Greece is still in a financial crisis, as everybody knows! This is no news anymore! On the internet, in the newspapers, in the foreign press and in magazines you find hundreds of reports and news about the financial crisis in Greece, statistics, etc…. We will not try to cover it anymore, since everything changes every day, and in case you would like to be informed in detail, it might be wiser to read a Greek Newspaper or Foreign-Language newspaper in Athens . Online Foreign Language News in Greece : For English: www.athensnews.gr For French: http://www.lepetitjournal.com/athenes.html For German: http://www.griechenland.net/ But what do Greeks see, experience and feel in the daily life? Here some examples of Athenian life “in crisis”! : Unique in Europe! One of the most visited website in Athens during the recents months probably is the site mentioning on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, which strikes take place!! Very useful indeed! Detailed information about the daily transport strikes can be found at www.livingingreece.gr/strikes (in English) and www.apergia.gr (in Greek) We really hope those websites will not start striking as well, since then the Athens population will be completely “lost”! Public Transportation The ministry of transport announced the plan to restructure the state loss-making state transport companies and merge all five of them in Athens into two : one for the road transport (busses, tram)

and the other for the rail transport (trains, airport train, metro). This has led to various strikes in the public transportation. Employees of those five organizations protested and staged many work stoppages since December. They called on the government to scrap the law aimed at relocation staff, increasing ticket prices and shutting down unpopular routes. The draft law proposes the pensioning or transfer of many employees in a bid to cut costs, the absorption of the company’s debt by the state and the sale of up to 49 percent of the firm to private investors. Since February 1st, there are increases in commuter ticket prices (between 40 and 50 % up), as part of the government’s efforts to reduce of the deficits of Athen’s public transport companies. For example : the 1-euro metro ticket rose to 1,40 euro and the weekly ticket rose from 10 euro to 14 euro. The airport train is now 8 Euro instead of 6 Euro, and the express airport busses are now 5 euro instead of 3.20 euro. Can’t pay, won’t pay movement! The above fare increases have resulted into a ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ protest movement that urges commuters to refuse to purchase new tickets and to ride the public transport system for free. Greeks are also no longer just taking to the streets in anger - they are also taking them over! Now motorists are refusing to pay highway tolls. Up to one in five drivers are now refusing to pay tolls, since the number of toll stations increased last year and as rates also rise. Two weeks ago campaigners took over toll stations along Greece’s busiest national roads , to let drivers through for free. On an average day, protest-minded motorists casually step out of their cars, raise the toll barrier themselves and drive off without paying. Protesters argue that Greece’s highway system has essentially been privatised with an increasing number of road concessions, slapping drivers with ever-increasing costs, on top of petrol price hikes and annual road tax fees that are already supposed to fund road building projects. The tolls for a return trip from Athens to it’s airport (or to IKEA!) costs 5,8 euro. The tolls to drive from Athens to Thessaloniki , and back, will cost you 45 euros! The problem is that there are no alternative roads(without tolls) to reach those destinations. The government has taken a soft approach towards campaigners, promising a long list of reforms in the system by March. The transport ministry has also announced the imposition of a ceiling on taxi fares from and to Athens Airport in an effort to combat overcharging. As of Feruary 1st, taxi fares for the specific ride will be 35 euros between 5am and midnight and 50 euros between midnight and 5 am. More price hikes The average Greek household spent 100 euros (or 5%) more on groceries per month, compared to 2009. The cost of basic goods has increased. The highest increase is in alcoholic drinks and tobacco products, which climbed 19% in 2010. Rent for housing jumped 6%.

Greeks holiday less A major decline in travel by Greeks, to popular destinations both abroad and domestically, was recorded in the Christmas-New Year holiday season. Organized trips to European countries fell by 45 % , while domestic tourism dropped 25 percent.. Taxes The Finance Ministry has sent a circular to all tax offices and audit centres, informing officials of new heavy penalties for tax evasion. This is part of Greece’s ongoing effort to crack down on money laundering, businesses not issuing receipts and people who owe more than 120.000 euros in overdue taxes. Opening of closed-shop professions The government has been under pressure from the EU and the IMF to open up all closed-shop activities as a way of generating greater competition. The professions to be opened up or deregulated are those of pharmacists, notaries, lawyers, architects, certified accountants and civil engineers. The bill, set to lift restrictions of entry into the professions has caused a lot of uproar in unions of those affected and as usual………..strikes…. Also the opening of the additional professions such as estate agents, bakers, hairdressers, electricians, taxi owners and opticians will have to take place within the next months…. Shops shutting down Repeated Value-Added Tax(VAT) hikes, a 20 percent cut in civil servants’ salaries and pensions, the lack of liquidity, the increase in unemployment had “dramatic effects” on Greek commerce. Turnover plunged by more than 50 percent in the clothing-footwear sector in 2010. Decline in consumption in real terms (sales volume) last year amounted to no less than 52 percent compared with 2009 in clothing and footwear, 28 percent in fuel, 27 percent in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, 15 percent in furniture , 14 percent in alcohol and tobacco, and 11 percent in food. The sharp drop in consumption has forced more than 40.000 enterprises to shut down permanently in 2010, resulting in thousands of layoffs. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Nevertheless, the sun keeps shining in Greece! Believe it or not, this is a major help to overcome difficult daily –life situations and a financial crisis! Sitting outside in the sun, bright blue skies, enjoying the beautiful nature or just having a coffee with friends and relatives…..and the positive energy is there again to cope with the next difficult day!!! Yes, Greeks can survive! And tourists? Nothing really changes for tourists, apart from the strikes in the public transport. But from the moment your destination is not towards Athens or Thessaloniki, you will probably not realize Greece is experiencing a difficult time! Hotels many times offer better rates than last year, the food is still as good as ever, the ancient sites are waiting for visitors, new museums are opening everywhere and Greeks will be happy to share their beautiful country with anybody showing their sympathy and love for Greece. At this moment, there are cheap airline- tickets on the market! Do not forget to book your trip to Greece!

With sunny regards from Athens The OMILO team.
OMILO, PO Box 61070, 15101 MAROUSSI, ATHENS Tel. (0030)210-612.28.96 email: info@omilo.com