First Draft. Critique Please

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Anonymous User
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First Draft. Critique Please

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 29, 2014 10:19 pm

When I first arrived to Greece, I immediately became fascinated by the culture. One of the first things I discovered was the Greeks’ penchant for food and wine. Especially at—well, anytime. So it did seem, though, during the first few days. Thessaloniki is a culinary adventure in itself, filled with a myriad of markets, vendors, stands, tavernas, and cafes. As much as I was enchanted by the food, especially gyros and crepe, I made this journey for a different reason. A few summers earlier, I was able to take part in a trans-formative volunteer trip in Malawi, Africa. It was a trip that triggered the now methodical introspective evaluation of my character and how I affect the lives of others. The resulting promise to use my own awareness to make a positive impact seemed like divine providence, a re-awakening of my entire mindset. However, a year into college, I began to lose sight of this promise. This self-realization caused me to begin searching for a way I could both gain a new cultural perspective and use my talents for the benefit of others. What started as careful monitoring of my bank account led to an application being sent to the American College of Thessaloniki, and ended with me on a plane to Greece. I was accepted as a volunteer at a day camp for Greek children who were learning English as a second language. The entire trip fulfilled these criteria in multiple ways, but a very brief encounter stuck with me more than anything else.
I was a counselor assisting Elina, a Greek graduate student who had spent the last four summers as a teacher for the camp. Our class consisted of twelve kindergarten kids. I still maintain that these kids taught me at least as much as I taught them. Elina taught me the ways of Thessaloniki. It seemed as if my internship flew by, and before I knew it, the time came for me to say goodbye to my class, newfound friends, and fellow American interns. I, however, was not leaving; I previously decided that I would stay a couple of days by myself. I enjoyed the city alone, observing the culture I had immersed myself in, but was not truly part of. On my last full day, Elina and I met for coffee. We had become close, and she was well aware of my curious nature and willingness to try anything. Ostensibly as a challenge, she encouraged me take a Greek bus instead of chartering a taxi to the airport as typical tourists do. I was familiar with the bus system already, but was unaware there was one to the airport. She assured me that, while not commonplace, some people get off at a stop close to the airport and walk the rest of the way. I said I would try it, and she went over several times the exact route I was to take. We said our goodbyes, and I spent my last night by the waterfront, reflecting on the entire experience. I decided to go to bed rather early, only to unintentionally wake up much later than any reasonable person trying to catch a flight in a foreign city would. Undaunted, I readied my gear and raced to the bus stop. Since it was my last morning in Greece, I naturally stopped to pick up a κρέπες σοκολάτας, or Krepa Solokata, which is a chocolate filled crepe that is commonly eaten for breakfast. This particular stand sold it in a convenient cardboard container, akin to a pizza box. The stop definitely cost me valuable time and added to the already cantankerous task of juggling my entire load of luggage while remaining on two feet.
Luckily, I made it to the correct bus in time and boarded. In Greece, there is cultural tradition to let the elderly and women take precedence in seating on buses—any form of seating, really. Not dissimilar to the southern culture from which I hail, though in Greece, the tradition seemed immutable. It was very clear to the fellow passengers that I was a frazzled American trying to get to the airport—no one else had a rolling suitcase. Most people were probably wondering why I was not in a taxi, instead opting to take up valuable space with all of the bags I was struggling to maintain control of. I was also trying to eat the crepe without losing my footing all together. The bus drivers in Greek Macedonia always seemed to be splenetic, and do not mind making a healthy number of haphazard and erratic maneuvers. I was having this thought when I realized that the next stop was to be the one near airport.
I attempted to ready my gear, and additionally was still clutching the now-empty crepe box with somewhat difficulty. Across the bus, I noticed a very elderly Greek woman who was speaking very softly and gesturing something to me with her hands. Confused by her, I tried to signal that I was going to the airport using my luggage as indicators. She inadvertently began to grow visibly upset, raising her voice and hissing. I was on the other side of a partition of Greek men that seemed impenetrable, so I could not very well make my way over to her. The bus barreled over a bump, and I was suddenly almost on top of the woman. During my subsequent recoil to preserve what little personal space she was afforded by the already-close quarters, I noticed that she was pointing to the crepe box. She smiled, reached out and gently took it from me, then let out a sigh. I finally realized what she was trying to say the entire time. She recognized that I was having a hard time, and wanted to help. Though we did not speak the same language, she was able to accomplish her goal of making my day a little bit easier. Not 10 seconds later, the bus slowly halts and I noticed that the airport is in the near distance, indeed a short walk from the stop.
The doors open and I, still in shock over the woman’s abrupt generosity and true concern for my cause, almost forgot to get out. Upon departing the bus, I attempted to show my gratitude to her with a gesture and a smile. I miraculously arrived to the terminal just in time for my flight. For some reason, that moment was the singular thought I had while going through baggage claim, and well into the flight. It was so significant to me that I am writing about it now. While the woman’s actions were by no means heroic, that esoteric instance meant more to my growth as a person than anything else on that trip. A single act of generosity transcended all of the important lessons in morality and cultural awareness I had experienced in Greece up to that point. I am unable to express how far my expectations were exceeded by something so trivial. While I have witnessed and taken a part of much greater acts of generosity, the universality and reciprocal relevance of each do not make them unique. I will never see her again, but her act will forever remind me of the importance of good will, no matter how significant.
As a 22 year old, any number of my experiences could perhaps make an excellent cover story to advertise my life on. However, it is often only the cover’s theme or narrative that one remembers, and not the seemingly insignificant details. I have found that these little details or moments in life can mean much more than the glossy binding they are swallowed by. In this regard, the most moving moments and themes in my life are pale in comparison to the circumstances surrounding them, but nonetheless contain powerful messages that made me who I am today.
My father’s mentoring solidifies this personal theory and the promise I made to myself. There is a gray area, as my father calls it, in each person’s life that is impossible for anyone else to qualify into the category of right or wrong. The gray area offers a degree of latitude that definable tenets of law and morality do not. The gray area is not always obvious, but is always evident. My father has told me that my gray area will define who I am. I always shrugged, until I finally understood what the gray area is. The gray area consists of the times in life when there is an opportunity to do something ‘right’, but without any incentive to do so and no repercussions for not doing so. Hard to explain without controversy, I believe that the gray area is what defines a good lawyer. The gray area may not outwardly reveal itself, but is an inherent appendage which lawyers must pay attention to. Experience has taught me that it is easier to determine if something is wrong than to know if something is right or moral. The woman in Greece was able to see an opportunity in the form of throwing away trash that did not belong to her. If she had not taken my crepe box, she would not have done anything wrong. However, she did something she justified as ‘right.’ Did her decision change the world? No. It did change my day. Perhaps that moment was the moment when I grasped exactly what my father meant, or perhaps it was a moment that has no more meaning than any other in my life.
The gray area can be great or small, meaningful or meaningless. It is a dichotomy that is only understood once one takes time to analyze their decisions. There is not an instruction manual on how to positively change the world, but there is a gray area inside each of us that determines what part we play in the role of affecting change. I may have traveled more than the average person my age, but my life experiences are meaningless until I use them in a way that other people can benefit from. It is in this sense that the gray area defines character. The vessel in which gray area manifests itself is irrelevant. What is relevant is how a person uses the gray area. Success is not a measure of morality, and morality is not a measure of success. The two are mutually exclusive without the gray area.


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Joined: Sat Nov 30, 2013 1:16 pm

Re: First Draft. Critique Please

Postby ellayo » Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:44 am

Okay...this is a bit of a mess. You need an overhaul. I'm assuming you know this, but I will state it in case you don't: it is way too long. This is made worse by the fact that much of what you are saying is superfluous. Sometimes I can't tell whether you are saying anything at all. for example: "Especially at—well, anytime. So it did seem, though, during the first few days." Let's unpack this a bit. "Especially at" means you are going to specify a time when this is most true...then you finish with "anytime." So it happens the most all of the time. That just makes no sense. The sentence that follows is no stronger.

I am also wondering why you chose to start out talking about food and wine. It doesn't hold any relevance to your story. Then you dip into a vignette about a trip to Africa. If it was so transformative, then why are you not writing about that? Oh--because you were in high school. I would drop that bit. "A careful monitoring of my bank account led to an application being sent to the American COllege of Thessaloniki..." huh? Not sure what connection you are trying to make here. You applied there because you were low on funds? ..."The entire trip fulfilled these criteria.." which criteria? I'm still wondering about the bank account and wondering where you are going to remember you mentioning any criteria...and this is still the first paragraph.

I won't go through and point out what is wrong with each paragraph, but I will give you this advice. Focus in on what happened on the bus. That seems to be the story you are trying to tell. We don't need to know about Elina or even about your daring reason for being on the bus (and honestly, the part where you wake up late and still stop to get a crepe makes you seem a little shortsighted). Then tighten up the stuff about the "gray area." How it is written now is really nebulous and theoretical. Find a way to make it more concrete. Try not to contradict yourself. Don't say something didn't change your life and then two sentences later say that it might be the most important thing that ever happened to you.

Best of luck, and feel free to post again after a major edit.

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