If you are ever offered the chance to have a free meal with eight complete strangers, say yes.
This is exactly the scenario I found myself in yesterday when I set out to start my story on documenta 14, an art exhibition that has evolved into a place for major socio-political debate and global contemporary culture discussion.
The contemporary art installation, or experience I should say, took place in Kotzia Square. The artist, Rasheed Araeen, wanted to invite people to sit together and enjoy a meal under colorful canopies inspired by the shamiana, a traditional Pakistani wedding tent. The public exhibition was free, all I had to do was wait in line for a small piece of paper with a number on it and choose a seat.
I started off unsure if I should take part in the exhibit. I was afraid I would get placed next to people who didn’t speak my language, and therefore would be wasting an hour by being unable to get quotes. Isaac (who also took all the photos) convinced me otherwise, and I ended up next to a Greek woman who spoke no English, a Greek man who spoke some English and across from two women from Barcelona.
The Greek woman was like a character out of a movie. Not only did she angrily hiss at me in Greek multiple times for not eating fast enough, she stole the last bite of my muffin right off my plate. However, I think we reconciled our differences after I refilled her water glass multiple times and helped her cut her steak.
The Greek man, John, told me about his life in Athens. Unemployed and without a family, he relies on friends to help keep him afloat. He told me that this was his third time at this exhibit, and he always enjoyed the random company he found himself next to. He asked me about being a student and what my life was like in Texas. We shared email addresses, even though he said he doesn’t like to check his since it pulls him out of reality.
The two women from Barcelona had come to the exhibit purely out of curiosity. Mercedes and Luna were in Athens to volunteer as dentists for refugees. Neither of them had ever been to Athens before, and were headed to the Acropolis after our lunch.
After lunch, I stayed back to continue talking to more people and it started to rain. The rain eventually turned to hail, and Isaac and I made French friends while playing pick up sticks with toothpicks left over from lunch as we waited for the storm to pass.
For my fellow dialoguers; this exhibit happens twice a day, 6pm and 8pm, and is only a six minute walk from our hotel. Its a free dinner, and you’ll come away with an amazing story. The only rule is that you can’t sit next to anyone you go with.