October 19, 2019

Souvenir from Athens: A First Timer’s Recap of the Regional DA Meeting

By Susan Fitoussi of DA France

I was elected a Chairperson for my Marseille/Aix chapter last March 2019.

Since then I have had the pleasure of attending monthly WebEx meetings with all French Chairs and ExCom members and even more recently attended a weekend retreat in the South of France for our French Committee — therefore meeting in person all these wonderful people that I had been interacting with on these Web calls.

When the bid for EMEA city came about I was thrilled! At last I may be able to attend a meeting in another European city and meet other DA members and Chairs! I said no matter where it will be I will go! And Athens it was… oh boy!!

I immediately got on board. I must have been one of the first people to express interest especially in visiting Athens, and since I had not taken any summer vacations, this would be both vacation and DA!

I chose to reside in an Airbnb to cut costs and laid out a rough plan for my first days to visit the city. I had some solo time before and after the meetings.

Meanwhile, Will Bakker (EMEA Chair) created a Facebook page for all willing via Facebook to communicate. This was nice. We posted messages — everything from who needed a roommate to who needed a taxi, etc. It was here that one of my first excursions and meetings with DA people came about.

With Heather Stone, DA Chair of Israel, and Katie Solon, our international Chairperson who I have known and admired from afar for years (!), we visited the very unique Jewish Museum of Athens. It was perfect! Each one of us complemented the other. Heather has a great knowledge of Jewish religious culture, I have a little connection with Greek Jewish history and Katie had many questions as we looked at the objects in the museum cases. It was a lovely experience and first-time meeting for all of us!

Friday night there was a very nice Welcome Party hosted by the DA Greece team. It was lovely, and we had authentic Greek mezzes and drinks as well as Greek folk dancing (which I did not do!).

Well to shift right up into fourth gear, the meeting began officially Saturday morning. I sat near the front, therefore I didn’t quite realize that we were about 100 people in attendance. Our speakers were so comfortable and friendly speaking in front of the crowd. We played some ‘getting to know each other games’ which is more or less what I naturally do when I meet people! This was a very useful tool — in spite of us wearing name tags, we do forget people’s names all the time.

What a fascinating and wonderful world we are as Democrats Abroad! I met Rick from Norway who came from a republican Alaskan family, for example.

Julia Bryant gave us a brilliant motivating speech and presentation of DA and some stats. I hope I will take back all her energy and transmit that around my chapter!

We had ‘breakout sessions’ which are new to me. I attended the Women’s Caucus on Saturday and the Black Caucus on Sunday with Angela Fobbs. She went in deep presenting us with facts and statistics on the conditions for Black Americans today in the USA. It hurts to know that these conditions get worse today instead of better.

We had many opportunities to sit, snack and exchange with different members, yet I hardly scratched the surface of the many people in attendance.

At lunch on Saturday I got to know Dana from Finland, a fascinating person with a long story and life abroad. Well it turns out that later, via Facebook, we learned that she was a very close friend of one of my Israeli American cousins in New York!

The thing is, all people should find connections and things that we have in common as well as things that we don’t have in common. Of course with DA it seems we all have so much in common.

The last day I spent with a group of five other women; it was improvised. It was my intention and idea to visit the fabulous BENAKI Museum. Heather from Israel said she would meet me there. In the end she was accompanied by four other women including Claire from DA Greece, who literally gave us a guided tour of the museum which she knows very well! What a wonderful way to end our time in Athens.

I said goodbye to these amazing people, and I hope to see them again. Would I do it again? Sure!