She applied for a teaching job outside of Greece in 2014, thinking that it would be somewhere in Europe.
However, Maria Ntinaki ended up teaching Modern Greek Literature at the Hellenic Community’s school in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And she couldn’t be happier about where life has led her.
Ntinaki taught in Lubumbashi for two years, and then came back to Greece until 2018. But she has now returned to her beloved continent and is teaching at Michio High School and Lyceum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The school is sponsored by the Greek community.
“The school in Addis Ababa is a boarding school,” she explained to the Greek Reporter. She added that “these kids are taken care of by the Greek community. They provide them with a place to stay, food and education. Last year we had 47 students. This year I don’t know how many we will have.”
The 53-year-old Greek teacher, who was born in Drama in northeastern Greece, explained that “Africa enchanted me from the first moment I arrived, even though it is a very difficult place. I also love children and I love to teach.”
Also a published author now, the Greek teacher’s first book was published by Entefktirio Publications in April of 2019. The book, entitled “The Suitcase,” is a collection of prose and poetry.
The work was presented to the public in Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, on May 12, 2019 — without the presence of the author, as she could not leave her students in Addis Ababa.
Ntinaki’s publisher, Giorgos Kordomenidis, requested that she make a video instead, which could be shown on the night of the book’s presentation.
“My friend Fotis Pallis, who is a photographer, helped me make the video, which was shot in the Greek community area with the strong support of its President, Dimitrios Sykas. The video includes six of our students who read passages from my book,” Ntinaki told the Greek Reporter.
Ntinaki has been writing for years, but had kept all her work in one of her drawers. After her friends put a great deal of pressure on her to publish it, she finally decided to go ahead with the venture.
“My book is about my thoughts and opinions on various issues. It’s a dialogue with family, with my country, tourism, friendship, love. The title of the book is “The Suitcase,” but it’s not about traveling, it’s about an esoteric journey,” she relates.
For her, the book actually represents her baptism by fire. Like many authors, for a long time, she was very hesitant to publish her work because of fear of exposure, since it includes some autobiographical elements.
Ntinaki points out to the Greek Reporter that “Because the first person narrative is prevalent, many think that it’s all about me, but it’s not, it is the first person narrative that triggers this confusion.”
She now feels very happy that she is sharing her work, which she alone has created, with others. The author is already working on her second book, which will be about Africa.
“When you come to Africa, you think you will change her — but she changes you. You learn about yourself, you redefine your values, priorities and needs,” says Ntinaki.
She explains that “Africa is a school, and it would good if everyone could come visit for at least one month. It would also be very educational for Greeks to come so they can realize that what they are going through is not a crisis. If they come here they will see what a crisis is… when you have no water or electricity.”
Ntinaki did not want to leave Greece because of the financial crisis, but rather because she was going through her own personal crisis at the time, so for her, these adversities have actually been revitalizing.
Besides the stunning beauty of the continent, these challenges are what continue to fascinate her and keep her working and living in Africa.