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  • I lived in Athens at a happier, more optimistic time -- before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the global rise of terrorism, the American recession, the European debt crisis.

    The walls of the city were cleaner then. They hadn't been marred by the red paint-ball splats and the long, ranting, beautiful graffiti that now covers the city center. Long because Greek words are almost all several syllables; beautiful because Greeks have embraced street art since the crisis began.

    Back then, there were fewer immigrants, too. Like the graffiti, they were contained to small areas of the city, the narrow streets of Psyrri where I once spotted a group of men stringing up a volleyball net to pass a workless afternoon.

    Now the immigrants hover around the edges of the protests. They're mostly South Asian men, like the volleyball players. Some disappear into the warren of gray streets behind the big central square, looking frightened. Others stay, selling bottled water to the protesters.
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