Friday, August 26, 2016

A Bridge Built by Brits

Relationships are directly linked to physical health and psychological well being, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. There's much research to back this up but it's something I've always suspected based on my own experiences.

When I first came to Margariti, I had only my husband, Nick, with whom I could converse. I interacted with others but rarely by choice. And without understanding the language, it was mostly an anxiety filled encounter. The solution seemed to lie within the language. It was the bridge to a fulfilling life, the missing piece in a perfect setting, the holy grail.

If I could just learn Greek . . .

But Nick and I rarely stayed more than two months at a time. We would return to the U.S., to life, which does not often give you the chance to do what you want, when there's so much that's needed to be done. But I kept trying with Greek language books, with satellite Greek television, and then computer programs when they came into existence. And each of these got me just a tiny bit closer, but still there remained a large gaping canyon between me and relationships of substance. Eventually I acquired a survival-type Greek and with it Greek-speakers often assumed that I knew more than I was revealing. (Something no one ever does, when given the choice of interaction or loneliness.) There were casual friendships that stayed just outside of intimacy, people with whom I wanted to share so much but could only sit on the periphery of their conversations.

And then suddenly, there it was. The beginning construction of a bridge.

Ah, but it wasn't the Greek language that was building it. With one brick at a time, it was the English expats who've made this area near Margariti their permanent home. Slowly the gaping canyon narrowed with the camaraderie of those who understood my plight, people with whom I could discuss an array of topics. Someone other than my own significant other. So bit by bit, as one new relationship after another blossomed, I felt the missing pieces of my Margariti life arrange themselves.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Greek Math: 1 really equals 2

If you only have a few days to spend in Greece that's okay because one day really equals two. Simply adhere to the Greek spirit of rest and you will be able to double your life span. . . or at least the span of your Greek holiday. . . well, not really. But it will feel like it. And sometimes illusion is better than reality. I'm talking about the Greek custom of the midday siesta.

Take this Facebook exchange as an example of how it works:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Don't Kill the Messenger

I've written and deleted this post a hundred times and my indecision stems from two sources. One is sheer ego and the fact that I want everyone to think I am in paradise and they are not. The other is mostly cowardice in that I prefer to avoid controversy and there will be Greeks and non-Greeks who dislike what I am about to say.

Brazil 1960-something
Brazil today
Let me start with Rio de Janeiro because it is a city in the spotlight with the 2016 summer olympics. The sea water there is so polluted that several athletes have left. But it was once a top destination for tourists with some of the most beautiful beaches.

There must have been a time when the tourist business owners began to see the first remnants of foamy film washing up on the shore. Maybe they talked about it in cafes over coffee or mojitos. Maybe it was a moment at which something could have been done but then it was so small and insignificant it was hard to get others to care about it, especially when they were struggling to make a living. How can you worry about a little bit of pollution when you are trying to feed and clothe your children? Besides, the sea is able to cleanse itself. It's done so for millions of years and it will do so again as soon as the tourist season is over.

Beach in Epirus 2016
Greece has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here in Epirus the mountains meet the sea and the water is so crystal clear that you can see the mountainside continue under the turquoise water into the blue-black depths. The water temperature is so comfortable that you can swim for hours without realizing the energy expended or if preferred, float atop the warm blanket of sea and forget every problem that awaits beyond Greece's doors.

A few years ago, a foamy film was occasionally spotted at a few beaches.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Difficult Decision

How are decisions made? Maybe you weigh the pros and cons, draw a T-chart, calculate the risks and so forth. Or you just dive in and hope the water is deep enough so as not to crack your skull on the bottom. I don't know the answer to this. I only know that with youth, decisions are made on the basis of an endless future to recover from unforeseen results. But that is no longer an option.

My husband and I raised our two children in an apartment in my parents' house in the U.S. Like every young mother, I did all I could to protect my little ducklings. The kitchen area was built so as to have a window facing the yard in which they played. The yard was strategically fenced to keep them in and to keep danger out. A metal swing set was cemented to the ground in the middle of the yard so that it would be stable as the children played on it. Downy green grass grew beneath it to cushion any falls they might have. And then one day, as I stood at the kitchen window watching them swing high back and forth in the little controlled space beneath the swings, I heard a God-awful crack and before I could get out the back door, a monstrous branch from the neighbor's old oak tree fell square on top of the swing set, engulfing both children and the entire swing set.

I couldn't breathe. "They're dead," I thought just as the leaves parted and both children ran out from underneath the mammoth branch.