For the last five days my husband Art and I have been staying in the village of Pyrgos on the island of Tinos. We took a four-hour ferry ride from the port of Rafina, near Athens, then rented a tiny car for a 45-minute drive on winding roads to get to Pyrgos. For the first three days we didn't leave the village; we slept and ate simple meals and slept some more. We absorbed the quiet of the island as we let go of the energy and activity of Oinofyta.
Tomorrow morning we leave Tinos and return to Rafina for an overnight before our 6:00 a.m. flight out of Athens on Tuesday. We are ready to go home, refreshed and relaxed after our nearly six weeks away.
Here's what I learned in Greece this time:
- When people go to a taverna for a coffee or a beer or a meal, they talk. They converse. They laugh. Usually they're sitting at little tables outside. Often they have known each other for years or decades. Many of them smoke. Some of them have phones, but as they sit at the little tables they talk to each other. They linger. Except for the young people, who seem entranced by their devices.
- Every little cafe has its own version of Greek salad, or beetroot salad, or fried potatoes.
- I know the Greek words for good morning, good afternoon, goodbye, yes, no, thank you, thank you very much, and iced cappucino. That has been enough. (I also know the Farsi words for hello, translator, get out!, what?, and thank you).
- If you have to climb six flights of marble stairs to get to your house, you can do it more easily if you take a deep breath at the bottom of each flight and rest for a few seconds between them.
- The Greek bureaucracy is sluggish and inconsistent, not well integrated among its various components. I have learned to shrug my shoulders, as do my Greek friends. One said to me, "Every day I break some law. If I obey one law, I may be breaking another."
- A stop sign is really just a yield.
- Every now and then I see a car-chasing dog with a limp, but most of the time they're pretty skilled chasers.
- Women, middle aged or older, don't seem as concerned about their bodies or their appearance as in the States. I've felt quite comfortable without makeup or a slim body or trendy clothes here. I love the lack of hype.
- We, and the refugees, and the Greeks? We are all the same.