Journal entry – June 22, 2011
These early summer mornings here are wonderfully cool and peaceful. The temperatures hover around 70 degrees and the breeze from the sea is so soothing. I try to take full advantage of it by walking, working, reading outside because I know it won’t be long before the oppressive heat hits – when the only comfort found in the entire 24 hour day is in the refuge of an airconditioned room or the cool sea water. But for now, it’s 7:00 AM and I’m sitting on our back terrace listening to the sounds of the countryside waking up – the birds, the sheep, the roosters and a few cars in the distance. In a few hours all those sounds will be drowned out by the chaotic hum of the cicadas (those noisy sun worshippers!) in the olive trees. They truly signal the beginning of summer and the hotter it gets, the louder they sing.
Our visit to the States was a wonderful time of precious reconnection with family and friends but I found myself looking forward to returning to the island. Richard once observed that the reason I love it here so much is because of the simplicity of life.
I think that sums it up. Because the pace is slower, there is more room for observation and contemplation. I am more aware of what God means when He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) How blessed I am to have this opportunity to emmerse myself in the joy of His presence all around me.
It’s not perfect, but when the frustrations of living here mount up I can usually diffuse them with a good dose of “Endahksee” which is the Greek way to say “Akuna Matata – it’s OK, it’s all good, just accept it, take a big breath”, usually accompanied with a Greek shrug. I realize that it’s also a matter of perspective. After all, I live comfortably in a big house by Greek standards, I don’t have a 9-5 job, I have the benefits of an American citizen and access to the US base and I don’t have to navigate the extremely complicated (and sometimes corrupt) ways of Greek business. Still, even the simplest people here tend to their farms and homes with a slower, relaxed pace – always taking time out for the afternoon siesta and making family the ultimate priority.
Sundays are strictly family days and most Greeks attend the local Orthodox church service in the morning. It’s not unusual to see a big extended family taking over a taverna or putting long tables out on their home terraces and patios for their Sunday meal (which last a few hours). No baseball practice, mall shopping, sleepovers, golf games – if it can’t be done all together, it’s not done at all. After the siesta, the beaches come alive with families of Greeks taking a refreshing dip in the sea. The tourists have chosen to take their siesta baking under the hot sun and have all trudged back to their hotel rooms to nurse their sunburns.
Over the past 25 years, the economy in Greece has gone from bad to worse and every household here is affected. The men talk about it in the local “kafenios” over a cup of muddy Greek coffee or a shot of raki; families join together on a rooftop patio and complain (loudly) about their financial misfortune. But with it all, there is a sense of community. No one suffers alone, no one is allowed to be isolated. Neighbors help each other because that’s just the way it’s done.
So, inspite of all its problems, Greece has a strong sense of community and because of this, I have hope that someday it will be a strong and vibrant country again . For this is the mark of a truly healthy society – not money, not power, not military strength. Just a group of individuals coming together for a common good, making small steps in the right direction, bonded to each other by the strength of their compassion for one another.
Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 1 Peter 3:8 (NLT)