Greece is a dichotomy. While the world watches a culture being pressed and distorted and potentially destroyed by the spiraling vortex of government corruption, the common people try to desperately hold on to the thing that gives them security – their family traditions and the love of their culture. Pulling aside the blanket of pessimism that the media has used to define Greece, we discover that we can learn much from this place. Life is hard, no doubt, but it goes on and as one merchant told me the other day, “There is always something to complain about but we survive. We always have.” As an American looking in from the outside, I am embarrassed to admit how my culture is one of excess when so many people in this world have so little and yet still manage to smile. My next-door neighbor is a poor farmer who consistently left fresh vegetables all summer long on my stone wall. Seven watermelons, two bushels of big beans, five giant cauliflower later, I still wonder how many people he thought I was feeding! No matter – it was his generosity that counted. Greed and corruption – the age-old destroyers of civilizations are prevalent in Greece and we pray for God’s mercy and intervention on this beautiful land and its people.
But there are many moments of goodness and humor in the day here. Like this awesome camera moment:
Niki is one of the few older local women in our village who drives. She doesn’t own a car but gets around in style in her old tractor, generously schlepping other women to the market and back. She is a tough old gal with a heart of gold.
And then there’s the exasperating, head-scratching, “what’s THAT about?” rhythm of Greek rationale.
And for those of you with good imaginations, here’s a “Wish I had my camera” moment:
As I was driving out of our village on the Akrotiri, I rounded a corner and came up behind a rather portly old gentleman walking on the side of the road. He was outfitted in a non-descript pair of gray shorts, old slip-on sandals and he was shirtless. Nothing unusual except the fact that he was covered from head to ankles in a thick layer of white fuzzy body hair. A thought flashed through my mind as I passed him that he was certainly an impressive example of the quintessential older Greek man, but nothing prepared me for the sight in my rear view mirror that nearly caused me to run off the road. Besides his barrel chest and great belly that matched his back in the area of volume of hair, he was sporting on his face, the biggest, whitest, fuzziest handlebar mustache I’ve ever seen on a man. And as he strutted confidently down the road I could almost hear him thinking, “Zorba ain’t got nuthin’ on me!”
A good rule of thumb in Crete…expect the unexpected.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in living here, it’s the art of slowing down. Some times it still drives this frantic American crazy but most times I love it. Richard and I have settled into an evening routine of a small mezethes (appetizer) and a glass of wine on the front terrace as he cools down from his bicycling commute from work. Then we eventually move to the back terrace as the sun has lost some heat and have dinner there as we watch the sunset over the water. We linger over amazing fresh food, talk about the day and watch the stars come out. Needless to say, I don’t get anything done in the evenings and I’m actually a better person for it 🙂 Yes, I still pinch myself. This island is a beautiful and exasperating place to live – a true dichotomy!