My Grecian Saga – Part V

My Grecian Saga – Part V: November 18, 2008 ~ Pictures 1 ~ Pictures 2

Greetings from rainy Poros!! That’s right, the rainy season is here with a vengeance! It has been raining all day today, feels like a Vancouver day, except with pretty constant lightening and thunder. Tropical storms seem to be all the rage in Poros this fall, starting way back in September with the storm that rained out our first days on the dig, and they have returned to make our small trek to the Hercules Building (our classroom) pretty miserable. Alas, we are still well above the 10 degree mark, so I guess not too much to complain about, except that anything under 20 feels freezing and I’m looking for my pashmina’s and mittens! I will freeze to death immediately upon returning to Vancouver, if I don’t die of cold during my less-than-24 hours in London first!!!

Been about three weeks since I last sent out any sort of Grecian update . . . thought it was about time to let you in on what I’ve been up to here on almost the other side of the world.

First off: Halloween! What a total blast this year was! In case you were wondering, Greeks know what Halloween is, however most don’t celebrate it, and they certainly don’t celebrate it in a teensy village of 1000 people where the average age is 30+. Needless to say, after the 4 hour ‘pre-drink lets all get ready and put our make-up on together’ party walking through the streets at 11 pm dressed as Cleopatra with a tinfoil cobra headdress and enough eye makeup for an entire chorus line, my friends and I got some pretty interesting looks. We made it to the bar almost without incident (the other Michelle sprained her ankle mere steps from the bar – damn high heels!) had a few drinks with Vasillis and then walked all the way back to the Hercules building where we drank sangria (thanks Anthony!), talked and danced the night and early morning away!

Our trip to Argostoli at 10 am the next day came mighty early considering it was only 6 hours after I finally made it to bed . . . yeah . . . nevertheless, a fruitful shopping day. Kaeli and I found amazing leather boots for a bargain price and some great sweaters to keep us warm on those cold Poros nights. Next stop was the Venetian Castle of St. George. After the Venetian castle in Pylos, poor old St. George looked pretty run down, but it was nice to spend some time in the sun . . . oh yeah, did I mention late October and early November was still beach weather?? Speaking of which, November 2nd was Anthony’s birthday, so we celebrated with a brunch in the plateia by the shore, and then spent the entire day at the beach. Greece is awesome.

At the end of October I had a mini spaz attack at the dig site over the fact that after digging nothing but hundreds of cubic feet of dirt and being moved around to dig nothing but more cubic feet of dirt for 6 weeks I was slightly discouraged. So, after taking several, and I do mean several, deep breaths, I grabbed my trowel and my broom and marched myself back up to good ‘ol Gamma Treia, to see what that pesky corner might possibly hold. Geoffrey seemed rather surprised that I would want to continue digging in a trench that so far had yielded a few hundred pieces of pithos and a random hunk of skull, but, since I had put so much blood, sweat and tears into it, I decided that it deserved a little bit more love. And oh! Lo and behold! There in that pesky corner lay Squishface and Jerkface – our two wonderful (although very, very crushed) skeletons!! The story behind the names . . . Squishface because he (I think it’s a he) had a very, very, VERY squished face . . . pretty much in the ‘that looks like a skull, must have been a person’ category. Jerkface (Alyssa’s skeleton) was much more complete and articulated and was so named because her (definitely a her) bones kept scraping Alyssa’s forearms as she tried to ready the top of the pithos for excavation. Jerkface was re-named Fiona after we found a bronze pin that was used to hold her shirt together at the shoulders. The following week we found another small bronze pin (the other side of the shirt) and two much larger and more ornate pins that were not holding her burial clothes together, but were placed in the burial for use in the afterlife – pretty amazing and cool stuff!! It was a great reward after digging so long and hard and finding lots of nothing. I must say though, that both Alyssa and I found it quite strange to excavate with wooden kebab sticks instead of hand picks!! After about a week of working on our burial with kebab sticks, we were pretty excited to dig out our corner with the help of Pericles and our hand picks . . . of course this meant more dirt moving, but in Greek field school terms, this just meant that we got to eat more.

The good weather continued until just this past Thursday. Sunday the 9th was likely our last beach day. While not quite the 39 degrees we enjoyed when we first got to Poros, it was probably in the 22-24 range, and we had a few hours at the beach before heading over to Pantelis for our last meal there.  He is now closed for the season, although still around and getting everything ready for winter storage. This includes plying us with free pop, juice and booze that won’t keep until spring – sounds good to us!!

Last week was our last full week at the dig. It was really cold in the mornings, and Pericles and Vasillis, every the pyro-maniacs, began making us fires to keep warm. After fire day one, we decided that this was the perfect opportunity for a hot lunch, and the next two days brought potatoes with olive oil, onions and garlic wrapped in tin foil – ye olde trusty Girl Guide meal.  Not only was it amazing to eat hot food on the dig site after 6+ weeks of cold leftovers and sandwiches, but it smelled really amazing as it was cooking – a welcome change from the smell of dirt. On Thursday Vasillis brought up some kebab meat and bread and we had a great Greek barbeque on the open fire pit – as it turned out, this would be our last full day at the site, so it was a great send off.

On Halloween we discovered a new bar in town. I’m sure it has a real name, but like ‘secret butcher’, ‘secret grocery store’, ‘1st grocery store’, ‘2nd grocery store’, ‘Kamakie Beach’, ‘Geoffrey Beach’, and ‘Secret Beach’ we call this bar ‘Harbour Bar’.  Since it is in fact in the Harbour, it is automatically an excellent choice as its 20 minutes closer walking than Vasillis’, and they have a waitress who speaks English, an actual menu with actual mixed drinks, and play English music *GASP*!! We have headed down there a few times and its always a good time. On Sunday night we discovered another new bar, Andante Cafe (we all thought this place was closed all semester) which also has mixed drinks, English music, a waitress that speaks English, a seemingly unlimited supply of peanuts and – bonus! – better prices than Harbour Bar!! It is also pretty close, right at the bottom of the hill going into town, so twice as far as Harbour Bar, but still a good 15 minutes less than Vasillis – another new hang out for the SFU students? I think so!

Sunday’s have become ‘Cooking with Hettie’ Day. I don’t know how much I’ve said about Hettie, but I could really talk about her for days. She and her husband Makis are our main Greek contacts here in Poros. Hettie is Dutch and basically came for a vacation 30 years ago, met Makis, fell in love and has barely left since! They have three children (only Phillipos still lives at home) and are like our parents away from our parents. They are incredibly kind and generous, and always have an open door to anything we may need. Hettie is also our administrative assistant, so when our showers back up and our kitchens mould, she’s the one on the phone to our landlord making sure things get fixed. Makis is another dig helper, always ready with his Zeus-like Greek strength to carry baskets of dirt to the dirt pile or help move enormous rocks out of the way. Back to cooking class . . . in Pylos we had cabbage roll-style dolmathes, because vine leaves are now out of season. She showed us how to make them and then those who had participated in the lesson got to reap the rewards of dinner! Apparently Makis and Phillipos would have preferred our first attempt to have more salt and lemon, but you can’t please everyone! This Sunday we made savoury pumpkin pie, with dill, parsely, onion, and garlic – pretty tasty! Zofia is writing everything down and we are all paying attention to try and re-create our masterpieces back in Canada.

Since the dig is now at an end, the processing phase has begun. The task I have set myself to is organizing, sorting, measuring and counting all of the pieces of pithos that we have found during the entire excavation, for every burial, in every trench, in each of the four areas we opened for exploration – all in all, a lot of pithos. It is exactly the control-freak kind of hyper-organized type of thing I like to do and everyone else hates, so I don’t have to worry about being busy these days! There is also a lot of pottery washing going on. We have found some pretty incredible pieces up here. Its awesome to see that random piece of ugly dirty pottery washed and gleaming with black or red slip (early glaze) and some sort of pretty pattern on it. I will take some pictures of the better pieces and send them out in a couple of weeks before I head for home.

I only have three weeks left here in Greece, less actually, as one day will be in London and another on the plane home. Weird. I can actually say that I’m looking forward to coming home this time. Living in a small village is very different from living in a busy city centre in the UK or living like a snail across multiple busy European city centres . . . After we made pumpkin pie on Sunday night, about 10 of us just hung out at Hettie and Makis’ house and watched the football match . . . Anthony and I agree that sitting in a home, with a family, watching TV as a group is highly underrated, and that it will be good to go back to such things soon.

But I’m sure there will be much more sentimentality next time around! For now, its buckle down, read all that Homer (no trouble falling asleep these days!), process all those finds, write three essays and have two Greek tests – eek! Oh yeah, I guess this *is* school after all!! Not a bad way to earn 15 credits, eh?

Keep the updates from home coming, its great to hear what is happening in the outside world! I look forward to seeing you when I get back, if you want to meet up, I’ll be eating sushi for at least a month straight upon return, so just scour the best sushi haunts and chances are you’ll find me.

Hope all is well and see you soon!

-Michelle

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