A list I while on the ferry from Amorgos to Athens, en route to Salalah, Oman, to start my newest adventure. In no particular order . . .
I will miss drinking copious amounts of alcohol, and being joined and encouraged to do so by all around me.
Being in the presence of people who smoke constantly, unhesitatingly and unapologetically at all times, with little to no regard to their own or others’ well being. Note: this is surprisingly not a bad thing, but rather a bit freeing, they are doing what they want when they want . . . as well as being a throwback to a time to before when everyone figured out that smoking was bad.
Understanding Greek. Being able to FINALLY, after weeks/months, to understand what is being said around/to you, and converse, however poorly, with familiar faces, who now quickly become your newest friends. The joy of being able to speak with the wonderful, caring, supportive and usually older population of ones village is something that is not to be taken lightly; these are hardy people, who lived without electricity until they were parents or grandparents, lived through wars and times of going without on a small, incredibly beautiful, often isolated island in the middle of a sea with in a sea. Being able to, haltingly, speak their language with them is an experience I will not soon forget.
The Greek Man Fanny Pack: yes, fanny pack, not murse, although there are plenty of these, but i’m talking about the real honest-to-God 10 year old girl in the late 80s FANNY PACK. What do these strange reminders of why we should never revisit that decade in fashion contain, you might ask?? Well, the Greek Man’s supplies of course! These are: tobacco, Rizla rolling papers, filters, at least one lighter, money, phone, perhaps a comb, possibly prayer beads when they are not being clacked around in said Greek Man’s hand for no reason other than to create noise, backup tobacco, Rizla and filters, keys, a pen, and some scraps of paper. The fanny pack is most often worn as it was intended: around the waist and in front, over where the fanny would be, if it were a girl wearing it. Other suitable and accepted forms of wearing ones fanny pack is slung over one shoulder on a shortened strap so it sits near the armpit, or across the chest. The pockets are always in front, for easy access of course to endless cigarette rolling and phone call making. Of course I’m kidding, I will not miss the fanny pack so much as the wonder I feel when I see them (which is all the time, providing one with an endless sense of rapture and amusement) and the joy I take in privately mocking the fact that that grown man is wearing a FANNY PACK.
The food. It can be said, and has been I’m sure, many times, that Greek food is (pardon my French) fucking good. What they can do with a goat borders on holy intervention, especially when they pass it off as lamb. This is, of course, not even mentioning The Worlds Most Complete and Perfect Meal: the pita gyros. Wrapped in a delicious, warm and slightly seasoned pita, your delicious choice of meat is complimented by fresh handmade tzatziki, locally grown onions, locally grown tomatoes, seasoned with herbs picked from the mountains in early spring, and delicious hot crispy French fries before being wrapped expertly in a paper and handed to you with two napkins, for your immediate and immense enjoyment.
Going for dinner late at night. There is is something wonderful about being able to have an entire days activities and THEN going for dinner at ten pm. It really frees up the daylight hours for more practical pursuits, like working, going to the beach, and drinking, while still allowing one to maintain a comparatively healthy body weight, if not blood alcohol level.
The notion of ‘Greek Time’: how it is perfectly acceptable to be anywhere up to half an hour late for anything without having to apologize.
Anything from a bakery, particularly the pastries. This may seems like it should fall under the food category, but let me assure you, anything you buy from a bakery is in a class all its own. the endless selection and variation of pies, backed goods – sweet and savoury – handmade ice creams, chocolates, honey filled and coated goodnesses and of course coffee; constitute a parallel universe of Greek food. Bakeries are especially good for hangovers, particularly the spiral spanikopitas, which provide the dual purpose of soaking up the remaining alcohol in ones system, and exchanging the foul old running shock taste with the tangy zip of garlic and onion. I’m quite certain that one could happily eat only from a bakery and rarely want for anything, except maybe fruits and vegetables and the loss of about 100 pounds!
And, last but not least, the thing I will miss the most about Greece is the people. Here is a people who managed to end up in The Most Beautiful Country In The Northern Hemisphere (no, I haven’t been to all the countries in the Northern Hemisphere, but this is my list!) and after a few thousand years have managed to preserve not only its beauty but a richly cultured and traditional way of life (the men dance in balloon pants holding hands to impress the local women for Chrissakes!) while at the same time giving the world democracy and the portable instant frappe. Their economy is in the crapper, no one ever has enough money, but no one seems particularly worried (maybe its the near constant state of drunkeness), and everyone wanders around smiling and calling each other at least two of a dozen or more endearments: malaka, agapi-mou, pethaki-mou, koritsi-mou, koupela-mou, koukla-mou, agori-mou, amoreh, amoreh-mou, itsi/aki-mou. They are a happy people who live life in the here and now knowing that time spent on Earth is to be enjoyed, without being overly worried about The Future. Maybe it is this constant state of living in the moment that makes Greece so special for me, and makes me want to come back here again and again. Who knows what it is exactly, but once again, I’ve had an amazing time: I will definitely be back.