We just returned from the most wonderful 4+ hours with my cousin Roula. I have so much to do now, but all I want to do is write down my thoughts so that I can capture this feeling.
Well I wrote those two sentences 32 hours ago, and I never did get that post written. Since then I have made fig jam, spaghetti sauce, tzatziki sauce, zucchini bread, as well as two lunches, one breakfast, and two dinners! Let’s just say I haven’t had much time to “capture” that wonderful feeling. But now I will try now!
First let me explain how I became “Betty Crocker.” I have come to find out that the people of the Karavostamo just pass food around from one house to another. Wherever I have gone, people have given me food–vegetables from their garden, eggs from their chickens, or fruit from their trees. Over the past few days my kitchen was stocked with fresh figs (some of which I dried and some of which I made jam), tomatoes (which I’ve eaten and turned into spaghetti sauce), zucchini (as mentioned before became zucchini bread), and cucumbers (which some suggested I make tzatziki sauce). Elias told me today that it’s like we live on a farm because I make just about everything we have eaten! I have been trying to use up what we have so that it doesn’t go bad, and then I take it to someone as a gift. However, my plan backfires, because every time I end up returning with something else. Today I delivered zucchini bread and tzatziki sauce and came home with 1/2 of a watermelon, a bag of tomatoes, prickly pear fruit, and a bag of cookies! At this rate, I am never going to get out of the kitchen!
Yesterday, our wonderful morning yielded fresh oregano to dry, a huge bag of cucumbers, a few zucchini, fresh eggs, and more figs–when all I set out to do was collect oregano. I had asked my cousin Roula to show me where to gather oregano, and she was more than willing to show me. She told me to come to her house around 10 am with the kids, and we would go up to the mountain to the pevka. Many people have told us about how beautiful the pine forest is and what a wonderful place it is to walk around. The day before Dianna left, the two of us walked up the mountain for about 45 minutes and reached the edge of the forest. She said it was like walking into OZ…all of a sudden you go from the dry, hot, barren landscape into a cool, shaded, green forest…it was like entering another world. I was very excited to be going back to the pevka and to be taking the kids along.
We parked the car where Dianna and I had finished our walk, and with our plastic bags in hand, we set off to collect. Roula showed me the oregano, and we found a lot of large, fresh bunches to pick from. As we snapped the stems and the scent reminiscent of lamb roasting in the oven reached our noses, the kids gathered pine cones and sticks. We had nowhere to go in particular so we just meandered along the roads and took in the sights. We came across a large chicken coop which was protected by a noisy goose, who was more than happy to spread his wings and puff his chest in order to show us he was in charge. There were goats in fenced off areas, and Elias told me, once again, how much he wants a pet goat! We ate some figs from a tree we stumbled upon, and we saw where the men make charcoal from the trees. We came to the edge of the pevka and saw the most beautiful view of villages in the mountains and the port town of Evdilos below.
After walking for an hour and a half or more Roula suggested we leave and head to her brother’s house for coffee. Her brother Yiannis, and his wife, Mariana, have twin girls who are 9, and Roula wanted to introduce the children. The twins, Avgi and Lemonia, were quiet at first, but then their Thea Roula suggested they show my kids the basketball hoop they have. They headed to the basketball hoop and ended up in a chicken coop! Yiannis and his family have always lived in Athens and spent their summers in Ikaria. This year they will spend the entire year here, and the girls will go to school with Zach and Rea. Because they are staying a year Yiannis has expanded his “farming,” as it’s very economical at a time like this in Greece. The chickens were right next to the basketball hoop, and they were much more interesting than a ball. They watched Yiannis feed the chickens, saw where they lay their eggs, and even got to “pet” one as Yiannis held it.
The kids were given a “task.” The twins know a bit of English but not a lot. My kids know some Greek, but not a lot. Thea Roula suggested the children find five objects that my kids could identify in English and the girls would identify in Greek. They sat at a table with juice, cookies, and a notebook. The adults went to another table where we sat, overlooking yet another beautiful view. I listened and realized that I am really beginning to understand a lot more of what is being said (but I still can’t speak it very well). I would understand so much more if they just spoke slower. Imagine pushing a bike along a road that has a downward slope. At first you feel like you have control of the weight of the bike, but slowly, it begins to pick up speed and your feet are having to move quicker so that you don’t lose control. Suddenly it gets away from you and the bike continues down the hill at a rapid rate and you’re chasing after it, knowing that you’ve totally lost control! That’s how I feel when I listen. At first I can follow along, and then I hear a word that I think I should know, but I have to pause and search my memory to find it. By the time my focus returns to the conversation I hear two or three more words that I need to translate, and then, all of a sudden, I am lost….the words keep spewing out of their mouth and I have no idea what was said beyond the second sentence!
Well the conversations at Yiannis and Marina’s house went very well, because I was able to ask them to slow down. I tried to talk and when I struggled with something, Roula and Marina were able to help me. It was relaxing, and it really was enjoyable. At times they had short conversations among themselves, and I thought about how wonderful it is to be able to sit for an hour and enjoy the company of others, without feeling rushed or interrupted. It’s the culture here. I have stopped to visit people in the middle of the afternoon, in the evening, and even at midnight, and I’ve always felt welcome. Everyone is more than happy to sit and talk and share a story, as being with others takes precedence over everything else.
Four and a half hours later, we dropped off Roula and returned to the house. I was filled, from head to toe, with one of the best feelings that I have had since I have been here. I was relaxed. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the pevka and playing with their “new” cousins. They were happy. And that makes me happy. The only thing that was missing was Chris.