I can see why people who move to southern California never leave! We’ve been here over 10 weeks and we’ve only had blue skies and sunshine. We are still swimming and wearing shorts. And we’ve only seen 30 seconds of rain. Everyday is like one of those rare days we have in Pennsylvania where you can’t justify staying inside. It’s a day when the sun is shinning and the humidity is low and all you want to do is go for a walk. One of those days that no matter how much laundry is piled up or how much work is on the desk, it can wait. Or no matter how bad things have been or how low you feel, you instantly snap out of it. The warmth of the sun lifts your spirits and you want to sing out loud in the car with the windows down. It’s absolutely gorgeous. But the days are getting shorter and we are getting closer to winter, which, here, means the “rainy season.” I suppose it will come, and when it does, I hope that it doesn’t bring down our spirits.
Our spirits are high now because in addition to the beautiful weather, Chris has joined us. We’ve spent our afternoons going for hikes or swimming in the sea. Yesterday he and the kids lifted rock after rock in a shallow part of the sea and discovered sea cucumbers, star fish, and “genuine” hermit crabs. “Just like the ones you can buy at the beach!” said one of my children! Today he took them to another beach where they jumped of the cliffs and built things with rocks. And earlier this afternoon he and I took a sea kayak out and discovered more of the island.
However, despite all of the beautiful pictures and the wonderful experiences we’ve had, we still get sad. I write this with the risk of having our parents write, call, or Skype to tell me that I have made them sad and they are worried about us. So before I begin to share my thoughts, please know that this is all part of the experiences that will shape us. We expected that we’d have tough days and that we might go to bed with tears in our eyes. If we didn’t have those days, we wouldn’t grow, nor could we enjoy all that we have already. So don’t be sad for us. Instead, just keep believing in us.
Zach isn’t sad. Zach is happy because he is 8 years old, because he lost two teeth in the past two days and got two euros for them, and because he is with his family. Of course Zach is also happy because Zach is just always happy. He’d be happy no matter where we were living–Poland or Antarctica or in a mud hut or on a skunk farm. He’s easy to please.
Rea goes with the flow and is loved here by all of the girls in the village. Every time we see her friends they yell, “REA” and come running to hug her or pick her up. They like to play with her hair and give her piggy back rides. She loves the attention, and she likes her friends. But when she gets in arguments with one of us at the house, she starts to cry. And on a few occasions, when she’s crying, she’ll say she misses her friends.
It’s different with Elias. He is 12. And he’s also been cursed with my emotions. Tonight he had an assignment to write about his identity and about the identity of the friends. He wrote a wonderful paragraph about his identity, and I thought he was able to see himself very clearly. The paragraph about his friends’ identity turned into a number of sentences about each of his friends and what he likes about them. That made him realize just how much he misses being around kids that can make him laugh and feel good about himself. I also think it made him realize how much he misses what makes him “Elias.” He misses things like biking and running and hockey and piano and saxophone. When you are an adolescent, your friends become the center of your world. You share everything with them, including most of your time. And here, although Elias has friends, he has yet to connect with them the way he has with those back home. Once again, it’s the language barrier, just like I described in Small Talk. What Elias doesn’t realize is how close he is to reaching out to these friends and breaking that barrier. Much closer than I am to reaching the adults in the village. He is starting to think in Greek. Two nights ago I asked him to journal about what he’s done with Chris. I read it this morning. He had written 90% of it in Greek. He’s so close! Once is able to have small talk with the 5 other boys in his class, he’ll start to laugh again with friends. He’ll find out about each of their identities and things they have in common. And hopefully his tears will come less often.
Knowing my son is sad magnifies my sadness. I often miss my friends and family. Daily actually. The hardest part of the day for me is from when I wake up at 7am until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. With the seven hour time difference, everyone back home is asleep. I try to stay out of the house during those hours or to keep busy in the kitchen. Then, once the afternoon rolls around, I check the computer at regular intervals to see if anyone has emailed me. Sometimes I find myself just sitting there staring at the screen, waiting for the ding of an email in my inbox. So when I see that Elias is sad, I understand why. The mother in me wants to do whatever I can to make that feeling go away. But I don’t know how. So I hug him, and sometimes both of our tears hit the pillow at the same time. Other times I try to say something silly to try to make him laugh. Tonight I told him that his dad stinks because he farts a lot. That worked.
But we like it here. We really, really like it here. Most of the days are wonderful, and we have nothing to complain about. And of course the beautiful weather helps! But as winter approaches, the days are going to get shorter and the clouds are going to roll in. Instead of blue sky we’ll have clouds. Instead of sun we will have rain. Don’t be sad for us. Just send us your rays of sunshine and keep us warm inside.
When I wrote this post last night I didn’t write it from a sad place, nor were there any tears as I sat at the computer and typed. I found out today that most people were affected by my words and some have said that it made them cry. Elias and I both reread the blog tonight, and it didn’t make either of us sad. Maybe because we are living it, and we know how we really feel. I wrote this to share that we miss our friends and family back at home….to let those who read this blog know that although I’ve posted over 30 positive and upbeat stories of our experiences, there is another side. I have had a few friends write and ask me if I’ll “ever come back home because it sounds so wonderful there.” And the answer is yes, we’ll be back. The other side to this story is the reality that we have moments when we are homesick for our friends. Those moments don’t come often, but they do come. My mother emailed me, commented on this post, and then called me later in the day, each time saying that although the post had good things in it, there were parts that were difficult to read. She said that the most upsetting part was that I made it sound as if Elias didn’t have friends and was more or less miserable here. That’s not the way it is, and that’s not the impression I wanted to give. Elias plays basketball and soccer with his classmates after school, and he has shown them all how to throw a proper American football. So if you are worried about him (or me for that matter), please know that we laugh and smile 25 times more than we shed a tear. Yes, we get lonely. And yes, it “hurts” when I see that Elias or Rea are sad. All I want to do is take away that feeling so they don’t cry. So, they’ll get a few extra hugs, a cookie or two, or a joke to make them laugh. Usually it works to lighten the moment, and then we move on. So, please, don’t be sad for us. Read this for what it is and know that you can’t have sunshine without ever seeing clouds.