"And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home."
Wendell Berry

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feta! Olives! Yogurt! Wine! Greece!

I am currently on Naxos Island, in Greece. It’s the definition of idyllic here, and I have to admit that blogging feels a bit wrong in this environment. I have a little place at Despina’s Rooms, which is run by the aged and unbelievably kind Despina, who keeps the place charming, spotless, and cheap. I can see the Aegean Sea from my window, write on the roof, and walk to the beach. It’s steps from the old, crumbling castle perched over the island. My days here are simple: I get up early to run along the beach, eat creamy yogurt for breakfast, have a cup of the strongest coffee (until now, I thought “so thick you can stand a spoon in it” was just hyperbole), work through the hottest part of the day, have a Greek salad with fresh veggies and the best feta, read on the beach for a bit, have some sort of just-caught fish for dinner, work more, sleep. Rinse and repeat. This morning as I was walking back from my run along the turquoise water, sweaty and happy, a very large fish startled me by jumping up out of the water several times, as if it were just so ecstatic with its own bewildering existence it needed a way to express its joy. Regardless of its true reasons (even bigger fish in pursuit?), I thought, “That! Is exactly how I feel!” and I started running again at a clip, splashing through the water and yelling all by myself on the beach.

The last couple months I’ve felt sort of dazed (will get to that shortly in my monthly recaps), but I’ve had a great week and a half in Greece—with the one notable exception of putting up with all the honeymooners smooching freaking everywhere, when the BF is so far away in New York. My mom met me here, appropriately, on Mother’s Day, May 8th. Her luggage was lost, as it is on every trip and, to her utter dismay, returned to her sans packs of Newports. I absolutely love traveling with my mom; we have terrific fun together! We’ve had the opportunity to do quite a few little mother-daughter getaways over the years, and she’s my ideal traveling companion in that she wants to see a few sights, but is content to mostly just wander around a new place, exploring tiny streets and unexpected corners, and most importantly, reserves plenty of time for relaxation. We always play a lot of Scrabble, read for hours side by side, eat very well, and drink gallons of red wine.

On this particular trip, we spent two days in Athens visiting the Acropolis with its impressive Parthenon, milling about the National Gardens, witnessing the changing of the guard, and just walking around, where we were constantly stumbling upon things that were thousands and thousands of years old. The mind boggles. There was also plenty of time spent rebuffing the advances of men—the Greek men LOVE them some Bobbie D, let me tell you. After Athens, we hopped on a ferry to Mykonos (okay, let’s be honest, here, in a classic Mom-and-Jill moment, we MISSED our ferry by two minutes—picture us running wildly with luggage…there were tears—and hopped on a different, longer ferry with a detour), accepted a very entertaining ride from a toothless man, who stuck us in the back of his pick-up with Victor, an excitable German Shepherd with an unfortunately poopy butt he was eager to wipe on me, and caught another boat to finally arrive at the justifiably gushed-over Santorini.

Santorini…wow. The jagged, imposing cliffs rising out of the sea (caused by a major volcanic explosion), the extraordinary sunsets, the elegant white and blue buildings perched along the Caldera…it all creates quite a dramatic impression. It was very windy and more than a little chilly when we were there, so we didn’t have the days of hanging out on black sand beaches that we were imagining, but we still had a fantastic time. We stayed in the incomparable Aroma Suites, which included cave-like rooms built right into the Caldera cliff front, a hot pink princess bed with a gauzy wraparound veil, and over-the-top welcoming service. It was a bit out of my normal budget, but worth the splurge for just a few days. We rented a car and zipped around the island one day, and, after a 20-year break, Mom rediscovered her talents for driving a stick shift, channeling Speed Racer as she handled the tight curves on roads with no shoulder and 500 foot drops to the sea. Highlights included a monastery and the small town of Oia at the northern tip. On the last day, we walked down the many steps from Fira to the Old Port, and then hiked back up the cliff side in mid-day heat past the procession of “the donks.” Luckily, wine awaited us at the top.
After Santorini, we headed for Naxos, where the sun finally made its glorious appearance. There we had two days of classic Greek Island beach lounging, complete with thatched umbrellas, lapping waves, and the occasional Pina Colada. And, a bit begrudgingly, some buckling down to work. It was a great week, but, too soon, my mom had to return home. Now I’m here for another two weeks, with three goals: get an insane amount of work done, consume as much feta as possible, and run every day. And then…Tanzania.

* Oh, also: I did not win the lottery for the NYC Marathon this year, but decided to run a different one anyway. Hopefully this fall, and hopefully with the very impressive Suzi. More on that later, I’m sure, but for now, let the training begin.

** And! My toenails have almost completely grown back already, getting progressively less Hobbit-like every day. I know you’ve been on the edge of your seats awaiting that news.

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