Greece: Since I’ve Come To Greece – Take I

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Yesterday, in our final writing group, I gave the prompt, “Since I’ve come to Greece,” and I’m going to post several of the responses from my students. They provide a great recap of our two weeks together.

This first version is by Marlene Bumgarner, who had the great distinction of being the only person on the trip to fall and break a bone–her foot in two places. She’s been a real trooper ever since.

Here’s her version:

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve seen more tomatoes and cucumbers than ever before. I’ve seen gnarled faces, bowed backs, wide smiles on people who work the land. I’ve seen several different kinds of modern architecture and many ancient ruins. I’ve seen love and kindness, nurturing and caring between and among women who only met two weeks ago. I’ve seen the bluest sky and the bluest water than in all my past experience.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve heard tiny birds singing in the sunrise, animated conversations in very loud voices, accompanied by gesticulating hands. I’ve heard breezes blowing, bells ringing, cheerful music. I’ve also heard blaring horns, angry words, racing engines, buses belching diesel exhaust.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve smelled food cooking in Athens market stalls, at breakfast buffets and in village tavernas. I’ve smelled my own sweat and the sweetness of hotel flowers, sometimes at the same time. The salty air as we ferried to Santorini, and the machinery when we docked; the oily smell of the gangplank gears and the idling motorbikes.

Today I smelled the acrid air as I waited in a pharmacy, remembering the same odor at the Santorini clinic – that disinfectant smell of hospitals everywhere.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve tasted goat and rooster, new cheeses and 20 types of olives. I’ve tasted the sweetest cherry tomatoes of my life, and the smoothest olive oil. Rabbit and dakas and eggplant and cauliflower. Baklava and yoghurt and honey; salty orange peanuts and many shades of wine.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve felt alive and free, untethered by my own schedules or responsibilities, and engaged in experiencing new places, new friendships, new flavors, sounds, and sights. I’ve felt pushed and pulled by other people’s schedules, by the rubbing together of women accustomed to making their own decisions yet trying hard to go with the flow. I’ve felt energized, alert, awake, and engaged. But I’ve also felt tired, bone tired, and achy, and stiff.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve met many kind people. Some are traveling with me; others drive taxis, tend bar, serve food, drive buses, run restaurants. When I have faltered along the way, struggling with my injury and non-accessible architecture, sometimes I’ve felt an arm lifting me up, steadying me, making sure I don’t fall. When I have looked up to thank my helper, I have seen the faces of men and women of all ages, sometimes residents, sometimes members of our community, and sometimes fellow travelers.

Since I’ve come to Greece I have savored the food, the weather, the views, the friendships, the conversations with proud Greek residents, the colors, the food. Did I say the food? I’ve savored the food.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve been reminded of how busy my life has become even in retirement; how full of errands and events and obligations and shoulds and regrets. Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve been reminded of how little “stuff” one actually needs: a small suitcase, a backpack, travel underwear and three changes of clothes.

Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve been reminded how good it is to be in the company of women, under a blue sky, sharing food and drink and stories. Since I’ve come to Greece I’ve learned once again the kindness of strangers; how a smile and a shrug can mitigate tension, and really, how alike we all are in our needs, our fears and insecurities, our joys and our rewards.

I’ve learned how to listen before I speak, write before I think, move my pen across the page even when I have nothing left to write.

Since I came to Greece I’ve learned to relax.

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