In central Greece, there’s a magical place called Meteora. It’s a land where alien rock formations jut out of a lush green forest, and monasteries balance along the tops of strange rock hills. It’s ironic that they seem ready to plunge off of those cliffs they perch on, since they’ve been there for 700 years. After eight months of living and traveling in Greece, there’s a familiarity to the Greek landscapes—each place is unique, but similar. My visit to Meteora was a reminder that Greece is always ready to surprise. Exactly when you think you know it, there’s something new to see.
My fellowship at the Canadian Institute has flown by, and it’s strange that my life in Greece has to end just as it feels like it’s taking on a natural rhythm. Life in our neighbourhood has become wonderfully predictable: a daily stop at our favourite Greek coffee shop (Coffee Lab), a few fresh rings of koulouri for the kids to snack on, and the same park every morning for the kids. We’ve become fixtures here—especially my kids—and along the street we wave at a familiar face in every shop. Even the coffee delivery guy waves so wildly at our girls when he drives by that he almost falls off his scooter. The laiki (market)—once intimidating—becomes a ritual. The vendors know us now, and my Greek is good enough to keep up with the numbers being thrown around, to haggle a bit, and to know if someone’s short-changed me. I know by this point who has the best olives and which area of Greece makes the best Feta (I’m partial to Dodoni).
My work here is done, my thesis submitted, the fellow’s lecture given, and while I haven’t even come close to accomplishing all the things I imagined before I came, I’m really happy with my time here. Besides the academic stuff, the last month was taken up with a few more trips to Tolo, Monemvasia, and Elafonisos.
The kids were eager to get back on the beach with the days getting hotter—and we find ourselves on the golden sand once again. I must be acclimatizing, because the water seems too cold now even for a Canadian who once jumped in with sheets of ice still on the lake.
And from the beaches to the Acropolis, Greece gets noticeably busier each week. The cruise ships are coming in again, the tourists are flocking back, and the beaches are covered with pale northern-Europeans who are eager to cut their long winter darkness short with some Mediterranean sun.
I’ve watched my kids grow up a lot over the past nine months. They quickly learned Greek on the playground and easily made friends with Greek kids. Meanwhile, my 1 ½ year old daughter—who has now spent nearly half of her life in Greece—is spitting out a few words. She’s just as likely to say “ella” as “come” and “yah” can either mean, “hello,” “goodbye,” or “yes.”
As you can imagine, this can get a little confusing.
And now it’s off for home, time to leave all this behind and head on to whatever’s next. Whatever happens, we’ll never forget the time we had as a family in Greece, the wonderful people we’ve met and the memories made, and I’ll always be thankful for my opportunity to be a fellow at the CIG.
Neda and Franz Leipen Fellow, CIG