This weekend, I went on my first homestay in Greece. Two other Americans and I stayed with the family of a pair of sisters from the American Farm School in Orfani, a small village near Kavala. While I have been struck by Greek hospitality ever since I first arrived in September, doing a homestay was definitely the best way to experience it firsthand! I love how Greek people get so much joy out of feeding and caring for others, especially foreigners; and this weekend was no exception.
We arrived at their house to find homemade pasticcio, with home-brined olives stuffed with peanuts, bread and a fresh salad. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Greek cuisine, it’s that Greeks are experts when it comes to comfort food. Pasticcio, moussaka and spanekopita are some of the most delightful comfort foods I’ve ever had… and having it homemade was even better! We also discovered when we first arrived that since there were three of us and there was nowhere else for us to sleep, we three Americans would be occupying the girls’ mother’s room, and she would sleep on the couch. And as if all that wasn’t amazingly generous and caring enough, their mother had had a kidney stone removed that morning! I think many American families would politely tell their guests that they needed to find somewhere else to stay in this case, but in Greece, hospitality is huge, and we were so grateful to be shown such kindness.
On Saturday morning, we all headed into Kavala, a bigger city on the sea in the northeastern part of Greece. We spent the day walking around, talking, hiking up to the top of the castle, and enjoying great seafood in a taverna right by the port.
One of the most entertaining parts of the visit happened during lunch, when the girls’ grandmother called them on their cell phone. When Michaela answered the phone, her yiayia instantly said, “I hear you have Americans staying at your house! Are they black??”
We all had such a nice day, and the night that followed was just as lovely. The evening was spent relaxing at the girls’ house: we listened to Michaela practice the piano, I caught up in my journal, and the three of us Americans answered questions about our lives in the States and our experiences in Greece thus far, asked in Greek by their mother and then translated by the girls so we could answer them in turn.
The next day we explored the girls’ village, Orfani. It’s pretty small, but not as small as some of the “towns” I’ve seen in Montana! We walked up to the ruins on the hill, and on the way, we finally had a requisite quintessential travels-in-Greece experience: our way was blocked by a massive herd of sheep! We had to wait about five minutes for them to clear out of the road.
Everything was going great–we had a lovely last day, made a thank-you card for the girls’ mother in Greek which only had a few mistakes, and were sent off with a lunch of absolutely delicious stew in our tummies–until the last two minutes of the whole experience.
We were driven back to Thessaloniki by the girls’ father, and were relatively crammed in inside his car. When we arrived back at AFS, I got out of the car to get my bag… and suddenly felt a breeze somewhere I should absolutely not be feeling a breeze, evereverEVER. The realization hit me in slow motion; in horror, I reached around to the seat of my pants, and found that it had indeed ripped almost in half sometime during the hour-long ride to school. Of course, this realization occurred about ten seconds before I needed to get my bag out of the trunk and say goodbye to the girls’ father.
Needless to say, the idea of repaying this lovely family for all the kindness they had shown me with a parting image of my tookus hanging out the seat of my pants was less than ideal.
But there the girls’ father stood, looking at me expectantly. I panicked; what could I do? Suddenly, I remembered that (miracle of miracles!!) I had rolled up my jacket and clipped it to the outside of my backpack! So, I slowly and awkwardly leaned over to where my backpack was sitting in the open trunk and unclipped the jacket so I could tie it around my waist, all without letting my backside show at all. It worked, though I’m sure he wondered what on earth I was doing! We said goodbye and I carefully waddled inside, where I instantly exploded into giggles and could barely even tell the story to Ashley as we walked back to our rooms.
I’m really looking forward to my next homestay, which will hopefully take place sometime soon… and end without me nearly flashing my hosts on accident.