Beach Days, Dolphin Sightings, Crashing Greek Weddings and Other Job Perks

No corner office with a view, no contribution to a distant retirement fund, no free health club pass. But, well, I guess there are some fringe benefits to being a teacher in Greece.

Meet my student Antony! He is from an area of Greece called Halkidiki, near Thessaloniki, and invited me home for the weekend. If you look at a map of Greece, Halkidiki is the three fingers of land sticking out up north. Mt. Athos is located on the third finger, and the area is also world-famous for its beaches.

Antony is a second-year student here at AFS. I was an assistant teacher in his English class, except when the head teacher was out with a back problem and I taught the class by myself for a couple months.

map from http://www.pickatrail.com/jupiter/location/europe/greece/halkidiki.html

The green area is Halkidiki, about two hours' bus ride from Thessaloniki (depending on how far you want to go).

Oh, and did I mention Antony’s parents own a beach bar?

The beach bar where I spent my whole weekend!

I may be from Montana, I may be blindingly pale, and I may be mostly limited to an awkward doggy-paddle. But I love the beach! I don’t even mind drowning myself in sunscreen every fifteen minutes. The chance to bask, read, and swim (by which I mean float, if I’m lucky) is something I have come to love since arriving in Greece.

When we (Carrie and Micah, the two other Americans on campus, were also there for the weekend) arrived at Antony’s house, we all immediately headed to the beach for the afternoon. I had packed Edmund Keeley’s Borderlines, which I have been looking forward to reading ever since Dr. Keeley sent me a copy. The book has been fantastic so far, as it offers an in-depth, personal history of the school at which I teach, and was an excellent companion at the beach this weekend!

A frappe (Greece's iced coffee beverage of choice) and my book on the beach!

Lounge under one of these umbrellas, you say? Don't mind if I do!

This photo's horizon line is the product of my distaste for the idea of expending the energy required to sit up to take it.

We came back from the beach to find an amazing barbeque prepared for us. Greek food is often grilled, to my immense delight! When I get back to America and finally have access to a kitchen again, I will be grilling everything and serving it with lemon. That night at Antony’s house, we had octopus, squid, cod, pork belly, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms, all prepared on the grill! There was also glass after glass of wine from my favorite Greek vineyard, Biblia Chora, and even a glass of dessert wine, which I have grown to adore since coming to Greece. Our hosts were exceptional cooks and wonderfully hospitable. I’m so thankful to have had the chance to share their table (and their strip of beach) for a weekend!

A bevy of grilled seafood!! One of the best possible bevies ever.

A close-up of the squid and octopus.

My plate! Clockwise, I had grilled calamari, octopus and cod, fresh bread, a small piece of caviar, pork belly, and grilled eggplants and peppers. The eggplants were particularly scrumptious--the balsamic on them had caramelized, and made them almost like candy!

After dinner, we headed out to the porch for a guitar singalong! Carrie and Antony both play guitar, and together, we sang and played “Wonderwall,” “Wagon Wheel,” “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” (complete with Aerosmith-style falsetto at the end of each line), “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” and lots more. The acoustic music, the cool night air and the fun of being with my friends made it really feel like summer.

Me singing, Carrie rockin' out, and Antony... posing?

Eyes closed! Must've been the "if I die in Raleigh" part of "Wagon Wheel."

The next morning, we headed right back to the beach. (Wouldn’t you?) The first few hours were spent in dutiful, practiced lounging, after which we walked further down the beach to have a look at an area called “The Nose.”

The peninsula known as "The Nose."

It’s an area of land that actually comes to a point, and is surrounded by different currents; the current on one side crashes into its beach in one direction, while the current on the other comes from the opposite direction. Because of this, the physical shape of the Nose is constantly changing.

We had just got to the Nose when I swore I saw something out in the water. It was so hard to tell because of the choppy waves, but my doubt vanished when I saw it again, this time with a distinct fin. Yes, that’s right–there was a dolphin out there! A few of the others saw it too, so I knew I wasn’t going crazy. I didn’t manage to catch a picture, as it was moving very fast, but it was so exciting! Being from a landlocked state, sea life sightings are doubly cool for me.

Naturally, as the spotter of the dolphin, I deserved a pina colada. Or two.

Ah, yes, the sweet taste of pineapple, coconut, booze and total self-indulgence.

Doing my best not to drown. It worked! Go me!

The whole group! Me, Carrie, Irini, Antony, and Jesus--er, Micah.

And then, παιδιά (“children”) we crashed a Greek wedding.

Oh yes. After months of shamelessly trying to invite myself to one (“Oh, you’re going to a wedding this weekend? How fun! I myself have ALWAYS wanted to go to a Greek WEDDING…”), it finally happened! There was a wedding reception that night at the beach bar, and were officially invited (well, as invited as you can get without knowing the bride and groom, that is!).

When we got there, all the guests were serving themselves from the buffet and waiting for the bride and groom to arrive, who typically come about an hour or so into the reception. We followed the example of the other guests and mowed down while waiting.

At the start of the path to glory.

My plate and accompanying mojito! I had to eat from the top down in order to have room to cut things up. Now that's the sign of a good meal! Highlights were the souvlaki, stuffed mushrooms, and a spinach-filled crepe baked with cheese. Oh, sorry--FOUR spinach-filled crepes baked with cheese. But who's counting?

Carrie, Antony and I before the bride and groom arrived.

While we were eating, the bride and groom arrived in a Jeep on the beach! A group of guests was waiting on the beach with lit-up helium balloons, which they released into the sky when the couple got out of the car.

The Jeep pulling up on the beach.

Once the grand arrival had been carried out, the dancing started, and for all I know it never ended–we left before the party was over, out of sheer exhaustion! It began with traditional dancing like what you see in this video, but much faster:

The smallest of the wedding guests even joined in!

After about half an hour or so of this, the dancing became much less structured, and the music became a mix of Greek and English songs. To my sheer delight, I knew all the words to the choruses of two songs they played! Here are the songs:

There may have also been some YMCA involved, which was made even better by the extremely inebriated gentleman whose popped collar kept getting in the way of his “A” motion.

To my total surprise, I couldn’t stop dancing! Even while we were waiting for our taxi home, my feet just wouldn’t stop. I think this is a side effect of being totally, wholly happy. I have found so much joy in my Greek life, and unless you can promise me dolphins in Boise, you’re all going to have to forcibly capture me to get me out of here in just two and a half weeks!

Στην υγειά σας,

Kate

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About wrap me in phyllo dough

travel addict. greece-obsessed. grad student. bottomless pit.
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9 Responses to Beach Days, Dolphin Sightings, Crashing Greek Weddings and Other Job Perks

  1. Is it “better to have loved and lost, then never loved at all”? I feel the same way you do about Greece, yet have never had the opportunity to go there. Isn’t that something? There must be something remarkable about a place that can grab hold of you from across continents. I feel quite certain that when I finally get there, I will also dance uncontrollably in undiluted joy. The day can’t some soon enough.

    • Reading this comment made me so happy. Keep pursuing your Greek future! And the idea of dancing being a culmination of sorts is a definite theme for travelers in Greece–have you ever read Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis? If not, pick it up to prepare for your Greek adventure!

  2. kitsosmitsos says:

    I enjoyed every single line. Keep having such a great time!

  3. Joy Victory says:

    Love your blog! I live in Astoria, Queens (‘home of the biggest concentration of Greeks outside of Athens’) and lived in Mexico for three years, blogging about the food, the fun, the beaches, etc. I love how Greece often looks like a quaint Mexican town. Please eat tons of halloumi for me!

    • Ugh, haloumi? Really?! Fine. I GUESS I can somehow stomach some more haloumi… 😉

      Interesting comparison about Mexico! I’ve never been, so I can’t say, but perhaps that’s worth exploring.

  4. kpMT says:

    Sounds like the perfect weekend! Love the pictures too 🙂

  5. Passerby says:

    Having a friend whose family owns a beach bar, is the best thing ever! Cause if YOUR family actually owns one, then you’d have to work. Even if you’re a nephew whom they haven’t seen for a couple of years. (Are you reading this auntie?)

  6. Is it bad to want octopus and squid at 7 a.m.? This looks like such an amazing time.

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