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.
Oh, and did I mention Antony’s parents own a beach bar?
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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