“When I told people back home I was going to Greece, they said, Aren’t they having a crisis over there?”
“Medora, look something, the sun he does not have the crisis. The sea, he does not have the crisis. The tree, the mountain, no crisis.” Then wiping his hands as if brushing off imaginary dirt, “This, is so.”
I have heard some incredible explanations the past three weeks about life, politics, Greece, love, and friendship. Everyone is a teacher here and I learn a new lesson every day. Whether it be in words or actions, my friends on Corfu teach me more than they’ll ever know.
This time on Corfu, things are different. Many businesses are closed for the winter season, few tourists are about, and everyone is bored. Of course there is also some anxiousness because no one really has a stable job. Everyone takes what they can get and the majority of the time the work is temporary. Obviously this is a stressor due to lack of income but even more so for the personal well being of my friends here.
“Medora, look something, if you don’t have job, you feel nothing.”
There are so many assumptions the world makes about the Greeks during this economic crisis. From my face-to-face experience here, I can tell you, there is no other choice but to live day to day. I try to imagine if I was in Dallas and went everywhere I could and no one had money and no one could offer me a job. I try and imagine owning my own house and land and after decades of being passed down through my family, the government, out of nowhere, claim that taxes need to be paid on what my grandparents and before them have paid off.
What would I do? What would anyone do?
One thing the Greeks do not do is fret over it too much. I mean, maybe they don’t want to worry me, I’m not really sure, but it seems that after the legitimate rant or speech about the crisis and injustices happening in this country the usual conclusion is hopeful.
“Freedom is the hope I wait to come.”
Even with all this hardship and all the stress for the future, there is still laughter. I’ve never heard so much laughter!
One night I came home late to Giannis. Everyone was outside while he closed the bar and we all went up together to his house where his wonderful mother, Elena, had prepared a feast of pasta. Giannis, Spyros, Cristos, Fotis, Elena, Giannis father, Akileas, and I sat around the table to eat. EVERYONE WAS LAUGHING. Everyone was talking at the same time. Even though I could not understand what was being said, the laughter was contagious. A neighbor yelled something for everyone to be quiet and the response, a wave of giggles.
“Ela Medora. We drank 3 tons of wine that night!”
A few nights ago, was one of the best nights of my life. It was the pinnacle of all the reasons I had to come back to Corfu.
It was so natural that I’m not really sure how it all started. A friend was buying me tsipouro, the local raki, then everyone started drinking it. A few were dancing to the repetitive club music some one was playing and then Spyros took over the computer and began to play Greek music. This set everyone off in a sing-along one could hear across the sea in Italy. One man began to hit the table with such force that it knocked over all the glasses. Tsipouro spilt everywhere but no one seemed to care and our glasses were quickly refilled.
They continued singing with all their hearts and souls words I didn’t understand. I didn’t have to. The energy was powerful and overwhelming.
“Giannis! Tsipouro! Ya mas!”
Everyone clinked glasses. Some one jumped on the bar and started dancing. Another took off his shirt and began clapping. Everyone began clapping for the dancing man on the downbeat, slowly but with distinct precision.
The music got faster and suddenly everyone was shirtless. They moved the tables and began dancing in circles in the middle of the bar.
Some one grabbed my hand and led me in the circle.
“12 steps. 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3, 1,2,3!”
It was an incredible night. I will never ever forget it.
However, this was not to be the last of amazing events.
Last night, Akileas had a BBQ for me.
“Medora, look something, all the guys, they want to do something for you. So, Akileas prepare the BBQ for Medora UNICEF.”
“Medora UNICEF?” I asked.
“Medora, look something, the people love you because you are friendly. The village calls you, Medora UNICEF. In the summer, many people came to you from all over the world and we could see that we are not so different from each other. And this is good.”
The BBQ was a huge success. Akileas hosted it at his restaurant right outside the village. All the food was fresh, all the vegetables were from his garden.
Every thing was piled in heaps and plated on several plates down the table. Tomato and pepper salad, chips, and fresh meat from the grill covered the table. Oh and wine. TONS of wine.
Within a few minutes after the feast, Akileas, without a lot of convincing, went to the piano. This began the next two hours of singing, dancing, and drinking. I looked down the table and was over come with a sense of well being and happiness. My eyes began to water and I felt so much love for these friends.
I almost had a heart attack when Akileas began a medley of “Mack the Knife” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Both songs have a distinct presence in my life, from my grandmother’s annual performance of “Mack the Knife” at all Christmas gatherings, to my beloved New Orleans Saints. It was a “me” moment and no one else could fully understand the relevance of those songs.
During my time here I have been taken to secret beaches, where not even a telephone pole was in sight. I swam naked under a thousand stars and in a sea full of phosphorescence glowing whenever I made the slightest move. I’ve ridden on the back of motorcycles through rolling green hills and views of the ancient Ionian Sea. I have had late night conversations of philosophy and Greek mythology.
This island is magical and so why not stay another two weeks?
“Medora look something, the Greek program, is no program.”