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Ikaria

Greece 2011

sunny 32 °C

So being an Au Pair for a Greek-American family most defiantly is amazing! Let’s start from the beginning.
On Monday, we left Wilmington… 6 hours later than we said we would. This wouldn’t be a big deal to drive up to D.C. and later to New York, however, in care full of 5 people and 7 suitcases things get tight! I am responsible for 3 kids; I have my hands full this summer! P.S. Did I mention they are all girls?
We travelled from America to Greece over four days. We arrived in Athens during the riots and strikes; however, it was not nearly as bad as the news had made it. Yes there were bombs being thrown but not near the airport, it was more in the city. It didn’t affect our travel. In Athens, we went to this quaint little restaurant on the 25th of March. In Greece, many streets are named after dates-not that the dates have any meaning just dates. There I received my first true Greek meal: A Greek salad, fries, Souvlaki, and a Light Coca Cola (yes you read that right Light not Diet, which is way better than Diet! And no a Diet coke is not the same as a Light Coke). A Greek Salad is nothing like an American Greek salad (ya know the one’s you get at Pita Delight or Zoë’s Kitchen) it is actually cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and a block of Feta cheese tossed in olive oil. It’s delicious! French fries are also different, they are not crinkled, or thick, or thin. They are simply potatoes fried-but they are not potato wedges then tossed in a Greek garlic salt. Souvlaki is basically chicken and pork on a stick with fresh lemon squeezed over them. We stayed at this enchanting hotel in Athens called Peri Hotel. We had our own porch with patio furniture were breakfast was served and the most helpful staff you could imagine.
On Thursday, we left Athens for Ikaria (pronounced Eek-kar-rea), which apparently is one of the places that has been researched by National Geographic of why people live to be 100+ years old! It is mainly because of the food here is so organic and healthy (there is an inactive volcano which makes the soil very fertile), everyone walks everywhere and burn calories effortlessly (see the picture of the stairs I climb 3 times daily), and they take naps every day. With that being said the town runs on different schedule that America would. In America, stores stay open from 9-5 for the most part. Here stores and the bank stay open from 7am to 1pm. Some café’s stay open but not restaurants. The restaurants typically open again about 5 or 6. During these hours nothing is open people go to the beach, to a café, or home to nap. Greeks and Ikarians do not believe in working hard like Americans do. In America, we love our job (I know I love working at Matt McGraw Photography =p) and most of us prefer to work harder, longer for the money and the “pleasure” it will one day bring us. In Greece, they work but hate to work and they make it known they hate to work. They much rather enjoy life. In America, the phrase “to enjoy life” means after getting off work go to the bar to have a drink with some buddies or just get drunk for no reason. As Greeks do love to drink (that’s something we will discuss later), they love to hike or explore the country surrounding them, go swimming in the clear blue water, or just sit at the café with a coffee and look at the world. I do not know of anyone in America that would just sit and look at the world, Americans don’t have the patience to do such a thing and we always feel rushed like we have to get to the next thing.
We are staying with the mother’s mother (the grandmother) here in Ikaria. Yai Yai (which means grandmother in Greek) lives on a Greek farm, which is different than I projected of where we would be. We have pigs, goats, chickens, and ducks. She also has lemon trees, fig trees, apricots, peaches, eggplant, potatoes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and plums and she gets her eggs from the chickens. So nearly everything we eat is freshly grown right here. And yesterday I found out they get there meat from the pig, aka the point of the pig is to grow it and make it huge and fat and then kill it to eat it. There is a great chance I will now be a vegetarian, especially considering tomorrow we are to “slaughter” the pig.
Yai Yai is a traditional European grandmother. She does everything, while everyone around her relaxes. It drives me nuts! She won’t let me help with anything (my Mimi would never allow such a thing). She gets upset if you do. She is also a pack-rat; we have things in this house from the 1800’s! Yai Yai is 87 years old, she hears perfectly well and is in great shape, and she speaks both Greek and English. Oh by the way, another reason National Geographic wanted to research this island is because no one has ever had dementia in Ikaria. Yai Yai was once even proposed by an African prince but told him no on account of his skin color (we had a long discussion about this yesterday morning). She lives by the rules of the “old country” and parts of me respect for that and other parts I feel she is being stubborn but when you are 87 years old there isn’t much room to change, so I keep my mouth shut (aren’t you surprised?). But Yai Yai is very sweet and she is just cute with her little walker and her hair pinned back. She is shorter than me! By nearly a foot! I feel so tall!
I love that I am living in a Greek house, I get to experience more the culture and lifestyle of Greece than I would in an apartment or hostel. However, I have learned that those white houses and blue tops you see in pictures are mainly churches and in famous towns such as Santorini and Crete. Not every house is white and blue. Oh and the reason they are white and blue is because it is Greece’s colors, check out their flag.
I have learned 5 words in Greek. I do know the alphabet due to being in sorority for three years, which apparently I was pronouncing Delta Zeta incorrectly as I was told by Ana and Yai Yai it is not Delta Zeta but Dee-le-ta Zai-tea (that may not even be right). I have learned Yashu (Ya-saus) for hello, Na (Nay like the horse sound) for yes, Antio (An-deo) for good-bye, Paiti (Pa-tea-ah) for town square, and (I don’t know how to spell it) if-gar-rea-sto for thank you. As much as I would love to learn the Greek language the phonics of it is hard as all get out and I have to take a test for the Peace Corp when I get back so I am just going to stick to studying my Spanish for now and just pick up on the necessary words.
So I guess after all this information you could have read in a book, you are wondering about the actual adventures I am enduring on, aren’t you? Where to begin: the radio-active springs, the 3 George’s, the children, the wine festival, the Greek wedding, the beaches, or my night out to the bar with Stephanie. Let’s start here:
Adventure Story 1
As most of you know I have a unintentional habitat of dating someone and then the next man I date has the same name, for example this past year I dated one Justin followed by another Justin. This habit has followed me to Greece. Within 2 days of being here I met 3 George’s. The first one is 93 years old (“Now I ain’t sayin she is a gold digga”-Kanye West), okay but seriously don’t get the wrong idea here, he has decided within 30 minutes of talking to me I am to marry his grandson that is coming here from the states in about a week. Sadly, he doesn’t know how much I disagree on arranged marriage or that I am in no (or never have been for that fact) position to be in relationship. The second George is 19 and recently moved back here with his family from New Jersey. This George reminds me of a dear friend of mine, Matt Griffin. Matt is very sweet, kind to everyone, and will always go out of his way to make you feel appreciated-George is the exact same. And with as much as George keeps asking his cousins to “put in a good word for him”—I do not believe there is any chemistry between us George. The next George is thirty, and we all know how I love older men. It’s very simple, they are just more mature and the “game that is always played” isn’t there (or at least in most cases it isn’t *cough*cough*). George owns a bar, one of the trendiest and coolest bars in town, which has became very helpful in the fact he always gives me my drinks for free and lets me make long distance phone calls for free. George asked me to go with out with him my first Saturday night in town, it was going to be a fun night starting a 2am (bars close here at 11am, I am serious people start drinking at 12am and go to 11am, I feel Wilmington did not prepare me enough for this) of where we would meet at his bar for some cocktails to go to Tazo and to end the night dancing at Wha-Wha. However, on Friday night the family invited me out for an extravagant unexpected drunk evening…
Friday night, the family and I went to a Panhetti which in Greek means “a big party”. This “big party” was filled with wine, lots of wine and I do love wine and so do the Greeks. Because the drinking age here is 12+, Demetria (the mother) lets the girls have a glass of wine. This wine bottle we are drinking from is from a man down on the other end of the table that wanted to dance with his son in return for 2 bottles of wine (of course I obliged). I also was able to get a free beer that night due to the fact my “cute-American accent” shows when I say thank you in Greek. I would like to take the time to tell you I have a pretty high tolerance for my age, however, Greek wine is nothing like American wine. There are no chemicals; it is all natural, and very, very, VERY strong! I danced the Greek dances (in the most American way possible), drank the Greek wine, and was very dramatic and loud like the Greeks around me (finally a place I fit in!)! When leaving the Panhetti, Stephanie and I decide to go to Wha-Wha (ya know, the club George is taking me to tomorrow evening?), so we go and I find out the way Greeks dance in clubs is the way I dance in my underwear in my room (I AM FINALLY WHERE I BELONG!!!) I couldn’t be happier! As we are dancing the way God intended us to, 7 men come out of nowhere. Don’t worry this isn’t a scary story! These 7 men speak Greek and Stephanie can only translate so much for me, but as you may know I am becoming quiet fluent in Spanish. So I ask Tu habla espanol? And he responds si! So there we are at 4 in the morning dancing the morning away in Greece, conversing in Spanish. I feel I must grant Stephanie some props as she would occasionally step in with a word or two in Spanish but never an actual sentence for example, when we were leaving she came up and said “el bano” and ran off. Props for Stephanie! During this miraculous Spanish conversation these 7 men start bring us random shots, after shot, after shot, after shot. I have travelled before and I am suppose to be the responsible one here considering I am the Au Pair and so I just start throwing the shots behind me, drenching whoever stood there. Once Stephanie tells the boys “el bano” of where we are going, we leave. Of course, we are walking back when we notice we have these random men following us; thankfully one of Stephanie’s cousin’s who is also named George gives us a ride on his mo-ped. All three of us are on his tiny mo-ped making our way through Ikaria back to Yai Yai’s house. This whole time during this ride, Stephanie constantly reminds me to watch my legs so I will not get burned. I did as she said and didn’t get burned. Unfortunately, Stephanie did not take her own advice and burnt her leg. The next morning I awake to a terrible confused hang over (I didn't drink much remember?) including a migraine and nausea-all in which subdue me to stay home Saturday night after the Greek Wedding of course.
On Saturday, I took the girls to the rock-pebbled beach in efforts to relax me and keep them entertained. After a long day of napping, I went with the family to my first Big Fat Greek Wedding! It was unimaginable the amount of people and food there! I was in food heaven! As I still wasn’t feeling well, I ate 2 Greek salads, loads of bread, pasta, and some kind of meat (the girls said it was pig, but I am pretty sure it was cow). After eating, I took a few pictures but I was in no condition to be in company at a Greek wedding. So Zoë and I walked back home, as much as I thought about going to the Paiti to tell George I wouldn’t be accompanying him that evening, it was just too much to even think about the stairs I would have to climb on the way back (see picture). So I went home and past out. Needless to say, George was not happy with me the next morning. But after explaining my situation, he generously understood while offering me a (free) smoothie. He explained to me that the only thing I can drink in Greece was vodka. When I asked why, he said I would see. I still didn’t understand what he was talking about, until he finally told me many bars tamper with their beer and liquor and it gets people drunker in order to buy more drinks and wine here is not like American so people can get very sick. George went to Athens for 4 days and when he is back, we will try this whole thing again.
Adventure Story 2
We have had some fun times so far here in Greece! Just the other day I took the girls to the radio-active hot springs. These hot springs are above an old inactive volcano. These springs are to help with illness, arthritis, etc… An adult can only be in there for a maximum of 20 minutes. The beaches here are full of rocks and pebbles and naturally they are slippery. Being the Au Pair, I have to go out and find the safest way to the spot that isn’t so hot but isn’t so cold! Of course, while I am making my way out, what do I do? I slip and fall on my butt in the hottest water! I literally slip and fall and jump back up onto the rock! All while I have an audience of three girls laughing their butt off at me! Yesterday, I took Zoë and Ana to another beach full of cliffs to jump off of. I am pretty sure the area we were in was part of where the pirates used to dock back in the day (and yes I have done my research pirates came to Ikaria often). Anyway, we swam out to the rocks out in the ocean (see pictures) and jumped off. Okay well really it took each of us about 30 minutes to jump the first time because we were so scared but afterwards we were fine! The water here is so clear and you can see so far down! The rocks are sharp and full of sea salt but the country is just beautiful beyond words! I've enjoyed my first week here in Greece! I I am delighted to be their Au Pair and can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings for us! It’s funny last year when I was in Australia, I always talked about going to Greece the next summer, I didn’t know how I was going to get here but I did it! Isn’t it ironic how things work out? My trip to Australia taught me so much about myself and I gained so much independence that was defiantly needed. I am interested to see where this journey takes me! So stay tuned! Antio!
Steps

Steps


Greek Orthodox Church

Greek Orthodox Church


Jumping off Rocks!

Jumping off Rocks!

Posted by Rachelabby 05:29 Archived in Greece

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