We all need a break from the routine sometimes. I bet you now and then even Dora Bakoyiannis sits in her office late at night, going through papers, looking out of the window and thinking "Man, I'd just love to go get a kebab right now. And then go to bouzouki, drink too much whisky and kiss a guy who by harsh coincidence happens to work with me...sigh!"
When Athens life is getting you down, I suggest you head out of the city and refresh your eyeballs with just how beautiful Greece is. Last weekend we went north to Larissa and Meteora to visit some of Mr Zeus's family. When I met him I imagined a giant clan like in Big Fat Greek Wedding. Instead I could fit his family in a matchbox. As for me every time I go back to the Home Country I am met by some kid at my uncle's door who I don't know, to later discover he is one of the four new little cousins born in between a visit. I have over 20 first cousins alone.
Anyway, Larissa and Meteora are both such beautiful places they just take your breath away, especially Meteora which ranks amongst the most amazing places I've ever seen in my life. It's like a bunch of giant boulders were dropped in the middle of nowhere. It's really beyond what words can describe so I suggest you go there. There is a lot of internal tourism to that area so bus tours from Athens shouldn't be hard to find.
That area of Greece looks identical, and I mean IDENTICAL to Northern Home Country, and there were other things in common too. Each aunt and uncle that met me embraced me like a long lost child (I think they'd all given up on Mr Zeus ever marrying) and tut tutted that I was too skinny. It was like my own aunties and uncles but talking in Greek: eat this, eat that, no I don't want to hear that you've eaten enough you're too thin, whatever diet you're on drop it now, here I've packed you some fruit preserve, eat it for breakfast every morning and you'll be fine in no time.
I never knew what to expect when I embarked on meeting Mr Zeus's family but hand on my heart, they have welcomed me without a single question or issue from day one. We may have started with next to nothing in common, but we both had appreciation of family as an uncompromisable value.
The afternoon we were leaving for Athens I was chatting to one of my new Greek cousins, alternating between Greek and English when I couldn't find the appropriate vocabulary. Her seven year old son said: "I know why she's talking in English. She's saying something she doesn't want me to hear."
"No," I explained, "I don't know Greek, I'm still learning that's why."
"You don't know Greek?! But I knew Greek from when I was a baby."
"That's because you were born here. I wasn't."
"She doesn't know Greek!"
I bet you next time his mum makes him sit down for homework he'll say "Yes mum but remember that girl who was 25 and can't speak Greek. God only knows what she did in school, at least I'm not that bad." In an effort to teach him a little bit about different cultures I grabbed the receipt on the table and wrote his name in Home Country script for him. He was suitably impressed.
Ain't playing families fun?
I've got to say though I am a good old fashioned Greek/Home Country Mother In Law pleaser type of girl. Growing up in the Home Country in a small town there was next to nothing for a young girl to amuse herself with that wouldn't get her disowned and so we were trained in a variety of crafts that kept us out of trouble. Thus I'm a 21st century girl stuck with defunct skills like embroidery, lace-making, dress making and crochet. But hey what better way to please Ma in Law? How could a girl who can make a doily be an evil son snatcher?
Oh well it means that I can search the bargain bin in the yarn shops downtown, find the good stuff and get to the till faster than the grannies. I may get laughed at for crocheting scarves at my age, but I'm saving the drugs for old age. I think I'll be more grateful for them then.