Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Seven Weeks

It seems there was a small earthquake in Greece at about five a.m. this morning on the island of Evia. I am calling it an earthquake because that is what it felt like to me when, in terror I ripped the skin off the palms of my hands with my fingernails. Less dramatically (if you are Greek and not me) it turned out to be two tremors down in the earth somewhere. They were about ten minutes apart. You probably did not hear about it. It happens sometimes.
My bed shook as if a giant monster was pinned underneath trying to get out, and then there was the rumbling like a train speeding through the room. I tried to convince myself it was a dream which was working out fine because of my incredible desire for it to be truly all in my mind. But, when the second tremor happened I could no longer deny the reality that something loud and aggressive was going on and it was some kind of real.

I did not think earthquake at first, truthfully, I am still not altogether certain still. It made more sense to me that it was ghosts at the time. I am less afraid of ghosts because I think I can probably reason with them. Then I heard the people in the next room talking with what sounded like concern in their voices and I figured it was either a hotel full of ghosts or something more reasonable, like an earthquake.

I went out on the balcony to see if anyone else was concerned, or had part of the island of Evia fallen into the sea. I was looking for any indication that something unusual was happening and that other people were aware, and of course, that I was not alone. Sadly, or fortunately, everything was much the same as the last time I had looked outside about four hours earlier. It was still dark and no one was around.

It is nine in the morning now and the people do not seem to have minded the disturbance at all. It was the concierge who explained the regular happenings of small earthquakes in this area. She only offered that information after I inquired about strange sounds and tremors in the middle of the night; which she guessed must have frightened me, and then she laughed. None of the residents in this village were the least bit bothered when it happened, but, at five in the morning there was one American woman in room 202 who was dealing with a lot of faith to remedy her fear.
Oh, my Darlings, can you imagine me being woken by an earthquake?!

But, let me go back a few days in the history of me.
The family of English speaking tourists also staying at this hotel in Aegina had the same idea to come up to the roof to watch the sun set over Moni Island. They did not bring cheese and bread and tsipouro… but I did. The mother has a magazine and the boy is reluctant; the father is distracted by the dogs on the street and the girl is curled up in a ball in the corner because she does not like the cold.

The teenager is wrong when she says, "Okay, it’s over," just as the roundest tip of the sun dips below the mountain that takes up all of Moni Island across the bay from Perdika, Aegina. The whole quartet is incorrect as they tremble down the spiral staircase, holding tight to the railing and congratulating one another for watching the sun set tonight.

They left the roof too soon; the sun is really in the midst of setting, there is so much more to go. The sky is turning pale blue with various pink hues layered one on top of the other. The clouds are wearing golden halos and are making me very happy.
It may be trite, but watching dusk roll in has become a lovely pastime. I have neglected precious few sunsets these last seven weeks.

It was too windy take the five minute boat ride from Perdika to Moni Island today. I wanted very much to go because peacocks roam wild on the island and Demetra told me they will eat off of the palm of my hand. Sadly, I do not get what I want in the Saronic Gulf Islands; here, I only get what I need.

It is very windy here in Aegina, but few clouds. I have enjoyed spending the day on the rooftop wearing only the sun on my skin and listening to the roosters who crow at all times day and night. I intend to bring topless sunbathing with me back to the states, (I know I am not the first to try, but it is oh, so liberating), and sour cherry juice, and dining slowly through meals, and speaking loudly when emotional – which does not sound like yelling any more.

Demetra is the delightful owner of the Hotel Rosanthos, it is an oasis in the small little village of Perdika. Rosanthos means Rosebud in Greek. Demetra tells me this is her paradise and you can see it immediately from the particular care she has taken in the choices of colors on the walls and bedspreads, the lovely wall hangings and delicate decorations in the hallways, rooms and common areas. You can also feel her joy in the warm welcome she offers.

I have met some people who have found their paradise, I admire this very much. I wonder how one knows for sure when they have found it. Or if, like so many other declared certainties in life we wind up choosing with such conviction that the very act of brave confidence assures us we doing the right thing or are in the right place at any given time.
Over a glass of tsipouro Demetra tells me she thinks it was a good idea for me to run away from home. I tell her it is good to hear that today.

I am awake at six in the morning to catch the bus back to Aegina Town. The bus is late and I am cutting it pretty close to make the ten a.m. ferry which will take me to Pireaus. From the ferry port I will catch the metro into Athens and a city bus to the KTEL long-distance bus depot (one of three in the city, I hope to head to the correct station) and then it will be a three hour ride to Evia.

There is no usual bus stop sign so I am winging it waiting here near what looks to be a bus shelter. I am early, the bus is late, and it is just me and one other woman also waiting. Taxi cabs stop, roll down their windows and ask her something; she listens and then waves them away. The taxi drivers do not bother with me.

Last night I had three dreams that I remembered clearly when I woke up this morning. In the first I was kissing an unlikely and very handsome tall man and his lips were as soft as pillows. I took it as a sign that I should be more courageous and bold with my love.
In the second dream an unknown person smashed my computer, the sides and the corners were all bashed in and I was unable to use it at all. I took this dream to be a sign that I should be extra careful in the near future.
Elizabeth visited me in the third dream. She has visited me several times on this journey and it always feels like I am traveling with a good friend. My guardian angel, as she promised. Perhaps she is keeping me safe from dangers of which I am completely unaware. Or maybe she is just helping to pry open my heart when I am busy trying to lock it up.

I manage to make it to the KTEL bus terminal in Athens. I think my ability to remember how to do simple things like purchase tickets for buses, and transfer from trains to buses to ferries makes up for my abominable lack of direction.

I just missed the early bus to Evia, so I have a two hour wait for the next one. Evia is an island off the east coast of Greece. The southern part starts as south as Athens and the northern tip is almost as far up as Volos. The island is the second largest in Greece, Crete is first. Evia is famous for thermal baths which have healing powers. I am going to Edipsos, a small village that offers therapeutic spa treatments in both expensive spas and reasonable state run facilities. I am going to Evia because it is north and I quite like the people, terrain and food in the north of Greece. A massage and a healing thermal bath sound perfect.

I can tell by her kind smile when I lug my bags past her and sit in a row nearby that Sheila is friendly so I say, "Hello" and introduce myself. She and her husband are from San Francisco and headed to the island of Skyros, they too are waiting for a bus. Like me, they do not mind the adventure of finding places to stay when they arrive in new towns. They seem to like the mystery of it all, and the adventure. I understand.

Sheila reassures me that I will find accommodations up in Edipsos and reminds me that I always have in the past. I am aware of getting what you need when you need it. I tell them about Makrinitsa, above Volos, and encourage them to go if they ared in the area. And it occurs to me that part of the reason I am worried about anything could be that some of the best choices I have made have been on recommendations and vibrant stories told from fellow travelers. I am going to Evia because I read about it in a book, is that a good enough reason?
Because we are talking the hour passes very quickly and as they head out for their bus Sheila tells me, "Greece is just like its many mountains, lots of ups and downs."

The man sitting next to me on the bus and wearing the leather jacket has not loosened his grip on the handle of the seat in front of him since we left Athens and that was over an hour ago. He will not turn in my direction but I sometimes feel him staring at me through sideways eyes. He has an unfortunate mustache that makes him look creepy, but he is probably okay, only slightly smelly, but maybe I am too.

Note-to-self, NEVER lose or throw away transportation tickets until you are safely at your destination.

In the middle of the highway the bus pulls onto the shoulder and stops for no apparent reason. An inspector gets on and proceeds to check the tickets of every single passenger. Sudden panic that I have done something wrong and might be in trouble. What if I got on the wrong bus accidentally? Or maybe they have finally caught up with me when I took that bus ride in Athens a few weeks ago without purchasing and validating a ticket… it was a mistake, I swear! I didn’t know I had to buy it before I got on the bus. He will never believe me, I fear. After scrutinizing my ticket thoroughly the inspector smiles and thanks me in Greek.

The same is not true for the French speaking woman in the back who has been talking loudly on her phone since the trip began. She has been pissing everyone off and now has to pay a fine for having no ticket. No one on the bus is either surprised or compassionate. The woman is indignant.

To take a thermal bath in Evia you have to have a doctor’s note -- because you have to be healthy enough to take a healing bath??

I figure out how to pay people to get a ticket which is presented to a doctor who asks if I am on medication and then initials her agreement that I am healthy enough to take a sacred thermal bath. I pay a few euros and a woman directs me into an deep old tub with jets that channel hard water like a torrent on my shoulders, back and legs. I am cleansing the fear and trepidation right off of my body.
And tomorrow at five in the morning I will be woken suddenly by an earthquake.