Monday, May 21, 2012

halkidiki with the greeks

I was invited by a Greek friend of mine, George, to go to his home in Halkidiki with a couple other Greeks for the weekend. Once again, I was elated to be invited, the only American, and to get to spend some time with Greeks. Before I left for Greece months ago, my friend Akemi told me to try to make friends in the country I’m in and not to stick to the Americans even though it’s so much easier to do so. I told her: It’d be silly to go all the way to Greece to hang out with only Americans.
I said that, and I meant it.
So I went to George’s beach house this weekend which is in between the first two legs of Halkidiki. Marina, a Greek friend of mine from school came with us, along with one of George’s childhood friends, Giannis, who goes to an athletics college in Thessaloniki for basketball.
Meet Giannis
The drive was over an hour and we listened to only american popular music like Katie Perry and Kesha. It’s strange that the whole world seems to be obsessed with American music. Why are they not prouder of their own culture’s music? Why is American music considered the best? Is it because it gets the most press and publicity? Is it because we have the biggest industry? Is it really because it just appeals to the masses the most? Is it because English is one of the most well-known languages of the world? I don’t understand it. It is kind of adorable that these big, tall college guys are totally happy humming along to J-Lo and Katie Perry, most guy sin America stick strictly to Snoop Dogg and Wiz, because J-Lo is just “chick music” to them. I feel like European guys aren’t as concerned with putting on a “man-front” as guys in America. American guys are extraordinarily concerned with being a “man” and with everyone recognizing their “manliness.” Here in Greece, guys put more thought into what they wear and into their personal hygiene, they have no problem listening to “stereotypical girl music” and evening making jokes about being gay. If anyone even sarcastically jokes around about a guy being gay, the guy get’s all defensive and flips out. Why are American men so uncomfortable with femininity and sensitivity? Guys I’ve met here have no problem owning up to their sensitivity and to any emotional problems they have or have had in the past. It’s refreshing. I love that men here are more comfortable with themselves and their emotions. I wish men everywhere were like that.
Anyways, before we reached George’s house, we stopped at the meat store and picked up 15 chicken slouvlaki, a greek sausage, and four chicken fillets. That’s a whole lot of meat for only 4 people. A little overboard. And we got potatoes and tomatoes and onions from the grocery store. They all refused to let me pay for anything. I felt awful letting me treat me like that to all that food, but it was so very kind of them.
George’s house was beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. It’s a two story house with a nice basement too and a handful of rooms with an outdoor gazebo and gardens and it’s a 2 minute walk from the beach. It is lined with olive trees and is more beautiful than I would have imagined. Enjoy the pictures below.

Not only did they not let me pay for anything, they also didn’t let me lift a finger in regards to the cooking. Marina handled making the greek salad and the potatoes and Giannis helped Marina and George handled grilling the meat. I kept George company and enjoyed being the documenter. It’s amazing how independent the Greeks are. Most of my friends, girls and guys alike, would rely on their parents for the cooking. But not here. The parents aren’t even around, we had the entire house to ourselves and they did all the cooking with confidence. I was very impressed.

And it was delicious, of course. After dinner I did all the dishes. Since I hadn’t lifted a finger I knew it would be a good gesture to do the cleaning. After the dishes were done, we walked down to the beach and sat in the sand for awhile and played racquet ball. There were so many beautiful rocks all around so I spent some time finding pretty rocks. Apparently, Marina, Giannis, and George all don’t really appreciate the beauty of rocks, they think they all look exactly the same. So, I took it as my duty to educate them on the beauty of rocks! I found a rock that looked like a puzzle piece and rocks that were creamy smooth white and rocks that looked like old cheese. They all made fun of me for  liking rocks but I was so happy being enthusiastic. I love rocks and I was so happy finding pretty ones. I was comfortable being so ecstatic over something so trivial too, I wasn’t embarrassed or anything at all. Yes, they were making fun of me but it was so lighthearted that it didn’t bother me at all. Once we went for a walk, I noticed that everyone’s eyes were downcast-- searching the beach for pretty rocks. Occasionally one of them would bend down and pick up a rock and hand it to me. It was so sweet that they took an interest in something that I liked, despite the fact they didn’t fully understand it and that they made fun of me for it, they still showed me that they cared about me. It was a beautiful moment. I know I’m not expressing it very well, but it was so sweet, so very very sweet.

We found a play structure and we all got on the swings and then on the teeter totter. It was a blast just acting like a kid and goofing around.

We walked back to George’s house and it was unfortunately cloudy so we couldn’t appreciate the sunset. When we got to George’s we all plopped down on the couch and watched the soccer championship, Chelsea versus Bayern Munich. It ended at 1:20 in the morning after an over time and then PK kicks ending in Chelsea winning. It was a fairly intense game and it made me miss soccer all the more. It also really made me miss being in shape! Gosh I wish I was playing soccer or doing yoga or playing tennis or just exercising regularly! I’ve been through a bunch of minor injuries lately that have made me unable to work out. It suckssss. And I feel like a piece of crap. But, I know, that once  I return to America and go to a chiropractor and get a massage I’ll be fine and I’ll exercise every day and work off all the weight I’ve put on. Yes, it’s not an immense amount of weight, I’m still the same jean size and all, but I feeeeeeeeel heavier and less fit. This needs to change. STAT.
I also changed my plane ticket to June 4th instead of June 14th. It’s just time to go home. I keep getting little flashes of memory of driving to Pizza Ranch or setting my mom’s table or laying in the hammock at my grandmother’s  house. It’s strange, these memories flash at moments completely unrelated to the memory flash. When I think of the pizza ranch parking lot it’s when i’m walking outside of George’s door looking at the olive trees. There is no correlation. I think my mind is just pulling up random little memories of home because it’s on my subconscious and it’s on my heart. I can’t wait to go home and cuddle up on my couch with the kitties and a bowl of soup AFTER coming home from the gym. I can’t wait to lay on my dock and go wake boarding and see my friends and have a Big Bang Marathon with Lyndsey. Home will be great. 
But until then, I’m living it up here in Greece. So, I have gone on a tangent. But after the soccer game, I went straight to bed and everyone else stayed up until 3 am or so. We all woke up around 10:30 am and got ready. Marina got her period, a fact which she had absolutely no problem announcing to the whole group and she had terrible cramps so our initial plan of a day laying on the beach and exploring was changed to a day driving up the second leg of Halkidiki (there is 3 legs) and checking out it’s natural beauty from the car. It reminded me a lot of the Calistoga grade, it was steep and windy and full of “S” turns. But instead of vineyards lining the roads, it was olive orchards. Very, very beautiful. We stopped at a white sand beach for a little bit and sat on the swings. Giannis and I went for a walk and talked about our families and about his love of sports and my love of art. We got back in the car and drove straight back to Thessaloniki, arriving around 3:30 pm. It was a peaceful ride, we all were enjoying the views and shutting our eyes periodically because it was warm and the drive was smooth and we were all calm. It was a really cool weekend.

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