Sunday, January 11, 2015

Greece: Trash Talk and Socrates

“All I know is that I know nothing.”
-- Socrates
Truer words were never spoken, than those of Socrates, the ancient philosopher, I’ve concluded after being in Greece for three weeks. Our time here has spanned both an old and new year – the time it seems that people get introspective and think deeper, philosophical thoughts. I have been thinking with such introspection it seemed the best way to tell you about them was with some ‘trash talk’:  garbage collection, quite literally.
 
DSCF1168 Maybe it is the atmosphere or something in the water, but we’ve become a bit philosophical after spending time in Greece.
 
On this visit, we’ve cut ourselves off from television and have significantly reduced computer time, mainly because the house doesn’t have either. We’ve tapped into another’s w-ifi (with his permission) and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
 
 
 
We’ve spent a lot of time outdoors – working with our hands and thinking with our heads; not relying on a Google search for a definition to answer questions. Our time and our ‘being’ has allowed for pondering. A gift of time in a manner of thinking. (When’s the last time you gave yourself unlimited time to just ‘pondered’ something?)
 
Back in the Northwest I’ve been involved with an organization that is focused on developing cultural competencies. I’ve thought a great deal about that concept as I have thought about our garbage and yes garbage and cultural competencies do go hand-in-hand for the purpose of this writing: 
 
 During one of our first visits to this area - the southern Peloponnese region of Greece - I had exclaimed in what I call ‘ignorant tourist’ disgust, “OMG! Those people are throwing their garbage in the public bins!” 
 
Two years later we bought a house here:
 
DSCF1211
The Scout on a garbage run
And quickly learned that is the way garbage is collected!

We have become “those people” who at first impression left me so aghast. In fact, I chuckled at my change in this particular activity when on New Year’s Day The Scout asked, “Shall we take a garbage run and check out what’s happening in the village?” Would this be trash talkin’ or trash travel? It certainly is a step towards making me a bit more culturally competent and less quick to judge.

DSCF1184
The road to our house - a road that connects two villages

And as I’ve had time to ponder the concept, it does make perfect sense.  The roads here –like this one in the photo that leads to our house – in many cases are small.  Not so very long ago they were dirt tracks through olive groves. Ours, a bumpy little asphalted ribbon up the hill connects two villages, but certainly is not a road that could accommodate a garbage truck!

DSCF1178 Trash bins – and they include recycle bins as well – are located throughout the towns, on larger roads and along the highway, which in this area is a two-lane road.

My list of logical but distinctly different cultural nuances doesn’t stop with garbage collection, it continues to grow with each passing day.

For example: collecting used toilet paper in a trash can aside the toilet and not the throne itself with its small plumbing pipes, makes perfect sense as it would plug them and fill the septic tanks); or heating water as needed when the solar power isn’t enough to do so. It is a matter of flipping a switch to heat water and then turning it off after a period of time to cut the electric use and bill. . .

Different countries, different cultures, and different ways of doing things. When it comes to travel it is good to remember the words of Socrates – All I know is that I know nothing -- before making those quick cultural judgments. 

How about you? What have you concluded about people and places before knowing their full story. . .the one that explains actions and behaviors?

We do wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you’ll spend time exploring the world with us in 2015! See you soon~

Hopefully I am linking up today with Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.

30 comments:

  1. Hello Jackie and Joel,

    Before coming to Budapest, we thought that cultural differences which would exist across Europe would not be so great. We were All Europeans after all we would argue to ourselves! However, nothing could be further from the truth. As you say, do not judge since, after a while one gets used to the different was of doing things and, in many cases, enjoys the change.

    We have yet to visit Greece but, next year, on the occasion of a birthday of a friend, we shall find ourselves in Santorini and we cannot wait. There are so many layers to Greece and it will be fun starting to unpeel them.

    How wonderful that you have a house there. Such an adventure!

    Wishing you both joy, peace and success for 2015.

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    1. Jane and Lance! How nice to hear from you two again. I've missed seeing your comments and I need to pop over to your blog to see what you've been up to since I last visited! You will love Greece, I can guarantee it!

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  2. Oh yes, I've learned so much since living in Australia. Things that made no sense to me before I settled in are now habits I've embraced. :-) I look forward to hearing more of the things you learn the longer you live there. :-) xo

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    1. It is funny how the human adapts to a new environment and its customs isn't it, Krista? Thanks much for stopping by - I will pop over to your blog again as soon as internet connections are strong enough to do so!

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  3. It's easy to always judge and compare to one's own hometown/culture etc. I always just try to focus on my trips and absorb as much to the local culture as possible..good luck with your new world.

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    1. That is the best approach and we try to do the same thing, Noel. I sometimes feel like a sponge with so much 'new' that I need to sit and process it all!

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  4. Hi Jackie...Nice to have you linking this week :) Living in Asia has introduced me to an entirely different world of garbage and collecting. In Korea it is totally acceptable to dumpster dive, and brag to your friends about the great new furniture that now calls your apartment home. Let me tell you if I had the strength to get some big stuff up the stairs my apartment would be overflowing! :) Ah yes, the TP beside the bowl. :)

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    1. I should have mentioned that you do stack the 'good' junk to the side of the bins as one person's junk is another's treasure and we found that everything we left aside the bin was usually gone by the next day!

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  5. I find it interesting to learn the different ways of people when I travel. But when you live someplace different, even if it is for a short while, you really see and get an appreciation for the differences. It's funny how dealing with trash can be one of the greatest adjustments. Great post.

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    1. Thanks much, Donna for your visit. I think cutting back on the internet, garbage disposal and toilet paper were my top three 'adjustments' to the Greek life!

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  6. You're right. Differences make for interesting comparisons and we learn! Here in Australia, everyone catches rainwater for use in gardening, filtering it for drinking, etc. So smart! Yet, in the USA I've read that several communities have made that illegal? What are we thinking? And you're right about the TP thing, too. Our housesit homeowners returned from South America and said the same thing. Antiquated septics can't handle it. Maybe paper shouldn't be a "thing" at all.

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    1. Oh Betsy, isn't that such a frustration with the US!! Our US city council is currently focused on banning plastic grocery bags while at the same time you can't hang clothes on a clothesline to dry in parts of the community (the clothes line, BTW, was one of the selling points of the house in Greece!

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  7. I am enjoying reading your adventures as you settle into a new culture.

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    1. Hi Carole, So glad you are enjoying our adventures. Stick with us -- they will continue!!

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  8. Hi Jackie and Joel,

    Well, you must be back in Seattle, by now, I gather. Welcome back to your other home, you dwellers of distant domains!

    Jackie, your observations about the ways of different cultures are spot on! I am Greek- Canadian, born and brought up in Toronto, and more North American in my thinking than Mediterranean. So, when I first arrived to Crete, there were, of course, many culture differences, even between the mainland Greeks, too! You can imagine my constant little shocks, regarding traditions and behaviours. Would you believe that I was even criticized for being TOO well mannered?! Locals, both villagers and city folk, went so far as to discipline me on my overuse of the expression, 'Thank you', citing that it was not necessary to voice my appreciation for acts of kindness all the time! I kid you not! Well, I never budged, and they just keep on smiling, as they roll their eyes.

    Happy Thursday!

    Poppy
    P.S.: The country road to your stone house looks heavenly!

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    1. Oh Poppy, We are at our Kirkland home after one of those marathon travel days yesterday. And memories are fresh of our other home. Your comment is so funny because the first phrase (of course!) I learned was 'two glasses of white wine' and I added, 'please' at the end. Our taverna owner friend laughed and said that was far too polite - they would know I was a tourist (if they didn't anyway) by adding 'please'! Thanks so much for staying in touch - next time (May!!! -- if you are still in Greece then) I will get your phone number and give you a call!

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  9. So true; we judge before we know all the facts about a destination or person. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog!

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Marilyn, glad you are enjoying our tales and experiences in this new phase of life!

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  10. This is exactly what I love about travel, the quirky differences that reinforce the feeling of being in another culture.

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    1. Isn't that the truth, Jan? I am amazed at people who don't, won't or can't quite get a grasp of how wonderful such differences are.

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  11. I like that line from Socrates. Definitely something great to remember, especially when confronted with strange practices when in foreign lands. Who knew it would apply to trash siuation? :) Glad to know that you're adpating little by little to the custom of your new home.

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    1. I had purchased a small notebook last summer with plans of jotting down 'house notes' in it and the quote on the front was the one from Socrates. I filed it away when the deal fell through and then pulled it out this fall and carried it with me jotting note upon note in December. One day I took time to read the quote instead of heading to another empty page and thought, "Oh, good heavens! This is me. I do know nothing. . ." Thanks for your visit!!!

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  12. That is so nice that you bought a house there. Really helps to learn those insider tips and cultural differences.

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    1. We were blessed, Charles, and glad we've taken the leap. If people only realized the 'deals' to be found in this spectacular area. . .

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  13. When we first moved to Malaysia, people didn't separate out their recycling from the rubbish. The rubbish men would dig through the bags before they loaded them into the truck. When my son volunteered to do recycling at the school, I mistakenly assumed that kids would not be doing it "Malaysian style." I was wrong. I assumed that they'd just be collecting the bins of paper from the classrooms. Nope. This mama had to keep herself from freaking out when I saw the kids open up a regular rubbish bin that clearly had discarded lunches and other leaky things in it, then dig through it with their bare hands looking for glass and aluminum. Ick! It does bring in some extra money when they deposit it which is why people do it.

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    1. Oh Michele, I can't imagine seeing the kids digging through the trash like that. I am so impressed with Greece's recycling efforts in addition to the separate collection bins, you can find bins along pedestrian corridors in which to deposit old drugs, another type for used batteries. And in our village we collect plastic bottle caps for a company that recycles them and gives the money to those who serve orphans.

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  14. Very interesting to keep up with you in this new and exciting chapter in your life. Being a new resident provides you with that opportunity to learn so much of the culture that we often don't get just passing through. I've got to give your question some thought. I'm sure there have been times when I've jumped to conclusions, but my embarrassment at having done so may have taken them from my immediate memory.

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    1. I have been embarrassed at some of the conclusion I jump to, only to find how little I didn't know when arriving at that conclusion, Cathy. Thanks for stopping by!

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