Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Greek Stone House on the Hill ~ One Year Later

Here we are in our Stone House on the Hill, this week  celebrating our first year as part time ex pats in Greece.

With most of our major projects completed, we’ve slowed our pace and indulged in blissful, idle hours ~ most of which we’ve spent gazing out over our small terraced olive grove and the view we have up the Mani coastline just beyond it; our own little slice of Greece’s Peloponesse peninsula




Dusk at The Stone House on the Hill



Many of you have followed along or been a part of the journey that brought us to this Stone House and you’ve stuck with us as we’ve turned it into our own. Some through the blog and others in real life, real time. Your companionship, encouragement and enthusiasm have been most appreciated.

‘You are never to old to set a new goal or dream a new dream.’

    - C.S. Lewis

It was back in 2014 when we got serious about focusing that somewhat fleeting daydreaming of ours into an action plan. We - this 60-something duo – decided it was time for a ‘final fling’, a ‘new challenge’, a ‘project’, before we got too old to have one. We’d accumulated many daydreams during our travels but kept coming back to the idea of. . .

Growing Olives Instead of Old

Last December 15th as we sat with the sellers, an array of others, (three attorneys, our realtor and the Notary) in the Notary’s cramped second-floor office in the nearby village, we moved that daydream into reality.
As vivid as if it were yesterday, we recall those pages and pages of documents being read aloud (a legal requirement here) in Greek and translated to English. Then payments (both for the home purchase and costs associated with it) were made and handshakes offered.

The purchase process that had taken months to get in order, was over in less than an hour. . .

. . .then, ‘but, of course’ as they say here, we all – buyers, sellers, realtor and attorney - went to the cafe next door for a drink!


Celebrating the sale

Finally, that Grecian stone and concrete temptress was ours – ten days before Christmas.  We’d  nailed that daydream  - the one that had slipped between our fingers earlier in the year -- and made it reality.

The Stone House on the Hill


Recalling those first few days, we’ve laughed at what a stark reality we’d purchased. It was rather a bleak stone house, both literally and figuratively. Cold (we ran out of fuel for several days that first stay – both central heat oil and wood), empty (we gave away most of the old well-used furniture and the new hadn’t yet been delivered) and rooms with gray stone accents around white ceiling, walls and floor that didn’t make for a warm and fuzzy feeling. With no television or internet – it also felt a bit lonely. That didn’t deter us from the vision we had for this place. . .

December 2014 - The Stone House on the Hill

As the days became weeks, and weeks stretched into months the The Stone House on the Hill has evolved into our Stone Home on the Hill. New furniture, paint and decorating touches and a bit of hard labor, by us and others (not to mention two cats who adopted us) made for some remarkable changes even with this part-time life we’ve had here.
One Year Later - Stone House on the Hill


Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

Just as the house has changed, so have we.  This Greek adventure has moved us from our world, filled with family, friends and the familiar in the United States’ Pacific Northwest, into a dual existence – living two decidedly different lifestyles on opposite sides of the globe.

‘Let’s be honest. Retirement abroad is not for everyone. A totally new environment. Distance from relatives and long-time friends. Culture clashes. Health care issues. Language barriers. But it’s also possible to enjoy a higher standard of living at a lower cost in foreign locations of natural beauty, appealing culture and great charm.’
                                                                              -- Forbes.com

A neighbors night out 

By living part of the year ‘there’ and part ‘here’ we’ve enriched our lives with new friends; both Greek and other ex pats (from a variety of countries) and have neighbors who are friends as well at both of our homes.

During the months we’ve been in Greece, we’ve developed new daily routines and honed new and forgotten skills. We’ve gotten back in touch with the basics of our childhoods– stringing a clothesline, drying clothes on the line, washing dishes by hand, living without television, putting together the miniscule pieces that come in a box and turning it into shelves or coat racks or other items.


We learned to harvest olives - it is hard work!
Little successes are noted with pride; like learning bits and pieces of the Greek language. . .I know the days of the week and can count to six. We can both order wine and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Vocabulary victories occur daily!

Two sets of friends from the Pacific Northwest visited us this fall. We explored areas and eateries, sharing quality, unrushed time together; proving as the old saying goes, that ‘the road to a friend’s house is never long’. . . okay, so the flight is rather long, but you get the idea!

As for ‘distance from long time friends and family’, as Forbes cautioned. . .well, technology has made that simply, nonsense.  Thanks to internet, Skype, Facebook and email, we are able to stay in touch with friends and family. My early 2016 calendar ‘back home’ is filling with social engagements and appointments that have been arranged while I am here in Greece as easily as if I’d been at the computer back there.

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.
- Flora Whittemore
 
Opening any new chapter in life often means ending or modifying others. Our increased time in Greece required that I resign from a board of directors for a non-profit educational agency on which I had served for 15 years. That was tough.  It also sidelined my freelance writing for a time.
 
The Scout, who used to focus on the logistics of life (investments and finances among them) as well as finding travel deals from Seattle has had to expand his calculations to international finances, thinking both in dollars and euros. And I’ve written previously of how this base in Europe has given him a whole new candy-shop of travel options to research.

Dusk in the Village of Stoupa
We’ve discovered the joys of village life with its laid-back pace. As we get to know people in the area trips to town take longer as we must stop and visit, or give a quick hello to someone we know. We refer to businesses by the owners name, “Let’s go to Yiannis’ and Eleni’s tonight” . . . “Let’s see if Ellie has fresh calamari” . . .’'We need to stop at Dimitri’s for nails’.

Slow travel in The Mani

Our pace has slowed here – a stark contrast with life back in the states.

Our olive crop waits for the press
Little did we know when we purchased this home and its 15-tree olive grove how attached we’d become to this agricultural lifestyle. Harvesting our first crop of olives was an unforgettable experience. We are already looking forward to next year’s crop.


Dwell in Possibility.

         -- Emily Dickinson
 


We are looking forward to new adventures in Greece during our second year here and hope you’ll be back regularly to share them with us. We are off to Cairo this coming weekend so will have tales to tell from there as well as more stories from Greece in future weeks. Until then, safe travels to you and yours~
Some of you who’ve signed up to receive these posts in your email seem not to have gotten some of the recent ones, if you could take a minute and reply to this post, saying, “got it” we would appreciate it greatly.
Linking up this week:
Photo Friday
Travel Photo Thursday
Wordless Wednesday
Our World Tuesday
Mosaic Monday
Through My Lens


                                                                                          


53 comments:

  1. I'm enjoying catching up on your earlier posts. Your new life sounds fantastic! Good on ya!
    Shalom from Israel.

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    1. Dina, thanks for the note. I am so glad we've connected in the blogosphere! Who knows? One of these days we might meet face-to-face. . .wouldn't that be fun?

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    2. I wouldn't be surprised! Inshallah!

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  2. A year already?! Amazing and I am just as happy for you both now as I was then. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Thanks Heather. Glad we are neighbors of a sort over on this side of the pond. Hopefully we will get you two down to visit sometime!

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  3. Lovely plea for seeing life in a new light, an experience itself to share with those who wants to learn from this, aspects and details so unique as a style written in your essay...
    I like so much how you have described all of these. How you met with new people, new traditions, habits, activities in rural life. Life is full of chances at any age. I'm not sure that I can dream to buy a house of my own in Greece, but essentially it's possible to have a dream to start a new project, a vision! Well... I'll keep your optimism in mind.
    Till a new post, Happy Christmas Holidays and Warm Greetings of december for you!

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    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment Alexa! I so enjoy your blog and I cam glad I can reciprocate. I do believe you can always have a dream, a project or a vision. See you back here again soon. Merry Christmas to you. Jackie xx

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  4. Such a beautiful summary of your beautiful home. I am verklempt as a friend of mine would say.

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    1. Thanks much! And remember that welcome mat is always out for you!

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  5. Such an exciting adventure. I love what you've done to the house. Hard to believe it's been a year.

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    1. That is the amazing part of the whole tale - a year already. Time is going too fast no matter where we are! Thanks for the visit - always appreciated!

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  6. Congratulations on managing for a year. I know it can be cold and damp in the winter... and so a fireplace is a must in my home as well. I have also found the fireplace to be a friend, a companion if you will. Your stone home is beautiful and full of color. Looking forward to your second year in your new home

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    1. Yes, Mary our fireplace provides both physical and emotional warmth. Thankfully the winter has been mild so far and we've been able to enjoy warm days and sunshine (most of the time).

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  7. Jackie and Joel, You live an amazing life! I'm so glad you share your adventures with lots of photos. I really enjoy reading your blog. You have a lovely home. Merry Christmas, and may 2016 be a year of good health, peace, joy and of course - travels! :)

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    1. Oh Beth, thanks for the lovely wishes. Merry Christmas to you and the same good wishes for health and happiness and travels and dreams! Jackie xx

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  8. How lovely to hear about two Americans who've fallen in love with Greece and made it their semi-home!
    I'm the same: except I'm British and have made Athens my semi-home. I blog about and love this country...despite (or in spite?) of its bureaucracy and craziness!
    I have also been to Seattle this year (summer 2015) and oh my! Fell in love with the place. If I ever had the opportunity to divide my time between there too, I would jump at the chance.
    Keep enjoying Elada and all she has to offer!

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    1. Bed, I've read your blog and will make sure that I follow it regularly! How I wish we'd have met on the blogosphere prior to your visit to Seattle last summer so we could have met there face-to-face. Perhaps we will meet in Greece~. thank you for the beautiful wishes and Merry Christmas to you!

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  9. It sounds GREAT!!! You are living my dream, lol :)
    When we are retired, my husband and I will live in Greece, too, for 6 month in the year. We love this beautiful country and the Greeks so much!

    Greetings from Germany,
    Susi

    http://allemeineleidenschaften.wordpress.com/

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    1. Susie, don't lose sight of your dream to live here part of the year. It is a fabulous place and you will definitely be glad you made the decision to do it. Come back often and I will visit your blog as well. Thanks for writing! Jackie

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  10. I can't believe how quickly the year has gone. You've done some wonderful things to the house and obviously loving every minute that you are there. I'm looking forward to hearing about the new adventures you get up too!

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    1. Isn't that simply amazing that 12 months have flown past as they did?! Thanks for being a part of our journey, Jenny! Happy holidays to you~ Jackie

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  11. Hi Jackie, Happy 1st Greek Anniversary!
    What a spectacular view you have there and your house, wow, your house...I want it!!
    Haha, the Greek bureaucracy when doing anything major, unbelievable, you should have seen the paper work when I got married here, it's a miracle it ever happened, but, I wouldn't be anywhere else. Isn't Greece just wonderful? It just sucks you in.
    I wish you many more happy years here in the country of the Gods and a very merry Christmas.
    Susan.

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    1. Susan, thank you for the lovely comment and wishes. We do hope for many more years at our Stone House on the Hill. Good wishes to you in 2016 and Merry Christmas or Kala Christougianna!! Hugs, Jackie

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  12. The Stone House looks amazing. I look forward to hearing about Egypt. I am very envious of your Greek lifestyle!

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    1. Thanks, Jan. You've been one of those people I referred to that we appreciate so much having been with us along the up's and down's of this adventure. Hope to have you visit the Stone House one day! Merry Christmas~ Hugs, Jackie

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  13. You've done so much work and waited and hoped and dreamed and I've loved following your adventures and travails. :-) Wishing you a beautiful holiday and new year. XO

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    1. Thanks so much for the holiday wishes - the same to you my friend! XO

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  14. your little stone house on the hill is the stuff that some of us can only dream about. I've loved following your life in Greece. And I hope you put it all in a book. Let me know when it's published! Have a lovely week in the lead up to Christmas and happy travels.

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    1. Thanks Jill - you are one of those to whom I made reference above, thanks for your support this first year of our adventure. If there ever is a book, you'll get an autographed copy! ;-)

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  15. How fun to have followed you thru your Greece experience...what a dream come true for you and your sweetie.
    Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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    1. BJ, Merry Christmas to you from Cairo! Hope you and yours have a beautiful day. Here's to more blogging fun and friends in the new year!!! XO Jackie

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  16. What a great story! Glad you guys found your rhythm living between two places. Enjoy the rest of the year!

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    1. Thanks so much Ruth for being among those who've followed our tales! Here's to a great 2016 to you - happy travels and happy life!

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  17. Your stone house turned home is beautiful! We feel (and I have no doubt that you'd agree!) that our lives are so much richer with the adventure of becoming expats, learning new ways to do things and remembering other skills from times past. Feliz Natal from Portugal! P.S. I think I missed getting at least one of your posts.

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    1. Oh and Merry Christmas from Cairo! In one of my 'deep thought' moments about our life now I decided it is like we are feeling a part of something 'greater' than what we knew before. Not quite sure how to articulate that, but I am certain you understand. Merry Christmas and Happiest of New Year's as you embrace your new life in Portugal!

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  18. Congrats on your home & best of luck in the new year!

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    1. Thanks so much for the visit and the comment. Hope to see you among comments regularly!

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  19. Congratulation! We just moved to Marin CA after 30 years in Hawaii. Best Wishes-









    ( '>
    /))
    //""
    Warm ALOHA,
    ComfortSpiral

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    1. Thanks for the visit - hope to see you back again time and time again!

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  20. Thanks for linking in with "Through my Lens"

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

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  21. Love the pictures and very impressed by the changes you two have made. It looks so warm and inviting. Looking forward to reading about your adventures in Cairo. So happy it worked out. Have a wonderful Christmas!

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    1. Happy New Year to you both! Hope one day to have you visit us in Greece (at least have a glass of wine in the Pacific Northwest the next time you are through!). . .

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  22. Hi Jackie! What an adventure you two have embarked on! I love that first photo. I would never want to leave that view. I hope you're that you're enjoying Cairo. All the best for the holiday season!

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    1. Thanks for the holiday wishes Nancie; I got a bit sidetracked on answering comments with our travels. Enjoying your travels in Spain - keep the news coming. Hugs, Jackie!

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  23. Safe travels to you and the Scout. I really like your trio of slow travel in the Mani photos. I remember last year's posts when you thought that your dream wasn't going to happen. Wouldn't it be nice to send this post back in time to alleve all your worries? One thing that's interesting about your time as an expat versus mine is that my stay in Malaysia was never meant to be long-term. We thought it would be 2 years (but added a bonus 3rd), so didn't spend much time making our home just so. I like that you've done so much in a single year.

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    1. It has been a coin toss on time, Michele. We'd figured 'at our ages' we'd hopefully have 10 'good' years and at least five. So it was a question of 'how much does one do?' but then the child in us both came out and it seemed we were living a playhouse life and why not make it just the way we wanted for as long a time - whatever that might be - here! Love reading of the contrasts and similarities between our experiences. Happy New Year to you and the family~ Jackie

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  24. How amazing! What a wonderful adventure...finding a home in Greece. And STONE! I's wonderful!

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    1. Marie, thanks so much for adding a comment. Hope you'll be a regular here!

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  25. Congrats on your one year anniversary, and looking forward to your adventures in year two. I know it must have its challenges, but "it's a wonderful life" that you've carved out. Happy new year to you!

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    1. Happy New Year to you as well! So glad we've met in this blogosphere world - hopefully one day you'll be visiting us at the Stone House on the Hill!

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    2. Happy New Year to you as well! So glad we've met in this blogosphere world - hopefully one day you'll be visiting us at the Stone House on the Hill!

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  26. Chronia Polla, Jackie and Joel!

    I know you've got two more current posts running right now, but I couldn't bypass the one that is closest to my heart: your stone HOME on the hill, of course, for reasons we both can relate to.

    I'm so very excited and happy for you, just as I was back when the purchase/deal/reality was all happening; fingers were crossed and prayers were said; remember Jackie?

    Here you are, a year later, and living that beautiful village life that I so miss. Your photos are so very wonderful and they make me feel as if I'm back in Crete, in my own home on the hill.

    Thanks for updating us, as well as reminiscing. I enjoyed every moment of your sweet memories!

    Happy New Year!

    Love and hugs,
    Poppy

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So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

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