Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leaving Home ~ Heading Home

"Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You'll find what you need to furnish it - memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey."
~ Tad Williams

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Our Stone House on the Hill
We arrived home last week.

We also left home last week.

Here again; gone again. 

Such is the life of part-time ex pats.

Restless nomads, with a desire for roots, but not in one place. Or senior citizens who’ve realized that the time to be a bit wild and crazy is now while we’ve got the  energy and health to enjoy it.

By whatever label, we’re settling into the rhythm of this ‘here-there’ ex pat lifestyle.









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Touring real estate meeting owners
We’d shared the ex pat daydream for years. But it wasn’t until  two years ago that we decided to ‘at least’ look at some houses.

Greek sellers don’t plaster “For Sale” signs on their homes as we do in the States, so you don’t really know what is for sale until a realtor shows you.

And then, you usually visit the house while the owner is there! Again, not the way it is done in the States.

Our daydream, however,  was moving toward reality.

Even after finding this house, we were hesitant to make the commitment. Would it end or enhance our vagabond lifestyle? Even if we found something, did we want to travel 6,000+ miles between two homes. Of course, Greece’s charms had already drawn us back, time and time again in recent years, but did we want to put down roots here?

We took the plunge later that year, hitting a few rough edges of the purchase process along the way, and finally landed on our feet at our front door by December.

Fast forward two years. .  here we are, at home – for a few months --  in Greece.

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Entry table - The Stone House on the Hill

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” 
– Homer, The Odyssey

“So, what’s it really like?” ask some, a hint of a frown or a wiggle of the nose giving away the true question.  “Is is just wonderful?” others ask with such enthusiasm that they almost wiggle out of their seat. “You are living my dream, tell me everything.” some say with a deep catch in their voice.

If I do my writer job well, you’ll get a taste of  what it is really like through our next series of posts. We plan to introduce you to both people and places that make up this new part-time world of ours.

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Sunset in Stoupa with friends and neighbors
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
-- George Bernard Shaw

Creating a new world: I’ll admit one of my fears about buying a home far away was losing touch with long-time friends back (at the U.S.) home. Articles about ex pat life caution that you should expect that to happen. Well, it has in a manner of speaking. While we’ve got a few friends who stay in touch regularly, others don’t.  Just as they said it would be in those articles. . .

What we hadn’t expected were all the new friends we’d make here. Friendships are being forged with both Greeks in the area and the many ex pats who populate the valley on either a full-or-part-time basis. With fewer than a dozen Americans to be found, our ex pat friends bring a whole new world of European experiences, language and culture to our lives. 

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Our view of the Messinian Gulf

A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Slow down – we moved too fast:  In the first year, our neighbors used to watch us racing around the property – moving things, hauling old items out and new ones in, digging in the garden, patrolling the grove looking for ‘what needs to be done’. Perhaps it is just the way ‘we Americans’ operate. Part, though, was the fact that we are part-timers here. With a time limit set by our tourist visas of 90 days per visit, we didn’t have the luxury of ‘waiting until . . .’ to get a project started and completed.  New deck furniture – for a time – looked nice, but wasn’t used.

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Tom, on table, Princess in chair - photo taken fall 2015
With major projects now completed, we’ve decided to follow the example set by our stray-cats-who-adopted-us, Tom and Princess. Afternoon sun is meant for ‘cat napping’ reading and sipping wine – there is no more perfect way to spend time. (The photo above was taken during our last stay - I am sad to report neither cat has been seen since we've returned.)

Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments.
-- Rose Kennedy

Exploring our New World:  One of the reasons we were drawn to this centuries-old area where everything is steeped in history, is that it is all new to us. So much to explore, to learn, to see and experience that there will never be an excuse for boredom. Exploring by car is quite simple. Driving here is far less stressful than on our congested roadways back in the  Pacific Northwest – we certainly prefer the traffic ‘jams’ here.

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Traffic jams we've encountered 
P1030434Village life, These postcard--perfect places, dot the landscape around us. Each village with its own personality – tavernas, cafes, mom-and-pop family run businesses – make shopping trips more like a visit to a friend’s house than doing chores.

Occasionally we are frustrated by our lack of ability to describe what we are wanting to buy (sometimes Greek and English don’t mesh). We think of how easy it would be to find it at the big-box-store-shelf in the U.S. . . .but then at the big-box they don’t often give us the handful of nails we’d come to purchase or a screwdriver to use with the screws we’d purchased as has happened to us here.

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Stoupa Village
Developing cultural competencies:  Back in the U.S. I spent a lot of time in a volunteer position, sitting in conference rooms talking about the need for developing ‘cultural competencies’ – which loosely defined means both an understanding of and skills to better teach, work and live with others from different cultures.  Here I am no longer just talking the talk, I am walking the walk. But the tables are somewhat turned as I am the newcomer to a country.  Each day is a learning opportunity whether it be a new Greek word, a new approach to repairing something or a lesson in religion and history.

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Religion, culture, history, cuisine - lifelong learning opportunities abound here
Celebrating life: Greek Orthodox Easter is coming in May and decorations, candles (to be used on Easter Eve at church) and candy are for sale in every store. The Easter we celebrate back in the U.S. was just another Sunday around these parts. What we would think of as Good Friday was Independence Day here, celebrated with community parades, students marching and a band playing. We also have the 3rd Annual Kardamyli Jazz Festival coming up in May.. There will be any number of ‘Name Days’ to be honored during our stay; those are Saint Name Days, by the way – and if you are named after that saint, it is your day to celebrate in much the same way you’d celebrate on your birthday.

We think this ex pat life has given us much to celebrate as well. So hope you’ll be back to celebrate and explore our slice of Greece with us.  Until then, happy and safe travels to you and yours~

Linking this week with:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

53 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog Jackie. Daniel and I enjoy your posts and applaud both of you for your choices. We don't find it strange or odd to live a vagabond life style as we have lived in our boat for 4 years now. Happy trails!

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    1. Well one of these days you two should come visit us on this side 'of the pond' I think you'd love it here. And I so enjoy the FB photos and posts of you two 'boat people' - keep 'em coming!

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  2. How wonderful. I am just jealous. Greece is a wonderful place, well the little I saw of it. I will keep on reading about your adventure and the adventure of the two cats that found their home in yours.

    Worth a Thousand Words

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    1. Thanks much - I do hope you'll continue to follow the tales from The Stone House on the Hill.

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  3. Beautifully described Jackie! I also understand your dilemma without the big box stores. And I never get tired of our traffic jams..lol. For me this is the best part of the year before it gets too hot, and yes we do take our Easter very seriously here. Looking forward to the series.

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    1. Thanks Mary! I am so glad I happened to find your blog and am so enjoying your life stories from Greece as well!

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  4. Thoroughly enjoyable article and I must thank you Jackie for featuring a photograph in which we all look like we belong in a travel magazine, that's a first for me and your wonderful eye for a great photograph is very much appreciated.

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    1. Glad you liked the photo! Normally I ask permission before featuring friends, but I so loved this one -- not only for the setting but for the four special friends in it - that I just had to use it! Xxx

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  5. good morning! !
    The current Japan time is 5:00 in the morning.
    It is still dark outside.
    The picture is on now in the movie "Deep Impact (1998)".

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    1. Welcome to TravelnWrite! How nice to have a reader in Japan!

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear that Princess and Tom haven't turned up for some spoiling - I'll keep my fingers crossed that word reaches them by (whatever method cats use) of your arrival! You've described a travel/expat life perfectly where some old friends drift away but many new friends enlarge the circle. We haven't run into many Americans here in Lagos either but, like you, we're having fun making friends from among the part and full-time expats who come from all over Europe. The challenges that come with living overseas keep things from becoming routine and there's definitely no need to do Suduko to keep the brains sharp. As far as I'm concerned, this expat/traveling lifestyle is life at its best!

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  7. I love the two "home" idea. Sorry to hear about the kitties not showing up. Maybe they found new people. It has to be exciting to learn about this new neighborhood and meet new friends.

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    1. It is like - as corny as it may sound - like when you started off life for the first time on your own; setting up the house and getting things put together for your new phase of life. It is definitely a new spark of enthusiasm. Thanks for the visit, Gaelyn.

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  8. It's all so gorgeous. I am happy for you. Enjoy your life in Greece!

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    1. Somehow there comes a point when you realize everyday is meant to be enjoyed and that's kind of the approach we are taking Dina. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we feel blessed to be a part of it, if even on a part-time basis.

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  9. Hello Jackie

    Never a dull moment! Life is for living and I know you take that rule seriously.
    Wishing you continued joy as you explore the by ways of Greece.
    Happy Easter season

    Helen x

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    1. Oh so true Helen! Life is for living and although I sometimes let that motto slide to a back burner, I do hope I keep it front and center most of the time! Thanks for the visit - how are you enjoying your new home. . .I must pop over to your blog! Jackie xxx

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  10. Jackie, I am so bummed by the meower situation. Love those stories and pictures. Kathy

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    1. Well, I've reluctantly quit waiting for them to appear and have accepted a couple of truths: life is tough on Greek cats no matter what one does to love and care for them and the second is, not to get attached to them -- which will be difficult for this furbaby lover!

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  11. Hello Jackie

    I stumbled across your blog completely by (happy) accident and I've been following your adventures roughly from the time that you bought your Greek house. At the time we were coming to a premature end of our own Grecian odyssey in Kotroni, so we could look down on you (we didn't, of course) and read about what was happening at much the same time. We knew the previous owners, A and B quite well.

    I've read every one of your posts about Greece as though we were still there. Your writing lifts our spirits as much as makes us terribly homesick for our adopted homeland. I wish you nothing but happiness in Greece, it truly is an amazing place. I know you've driven the road to Trachila, if you have the time and inclination do walk it, it has an astonishingly variety of Spring flowers.

    Regards Nigel

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    1. Kalimera Nigel, and what a lovely note to find in our inbox today! I wish we had had an opportunity to meet while you were still in Kotroni. I do hope you'll comment often as we love knowing your story and observations about this special place. Thank you for taking the time to write!

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  12. I am in awe of both of you, just going for it and buying your stone house. I am also loving hearing about your life there. I love animal traffic jams too - so much more pleasant. I guess the two cats are happy somewhere or other.

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    1. Thanks Jan! I'll do my best to provide some interesting tales of Greece while I am here this time but glad you enjoy the house tales as well, because I have a few of them.

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  13. How interesting that you can own property but can only stay 90 days. Very surprising. Anyway, I love your post and the quotes you chose.
    I'm not sure why but with all ways we have of connecting - email, social media, telephone, etc. - we don't. I wonder if it's because we have so many or if it was the same when we could only send a letter? When I was leaving for Jamaica, I kept my NY number so no one could say they couldn't reach me. The funny thing is, most of them didn't use it. It makes me wonder if by leaving - or in your case, going for an extended period - we somehow change the energy, we change something pretty fundamental.

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  14. Wow! Your story is fascinating. I can't wait to see and read more! Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Jim! You'll be getting plenty! Stay tuned. . .

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  15. I'm very happy that I stumbled over your blog. We are traveling also from home to home. We're looking forward to reading more about your travels. #TPThursday

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    1. It will be fun to stay in touch with each other's adventures and experiences! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment~

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  16. Hello, I just love your beautiful view. I would be sitting outside with the kitties enjoying the sunshine. I assume the longer you are there you will learn the Greek language. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

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    1. We were just saying last night that the view here is so breathtaking that sometimes you can't quite process it all - we do feel blessed! Have a great week, Eileen.

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  17. Interesting shots of the place.

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    1. Thanks much, Rajesh, glad you enjoyed them.

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  18. This intro to your ex-pat life was very interesting. I look forward to reading more. I had a recent conversation with a friend about how ex-pats or people who travel almost constantly lose connections with people and families start to continue traditions without them. There are ways to keep in touch but it takes an effort that I think only the closest are willing to expend. But as you've pointed out there is lots to celebrate about the ex-pat life. And you make a lot of new friends.

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    1. It has been a year and I have come to that conclusion as well, Donna. While many want to see me while I am back in the States (which is wonderful) and they lament my leaving, they don't often stay in touch although with social media it is a snap. It was hard on the psyche at first, but I'm coming around to accepting it as part of this life.

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  19. I have never been to Greece but it looks gorgeous and you look as if you are enjoying life.

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    1. We are loving life in Greece! Thanks so much for stopping by~

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  20. There certainly couldn't be a prettier location than where you are! I've followed your move with interest as I want to leave where I live - it was a mistake to have moved here but I have to sell to have the money to leave. I'm mulling an ex-pat move but as a single person it's a bit different. I need to find somewhere - whether in the US or elsewhere that has a friendly vibe. I wonder how I look that info up? :) I hope the kitties return!

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    1. Kay, the Wall Street Journal has an ex pat FB page in which issues such as being a single ex-pat are often discussed. You might try joining it and asking the question. "Glamour Granny" is a blog written by a single woman who was living in Istanbul when I first started reading it and now is in Spain. You might check it out as well.

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  21. I've often thought I would be happy to do that. I love to hear all about your adventures!

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    1. Thanks much for the visit and glad you are enjoying our adventures.

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  22. Welcome home! How nice to return to new friends and beautiful cats like those. Your new life is inspiring.

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    1. Thanks Irene. I am afraid those two cats may be history as they've still not returned. In their place we have/had (she's off I think giving birth) a very pregnant Mom Cat and a new scruffy little thing that we think was 'dumped' in the area. It can be tough on cat lovers here. . .

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  23. How interesting! I will be back to read more!

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    1. Thanks much for the visit and we do hope you'll be back often and would love to read your comments!

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    2. So glad to hear you'll be back. And where do you live in the Pacific Northwest (my other home)?

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  24. When I moved from Puerto Rico to California, I "lost" a lot of friends too. I used to have a lot of friends in a city located 30 miles from where I live now. Once I moved, I kind of lost touch with some of them too. I have learned that no matter what you do, people will continue with their lives. I do not think those friends which you do not contact that often stop being friends. You continue to love them and you have a great time with them once you reunite. They are there for you and you are there for them. In the meanwhile, you continue making new friends.

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    1. Absolutely right on, Ruth. We do enjoy seeing each other when we get together and take up right where we left off. And you can never have too many friends. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  25. I love that first quote, Jackie. Your photos are gorgeous, too. It's wonderful how you and Joel have assimilated into this expat life style. Fingers crossed that the fur kids make an appearance.

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    1. Well Mom Cat gave birth sometime Sunday evening or Monday in the grove just above us as she left a waddling pregnant woman and came back ravenously hungry on Tuesday a slim, trim cat. And the baby you saw on FB has wiggled into our hearts and we've been feeding it and brushing it and it is curled up on a deck cushion sound asleep this morning. Always a new challenge here! Thx for the visit, Nancie.

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  26. Such stunning beauty and I am green eyed already...well Hazel, but they become a little greener here. To live a life of journey and adventure...I would adore it. Keep it going, it is wonderful~

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    1. It took a bit of a leap of courage, but we are so very glad we did it! Thanks for the wishes Mary, they are appreciated.

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  27. Who takes care of either of your houses when you are away? Do you just lock up and go? Is a property manager involved or helpful neighbors? That was one of the headaches for me of being an expat, especially when a large tree in the front yard of my Texas home died and had to be chopped down while I was at my Malaysian home.

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  28. Just catching up with you, and happy to see that you're back in Greece! Yes, I'm one of the "You're living my dream, tell me everything!" types, so I'll be hanging on every word!

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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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