Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In Greece: Close Encounters of the Ex Pat Kind


“I want your life” commented a FB friend on a sunset photo I’d posted.
“How do I get your life?” asked another.
“We are coming to visit!” any number of people have told us.

I’ve thought of those comments often the last few weeks – both during those Facebook-photo-moments while soaking up the afternoon sun on the deck AND at other times when having what I’ve termed ‘close encounters of the ex pat kind’. . . the kind that don't make it to my regular updates on Facebook nor have they been discussed -yet - on this blog.

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Lazy afternoons spent here at The Stone House on the Hill
For those of you first time visitors to TravelnWrite, we are part-time ex pats from the Seattle suburbs who’ve bought a slice of rural Greece in its Peloponnese to call our home for a part of each year. Our stone home is nestled at the edge of our small olive grove, not far from a picturesque Greek fishing village. City to country. United States to Greece. This new lifestyle if full of new experiences and encounters.

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Agios Nikolaos, our village
And since our blog posts have activated the travel bug in so many of you who've been regulars here, that I thought I should, in fairness, tell you about things other than star-gazing and sun-worshipping that make up our ex pat life at The Stone House on the Hill. Take that afternoon shortly after we’d returned this fall. . .

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Agios Nikolaos, The Mani
I had decided to rearrange the glassware and cups that share a shelf in our somewhat limited kitchen cupboards. Having cleaned and lined them last spring, I figured this to be about a five minute project. (Stop reading here if you have a delicate stomach and skip to the next tale. . .)

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Kitchen at The Stone House on the Hill
Being my height, it wasn’t until I was tip-toeing on a kitchen chair that I had a full scope view of the shelf and what appeared to be -- in polite terms --  mouse ‘droppings’. [ “Dropping’ = excrement, ca-ca, poo-poo, or worse.]  By whatever word you choose, it was there: a layer of it sprinkled across that new previously spot-less shelf lining of mine.

Enough droppings to indicate it could have been the site of a rodent convention, as a matter of fact. Climbing onto the counter and looking a bit further into the cupboard, I found a hole where the cupboard should have been attached to the stone wall -- the entryway for the little critter (or critters from the looks of it). Thankfully the cups and glassware had been upside down. But still . . . thoughts of those roaming rural rodents had turned my stomach. My few minutes had turned into hours as The Scout was called into action and blocked their entryway and I washed and sterilized the cupboard’s contents and shelves.

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New flower garden - blooming basil, front left
We’ve been renovating two garden plots that were home to over-grown aloe vera plants. The two succulents that look much like cacti, had pointed spikes as painful as a cactus. Removing them was like removing small trees. (We moved them to the olive grove where they can grow as large as they want.)

Last spring after the first aloe vera was moved, we’d planted a Greek basil in its place. Greek basil lives year round and can grow to five feet in height.  Its leaves are tiny in comparison to Italian basil. The September storm had knocked our basil to the ground so on a fine fall day we’d purchased and installed some stakes.  I’d buried my face into that delicious pungent smelling herb to get the twine around it and the stakes . . .

Praying Mantis courtesy Wikipedia photos
As I pulled back I realized I had missed by inches burying my face into the Praying Mantis that had made the plant his home. It was one of my first encounters with the little creature that looks like a small dinosaur or enormous grass hopper, with a triangular head resembling those drawn by animators which depict outer space beings.  This one stared us down and no amount of swiping was convincing him to move. For a bug, their forearms are enormous (they are carnivores and catch and hold their prey). Another close encounter of the ex pat kind. The Scout had to deal with that one.

After my heart quit racing, I thought again about writing this post. BTW, that photo above of a ‘European male’ is courtesy of Wikipedia photos – I chose not to take a close up photo!

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Hauling wood - a regular activity each fall
What is a post about close encounters if I didn’t mention scorpions. . . we’ve had now three encounters with them. Two alive and one dead but even dead scorpions can spark an instantaneous adrenalin surge. And those little stinkers love our wood pile! We wear gloves now – leather, nice thick leather gloves and use a bit of care when hauling wood or working in the garden. Those cute little pink floral cotton garden gloves of mine are history.

Not all our experiences and encounters have fallen into the 'gross-me-out-genre'.  Many are downright charming and are what we love about this place. Many involve learning the ways things are done in a new culture and a country where life is lived differently than one which one might be familiar.

Take getting our mail for example. We have no street address, and we have no post office box- we don't even have a post office here for that matter -  yet we get mail regularly.  It is delivered to our local taverna of course!

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Freda's Mail Corner in her son Gregg's Plateia in Agios Nikolaos
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The one practice here that we’d become used to on our travels so didn’t strike us as peculiar, leaves many first-time visitors shaking their heads: it is dealing with used toilet paper. Here it is not flushed, it is deposited into small garbage bins next to the toilet. When the little bin is full of the stuff, the bag inside is tied up and taken to the community garbage bins.  We’ve seen this TP disposal method used in other European countries and Mexico and it seems quite normal. For many it is an encounter to remember!
  
Speaking of garbage, we make regular garbage runs as it isn’t collected at each home as is the practice where we live in the United States.

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We usually tie the garbage run in with the water run. The drinking water comes from one of many public faucets found along the roadside in the villages below us.  (The water out of the tap is far too 'mineral' tasting (much like Arizona). Should you find yourself a guest at our house you’ll undoubtedly get to experience a water/garbage run first hand! Now, how often when you travel do you get to do that??!!

Thanks so much for being with us as we experience life as part time ex pats in Greece. A special thank you to those who noticed our absence last week and wrote to inquire how we were doing. (We were out of the internet world for a bit). But now back at The Stone House on the Hill for a few more weeks, the adventure continues. We’ll be back next week and hope you will be as well. Until then, thanks for joining us and wishes for safe travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

47 comments:

  1. Life is very exciting here in Greece. I live on the third floor of an apartment and I still got those critters as you like to call them. The only thing I've never seen is a snake. That is because my dear husband sheilds me from them. Jackie, I had a really hard time when I first moved here with the sidewalks or lack of and the way the drivers did not stop when they saw us crossing the street. That took a while to get used to. Or the fact that Greeks do not believe in waiting on line. So glad to see that you are back from your trip.

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    1. There is never a dull moment, that is for sure! We are most happy to be back from the trip and have decided that future trips during our stay will likely be road trips in Greece! (Too much to see here!)

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  2. Thanks for showing the other side of ex-pat life! Love the mail system, but could do without the critters!

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    1. Guess every area has its 'critters' -- just takes a bit of getting used to! Thanks for stopping by Amy.

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  3. What, you never have mice in Seattle or scorpions in Arizona? The mantis is a good bug that eats spiders. Living in a RV I do the same with TP. Your garden is looking lovely. I think this part-time ex-pat life looks grand. Welcome home.

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    1. Actually no, we don't (knock on wood) have mice in Seattle - an occasional rat comes through the neighborhood but not close enough for discomfort or messes. And don't stay in Arizona long enough for scorpion encounters. It is pretty nice even with those close encounters!

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  4. Wonderful captures of your new place friends. You made a stunning progress in everything.Decoration, garden arrangements and that outstanding view!!!With our girl in school and her endless obligations, we miss the time to drop by you...A warm hug to both of you.
    Olympia

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    1. Oh and we got near you this trip when we stayed in wine country but didn't get close enough to visit you. Next spring, I have every intention of coming to say hello! Hugs back to you my friend! Jackie

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  5. Love your title!

    Jackie, I sympathize with you about the critters who 'broke into' your beautiful stone house on the hill while you were travelling, but you took control and hopefully they will not be able to enter again!

    The scorpion sightings are what would scare me the most, but the praying mantis isn't too far behind - yikes! I have spotted the second in my garden on the island, but thankfully, have never come into contact with the first!

    Your garden is looking lovely and I can almost smell the basil from here! Enjoy your views and hues and thanks for all your news!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. Oh Poppy I know you could easily have written such a report of the every day encounters here and made it a beautiful one. It is true every place has its critters and such but it makes for an interesting emersion sometimes!

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  6. Thanks for the look inside your Greek life, I love reading about your life there.

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    1. Glad you are enjoying our tales from the Stone House Jan. We've been so busy with projects that I've had little time to write about them. . .maybe after we leave. ;-)

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  7. I just love your kitchen (minus the little creatures, of course..:)...it might also have something to do with knowing your kitchen is in Greece, in the middle of an olive grove...lol
    Praying mantis is one I don;t seem to be afraid of...i run like the wind when i see scorpions, tho....I am such a titty baby....xoxo

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    1. Wish you lived close enough to share a cup of tea with me in my kitchen BJ, then we'd go tour the garden and grove! xxxxx

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  8. Hi Jackie! Don't you love how those "5-minute" projects can eat up hours? It's always great to have visitors but I like the kind that pick up after themselves. Mice = yeesh! And don't forget - those praying mantis's are supposed to be a token for calm and patience ... although those scorpions would have me on edge! Loved your mailbox at the taverna - am I right in thinking you stop for a vino too? Thanks for the glimpse of day-to-day life in Greece. It's the little things that make expating so rich and rewarding!

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    1. Speaking of ex pat life, I loved your post and need to get over to it again and leave a comment. Our projects are finally coming to an end for this trip so will get back to the blogosphere soon!

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  9. I really like this peek into "daily" life in Greece. I do find that being an expat means that even mundane chores can have a tale to go along with it. When I was living in Malaysia, I came down with an illness that the doctor first thought might be tied to rat urine. Of course, my kids were wondering why I would consume rat urine. The doctor explained that I needed to use a straw to drink out of cans as rats often dripped urine on the tops while they were in storage at stores/restuarants. Putting my lips to the can transferred the germs. Gross! I told all my friends, and we all quickly converted to using straws regularly. In Texas, I once awoke to my husband bashing a scorpion on his pillow. Luckily it was a baby, and the sting on his brow was minimal.

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    1. You are so right, Michele. Even the mundane, routine things all have a quirky twist to them. I do believe you win on the tales department as I hope never to come close to anything tied in the most obscure, remote way to rat urine! Thanks for sharing that story. Jackie

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  10. Love the Peloponnese - I could live there too. Also found the Greek people kind and friendly.

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    1. It is a special place, that's for sure! Thanks much for your visit and comment. Hope you'll be back often!

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  11. As a part time British ex-pat in Greece, it's interesting to hear other people's tales - thanks for sharing.
    For me, it was about learning to accept that just because a culture did things differently, does not mean it is 'wrong' - especially the attitudes and 'norms' (i: how a pedestrian is unofficially always in the wrong according to cars!)
    To me, if I don't like the way things are done in said country, well - quite frankly, I shouldn't choose to be here in the first place.

    I spent 5 weeks in your native Seattle in the summer of 2015 and have fallen in love with it. I would love to divide my time between Greece, UK and Seattle/PNW/San Juans! As a writer, I can totally see myself holed up on Alkai Beach (please excuse if I spelt incorrectly) or Doe Bay or Vashon (of course, I'd need a million + dollars to be able to afford to!)

    I hope we get to meet some day.

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    1. It is that different way of doing things that drew us to the ex pat life. We could have sat comfortably in our surroundings and waited for old age to overtake us but we wanted one more adventure. . .to think and live 'differently' for a while. And we love it. I have a friend, new to this area that always asks "why do they do xyz? or what is that all about?" I want to say, "Just because! That's why. And that is why we are all here!!" I do hope we meet one day as well. Will you be in Greece next spring?

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    1. It is certainly an interesting one. . .no way we can claim to be 'bored'! Thanks for stopping by ~

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  13. As an expat myself, each new experience is different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. I have had to deal with vermin in my roof, not in my kitchen (although I had a house in the USA where I saw grey "flashes" until hubby threw it out of the house).

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    1. Rhonda we love hearing other ex pat stories and dissolve into laughter as people share their 'learning about life' and we so agree, it isn't a matter of better or worse (although we find more 'better' if basic, than 'worse' in our Greek life over the U.S. life). We are simply 'enjoying the ride'. . .

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  14. Great photos. The macro image of the praying mantis is wonderful!
    Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/11/ein-karem-birthplace-of-st-john-baptist.html

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    1. Can't take credit for it as I noted in the narrative; it comes from Wikipedia as I credited. It is a great shot!

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  15. It really is a different way of life, maybe it is something we all need embrace a bit more and stop relying on everything being delivered directly to our doorsteps

    Mollyxxx

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    1. We so agree and embrace this way of life. We've given up on our 'government' here (who are they anyway?) and have joined with neighbors in fixing our storm damaged road. And you know, the repairs are probably just as good! Thanks for visiting Molly, please come back! xxx

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  16. LOVE Greece! It's a country that truly excites the senses. The music, the flavours, the breezes, and the vistas still stay prominent in my mind and I haven't been there in 20 years!

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    1. There is an unexplainable magic about Greece, isn't there? We've visited other countries and enjoyed them but haven't felt the pull to return as we did with Greece. Thanks much for stopping by today Doreen.

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  17. He-he! Every place have got its issues...
    The water/garbage run is well-known from the popular cottage life style (in spare time) in Norway.
    Greece is wonderful!

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    1. We LOVE our water/garbage runs because we usually end up in the village having a coffee or taking a drive. It certainly makes sense. We can make 'garbage' runs back in the states but you go to a regional 'landfill' drive on to a scale, the car is weighed as you enter, you dump and the car is weighed as you leave and you are charged the weight difference for the garbage you've left. . .that is in addition to the monthly fee we pay for garbage pickup at the curb. I prefer Greece!! Thanks much for the visit - hope you'll be back!

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  18. It was nice to read about your encounters and get a little bit of a behind the scene look at your ex-pat life. Although it's been for only short stays, I've travelled to places where I had to deal with handling garbage in different ways, getting water from somewhere other than the tap, and critters I wasn't used to. It's not always pleasant but somehow makes the experience richer. It sounds as if you are adjusting well. Your garden looks beautiful, by the way.

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    1. Hi Donna, I do think that those experiences, however ordinary, add to the richness of the total experience, don't you? And with your long-term stays in places you would have had similar adjustments in the daily routine. Two days ago we made a cash deposit to our Greek bank account using an automated machine - a first. We use machines regularly in the U.S. but being able to conduct that transaction without anyone's help, had us floating from the bank! Thanks for stopping by today.

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  19. My first stint as an expat was when we lived in Mexico for a year when I was 9-10. It also involved meet ups with inside scorpions (always shake out your shoes) and with black widow spiders who lived in our favorite climbing tree. No inside wild life the year we lived in England when I was 15-16. Probably it was because it was too cold---no central heating. However, I did have to deal with vicious swans on the local canal when I took kayaking for PE. Your Greek expat life seems like fun---except for that wood pile thing. If it makes you feel any better, we had mice in our 16th floor, Center City Philadelphia apartment.

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    1. My first encounter with a scorpion was also in Mexico back when we owned homes there. To this day I shake out my shoes and visually inspect them! I've not dealt with a vicious swan though and that gave me a good laugh. (We've had rats move through the neighborhood back in the U.S. but a call to a rodent exterminator took care of them.) Thanks for the visit -

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  20. Thanks for pulling back the rose-colored curtains and giving us a look at "ordinary" life in what sounds like an extraordinary place.

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    1. Sometimes, Irene, I think these shifts of the 'ordinary' are what make the experiences so 'extraordinary'. I am hoping that as future houseguests arrive they find it the same!! Thanks for the visit ~

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  21. All I can say is, "OMG" because I HATE bugs (and rodents) and the toilet paper thing I am familiar with but don't care for. What a great post! Most people think it's all glamour with travelling. Quite the change from Seattle, no doubt.

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    1. A wonderful change from Seattle in many ways, although I do miss our Starbucks (they do have Starbucks in Greece just none near us)

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  22. Love your stories. Sounds like owning a home in Greece is just like owning a home anywhere else. You just don't know what to expect next! I hope you didn't harm the praying mantis they are good little helpers in the garden killing the bad insects. Our neighbor buys eggs and sets them free when they hatch in her yard. A few usually make their way over into our garden. The first time I came face to face with one it was a bit daunting but I've come to love them.

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    1. Oh no we didn't hurt the little/big guy and I know they are a gardener's friend so will encourage them now that I know they aren't interested in me!

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  23. Nice to take a peek at your life in Greece. Sounds normally exciting, with the charm and the challenges along the way. We will be part-time expats in Mexico. So I will follow your footsteps and clean a lot!

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    1. Where will you be heading in Mexico, Carol? I look forward to hearing more about it!

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  24. Hi Jackie, people don't see the other side of being an expat in Greece. Rodents (big and small) are a problem for us too, although we have been adopted by a cat who, in return for food and a stroke has certainly helped to keep the numbers down around our woodpile.

    I've never had the pleasure of seeing a scorpion here, but we do have to watch out for snakes (mostly harmless, but the Adder can give a nasty bite).

    As for the post and toilet paper situation, that's just life. We don't have a proper address as such (people find it hard to believe), but the postman does a fine job of delivering to our gate , deliveries can be every couple of weeks and if the bills are late it is perfectly acceptable to pay them late! Something which took me a while to get used to.

    I hope you get on top of your rodent problem, I would recommend a cat. Having five dogs we aren't cat people, but it's the best rodent repellent we've had!

    xx

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