Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Expat Life: My Big Fat Greek Birthday!

The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.
--Frank Lloyd Wright

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Sunset - The Stone House on the Hill
Some birthdays are bigger than others. And some birthdays are better than others.

My 65th birthday, celebrated in Greece on Monday, was one that will be remembered as being both bigger and better. Let me tell you why. . .

Why Bigger?

Age is a bad traveling companion.
-- Proverb

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Hundred year old olive trees
There’s no denying it, 65 sounds old.  By most measures in today’s world, it IS old. Well, maybe not compared to olive trees here in the Peloponnese or Greece itself, but still. . .

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Speeding towards Hydra island a few weeks ago

It is an age that comes with constant reminders of how fast one is speeding towards ‘the ultimate finish line’. About six months ago the first 'red flags'; the paperwork and forms began arriving to apply for retirement. In other words, I took the first steps towards becoming. . .ahem. . .a ‘pensioner’.  How can that be?!?! (The good news is that next month my first 'pension' payment will be deposited into my bank account.)

Our last forwarded mail packet included a letter from the U.S. government. Inside was my Medicare card. . .the U.S. government’s mandatory health-care program for senior citizens. The directions said to put it in my wallet and never leave home without it. Thus,I am now a card-carrying old person as the card I carry identifies me as a Medicare recipient! (BTW, it doesn’t cover U.S. citizens outside the country.)

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A contemplative moment on Kefalonia island
With all those red flags of advancing age, a vagabond like me starts thinking differently about travel. I found myself one day last week calculating how few years I/we likely have left for travel and how many trips could reasonably be fit into those years. ( I didn’t like those numbers, so quickly quit thinking about it.)

Bottom line: No longer is the world at my/our feet, just waiting to be explored on future travels, someday.  Now, I am thinking of travel planning as a race against time:

 'Let’s go (or do) while we are still able.'
'We can’t keep putting off (certain activity or outing); we need to do it while we still have hips and knees that work.'
'Let’s save that for when we are really old gummers.'

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.
-- Seneca, 4 BC Cordoba, Spain – 65 AD Rome, Italy

In recent years we’ve forgone those wrapped birthday gifts choosing instead a ‘birthday trip’ (what would you expect from travelers like us, right?)  A mid-July birthday falls in the height of travel season and the height of high temperatures, so we’ve learned to delay my trips to a more tolerable time of year. On the other hand, why put off travel even for a month or so? Perhaps we should go somewhere soon. . .

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Gerolimeneas harbor - Peloponesse

Why Better?

'Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.'
-- David Bowie

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The Stone House on the Hill - July 16th, 2018
So here I am, now living as an expat in Greece, thousands of miles from the world in which I’ve always celebrated my birthdays.  What to do?

Well, I decided to celebrate as I had planned to do a few years back.

[Back story for those of you new to the blog: We came to Greece to purchase our home in July 2014. Closing was set for the day before my birthday. I’d planned to celebrate the new home and the birthday at some Greek taverna, flinging my napkin and shouting, 'Opa!'. The deal fell through. We spend the birthday bouncing between the bank and hotel room, wiring our funds back to the U.S. Not the celebration I'd envisioned. Fast forward. . .]

So . . .I finally had that party at a Greek taverna. . .at the edge of the sea. . .within walking distance of our home.

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Voulimeneas taverna overlooks this beach
And how glad I am that fate had forced me to wait because. . .

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Let the party begin
. . .by now we know the tavernas in our area and I could pick one that holds a special spot in our hearts.  The family that runs the place have taken us (and every other expat they know here) under their wings and made us welcome, have helped us in times of need and who simply make us feel like part of their family.

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The setting was perfect. . .Elena made sure everything else was as well
“Tell me how many people. Tell me what food you want. Do not worry.”  Elena said to me. It was that simple.

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Bouquets came from my own Greek garden
. . .and now I have a garden so I could make my own table decorations using olive branches, sage, mint, geranium and rosemary cuttings mixed with bougainvillea and lantana blooms.

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The Scout picked the lemons from our tree and I made the cake
. . .we could harvest lemons from our tree and I could make myself a lemon birthday cake.

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Friends and neighbors helped ease me into 65
. . .and I could surround myself with friends and neighbors who make up my new world. Some who are new to our ex pat world and others who've helped us over the hurdles we've encountered along the way - some who've known us since before the house purchase. All who've enriched our expat experience.

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Sunset from Voulimeneas taverna
And I concluded as the day came to an end:

Age is irrelevant. Ask me how many sunsets I’ve seen, hearts I’ve loved, trips I’ve taken,
or concerts I’ve been t. That’s how old I am.”
-- Joelle

That’s it for this week. Wish I could have invited you all to join us – what a party that would have been!  But we do hope that where ever your travels – in real life or armchair – take you this week that you will find a reason to celebrate something.  Fling a napkin into the air and shout, ‘Opa!’ – you’ll feel 10 years younger, I guarantee it!

Linking with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Communal Global
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Best of Weekend

41 comments:

  1. Happy Happy Birthday, Jackie! What a lovely celebration you created and enjoyed. I so enjoy following your adventures...it gives me a moment of reprieve from my rather ordinary life. Greece is such a beautiful place to land! Thank you for sharing your experiences in such a rich and authentic way. Best, Andrea

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    1. Thank you and a big hug back to you, Andrea. I know you should have been at our celebration!!! You would have tossed your napkin and shouted, "Opa!". . .one of these days, I know you will do it!!

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  2. Had I realized it was such a special birthday 'Old-timer' I would have sent a real card via the mail to you. Welcome to the world of Pensioners! And keep travelling on. Bill's looking forward to next year when the 'really old' qualify for a fee TV licence. (He's not looking while I type) Yammas.xx

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    1. Thanks for understanding. This one was a 'big' one and a 'tough' one to wrap one's head around. (I am still working at it) but somehow there is a vibrancy in Greece that is quite contagious and I am hoping it knocks a few years off this one's life!! I loved the greeting you sent! xxxx Jackie

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  3. What an awesome celebration. I recently hit a "Big One," too and it helped to have friends ease me into it!
    Congratulations on this new chapter!

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    1. Those 'big ones' are so much better when surrounded by friends. Congrats on your new chapter as well! Keep in touch~

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  4. What a wonderful belated birthday party. I can't think of a better place to have it.

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    1. Wish you lived close enough to have joined in the celebration!! I'd have loved to have had you here! xx Jackie

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  5. OMG, this is just my first visit here and i am hooked! I can relate fully with you as my retirement will be the end of Nov, not even to finish the whole year. Everything you said are true for me too, as in Jan and Apr this year i went to a more extreme adventure to the mountains, waterfalls, deserted islands, caves, etc with younger generations, to take advantage of the still useful knees and spine. But i am a bit envious of you because retirement for US citizens are much luxurious than us here in the Philippines. Of course our salaries are low and benefits always wanting, our pensions might not be enough for maintenance meds, hehehe! Moreover, not enough to buy a property in Greece or nearby islands here in the country. But i am still like you at least in spirit and hopefully 'wisdom'. Thanks, am now a follower.

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    1. Well, welcome to our world! So glad you enjoyed this post and decided to follow along on this journey! Congratulations on your upcoming retirement!! And I know what you mean about doing 'it' while the spine and knees and body hold up! I do think we share much the same approach to aging and life. Hope you'll share insights in future comments!! Jackie

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  6. Happy Birthday!!! I'm a few months shy of getting my Medicare card. I've found that going on 65 is just as wonderful as going on 5, one of my favorite ages. :-) Cheers to you!

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    1. I agree with you. . .reaching 65 (even though it sounds, and may even be, old) is a blessing! And one of the nice things is about this age is that you really don't have to think much about it. . .you can enjoy life to the fullest. Cheers back at you and here's to your new Medicare card!! xxx Jackie

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  7. Happy Birthday! It sounds perfect, and the fact that you baked your own cake? kudos! I love the fact that it was of your own design and you're making this new life work. I hope to get to the point where we know so many people :-).

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    1. I suspect you will find your circles grow and grow. We did find that being an ex pat 'makes' you have to get out and meet people: coffee at the local cafes, a glass of wine, a fund-raiser for homeless cats, a musical performance. . .all good and fun activities and with the added benefit of making a whole new world of friends!

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  8. What a perfect celebration - and great shots!

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    1. You know? It was the perfect way to celebrate a birthday - no matter what the age! Thanks, as always for the linkup!!

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  9. That sounds like such a perfect birthday celebration. I'm jealous. :) That cake sounds so delicious made with fresh homegrown lemons! Yum! Glad everything worked out even if it wasn't the timing you had originally hoped for.

    With Love,
    Mandy

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    1. I guess it was another case of things happening as they do for a reason. I could have had that party four years ago in an unfamiliar taverna, surrounded by strangers and in shell shock that I'd just bought a house in Greece. Instead, the way it turned out was pretty darned nice. Thanks much for commenting, Mandy! xxx Jackie

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  10. Happy Birthday Jackie. It looks like you had a wonderful time on your special day and one that you were looking forward to. Now that you have your home and your legal residency you can just lay back and enjoy the summer. Looking forward to man more years of your blog and your adventures.

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    1. Oh, thank you for the birthday wishes, Mary! It was special celebrating here surrounded by friends. I think a fear ex pats have is whether or not they will have friends and 'a life' and even our houseguests have commented on such a wonderful circle of folks we have gotten to know here and how we look out for each other. I'll work at both the adventures and the blog. . .hopefully keep them both coming!! xxxx Jackie

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  11. Happy, happy birthday. Mr. Excitement celebrated the big 6-5 last month and I'll be Medicare eligible next year. Everything you said resonated for me---even though we don't have an expat life in Greece. Every time we're dragging our suitcases for what seems like miles through airports, we look at each other and say, "We have to travel while we still can." I'm already dropping major hints about a birthday trip to Antarctica. I celebrated 64 at a trattoria in Tuscany this year, so we're obviously following your prescription for birthday trips rather than birthday things. I hope we can connect in Hawaii this winter.

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    1. Well my birthday 'trip' is going to be Morocco -- I hope and had thought this fall, but that got somewhat skewed (future blog topic) so we are now thinking an in Greece summer trip might be in order. And I think Antarctica would be a great destination for celebrating your transition into the "Medicare eligible" world. We arrive at KO on Jan. 13th and will be there for a month so let's make a rendezvous happen if you are there during that time!

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  12. Happy happy birthday again. I am turning 70 in November so let's stop counting! Bigger and better indeed it should be.

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    1. Congrats on your 'big' one coming up! I was just saying yesterday that when you travel and keep busy, age really is so irrelevant! I don't think about 'how old I am' (most the time ;-) )!!

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  13. Happy birthday! So glad that you have created such a warm and welcoming space for you and your hubby!

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    1. Thanks, Irene! It really is nice to know we have such a circle of friends here. . .and that it keeps growing!

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  14. Happy birthday! It sounds like you picked a wonderful venue to enjoy it with good friends and good food. Yes I find that life is speeding by way too quickly, and I've still got so much I want to do and see. I wish you lots more happy travel and many more years enjoying your life in Greece. We received our Seniors Card a couple of years ago - I wasn't sure whether to be pleased or not!

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    1. Those senior cards of whatever type are a double-edged sword aren't they? A lot good, and yet a reminder of how far you've traveled down life's lane. Thanks much for the birthday wishes!

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  15. Happy birthday!
    Thanks for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/07/a-bit-of-avian-whimsey.html

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  16. What a wonderful way to celebrate your 65th birthday! Wishing you many more as you embark on this new phase of life in Greece! Your party looked like so much fun; wish I could've been there!

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    1. Well if you had been here, you'd have certainly been invited to help ease me into old-er age! Thanks for the good wishes~

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  17. Happy belated Birthday! The birthday trip sounds wonderful, I love the view of the beach. I think age is just a number, it is more how you feel and what you think. I hope you feel young! Enjoy your day and weekend. PS, thanks for visiting my blog.

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  18. Happy Birthday a few days late. Loved your post and all the pictures. It has been a while since we greeted each other at St Johns. If you are ever back in the area it would be great to get together.
    We (Jocelyn and I) have just started a Travel Blog and would love any advice you can give us. It is just in the baby stages at the moment but we would love you to check it out. Www.bringyourownshovel.com
    Hope it’s ok to share it here.
    Advice welcome.
    Sending you both much love.

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    1. Well, congrats on starting a blog. They way you two travel you will have much to share! And thanks for the birthday wishes.Yes, our days at St. John are slipping into the history file aren't they? How could it have been so long ago already?! Perfectly fine to share your new blog here - I'll send a DM with a couple thoughts soon. Much love to the both of you. Hope to see you one day soon either on this side of the pond or that one!! xxxx Jackie and Joel

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  19. Happy belated birthday! Tou did it in style surrounded by good people..

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    1. Thank you so much for the good wishes! You are correct, I was surrounded by some of the absolutely best good people one could hope to encounter in life.

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  20. Happy Birthday, Jackie! It sounds like the best possible way you could have ushered in 65! I can relate to the idea of how much time left to travel vs. all the places still left to see! I said to my husband last year - no more gifts for me, just experiences. Even a day trip on a birthday would be my idea of a great way to spend the day. Love your centerpieces, and I bet that lemon cake was amazing! Opa!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this at Best of the Weekend!

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  21. So agreed on the experiences vs. things. Having just done the downsizing I realize how many 'things' one can accumulate so am most happy to be collecting memories from now on. Thanks much for the birthday wishes!

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  22. I like your feeling of immediacy, Jackie. That is, of not putting off those things you want to do, see and experience for *someday*. We all need more practice in living like that, no matter what our age. I love the title of your post and want to wish you a belated happy birthday! Sounds like it was everything you wanted it to be and will be a memory you'll treasure!

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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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