Sunday, March 10, 2019

That Night I Danced with the Barmaid and other stories

The wine, krasi, as it is called here had flowed freely. The Greek music was a magnet; its pull, irresistible. Napkins tossed into the air fell like raindrops. 'Opa!' we called out. 

It seemed the entire taverna was dancing.  Katerina, the barmaid, was my partner. 
We whirled and twirled together.

It was during one of the whirls and twirls that I was supposed to go solo but I didn't know that until she spun me away from her, letting go of my hand. Instead of a graceful pirouette of some sort, I did a somewhat ungraceful full-body slide across the floor. My slide ended unceremoniously below a table where The Scout was sitting.  He leaned over me, asking, 'What ARE you doing?'

'Dancing,' I replied as I returned to an upright position and continued the fancy footwork into the wee small hours of the morning.

That was shortly after we'd moved to Greece as full-time expat's and I got the dancing out of my system that night.

Our travel bags are much larger than these  since moving to Greece

Last year, after The Scout had managed to pull our two over-stuffed suitcases from the baggage carousel at SeaTac (Washington State's international airport), I tried to roll one away from the crowded area when its weight shifted and instead of letting it fall, I held on.  Thus, I fell  on top of it, drawing stares and concern from fellow passengers. 
Aside from a bruise on my leg, the only thing injured was my pride. 

I've not told either of these stories to you before because they were, in my mind, just silly experiences that are a part of life. But recently I had another experience that got me to thinking about boomer travel and being 'older' ex pats.  I've been pondering the questions now for several weeks:  when are boomers too old to travel or to be expats for that matter?

Fast Forward. . .February 2019


As regular readers know, I turned 65 last July, a milestone birthday, which rebrands you as a 'Medicare person' in the United States. It is, now that I think about it, as much a right of passage as getting a driver's license at age 16 (the license was far more exciting).  Medicare, for those of you outside the States, is a federal medical program for persons 65 and older and younger folks with certain disabilities.

Several months before our recent winter sojourn to the United States I had scheduled an 'annual physical' with my doctor there to take place during our visit. Upon checking in I learned the 'physical' had gone out the window with my youth. I was slated to have a  "Medicare Wellness Exam".

Welcome to Medicare. . .

It quickly became apparent that little focus would be on my physical health but a great deal of focus would be on my mental health and my life environment (keep in mind my environment is rural Greece).

It started off much like a physical - height and weight measured, blood pressure taken. Then. . . oh-oh, a memory test. . .

Yes!! I knocked the ball out of the ballpark!  Score!!  The challenge had been to repeat and then remember, 'train. . .egg. . .hat. . .chair. . .blue' while I  successfully drew a clock with hands positioned at 11:10 and I named off as many animals as I could within 20 seconds (that is a lot of animals, by the way) But I remembered those five words - in order!

Boomer Expats: Square pegs in round holes

No handrails in this olive grove

Midway through the questionnaire that came as part of the wellness exam, I felt I was a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Especially the hole that helps define an 'old person' in the United States. We boomer Americans who've chosen a lifestyle outside the confines of our home country, really do live 'differently' from those back in the States.  For example:

Q: Does your home have loose rugs on the floor? (implication, you could trip and fall)
A: Many. We have tiled floors in Greece - those rugs keep your feet from freezing in the winter. And not all rugs sold in Greece have non-slip backings.

Q: Do your stairs lack handrails? 
A: I laughed out loud at that question. We have tons of stairs at our Stone House on the Hill.  And. . .many don't have handrails. That is just the way it is in Greece. None have them in our olive grove and  most olive groves don't even have stairs - we added these after we purchased the house

Rugs warm a winter's tile floor (cold even with heat on)


Q: Do you feel unsteady when you are walking?
A: Hell, yes! Our road washed out two years ago and hasn't been fixed - its surface is terrible. Not to mention many roads in this rural area aren't surfaced and every hiking trail in the area is one of uneven surfaces.


In rural areas everywhere road surfaces are uneven


Q: Have you needed or felt you needed help with laundry or dishes?
A: Okay, now I ask you, what woman in her right mind, no matter what the age, wouldn't like help with those two tasks?


I must note: My expat friends here of boomer age and I have had many laughs when I tell them about this line of questioning. Because these same friends hike, bike, kayak, take yoga classes, swim . . .and dance as part of this lifestyle.

Back to Greece ~ Whew, feeling younger already


Shovels and pitchforks are workout equipment 
We returned to Greece the morning after that appointment. And although it has been two weeks, the memories of that 'Wellness Exam" linger.  I thought of them as I walked over the dips and rises in our storm-damaged road and thought of the many ways one (of any age) could break or twist an ankle. Again as I dug up the vegetable garden alternating between a pitch fork and a shovel I thought how easy it could be to have a heart attack. Again they surfaced  as I moved rugs in the house to mop the floors. And as I climbed the stairs hauling yard debris to the lower level of our grove where the burn pile is located - not a handrail in sight.


Stairway at The Stone House on the Hill
I pondered the possibility that they might have planted a seed of fear, but then decided those pesky questions did serve a purpose: they've made me appreciate even more our decision to live differently; to dance, to travel, to climb stairs without handrails and to walk on uneven surfaces for as long as our old bodies and minds allow us to do so.

And you know what? To the questions: 'Have you fallen in the past year?' and 'Are you worried about falling?'  I answered, "No!" I have far more things to worry about -- like renewing our residency permit - than that!

Springtime has come to Greece

That's it for this week. Spring has come to Greece and with it, new projects at The Stone House on the Hill.   I'll tell you about them next week so hope to see you back here then.

In the meantime, what do you boomer travelers and ex pats think about the impact of aging on your lifestyle. . .or do you think about aging? Leave us a comment below or shoot us an email.

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday





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39 comments:

  1. Oh, Jackie, I can't type for laughing. On a dreary wet English day you have really made us both laugh out loud. If those are actually the answers you gave to the medic, then good for you. We are as old as we feel and if we can do it - we do! Enjoy the spring -- and don't work too hard. Have a krasi (or Raki) and relax. xx

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    1. Well, I am lucky to have the same doctor I have had for 20 years and when we started talking about this Greece-thing, I'd asked her if I was healthy enough to consider the possibility. So she's been a part of it all since the get-go and knows that my answers don't fit the round holes. Like, drinking for example, "how many glasses of alcohol do you consume on average in a week's time?" was, "I am not sure as we order wine by the pitcher here." Loved your response and have had so many wonderful ones, that I think next week I will be sharing portions of them with all readers!

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    2. How many glasses do I drink? ... All of them!

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  2. Loved your column. House interior, exterior and olive grove with flowers are wonderful. Hope you can find the one wrong use of a word and rite it. hahahahahahahahahaha, my friend. Sunny, 48 and DST started. Bruce

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    1. Well, you've got me. . .let me know the word. And glad you loved the column despite its use!

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  3. Just loved this. And yes, I too, passed the memory test. At least I think I did. I can't remember. We're in Cambodia right now and I haven't so much as seen a hand rail yet. However, we do also have rugs on hardwood floors at home, and we measured them and got thin rubber pads non slip pads for them. Cheap insurance. At least cheaper than Medicare.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this Tom. I've had so many wonderful responses that next week I am going to use portions of them in a post because they are all so upbeat and positive!

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  4. My Medicare card just arrived effective April 1, the month I turn that age. Is it cheating if I start memorizing those words before my Medicare Wellness Exam. I wish I could honestly say I travel with as much abandon as I did when I was younger although some people might think I'm still a little cray cray. However, with apologies to the country music singer whose name I can't remember ;) , I still dance like nobody's watching at every opportunity, especially if frozen mai tais are available.

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    1. It took me weeks to take that card out of the envelope and 'carry it in my wallet' as its instructions say. And from the responses, I am getting you may have numbers or fewer words or no words to remember - good luck. (With minds like ours that are constantly thinking a million things, I don't think a memory test is valid!)

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  5. Oh Jackie - We've talked in the past of common experiences we share but this post lands on the top of the list! I've tripped over chairs in restaurants, fallen off bikes and down stairs, skidded across gravel and rocks when walking and yes, sprawled over my own damn suitcase in front of crowds of people. 😁 All you can do is laugh and be thankful that nothing's broken. I couldn't agree more with your words, "... they've made me appreciate even more our decision to live differently; to dance, to travel, to climb stairs without handrails and to walk on uneven surfaces for as long as our old bodies and minds allow us to do so." How boring our lives would be if we didn't challenge ourselves to search for new experiences and adventures rather than play it safe!

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    1. And I love this response so much Anita that I plan to use parts of it along with others next week in a follow up post. Obviously none of us are ready to ease into that round hole out there of old age!

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  6. Hey Jackie, I love the way you wrote this! And that you knew it had to be written and shared! I think the best way for us not to get old is to hang on to our sense of humor. :)

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    1. Dina, thanks. So glad you enjoyed it and the message it held. I plan to use portions of comments in my next post as we are a vibrant group and the momentum needs to carry forward!

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  7. Love, love, love! I'm younger, but my spouse passed the Medicare milestone the other year and, of course, my mother deals with these questions all the time and that nagging fear "am I too old to do this?" For many people 65 is simply not old anymore and we shouldn't be rushed to stop living our lives because "something might happen." Something could happen to anyone at anytime - especially if you are klutzy like I am. I love that you've decided to live life on your terms and not society's expectations and I try to do the same. I just hope that when they do the memory test they don't ask me what day of the week it is, because I never have a clue - why would I need to know if I'm not living every moment on someone else's schedule?! Keep those dancing shoes handy just in case!

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    1. Cindy, I love, love love your comment. I am going to use some of these in my next post as what a vibrant group we are!

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  8. Jackie, Jackie, Jackie. So apt. we keep wondering when we have to stop making these trips back and forth from the states to Greece, usually when our luggage is too bulky and heavy, but we don't intend to stop. When Hal and I need to get our carry-on luggage up in the overhead compartment on the plane, I become a little old lady. I'm the one standing in the aisle asking, "Excuse me young man, would you be so kind as to stow our luggage?"
    I've never had one refuse. In fact most of the time the same hunky guy comes back to take it down again when it's time to leave the plane. I find that most people are kind and helpful in busy places and situations, such as airports, when you need them to be, which makes the long hauls easier.

    I love living in Greece in large part because of the pace of life. We're not necessarily expected to show up on time (unless you're going to an affair hosted by other Americans), and the cashier doesn't panic if you don't have enough money with you ("Don't worry. Bring it later.") and nobody dresses up for much of anything. Everything is down to what's really important: Are you comfortable? Are you happy? Do you need help with anything?

    I love that when we order takeout to be delivered, there is always a little something extra in the box -- a small bottle of wine, a dessert you didn't order, or a jar of fig jam that the cook made up this week.

    Life here is good, people are friendly and generous, and the landscape is unspeakably beautiful. I'm 74, Hal is 81, and we wake up grateful every day for the privilege of living here. And hell no, we don't feel old!!

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    1. Linda, so glad you enjoyed this one. And I hear you on those trips between the US and here and often think the same thing about midway either direction, especially when jetlag is taking over our bodies and minds. I've had such great answers to this post that I am going to use them as a follow in my next post as subscribers never get to see them.

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  9. OMGosh, I'm laughing and thinking too. I just got signed up for Medicare and haven't taken that test. Please don't ask me to stop dancing, sauntering and traveling. Who is that wrinkled Ranger in my mirror. I will do what I do until I am unable. Great article.

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    1. I love your question, "Who is that wrinkled Ranger in my mirror?" I am going to use a portion of these quotes in my next post as we are all so vibrant that they must be shared.

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  10. Just like you, at 65 I thought I was invincible. At 70, however, I shifted gears.I even rebranded my blog. I look for comfort in my every day activities, even in travel. Still active, but comfortable.

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    1. Oh I've never thought of myself as invincible. . .the signs of aging are there, and comfort is key to all aspects of life. . .but I am not going to allow myself to be held hostage by the definitions of old age and the stereotypical approach to it.

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  11. I so get it!! Mind you I do think you are fabulous remembering those 5 things in that order, I'd better get into training now. I reckon having to deal with unstable ground can only help your balance, and I laughed as for some of my friends here with full time live-in help they've had help with the dishes for years! Loved this post.
    Enjoy Greece, you will know when you want to give it all up .... maybe never!!
    Wren x

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment and I am so glad you 'get it'. Do start practicing your memory exercises now! ;-) xxxxJ.

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  12. hahhaa...you are the cutest thing....xoxo
    Yes, I do indeed fear falling...remembering I am 81 makes me be as careful as I can be. I hope I never suffer a broken hip....
    Now, with all that said, I did NOT worry like that at 65...so enjoy the next few years...add a few handrails when you can, for future use...buy some 2 way tape to have on hand to secure those rugs when you need to...and above all...don't be doing the SLIDE UNDER THE TABLE dance after age 70.....xoxoxoxoxoxo

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    1. oxoxo Sending big hugs to you, B.J!! Love your comment!

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  13. When the folks who run the rules and regs at Medicare volunteer to help me haul and stack a load of alfalfa bales for my dairy goats (125# per bale ) we will talk.

    Nice blog!

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    1. I LOVE this comment! Thanks so much for stopping by!!

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  14. Age genuinely is an idea Jackie and Joel, a state of mind. Keep on inspiring guys!

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    1. I love that concept Ryan, 'age genuinely is an idea'! Thanks for commenting!!

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  15. I can definitely relate to this post! I remember riding a mule down a mountain in Greece with no guard rail on the side that fell steeply down to the sea. So, I can not imagine anyone who was not in top shape taking that excursion. Travel is certainly not for the faint of heart or those with serious disabilities unless you do your homework to be sure of the challenges ahead.

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    1. So true. . .at least the kind of travel that you and I enjoy. Although I've never had the courage to ride a mule anywhere, let alone on a cliffside in Greece! ;-)

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  16. I love this post and your joy of life. Here's to many more years of dancing and avoiding falling on those area rugs. Opa!

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    1. Thanks Sue. I do think I've gotten my fill of dancing (at least late at night under the influence of lots of krasi) but I am going to keep the attitude that led to it!!

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  17. I love your post. It made me laugh so hard. I’d been slow traveling around the world for the past 7 years. I noticed that outside of the US, there is a very different perception of what “age” means. My host in Sicily was a tiny lady with boundless energy. Once, in a conversation, she mentioned that she was born a decade before Mussolini came to power. Ouch! I needed a break in the middle of hot summer days, but she didn’t. In rural Japan, during my morning runs along the river, I often saw a gentleman effortlessly (and tirelessly) running back and forth. As it transpired, he was training for an upcoming marathon. He mentioned that his wife joked that at 82 he would be the only entry in that age category. He was pleased that his tenacity and wise approach to training produced results that put him in an almost half-a-century younger bracket. I wonder if whoever put together questions for the “Wellness Visit,” ever saw stairs of homes in Amsterdam or knew that elevators are a rarity in many French buildings. In my yoga class, here in southern Vietnam, half of the participants would qualify for Medicare in the US. However, they do not get any different treatment than others and would be puzzled if somebody asked them about feeling unsteady while walking. Cheers!

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  18. I had to laugh as I read your post. And I agree that living in Greece, including no hand rails, uneven ground and digging in the garden has to be great for your physical and mental wellbeing. So you go girl! Oh and dancing, there should be more of it! Have fun! Have a fabulous week and thank you for commenting on my post...umm....2 weeks ago! Life has been busy!

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  19. ps.... you first lines could be opening lines of your book... yes you know the one!

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    1. I've been giving it some thought. . .a step in the right direction, maybe. . . (thanks for your encouragement!) xx Jackie

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  20. Dancing with barmaids is clearly a great way to stay young. Personally, I haven't ended up under a bar table since I was in my twenties.

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  21. Okay, I admit it. I tried to name as many animals as possible in 20 seconds, and I'm not sure that I'd pass that test, lol! Whatever happened to "You're only as old as you feel"? I believe firmly in the idea that the more you move, the younger you stay, so I'd say dancing with barmaids deducts ten years from your age. I, for one, plan to travel as long and often as possible. Thanks for the heads up on the wellness questionnaire - I'm going to start studying now!

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