Thursday, December 26, 2019

In Greece ~ The Gift of Time

'Five years', we agreed on that mid-December day -- the day we purchased our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese. 'We'll give it five years and if we don't like it or get too old, we'll move on to something else.'

The Stone House on the Hill

Can you believe we made that agreement five years ago!?

Five years. A rather safe and long distance away it had seemed on that pivotal week before Christmas when we took ownership of the house that would ultimately change the course of our lives.

Where did the time go? How did we cross the goal line so soon?

Five years. We hoped we would stay healthy and young enough in spirit to make it that long. Back then, moving here and becoming expats hadn't even been part of the discussion. Those were just life's dominoes waiting to be tipped as we made our way to today.

Buyers (us), sellers, attorney and realtor celebrate the sale of the house.

Time does change all things, as Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure so aptly concluded. It certainly has changed us and our world.  Looking back on this last half decade those changes were so subtle that we didn't realize as time passed how substantial they were.

Agios Nikolaos fishing harbor - our village
Those first couple years, in retrospect, it seemed we were playing house here. It all was so different that it just didn't seem real.  Although we were living here, we were still feeling a bit like tourists who observe and enjoy and then take their leave.

The Scout joins the other 'old boys' in checking out the produce for sale 
Somewhere along the way we become part of the village and it a part of us.  We still chuckle at a houseguest's remark that she felt as if she were in a parade each time we drove through town with all the waving we did and calling out to those we know.  We're pleased that over time we've grasped enough of the language to be able to call out a greeting, inquire as to how the person is and respond when the question is asked of us. We are no longer the grinning bobble heads we were when we first arrived.

Even if we devoted the rest of our lives to learning Greek, however, we wouldn't live long enough to master it.  But as our cache of words increases so do our conversations and relationships. 

Bloody Hell! We've got some great British ex pat friends here

Speaking of language, one unexpected bonus of the last five years is that thanks to our fellow British expats we are becoming multi-lingual! We find ourselves interjecting proper English words into our conversations: 

"Crikey! We are speaking with proper English these days. Bloody Hell, who'd have thought we'd do that?"

Takis, our olive oil processor and the Amerikani

While feeling a part of the village we are still often called 'the Amerikani' just because it is easier to identify us that way.  Usually it is said, 'Amerikani' with a toss of the head in the direction of the hill on which we live as that further identifies which Amerikani we are. There are still so few Yanks in the area that 'Amerikani' works for the dozen or so of us who make our homes here on a full or part-time basis. And part of the reason for the label in our case is that while most get. Jackie, they have a difficult time with saying Joel.

One of my favorite 'name' stories comes from a recent first-time visit to a popular dry cleaning business in Kalamata. The young man asked my name and I said, 'Smith, . . pausing and adding, 'Jackie' for further identification. He laughed and replied, 'No need, I remember you.'

No claim ticket or receipt was given so I expected much confusion when I returned the following week. I shouldn't have worried because as I walked through the doorway he called out, 'Kalimera (good morning) Smith!' and had my items on the counter by the time I got to it.

Every day is a lesson in culture and history around here

We've been and are being culturally immersed here. No classes, no research papers. No assignments. We are learning of the world around us just by interacting with the many people who make up our village world. 

 Generally the tradesmen here are Greek or Albanian - and we've come to know many as they make repairs or improvements to our Stone House on the Hill. As the years have passed we've gotten to know them as friends as well and know their families. It has been enriching to learn more about their countries and cultures just from the one-to-one association we have with them.

The expat world itself  is made up of a delightful mixture of cultures.  We gathered for Christmas buffet lunch at our friend's home just down the road and we could have been a committee of the United Nations! Our small gathering of folks, who live within a two kilometer radius of us, represented nine countries!

Stoupa village - new shops and restaurants AND tourists

Our five years have given us an up-close look at Greece's economic struggles and the country's emergence from it. While we know there are those still struggling in the country we are seeing our slice of Greece come to life with new shops and restaurants opening each spring. The Airbnb craze has hit with signs offering accommodations sprouting up along every road we travel. We even have one next door now! New home construction is going wild with nearly a dozen construction sites within a two mile radius of our home.

No More Goals - Just a Gift of Time

The Scout, The Scribe and their Stone House on the Hill
In retrospect, we probably gave ourselves the best Christmas gift ever when we bought this home because we gave ourselves that 'final fling' and in doing so, we gave ourselves the gift of time ~

Time to explore a new lifestyle together.
Time with old friends who come to visit; real time that is; not a rushed dinner or drinks conversation but the kind that continues for hours long into the night kind of visits.
Time for basking in the best of new cultures.
Time for making new friends and expanding our world in ways we never could have imagined.
Time to explore the world that exists on this side of the pond.
Time to stargaze and time to watch ocean waves.
Time to step away from the routines of our old life and try something new. . . before time got away from us and we found we were too old to do it.

A table with village view

We didn't set a new goal of 'another five years', as we toasted the first five.  Instead we asked ourselves,  'Do you think we'll make it another five years?'

As boomers having a 'final fling' (as we call this adventure), we know our advancing ages and health will be a factor. Our four plus months of being 'held' in Greece awaiting our residency renewal earlier this year, was a clear reminder that we are but guests in this adopted land. Government rules, immigration changes - so many things beyond our control -- could easily dictate the time we have left in Greece.

Nowadays when we are told by friends that they plan to visit 'one of these days', we think, 'That's fine, IF we are still here.'

For now we'll continue living that daydream and enjoying this final fling of ours on the hillside overlooking our slice of Greece.  It isn't tough duty! And if the next five years go as fast as the first, well, who knows how long we might be here?

The Stone House on the Hill - far right, up from the harbor

With that, we will close with wishes for a Happy New Year and thanks for being here with us as we celebrate another year of this adventure.

Before I close, the problems with blog's email distribution continues and I continue to tweak the program trying to fix it..  Should you get this in your inbox, please drop a quick note (just hit reply on the email) and let me know. I am putting together a makeshift distribution system to get me to the real fix the end of January when the blog will undergo a major overhaul.  Thanks to those who've contacted us to see what has become of us!

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Is it really 5 years? Goodness how it has flown. All the 'should we? Could we?' questions. The trips to different locations and properties. The found/lost/found again situation before you took possession of the Stone House. Continue as you are, live, love and enjoy. Here's to the next five -- with perhaps a visit to Crete thrown in? Best to you both for the New Year. xx

  2. It is rather amazing isn't it? And we are talking of the need to return to our favorite spots in Crete next year -- you would know exactly where we are speaking of and we will try and time it to be there when you are!

    1. When I have the dates, I'll let you know. There's a celebration for the ELEPAP charity and Bill has been invited to speak but it could be early in the year. I can't arrange anything until we hear from them. We prefer Sept/Oct.

  3. What an absolutely WONDERFUL essay on life in the Mani! I am going to send this to anyone who asks us what our life here is like. Warm wishes to you both for another year here in Greece and wherever you travel. ❤️��

    1. Mahalo and efharisto! Glad I captured it for others as well. XXX

  4. Time does fly. We did that sabbatical in Honolulu in 2014 when we couldn't meet up with you because you had to return home to Washington because of a plumbing emergency. This delayed my exposure to frozen mai tais for another year!

    1. But what a treat once you finally had one, right?!?!? Hope to sip many more over the years with you as we gaze out over sand and sea!!

  5. Congratulations on your five year anniversary as homeowners in Greece! The Stone House on the Hill is a wonderful place to enjoy yourselves at this stage of life — or any stage of life, for that matter. A terrific house, beautiful property, and breathtaking view; what more could anyone ask for? I hope you two continue to embrace life in the Mani with all the enthusiasm you've shown so far. Συγχαρητήρια, φίλοι μου!

    1. So glad you had a chance to visit our Stone House on the Hill this year - we loved spending time with you two! Thanks for the good wishes ~ Happy New Year - Kali Pronti Kronia!

  6. I fell in love with Greece when we took our Windstar Greek Isles cruise a few years ago... and had already fallen in love with Greek food! I cannot imagine what it would be like to live there for months at a time and to buy a home there! I have enjoyed following your posts and will continue. Congrats on marking five years in your "House on the Hill!" Here's to the New Year ahead! Cheers!

  7. We are all given the gift of time to use as wisely as possible. It is clear that your choice to relocate to Greece has been good for you. We enjoy the wonderful photos of the gorgeous scenery you find.

    1. Thanks Jeff and Crystal, I enjoy your posts and know that you both are using the gift of time well. Happy travels and wishes for a good new year as well!

  8. 5 years! Oh my gosh. I've been following along all this time and often musing about making the same kind of move. Wonderful that you have "become part of the village and it a part of us". All the best for 2020!

    1. Pretty amazing isn't it? And it makes me realize how long many of my blogosphere friends are as well as so many of you have been here since the beginning! Happy travels in this new year to you both! xxx Jackie

  9. Happy New Year ~
    We're heading off on a new adventure this year - not sure where the wind will blow us... But if we're in Greece, you can be sure you'll hear from me �� Lol

    1. I had better hear from you if you get to Greece!! Can hardly wait to hear where your travels will take you!! Happy New Year~

  10. OMG,FIVE years? I frequently think also about how fast the days pass by and turn into months and then years. It's hard to believe that it's been 7 years since I left the US "on a fling!" like you. And look where we've both ended up since we took the plunge and decided to make the most of our golden years! Here's a wish for a happy and healthy 2020 for you and Joel and also a hope that this will be the year we finally meet IRL!

    1. OMG, I just gasped when I read that it has been seven years for you! I knew you were ahead of me by a bit but where have those years gone anyway. Maybe it is just a matter of time flying when having fun! (Let's make this 'the year')! xx Jackie

  11. Fun to read a story similar to our own! Greece seems like a good place. Five years ago we moved to the south of France, bought a house in a tiny village, and now feel we're quite at home. We'll never be fluent in French (and I thought it might take me a year or so, being Dutch and all, and fluent in Engish, but I was so so so wrong ;) But we manage and they say learning a new language is good for the brain cells. Wishing you health and happiness in the Mediterranean sun!

    1. Fluent in Engish? Shame on me. English.

    2. Oh and the same New Year's wishes for health and happiness in the Mediterranean sun to you. Glad we've connected. Do stay in touch!

  12. I enjoyed your look back on life in Greece over the past 5 years, as much as I have enjoyed travelling along with you. How far you have come! I wish you another 5 wonderful years in Greece, or as long as you wish to stay there. Best wishes to you both and the stone house on the hill. You fulfill a little twinge of "wanting" for me. Thank you.

    1. It has gone so amazingly quickly that I hope we do have another five years here. We don't regret 'living differently' that is for sure. Thanks for stopping by, I love finding comments from you here. xxx


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