“Kali Mina!” is the greeting called out to friends at the start of each new month in Greece. It means basically, “Have a good month”. It is just one of the many things we do in this new-to-us culture that we didn’t do ‘back home’ in the United States.
|Agios Nikolaos, village, December 2015|
This month, even though we enthusiastically used the greeting, we ask ourselves, 'How could it be December already
?' Way back in September when we shifted from our suburban Seattle life to our rural setting tucked away in an olive grove, it seemed we would have such a long stretch of time to experience ex pat life in Greece.
“We’ll be here until December
,” we announced with finality to friends both near and far.
|December display at a grocery store in Kardamyli village, 2015|
This is our third December at our Stone House on the Hill;
a hill that overlooks the small villages that dot this small section of the Messinian Bay
coastline that rests in the shadow of the Taygetos Mountains
. This month marks our second full year of home ownership in Greece's Peloponnese and our 'part-time ex pats' life.
|The Stone House on the Hill, far right|
Those of you who’ve been with us since that first December recall that at the time we said we’d caught our daydream but we'd give it 'five years' to become reality. We’d give ourselves five years here and if it didn’t measure up to that daydream, we’d put it up for sale. We don't talk of selling or five years these days. Just as we’ve changed our little stone home, we’ve changed our attitude about time.
|The Stone House on the Hill, December 2014|
And much has changed at the rather bland little house we purchased and occupied during that rather bleak first December. Our time spent here has been dictated by doing the ‘Schengen Shuffle’, 90-days here and 90-days out dance step set forth in our tourist visa. The Schengen Treaty covers more than 20 countries on this side of the Atlantic and dictates the length of stay in them, either individually or as a whole.
|The Stone House on the Hill, December 2016|
With each stay, siga, siga
, or slowly, slowly, the house has been changing, as have we. Living life in 90-day segments has given us a new appreciation for time and its passage.
|Our lemon tree frames Agios Dimitrios and Agios Nikolaos villages in the distance|
We are just beginning to let go of that American approach of timelines and deadlines (something we both lived by in our professional lives and therefore struggle with giving it up). Things here get done when they get done. Days may pass while we wait for that promised mason, electrician, plumber or delivery of materials. . ..then as if they were falling dominos, one thing trips another and within an hour or two, suddenly everything is done.
|We've added color to The Stone House on The Hill|
Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands, all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.
-- Hannah Arendt
|Petro's and Irini's tavern in Trahilia - one of our favorite spots on earth|
It is an unhurried lifestyle that slowly wraps you up in its embrace. A dinner out at any of the small nearby tavernas could take hours. You begin by visiting awhile – often with others at nearby tables whom you may or may not know or the owners - you soak up the atmosphere, enjoy a sunset, some wine, and then the food begins arriving. Even running over to the neighbors ‘for a minute’ could result in staying for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and a bit of visit time which could easily fill an hour.
Time isn't segmented with the hourly precision that dictates American life. We seldom make ‘plans’ in advance of a few hours here; a quick phone call or text suggesting an evening out together or alerting someone of a visit is the norm. No calendars or 'day-timers' needed.
|October far left, November, and December|
Back in the States it's the retail stores that contribute to the feeling of seasons rushing past us; giving the sense of urgency with their October Halloween merchandise displays going up in August and Christmas in October. Here it is Mother Nature who alerts us to the seasons. They are clearly and unhurriedly defined by the olive and citrus groves, the gardens, the produce sold in the public markets.
|Olive harvest at The Stone House on the Hill marks season's end|
“When abroad, boredom, routine and ‘normal’ cease to exist. And all that is left is the thrill and the challenge of uncertainty.”
-- Reannan Muth
|The normal way to buy vegetables in the village is from the traveling produce seller|
The one thing about time that we’ve learned is that 90-day segments of life are simply too rigid. If the devastating September storm that hit this area had damaged our Stone House on the Hill
and required us to return sooner than we had scheduled, we’d have thrown our ‘Schengen Shuffle’ out of sequence and wouldn’t be able to still be here right now. Ninety days within each 180 days is cumulative. Hit the mark and you are out until another 90 days pass. Miss it and you face hefty fines and you can be barred from entering the country for up to five years. If we stayed our full 90 days in Greece, they could deny us entry into another Schengen country even if our only purpose there is to transit the airport as part of our return to the U.S.
|Doing the Schengen Shuffle at London Heathrow's airport|
The only way to add flexibility is to obtain a 'residency permit' which would create a resident status, allowing us the flexibility of date-free travel in Schengen-governed Europe. We could come and go as we wanted. Obtaining such a permit isn’t simple nor inexpensive. Yet, it can be done as other Americans here have proven.
So on this third December at The Stone House on the Hill
, we’ve just started the journey through the permit bureaucracy. . .it is a journey that will take us to Olympia, our Washington State capitol, then to San Francisco to meet with ‘our’ West Coast Greek consulate. If he grants us an 'entry permit' we can pursue a resident visa the next time we are here. . .90 days from now!
As you’ve probably gathered by now, we are packing up and closing this chapter at The Stone House on the Hill. The Scout
found us a great airfare back to Seattle from Cairo. So we are off to Egypt (not a Schengen Country) this coming weekend. We appreciate the time you spend with us and so enjoy hearing from you! Until our next get-together, safe travels to you and yours ~
The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind, for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.
-- Adam Gopnik
Linking up with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Oh my has it been 90 day already? And here I was just warming up to your adventures. Ahh, I wish you the best of luck in obtaining that permit. And I hope you have a safe trip to Cairo. Will you be staying there long or are you on your way to Seattle?ReplyDelete
No, just a quick couple of nights/days and then we'll be winging our way back to the Northwest. Thanks for the good wishes, I suspect we may need all the good vibes we can muster!Delete
Beautiful photos and such a great post! Thank you so much for sharing, and warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. I hope you have a safe and happy trip, and a wonderful Christmas. :)ReplyDelete
Hi Linda, So nice to see you back again. Same wishes for a Merry Christmas to you and yours! I'll bet yours just might be white in Montreal!Delete
I sense sadness in this parting, and no surprise as you've made such a beautiful home here and become part of the community. I wish you luck on the permit. Safe journey. I'll miss the Stone House on the Hill, at least for 90 days.ReplyDelete
You sense correctly! But 90 days is only 90 days. Hopefully the travel gods will allow us to return in March! Thanks for stopping by!Delete
I so look forward to reading about your beautiful Stone House on the Hill life, as your experiences, and the way you describe them are SO very familiar. I can't tell you how comforting it is that you completely understand and abide by the 'siga-siga' philosophy, or the way things get done when they get done. You have adopted the Greek culture AND adapted to the land SO wonderfully; I smile and nod at every one of your adventures and the gratitude you express for them.
Wishing you the best of luck with your permit, safe journeys and Happy Holidays!
Oh Poppy, I am filled with such gratitude each time I visit the village and wave back to some local resident who now recognizes me, or when I go into the bakery and the clerk makes me repeat the word in Greek for bread until I say it correctly, or watching the fishermen return with their catch. . .there are everyday miracles to be had and I am so glad I've had a chance to experience them! Hugs and Merry Christmas to you, JackieDelete
Your home on the hill is so pretty..I love the color and furniture you have added ....hoping all goes well with the permit and hoping your Christmas will be so so blessed. Love to you travelers...:)ReplyDelete
Thanks for stopping by BJ and I can't tell you how many times I think of you when adding or moving an item in the house and wish you were there to give me a hand in decorating! xo, Jackie. . .hope you are enjoying the pre-Christmas weeks!!Delete
Hi "you two"! Time flies. Hard to believe it's been two years since your Greek home owners adventure started. Your home and the views are amazing. Here I am after almost 16 years (gulp)and living in a city of 18 million on my way to closing my condo this June in a town of 500 and I can't wait. At least for a year or two I'll probably be living between Seoul and Nova Scotia. That's good, and then if all goes well it will be Nova Scotia and Europe. Fingers crossed. Will you be home in Seattle for Christmas? Good luck with the residency!!ReplyDelete
We really must get in a good long Skype visit over the holidays. I want to get caught up on all your news! Hope we connect.Delete
Your house looks lovely! As for the Schengen Shuffle, I think it would give me nightmares but being "forced" (in a good way) to see other countries is, I suppose, a benefit. This kind of living makes one appreciate the little things and be in the moment. I am quite envious!ReplyDelete
It does change your perspective of time. I am back in the States now and counting down the days until I can return to Greece. . .but it puts time limits at both ends and somewhat helps me stay on track with what needs to be done while at either place. Thanks for visiting Janice!Delete
Love your dig about time. But I love most your two quotes. Oh, let me borrow them for unhurried use in other writings!ReplyDelete
They are yours anytime you want to use them, Carol! They do fit our life styles don't they?Delete
So fun to watch your stone house become a home in your photos over three Decembers. It's easy to see that your life has evolved from a seasonal vacationer/visitor to a contented member of your community in your adopted country. You've done a beautiful job in this post of summing up life as an expat and the sense that TIME has a different flow abroad. It's not hard at all to trade in the frenzy culture where time feels like a ruthless dictator for a culture where things get done when they get done... Of course, in your case now as you head back to the US, some efficiency at the Greek Consulate is to be hoped for and I'll be crossing my fingers for you!ReplyDelete
Well, here we are back in lengthy traffic jams not caused by goat or sheep herds. In temperatures so low (24F right now) that we wrap ourselves in layers to go to the car to drive to the store and race to get our shopping done fighting our way through the holiday frenzy. It is a shock to the system!Delete
What a beautiful post...sounds like you have the best of more than one kind of existence which allows you to appreciate them both.ReplyDelete
I think when you know 'your days are numbered' even in this manner of speaking, you work to make the most of them and don't continue thinking 'one day I will do. . .' It really intensifies life, in a quite wonderful way. Thanks for stopping by Irene. Hopefully one of these days you two will see the Stone House on the Hill first hand!Delete
I hope we don't end up with a duplicate comment, as my 1st one just disappeared. I'm glad you are loving without the clock and feeling more connected to nature. That is how we live (although not in as an exotic destination) and love it. Good luck in getting the permit that will enable you to continue living your dream. Merry Christmas!ReplyDelete
It really is a nice way to live, isn't it Doreen? Thanks for the good wishes on the permit. And Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!Delete
I love your stone house and also the views from it. Sounds like you have the best of all worlds!ReplyDelete
The house has come a long way over the last couple of years - it looks so inviting! My favorite photo in this group is of Petro and Irini's tavern. Ah, that is living the life!ReplyDelete