Monday, July 2, 2018

Greece ~ Living the ‘New Normal’

‘We have a normal. As you move outside of your comfort zone, 

what was once the unknown and frightening, becomes your new normal.’

-- Robin Sharma

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Ice cream for lunch - a new normal in Greece.
Today we ate ice cream for lunch. 

With the Mediterranean sun shining and Grecian temperatures climbing, it seemed the thing to do. 

It wasn’t the first time, as we’d done the same thing two days ago. . .and a couple weeks ago. Giving in to the temptation of this frozen delight is really beginning to be a noontime normal. What I find interesting is how ab-normal it would have seemed back in our lives in the U.S.

Normal has become an operative word in our ex pat lives. We seem to have two standards of normal, the old one and the new one. Since last July when we made the decision to move from our Pacific Northwest home to Greece as full-time ex pats, we’ve had days there and here in which nothing seemed normal and other days when things were remarkably normal.

One thing we’ve learned in the last year is that nothing can turn the context of normal upside down faster than moving to a new country and adapting to its lifestyle and culture.

Normal - conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.

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Greece - a normal scene
The mere fact I’ve given so much thought to normal and am now writing about it, isn’t normal by my old behaviors. But with more time to think about such things these days, ponderings such as this seems absolutely normal. What I am most surprised about is how quickly we human beings can adapt to new environments.  And that seems to be a key to whether or not ex pat life agrees with you or not. 

I've read any number of articles about why ex pats return to their home countries.  Bottom line seems to be: they wanted the normal they once knew. The challenge of a new language, new culture, new environment was too much for them.  With only nine months of full-time ex pat life under our belts, we are still in the infancy of this adventure; so in our case, bring on the new normal!

Normal is as Normal Does?

On Sunday we went on an outing back into the mountains, an area we'd never explored before. We found four new villages that will require return visits for further exploration. To get to them though, we traveled on roads that once seemed frighteningly narrow and winding. These days those once-unnerving roads seemed quite normal.  A new normal to be sure, but normal all the same.

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You wanted to go where?
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The photo above, taken last week during a ‘normal’ trip to the grocery store, illustrates an entertaining new normal for us.  Old normal for us was frustrating bumper-to-bumper traffic jams on multi-lane roads that brought cars to a standstill. In this world’s  ‘new normal’ it just might be a cow that stops us in our tracks!

Whether traveling roads, shopping or cooking, there is usually something that occurs or is required that gives a moment of pause and we have to think a bit harder and do things a bit differently but that’s why we came here. What amazes us is how quickly so many of these ‘foreign’ things have started feeling routine and normal.

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Agios Nikolaos on a June evening
As those of you’ve who’ve been with us awhile know, this will be our first full summer here. We’ve had brief samples of both June and July but never have experienced a full three-month run of summer.

“Is this normal?” asked our recent guests a couple weeks ago, when they made their way around tables that filled the village’s main street. “They tell us that the crowds will get bigger in August,” we replied, but whether they are normal size summer crowds we have no idea.  Ask us again next year.

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Stoupa beach on a June morning
We had a storm hit this week that brought high wind and heavy rain for a couple of days to most of Greece, including our area. The road between Athens and Corinth was flooded and closed for a short time, and ‘nornally’ dry river beds were filled with gushing water. 

“Not normal, for this time of year,” long-timers told us. We’ve spent three springtimes here and haven’t seen rain like we had this June, but whether it is normal or not, we couldn’t tell you for sure.

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Cloudy skies in June - normal or not
Two weeks ago we woke one morning to find our water tanks bone dry. Not a drop of water to be had out of any tap in the house. (Of course, we had houseguests at the time. So the water truck was summoned and tanks of water delivered to return us back to normal.) 

Our water supply comes to us from ‘the Municipality’ (an entity we have yet to clearly understand) and when we reported our drought they seemed surprised at our situation.  The locals tell us that’s because we ‘normally’ don’t run out of water until in August, when the reservoirs are 'normally' pumped dry or the water diverted to the tourist-filled villages along the sea.

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Pantazi Beach - near our home

One new normal for us is the lack of travel plans for summer getaways. Our startled friends say, “But you ‘normally’ go somewhere!”  We’ve never before lived in a place as spectacularly beautiful as we do now, so we’ve decided to join those sun-seeking tourists arriving each week in the villages, and enjoy this place we call home.  Perhaps it will become a new normal for our summers.

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Mesimeri spent on our deck
Our staycation here has us completing our chores and errands before the clock strikes 12 each day which allows us to luxuriate in a favorite new normal: similar to the Spanish culture’s siesta, we have in Greece mesimeri which means midday and generally refers to the time between 2 – 5 p.m. but also means ‘quiet time’. 

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Scenes of the village where we run our errands
This guilt-free quiet time is ‘normally’ spent resting, napping, reading and catching up on correspondence. Then it is time to think about food and drink; sometimes consumed at home and other times at one of the many tavernas, cafes and restaurants that come to life in the summer. Eating and drinking out with regularity is another new normal that we’ve adapted to quite well.

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Dinner at Stathi's is a culinary treat - how many mezes can we eat?
We eat different food at a different time in far different settings than we did before moving here. But as with eating ice cream for lunch, going to the grocery store, watching weather and all things here the new normal is feeling quite normal these days!

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We hope that your travels take you – armchair or real time – somewhere that is ab-normally wonderful!  Thanks for being with us again this week as we took a bit of an introspective look at ex pat life.We’ll be back again soon with more tales of our Grecian Summer and do hope you’ll be along to enjoy it with us!  Safe travels to you and yours ~

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






38 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful analysis. I especially like "Whether traveling roads, shopping or cooking, there is usually something that occurs or is required that gives a moment of pause and we have to think a bit harder and do things a bit differently but that’s why we came here." It sounds like this attitude and way of meeting the new is a great method for not getting old. It keeps the brain stimulated while the heart keeps opening up to the new and different.

    And I really needed to hear your "guilt-free quiet time" during mesimeri. I have to work on that. Thanks!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this, Dina. It really does require thought to live in a new environment - I've often said we won't need Sudoku games or crossword puzzles to keep us thinking. And I am surprised at how I look forward to mesimeri each day!

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  2. Wonderful perspective into real - or "normal" - life of an ex-pat. And it would seem there is no "normal" until you've been doing it long enough that you can't remember your last "normal" very well. How nice to be experiencing more days than not that surprise you. Enjoy your time in lovely Greece.

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    1. I have in the course of writing this post thought about what a 'normal' day was back in the old life and in reviewing how I spent my time, it seems somewhat like I was treading water and not moving forward (or backward). Thanks much for the comment!!

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  3. What a great article. Greece living seems to be fitting you well. We have also dined on ice cream for lunch, and it's not a bad thing. (Done in moderation.) Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures.

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    1. Well, we have reasoned out that ice cream does provide several necessary nutrients so if - as you note - it is done in moderation, it can't be all bad, right?? Thanks for the assurance that we aren't the only ones eating ice cream for lunch!! And thanks for commenting.

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  4. Love this post - I always enjoy your posts but this one is special. Your words and pictures are making me fall in love with Greece and awakening in me a desire to not be or do anything "normal." You are living the good life...enjoy!!!

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    1. What a lovely comment! Thank you Andrea. I am so glad you liked this post and we are living the good life. Sometimes you just have to get out of the comfort zone to find it! Please comment again, love hearing from you!

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  5. I'm loving reading about your new normal. We are living our new normal on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. Our new normal includes cold weather in Winter. I'm not sure how I feel about that one as yet lol.

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    1. Now that would be a good post for you to write Jan - I am not sure I'd like cold winters any more than I like the wet and windy ('not normal') one we had here last winter. I am hoping all those 'not normal' comments come true on the winter weather at least!

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  6. I love reading your perspective on this. It's always fascinating to me to learn how Americans adjust to living in different countries - especially since many of us are probably considering that right about now. Greece looks amazing.

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    1. Well, ex pat life isn't for the faint of heart, thin skinned or those tied to routines and comfort zones, that is for sure. We have quite a group of Americans that we know (a dozen or so) in this area that seem to be flourishing here. . .but that doesn't mean we don't have 'those days' when we ask ourselves why we came. Thanks much for the comment!

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  7. Your new normal in Greece sounds great! We are adjusting to our new normal in Valencia as well. I actually love trying new things and pushing myself somewhat but l'm happy to stay put this summer with the tourists :-). We haven't had ice cream for lunch yet though..

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    1. It is interesting to watch yourselves adjust to the new normals, isn't it - whether in Greece or Valencia. Yes as the tourists clog our village streets and fill its restaurants we are quite content to have a new normal of staying put! Try that ice cream for lunch - you just might have a new normal yourself!

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  8. Building up new normals means life is exciting. Or the opposite, maintaining lots of old normals means life is boring. I like change that keeps life pulsating. Expat life would certainly do that. And your choice of Greece seems perfect so far!

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    1. So true Carol. Those new normals do keep everyday exciting and something to look forward to. Greece is a wonderful place to be an ex pat (if you can make it past all their requirements to be so).

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  9. I enjoyed this post SO much...not because I want to visit Greece (which I'd like to do but I'm sure we won't) but because 'normal' can be whatever we choose it to be. My parents wintered in Mexico for many years. I'm now older than they were when they started to go, and much older than they were when they started staying home in Western Canada. Neither of them considered their lives to be abnormal.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Kay
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

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    1. Isn't it funny how you can do all sorts of new things and not feel that our lives are abnormal at all. And I love your observation that 'normal' can be whatever we choose it to be! Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Love the Einstein quote! I think we knew within 3 months of leaving the US back in 2012 that we'd never return there to live full-time again. When normal in the US means: higher costs, having to work so you can have health insurance, consumerism and lots of stress compared to a simpler, slower life of leisure - what's to think about? And how awesome to enjoy your staycation at home in a place where others dream of vacationing. Your new norm sounds like a place that delivers a lot of happiness! P.S. And what's to stop you from going all out and starting your day off with ice-cream for breakfast!😁

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    1. You've summarized ex pat life perfectly and I have to admit that while at the ice cream place I saw a waffle - as in breakfast type - with chocolate and ice cream on the menu. . .so you know one of these days when we do breakfast out. . .I just might have to order it!!

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  11. Greece is so lovely, but boy is it hot in the summer! Have a great week. http://travelingbugwiththreeboys-kelleyn.blogspot.com/2018/07/genoa.html

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    1. Just like it can be cold in the winter . . .lovely all the same though. Thanks for stopping by!

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  12. It's the whole point of travel, no? Learning to accept a new "normal." That's what I love about it, and you've summed up the feeling wonderfully here.

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    1. Thanks Tom and that is so true of travel! Even a two week trip to some new destination can turn your thoughts of normal upside down, can't it?

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  13. You have a great attitude that helps you enjoy all the new normal things about Greece. Ice cream for lunch would not be difficult to adapt to for me! Your new home setting is certainly picturesque!

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    1. Well, some days that attitude sinks a bit, but generally if you approach your new adventure -- whatever it is - with an open mind, you will find that some of those new normals were what had been missing in your old life.

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  14. I have enjoyed following your posts for quite a while now...and this post really revealed a lot about the new normals you are experiencing. I loved reading each example. My husband is planning to retire at the end of this year and we will be moving - not out of the country - but I know we'll also have a lot of new normals to adjust to...and more flexibility to do the unexpected, like come to Greece to help you with the olive harvest! ;)

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    1. That sounds like an exciting time you have ahead of you. Any move, we've decided, is not for the faint of heart or those who can't accept change. . .but what a wonderful adventure it is! Good luck in all your changes, hope you write about them!!

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  15. I love your post! Those of us who travel a lot know that each country is known for its own idiosyncrasies. Greece is definitely no exception.

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    1. Thanks Doreen. It is as Tom said above, the point of travel, whether short or long term stays, to learn the idiosyncrasies of a place and its people. Keeps life exciting!

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  16. I love being abnormal every now and then and I, too, have had ice cream for lunch....xoxo

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    1. Oh BJ one day I hope we meeting and we'll go out and have ice cream for lunch!! xxx

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  17. I'm game for any new normal where I can have ice cream for lunch! This was great insight into what it's like to be an expat. Enjoy your summer in your village!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Amy and thanks for the wishes for summer. It is definitely here as are the tourists!

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    2. Thank you for sharing this at Best of the Weekend!

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  18. Hello, the new normal sounds like fun except for the part of running out of water . I would much rather be in a cow traffic jam than a beltway back up due to too many cars. Ice cream for lunch, that sounds great to me. Greece is beautiful, I love the scenery and your photos. Happy Sunday, enjoy your day and new week!

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    1. Thanks Eileen - you and I share the same thoughts about traffic jams! Hope you also have a great week! Thanks for stopping by!

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  19. That is great and i always love the quotations you include in your posts, now i will copy that of Einstein! hehe

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