'I asked him in those last days what he would miss and he smiled and said in a voice as soft as dusk, Every bit of it. I only wish I had seen that sooner,' wrote Brian Andreas, American poet and author.
I jotted Andreas' words on the opening page of my 2020 daily journal back in January. It struck me as a powerful reminder to enjoy 'every bit of it' as the year progressed.
It was shortly before COVID19 and pandemic would turn the world upside down.
In the past my journal entries have been notes of travels and/or events and activities that make up our expat life in a Greek village. This year - it seems for weeks now - I've charted this country's 'numbers' and steps it is taking to keep the pandemic under control. In recent days I've recorded the steps being taken to lead the country back to its 'new normal'.
In reading my entries, I realize how much I have missed those most-ordinary of things that made up my pre-pandemic days. As the passage above says, I miss 'every bit of it'.
|Expats toasting and enjoying Boxing Day last December|
I've often said that being an expat sometimes feels as if we are living on borrowed time. We are long-stay guests in a country that could easily change its mind and yank the welcome mat. Or change the rules and we'd no longer qualify to be residents. As boomers, we know that one day age and/or health could bring an end to the routines of our life here.
We've often spoken of those routine and ordinary things that make life here so interesting and how much we'll miss them when the end comes. I don't think we realized how much of which makes this life special, that we were taking for granted. . . until the pandemic lockdown brought a temporary end to them.
|Dinner out and the bus comes through town|
It has been those tasks, errands, outings that when no longer allowed, we have missed. . .the friends with whom we gather. . .we have missed. . .
A quick trip to the grocery store,
a morning cappuccino in the village,
a spur of the moment dinner out with friends along the harbor,
watching the public bus inch its way along the crowded waterfront road,
having friends over,
getting our hair cut,
taking a day trip down the coast. . .
|Watching our local fishermen sell the catch each day|
Yes, we've missed 'every bit of it'.
A New Day Dawning
|Dressed for my first trip to Kalamata|
We went to Kalamata last week, thanks to the first phase of our country's return to normal. I'll confess that in pre-pandemic days, it sometimes felt like a chore to set off for a round of shopping and errands in the big city an hour's drive north of us. With the government's lockdown in March, trips to Kalamata ended. Essential shopping - groceries and pharmacy -- was done close to home.
After a few weeks of it being off limits we found ourselves speculating on things to do when we could go back. It felt as though we were planning a major journey. We were missing it all.
The Greek government's slow, methodic and carefully-orchestrated emergence from the near-total lockdown allowed for hair salons and barber shops to be among the first businesses to re-open. We made (long-overdue) hair appointments! Yes, a simple hair appointment was our first activity. In the days between making the appointment and going to Kalamata, we were as giddy over the upcoming outing as if we'd been planning a major trip.
|Masked, gloved and in the salon|
The salon had reduced the stations and was adhering to the government's strict guidelines for distancing and cleanliness. It felt more like a trip to a medical clinic than to a beauty shop - yet, we remain grateful that Greek businesses are adhering to the safeguards dictated by the government. We also followed the rules, face masks and gloves were the 'go-to-town' dress up attire. Instead of growing impatient at the time spent at the salon (an attitude I held before the pandemic) I kept thinking how lucky I was to be back at the salon. I had missed it all.
|Wait in line at the supermarket - social distancing enforced|
A routine part of a trip to Kalamata is always a stop at one of the large supermarkets there. Back in the 'old normal' we'd whip through the store, grabbing what we needed as quickly as possible. This time we took our time thinking what a treat to have different choices again beyond our local village stores. Just putting jars of Skippy peanut butter - even at its outrageous import price -- into my shopping cart was a joy. We had missed it.
|Phase 2: hardware stores open -The Scout waits his turn to enter|
This week the government has moved to Phase II, allowing for most retail stores to open. Our village hardware store was among them. I can't tell you how many times being homebound we have thought of projects to do or repairs to make but each required something from the shuttered hardware store. Monday morning, face masks in place we stood in line awaiting our turn to walk into our village hardware store. We had missed them.
|At the Kalamata Shell service station - no mask, no enter|
Siga, siga, as they say here, slowly, slowly, our Greek world is re-opening. It will be another three weeks before the tavernas and restaurants in the country are allowed to open and then strict distancing rules will be enforced. While I sang the praises in last week's post of our village parking lot as our pandemic social hub, I can tell you we miss the village tavernas where we have spent hours with friends enjoying beverages and meals. The protocols will be strict for distancing, serving and all aspects of the resumption of service but the idea of meeting others again at a local place has us eagerly counting the days. We have missed those times.
|ATM users social distance in Kalamata|
Large hotels and resorts in Greece are scheduled to open June1st and seasonal hotels on July 1st. The Health Ministry has issued a 16-page protocol list for distancing, cleaning and disinfecting and it promises to be a whole new world of travel. One of the favorite parts of staying in a hotel in Greece has been the lavish buffet breakfasts they offer as part of the room rate. Those buffets are to be eliminated, just one of the many 'new normal' ways of travel here. We are eager to hit the road and do some road trips - it has been too long since we've been out enjoying all Greece has to offer. We have missed it.
Air travel is expected to resume in July. There is talk that travel between Greece and some European countries may be allowed by June 15th. However, the government is taking a cautious approach when it comes to tourists and travelers entering the country.
|Few cars in Kalamata this week|
The rules currently being contemplated will require international travelers 72-hours BEFORE BOARDING to be tested for the virus and to show negative results. If positive, they will not be allowed on the flight. Another talked about option is that travelers will have to have 'health certificates'. We know already that we will be missing the old ways of travel when it comes time to take that first trip back to the States.
|May Day the streets were empty in the village|
The reopening of Greece is unfolding as a four-phase project. While we know the old normal is gone, we are looking forward to seeing friends, dining out, and even watching the bus make its regular run through town again. . .we will be masked and socially distanced but so appreciative to have back some semblance of our old favorites.
We've missed it all.
From your comments and emails we know that many of you in various parts of the world are also cautiously returning to a new normal. We send continued wishes for you and yours to be safe and well. As always thanks for being with us. Add a comment or drop us a line and tell us what you have missed the most during this unusual period in our world.
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
I had the very strange thought this morning that THIS life during the stay-at--home orders is much what my retirement life might have looked like had I remained in the US: routine and predictable. Like you, I miss the things that make living in a foreign country so interesting and how the ordinary patterns of life in Portugal are elevated to special with small, unexpected things. I too miss spending time with friends, sharing meals and planning future travels and perhaps the uncertainty and inability to make plans is the most difficult thing to accept. As you remind me, slowly, slowly... Take care my friends!ReplyDelete
And I had a similar observation the other day: if we had returned to our US homebased in the predictable, routine, all-services provided, gated community I would have been climbing the walls by now as it would have driven me crazy. Here, I keep busy -- sometimes too busy -- and can still get out and not be around hordes of people in lines at Costco and fighting for a roll of toilet paper. . .the uncertainty is unnerving but I think I still prefer being here in the unknown than back in the US.Delete
It is so interesting to discover how much we take for granted, but how resourceful we can be. I was sewing pillows and realized that I only had 1 zipper. I would normally have just run to the store, but resorted to tearing a zipper out of a faded pillow.ReplyDelete
I envy you the haircut and I'm anxious for a pedicure.
Enjoy your slow and steady return to "normal".
Yes all of those are slowly coming back into a new normal, glad it is doing very well in your Greek retirement adventureReplyDelete
So interesting to hear about your sheltering-in-place experience in Greece. Here, in San Francisco area, I feel almost a dread to things opening up because I believe we still need to be very careful when we are out. I don't picture myself going to a restaurant any time soon. I plan to wait and see. The thing I am most missing is being able to hop carefree into my car and hit the road.ReplyDelete
I fear that we'll ever return to what might be considered 'normal'. That this is our new normal. But not having a working crystal ball, we can all only hope for the best. I think getting back out there and traveling will taste very different but we are so looking forward to it.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the good report of present conditions. Wishing you well. Patience to all of us!ReplyDelete