Friday, July 15, 2022

Expat Life ~The Night of the Kounabi

That title,' The Night of the Kounabi' has a rather exotic ring to it, doesn't it?  You could conjure up images of romance, mystery or danger when reading it.  

Night of the Kounabi - Stone House on the Hill

My original title for this report about life in rural Greece had a much better alliteration, as it was, 'The Night of the Nyfitsa'.  

Google photo, Kounabe, - night visitor

But you have to tell it like it is, or in this case, was, when writing about expat life.  And further research - not to mention, the word of wise, long-time locals --  clarified that it was a kounabi (coo-nah-vee) or pole cat (aka, stone martin) and not a nyfitsa (nee-fit-saw), a weasel, who had us up at 4 a.m. on a very hot, sweat-inducing summer's night; made even hotter by the fact the animal was in our house!

Our House on the Hill in Rural Greece

As I herded our two indoor/outdoor cats into the bathroom for safety reasons in the early morning hours Sunday, The Scout (aptly named in this case) was armed with a broom and started scouting for our carnivorous uninvited guest who had been dining on cat food in our kitchen when discovered.

Garlic at my door - ward off evil

In Greece there is a belief that garlic swags hung at the front door ward off evil.  It may be keeping evil from our Stone House on the Hill, but isn't deterring the occasional visiting varmint.

Luckily our visitor was as terrified of us as we were of him, so he made a mad dash for freedom as soon as enough doors were opened to allow for his escape.  (He had entered, we believe, in the dark of night as I was on the deck dealing with our outside cat and had left the door to the house open.)  At the advice of those same long-time locals mentioned above, we will be spraying our outside deck walls with Tabasco sauce and hanging moth balls from plants near the deck to discourage further visits.

Leaving the Comfort Zone

View from our neighborhood

Situations in expat life - not as exciting as chasing wild animals in the middle of the night --often leave us on the edge of our comfort zone and certainly force us to rethink our behaviors and routines. We are  amazed at how our attitudes towards situations have shifted in recent years. While some things that used to leave us 'in a tizzy' barely get a nod of attention, while other things can still drive us right up the proverbial wall. 

Take, for example, the matter of water. Just this week we've been dealing with what seems the never ending summer saga of a short supply of domestic water in our slice of Greece. While we've not yet had to order water for our home from a private supplier we are braced for it, as our water tank has sunk to low levels a couple of times already and the summer is young. We've shortened showers, limited laundry and have begun using kitchen-generated gray water on plants. These are all behaviors we never used back in the States but are perfecting them here.  

Our slice of Greece

We recall asking at the time we purchased the house, from where the domestic water came and recall being greatly relieved that the answer was 'the municipal lines'. We wouldn't need worry about a well drying up. What we didn't even consider was the possibility of the municipal water drying up. A continual source of water to our homes isn't something Americans often think about, so who was to question a guaranteed source like 'the municipality'?  

Domestic water delivery to our home 2020

And ours is not unlike situations throughout this arid country. When summer comes, and with it, the part-time residents returning to homes and gardens and tourists filling our hotels, water consumption goes up while the supply stays minimal at best. 

The authorities here seem to deal with it by turning the water on to certain sections of the valley for a few days while others use the municipal water stored in their tanks (every home has such tanks as do commercial facilities). Then after a few days, they reverse the valves and those getting water turn to their storage tanks in what proves to be a continually frustrating process because for many the tanks go empty before the supply is returned. 

Summer means lots of tourist fun and low water for residents

The situation usually resolves itself in the fall when visitors leave, and the rains begin and the season of plentiful water begins. We find we no longer fret about it as we did in the first few years of our residency.

Sunset from  the Stone House on the Hill

On the flip side, we aren't yet quite as blase' when dealing with bureaucracy (of course, we weren't back in the States either). 

Last week we returned to our regional Immigration office to see why our residency permit application on-line status kept saying, 'documents needed'. Our initial application in April included every document they required. 

We submitted fingerprints in early June along with other biometric data, per their request. What more could they want?  

Greek residency permit cards - the wait continues

Despite earlier assurances that it was 'just the system' woefully behind in updating status, we decided to have a face-to-face visit with the officials. And guess what? They did, indeed, need more documents!  They said they requested them back in May and our attorney assured us that she had supplied it upon request. It was assumed it was received because there was no further communication from Immigration. . .and we all know about that word 'assumed'. . .so,

The information has been submitted, again. Authorities say they have it. Our wait continues. . .

On the Flip Side   

The story of expat life isn't only one of living at the edge of one's comfort zone or confronting novel situations as the one I told at the beginning of this tale. It really is a story of our world expanding in so many ways, including so many new friends, since moving to this fishing village in the Peloponnese.

Captain Antonis and his boat 

A few weeks ago, I gave one of our fishermen friend's, Captain Antonis, a set of photos I had taken of him putting his boat back in the water at the start of the season. We've had a passing acquaintance for several years; always a greeting, smile, nod and wave when we see each other in the village. He thanked me profusely for the prints.  A few days ago he stopped us as we were walking through the village and told us to wait 10 minutes - had had something at his house for us and he set off at a fast trot to get it.  We went into the local clothing store to await his return and to visit with our friend Sophia who runs it each summer. 

Sure enough in 10 minutes he returned with a jar of homemade eating (Kalamata) olives for us!  We had barely thanked him when Sophia asked if we liked honey - we assured her we did.  She reached under the counter and pulled out a big jar of honey - "Well, then - you must take this home with your olives," she said.  

Gifts from the heart - honey and olives

The spontaneous generosities, the kindness and the warmth of this new world so far outweigh its challenges.  Our fellow expats all have similar stories of those frustrations that have made them pause and wonder if it is worth the effort. But they also have tales, like us in the clothing store, when you experience a moment best described by s my fellow expat and too-soon-departed friend, Marti, as being those that 'make your heart sing'!

Pantazi Beach near our home - Agios Nikolaos

That's it for this week from The Stone House on the Hill. We hope where ever you are reading this that you are finding moments to make your heart sing and that your life is free of varmints.  Our wishes for safe travels and many thanks for being with us today!

Linking soon with:

 Through My Lens


  1. Sounds cool that you are getting the real local experience, we are dealing with tropical storms in Hawaii at the moment and over inundated with ocean swells in the coastal areas. Hopefully you will have plenty of water soon.

  2. I hope they come through with your papwerwork soon. In the meantime enjoy those olives, honey and life in your stone house on the hill, and all it offers your world. And keep those showers short! You can you know always resort to a bucket of water shower. LOL Stay safe and enjoy yur week.

  3. ps - and keep the garlic by your door and stay clear of the pol cat!

  4. I would have fainted if that kounabi was in my house! As long as you can say you still find moments that make your heart sing, it's worth it to deal with the occasional frustrations.


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