Showing posts with label Expats in Greece. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Expats in Greece. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2024

A Decade Later: Dwelling in Possibility

 Dwell in possibility! 

I recall wanting to shout it from the rooftops. It was my mantra, my motto, my mojo for a time, that summer a decade ago.  

The dream catcher journal of 2014

The phrase, 'Dwell in possibility' is excerpted from a poem by Emily Dickenson. It was imprinted on the journal cover I chose to record our adventures related to the purchase of The Stone House on the Hill in Greece; an adventure that was to take place in July 2014.  

Had we not dared to dwell in possibility. . .

Journal's opening, June 8, written in Kirkland, Washington, our U.S. home after our offer to purchase was accepted:

'We are older, 65 and soon to be 61. Too old? Perhaps, but I doubt it, 'We've met hikers and backpackers in Greece older than we are and they talk of the next hike, not their aches and pains.

We'd actually decided during our trip [earlier that spring] to give up the house in Greece idea for all the conservative reasons we could list: ages, health, security, work, time to travel and then we'd counter with all the reasons we should: price, value for what you pay, having a base in Europe from which to explore further and finally - it would be the 'final fling' -

Now, who in their right mind, would pass on a final fling, right?' 

Olive harvest at the Stone House on the Hill

My other favorite phrase of that summer was 'catching the daydream' because in many ways buying a house in the middle of an olive grove in the Greek countryside was a 'daydream' - a metaphor for taking a vacation from the life we had lived for years in a Seattle suburb. 

Sunday, June 22 - Aboard Delta flight from Seattle to Athens:

'And when we lift off, we will be enroute to that daydream - the last adventure, if you will. We've reached an age when putting off until tomorrow isn't the best option if we want to also have time to enjoy the adventure after catching that daydream.'

The week before that departure I had noted in the journal all the steps we'd taken to be able to buy a home in Greece including, the wiring of an appropriate number of US dollars to convert to the euro amount required to purchase, and the gathering of required documents. Purchasing a home could be done with only a tourist visa but Greece likes documents!

Kalamata, the second largest city in the Peloponnese

We hit the deck running our first morning in Kalamata with a visit to an accountant who accompanied us to the tax office where we each obtained a tax identification number. Then off to the bank to open an account. In order to do that we presented our passports, a U.S. utility bill to prove our address, a letter from the Mayor of Kirkland, Washington assuring we were citizens in good standing there, our federal income tax form, and our retirement pension documents. 

From the Notary's Office where closing would take place you could see 'our' house

Then we met an attorney, obtained for us by our realtor, who would review all documents related to the sale; property ownership, registration, tax incumbrances, property sale documents etc.  He assured us as he puffed on his cigarette, that everything was proceeding well. We were just waiting for 'one more document'. Closing would likely be July 10th or 12th.

The Stone House on the Hill, far right

Thursday, June 26 - after visiting' the house': 

'We visited 'the house' and its owners [unlike the U.S. owners and buyers often meet each other] I took copious notes on sewers, storage, meters, water, olives and ovens just to name a few. I was overwhelmed - far too overwhelmed at oven temperatures (in Celsius) and washing machines and the work that needs to be done in the garden and the grove.'

'They don't have wi-fi! And to have wi-fi we need a land line which requires as the name implies a line, which will require a pole - a big pole as in 500 euros or so! Should we buy a house in Greece in a future life, we will ask about the nearest telephone pole!'

Journal entries remind me that we filled our days searching for furniture stores, household goods and the like. Evenings were spent at local cafes and tavernas where we were to meet other expats and locals as we started creating a world for ourselves here.

Off to explore what would be our new world. . .

And with everything proceeding as it should be, or so we thought, we took a short trip road trip. But upon our return to our hotel base in neighboring Kardamyli village, we got our first taste of doing business in Greece - 'that piece of paper' hadn't yet been received.

Monday, July 7 - Kardamyli:

'We are now saying, 'if we get into the house' and 'if this deal falls through. . .'

The next day we learned 'that document' was actually a packet of documents still not filed by the seller's civil engineer. Once filed, they would be sent to Athens where it would take two weeks to review them and if approved, we could proceed with the purchase. The sellers were scheduled to fly out July 17 and we were leaving the 22nd. It wasn't looking very hopeful at that point.

The daydream went up in smoke. . .

Friday, July 11 - Kardamyli:

'And so, the daydreaming ends. We pulled out of the deal after learning the civil engineer had filed the paperwork but now there are tax returns that haven't been filed and the owners can't produce a proof of purchase either. . .The Stone House on the Hill is now an interesting, but very short chapter, in the Smith family history.'

We spent a couple days doing a breakneck search of properties to see if anything else in the area might be of interest. After walking untold numbers of plots of undeveloped land, seeing homes partially built and those that had been lived in and loved, we concluded there was nothing in the Mani for us. 

Our last couple days were spent wiring money back to the U.S. and saying goodbyes to people that we had met along the way.

A Decade Later

The Stone House on the Hill a decade later

Yet here I am in our Stone House on the Hill writing this on a July day ten years after that disappointing summer. That fickle hand of fate ultimately took us in the direction we were meant to take, but it forced us to take a most circuitous route to get there. We returned to Greece six months later and purchased the house after all the required paperwork had been obtained by the sellers. 

My too-blue-to-be-true view

When I look up from the computer screen my view is over the parched olive groves, the small villages that we consider home and the almost too-blue-to-be-true Messinian Bay. And I am glad I concluded my July journal by writing, 'I guess as doors open and close - even at this old age - we should be open to new adventures.'

Our Greek adventure continues. . .at even older ages! We continue to dwell in the possibilities it holds for us, perhaps these days, a bit tempered with time, however. We know many of you are currently pursuing your daydreams and are dwelling in the possibilities they hold. We hope that you will ultimately catch them and feel as we do, that they were worth the effort.  

As always to all of you, our wishes for safe travels and thanks for the time you spent with us today~ 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Losing Touch

It was a copy of People Magazine left by our recent houseguests that brought the point home: 

Living in the laidback Greek countryside, I've lost touch.  

Summer in an olive grove

People Magazine tells all there is to tell about America's celebrities and public figures. Problem was, that aside from 79-year-old Tom Selleck, most recently of television's Blue Bloods, and the recently deceased O.J. Simpson, I didn't recognize many of the names of those famous folks.

People Magazine - who is doing what and where

I've lost touch. It is as simple as that.

 And what I found most amazing about that realization was that I didn't care who these people were, nor did I care what they were doing when the paparazzi photographed them, even if it was while they grocery shopped or frolicked on some exotic holiday. 

Losing touch with the other world

Being an expat and losing touch with the everyday world you left behind, to a certain degree, go hand-in-hand.  

As American expats we've lost touch with the familiarity of doctors, dentists, and hairdressers we had visited for years. We've lost touch with routines of shopping at the corner supermarket, visiting the dry cleaner and filling the car with gas at the regular service station. But with each of those has come the challenge and exhilaration of creating new familiar and favorite routines in the Greek world.

What has been tough is losing touch with friends and family. 

We knew it could happen.  We'd read the articles about expat life and knew that losing connections with friends back home and loneliness can bring down the most enthused expat. Yet, as with all unpleasant possibilities, one reasons that it couldn't possibly happen in your world. 

Losing Touch

'Losing touch' with friends is quite a widespread phenomenon apparently experienced by many of the 230 million expats worldwide.  And with 18 percent of those expats being more than 61 years of age, they likely have a good number of friends and family with whom they want to keep in touch.

Loneliness is often cited as one of the most difficult aspects of expat life. The inability to make new friends and the absence of family and longtime friends are often the reason expats choose to return to their home country. 

Friends at Your Fingertips

So, when you look at the speed and ease of communication afforded by today's technology, there is really no excuse for losing touch, is there? 

With a scroll through Facebook and Instagram postings we are able to celebrate birthdays and holidays, graduations and weddings. We can share in the sorrow of loss and send well-wishes to those who are ill.  

US, Canada and Greece - we talk face-to-face twice a month on WhatsApp

WhatsApp, Facetime, Messenger and other such programs allow us to visit face-to-face with friends no matter where in the world they are living. And doing so is always a day-brightener!


Weekly email 'coffee klatches' keep us in touch

Even writing emails - now thought of by young people as a somewhat old-fashioned communications tool-- keeps us up-to-date with the comings and goings of friends.

Luckily, we have a cadre of dear friends who are committed to keeping in touch while we are in Greece. Several of us write emails as if we were visiting regularly together over coffee. We chat face-to-face with others. Skype has made texting together was easy as if we were just across town. 

Emails, photos and Skype keep these childhood friends together

Staying in touch is done both with precision regularity as well as at random out-of-the-blue contacts. Now, despite being thousands of miles apart, we are up to date with each other's lives, everyday activities, travel, health, even weather. 

As the years have passed my definition of 'staying in touch' has become so relaxed that it includes writing a comment on a FB or blog post. 

Poof! Just like that, they are not heard from again

Yet it has been with some incredulity that we've realized there are some -- thankfully, not a lot of --friends with whom we have simply lost touch.  Poof. Gone. No communication from them and no response to attempts to reach them.

Moving On

An article in, a website 'by expats for expats', offered an interesting take on losing touch: 

 'Don't be afraid of losing friends who won't or can't commit to keeping the connection. . .it gives you more time to invest in those who are willing to make the effort,' it offered.  

Reasoned one expat about the topic of lost friendships on Reddit, an American social news website, 'People's lives go on and you've moved a different direction. Many friendships are based on common experience and close proximity.'

'It's hard to stay in touch with all the friends we make through life. Scientific studies show we maintain 150 relationships at any given time in life,' wrote another.

One of the most obvious bits of advice offered to expats is to quit fretting over those who've dropped out of sight and make new friends.

Friends in the expat world

A meet up of multinational expats on Easter afternoon in the village
As of last year, according to the World Population Review, there were 23,297 American expats living in Greece.  The number pales in comparison to the 799,248 living in Mexico, but still, it seems like quite a few to those of us who are a part of that statistic.  

Morning coffee at the beach cafe with friends

In our slice of Greece, we have a diverse blend of expats friends including Americans who hail from the Pacific Northwest, California, the Southwest and Northeast.  Those from further afield hail from Canada, Belgium, Turkey, England and elsewhere.

Thankfully our expat life in the rural Peloponnese has been filled with new friends, both expats and Greeks. Although making friends takes time, just like it did back in the old world.  

We find that the lifestyle here probably has us socializing more with friends here than we did back in the States as logistics of getting together are so simple. 

An evening spent with neighbors is always a great evening

Our Stone House on the Hill is set amid eight other homes on a short stretch of road just outside the village. Our neighborhood is an international one with France, Britain, Peru, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and America represented. We are blessed that we are surrounded by kind and caring people and that we have all become friends.

 Silver and Gold

A toast to lasting friendships - old and new

Back in the 1960's Girl Scouts in America had a song they'd sing around a campfire that was a simple ditty with a powerful message:

 'Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.'  

It could be the theme song for expats. 

And with that thought we close for this week and send wishes for safe travels to you and yours.  We are heading off on an adventure. . .one that we said we'd 'never do' and yet here we are doing it! We will tell you about it next time!

Monday, June 10, 2024

A Song of Summer

It was early when I heard the soloist; the sun was just peeping over the hill behind us. With the temperature already in the hot zone as I sipped my first cup of coffee a few mornings ago, the sound of music was loud and clear.

Sunrise and the song of summer

In this afternoon's warm summer breeze, it seemed as if the olive tree branches swayed in time to the music; the song echoing across the grove, now sung with gusto by an entire choir. 

On both occasions I was hearing what I will forever consider 'the song of summer' and theme song to our expat life in Greece: 

A choir sings a summer song in surround sound

The song of summer is sung by the cicadas.

A Cicada Kalokairi 

Kalokairi is summer in Greece

Kalokairi is the Greek word for summer.  'Kalo', or 'kala' in Greek is 'good', so calling this bright, sunny season kalokairi makes absolute, perfect sense to me. (It is one of the few words I now have down pat in my fledgling Greek vocabulary).  

Kalokairi is such a happy, upbeat season that it seems only right that its arrival is announced by musicians who will continue their sizzling soundtrack until autumn takes over.

Residence permits - a ticket to the 'summer concert'

The song became our theme song back in early June 2017. It was then, upon receiving our first Greek residency permits, we could stay here as long as we wanted. Our time would no longer dictated by those tiresome 90-day Schengen Zone limits. Giddy with the newfound freedom, we agreed to extend that stay, just because we could! 

Instead of an actual date though, I told The Scout that I wanted to stay 'until the cicadas sing' to announce summer's arrival. Up until then, I'd missed these troubadours of summer.

Summer scenes in our world

Stay we did. Until the end of June. The cicadas had begun their summer serenade. And that's when those little critters' song became not only metaphor for the onset of summer but also for our seismic shift in life. We moved to Greece four months later.

Cicadas in Cultures

One thing we've learned since moving here is that pretty much everything we encounter in the modern-day world has some deep-seated roots in Greek history, culture and/or language. 

Cicadas, pronounced 'se-KAY-das' or 'se-KAH-das', are no exception.

Stories handed down from ancient Greeks tell of men who were so obsessed with singing that they forgot to eat and drink. They were turned into cicadas by the Muses and given the task of keeping tabs on which humans were showing proper reverence to the Muses, those goddesses of music, poetry and myth.

Cicadas important in Chinese history and culture 

Even in ancient China the cicadas represented 'rebirth'.  They certainly did for us that summer as we closed out our life in the United States and moved to Greece.  That was definitely a 'born again' into a new world and culture experience!

During the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220CE) amulets shaped like cicadas were placed on tongues of corps to symbolize rebirth and immortality. Cicadas in today's Feng Shui are powerful symbols of longevity and happiness; their image is used on jewelry and charms. I've not yet found any such amulets paying homage to them in Greece, but I'd certainly be wearing one if I ever do.

Sing it Again

Summer in our world - file photo 2021

I always feel grateful when I hear summer's song reverberating across the hillside on which we live. The song, once only a promise of what summer could be in Greece, now carries memories of the summers we've spent in this adopted world of ours. Now I can't imagine a summer without the cicadas' song playing in the background.  

Summer songs ring out in our Mani area of Greece

Along with the cicadas' song, other signs of summer are reminding us that the new season has arrived. Oleanders are brightening the landscapes with their white, pink and rose-colored blooms. The air is scented by the wild sage, and thyme scattered about gardens, groves and hillsides. 

Signs of summer in nearby Stoupa

Temperatures are hovering at 90F/32C with predictions of it reaching 100F/37C later this week. 
The water supply is at its usual low and fire danger is its usual high. Sunbeds are filling with sea and sun enthusiasts who have traveled here for a small dose of what we enjoy as everyday life. 

Summer sunsets at our house

All is good - ola kala - in our world.  Hope whatever season you are welcoming that all is good in your world as well. Safe travels to you and yours~ 

And in closing I want to give a 'shout out' to a group who we recently met while they were vacationing in the area.  Thanks for taking the time to come and introduce yourselves and tell us that you are readers of 'TravelnWrite' after you spotted us in the village - we hope to see you again on a return visit! .  

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

A Winter's Walk on the Wild Side

February's departure and March's arrival made it clear that winter's wild side is still with us in our slice of the Greek Peloponnese where we make our expat home.

Windblown lamp post on the way to the village

When we decided to move from the U.S. Pacific Northwest among the factors that helped drive the decision was getting away from ice, snow, cold and the long dreary winter that seemed to stretch from November until April.  

The highest waves we've seen here. This is Agios Dimitrios below us.

We succeeded in leaving the snow and cold behind. But we still have winter.  And while winter storms in our area don't strike often or stay long, they are wild. 

Our signature storms bring near gale-force howling wind, thunder so loud it reverberates as if bombs were falling in the grove and lightning strikes that turns the sky into an electrified kaleidoscope.  The sea becomes a boiling cauldron of angry waves. And sometimes we even get a blanket of African dust! 

This is dust - from Africa - heading our way

Even though the storms are often short-lived, they are so ferocious that we understand how ancient ones developed beliefs in mythological gods.  Some days we are certain that Poseidon, god of the sea, and Zeus, commonly thought of as, the god of the sky and weather, are having one grand war between their respective worlds.

Our municipal parking lot flooded from waves and weather

The storm that came with February's end hit with such power and force that it left many of us newcomers shaking our heads in wonder at the destruction left in its wake.  In our village, Agios Nikolaos, waves flooded the municipal parking lot - a lot where fishing boats had been moved to from the harbor to keep them safe from the storm.  One boat was washed from its trailer and still sits on its side in the lot.  

Municipal garbage bins scattered by the storm

Municipal garbage bins that normal line the street like soldiers were tossed about by the wind as if they were leaves. Rocks and downed limbs were strewn about the roadway making it impossible to drive on in places.   

Walkway closed in town due to high waves in the harbor

The walkway at harborside (the one we've been using since road construction closed the road above it) was also closed by waves crashing into it.  

The good news about winter storms is that we have pretty accurate weather warning systems in place these days and we know when a storm is coming and approximately what its strength and duration will be.  Advisories are posted on FB by emergency service and government pages.  

The African dust that covered us recently

We also use a weather app called Poseidon, which shows not only wind and rain but dust storms as well.  Our Peloponnese in the map above is under that red circle. And did we have dust!

Garbage crews had bins uprighted the next day

The other good thing about these winter storms is that local folks know how to deal with them. Cleanup was underway as soon as the waves and the wind gusts lessened.

The morning after. . .

Dimos, as our municipality is called, had bulldozers out clearing roads and parking lots. Business owners were also at the ready to clear up storm debris.  Our Pantazi Beach Bar's outdoor terrace - a favorite place of ours for coffee . . .

A February morning before the storm - Pantazi Beach Bar

. . .was hit hard by the storm as show in the photo below. I took it from nearly the same spot.  But within days debris was cleared, and we are again able to sit on the beachside terrace.

Pantazi Beach Bar terrace the morning after the storm.

Road construction has resumed in the village, and we are again using the harborside walkway as a bypass.

Harborside bypass is open again

Winter storm watching is popular on the Pacific Northwest West Coast (United States and Canada). I can tell you that it is much warmer watching storms here than there!  The tourism folks in Greece are missing a bet by not promoting winter storm watching. Maybe those of you who like to storm watch should take advantage of the off-season lower airfares and hotel rates and head to our part of Greece and do some storm watching here next winter! 

We hope that whatever season you are in while reading this that the weather gods have been good to you!  Thanks so much for being with us on this walk on the wild side of winter in Greece.  

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Time for a coffee?

'Time for a coffee any time soon?' texted one of my girlfriends the other day.  Her question was aptly worded as meeting for a coffee is not a hurried affair here - it takes time. 

Going out for a coffee has become one of our favorite pastimes in this chosen expat life of ours, although, doing it 'the Greek way' was initially one of the most difficult behaviors to wrap our heads around.

Morning coffee at seaside in Stoupa village

We came to this new life bringing our American coffee break habits with us: drink it hot and drink it fast, visit quickly and don't get a parking ticket. So, in Greece we carried that rapid consumption mindset with us, drinking - not sipping - our coffee and observing those around us.  'How can they sit so long over a cup of coffee?' we'd ask ourselves.

Coffee and complimentary cake in the village

Here, the sipping is done so slowly that the coffee can actually cool down before it is finished.  Then you tag on a bit of extra time to drink the glasses of water and nibble the complimentary cookies or cake bits brought with it.

I'd wager that indulging in a coffee over the span of an hour or more, is almost a rite of passage into Greek culture and community. 

This Greek coffee culture is serious business as shown by statistics from the World Coffee Portal: Greeks consume 40,000 tons of coffee a year, 40% of which is consumed outside the home. 

Kalamata coffee stop while running errands

The coffee culture is so pervasive that the Athens Coffee Festival, September 28 - 30, this year is expected to attract some 32,000 aficionados, vendors, and coffee professionals. 

We aren't sure when we morphed into sipping coffee in the appropriately slow manner, but we have become believers in its benefits.

Watching the harbor is a popular coffee activity in Ag. Nikolaos

Here going out for a coffee can be done with groups of people or by oneself. Coffee sippers might open a book and read for an hour or more, join in a game of backgammon, watch the village happenings, visit with friends or simply sit and sip. You might find some looking at their mobile devices, but seldom will you see people bent over computers as you do in a Starbucks in the States.

Watching traffic is a favorite activity while sipping coffee.

No, coffee in our village is a time for watching traffic make its way down our only north-south route through town. And it is always fun to speculate on which big truck might not squeeze past the balconies and awnings. Or we might watch the fishing boats come and go in the harbor. Or we might just visit with friends or with tourists seated at nearby tables or walking past.  

Take a book and leave a book at the local coffee shop.

Sometimes we use the coffee time to select books from the 'take a book, leave a book' shelves available at a number of the cafes in town. This is a particularly nice feature of having coffee out, when living in an area where we don't have libraries or bookstores.

Morning coffee at the Kafenio in our village

And going out for coffee could almost be reasoned to be healthy here because often it is paired with a walk.

Getting to the Coffee

A grove on my way to coffee called out for a photo

For most of the year the weather is conducive to walking to the coffee shop, taverna, or the traditional kafenio. We have versions of them all in the two villages that are walking distance from our Stone House on the Hill. So, when we go for a coffee, we generally get in a two-mile walk. Walking is such a normal activity, done by so many, that we often pass friends and neighbors, and we get in a visit or two as well as exercise. 

On my way home from coffee - the seaside route

Our route takes us through olive groves and along the sea - I never tire of photographing scenes along the way.

A 'friend' on the coffee shop route

We've obviously adapted to this coffee culture as we often chuckle at how easily the mornings 'get away from us' these days when all we've done is to go out for a coffee. 

 And we now understand why some jokingly say that drinking coffee is the National Sport of Greece.

Coffee Pantazi Beach February coffee

That's it from Greece where winter is still hanging on, although the wildflowers have sprouted along our 'coffee route' and spring is just around the corner. We can even sit outside for most of our coffees.  We thank you for the time you've spent sipping coffee with us. We send wishes for your continued safe travels.


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