Showing posts with label ex pat life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ex pat life. Show all posts

Thursday, September 21, 2023

You Can Go Home Again!

I disagree with Thomas Wolfe who penned the famous book, 'You Can't Go Home Again'.  You most certainly can go home again! We have done it annually since beginning our expat life in the rural Greek Peloponnese six years ago. 

Heading home at 40,000 ft.

Wolfe's 1940's book, by the way, is about a fledgling author who makes unflattering references to his hometown in his writings and finds that when he goes home again, his family and friends aren't pleased with the way he depicted the place.  

American home is at Lake Chelan, Washington State

The rest of us - who haven't penned such a piece - can certainly go home again.  All we need is the time and energy to do it. This year it has felt like both were a bit in short supply for us.

At Home in Washington 

And the only flack we get from family and friends is that we haven't allowed enough time to see them all.  I can tell you that when you are blessed to have lived 70 years and have a lifetime of accumulated friends, it just isn't possible to see them all during a month-long stay.

The Butte in the distance - Chelan, Washington

Of course, one might ask what is meant by 'going home' when you are an expat with roots in one country and strong ties to another.

I turned to one of my favorite writers, Frances Mayes, to see if she answered that question in her new book, 'A Place in the World, Finding the Meaning of Home'. She doesn't provide any answers, but certainly provides food for thought. Even travelers can relate to some of her observations.

Home is where. . .??

It has been a perfect read during our stay in the Pacific Northwest. I've not had much reading time though as we've found ourselves with far more on our to do list than will ever be accomplished and far more people to spend time with than is humanly possible. 

Whoosh. . .the month is gone. By the time many read this, we will be back in The Stone House on the Hill in the Peloponnese.  

The Rest of the Story

Because I told you about tackling that 'to do' list in my last post, I wanted to wrap up those tales before we leave:

My phone delivered to the door here - a treat!

The quest for a new mobile device (phone) for use in the U.S turned out to be a multi-week effort. I simply wanted to buy a newer phone from my service provider, Verizon. Told that I had a plan that didn't allow for the purchase, they sent me off to one of America's big box stores, Walmart, to buy the phone. When I returned to Verizon with the new phone so they could assist in the switch over, I found I had bought a 'locked' phone that only works with Consumer Cellular, another service provider.  

This time a different clerk - without bright blue hair - suggested a new phone plan for me which. . .drum roll. . .actually gave me the phone I had wanted to buy for free, just by changing plans. Thirty minutes later the new phone was working, and I returned the ordered phone to Walmart.

 I must note that in Greece phones are sold 'unlocked' meaning you can put any providers' SIM card in them, in fact two providers could exist in one phone.  This 'locked' business seems to be a US glitch.

Leading a duck's life at Lake Chelan in Manson

Our new bank account is up and running, after having passed all the identification and security checks initially required. However, the checks associated with it are lost in the mail. They were sent on Aug. 31st and should have been delivered a week ago (an automated voice told me that when I called the bank). 

 A trip to our local post office provided no answers as I had only a photo of the package sent by the bank, not a tracking number.  A second call to the bank finally got me to a human who couldn't help because we had not 'paid extra' for a tracking number. Paid extra. . .really??

Back in 2021 when it was a drive through affair

We failed to get our Covid booster shot while here. The newest vaccine doesn't hit the shelves until the week after we leave.  I was questionable for the shot as I came down with shingles in July and still have the rash.  It turns out a side effect of the shot could be shingles, or reactivating shingles. Always something new to learn, isn't there?

On the Flip Side

Our Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese

Meanwhile back in Greece our neighbors report we've been without municipal water for several days on several occasions since we've been gone.  Facebook pages from our area show mountains of garbage that have accumulated at municipal bins.

No place is perfect, we've concluded.  But we still are happy to have two places in the world where we are surrounded by good friends and neighbors; places that we call home. We just may see them a bit differently than we did when we left them. And maybe that isn't such a bad thing. 

Again, thanks for your time with us. Hope you'll join us again next time when we will be writing from our slice of Greece~


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Greece - Yes, it IS home!

 'We are originally from Washington State, but we live in Greece. (pause) Yes, Greece IS home'.

So many times on our recent Adriatic cruise we found our fellow passengers -- many of them Americans -- doing a double take when we introduced ourselves and answered the question,  'Where are you from?'. 

Our Stone House on the Hill - Greek Peloponnese

Last March, I drew several raised eyebrows from friends in the States when I wrote on a Facebook post that our visit to the Pacific Northwest was coming to a close and 'it was time to head home'.   

'Home?!' several responded, 'You consider Greece home now?'

Well, as a matter of fact, yes, we do. 

Greece is Home

The Stone House on the Hill (far left) and Messinian Bay

Our neighboring fellow American expats don't find it at all unusual to consider Greece home.  In fact the two of us stand out because we still have a residence back in the States. Many here have moved their residences and lives, lock, stock and barrel, to this side of the pond.  However, when we moved here we weren't quite ready to cut ties completely with the state in which we were born and raised. Our residence there - where we've spent less than 2.5 months in the last three years, has become somewhat our 'vacation home' for now.

American expats all - on a Greek fishing boat adventure

For those who've never made the quantum leap of moving to a foreign land, the idea of that far-distant place as being home is really, well, quite foreign for lack of a better word.  What they don't realize is that it isn't a far distant place for us anymore, it is our 24/7 world. 

And once you adjust to the rhythms of that new world, it really is quite a nice place to be.

Many of you who've been with us here since the beginning of this chapter know we gave ourselves five years and if at the end of that time we'd had enough we would move on. Now, nearing seven years of home ownership and three of living here, we now find ourselves pondering  how many more years we might be able to squeeze into this adventure.

Our world is the Greek Peloponnese these days

We certainly are planning/hoping for at least a few more years and in doing so, seriously discussed finding a one level home that would lend itself more kindly to the, ahem, aging process'. Our Stone House on the Hill is literally that, terraced down a hillside in the midst of an olive grove. And that means lots of stairs.  But a new home would  mean constructing a new home, a process here that in the best of times takes two years and with the recent flurry of construction and shortages of materials, would likely extend that by another year. So we opted to stay at. . .

Our Stone House on the Hill

The red gate became blue and white

A new home here would mean leaving our Stone House on the Hill overlooking the Messinian Bay and villages of Agios Dimitrios and Agios Nikolaos. Our garden and grove. Our neighbors. Big Sigh.  

So once again we threw common sense and caution to the wind and decided to stay right where we are! We will deal with aging and mobility issues as they come our way. But with that decision came the realization that it was time to update, upscale and make this little stone house into the one we always envisioned it could be.

What a summer we have had as the home improvement projects got underway and changes began!

Blue, blue our world is blue

New blue windows brighten inside and out

Blue. Greece is known for the color blue. We needed new windows and doors and we wanted to get  rid of our forest green color, which seemed better suited to the Pacific Northwest we had left behind than here. We went Greek . . .blue!

Our friends/installers Ilias and Dimitri at work

One of the most enjoyable but sometimes challenging things about being an expat is doing something major like this, because it is done differently. You need to undertake a project knowing little about it or the ways to accomplish it in a foreign land. However daunting this one felt at first, our contractor and his sons (whom we have known for several years) made it a pleasant experience. It began at his home.  They wanted us to see the quality of windows and doors we were purchasing as they would be the same quality as those in his home. 

The new front door brightens the house

We sat at his dining room table and were offered the ubiquitous glass of water and home-made spoon sweets, the traditional welcome refreshments in Greek homes for centuries. We toured the house.  We chose colors, styles, made the down payment, shook hands then talked about the new grand baby.  Hands down a lot more fun than a trip to a Big Box in the U.S.!

The new Stone House on the Hill

Inside and Out

Master bedroom needed real storage space

While work was ending on the doors and the windows, it was just starting on the interior.  It was time to move from our 'making do with what came with the house' and making it work for us.  Again, working with a small company, this one in Kalamata, we were able to not only modernize the bedroom and den but customize it as well -- for a fraction of what it would have cost in the U.S.

What I told Alex I wanted

I wrote several years ago about getting used to the lack of storage space and smaller rooms in homes here. And I admitted that we Americans are spoiled with having huge rooms and more storage than we know what to do with sometimes.   But it was time to maximize the limited space we had available.  Working with a delightful young man, who spoke perfect English we submitted our ideas in the sketch above and this is what we got:

The new look

As we move into autumn our home improvement projects continue at our Stone House on the Hill (we have two more big ones on the to do list). We continue to monitor travel advisories and updates as they relate to Covid. We are traveling soon - heading back to the Pacific Northwest to touch base with friends and family there.  We hope that if you are traveling that you stay safe and well.  Travel is just a bit more of a challenge in these times of Covid than it used to be, isn't it?  

And as always, we thank you for the time you've spent with us today. 

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday

Monday, April 19, 2021

Expats in Greece ~ Carpe-ing the Diem

 Carpe diem - seize the day! Make the most of your time.  

Agios Nikolaos - our village in the Greek Peloponnese

A fellow Pacific Northwest traveler and writer friend, a few weeks ago observed that The Scout and I had made the right decision in 'Carpe-ing the Diem', seizing the day. He was referring to our move to Greece back in 2017 for an expat adventure in the Peloponnese before age and health prevented us from doing so.

Greece remains in lockdown

His comment was coincidentally made on the one-year anniversary of our first lockdown in Greece, (after the World Health Organization proclaimed COVID-19 a full-blown pandemic in March 2020), and while we were back in Washington State for the first-time in more than a year.

Back in Washington - travel in time of Covid

His observation has remained a little 'niggle' that surfaces every so often when I ponder if we really have been carpe-ing the diem or if we've sort of been lulled into complacency in this adventure by our seemingly endless Covid lockdowns. 

One of the reasons for living on this side 'of the pond' was to expand our travels and that certainly hasn't happened in the last year thanks to Covid limitations and in the year before as result of our residency permit renewal process that kept us in Greece.

Heading home to Greece

Many friends, both in Greece and the U.S., expressed surprise that we we came back to Greece after our month-long stay in our other world. Why would we leave a place where we could go anywhere we wanted, anytime we wanted (without texting for permission) and dine inside or outside restaurants, gather with friends. . .all the things we are still forbidden to do in Greece? 

Well, it just might be because we aren't yet done with this adventure. And really, in our minds, it isn't an adventure, it is simply a new place and new way of living. . .a good way to carpe those diems we still have left. 

A rather routine traffic jam in expat life

Our lifestyle in fact, really isn't that novel these days as the latest statistics show that we are among nine million Americans, a few hundred more than make up the population in the state of New Jersey, who are living as expats scattered about the world. 

We text for permission to leave our homes

Now that we are back in Greece and in our fifth month of our current hard lockdown - the second one in a year - I am looking at us with a more critical eye. I do think we have become somewhat complacent, maybe even numb, in our Greek village world.  

The village has literally become our world in recent months as travel restrictions keep us within our own municipality.  Our travel 'adventures' have become: Should we go to the grocery store AND get a cappuccino, (both allowed by texting '2' to the government) or save the 'to go' coffee until later in the week? Should we take the garbage to the community dumpsters now or wait a day to have another outing to which we could look forward? 

That daily humdrum was shaken up when we decided to go back to the States in March. Getting Covid vaccinations were high on our to do lists there and admittedly we -- like thousands of others -- are seeing the world a bit differently with the jabs completed. (Our expat friends here are still awaiting word of when they will be able to get shots here.)

So many places yet to visit. . .

While freedoms we enjoyed in the States were a great change of pace from here, it was really the trip to the States and back that got us thinking about the need to reactivate a quest for seizing each day.  Boarding an airplane, flying over countries that we want to visit someday, going through the motions of traveling again. . .that's what got us thinking, 'carpe diem!' 

The year that was and wasn't - Kardamyli beach

Luckily this year, that both was, and wasn't, as I prefer to think of it, may well be coming to an end.  Today permanent residents with roots in a number of other countries were allowed into this locked-down country without the need to quarantine if they can show either a negative Covid test or certificate of vaccination.  The removal of the quarantine restriction is a definite move forward.

Headlines tell us that French President Macron is talking with the White House about ways Americans will be allowed into France in coming weeks. In the Middle East Qatar Airlines is working on a type of vaccination passport.  Greek workers in the tourism sector are the next group slated to get vaccine here. 

There is not only a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, but the faintest of pulse beats as well. And that means only one thing: time to carpe diem!  

Greek islands that need to be visited. . .

It has been too long since we walked or drove aboard a Greek ferry and set off to explore new islands. That birthday trip to Morocco is now three year's delayed, and it is time to revisit those plans. And there was the talk of staying in a Bedouin camp somewhere in the Middle East last year and we can't overlook some of those cruises that were tempting us when the world seemed to quit spinning a year ago March. 

And we even have kicked the wheels in motion for some major changes at The Stone House on the Hill.  Yes, indeed, it is time we got back into the role for which we are known: carpe-ing the diem!

So how about you? How do you plan to seize the day as Covid releases its grip on your part of the world?  Leave a comment or drop us an email as we would love to hear from you! Thanks to all who responded to our call for comments on our last post!!

Our Covid world. . .not such a bad place!

Before I sign off this week bear with me as I have just a bit of 'blog housekeeping' to do:

I've been notified by Feedburner (the service that sends our this post as an email to many of you) that they will be discontinuing that service the first of July.  In the next few weeks I will be searching for a new 'distributor' and in a perfect world I will move you all to the new service with little disruption.  However I have a 'niggle' about this whole process so it could be a challenge. 

If posts suddenly disappear from your inboxes, please DO NOT assume I have quit writing the blog.  In the event you don't receive a post from me at least a couple times a month, please let me know by writing me at: or if you are on FB, send me a message there.  Many thanks in advance for your help and your patience!

I plan to be back in two weeks with a new travel tale and do hope you will be as well! In the meantime, carpe diem!

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Normal - a matter of perspective

We've passed the mid-point in our Pacific Northwest stay. The month we allotted ourselves here is slipping by as rapidly as did the year we spent in Greece before working up our courage to tackle a trip back during a time of Covid-19.

Lake Chelan and its Butte - Washington State

This is 'normally' the point in our U.S. visits where we start daydreaming of those Greek salads and other foods we are missing and the tavernas where we will eat them, the people we want to get together with as soon as we return, and the places we want to go after we get back. 

Greek Salad

Instead of daydreaming about what we will do once we get there, we are planning how to accomplish the steps required to return to our expat life in the Greek Peloponnese: Where to get the Covid-19 test, a requirement for travel as well as entry into Greece? Timing the submission of the PLF, passenger locator form, to meet another of Greece's Covid-related requirements for entry into the country. Making sure the residency card is ready to display, as only Greek citizens and residents traveling from the US are allowed into Greece right now. . .again, thanks to Covid.

'Normally' time to start planning more Greek adventures

That's not the case this year. 

What we 'Normally do' went out the window when the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic a year ago.

Government SMS sent a year ago still applies

One year later, Greece remains in its second multi-month lockdown. This one began the first week of November. It, like the first lockdown in the spring, has closed most everything, other than businesses like pharmacies and grocery stores which are deemed essential services. For a time Greek authorities reduced movement to a two kilometer radius of one's home which pretty much allowed us to get to the pharmacy, grocery store, and gas station in the village. A nighttime curfew remains in place. We still need to text the government to get permission for 'movement outside the home'.

'You've been  able to sit outside at a taverna, haven't you?' asked a friend here in our US who had visited us in Greece. 

Dining out in the village before the Nov. lockdown

'Not since last October. And we've not been allowed to sit inside a restaurant or taverna since last March when the first lockdown began,' I replied, noting that for a time we could stand in parking lots or at the side of the road, consuming 'to go' items. 

Somehow when we were in Greece, the lockdown started to feel so 'normal', so accepted by all, that things like texting for permission to leave the house, didn't seem as harsh as they sound when I am sipping wine at a nearby winery in Washington State describing those measures to friends here. 

Athens Airport Feb. 26 - no problem distancing here

However, in Greece citizens and residents are getting restless. Media headlines there call it 'lockdown fatigue'. Last spring the lockdown kept Covid numbers low, but that hasn't been the case the second time around. The numbers of Covid cases continue to skyrocket, and intubations are at an all-time high. The Greek authorities struggle with how to open the country and jump start the economy and tourism, while the health system remains overwhelmed with patients. 

Those same authorities continue to grapple with how to vaccinate their thousands of expats who call Greece home. A measure to set up a system is, or was, being debated in the Parliament (stories differ as to whether it continues or has been decided). Then if/when passed, a system will be put into place to apply for the vaccination. Then a schedule to get the vaccination.

In all fairness, it isn't just Greece, expats in Spain are experiencing similar obstacles to getting jabs.

A Taste of Normal

Our roots are planted in Washington State

We arrived in Washington State -- that one tucked up in the furthest northwest corner of the continental states -- and the place our US roots are planted, during what is called, Phase Two.  That is pandemic jargon for the gradual steps being taken to reopen and try to return to 'normal' here.

Our return to the U.S. was finally prompted by a lengthening to-do list here including the need to finally have several 'annual' but long-over-due medical appointments as well as to seek out and hopefully get Covid-19 vaccinations. We will have checked every item off that to do list after we receive our second Pfizer shots on Monday.

We were among eight people here on a weekday night

Phase Two requires wearing masks in public and social distancing. Most retail stores are open. You can dine and drink inside or outside, with capacity limits of 25 percent inside for those places that have reopened, however a number of restaurants remain closed. You can travel where you want, when you want. By the time most read this, the State will be implementing Phase Three which will allow 50% inside and open some of the non-essential facilities that are still closed. 

There are many in this state not happy with these current mandates and they make their unhappiness known on social media, printed signs, and in everyday conversation.  Most abide by the rules even if they grumble about them.  We are not empathetic. 

Sunday morning drive around Manson

From our perspective, we feel like we have landed in Disneyland!! We are kids in a candy store!! We don't have to text for permission to walk into the village for coffee.  We can go to any of the dozen wineries around us and sit there and sip wine.  We have dined inside five times since arriving back. (And I might add have always felt well-distanced from other diners and servers wore protective gear, masks and gloves and cleaning seemed a constant.) 

Sitting inside a coffee shop is a treat!

Seeing friends and family has been a highpoint of the trip. While the days of greeting each other with hugs and kisses are over, just seeing people again, hearing their voices and being face-to-face has been the shot of adrenalin we needed. We miss that social interaction with friends in Greece.

 Normal is as Normal Does

Highway sign in Greece

We are surprised at how quickly we adapted to this freedom of movement and being among people again. It will be interesting to see how quickly we re-adjust to not having those freedoms in Greece.  Who knows? Perhaps by the time of our return, it will have returned to 'normal'. . .whatever that might be, these days?

Thanks for being with us today. We wonder how you are handling your current 'normal' in the world of Covid? How about telling us in the comments or shooting us an email?

Linking sometime soon with:

Through My Lens
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday


Friday, December 18, 2020

In Greece ~ Six Years Later. . .

 Mid-December six years ago . .

Village and harbor from Notary's Office

The tiny cubicle overlooking the village of Agios Nikolaos had once served as a living room in the apartment-turned-Notary's Office.  Those of us gathered within it on that bright, but brisk, December afternoon, gave little mind to the view we had from it of the village and its harbor.

Notary's office in tall building in the distance

We sat shoulder-to-shoulder: the sellers, the buyers, the attorney representing us, the realtor representing all of us. We focused on another attorney only a few feet in front of us who, standing like a sentry,  was shouting out (to be sure we heard it) an English translation of a contract being read aloud in Greek by another attorney seated at a nearby desk.  There was no room for the Notary (here, considered a quasi-government official who oversees such legal transactions) so she supervised from the doorway.

We'd wanted another adventure, a 'final fling' before we got too old, and this was it, I told myself, as I looked about and thought how foreign - and absurd - everything felt at that moment.

Buyers, sellers, attorney and realtor in the taverna

When finally the reading was completed and the signatures of sellers and buyers, initials of buyers, official government stamps and more stamps and Notary signatures were in place on multiple pages of the document, it was time for the money to be paid (done by check and cash back then - no new fangled things like wire transfers).  

We'd bought a house in Greece!

Just like that we'd bought a home in Greece.  It was time for those gathered to move next door for a drink at the taverna. 

'We'll give it five years,' we'd said at the time, leaving ourselves wiggle room to close this new chapter and return to the rather predictable and routine (and, if truth be told, sometimes boring) life we had left behind in the United States.

Six years later. . . 

The Stone House on the Hill

I write this in my den overlooking the upper garden at our small stone house, The Stone House on the Hill. This spitaki, small house, became our full-time residence three year's after we purchased it. Had someone told us on that mid-December day as the purchase formalities were taking place, that we'd be selling our home of 30-years in a Seattle suburb and moving our citified selves some 8,000 miles away to a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, we'd have laughed.

Messinian Gulf from the Mani

Our decision to buy a home in the Mani, in Greece was not done as result of a lifelong plan to live here in our retirement. It wasn't prompted by unhappiness with the country's politics where we lived. We weren't seeking to escape anything. We didn't spend years looking for the right place.  It just happened. I compare it to finding that one soulmate and partner with whom you want to spend your life:

It simply felt right. And it still does.  

Agios Nikolaos - our village

Moving to a foreign country isn't for everyone. But those who have done it - whether for an extended stay or even those who divide their lives between two countries -- understand that little niggle that makes people like us want to stretch their comfort zones by immersing themselves in a different culture and country. 

Road Repair one of The Scout's new skills

Now stretching that comfort zone has been, I will admit, difficult and downright frustrating at times.  Turning off  'life's remote control' and having to participate with your whole head, heart and soul to get even the most simple of tasks accomplished, to make yourself understood without a command of the language or to understand the events occurring around you is wearing.

The thrill of tasting our home grown olive oil 

On the flip side, each time you realize you have expanded your comfort zone a bit further it is most satisfying, sometimes downright exhilarating. 'It worked!' or 'It is done!' have never been said with as much enthusiasm as we say those phrases here. 

As most expats would agree, you can't help but be changed by the experience - hopefully for the better. There are things about the lifestyle that could drive you nuts, yet, its quirks are what make life interesting. An adventure. And that's exactly what we wanted.

Six Years Later - The Chapter Continues

The Stone House on the Hill

We know that someday, that nebulous date lurking somewhere down the road, this chapter will need to come to a close as all chapters do.  While we often say we came here to grow olives instead of old, we recognize that one does not escape aging by moving somewhere new. 

Our entry stairs - who needs a Stairmaster?

There will come a time our charming Stone House on the Hill with its comforting olive grove and drop-dead territorial views and massive amount of stairs will be too much for old hearts, knees and legs.  These days we've modified our original agreement to that of,  'we hope we have another five years' here'.  

A toast to adventures 

If we don't, we will still agree that our 'last big adventure' didn't disappoint. Sometimes, though, we have started speculating that, 'maybe there is a new adventure left in us yet?' You don't suppose there might be another chapter just waiting to be written do you?

Thanks for the time you spent with us today and to the many of you who have been with us since this adventure began, our thanks for your continued interest and support.  You have been a special part of our journey!   Our best wishes to you and yours ~ stay safe and healthy!

Linking soon with:





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