Friday, April 9, 2021

Travel to Greece ~ A Matter of Test and Time

We had 72 hours to get from Washington State to the arrival gate at Athens last week.  

The return trip back from our 'other world' turned out to be both a matter of test and time. 

Heading back to Greece

The time clock against which we were racing started the minute the swabs went up our noses for the PCR-Covid test and would stop when those results were presented to some official at the Athens Airport.

We'd returned to the U.S. Pacific Northwest as expats who had finally needed to address some deferred home-owning obligations and routine medical matters. We'd not been back in over a year - the longest we've ever been out of the country.  

We'd also given up waiting for vaccinations in Greece and had headed back to the States with getting vaccinated as the top priority on our list.  (Turns out that was a good thing as fellow expats haven't yet been allowed into the jab scheduling system in Greece.)

Last week, our 'to do' list was completed - it was time to return to our world in Greece. And it didn't take long for this White Knuckler to have far more things to fret about than keeping the plane in the air!

72 hours to make it with  time zones and overnight layers

As I mentioned in our last post, testing for Covid has become a major requirement of travel in this 'new normal' world. Unfortunately for the traveler, there is no uniform requirement for test report formats or timelines for obtaining the tests. Our trip illustrated that point well as there are very distinct rules for each of our country's, even though they seem very much alike at first glance!  

Greece's mandated negative test within 72 hours prior to arrival is much more daunting a timeline to meet when flying from the U.S. west coast than a test three calendar days before departure was when traveling to the U.S. 

PCR test in our Greek village

What that meant was: we could take the test at a lab in our Greek village on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday and depart for the U.S. from Athens Friday afternoon. Because of time zones changes we arrived in Seattle the next day, Saturday, which was the same day we flew out of Dubai, (our connecting city). Three days were no problem.

Entering Greece with test  results obtained within 72 hours was a much higher hurdle: We lost a day, thanks to those time zones and Greece is 10 hours ahead of the U.S. West Coast.  That meant if we had the test on Tuesday at 8 the U.S, we had to be back in Greece by 6 p.m. Friday (adjusted for time change). Our flight was scheduled to arrive at 3 p.m. which gave us a three-hour window for any potential delays. 

From Greece's PLF - required for entry

Greece also has two seemingly simple sounding requirements for those test results, but both became major concerns in the preflight dash:  1) the test results be printed on paper from an accredited lab or medical facility (that meant letterhead paper) and 2) our passport numbers were to be included on those reports.

Playing Beat the clock

Heading out over the Polar Route to Greece

In all fairness to Washington, a number of drive-through, do-it-yourself test sites were available. But those provided quick tests and Greece required the PCR, the one that involves a bit more scrutiny under the microscope. And the places we contacted that did those PCR's were limiting testing to those who thought they had Covid. They weren't conducting tests for travelers.  

 SeaTac International airport does have an on-site testing operation that claims to be for international travelers. But when we finally reached them by phone (that in itself a stressful matter) we were told that printing test results on paper wasn't 'normal', and that they were unsure the passport number could be added, but to check with those administering the test.  We couldn't take that chance - we needed, what we needed and an assurance at the time of making the appointment that we could get it.

A long day's night got longer while awaiting test results

There was also the matter of defining 'next day results' - when pressed on when the results would be available we learned their definition of  'next day' meant the results could come in by email by 11:30 p.m.-- potentially too late for our 5 p.m. departure.

(Here I must note that journalists on both sides of the Atlantic have been writing tales of travelers all over the world in much the same boat as we found ourselves: lab results being promised 'next day' but not soon enough for the traveler to make a  flight. But because of limits like 72 hours, tests often can't be done earlier because of travel times. Somehow we felt better knowing we weren't alone in being stressed.)

Rural Hospital to the Rescue

Heading out for testing in Wenatchee, WA

Most of you regulars here know that our home is in Washington State's rural agricultural region, a near four-hour drive to SeaTac Airport. It was at the regional hospital an hour's drive from us  that we finally booked our drive-through tests after being assured that results were 'next day' and if tested early enough, perhaps even same day! We rejoiced! 

We were the first car through the test site, on that day before our flight, however our stress level went up a notch or two when the lab technician preparing the nose swabs told us that test results could be 24- to 48- hours away because of testing volumes. 

The Devil is in the Details

Up in the Air over Test Result Format

The hospital came through for us and our results were emailed 2.5 hours after we took the test.  We had paper copies of the results in our hand 4.5 hours after the test. We remained moderately stressed though as there was no way to include our passport numbers on those results.  Especially knowing that  Greece often wants identification going back to our father's and mother's names and birthdates, so we weren't at all sure our tests would be accepted by officials. . .even though on the bright side - they were negative!

Take Off and Landing

An overnight in Dubai was part of the return itinerary

The PCR test results, our Greek residency permit and the Greek-required Passenger Locator Form were all checked closely in SeaTac prior to boarding our flight to Dubai. Because our connecting flight was the next morning and we entered Dubai by leaving the airport there our Covid test results were scrutinized twice upon landing and again the next morning when we returned to the airport prior to boarding the flight to Athens. 

Thankfully, no one along the way questioned the lack of passport number.

As we disembarked in Athens (on time so within the 72 hour limit) I had test results in hand to show the first official who asked for them.

Nobody asked to see them! 

No one! 


Instead, we all were paraded through a temporary medical testing station and random Covid tests were administered.  The Scout was one of many selected for testing. Then we were sequestered in a holding area until test results were known. Luckily, no one tested positive, we were free to collect our bags and leave.

However other travelers report having to show test results upon arrival. And we'd have never gotten on the plane without them. So test results whether reviewed here or not are key to entering Greece

 So, what?

Back Home in the Mani - Greek Peloponnese

I suspect if you made it this far, you might be wondering why I even told this story. We'd made the decision to travel in a time of Covid and we knew their would be hurdles.  However, we didn't anticipate how stressful getting over those testing and timeline hurdles would be and we wanted  our experiences to help you to be prepared for such requirements when you start traveling again.

We were gobsmacked by how difficult it was to find testing sites and the cost of them in our corner of the United States. Our test in Greece was 60 euros per person or $71US.  The tests offered at SeaTac were $179 (next day) and $350 (one hour results) per person. The test we had cost $218 per person. Had we been delayed for any reason and had the test again in Dubai it would have been another couple hundred dollars per person.

European Union considering Vaccination Passport

And I tell our testing tale  because right now Greece and other members of the European Union are considering Green Vaccination Passports, a uniform piece of identification issued by each country in the union with a 'Q' code that verifies the holder has been vaccinated and can travel without further testing or quarantine requirements.   

President Biden has repeatedly said the U.S. government is not interested in issuing such passports.  So we travelers vaccinated in the U.S. will be limited to the CDC testing cards we had stamped at time of the jabs and any state records that might show vaccinations we've had.  

If Greece and other EU countries don't accept those documents, then there will be continued requirements for having had a negative test to enter the country: the test and the race against time will continue. 

Our Greek Village Agios Nikolaos

That's our story for this week. We are happy to be back at our Stone House on the Hill.  We are now in the fifth month of Greece's second lockdown. It is not surprising that 'Lockdown Fatigue' is being mentioned more and more in the headlines here.  How is life going in your part of the world? Leave us a comment or send us an email, we'd love to hear from you!  

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, March 5, 2021

Just to the left of the Moon

After more than a year of having not been back to the United States, I'd like to say that our return last week sent us over the moon. 

Over the North Pole to the left of the moon

But that wasn't quite the case. . . we did go near it though, or so it seemed, from our window as we flew over the North Pole.

Our plane over Iran

Fysika'!, (Of course!), as we say in Greece. . .our first trip after being grounded for more than year by a pandemic would involve passing 'by' the moon and over the North Pole! And just to keep me -- the family's 'white knuckler' -- on my toes, we were flying Boeing 777's - you know, the model plane (thankfully with different engines) that has been in the news in recent weeks for the engine problem. . .

Travel planning - a new dimension

Athens Airport - rather empty

This trip has literally been seven months in the planning. We'd even twice purchased tickets, only to cancel and go back to the drawing board. We waffled 'betwixt' and 'between' in deciding whether our reasons for returning balanced the risk of traveling in a time of Covid. 

Long overdue 'annual' medical appointments and the quest to get Covid vaccinations finally tipped the scales in favor of heading to the US. (Greece is currently vaccinating its citizens. It is working on a way to get expats registered.)

Dubai's airport, like the city, is sprawling 

Covid has sent travel planning into a whole new dimension. In the 'old world' we simply went with best price, comfort level and shortest route. Now planning involves knowing the entry requirements of the countries we are traveling to and returning to, as well as those we transit (there are no direct flights between Athens and Seattle). We also monitored the constantly fluctuating Covid 'counts', lockdowns and quarantine rules for all of those countries as well.  

Then there was the matter of finding an airline still flying from our part of the world to Seattle, then reviewing its Covid safety protocols and cleanliness.

After taking all that into consideration, we ended up with a rather circuitous route back.

Sands of Iran from the plane

The first leg of our journey was a four-hour flight from Athens to Dubai, last Friday evening. We overnighted at an airport hotel and then a Saturday morning flight of 13.5 hours brought us to Seattle from Dubai. The plane sliced right up the middle of sand-covered Iran, the immense Russian landscape, over frozen tundra, and the North Pole and the snow-covered Canadian Rocky Mountain range. 

Snow capped Canadian Rockies

That flight, the second longest we have ever been on, seemed so much longer than those 13.5 hours that ticked so slowly past. We are obviously out of practice when it comes to travel! Because it wasn't for lack of pampering as we had cashed in air miles to fly Business Class on Emirates Airline. We did so knowing the flights would be long and to hopefully gain more 'distancing' on board. As it turned out, spacing was not a problem as the load factor was so light. It was a nice way to travel, though!

Mask, gloves, protective goggles and clothing - a new world

I know many of you are pondering similar trips and have asked about how safe we felt, related to Covid.  I can sing the praises of Emirates as they seemed to have gone the extra mile for safety. They announced that the plane's air filtration was at hospital level 98.97% and that it circulated every two minutes.  Flight attendants wore masks, face shields, gloves and a protective covering over their uniforms. They went so far as to have a staff member on board specifically assigned to clean toilets every 45 minutes.  

Passengers were required to wear masks at all times when not eating or drinking.  New masks were distributed regularly and a kit with gloves, masks and sanitizer was distributed at the start of the journey.

Our welcome gift on board

Dishes served in Business came with plastic covers that we could remove, glassware was wrapped. Wine was poured so that we could see it coming directly out of the bottle and into the glasses. 

Business Class Emirates

As mentioned above we flew a 777- 200, which can accommodate hundreds of passengers. There are 38 Business class seats on this aircraft.  We had 8 passengers in Business from Athens and 11 from Dubai.  There were maybe 100 people on the entire flight to Seattle, fewer on the flight to Dubai.

Compartments were large and private

The Business Class configuration is such that the two of us sitting side-by-side couldn't see each other or talk with each other without making an effort to do so.  No problem with distancing.

Before Boarding the Plane. . .

Covid test in our Greek village

The Covid Test: Within three calendar days of boarding a flight to the United States, passengers must be tested and found negative for Covid. Luckily, we have a state-of-the-art modern blood lab in our villages so the test was done in the parking lot - the staff came to the car window -- at noon last Wednesday. By 7 p.m. we had our 'negative' results in email form. 

The authorities require the report to be printed on paper - those documents were ready the following morning. That piece of paper became as valuable as our passport - we had to show it in Athens and four times in Dubai. No one checked it upon our arrival in Seattle.

US government required attestation form

The Attestation Form: U.S. government also requires that a passenger Covid attestation form be completed by the passenger, swearing that they either tested negative or if they had previously had Covid that a doctor had determined they were clear to travel.  Those forms are collected by the airline - no attestation, no boarding. 

Greece - has tight controls for movement these days

The Greek Passenger Locator Form (PLF): another new Covid step is completing a form required for all travelers both arriving and departing Greece. These must be completed within 24 hours of the departing flight. This is done on-line and a QR code is sent back to the applicant by midnight prior to the flight. Our code came back immediately - however no one at the Athens Airport asked to see it.

What Greek officials did want to see was our biometric residency permit card. . .right after they checked our U.S. passport and saw that we entered the country more than a year ago. Greece, is a Schengen country which allows a 90-day stay unless you have proof of residency.  Finally, those cards we worked so hard to get, came in handy!

Was it worth it?

First jab - Monday

Yes! A resounding YES because a major reason for this trip was the hope/plan to get our Covid vaccine at some point during our stay and we have already accomplished that. For weeks, while going through the trip planning, we were also monitoring vaccination sites and schedules and putting our names on waitlists. Then an unexpected fluke in scheduling got us appointments at a mass vaccination center in a city near our home here.  We stopped and got our first (Pfizer) shot before we got home!  The next day we were notified we had cleared another waitlist and could have gotten an appointment in the Seattle area.

We also threaded the needle in leaving Greece when we did. Yesterday the country recorded its highest number of Covid cases, several hospitals in Athens are at 90% ICU bed capacity with Covid patients and the country went into its most severe lockdown since last spring. The lockdown limits movement to within the village, and limited movement in the village. This lockdown is set to end March 16th. We are set to return the end of the month. . .we may have a whole new travel adventure back.

Again, we thank you for the time you spent with us today and hope to see you back for the next installment of this journey to Washington. . .

Linking with:


Monday, February 15, 2021

Kalamata - And Not the Olive!

When you think 'Kalamata' I suspect you have an image of  the spicy, tart olive that crowns Greek dishes everywhere.

Kalamata olives for sale by the kilo at the public market

When we think 'Kalamata', we are envisioning the port city about an hour's drive away from us on the Messinian Bay. The one that is drawing thousands of tourists each year to its beaches and cultural sites as well as those foodies who are drawn here for its culinary scene. 

Kalamata  the port city on the Messinian Bay

I will admit that before moving as an American expat to the Mani region of the Greek Peloponnese, I am not sure I had ever heard of the city that has become our 'go to' place for doctors, house and garden supplies, shopping, and even overnight big city getaways.

Kalamata waterfront is one of our favorite places

"I go there sometimes once a day," our realtor told us when we bought our house six years ago. At the time I couldn't imagine driving so far, so often. It didn't take long for the distance to become rather routine for us as well. It is only 33 miles/53 kilometers from our Stone House on the Hill, but because the highway that takes us there is a two-lane, twisty, turning kind of road, it can sometimes take a full hour or more to reach this city by the sea.   But the route takes us through  picturesque villages and the Taygetos Mountains provide a backdrop to them all. 

Kambos village en route to Kalamata and Taygetos Mountains

Soon after we settled in as full-time residents, we were traveling the route as often as once a week as we always had some sort of chore that required a trip there.  But as the chores and errands eased up we started allowing ourselves to enjoy this bustling city that boasts the second-oldest Chamber of Commerce in the Mediterranean (right after Marseilles, France).  

Freighter waits outside Kalamata for a load of exports

We've taken a  few of our houseguests on whirlwind trips to the city, but we've never given it the credit it is due for being a down-right fun place for tourists. In fact we didn't recognize all that it had to offer until I began writing an article for The Mediterranean Lifestyle magazine about 'Kalamata - The City'.  The Scout and I made several trips to the city just to explore its tourist sites - and believe me there are many!

I am pleased that I was able to showcase the city in the article that was published in this February's magazine. To read that article (which includes information on all those places like museums, art galleries, and historic places we discovered as well as  tips on the cutting-edge culinary scene) simply click this link: Kalamata - The City

So many dining choices - so little time 

I wrote nearly 1,200 words and still didn't have enough space to sing all of its praises.  I didn't get a chance to talk about the funky Art Hotel right in the heart of the commercial district that was far less than 100 euros a night and put us within walking distance of shops, and bars, and restaurants. Our overnight stay wasn't nearly long enough to get to them all.

Our room overlooked the central plateia, square

I also didn't have the space to show the wonders of the weaving room at the Kalogrian Monastery - the looms once used by the nuns to make silk products that they sold from a small shop in their still functioning nunnery. These days the silk material is made elsewhere but items made from it are for sale in the small display room just inside the entry. I've got to tell you, no future visitors will ever get away without a visit to this sanctuary in the heart of Kalamata.

The silk weaving looms sit idle at the monastery now

I'll keep this short as I want you to have time to check out the full article I included above- it is chockablock full of photos of our discoveries and recommendations. We hope that you are staying safe and well and that even with limited travels you are able to find some new wonders in your world as we did in discovering Kalamata.  

At night the city turns on its magic

As always we appreciate the time you spend with us and hope you'll share these posts with others and that all of you will be back for the next installment!

Linking soon with:

Monday, February 8, 2021

In Greece ~ You've Got Mail!

"You've got mail," messaged our friend, Stella, from the neighboring village, "I saw a letter for you at the Stoupa post office."  

Stoupa, our neighbor village, home to the post office

Now that was news!! But what to do? Hop in the car and go racing to the substation that afternoon or wait until the next day in hopes it would still be there. We did wait until the next day and I found it in a tray of  unclaimed letters that we now routinely sort through when at our tiny substation of a post office. You never know what missing treasures you might find in that bin! 

Getting mail is one of those multitudes of things we  realize we took for granted when living in the United States. After email came along, we snidely called the tangible stuff delivered each day, 'snail mail' with no concept of what real 'snail mail" meant. It, like uninterrupted electricity and internet during a storm, a supply of domestic water during the summer months, regular garbage collection, and road repair are among those things so routinely available or provided that we gave little thought to them. And, I might add, little thanks for them - until having the opportunity to experience life without them.

The road beyond us awaits repairs

For those of you -- and I know there are quite a few of you out there -- who are considering the expat life, these little, but often continuous, upheavals of routines and expectations once taken for granted, are among the things you will need to be able to shrug off. . .that, or you will soon be wearing straight jackets as your uniform.  

I sometimes laugh at myself when I say that we chose the expat life because we 'wanted to live differently' because sometimes it is so very different it takes a bit to comprehend how very different it is!

You've Got Mail or Do You?

Before Brexit and Covid - still a game of chance

While mail delivery to Greece has always been a game of chance, a combination of a change in local postal delivery, Covid lockdowns and Brexit made for the perfect storm;  a vast Never, Never Land between sender and recipient which seems never-ending. 

That would be where we live - no address!

Our long-time readers know that we live in a rural area of the Greek Peloponnese, just outside the fishing village of Agios Nikolaos. We have no street address, in fact our street doesn't have a name. We describe our location as the 'bad road between Agios Dimitrios and Platsa' (referring to the road condition - not the neighbors) although we often  describe our address as it relates to a neighbor's house because they are better known in the village. 

Our address? The road to Platsa, that's it!

For having no address, our mailing address is a marathon long: Kossava, (for the area), Agios Dimitrios (nearest village), Messinias Mani (the region), 24024 (postal code) and Greece (our host country). 

And the former longtime postman knew that meant: leave it on the mail table in Gregg's Plateia, in Agios Nikolaos and we'd pick it up there.  Really quite simple. . .until . . .

Local Changes ~ Local Confusion

We got a new delivery system and new mailman.  Then Gregg's Plateia was closed (as most eateries continue to be) as part of second COVID lockdown, now in its fourth month. With Gregg's closed and no commercial business open in our area, the new postman had nowhere to deliver 'Kossava' mail.  So it was left in the new Stoupa post office to be picked up by us there.   

Simplify the address, we thought. . .

However, in an effort to simplify delivery, we'd started notifying senders to change it to one that reads:  c/o Gregg's Plateia in Agios Nikolaos because that mail does get delivered to a business in Agios Nikolaos while the lockdown continues.

All we've accomplished was to add to the storm as now some mail goes one place, some is the other and some remains in Never, Never Land.  

First, Covid, then Brexit

For a short time, mail delivery was negatively impacted when France closed its borders to - both people and parcels - coming from the United Kingdom  after the new strain of Covid was discovered in the UK.  The photos of transportation traffic jams were enough to give anyone hives. . .especially those who had ordered items from the UK and who suspected those items were somewhere within those big trucks parked on the highways unable to move.

On January1st, when the United Kingdom left the European Union, the reverberations were felt even in the village.  All mail delivery to and from the United Kingdom stopped. For a few weeks leading up to New Year's Day and for a period of time after, our British expats friends here found themselves unable to mail anything back home or receive it as well.

Customs form  - new normal for UK And EU

Logistics between the UK and EU had to be worked out. Customs forms are now required for parcels sent between the two, declaring contents and value of the goods being shipped. Some people are posting on FB even this second week of February that parcels sent to them prior to the breakup are being held by customs officials for lack of proper customs declarations.

Even we Yanks felt the pinch. I had three books on order from Book Depository in London and two items that had been delayed in shipping from (yes, we shop on line when in lockdown with all retail stores closed for months at a time).  All eventually arrived in late January bearing the appropriate customs declaration forms.

It was during a Zoom visit with friends back in the States a few weeks ago, that I realized how different our world is from that which we left behind. In the course of the conversation they mentioned how frustrating it was to place an Amazon order and expect same day delivery and have it arrive two days later.  Days, mind you! We now consider it speedy if  something arrives within the month!  Sometimes we think it a miracle that it arrives at all!

Life Goes On

Christmas cards on display - on our mantle

As it turned out that letter Stella alerted us to was a Christmas card sent from the United States well before the holiday but it arrived in the village just after we'd flipped the calendar page to February. Actually, it made good time as it arrived within a month. We've had a half dozen such cards arrive in recent weeks -- all are on display on the fireplace mantle, now replacing those shown above which arrived in December and January.

The best part of all of this is that we have learned to make do with what we have and not to fret about that which we don't have. If missing mail is the worst thing we suffer during a pandemic then so be it! We'll take it. 

I have to tell you, though, that getting mail, real, open-the-flap-and-pull-it-out-of-the-envelope kind of mail, is a real treat when you are an expat.  We recognize it take a bit extra effort to get that international stamp and get the item mailed to us and we appreciate that effort so very much!

We got mail! 

As I mentioned above our lockdown has moved into its fourth month in Greece. The supply of COVID vaccine has been much less than expected in the European Union so vaccinations are going slowly. But thankfully, not as slow as the mail!

Until next time, we thank you for your time and hope you are continuing to stay safe and distanced! Next time I plan to tell you about Kalamata, the city, not the olive. . .it is one of Greece's hidden tourist gems!

Linking soon with:

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


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