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Friday, May 12, 2006 


Life in a small town looks pretty good right about now.

This week just flew by like a bat out of Hades. I barely had time to read the news let alone blog it. The sad thing is, I can't say I was productive. Most of my 'free' time was devoted to waiting...
-waiting to find parking spots
-waiting in the bank line up to pay bills
-waiting in the supermarket line up for groceries
-waiting in doctor's offices

I spent yesterday morning and last evening trying to get my son's medical permission slip signed by a doctor to allow him to play in a soccer tournament next week. That alone ate up 4 hours of my time and the cardiology exam itself only took 5 minutes to do.

This is why I like small towns. I can do a dozen things there in the time it takes me to do one thing in Athens. When I was younger, I always thought that living in a small town was synonomous with mental destruction. Now, that I live in a large city like Athens, I see that I had it all backwards.

It reminds me of an anecdote I heard awhile back about an GreekAmerican asking a Greek fisherman why he never did anything in his life but fish in a small town since there was so much more to life. The fisherman patiently waited for the Greek-American while he pontificated about the importance of a university education which enabled him to land a job involving long hours but good pay working for a multinational company. The fisherman asked him why he went through all that trouble. The Greek-American looked at him incredulously and told him that's what he needed to do in order to achieve his lifelong dream...to retire to a small island town in Greece and spend his days on the azure blue waters in his boat.

"Like me?" asked the fisherman.

I love the anecdote! :-)

Good story, and I wonder how the Greek fisherman got his start? Did he work hard to get his own boat or did he have a family connection (meson) or a rich family that gave him everything he needed from the get-go.

Maybe the Greek American had to earn everything he had so he could have enough money to retire to that little island of his.

Two different stories but good ones no less.

Life in large cities is hard and it will become even harder. It is stating the obvious that where there is a crowd there is stress, emotional strains, nervousness, and the spirit feels the "wear and tear" of existence. The hustle and bustle of large cities is fine for the young. The energy flowing through their veins can find escape outlets. For someone in his 60's plus that hustle and bustle, which re-energized youth vitality , is the precursor of hardships which the body and mind require maximum exertion to cope with. I am not refering to people who spend their entire days resting inside their apartments, but those who have to launch themselves in the daily rat race for survival in a big town.
Queues in the Bank, queues in the shops, queues to catch transport, the nightmare of traffic, pollution , always on a rush, running hither and thither, like ants in an ant colony, queues at the doctor's reception, frustrating delays etc, etc.

Life in a small town then becomes very attractive, life moves on in a leisurely fashion, there are going to be stresses and strains too, but of a different kind which do not subject one's emotions to breaking point.

I understand the logic of the fisherman and its intelocutor. What the American was saying is that no matter what he is doing now, which he must do, enjoying it and profiting by it, his ultimate aim is to "escape" the concrete jungle and its toils and its travails.
When he retires to the island, unlike the fisherman who has perforce to fish otherwise he does not eat, the American will enjoy the fruits of his dog-slave working past in the large city,.. or so he thinks.
What happens in that case is very curious. It is not simple to break old habits and grooved routines. The American might have become conditioned to soak up the pressures and harshness of city life, he yearns for an escape, but his conditioning may prove his undoing. When he finally manages to escape to his paradaisical island, he finds that he is missing the "crowds", the queues, the daily rush, the aggravation and delays..., he does not want to go back and does not want to relieve it, but he is conditioned to that habit, and his mind and body responds, albeit grudgingly, to that stimuli.

It is curious to see how these retired people end up their lives in desolate and peaceful remote areas. Unless they are fortunate enough to be able to create an activity for themselves, to keep their minds occupied, they don't seem to look contented and satisfied with the change of their condition. They seem to be missing the torture and daily punishment in their lives. Having lived in a small town for a year, they'll never go back to city life.

I suppose the choice of living in a small town as opposed to a large and congested one is very obvious, except that one should not "wait" for tomorrow when a perceived accumulation of wealth has been collected in order to withdraw to a different surrounding, less stressful and demanding on body and soul. By the time the waiting period is over the chances are that other challenges await the tired limbs of the city warrior such as illness, fatigue, loss of interest, apathy. All the wealth produced in all those long years of hard work may not necessarily provide a conduit of escape, but it might mean that once health starts failing, as surely it will with advancing age, the hospitals, and doctors will be waiting to dispossess the hard won gains.

I departed from the large city to a small town, it was difficult an adjustment at first, but later my everlasting regret was why I waited that long to escape .


dear ms SEAWITCH



Me too. And took me straightaway to the early morning sun sparkling on a green/blue sea gently licking at rocks and pink and green pebbles in a small harbour in the Peloponnese where later I'd eat freshly cooked squid and honey cake. Mmmmmmmmm. Thank you.

deviousdiva has made the (outrageous?) claim that you are not Greek! Is this true? Are you Greek (-Canadian)? Do you consider yourself Greek? Have you ever been Greek?

ellas...It's a great anecdote isn't it? I can't remember where I first heard or from whom but it demonstrates how I feel about city life and how I had always lived to work instead of working to live.

rc...I don't think it matters much how the fisherman got his boat but how people seem to think that the be-all end-all to life is slaving away 40-50 years to get 'that bigger house, better car, name-brand labels' only to realize somewhere along the way that living a simpler life really isn't so bad after all.

carmichael...what an absolutely wonderful comment you've written. I tend to agree with you that even the 'simple life' has its pitfalls but for me, it's nothing that an endless supply of good books and the internet couldn't cure.

zardoz...I'm glad you liked the little story. It makes me smile too every time I think about it.

daffodil...Greece is such a beautiful country ... which makes living in Athens such a monumental burden. What I wouldn't give right this very minute to be on that beach you describe and eating honey cakes.

demonax...Diva's claim is 100% accurate...I am not Greek. I have stated this many time over the past two years on my blog and in all the blog directories where I'm listed. I'm surprised you never knew. I thought it was common knowledge.

Just so there's no more confusion:

My husband is Greek...born in Athens along with just about every last one of his relatives on his mother's side for the past few centuries. His father's side of the family come from Trikala. However, I have no Greek blood in me. I was born and raised in Canada and my relatives have come from all over Europe except Greece.

I have lived and worked in Athens for the past 8 years during which time I have learned to read and write in Greek and have come to love this country and appreciate its culture, history and its people but not much of its politics as you can probably figure out from my blog.

Do I consider myself Greek? I speak the language, cook the food, recognize the significance of Greek holidays, love Greek history, send my son to a Greek school, own a business employing other Greeks and pay my taxes to the Greek government but I doubt that qualifies as me being Greek. I'm not British, French or German either and I'm sure if you talked to enough Canadians, they'd say I wasn't Canadian either.

My passport says "Canadian" but my DNA says I'm human which transcends man-made borders and labels.

demonax...I just read the comments on diva's latest post and I do no appreciate being accused of deceiving anyone. Other than you, I don't know anyone else in this corner of the blogosphere who doesn't know I'm not Greek. There's even a little "expat blog" link on my start page if you didn't have time to read my past posts where I specifically state my heritage.

One more thing...you mentioned that you have me "in your sights". Please elaborate on that statement to prevent me from jumping to what might be an unnecessary conclusion.

Do I consider myself Greek? I speak the language, cook the food, recognize the significance of Greek holidays, love Greek history, send my son to a Greek school, own a business employing other Greeks and pay my taxes to the Greek government but I doubt that qualifies as me being Greek.

No interest to sidetrack this post of yours, however you're as close to Greek in my book as one can get. You're more Greek than some Greeks who comment on your blog. Your complaints of Greece are valid, though you do it with charm, humor, tact while forgoing venom and axe grinding. Therein lies the difference because we all know, in whole or in part, the problems with the country and no one denies it. Though the love for the good shines through in your words.

Sorry to pry, however regarding your son and his "cardiology exam", is this the norm for athletic activities in Greece or was it an unusual circumstance? Do not answer if you feel it is too personal.

Take it easy, Seawitch. You didn't deceive me, I deceived myself. It's a testimony to your affection for Greece, and the way you write about the country, that you could come across as Greek – particularly to someone as me, who thinks he's so discerning. It's strange when you compliment someone, they take it as an insult.
I think it was the recent picture of your mum and dad that convinced me you were Greek. They look Greek! Or maybe the picture is similar to so many Greek wedding pictures from 40 years ago I've seen. Perhaps when you said your mum and dad's ambitions were to live 1) in the arctic, 2) in Hawaii, I should have cottoned on, since these don't sound like very Greek ambitions.
That you are 'in my sights' is entirely tongue in cheek. Don't be concerned that I'm going to turn up in your video store demanding you only have Aliki Vougiouklaki films in stock.
Being Greek isn't about having Greek blood, it's about having Greek culture and, to your credit, you seem to have Greek culture in abundance.

ethno...I haven't seen you in awhile. How's life on the other side of the Big Pond treating you?

On the issue of me being Greek. Sometimes I am so impressed with myself that I can actually narrow down the Name Days to the months they occur. Give me enough time, and I might remember the days as well and then I think there is a very real possibility that I could become Greek at heart.

But on a more serious note, I truly do love Greece the country and I've worried sometimes when writing my blog that it might not be so evident because I do rant on about the politics. I feel so attached (for want of a better word) to Greece when I talk to older Greeks. When I hear their stories and all that they've been through, I am so humbled by their stories of life during WWII, the civil war, the famine, the junta. Things I've never experienced and never hope to experience. And it is through them that I understood the word 'filotimo' and what it is to be and feel Greek. Compared to them and what they've done for Greece, I have no right to even pretend to call myself Greek. I want to relate some of their stories in a future post on my blog but I just don't feel like I could do them justice. I don't know how to explain it. Even though I'm a newcomer here, I am still moved to tears every single time I attend the Oxi Day parades and see the numbers of the Greek Resistance dwindle with each passing year.

The cardiology exam my son had was not because of any health problem he has. It was a mandatory test all the students had to take in order to participate in a soccer tournament next week. It was nice of you to ask though. :-)

demonax...Thanks for clarifying your statements. Much appreciated. I've calmed down. LOL

It's funny that you mention my mom and dad look Greek. When they visited me 2 years ago, many Greeks thought Dad was Greek and my father was so happy. LOL If you want to talk about assimilation and being Greek...look no further than my father. He put me to shame during his 5 weeks here and totally adapted to the Greek way of life...and even decided on which town he'd live in and what fishing boat he'd buy if he had the chance to live here year round!

And if you want to show up and demand your Aliki Vougiouklaki films, I'd have no problem whatsoever since I love to watch old greek movies too. Unfortunately, I don't have her films on DVD yet. I'm not even sure if they've been released on DVD yet. But you're welcome to demand Politiki Kouzina and Nyfes ... those I do have. LOL

But on a more serious note, I truly do love Greece the country

It shows, even during your critical posts. What is also evident is that you are giving it your all in the time you have spent there to become a Hellene. Not to lose your identity, but to assimilate into what is Greece and in your eyes, make it better. To clarify, and correct me if I am wrong, you are not interested in making Greece another Canada, but more along the lines of adding the good of Canada into Greece. Big difference than wanting to change Greece into something that it is not.

BTW, I'm fine SeaWitch. Thanks for asking.

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