Greece: First Things First

welcome to Greece

This has been a hard post for us to write.

Allison and I have actually put more energy into discussing it than is probably necessary for something as inconsequential as a blog post. But we returned from Greece back in June, and it’s now August. As you continue reading, I think it’ll be come more clear why we’ve been dragging our feet, and why it’s been so hard to know where to start.

We have both felt like writing only about the fun, wonderful, beautiful experiences we had there, and we’ve been excited to show off the glamour shots from adventures – to dish out a healthy helping of wanderlust and fool you into thinking we live a life of luxury and excitement. It would be more comfortable to just skip over the variety of difficult, unpleasant, and frustrating experiences that we had, and leave out those things that left a bad taste in our mouth. But that wouldn’t be very genuine. Our time spent living in Greece was certainly bittersweet, and our story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those things that often dampened our experience.

In the coming posts, we’re eager to share some photos and stories that we think are pretty great. Before getting to all the good stuff, it feels like maybe we should get some of this out of the way.

 

WONDERFULLY SHABBY

While Allison and I agree on most of this, I shouldn’t speak for Allison. For me, I can say that Greece was two things – two very different things – both simultaneously true. Maybe “magical and disappointing.” Maybe “inspiring and discouraging.” It’s hard to articulate. It might best be summarized:

•  I’m so grateful that we got to live there for a short time.
•  I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back.

In other words, it was wonderfully shabby. And that’s the hard part. I would never complain about having gone there. What an incredible privilege! For much of my life, I’ve been intrigued with Greece, its mythology, its warriors, and its place in history. Seeing places like Corinth, Sparta, and even a serendipitous highway detour past the “Hot Gates” of Thermopylae . . . my warrior-worshiping inner-geek was thrilled. The island of Skiathos and the mountains and vistas in the Peloponnese peninsula were spectacular. I’m so glad we were able to go – and not just as tourists for a week or two, but to experience life there for just over two months. I’ll be forever grateful for the way opportunities and generosity all came together with the timing of a complex series of metaphysical gears and cogs, all moving into place and presenting us with a 3-month window of time to take this adventure when we did.

 

OFF BALANCE

It seemed that even the things we loved most were often out of balance, the positives being offset by somewhat heavier negatives . . . .

The Aegean Sea was crystal clear, calm, and incredibly blue; and the beaches were rocky, polluted by trash and noise, the pigeons were relentless, and the jellyfish-inhabited waters were frigid.

The gyros and roasted lamb were delicious and pleasantly superior to their U.S. versions; and the rest of the traditional food we were exposed to was so overwhelmingly heavy on oil and cinnamon that we had to avoid nearly all of it.

The ancient ruins were truly awesome and so rich with history; and they were overgrown with weeds, littered with trash, and – in places – tagged with graffiti.

The quaint neighborhoods and narrow streets were lined with orange trees; and with few exceptions, there was graffiti on nearly every surface within arm’s reach.

The people were quite a mix. There were a small handful of people so incredibly generous and kind that we’ll always remember them; and just about everyone we encountered seemed entitled, dramatic, and quite passive aggressive. The work ethic there seemed abysmal, and without fail, everyone we encountered who spoke to us about the economic crisis was angry that their government wasn’t providing them with more; more retirement money, more social programs, more jobs. More more more. From my point of view, that’s exactly the mentality that resulted in the crisis they were experiencing, so it was pretty disappointing to witness first hand.

Whether it was the graffiti, the run down buildings, the posters promoting riots and violent revolution, or the dress code of sloppy sweatpants (everywhere!), Athens gave off a shoulder-shrugging vibe of a city having completely given up.

 

 

LIKE PULLING OFF A BAND-AIDE

There. The hard part is over. Hopefully I haven’t dwelt too much on the negatives. My goal with this post was to share some of our honest observations – and, yes, disappointments – in an effort to illustrate some of the great contrast we experienced there. Hopefully the photos we’re about to put up in the next few posts will have more meaning, now.

I’m so grateful that we got to go experience living in such an amazing part of the world. To see the things we saw. To learn what we did. I think Allison and I had pretty lofty expectations about it, going in, and we had to reset those expectations in order to enjoy our time there. Greece – warts and all – was an amazing place to live, even if for a short time. The memories, lessons, and experience we gained there will be with us forever, and we’re really eager to share some of the photos and stories from those adventures.

greece-collage

 


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An Orthodox Easter + Freebie Easter Printable

This past weekend we celebrated Easter with our Greek Orthodox hosts. (The Greek Orthodox Church calculates its feast days by the old Julian calendar, a calendar that was replaced by our now standard Gregorian calendar that saw the addition of leap days. Because of this, Orthodox celebrations typically fall on different dates than the rest of the Christian world.)

In the States, the celebration of Easter seems rather low-key compared to how the Greeks observe it. Weeks of fasting, daily services, a national day of mourning, and hours-long feasts are just some of the differences.

For 5 days, the region of nearly 4 million seemed practically deserted as Athenians traveled to their family’s villages.

For Jeff and I, that meant it was a great time to see some more of the neighborhoods and coastline without the usual crowds. (More to come on that, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek photo.)

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It was also a great to spend time with our lovely hosts and to take part in their celebrations. Cookies were made and hard-boiled eggs were dyed red, symbolizing the Atonement.

eggs

The Easter Sunday lunch was very traditional with roasted lamb with garlic and lemon, potatoes, cabbage and carrot salad, and the hard-boiled eggs and cookies.

It was very delicious and a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath. To show our gratitude, we got chocolate covered almonds and I made this hand-lettered card.

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I realize it’s now after the Easter season, but luckily celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection can be done year round, so I thought I would share this free printable with all of you. Mail it to a loved one, take it with you on your Visiting Teaching outings, or just save it for next year. Enjoy!

Printable Freebies:

He Is Risen 4.25 x 5.5 Cards

He Is Risen 5 x 7 Print

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Official Launch + Giveaway & Freebie!

enter to win

 

Hey everyone, it’s finally time for the official launch of Wander the Wild. Even though Jeff and I have been writing on this blog since January (which basically means you have a lot of catch-up reading to do), we figured it was time to share it with all of our family, friends, and the general populous.

To kick it off, we have an awesome giveaway for one lucky reader and a freebie download for everyone.

First up, the giveaway.  To be eligible to win, just:

  •  Like us on Facebook and
  • Follow the blog by entering your email into the subscribe field in the sidebar to the right 

A winner will be randomly chosen on Saturday, November 15th at midnight. Enter to win today!

This giveaway is perfect for Autumn. Midi rings and a handsome herringbone scarf would be a nice addition to any fall outfit. A craft sketchbook from Amy Tangerine would fit perfectly in your favorite clutch.  Wooden snowflakes, laser cut and hand painted by Nordic craftsmen, would be charming as a banner or as tree ornaments.  And my favorite, how lovely it would be to send a friend a greeting card with custom calligraphy (lettered by yours truly).

autumn essentialsNext up is the freebie. This desktop background features one of my favorite quotes and a photo from one of my recent trips up the canyon. This quote is from Marcus Tullius Cicero who was born in 106 B.C. Of all the great inventions and contributions that the Romans gave, I wonder how different the world would look if this one truth had been inscribed in the hearts of Cicero’s contemporaries.

Gratitude

As part of this launch, check back in the coming weeks for more freebies, downloads, and giveaways. In the meantime, you’ve got all that catch-up reading to do. Better get on it.

Hello, November!

 

Last Sunday, Jeff and I took a drive to the mountains, and though the winds were bitterly cold, I got some pretty great shots. Isn’t that view amazing? Though I was planning to use one of the ‘Novembers’ I had done in calligraphy, I liked the look of this practice one I’d just done with a pen.

November is going to be a really great month. Besides the obvious return of my favorite cold and dreary weather, there’s the start of the holiday season, and I’ve been itching to try this recipe and this DIY.

I’ve been a little shy about broadcasting Wander the Wild to the world, but it’s been nearly a year and it’s time to share it with all my family and friends. Stay tuned for the launch and chances to win some giveaways.

Grime

I’m a little too proud of the grimy fingers I earn while doing man things. Cleaning guns. Making fire. You know.

Well yesterday, after working on the motorbike and having some significant wins, I came in from the garage to check in with Allison and let her know of the progress I had made (read: seeking validation).

Whilst making known the extent of my victories and overall motorbike-wrench-monkey prowess, I noticed that she was at her art desk working on her calligraphy. Genuine pen and ink. I love this about her. So I stopped talking about myself and noticed her work.

Then I noticed her fingers. They were black from the ink.

The more macho among you may cringe a bit, but my face brightened as I processed how appropriately blackened our fingers had become, and the reasons they had become so for each of us. Greazy motorbike grime, on the one hand, and classy stains of Sumi ink on the (literal) other. We make a good team.

I thought it might be a good photo. Life imitating something. You get the idea.

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Welcome October!

JF-and-AT-October

No one is as excited for Fall as I am. That seems a bit high on the hyperbole, but I’m sure it’s true. Though I missed a lot of the heat during my cross country travels with my sister and mom this summer when we were blessed with unusually cool temps across the mid-West, it was still more than enough heat and humidity for me. All summer I dreamt of the crisp days of Autumn and they are finally here. Utah may not have much of an Autumn season, but it’s sure gorgeous here. The canyons are full of warm hues and the skies are streaked with cotton candy colors at sunset.

Jeff and I have had a number of projects that have kept us here locally for a time, but Spain is nearing quickly. We still don’t have a solid date yet, and we may not yet until relatively close to departure, but we love that flexibility that we can stay as long as we want or we can go as quickly as want. We are excited to go and can’t wait to get there, but we feel good about staying here to get these projects completed. It’s nice to feel at peace with where we’re at right now and not longing too much for our future wanderings. Besides, it’s October in Utah. What more could you want?

Feel free to save this handsome image to use as a desktop background or check out the calendars I made for October.

HAND LETTERING BY ME, PHOTO BY JOE FLOYD