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.
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.
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.
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