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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

NOTES ALONG THE WAY

Argostoli, KEFALONIA

We just got here yesterday so these are just some notes from along the way going back to my last blog. Tomorrow, after we've toured around a bit, I'll write about this island which is one of my favourites (my third time here).

Saturday was an interesting day, just browsing around Athens and then in the evening we attended a special event at Daniella's school.

I used to babysit Daniella (Christina's daughter) when she was still in her baby-tender scooting around the courtyard, not walking or talking yet. When I started to sit with her, it was to help her along as she was very tiny and a bit slow to develop. She's Swedish/Greek by birth and Christina is a single mom. Daniella had a confusion of languages to deal with just at the time a child is first learning to talk: Swedish mother who speaks Swedish, English and Greek to her, German and Greek 'aunties' and another babysitter who spoke Arabic (Syrian). So
when I took over it was mainly to help her develop her English speech. We had many fun times in the courtyard, that wee one and me, and on long walks around Koukaki, Philoppapou and the National Gardens. Once she finally started taking her first steps, you couldn't keep up with her. She used to insist on pushing the stroller and then walking ahead, very independant little kidlet.
And I'll never forget the day she first spoke in English! It was such a surprise. It had taken her awhile to process it all and usually she was silent as a clam (a stubborn little mite too!) but once she started talking she was full of words.

Now Daniella is a gorgeous, tall young lady of nine years. She goes to a private school for which her single Mom has to pay a good price, but she's sure of getting a good education. And Christina also sends her to Swedish school. So Daniella is fluent in Greek, Swedish and English too. She and her mother are also ardent about sports. She can swim like a dolphin and also skis and on Sunday she and her mom ran in a marathon for Ecology Day. (They ran around 4 kms).
She was anxious for us to come to her school performance on Saturday so of course we wouldn't miss that for the world!

From ancient times, the Greeks have always been keen on sports and the training of children (boys and youths) from an early age was an important part of their lives. At lot of their life was centered around the gymnasium where they were trained from a very early age, first in the foot-race and later in wrestling, discus, and other sports. Atheletes were highly esteemed in ancient Greece. (It happens that a recent segment of my novel deals with the child atheletes so I found it interesting to see the kids perform at Dani's school)

The performance at Daniella's school was gymnastics, sports and folk dancing.
The children ranged from primary to junior high school. Daniella is in grade four. Her group was performing gymnastics, and her trainer is a beautiful young lady who won the gymnast's gold medal at the Olympics for Greece. What an honour to have such a proficient athlete as a coach! And it was quite thrilling to see what the children performed. The youngest children did a performance with balls and hoops and the older girls did more advanced gymnastics. It was interesting to see how attentive the children were, how focused and how they obviously adored their coaches and trainers.

There were performances of various basketball, soccer and volleyball skills by different age groups. All the children have proper school gym wear. The soccer, basketball and volley ball players were red and white shorts and shirt with their names and number on the back, like professional players. The gymnasts have black stretch pants and red t-shirts with the school logo in white. Very smart in appearance.

We were fascinated by the performances, all on the outdoor gym court on a warm evening. Many parents and family members in attendance shouting "Bravo!" and clapping. I felt so proud of Daniella. She's almost like a surrogate granddaughter to me. A real sweetie! And she looked so 'professional', a shining star, so tall and beautiful!

At the end of the sports and gymnastics we were treated to some Greek dancing by the older girls, dressed in white shirts and black trousers and carrying white hankies which are part of the sirtaki and hazpatiko dances. Everyone claps along with the music and it was great fun!

Afterwards we treated Daniella and Christina to dinner at the garden taverna. We had an early rising Monday to get the bus to Kefalonia. It's a trolley/bus trip from Koukaki where Christina lives to the bus terminal (You'll remember that, Susan!) but we got there in good time and boarded the bus at 8.45. The bus goes past the Corinthian canal, and along near Acrocorinth mountain and the site of ancient Corinth, to Patras (in the Peloponnese) where you board a ferry. The trip takes about 8 hours total to arrive at Argostoli, Kefalonia. We got here late afternoon yesterday and found ourselves a pretty good hotel with a view of the bay for just 40 Euros double (around $25 a piece). We'll stay here til Thursday then go on to Lefkada. Decided we'd have to miss Ithaka as there just won't be enough time to do it all as we stayed in Athens a day longer than originally planned in order to see the sports show.

We went out for a nice meal last night at a taverna near the bay. My favourite: salt cod and skourdalia (garlic potatoe sauce) then tucked in early. Imagine me going to bed at 10 pm!!
But we were mighty tired from all our travels and had an excellent sleep. So today we're just browsing around the town, going to the beach and taking it easy.

I'll be posting a detailed blog about Kefalonia before we leave here so stay tuned.....

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