"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
I have landed, as always with a 'thud'. It was a long, exhausting trip home. The flight from Athens to London (up at 4.30 a.m. on board by 8, arrived at 10.30 a.m.) was pleasant, especially the chat with my fellow traveller. Funny how you misjudge people. I'd seen the man on the airport bus, took him to be a worker, plump, simple, a non-discript Greek. Then I saw him in the boarding line, and it turned out we were seat--partners. He was a computer technician going to Dundee, Scotland for a conference. We talked about many things, and in particular he had a keen interest in the subject of my novel, Alexander. Surprisingly his opinions and mine jibed, so it made for an excellent conversation, helping the flight time pass in a most pleasant manner.
There was a five hour lay-over at Heathrow. I had only a little money left, so mainly just walked around looking in shops, but for awhile sat at the Costa Coffee bar (where Ingrid had also sat on her return trip) watched the planes, people, wrote in my journal. It was a rather long, tedious wait made even more so when we were half an hour late boarding due to a malfunction in the air conditioning. When we finally did board, the plane was like an oven, not a breath of air. I thought I would faint and became extremely claustrophobic. We had to sit there another 40 minutes before taking off. Finally we did, and thank god the air conditioning kicked in. By then, though, I felt uncomfortable, exhausted and unable to properly rest.
Nine hours later, arrived in Vancouver to the usual grey skies and damp weather, though at that point a breath of cool fresh air was much appreciated. Suzaki met me and we went direct to the writer's group. Only lasted an hour though, before fading out. By then I'd been up 24 hours.
I've been extremely jet-lagged and exhausted, and as usual, the culture shock hits me as soon as I venture out of my cozy apartment. It's appalling the sights you see here (which we take for granted and tend to ignore!) the losers, the homeless, the despair and most of all the ugly bad-mouths on people here. My gosh, I know the Greeks swear too, but there's something more 'poetic' about the word malaka (wanker) than the continual use of the "F" word (and worse) you hear constantly on the streets here. I always go into a kind of depressed 'shock' on returning, appalled at the way things are here, longing to be back in Greece in the sunshine, to hear the Greek language surrounding me (I love the language though I am far from 'fluent'. I even love watching the mouths of people speaking Greek. So senusous. A lovely, soft sound. ) It's a pity I had to leave when I did because I was starting to speak the language more, got confident, paid attention to what people were saying and tried to respond correctly.
When I unpacked, I found out someone had gone into my backpack front pocket and stolen my almost-brand new boxes of contact lenses, my little tape recorder, my good sun glasses, a beautiful gold-trimmed mati (a charm to keep away the 'evil eye') and, most of all, my favorite book by Steven Pressfield, Gates of Fire. All items can be replaced. The contacts are useless to anyone who took them. It was my fault for not tying up the zippers. But...it's an annoyance...and I hope whoever took them reads the book and learns about honour.
Last night I revived enough to go see my friend and later dropped by my favorite bistro for something to eat. The kitchen was closed. I had one glass of the 'cheap' house-wine....paid as much for one glass as I've been paying for a half carafe of excellent barrell krasi at the To Kati Allo. The wine was so acid it immediately caused me to be ill. I felt 'poisoned', and still today can feel the chemicals in my body. Cheap swill. Ah....I long for a carafe of Anna's kokkino krasi.
I already feel 'homesick' for Athens. I put on my CD of beautiful songs by Haris Alexiou, and phoned Jimmy, the Greek 'man from the bus' who happens to be a close friend of Anna's. It was good to hear his Greek voice on the phone. We agreed to get together for coffee soon.
As the French writer, Marcel Proust, said: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes." This is true, and it is with these 'new eyes' that I see my own culture and what is happening in my city, my country. In a week or so I'll get over the 'culture shock' and I'm almost over the jet-lag after a good long night's sleep. But, as usual, I'll be forever torn -- part of me always wandering under the Greek sun, longing to be in Athens even though things are different now and so many old friends are gone. It's so very much a part of my soul.
So, this is the end of the Greek adventure. Coming up next Fall will be a bonus trip (which I won) to Malasia. Six days, all expenses paid. A chance to meet a new culture and see a country I'd never dreamed of visiting.
Meanwhile, keep track of me living my writer's life by reading my Living the Writer's Life blog