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Monday, May 28, 2007

A LONG DAY'S JOURNEY

MAY 27

I have so many memories of sitting by dusty roadsides in Greece waiting for buses to come. At Vassiliki I am perched on a cement ledge under and ancient eucalyptus tree b esdie two black-clad yiayias, one wearing traditional widow's clothing - a long dress, shawl and head scarft. Behind me, a green parrot screeches for attention occasionally calling out in Greek as it struts on the ledge of a stone backe-oven. The yiayias chat amiably and the old one pats my arm in a friendly greeting. "Ti Kaneis? How are you?" she asks.

We are on our way north ot Lefkdad town this morning where we'll make our connection for the Athens bus. It's a hot day, ut intermittentaly overcase with dark rain clouds hovering over the moutnains. Waiting by the roadsie is a time to relax, comtemplate and reflect about the journey so far, anticiapting adventures yet to come. I listen to snatches of the yiayias' conversation, catch a familiar prhase or enough words to guess at the meaning. I've been honing my Greek vocabulary, using the language whenever I can, and it's all starting to come back to me again. So far I've managed small conversations, pleasantries and asking directions.

Finally a bus arrives and we board, heading for a scenic tour through Lefkadas mountain villages. At one stop several more people board so I give up my single seat to sit beside Ingrid. A pretty young woman carrying two red roses takes mey seat. Following her s an African man. He orders her to move, tell her to sit somewhere else. She ignores him. Although there is a seat empty by the window he doesn't excuse imself politely to si there, he jujust keept shouting in English and swearing in Greek.
"You sit there! You move!"
The girl doesn't budge or say a word until he become more obnoxious, threatening, his face screw4ed pu in a htaeful scowl while he contineus spewing threats and curses at her. Finally she moves across the aisle and he takes the window seat. His bad vibes, black as he is, surround him. Nobody says a word, not even the bus attendant. I wanted to say something to him about the way he was treating the people who ad kindly atken him into their country, but I kept quiet. I wondred if I'd still have been sitting in that seat, if he would have yelled at me, and i considred how I would hae reacted if he did.

At Lefkada we had almost an hour to wait for ournext connection. I stood outside catching the resfreshing sea breeze from the yacht harb our across the road. The bus came and we boarded. Suddenly, theAFrican appeared again and it seemed as if he ws goiong to board the bus. There was a lot of shouting outside and the bus door shut. The African disappeared and the bus took off.

We enjoyed our trip down the coast, through the lush green countryside, along the sea coast. One of the most impressive sights is the new brige spanning the Corinithian Gulf at Patras. This gorgeous engeineering wonder is one of the many improvements that were made here for the Olympics. Before it was built cars had to be ferried across.

By the time we reached the other side which is the north of the Peloponnese, it was starting to grow dark. I thought we'd soonn be at the Corinth Canal and nearly 'home' but somehow the last part of the journey seemed endless. it took forever before the black h ulk of Acrocorinth mountain came into view and we crossed the canal. (How many times have I cross that canal? Maybe hundreds!)

All the way down the coast the memories kept flooding ack, first sad thoughts ab out the absent ones -- Robbie, Graham and others of our old plaka gang who have departed this earth. Then as we passed familiar landmarks, a flood of old long-forgotten memories came to mind, vignettes of my life here in the '80's -- obscure incidents that now seemed so amusing . I remembered the day a friend and I took the bus up the coast so she could track down a b oyfriend and leave a note on his door (the guy probably lived there with his wife and kids!) then we took the ferry over to Salamina for the day -- a rather unmemorable visit as I recall. The coast of Salamis is famous though, for a naval battle betweent he Greeks and Persians back in the 5th century, when the Persians were defeated and fled.

Then past Daphne -- there's a monastary there where a wine festival is held each year. I remembered going there with Robbie and some other friends and how difficult a time we had trying to get transport back into the city afterwards, late at night and full of all the wine we'd sampled. There's also a big mental institution at Daphne so when you say someone has gone 'to Daphne" you mean they've b een committed. Such was the fate of the famous "Mad Poet" Vassilis, one of the most intriguing guys I've ever met -- brilliant and talented but so intense! I used to get electric shocks just eing near him and secretly had a big crush on him. In fact, the character fo the poet Alkeas in my Sappho play is based on Vassilis. He was a dark gyspy soul. We were becoming good friends when e suddenly disappeared -- carted off to Daphne, so they said, and he's not been seen again. I often think of him and wonder where he is and if he ever recovered. He was obviously bi-polar.

So at last, by 103.0 the bus pulled into the terminal in north Athens. It had been an 8 hour trip. We got a txi to Chrstinas and here were are. Home again!

NEXT: Around town in the rain!

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