Monday, 26 March 2012

Portrait of a Village

Karyes, Laconia

I am disappointed that I haven't learned Greek in my five months in our lovely Greek village,. But just like it takes a village to raise a child, it would take more than that to help me learn this language.
Despite that, I have been very grateful for the welcome I have had, for the friendship I have been offered and for the neighbours who have graced my life this winter long.

I would like to introduce them to you.

the beautiful one and the black one
First off, our daily visitors. Although we feed half a dozen cats each day, these two are our favourites and seem to be the most faithful.  Minas calls them the black one and the beautiful one. They are very skittish and although the beautiful one will now occasionally let me touch her, the black one, even after daily visits over six months, won't let us near her. But just let the car pull up and the black one comes running. Our neighbour, George, tells me they are both pregnant. I hope they manage when we are gone.

turkeys and hens are our neighbours
Then there are the noisy neighbours right next door. They crow and gobble and make a racket whenever someone walks by and looks into their below ground level abode. Lately we have been enjoying the turkeys who fan out their tail feathers like a peacock. With their blue heads and necks,  they strut waving their red wattles to and fro, gobbling all the while. The old lady who keeps them in this ramshackle abandoned house comes faithfully each morning to let them out and  just as faithfully each evening to close them in for the night.

Maria and Demosthenes
Our landlords are Maria and Demosthenes.  She is energetic and round with a quick laugh and a ready greeting. She loves to talk - very fast and with many many words and I don't have a clue what she is saying. He is lean and a little dour. But it was Demosthenes who introduced me to the" before lunch" drink of Cheepero (phonetic of course). If you think ouzo is strong, you should take a slug of this. Dear Demosthenes, who wears a perpetual frown, is a real sweetie and brought me a box of firewood on many occasions over the course of the cold winter.

Panos and Anna

Here is Demosthenes' brother, Panos, with his Rumanian wife, Anna. They generously invited us for Christmas dinner. I took tourtiere and lemon squares as the "Canadian food" contribution. Anna is my inspiration as it only took her ten years to perfect her command of the Greek Language.  These two are completely self-sustaining with goats, sheep, chickens and a huge vegetable garden. No worries about the economic crisis for them.

Aphrodite and Costas
Aphrodite and Costas run the general store. He gets on to Minas for not helping me learn Greek. He has a fair bit of English himself and he told Minas that if he had just helped me for half an hour a day, I would have learned a lot more of the language by now. Costas always taught me something when I went in to the store. I probably should have spent half an hour in their shop every day and I would have been better off. Unfortunately, Aphrodite natters a mile a minute, I understand nothing and she expects an answer too.

Anastasia, the best baker

The best baker for miles around is Anastasia. I cannot tell you how many kourabyedhes that Minas enjoyed this past winter. And dear Anastasia... you can't walk into her shop without her pressing some free gift on you. As a result of our Greek eating habits, we are both heavier than we were last Fall. We'll roll out of here and hopefully, two months of biking will correct the situation. But Minas will miss the Greek treats of his childhood.

Sophia, the hostess with the mostest and Georgis

Sophia and her husband, Georgis, run one of the cafenions and Calliope the other. Sophia has quite a bit of English and I think she is a little disappointed that I didn't learn more.Calliope is a workaholic and very generous with her time. She loves her flowers and always has a fresh arrangement on the bar. It is to Calliope that I bequeath the lovely orchid that Minas bought me with 35 blooms.
They both make excellent Greek coffee and "chai douvenou" but Georgis make the best 'cafe frappee'. 
Calliope, the flower lover

Sometimes people just take to you and you to them for no apparent reason. Such was the case with Panayota who, when she met us, immediately offered a guided walk into the hills to see a tiny church. We have had lunch at her house twice and afternoon coffee once. Her husband, Vassilis, has a huge vegetable garden and makes very good wine. Between the two of them there are always invites flying our way along with fresh eggs, excellent potatoes and the occasional bottle of wonderful wine.

Panayota and Vasilis

Ya Y
And everybody needs a yaya. Here is my adopted one. She is Panayota's mother. Yaya calls me Katerina moo (my Katerina) and she is always urging me to sit down, have some more to eat, enjoy! She admonishes Minas for not taking the time to teach me Greek and it is for her that I most want to know this language. Yaya has her bed in the kitchen-dining room area of the house. The first time we went for lunch, she stayed up and didn't have her afternoon nap. When we went for coffee, we were in the living room and she was supposed to be napping but there is nothing wrong with her hearing and she kept interrupting the conversation to add her own two cents. The last time we had lunch, Panayota escorted her to their room for her nap but after ten minutes she was back. She just had to be part of the social occasion even it if was from her bed. I just love her! I regret that I had to refuse the hand made quilt she wanted me to take home. There just isn't space in the luggage.

Andreas on Greek Independence Day

The kids of the neighbourhood are not numerous but they make themselves heard. Andreas has the most colourful personality and is the one we know the best. On Greek Independence Day, he was not only the best speaker in the children's performance of the story of independence in the church, he looked terrific in his 200 year old costume. Do you know why those men wore skirts with 1000 pleats? It was so the arrows and knives would not penetrate the folds of material and reach their bodies.

On March 25th ,Greek Independence Day, we invited all of these friends to come to Sunday lunch at the taverna - I don't cook here. We had the traditional meal for this holiday with salt cod, calamari, salads and horta and copious amounts of wine. Our guests brought desserts so we rounded out the meal with galacta buriko, sweet pastries and good old Canadian lemon bars. We retired to Sophia's cafenion for coffees on the house. We started at 2pm and finished at 5pm and that's a proper lunch time around here.

But I would be remiss if I didn't introduce you to Barba Thanasis. He is close to 101 years of age and he gets around on his own steam, walking to the cafenion twice a day, to play cards with his cronies and home where his 96 year old second wife has his meals ready. Minas adores him and I think it is mutual.

Barba Thanasis at 100 and Minas at ???

And so I say good-bye to some special people who have shared their lives with me this past winter.
Efharisto kai tha mee lee soo may ksana sai merica chronia.

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