This week I’ve been more homesick than usual. It started last Saturday when I was riding an escalator out of the Agia Paraskevi metro station, and these bright blue lights made lines on the walls…and all I could think about was the Rave movie theater in Peoria, and that was it! The rest of my day was shaded in sadness.
Luckily, the homesickness doesn’t feel overwhelming, mostly because I can definitely see why it’s here. There’s the usual: I keep making new friends, and I just want some OLD friends. And also: whenever life starts swinging toward summer, I miss Woodland and the constant events, playtimes, and trips with My Group of People. But mostly there’s this: I’m moving next week! And as wonderful as that is, it is a change, and my emotions usually react to change by sulking.
BUT. As much as I crave having old friends, I really am enjoying all the new people I’m meeting. This is one of my favorite parts of traveling: understanding, through experience, that most people in the world are delightful, kind, and friendly. For instance, I went to a new church plant on Sunday night with Argyris. He left right after the service, so I hung out at the coffee time on my own. I knew one woman (Sarah, a USian who married a Greek and moved to Athens a few months before me) who I was eager to catch up with, but I also met Emmy, a Greek woman who was super friendly. The three of us wound up talking for two hours, and when we realized the bus back to my side of town might not be coming for a while, Emmy drove me the half hour home. So sweet!
And on Tuesday, I had coffee with Joy, a USian who moved to Greece with her husband and kids four years ago. She’s a counselor for another organization that works with trafficking victims, and within two minutes of our coffee date (we had run into each other a couple times at church things, but this was our first long conversation) we were howling with laughter. It felt SO good to be with someone so much like myself. We gleefully agreed on all the ways we could totally fix the planet if people would just listen to counselors and then mercilessly mocked our own pride. It was so great. SO GREAT. I miss Americans. I love Greeks! But I talk fast, and I crave conversations where I can just TALK without making sure the other person is understanding me.
So anyway, homesickness! I’ve been in Athens for about 4 1/2 months. Everyone keeps saying, “Oh, you’re not going home for the summer?” which is NOT HELPFUL. Not helpful, the asking, but also I think going home wouldn’t be helpful? I don’t know. Mostly I just want to go to Romania or France or Slovenia. Get out of here for a while, remember the joys of seeing new things, and then come back rejuvenated.
Week two is done! I am continuing to really love it, although I have many thoughts on boundaries that I haven’t quite worked through yet. My counselor training was based upon the idea that you see a client once, maybe twice, a week. This is spending all day, every day with people, deliberately putting yourself into their lives. But there still have to be SOME boundaries. This will probably be a separate blog post in the future.
I guess I’m thinking about this because this week we started some of our special celebrations (rather than just classes). On Wednesday, four of us went to Ymittos, a mountain that has walking paths all over. My insides were immediately healed as I stood under the tree canopy, breathing in fresh air and listening to birds singing. Greece is stunningly beautiful, but there are too few clouds and too many flowers! (Just kidding, I love the flowers.) Still, my Illinois heart needed to be surrounded by green, green, green.
On Thursday, we celebrated Easter at the house. We each shared Easter traditions from our home countries (Romania, Greece, US, and Nigeria). I got super jealous of the European countries, because they have SO MANY traditions that take up an entire week of special clothing, special foods, special church services, special activities. In contrast, I said, “Uh, well, the US is made up of people from a bunch of different countries and a bunch of different religions. Even the Christians are all divided up into different denominations, so…there’s not really much we have in common. We’ve created a few traditions in the Most American Way Possible…we have a lot of commercialized Easter candy, and everyone is pretty agreed that you should spend time with your family. The end.”
We dyed eggs and decorated candles together. I had planned our Easter day, and I got some pushback from Francisca and Anthi about the crafting. They thought it was a headache, and childish, and I was getting increasingly frustrated, but I didn’t know why. On Wednesday, I had a breakthrough, and I explained, “These girls are like me, homeless and family-less. They’re going to spend the holiday alone, and these dumb traditions like dyeing eggs aren’t about DYEING EGGS. It’s about doing the thing you always did with people you love and trust. We’re family to these girls. And what is family if not the people you do boring stuff with?” Francisca and Anthi immediately got it, validated my feelings, and we did the crafts, which I really appreciated.
Oh, and we also started Formation of Servants (a 12 Steps program) as staff. The first Scripture passage we read was Matthew 25 – the parable of the virgins. Although Natasha finally helped me understand that it was about owning your faith and not relying on others, still, during our group prayer, I prayed, “Jesus, I don’t like you in this passage! I don’t like that you told this story! Why would you make us wait SO LONG. Why are you not fixing things? Why are you shutting out people who were just tired and unprepared? How dare you. Amen.” The prayer is not really important – it is my years long vacillation between faith and doubt – but what matters is that I prayed it out loud. I love the women I’m working with, and I’m so grateful that I can be spiritually honest with them. It’s exhausting to pretend to trust God all the time.
“Why are you celebrating Easter at HD?” you might be thinking. Well, Greece goes by the Orthodox calendar, and Easter is May 1st this year. I was nervous a couple weeks ago, because Dina is in the States right now, and she is the person who makes sure I have things to do and family to be with. But as I shared in a previous A Week in Greece post, I ran into Maria at our HD launch party, and she mentioned that she was taking some non-Greeks to Orthodox services on Friday and Saturday. I have been desperate to participate in some Orthodox activities (my heart LOVES tradition and ritual), so I jumped at the chance.
I’m going to write up a separate blog post about Easter in Greece, so…what to say here? I guess mostly that I’m SO ready to move closer to the metro line. Most of the time I don’t miss my car, but on holidays (and Easter is a week straight of holidays) the public transportation here is wildly unpredictable. On Friday, I tried to catch the bus at 6:15, but it didn’t show up until 6:45. That made me late to our meeting at Thissio, which I hate, but Greeks are very forgiving about tardiness. Then on the way home, I rode the metro to Doukissis Plakentias and caught the last bus out of there at 11:30. It wasn’t exactly my bus, but it took me most of the way to Pikermi. I jumped off before its route changed, and walked the last two miles home, getting back around 12:30 a.m. The very nice thing that I love about Athens is that I felt 100% safe walking two miles at midnight. And the weather was lovely.
Today I’m going back downtown for the midnight service. It will start at 11:00, and at midnight (when Jesus was resurrected, not dawn like we in the US celebrate), fireworks go off and everybody walks around with candles, I think. Since it will be super late, I’m going to spend the night downtown with a girl I met last night. Maria told me about her, and I said, “Is she nice?” “Yes,” Maria said, “And she has a cat.” Well, alright then.
Like I said, I’ll write more about Greek Easter in a separate post, because it is so different and so fascinating to me.