How does a 10 year old girl prepare for a 3 month journey? She doesn’t. Do you know why? She has zero expectations. Most people plan trips with an idea or agenda at hand. I was headed to an island where I knew no one. Up until this point, being raised in a household where we sometimes spoke Greek and I went to Greek school I thought I would at least be able to communicate with some English melted Greek. Well I was wrong!
The first two weeks there I realized no one spoke English. I know that sounds strange now because English has become a second language in most of Europe. It was not this way when I went. One of the first kids to befriend me lived at the top of the steps of Agios Kyrikos. This is the Port City of the island where the ships (ferries) docked. Agios would be our main location that we would launch from whether it was to Faros or up into the village of Tsouretho. Agios would provide amenities that we did not have access to in the other two locations. When I say amenities I am basically referring to the ability to walk down to the plaza and have a fresh souvlaki or socialize on the plaza with all the other people. There was the phone company location where we could make a call if necessary. Phones were not in homes. Typically there was one phone in every village and calls would be planned. We could also buy groceries in Agios for our trips either up to the village or to the then remote part of the island.
So I have made my first friend. Now what? How will we communicate? I had the advantage because I knew Greek but was not fluent like an islander. She did not speak any English. We figured it out. Those first two weeks we would find pictures of objects or draw them on paper and teach each other. It became clear that I would be the one to become completely immersed in the language. I could also read Greek so that helped too. When I tell you I was fluent in two weeks time you should believe me. A child is like a sponge and with already knowing Greek before I arrived I simply fine tuned it quickly. Here is what I also learned in two weeks. If I wanted to communicate with anyone it was going to be in Greek. End of discussion. What I love most about this part of the story is that I went back 15 years later and one of the first big gatherings I went to was the baptism of one of her children. She found me when I had arrived to personally invite me. That was such a warm feeling. She also had learned English by then. We still chose to speak Greek to each other. After all, as the saying goes….when in Rome (Greece).
Those first two weeks went by quickly and I soon realized this was the trip of a lifetime!
I would be well taken care of. Taught to live off the land. Learn the culture first hand and if I didn’t like the food I could always have some peanut butter that my parents packed in my suitcase. Yep. True story. The largest jar of peanut butter on the planet earth traveled with me half way across the world. I never understood why until I got there.
*Footnote: None of the peanut butter made it back to the states.