The essence of travel lives within the locals you meet.I firmly believe in that statement as direct result of my experience last summer (which let me just say, left me euphorically happy for the better part of my summer). And today, I began that journey here.
My day began so oddly and I woke up and experienced panic and fear through a haze like I haven’t in so long. But that all seemed to dissipated as I began to teach my first class of the day. My students were incredible and I fell in love with each one of them. Their desire to learn, their spirits, and their smiles uplifted my heavy heart. And it left me with one thought: no matter how this program ends, I will carry their happy faces with me, in me, forever. I will never forget the joy they’ve brought me in three short days.
With that being said, post- teaching my day was left relatively unplanned. But what went on to happen can only be described as a genuine experience with friendship.
Another volunteer from a neighboring village decided to come over to mine (which, I should mention is ON the beach) and hang out. She also managed to convince her host brother to come along today, who was very nice. We traveled (basically two steps) and settled down on beach chairs close to the water. And then it began.
My friend’s host brother had invited a few of his really good friends and what would ensue over the next few hours was free flow, endless conversation. We spent the entire evening discussing things ranging from our basic day to day lifestyles to our interests and hobbies, religion and politics.. before deciding to jump off of a small cliff near our beach.
*Note, I learned how to swim three days before I left for Greece, in four hours, with two friends.
*Note, I am terrified of being in the water.
*Note, I jumped in anyway.
But what I remember from that entire ordeal was less the fact that I got into the water, and more so the fact that these friends that we had just made were so incredibly kind and aware of my fear. They urged and pushed me to confront it, but they also offered me so much support and encouragement for having the gall to do so. And so I did. And it felt incredible.
In the process, they taught me a phrase I know I will carry along with me forever.
*Note, I am sucker for phrases or words that exist in one language but not in others.
Now, I have absolutely no idea how to spell this properly, but the Greek word they taught me as I confronted this small cliff and more feet of water than I’d like to admit, was pronounced as “cigarre” pronounced like cigaratte but with an “ay” sound at the end and an emphasis on the “ci” part” like “SEH gar ay”.. if that makes any sense. The word, as they described it, meant life, living, chance, and risk in search of happiness.
I found happiness in that moment, and that is what we screamed as I swam through the depths of the ocean area were jumping into.
The day continued as did our adventures with our new friends. We grabbed beers on the beach and it was here that they taught us another word. Think Spanish dish, “paella” and that’s how it’s pronounced, but what an “r” added in: so “parea”. As they described it, parea is friendship and community. And it’s what they said as they refused to let my friend and I pay for our beers. We had become part of their “parea”.
*Note to myself: Find proper spelling of said words.
We ate gyros as we walked the street back to my apartment and that’s about as Greek as it gets.
We said our goodbyes later in the day after they walked us to my afternoon class, but by a chance of fate, met them once more later in the evening.
My friend and I were fairly exhausted after our evening class, but had been invited to a festival in my village featuring traditional Crete music and dance. As it goes, when invited by your family it’s rather insulting to refuse, so we begrudgingly went along. It was here that we re-met our new friends, our “parea”.
*Note, they wanted to cliff dive again.
*Note, I almost said yes.
*Note to self: Hone in on this adventurous soul more. Let it lend yourself to exploring the depths of your soul and willpower.
And that was today. It is now close to 1AM and as I sit here absolutely exhausted, I know in the months that follow I will remember today, and the new words I have learned.