Thursday, January 6, 2011

Day 320: Boating, Clubbing, Rites of Passage

On Day 320, Katy and I finally did what we said we were going to do all week, and we exercised. Actually we just took a walk around Chios, which probably did very little to undo all of the eating and lounging around we'd been doing, but it definitely felt good to move my body for a change.

Plus, the views of the Emporios harbor were glorious. Pappou and Yaya's property extended past the area that I had seen so far, and included several fig trees and an orchard. Seeing where the food came from that I'd been eating all week was fulfilling and I daydreamed about living off the land with my own garden someday. Normally I would've filed such an idea under the category of "Things that I need to accept will never happen," but somehow Greece was making a lot of things feel possible.

It was hot and unseasonably humid, despite Katy's insistence before we left for the trip that Greece has no humidity ("Seriously, Steph, your hair will look awesome," she said). By the time we made it back to Yaya's, we were sweating and ready to take a dip in the pool before lunch. And my hair did not look awesome.

There was a feeling of excitement in the air most of the day and a spring in Yaya's step because her sister Marika was coming for lunch with her daughter, and Yaya's niece, Koola.

Marika was shorter than Yaya, but she was attractive and a seemingly hip grandma, just like Yaya. She had a husky voice and she smoked cigarettes right at Yaya's kitchen table, something that I haven't seen done in the United States since I was a small child. Smoking indoors, especially at someone's house, just doesn't happen very much anymore. The whole scene felt very vintage. I liked it.

Lunch began with appetizers, including more fried cheese, by the pool. Impressive on their own, these small bites were just the warm up for the real meal: lobster. That's right, I said, "lobster." Certainly a favorite of the Los grandchildren (how could it not be?), I was definitely pleased that this meal among those served while I was in Greece. No surprise, it was as delicious and wonderful as I imagine everything prepared at Yaya's house has ever been. As I devoured each bite, I felt my reality falling by the wayside; I feared I was starting to feel rather self-important and deserving of such rich foods all the time. How would I ever return to my homemade paper sack/Tupperware lunches? This is the kind of lunch I want. This is kind of life I want. I deserve it. Don't I? Don't we all?

There were several humorous moments during lunch, including Katy screaming out desperately at the start of the meal, "I can't find my fork!," nervous that if she didn't hurry up and dive in to her lobster right away that it might get up and walk off her plate.

Nico and Tatiana also entertained us with stories about the reunion football (soccer) game they attended the day before. Nico told us he was not the team's captain, as he originally thought, but there was a lot of partying and general debauchery. Nico said he was amused at the soccer match watching all of he physical exhaustion suffered by the players who were out of shape. As the match went on, he said, the players were practically begging to get tripped or to fall down just so they could have a break from running. Other players would run by and whisper to the player lying on the field, "Stay down!" so that they could take a rest from running too.

Nico and Tatiana's stories included a lot of names, most of which I didn't recognize, and many of which sounded the same; all seemed to register on the faces of Jana and Katy, so I had to assume they knew the people being discussed. I was right. In many cases, they were second or third cousins or family friends they'd been vacationing with for years.

One of those names was Yanni. But not Yanni the driver/cook who had so far taken us everywhere we needed to go and cooked all of our delicious meals. No, this was a different Yanni.

The fact that the same names seemed to keep popping up led me to another conversation with Katy about Greek culture. The subject? Naming children. Katy said in many families, the first born is always named after the paternal grandparents, hence the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Nia Vardalos' character introduces some of her 27 cousins as "Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nick, Nicky, and Gus." The same is true in Katy's family. Katy's brother, Nicolas, goes by, "Nick." Her first cousin, "Nico," is also Nicolas. Both were named after Pappou.

This Yanni we were talking about during lunch was Katy, Jana, Tatiana, Nico and Michael's second or third cousin; he had devoted his summer to kayaking around Chios in memory of this friend who had died of leukemia. A challenging and admirable task he'd set out for, and I wondered instantly if he was blogging about it. Exciting for us, too, because he was expected to paddle by Yaya and Pappou's house while we were eating lunch. So our job while eating was to keep an eye on the water to see if we could spot him.

Only we were evidently too engaged with each other and with the lobster (or maybe that was just me), we completely missed him paddling by Yaya and Pappou's house, which he did. Instead, we did the first of Day 320's things I'd never done before, and took a boat ride to a nearby town, Komi to catch Yanni on one of the legs of his trip.

I could sense there was some apprehension about Nico driving the boat, despite having spent the first part of his summer sailing around South America and learning about the shipping industry. I imagine Yaya's concern, if there was any, came not from her distrusting Nico, but more because it probably felt weird to her that little Nico was finally old enough to drive the boat. The same was true for my family and me, as the youngest cousin and therefore the last to do everything. Driving a car on a long trip, having my first beer were all like rites of passage that I experienced with my relatives at the beach.

Nico drove us over there without any problems, and we swam to shore to greet Yanni and his family who were all enjoying lunch at a table on the beach. The visit was, entertainingly so, filled with more introductions to Katy's family members, more warm welcomes with kisses on each cheek, more feeling like the red-headed outsider to all of the beautiful, dark haired, tanned, ultra cool people around me. We heard from Yanni the toll the kayaking was taking on his body, and about a t-shirt he made to describe his journey that said, simply, "I just felt like kayaking."

Yanni said he was planning to stay in Komi for the evening to see some friends and get some rest; Katy, Nico, Tatiana and I made plans to meet him there for dinner and then to do the second other thing I'd never done before on Day 320: Go clubbing in Greece.

Making plans was easy; just like everything else I'd done on this trip so far, I was following everyone else's lead. Finding something to wear to appropriately execute those plans proved to be a bit of a challenge; my style I learned, is a little less European dance club, and a little more shabby, hippie chic.

Thankfully, Katy's possesses a style far more exciting than mine, and after she looked through the things that I brought with a seemingly bewildered look on her face, she offered to lend me some of her clothes. One item in particular was a short, tight, leopard print dress that I would've immediately passed over had Katy not demanded that I try on. Shockingly, the dress fit, a small miracle that made me feel proud for the rest of the night. But when I looked at myself in the mirror, I was terribly uncomfortable; not to mention, I looked ridiculous. I also felt at peace about it, knowing that I'm just not a leopard print dress kind of girl, in Greece or anywhere; and at 29-years old, I think I'm finally starting to feel okay about that. Still, I needed something to wear, and thankfully Katy found, from her collection, the most perfect, fun, blue dress. I left Yaya's house feeling confident and excited, expecting, if only a little bit, that after disappointment in Lake Tahoe and Panama, that the water man Psychic Rose had predicted I'd meet this year was just on the horizon in Komi.

I'll save the suspense and tell you: I didn't meet water man. This fair-haired girl didn't fare as well in Greece as I do in Latin American countries. I did meet lots of cool guys, though, most of whom lived elsewhere (London and Athens, mostly) and were just vacationing in Chios for the summer. And then we sipped on lukewarm beers, a European treat I've enjoyed before.

To everyone's surprise, Mike showed up at the restaurant, almost two full days after he left for the soccer match. Though Katy and I were excited to see him (I'd already told her that I wanted to clone Mike into a 35-year old so that I could date him. I found him to be adorable, hilarious, and lacking any cynicism whatsoever), he was flustered and not exactly warmly received by his older brother and sister. They weren't against him coming along with us on the night we had planned and were frustrated that he hadn't gone straight to Yaya's, knowing that she'd be worried about his whereabouts.

After a typical brother/sister confrontation at the restaurant, Mike came to the end of our table and sat with Katy and me. We laughed as he told us how he ended up where we were after falling asleep in the cab. I could tell he felt badly about possibly upsetting Nico and Tatiana and possibly Yaya. And he wanted to come with us; missing out on what might happen this evening would have been, for him, the absolute worst thing that could've happened. Clearly he was facing his own rite of passage: old enough to know what he was missing, still young enough to be able to come along.

"You know I only have one life," he said earnestly, desperately trying to to appeal his case to us. Katy and I couldn't help but laugh. But as someone who was staring the dreaded age 30 in the face, I also couldn't argue with him. That's what my whole year had been about. Living it up, seizing the day.

Mike left the restaurant, and headed back to Yaya's. The rest of us hopped in a cab that took us to downtown Chios, an adorable, and rather happening spot right on the water. I was surprised at how many people were out at the bars and restaurants, and walking down the street, especially based on all of the quaint towns and villages I'd seen so far. We had a couple of drinks, played some Greek Taboo (a great way to help me learn Greek), and met up with Jana, who had gone to eat with a friend.

While sitting outside with the group, I couldn't help but think that days in Greece last forever, which is good because Greece is the greatest place ever; but it's also bad because I'm no spring chicken anymore. I need sleep.

There was no time for rest, though, and I pushed through any tiredness or apprehension to hang with the cool kids in Europe, going next to a club called El Divino. El Divino means, "The Divine" in Spanish. No one is really sure why a Chios dance club has a Spanish name, and no one really cares either.

Once we got inside, the club was pretty standard to all of the other dance clubs I've ever been to (which is not that many, but I knew what to expect.) Katy's family and friends had literally taken over the entire right side of the club and we hopped from table to table like we owned the place. Mike made a special guest appearance, too, amusing us all. He proved he can hold his own with the big kids and his siblings met him with loving arms and any harsh words that may have been exchanged earlier were all forgotten.

We danced, we laughed, we drank champagne, and took blurry pictures of ourselves having the time of our lives. I continued to meet a lot of very attractive people whose names I will never remember and they greeted me with gusto and a kiss on each cheek. Then Katy and I took a walk on the beach outside the club before putting ourselves in a cab and heading back to Yaya's, leaving the others to close the place down, which they did in fabulous style I'm sure.

Greece is exhausting. In a good way. Like in the best way.