Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 322: Greek House of Cards Party

Katy and I woke up in Kardamyla in pools of our own sweat just hours after we went to sleep. The room we had been offered at her cousin's house was perfect for us and her family was so generous for allowing us to stay there. But unfortunately it wasn’t air-conditioned, and we opted to forgo fresh air in exchange for closing the shutters to keep the light out, so the room was stifling hot. Boiling hot. Disgustingly hot.

When Tatiana, who had been sleeping in her cousin's (also named Stephanie) room, came into ours to tell us it was time to go, we were obviously less than thrilled to see her.

Katy described getting woken up was as painful as, "someone coming to kill my only pet." She has a flair for the dramatics for sure, but it did absolutely suck waking up sweaty, dirty and cranky only hours after we'd laid down. I am still young and fun, but not nearly as capable as I once was at surviving an all-nighter gracefully. That hurt too, I suppose.

We begged Nico to take it easy on our way back to Emporios, certain that a night of partying, along with no sleep and winding Chios roads would be a recipe for disaster in the form of car sickness. He obliged, and away we went, back to Yaya's, mellow music the only real sound coming from the car.

I guess dancing the night away (the whole night) would've been a great idea had we not been expected at a lunch party at the neighbors' house the next day. Yaya was pretty clear that we needed to be back by 1pm. Or 1:30pm? Or 1pm? I remember there was a lot of discussion about what time the party started, but I don't know that anyone ever came to a conclusion about when we needed to be there, or when lunch was supposed to be served. We just knew Yaya was not going to be pleased if we were late, so we hustled back to her house to change our clothes and get ready to go.

We walked up the hill to the neighbors' house, which was grand and reminded me of something that might show up on an episode of MTV Cribs, Chios. Katy and I had passed the home before, on our way in from the airport and again on our walk, but I don’t think I fully grasped how large the house really was until I walked down one side of it, right to the pool and basketball court in the backyard. I wasn't really terribly surprised; in the six short days I’d been in Greece, I’d come to not only enjoy this lifestyle, but expect it.

By the time we showed up at the house, it was 1:45pm, a perfect, fashionably late time for a luncheon that started at 1:30pm. But when we arrived it became pretty clear that lunch wasn't going to be served at 1pm, or at 1:30pm, because despite noticing several tables set up for a party, I couldn't help but also notice that we were the only ones there. Though shocking, downright devastating at first, the whole scene was quite comical, actually, when you think about us rushing back from Kardamyla feeling terrible, to Yaya rushing us out of her house so that we would be among the first to arrive.

Katy introduced me to the hosts of the party and we thanked them for the invitation. They instructed us on where we could get drinks, which we did. I contemplated getting a beer for .5 seconds and then made the responsible decision to chose water instead. I'm no fool.

Soon, all of our friends we had walked out of the club with that morning started to trickle in, most looking every bit as terrible as we felt. We commiserated together about our antics and how inappropriate attending this party was under the circumstances.

Though I felt weird taking a dip in the pool at what began shaping up to be a fancy luncheon, Katy promised that the cold water made her feel amazing, so I changed into my swimsuit and joined her. She was right; the water was invigorating. We weren't doing a whole lot of swimming, but just sitting in the shallow end, completely submerged in water up to our necks. We were refreshed, but still participating in the conversations going on around us.

While in the pool, I started talking to a young teenager named Yanni. From the start he made it very clear that he was not impressed with me or our conversation. When he asked me where I was from, I told him that I grew up in South Carolina but currently lived in Atlanta, Georgia.

He wrinkled his face and said, "Yeah, your accent, it's kind of all over the place."

Part of me wanted to smack him in the face, the other part thought he was hilarious. I've been accused of having a muddled accent before and strangers have guessed I'm from California and New Jersey, so I know that how I talk changes depending on who I am with. Still, I think it's pretty clear that I'm from the south.

This conversation, and pool time distracted us for a while, but two hours into our time at the neighbors, and I was starting to wonder if this meal was going to happen at all. Visitors continued showing up, and thankfully there were passed hors d'ouerves, including fried cheese, that began to circulate poolside. I immediately got out of the water to track the food down (successfully, of course), and found myself in more interesting conversations (one with a BBC documentary film producer and another with a 25-year old girl with really bad relationship experiences she felt open to share.)

All the interesting people in the world couldn't save me from myself, though, and by 4pm, I started to melt down, and after talking to Katy, Nico, and Tatiana, I knew I wasn't the only one who was tired, hungry, and unable to be satisfied by just fried cheese. The couple of days of partying on the Greek Islands had taken their toll and I was done.

Just when I thought I could take no more, lunch was served, buffet style. We loaded our plates high with delicious fish and salad and fruit, took them back to the pool where we ate in silence. There were a few laughs, all of the slap-happy, "I didn't sleep last night," variety, all appreciated. Not long after eating, the men retired to the basement to watch football (soccer). We said goodbye and went back to Yaya's for an afternoon nap by the pool.

That would be my last nap in Greece, and I was forced to start the always-painful process of packing my suitcase. I was scheduled to leave early the next morning, leaving Katy behind to spend another week in paradise with her family. Sometimes, even when a trip is amazing and fun (as this one was), when it comes to an end, I am ready to get back to reality and get back to a schedule of regular life. This was not one of those times. I felt sad to leave Greece, and anxious to return to the United States. My 30th was approaching and now that the Greece trip was done, it was the next big thing I would do.

Not without one last night in Greece, however, including Day 322's things I've never done before: learn how to play Biriba.

Our lunch was so late at the neighbors' house party that dinner with Yaya was a light affair. And by "light affair," I of course mean we ate our weight in finger sandwiches, one of Katy and Jana's favorite snacks. Yanni, the driver/chef usually makes a tray that he keeps in the refrigerator if by some chance there was ever a moment in Greece that anyone ever finds themselves hungry. I'd heard a lot about the finger sandwiches, and they were as delicious as advertised.

After dinner, we moved to Yaya's card table, where Katy and Yaya taught me how to play Biriba, a Greek card game very similar to rummy. The object is to get rid of all the cards in your hand by making "packages," or groups of all the same suit, or number. The game can be played individually, with two players, or as teams, with four players (two on each team).

For the first round, I looked on with Yaya. She and Katy talked me through the game so I'd understand what they were doing.

“These cards are for the birds,” Yaya said, not pleased with the hand that Katy had dealt her. Her frustration was endearing and I added her expression to the already long list I'd heard since arriving.

Yaya went on to lose that round, and a few more.

After a while, Yaya excused herself from the table to head upstairs to bed, and Mike and Jana came into the mix. He and I would be partners against Jana and Katy. We played a couple of practice rounds to get me acclimated to the game. We won a few, and lost a few as well.

When it was time to play for real, Mike looked at me from across the table and said, "Now it’s time we get serious." Then he got up from the table to get ice cream (which we all did eventually and it was every bit as lovely as you would imagine ice cream in Greece to be.)

After Jana dealt the next hand, Mike returned, saying, equally as hilarious, "I've a bowl of ice cream and a handful of cards, what more could I ask for?"

Funny, my last night in Greece, I had to wonder the same thing, "What more could I ask for?"

More time in Greece? Perhaps. But that's about it.

Mike and I lost to Katy and Jana in Biriba. I've never cared less about losing in my whole life. I guess when your friend invites you come stay with her at her grandparents' beach house in Greece and you make it entire week seeing amazing things and eating amazing things and not spending a dime, you feel like a winner regardless.