Aeolus’ Bag of Winds, et cetera

LAST weekend at Porto Rafti, where the sea and the sky matched the Aegean and the flag.

Visual Description of 3 photos from resort town 45 minutes from downtown                                                 1: From our table at lunch, over pots of white flowers, across the road, to the Aegean Sea.                    2: Exterior, Whitewashed Greek Orthodox chapel, with blue-and-white Greek flag.                                     3: Shoreline of the Aegean, deep blue sea, and in the background a pyramid-shaped island

THIS Weekend in Athens

As it was  for Odysseus and his crew, however, Aeolus’ bag of winds can be brutal in Greece.  People in cafes, forced away from the ubiquitous  umbrellas-and-tables outside most cafes, move inside, pleased to bring themselves in where it’s warm. At the best (imo) cafe in my Exarchia neighborhood,  The Blue Bear,  their pets are welcome inside, too. 


(Visual description of photo inside The Blue Bear Cafe: A young German Shepherd, standing guard inside the cafe, where his owner is finishing up a latte. I insert this photo of 8-month-old Mojo because he is, as Tom Briel said, “Indy’s brother from another father” – Indiana (Jones) is Tom’s 8-month-old German Shepherd.)

As I was saying, the winds change everything here. 

–> Passengers can’t take ferries to the islands.

–> People on the streets don heavy coats, scarves, and some of them, gloves and  hats. The temp as I write this morning: 53F. 

—> My herb garden’s 3 plants are toppled a couple times a day, but still require watering because the gusts dry out the soil so quickly.  

Visual Description of photo: Edge of terrace, Elizabath’s studio. 8′ and very thin pieces of bamboo lie on the ground, propping up rosemary, basil, and thyme plants

The bamboo overhead awning on the terrace, shown above supporting my tender herbs,  came down in September’s hurricane. I haven’t done anything about getting it re-positioned or replaced. No, I’ll leave that to another season, and to an  eye  more seasoned, artistically-speaking,  than mine. 


One thing that’s  never out of season for me, and I don’t care  how many times I’ve a said it:  Melissa Network, the NGO for young women refugees.   The other ESL volunteer is an amazing young woman, an experienced ESL teacher. We’ve taken to teaching beginner students together, but honestly? Her lessons, her props, her manner with our students are all so fine, I sometimes  just stand around soaking in what she does and how she does it —

img_2914Visual description of photo: foreground, on table, an open laptop shows Joan Baez about 10 years ago, sitting in what appears to be a  kitchen, holding her guitar and preparing to sing “We Shall Overcome.”  On the right side of the table are some Melissa students; on the left, several more; this group is purposely edited out of the photo.  The young teacher at the end of the table is standing before a whiteboard, as she finishes her lesson. 

If you look at the laptop, you’ll see one of my own props, Joan Baez. I’ve used her part-Farsi version of “We Shall Overcome” in previous visits,  but believe I’m  only now understanding how to Teach a Text to Beginners. I’d like to say it’s the online ESL course I’m completing, but really? It’s pure Trial and Error and Joan, who explains that  she dedicates the verse in Farsi “to the people of Iran.”  Most of our students in this class speak Farsi (though not all are from Iran). It’s not unusual to hear them wailing a line or two in English or Farsi, as they pick up their books and head out of the classroom. 

By way of follow-up the other day, I tried to get them to name things they were not afraid of. That’s pure American optimism-cum-naivete, and you can see they had no time for that. Sidenote: sometimes the young women  have a poetry workshop (as they did after this class) with a brilliant, MacArthur Grant recipient,  much-published American-married-to-a-Greek poet. I looked at what they said, and I wrote down,  and thought — this has poetry potential. Doesn’t it?


After “We are not Afraid”: Students flipped it before I had a chance to revise the topic, So here’s  what I’m afraid of…

Visual description: Whiteboard, with the words NOT AFRAID OF at the top. As explained above,the students were having none of it. Instead,  they named these things that they are afraid of (in this order…):  centipedes, snakes,dark,  rats, mice, sea, bees, myself, injection, everything.

I know I’m not in St Paul, MN anymore when…

… two of today’s purchases hold this promise: “Complete instructions on brochure,” and the brochure is entirely in Greek, and I don’t mean, as in, “It’s Greek to me.”

… everything I eat contains lemons or thyme, often lemons and thyme, including the hotel breakfast, whose buffet also offers baklava.

… streets look like this: 

…two visits to nearby churches reveal no Ash Wednesday liturgy possibilities. “Try in a week,” says an Orthodox friend, gently reminding me I’m no longer 3 blocks from the RC Cathedral of St Paul.

… I run into this suggestion – for a honeyed liqueur – at the shop next door:

And finally, I wake up to this, realizing there’s nothing sub-zero or icy here. Really!