Thursday, September 1, 2011

"why are you crying?"

I am a person who can occasionally be one who procrastinates--an eternal believer in the promise and opportunity of "tomorrow" (particularly when it comes to my absolute least favorite chore, cleaning the toilet!). But I broke my personal slowpoke streak and finally got developed the last batch of photos from my trip to Greece this summer. This is a major event.

You see, after a little more than a week enjoying the Greek "mainland," we took a boat trip out to experience island life. After a day and a night on the very popular isle of Santorini (complete with a rented ATV and black volcanic beaches), we took a friend of a friend's tip, and a calculated risk, and made our way to a very small, decidedly non-touristy island a couple of hours from the aforementioned tourist trap. The boat ride from Santorini took just a couple of hours, and suddenly we found ourselves on a slice of paradise with slightly more than 300 residents, but an ample amount of relaxation, sun, clear waters, and general loveliness. What was planned as a one or two day trip turned into a four day adventure, accidents and all.

We left the boat and found a room near to the harbor area--and pretty much everywhere else, considering the fact that walking the entirety of the island took 3-4 hours at most. After settling into the hotel room and enjoying the waterfront balcony view, we rented bicycles and set out with the intention of exploring the tiny slice of heaven we had discovered. Let me preface this tale by saying: I am by no means a very coordinated human being outside the confinements of a ballet studio. I trip over my own oversized feet on a daily basis; I have gotten my shoelaces caught in my bike pedals; most recently (and by this I mean two days ago) I stubbed my third toe into my bathroom floor landing and ended up mopping up blood off the floor for the next fifteen minutes, like something out of Dexter. So renting bicycles with hand brakes on a tiny island in Greece, when I normally teeter-totter around Copenhagen on a mostly-broken Drescoe equipped only with foot brakes, was taking a big chance to being with.

That being said, once we'd settled into the hotel and met the unbelievably genial man-about-the-island (whom we saw countless times over the next few days, performing all kinds of island duties), we set out with the handbrake bikes to explore the island. The sun was shining, the temperature was well above average Scandinavian levels, and everything was hunky-dory. Until I encountered a slight hill. I forgot the handbrake feature of the bike I had rented, and ended up falling sideways and upside down and every wrong way possible, getting sand and gravel in my lovely wounds in the process. In the middle of nowhere, with no one else around to help or witness my moment of extreme klutziness, we managed to find the island health guy. Who turned out to be an older, unshaven, barefoot, absolutely-no-English-speaking man wearing a red jumpsuit and driving a severely fender-bendered vehicle. Regardless of his personal hygiene preferences and his knowledge of my native tongue, the wonderful man with the beard and no shoes got me to the island doctor in less than fifteen minutes; I was literally hyperventilating and could not even faintly recall any of the 89 Greek words I learned during my trip, but my meeting with the flip flop-clad, early-thirties island doctor resulted in a strict prescription to "go in the water." I was dubious, but took a leap of faith. (And, to be perfectly honest, healed my gaping hand and leg wounds faster than I could have wished for!).

To calm my ballerina-related injury fears, the good doctor sent my best man pal out to the island pharmacy for some goopy brown cleansing cream. I waited by the side of the road, perched on a short brick wall, crying and sniveling and waiting for the aforementioned wound tonic to arrive. After half-heartedly petting a couple of (admittedly awesome) stray island dogs, a barefoot, bald man with sunglasses happened to be passing by. I tried to hide my tears, but as anyone who has seen me seriously cry before will attest, this is no easy feat. The man was not an idiot, and saw past my snot-nosed, red-eyed, hiccuping appearance. He stopped and came over to sit down next to me. As a native New Yorker, I just looked at him, raised eyebrows, boogers, sadness, pus-filled wounds and all. And then in broken English, he said, "Girl, why you crying? Look around you!" I looked around, searching for a doctor wearing closed-toed shoes and a white coat, but instead found only sunshine and happy people. He saw my face and continued: "Don't worry. You are in paradise!"

And from that moment forward, I swear to god, I became an island lady. I embraced the sunshine, the lone island ATM, the generally slower approach to life. I enjoyed the fact that internet was not readily available. I learned to love the long walks around the island, especially when they resulted in stumbling upon a tiny private sort of beach. The saltwater was good for my skin, my hair, my feet, and I (literally) soaked it up. The fresh fish on this teeny tiny slice of magic; the Nightmare Before Christmas sort of dead-but-alive plants; the goats and roosters peppered about the island; the hidden sea caves and water in more shades of blue and green than I ever dreamed of; the shocking magenta flowers that popped against the blue-and-white backdrop of the architecture...I loved it all. The idea of camping, of having a boat, of living this slow-motion version of real life, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, became so frighteningly appealing. I left this island with tight jeans, hands and a left leg healed from the saltwater, hair tamed into those seemingly unattainable beach curls, skin softer than I'd felt in years, and an attitude more carefree than I could have ever imagined. There was something about the laid-back, happy-go-lucky nature of the islanders that made me able to spend a good chunk of time on one of the beaches, lying there doing absolutely nothing, and completely enjoying it.

This particular teeny piece of paradise will forever have a place in my heart; both for the warmth and generosity of its people, and for its incomparable natural beauty. I have never before encountered such an unbelievable piece of Eden, and I will definitely leap at the chance to escape to this happy place of mine again. I lack the vocabulary (in any language!) to adequately describe the enchantment of this island, and so I leave you with a few pictures, which will hopefully suffice...

The island, from the dock.

Playing in the (incredibly perfect!) waters...

There were tons of these magic coves along the island.

Well-fed and windblown on "the deaf island."

Daily magic.