Athens

I’ve pretty well failed at the 500 words a day thing by now, but let’s just all agree to ignore that and pretend it hasn’t taken me somewhere around 2 months to get to day 14 or whatever we’re at. Sound good? 🙂

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View over Naxos Town and the Aegean

We’re in Athens now. Came in by ferry from a week long side trip/adventure into a couple of the Greek Isles. We spent 4 days each on Santorini and Naxos. Was fun to play the tourist again and explore new places, but we had more mishaps and minor missteps then usual and landed in Athens pretty exhausted last night. The husband is back to working his normal job at abnormal local hours and trying to get in the swing of things. So far, however, we’ve had a pile of problems with the internet at the Airbnb apartment we’re at as well as a little dispute with them over logistics of the deal that has left everyone involved feeling pretty leery and uncomfortable with each other. But as of yet, we haven’t worked out a way to agree on how to part ways. I’m definitely developing a new appreciation for the day to day challenges and frustrations individuals face when trying to establish life in a new place and culture where you don’t speak the language. Our little venture here is still short in the scheme of life at a month, but just long enough that there’s a few contracts and necessities involved that I’d feel incredibly competent in handling and negotiating at home, but that here has required far more time, money, confusion and frustration.

It’s a good reminder to keep learning, have a good sense of humor and maintain perspective along the way. And that rarely is it a good idea to try to negotiate things when one party is coming off being knocked out by Dramamine and still feels like they’re on a boat and both of you are utterly exhausted, sweaty and haven’t eaten an actual meal in 24 hours. Those things might possibly impact one’s perspective on life as a whole as well. J I also suppose that after 2 months of mostly living in Airbnb’s, we were bound to have a lemon experience in the bunch. It just sure would have been nice if it was one we were only in for 2 days instead of month!

We are in Athens, predominately so that I can volunteer with a couple groups working with refugees. The primary place I’ll be participating is with a day drop in center in the city. We both went in to meet people and do an orientation today and will go back to volunteer for a few hours tomorrow. The center is located on one of the main metro lines a handful of steps up from the old Olympic venues, which is the predominant location the government is housing refugees at right now. It’s also a couple buildings down from the Office of Immigration, where most refugees come for appointments. The center is open 6 days a week with 3 days each for Farsi speakers and Arabic speakers. The focus on providing services that are either not available or not of a good quality at the government camps in a manner that retains dignity for refugees.

Currently, this involves clean, functional, hot, private showers, laundry facilities, a children’s play area, culturally appropriate snacks and mostly a safe space to rest and be. They have games, puzzles, coffee and tea and free Wi-Fi. There’s English and Greek classes scheduled throughout the week as well as opportunities for haircuts and other scheduled items.

It was great to meet some of the staff and volunteers today and we’re definitely interested to learn more tomorrow. For the moment, I’m well over 500 words and rather tired so I won’t go into why I/we’re volunteering, but maybe another day. I really am going to try to try again for building a habit of writing.

on car accidents

Because when life already feels too full of to do lists with too little time something else urgent always comes up, I was rear ended on Monday evening. Headed back across part of eastern Washington from my parents and sister’s to my in-laws where I’d left my husband on a quick sprint to soak up nephew and niece snuggles and time with my sister and parents. I’m once again walking away a bit sore and bruised, but fine and this time the car is even repairable. It feels like less of a traumatic and emotional experience this round. Partially because this is the 8th or 9th time I’ve been hit in the past 12 years. Partially because I’m less attached to this car even though it’s new.

Really, I would have happily driven my last one until it fell apart. At 12 years old, it was my first new car I’d purchased and the first I’d shopped for and negotiated for on my own. I angst-ed immensely over purchasing new, but never regretted it. 12 years in when it was hit for it’s 7 (8?)th and final time it was still in great shape at 284,000 miles and had kept me safe through all of those blunders on the part of other drivers. 12 years of adventures, lots of work miles and commuting miles, angry miles, sad and happy miles. Miles driven to visit family and friends, camping and into Canada and California and miles spent dating (and dating again J) my now husband and then many adventures throughout our first year of marriage. All that to say I loved that little car and letting it be towed away after someone else slammed into me at a stop sign deploying my airbags and leaving me with a good number of welts (airbags are vicious!) felt a good bit like losing an old friend.

I like this car, but we’re still growing on each other and I think letting the last car go provided it’s own set of healthy lessons about holding onto things a bit more lightly. Renting out the house I bought several years ago has also been a good lesson along those lines as well, but that’s a whole other story.

And so. Added on to the list of packing and sorting and all the logistics that go into leaving the country for two months and ensuring we’re both ready to work and travel throughout that time period is now lots of post car accident items. But it really does feel mostly manageable. The upside of so many accidents is I have a repair shop I love that’s flexing to work with our travel schedule and quick to assist. And a dad who dropped the rest of his work day to come hang out with me and translate between the other driver and I and the officer and then eat dinner and drink a beer with me and offer lots of hugs. And a father in law that was quick to mangle together the taillight for the drive home and offered to come pick up the car and get it to storage even though he’s a state a way.

So I’m thankful. Car accidents and I have a rough history. I could write easily of the several I’ve been in, of a minor (thankfully) one I caused at 17 and of the near world collapsing grief a couple other caused me in the midst of my teen years. Of how the one this week was within feet of one that claimed a friend many years ago. Of how I’ve avoided that intersection for 19 years until this ill fated attempt to turn there.

But instead, today, this isn’t a sad story, but a thankful one. I’m grateful to have once again walked away virtually unscathed. For family and friends who jump to help and check in and for an amazing husband (who was on the phone* with me when it happened) who strikes a great and delicate balance between caring and letting me care for myself. Not an easy thing I know when one lives with me J.

*via Bluetooth!

 

Waterton Lakes National Park (Canada)

Waterton National Park was a particularly enjoyable landing spot that I knew nothing about prior and would happily go back and spend a few days hiking happily. We spent one night there, explored a bit then hopped across the border to Glacier, hiked the Grinnell Glacier trail in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park (east side) on a recommendation and it was incredible. Then on a whim that I couldn’t quite let go, we cancelled the next night’s reservations and hopped back across the border the next morning into order to do the International Peace trail between Waterton and Glacier National Parks, which was the first International Peace Park.

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Waterton Lakes from Prince of Wales Hotel

Since we did limited prior research, we turned the 8.5 mile hike into just over 10 since we hiked from town and spent a bit of time searching for the trail head. The Canadian side of the trail had a few handfuls of people and a good amount of elevation change as you wind along the lakeside towards the border. After crossing the border and checking off hiking/walking across a border from my life list with a handful of cheesy pictures you have a couple of options. First, turn around and hike back to Waterton or continue on to the US side and the Goat Haunt Ranger Station. At which point if you’ve prebought tickets and timed it right you can hop on a boat back to Waterton otherwise you turn around and hike the 8.5 miles back to town.

We had opted for the boat, but had a limited amount of time to make it to the boat, made more interesting since it took us a bit to find the trail head. This added to the adventure a bit since we spent the last ~4 miles on the US side speed hiking through waist or higher berries and brush, finding lots of berry filled bear scat, but not coming across any other hikers. This way, I suppose the husband felt his bear spray was well justified and we made sure to make lots of noise along the way.img_20160823_142609324_hdr

When you round into Goat Haunt and begin to encounter a few buildings the first people we ran into were full fledged US Customs and Immigration officers. As the hike winds down there’s signs warning you that you need to present your passport to the ranger station if you hiked in from Canada, but for some reason we were expecting a rather more casual quick glance by a National Park Service Ranger. Instead 2 Customs officers, complete with bullet proof vests and side arms asked us a few questions and stamped our passports, including a nice little goat stamp!

Thankfully we made it just in time to catch the boat and enjoy the leisurely ride back to Waterton before grabbing a much deserved beer and dinner at the Prince of Wales Hotel. The hotel has an unbelievable view, good food at reasonable prices – the perfect post hike stop. Then we hopped back across the border for our 4th time that day, laughed at the border officer’s warning to watch for cows in the road in the dark and then quickly realized how creepy black cows hanging out in the middle of road really are in the dark. A bit like crazed otherwordly beings attempting to thrwart your ability to drive safely.

And now this has somehow turned into a little hike trip report, but I’m going to go with it for the day. Plus, it’s well past time to get to the trip planning so that we have somewhere to stay next week!

day 11

Being as it’s been 19 days since I posted anything, I’m guessing I don’t need to say a whole lot about how well the writing daily thing has been going. 🙂 We’re back in town and life’s been a bit of a flurry of catching up on tasks, catching up with people and prepping for leaving the country for 2 months (!!). Somehow in the midst of that I’ve jumped into a handful of books I’ve finished, but planting in order to write has been much more challenging. One of the upsides of being back in town is getting to walk to coffee at my favorite spots, although now that the university in town has started classes, it’s a much different and less quiet experience (if more entertaining in some ways/moments).

The start of classes at the university also brought my youngest brother to town. For the first time since he was 18 months old when I left for college, we live in not just the same state, but the same city! Plus, he picked the same university and it even the same college, so has a couple of professors I had years ago. It’s been fun remembering a bit of the start of college experiences as he begins and I’m incredibly excited to have the chance to get to know him better as an adult and to see where these next few years take him. Every once in a while it’s so hard to imagine enough time has passed for him to be 18 and in college. His birth changed and disrupted our family dynamics in all sorts of wonderful ways; at least a few that my oh so gracious, unselfish 16 year old self welcomed less than happily.

I can remember listening to my other brother and sister bicker about who would get to hold him first leading up to his birth and feeling less of their excitement and much more teenage angst and irritation at the additional responsibilities that came to me as the oldest surrounding his arrival. But then. Really, his arrival was the first time I willingly chose and wanted to be around a baby/small child. Babysitting and willingly working in the church nursery just never appealed to me. But here’s this adorable little guy, whose personality so quickly presented itself ready to tease, laugh, play and claim his place in our family of 3 teenagers. He spent many of his naps at soccer games, carpool pickups and being carted around by his usually adoring and much older siblings.

This kid quickly became one of my favorite people on the planet and charmed everyone with his 2 year old well annunciated announcements at church that “I am a good annunciator. Then later all my college friends as he told silly stories and jokes and nearly broke my heart when he announced on a visit junior year through tears that he could not go home with my parents because I didn’t have family with me so he would simply have to stay!

Now my ‘little’ brother has a good 6+ inches on me and has grown into an incredible young man that is still easily one of my favorite people on this planet.