I feel like I’ve mostly been describing days instead of any great reflection or insight into what I’ve actually been doing or learning. There’s so much to learn, process and think about and I am very much still working through my thoughts on it all. Add in the logistics of normal life in a new place with all the housing moves we’ve done and I’ve been more eager to sleep then contemplate and write. Which is also, what this has turned out to be, but there’s pictures at least!
It somehow feels like I’ve been on the run constantly since last Thursday and I’m pretty well exhausted. I think it’s mostly that I’ve started making connections and those take time and are in different parts of the city combined with it just taking longer than at home to take care of life logistics. Without a nearby Fred Meyer (and a car to drive to it) where everything is in my native language and makes sense to me, things are a bit more adventuresome and time consuming. Which is a good lesson in many ways for us. We’ve managed to cook several meals, successfully grocery shop and are very comfortable getting around the city on the metro. I’m really impressed with how clean and efficient it is. Much cleaner than any public transit system I’ve been on in the states for sure.
We ended up with about 36 hours free between various work/volunteer commitments this weekend and after much debating between staying in town and getting out of the city decided to go for the adventure route. We picked up a rental car Saturday morning and successfully drove across the city and north to Meteora. It’s a region of Greece in a central plain near mountains where there’s a grouping of rock pillars that monasteries were built on the tops of beginning in the 13th century. Six monasteries remain and are much more accessible now than they used to be. In the 1920s stairs were added to the remaining 6, replacing previous wooden ladders and a rope/sack pulley system. Today there’s a road that winds close to most of them making the area easy to explore. It’s a climbing destination and has lots of great hiking trails and is a great to catch the sunset/sunrise.
We drove up Saturday after making it through Athens, checked in and took off driving the 15 km road around the monasteries. We hiked the steps into one of the 2 nunneries, which was bombed by the Nazis and then rehabitated and restored in the 1980s. After catching sunset we meandered back to the village and walked into town for dinner. The next morning after the usual breakfast of honey, yogurt and bread we took off on a guided hiking trip. We meandered around the valley and slowly made our way up to the Grand Meteoron monastery – the largest, which ironically has I think he said only 3 resident monks. It was a great tour, just 3 other people including a Dutch couple and a man also from the outskirts Portland.
We made it back to Athens and the next morning returned the car in the heart of downtown with only minor traffic confusion and even mixed up the running routes by running back to the apartment from the rental company.
Since then, we jumped back into volunteering and working. It’s been nice to be in one place for a few days – 8 days in this apartment will make the longest we’ve slept in one place since we left the house in July!
I spent my first day at the second center I’m volunteering with and enjoyed the chance to connect with new people, see how a different place works and continue to learn. They have someone on staff who works with immigration law/services and provides assistance linking refugees to other services, answering questions about the asylum process, etc. Since today was both pouring rain and a Shia Muslim holiday the center was pretty quiet, which provided a good chance to learn about how things work and get to know a people. It also meant I could head out when the husband left to work and sneak in a couple hour nap this afternoon and we even got a chance to go out to dinner tonight!