Wednesday, December 20, 2017

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Excerpted from A Change of View:
From Patras, we followed our instructions to the letter, along the rugged north coast of the Peloponnese, down through Nafplio, into Astros, and ended up down a back lane. We asked some older gentlemen sitting in front of an unsigned restaurant a little ways back if they had any idea where Angelica’s apartment might be. It’s across the street from a little church? “Ah, go to the blue sign and then straight...” Got it, straight past the blue sign...”No, no, go to the blue sign, straight and continue to a crossing, keep going you will find it.” Okay, past the blue sign, to a...”No, no, here, I will come with you.” Uh, it’s a little crowded in here. “Oh, no room. Okay, you must listen. Go to the blue sign, then this way a little bit,” he motions with his entire body. Hey man, that’s not straight! “Continue to a crossing, go straight,” I raised my eyebrows but he carried on, “and you will come to the church.”
We have come to the conclusion, in our extensive European research, that “going straight” means to follow the main road, even if the main road turns at a ninety degree angle, dwindles to a goat path, or merges with a forest.
This same man told us that he was open for breakfast in the morning, and we should drop in. What time do you open? “Seven a.m.” We’ll see you at nine.
There was no address number on the building that looked like it could have been an apartment across the street from the church that was reached by going down the straight road through Astros. Honestly, during our downtimes, I sometimes step back from all this and just marvel at our good fortune.
As I got out of the car, Jonas said, Good luck, Papa. The cleaning lady was supposed to meet us, but there was no one around. I walked up the stairs (“Sea view,” the ad said, so I assumed upstairs) to the open door at the top. Hello? I called loudly. A woman walked into view and smiled that, ‘I’ve been expecting you’ smile. She explained, entirely in Greek, how things worked, and I responded in English. We didn’t really understand a word the other was saying, but with the context and body language, we managed just fine. Then she furrowed her brow, and asked, “Family?” Downstairs, in the car, I pointed. She almost jumped, and said, “Go!” pushing me out the door with two hands, alarmed that I’d make them wait outside. 
She smiled brightly at Jonas and Matthew, shaking their hands, and patting their shoulders, then breaking into full-blown hugs. Then she showed us all around the apartment with renewed enthusiasm. A nice kitchen, large living room, three bedrooms, and five (seriously, 5) sets of patio doors, three of which led to the forty-foot long balcony facing the (albeit distant) sea-view, and the cute little church cross the street. Finished with her explanations, Tasia bid us farewell. All these people that are so kind and helpful, that we will never see again in our lives.
We drove to the supermarket and picked up several bags of groceries, and when we returned to put stuff away, we made a significant discovery in one of the cupboards. A jar of peanut butter. We hadn’t had peanut butter since home, it being a bit of an expensive delicacy here. And we pretty much OD’d on Nutella in Italy, so this was thrilling.
We are in Greece, a kilometre or two from the beach, and we’re excited about peanut butter.
Breakfast at Angelo’s was one of those moments worth writing home about (so if you’ve stuck with me this long, here’s the payoff). He sat us at a table in the middle of the empty restaurant, wiping his hands on his apron as he asked us what we’d like to drink. The boys asked for orange juice and lemonade, and Angelo returned with orange and lemon soda, then he raced off without another word. Ten minutes later, he walks out of the back room with a huge platter of scrambled eggs covered in a couple kinds of cheese, and sliced ham and tomato on the sides. He brought out plate after plate of toast. Then some plums. Then some more toast. A full plate of watermelon. A large bag of plums. “They are from my friend, you take them.” Then two glasses of his homemade wine.

With each successive course, Matthew said, Ho man, this is going to be expensive! or, Wow, Papa, can we afford this? I had to admit, I was starting to wonder. When I went to pay, I pulled out thirty-five euros (about fifty bucks) just to be sure. I asked Angelo what the damage was. Thirty-nine euros. I hesitated for just a second, the money visible in my hand, and when I went to reach into my pocket for the extra, Angelo waved his hands and said, “No, no, is good.” Well, it was a pretty darn good breakfast, and at least now we know that you drink red wine with breakfast, and not white like we always have.

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