There is a house right next to ours in Pyles, with a large courtyard out the front, where the children and I have just been entertained with pomegranates, chocolate wafer bars and stories of the owner’s grandchildren and his renovation woes. He is currently renovating the house (and not, I think, living there), and was waiting there today for someone to come help him with the kitchen, but he had not arrived.
He told me that getting work done on Karpathos is very slow. “Greeks in Greece don’t like to work,” he said. He said the Greeks in other countries – Australia, America, Germany – work very hard. But here in Greece they want to play cards, go to the cafeneio, talk.
He also said that the economy here on the island is not too bad, but in Athens, in the cities, very bad. Lots of people without work. Of course, that’s what then launched him into his spiel about Greeks in Greece not liking to work, but then I’ve frequently heard people in Australia complain about ‘dole bludgers’ who (supposedly) don’t really even want jobs. It was interesting to hear his take on things though.
He broke up two pomegranates for us to eat, scraping all the segments into a bowl, and cut up two or three small apples – all grown by him I think. I gorged myself on pomegranate because the children didn’t eat much (Mikaela tried only one tiny segment), and I suspect the polite thing here is to eat everything you are served, though I must look that up the next time the internet cafe is open. When I had to go to get Elli to bed (when we could hear her crying – she and Chris were still at home), he made me take the rest of the pomegranate with me, tipping it into my hands, and said to leave the kids who were busy playing on his grandchildren’s toy pedal quad bikes. They came home not much later though. I hope they said proper thank yous!
Written later on:
Today has been filled with gifts of traditional or homemade Greek food.
First there was the visit next door, with the pomegranate Liam had been so wanting to try.
Later, while I was nursing Eliane to sleep, I heard someone come to the door. It turned out to be someone Chris had met at the mini market the previous evening, bringing some of his homemade wine, that he thought had come out too dry, but that Chris might like, since he didn’t like the sweet wine they sold at the shop.
In the afternoon we went to Lefkos Beach, but then in the evening we went down to the local cafeneio, owned by one of our host’s nephews (the father of the woman we met yesterday who lives behind us). It appeared to be a bit of a boys club, with the nephew who had met us at the airport sitting outside on the veranda with a group of men, including his brother, the owner, and not a woman in sight, however they invited us to sit down and chatted on.
After a while their sister, who we had met a couple of days earlier, but who had only a little English, came by. She didn’t sit down but stood on the stairs chatting animatedly with her brothers and asking us what we’d been doing and how was the water (at the beach) and making much of Mikaela, in particular, with her ‘beautiful eyes’, which Mikaela withstood stoically.
She then brought out a plate of small cakes/biscuits smothered in icing sugar, and passed them around, insisting on giving Eliane a second one, then getting a wet cloth to clean her up as the icing sugar spread all over her! Her brother explained to us that her daughter had been accepted into law school today so she was treating everyone to these cakes in celebration. While she was there our backdoor neighbour came by and gave us a bag of baklava her aunt had made that day ‘for your breakfast tomorrow’ – when we got home we discovered there were 20 of these treats! Luckily they have no nuts or sesame paste, just the pastry with the sugar/honey syrup, otherwise it would probably just be me and Elli eating them! (Edited to add: we managed to get through them all over the next couple of days, and they were Yum!)
Next thing the mother of the law student (another of our backdoor neighbours aunt’s, now I think of it) wrapped up the remaining cakes and told us to take them for breakfast too, but not before taking back any cakes she had made the men take that were still uneaten, which she then also pressed on us!
Luckily Liam, Elli and I all liked them, but I had to quietly eat Chris’s when no-one was looking, because it had nuts in it, and Mikaela had two lollies (off the same plate), but didn’t try a cake.
While I am sitting here writing all this on my iPhone, drinking the (I’m sorry to say) pretty awful homemade wine we were given, I’m listening to a bazooka player who is just across the lane way from us and feeling properly grateful to be here. It seems like half the town are related to our friends back in Canberra, and the rest all know who we are. They have been incredibly welcoming and have gone out of their way to take care of us. It’s been really wonderful. Only two days left!