Sunday, May 15, 2011

It Takes a Village

(Written on 4/3/2011 from Athens, Greece)
Dear Facebook,
You are crazy.  Besides giving me the ability to stalk everybody I know (and some I don’t), you actually knew I was in Athens before I even told you…who’s the stalker now?!  And then you told me “Alex Kavalieros lives in Greece.  Message her?”  Uhhhh…heck yes, message her! 
Even though you’re creepy, thank you for knowing these connections before I do.

And thus, on my second night in Athens I met up with Alex – a long lost friend from high school.  To add to how excited I was to have a friend, who would have known that Alex’s dad is a famous Greek chef (Chef in Love – Tony Kavalieros)…how perfect is that for my adventure?! She even sent me to his cooking class to learn about Greek cuisine and it opened my eyes to some divine tastes.

Chef at work - giving instructions in the school
We started the evening with a discussion about Moussaka – which I quickly learned from Tony is not really Greek because none of the ingredients are Greek.  So instead we cooked up Kagiana and Potato Soup with Minced Meat.  Both are pretty easy to make and a great way to try your hand at true Greek cuisine!
Meat? Tomatoes? Eggs?  Yes, please.

Chef and me!  Admittedly I did more watching than doing...but still took credit!


Potato Soup with Minced Meat

After a night full of food, fun, and friends I headed back to my last night in my hotel (oh yeah, did I mention that Alex also invited me to stay with her family?!).  So the next morning I got up and (after a pit stop for gyros) rolled my suitcase to the metro station.  Now let me say this….there is nothing more annoying or more recognizable than the distinct sound of a rolling suitcase on a sidewalk hitting the grooves…thadunk…thadunk…thadunk.  Seriously…is there anything that screams “Look at me, I'm a tourist!!!!” louder than that?!

As soon as I settled in to my new abode Alex and I headed out to the private English school where she teaches.  Her rowdy bunches of teenagers were not nearly as shy as she had expected with me there.  And I can't blame them for being a little talkative after their long days...
Alex explained to me that most of her students attend normal public school during the day, and then after school many of them attend private lessons until 8 or 9 PM every night.  This is to "fill in" (so to speak) where the public schools lack.  So by 8 PM these poor kids had already been sitting in classes for about 12 hours.  I would be antsy and hungry if I were them too....oh wait....I was antsy and hungry, and I hadn't been in school since 8 AM.
To fill my own void (hunger), we met up with Alex's dad and adorable younger sister, Denae for more delicious Greek food.  At Tony's friend's new taverna we were treated like royalty with caeser salad, new dishes the chef wanted Tony to try, tiramisu, and saganaki (my favorite...fried CHEESE).  Really?  Fried cheese....pinch me.


Tony & Denae at dinner

As my carbs, fats and proteins settled in I passed out for a good, restful night and woke up just in time to grab lunch at Fasoli's (again), pedicures with Alex (okay...I swear I really deserved this one), and a bit of shopping before we headed out to experience real Greek nightlife.  Can I just mention that Greek men are really attractive?  There...I said it.  I'll leave it at that.

We strolled into the house at 5 AM and crept up the apartment building stairs since Alex's grandmother lives next door and always does her "Greek grandmother" thing and makes sure to mention to Alex she knows all. 
Matter of fact, Alex couldn't get away with much even if she wanted to because on the second floor of the building there are 4 apartments, all of which are owned by Alex's family - her grandmother, aunt, father, and one that they rent out.
It got me thinking about how convenient it must be to send the kids to grandma's house, or to eat grandma's leftover soup (yes...we had some of that at 5 AM), or just to have some family support.  And it got me thinking about just how blessed my own childhood was.  
I may not have lived next door to my blood relatives, but my neighbors were still my family.  The boy next door was (and still is) my best friend, the neighborhood kids frequented each other's houses for afternoon snacks, and our moms even had a "babysitting coop" with these cute green coupons with teddy bears stamped on them.  We had annual neighborhood picnics, and spent every 4th of July together.  We sang Christmas carols every winter and all the kids took turn ringing the bells. it might sound a little too much like Pleasantville, but I am thankful for it.  I can only hope that someday when I raise a family I'll have a similarly tight knit community.  Because it really does take a village...
Today my question for you do you create community?  Where do you want to live?  Where do you want to raise a family?  Do you know your neighbors?  If you don't...reach out.  Make a simple gesture to introduce yourself.  You never know what type of a village you might build and create for yourself and for others.

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