On the Road Again

It’s July? How is it July?? I hate to be cliche, but MAN does tempus fugit.

I’m definitely not naturally the type of person who just goes with the flow– I actually have a pretty terrible time doing so– and I find that I often stress myself out unnecessarily in trying to do everything and be everything to everyone. So when I returned home from Greece and Italy in March and was just plain pooped from learning the ropes at a new school; traveling in Europe for most of March; planning a wedding (and BUYING A WEDDING DRESS!); teaching, grading, and the like; I obviously took it easy on the blogging front. I greatly enjoy waxing on about food, running, and life, but not enough to lose sleep over it 🙂

With that said, I’m in Athens again for the month of July taking a Byzantine Greek language course and, when I’m not frantically translating in wow-it’s-been-a-long-time-since-I’ve-read-this-much-Greek mode, I’m doing my best to enjoy the crazy good weather (goodbye, humidity). It’s obviously a really strange time to be in Greece, and I have had so many people reach out to me to make sure that I’m safe in a country that is experiencing a critical, and frankly, frustrating, turning point in its history. Thankfully, things on the ground here are tense but stable. The referendum last week prompted some demonstrations in Syntagma, the main square in Athens, but otherwise the city has gone about its business basically as usual– except for all of the closed banks, of course. Talks keep breaking down over the fate of this achingly beautiful country, so no word as to whether I will be using drachmas by the time I fly out at the end of the month.

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This experience in Greece has so far been pretty vastly different than my time here in March. I’m not a tourist this time, as I said, so I have an apartment through school and can cook dinners in leisure in between homework assignments. I’ve also been able to find time to bask in one of my absolute favorite parts of Greek culture: long, leisurely taverna dinners with lots and lots of tsasiki, veggies, creamy feta cheese, olives, olive oil, and fresh, lemony salmon, all washed down with a half liter of house wine. The Greeks may eat a bit late for my taste, but every bit of the tastes themselves suit me.

There’s a lot of talk about the “Mediterranean diet,” but I think the health associated with the Mediterranean diet comes just as much from the lifestyle surrounding the food as it does the food itself. I was just remarking to my mother via text today how small grocery stores here are and how few there tend to be; instead, even in Athens, you’ll find lots of tiny little holes-in-the-wall selling fresh fruit, veggies, and fish. While Greeks do love a good pastry or flaky spinach pie in the morning (with about 15 cigarettes, but that’s another issue), I find that the emphasis is always on dining intentionally, with real food as the natural focus on their plates. They don’t THINK about what they’re eating; they know that the basic tenets of their diet have been around for thousands of years. They walk everywhere. They eat slowly, and with other people. They talk and laugh and share in each others’ company. For example, we hold class from 9:45 until 1:30 (which is a VERY late lunch by my standards); but when class has ended, we all saunter off to lunch, with nothing else to do (well, besides that pesky homework) but sip coffee after a giant salad of greens, cucumbers, tomato, olive oil, and vinegar, prying open a giant, juicy peach for dessert.

THAT is health. THAT is living. And while every time I go abroad I feel more and more drawn to my country of birth (it actually hit “kiss the ground” level when I landed in March), I can’t help but wish that more Americans would see health as an overall experience of life and not as a sum of the macro or micro nutrients they’re consuming, or the intensity of 30 minutes spent sweating on an elliptical. Health is waking with the sun, opening a window and sipping coffee with the sun warming your face, and the giddy potential of a day yet unfilled, no matter how full the planner.

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