Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Postcards from Greece

"Dear family," my pen scribbled, "Γειά from Athens!"

I paused for a moment, pen in hand, and contemplated what else to write. How could I even begin to describe our time in this city so rich with history, let alone the two weeks we had already spent in the Cyclades? Looking at the beautiful photography on the front of each postcard reminded me of the wonderful memories my husband and I had made during our "Trip of a Lifetime 2.0".  

How could I possibly describe to my family the beauty of a Santorini sunset? 

What words would paint a picture that allowed them to understand how small I felt standing on the summit of Mt. Zeus looking out on the Cyclades, or in the Acropolis looking up at the Parthenon? 

What should I write about the day we hiked up and around a volcano or swam in the natural hot springs of the Aegean Sea? 

How could I make them comprehend the emotions I felt and how the Bible came to life for me as I stood on the very hill Paul did when he addressed the Areopagus in Acts 17? 

And how could I share the joy that filled my heart after spending every second of every day for the last two+ weeks with my very best friend, chatting incessantly without ever running out of things to talk about, and laughing so hard my stomach ached? 

The white space on the back of my postcards seemed to shrink smaller and smaller by the minute.

Although trying to summarize even just one of the last 16 days seemed almost futile, I crafted a few sentences for my postcards, listing a few "highlights" of our trip. As I clicked my pen once again, I felt overwhelmingly blessed by the realization that I could easily fill an entire book with all of the memories my husband and I had made during this incredible vacation. While our trip was coming to an end, the memories we had made would last a lifetime. 
Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Hiker's Guide to Climbing Mt. Zeus

If you ever find yourself in the Cyclades on the island of Naxos and are filled with the desire to climb and explore Mt. Zeus, the  mythological childhood dwelling of said Greek god, allow me to share some (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) advice, based on my experiences yesterday...

From the city center of Hora, board a local bus and wind your way through the beautiful Naxian villages. After about 45 minutes, when you hear the bus driver shout the city name, "Filoti!" hop off the bus and look for a cute little Greek cafe called Platanos.
Enter the maze of alleys behind the cafe and pass through quaint little neighborhoods full of children playing and cats napping in the shade. As you get farther and farther away from Palomas, it might seem like the "trail" to the summit of Mt. Zeus is nowhere to be seen...
...but don't get too worried. Just keeping going up and eventually, you'll be rewarded with a sign. Once you see the sign, pause for a moment to do a brief happy dance now that you know you are definitely on the right track.
From there, begin the ascent to the church of Agia Marina via a small trail intended primarily for goats. If you ever get lost, just follow the....um....trail....the goats have kindly left behind to guide you.  (I'll spare you the picture!)

As a forewarning, a few other critters may come out to greet you along the way.
If you, as I am, are terrified of snakes and spiders, don't let yourself get too freaked out when they come to welcome you to Mt. Zeus. The adrenaline that courses through your veins as a result of unexpectedly spotting these critters just might give you the energy to scurry up the entire mountain without feeling nearly as tired as you thought you'd be!

Once you spot the white walls of the Aghia Marina church in the distance, do a second happy dance because now you are definitely on the right track and good news awaits you: there will be fewer critters who join you for the rest of the trek. The trail from here on up is a bit more hiker-friendly. Yes, it's okay to let out a little sigh of relief once you realize that (I did!).
With fewer animal friends to worry about, it is now time to truly soak up the scenery around you. Marvel at the rolling hills and rock-covered mountains. Linger for a moment to take a sip of water and listen closely. You just might hear the clamor of bells tied around the necks of Naxian goats who are roaming about the very same mountain.

Continue your ascent up Mt. Zeus, keeping a watchful eye for trail markings in the form of signs,

cairns in the distance,

or, once again, the trails that those friendly goats left for you.

Keep going up and up, while being sure to soak up the breathtaking views around you on what just might be a perfectly gorgeous, sunny day.

Soon enough, you will be rewarded with the sight of a small monument that marks the summit of this mountain and the stunning scenery that is yours to behold as you stand on the highest point in all of the Cyclades.
Of course, at the summit, you must sign your name in the "log book," joining the company of those who have climbed this mountain before you, and you must then take the obligatory "selfie" before beginning your descent.
Then, retrace your steps. Don't worry, even though you are taking the same path back, you won't grow tired of the awe-inspiring views.

And if you make it back down the mountain with time to spare before the next bus arrives, I strongly recommending rewarding yourself with a treat at the Platanos Cafe. They make a mean chocolate-banana crepe.

Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Perks of Jet Lag

My eyes fluttered open as I awoke in an unfamiliar place. What time is it? My stomach growled. Had I slept through breakfast? My mind replayed a scene from yesterday when my husband and I checked into our cozy B&B on the island of Santorini.

"Breakfast is served each morning from 8 until 10" the manager had informed us with a thick Greek accent.

I rolled over and looked at my husband, who was still sound asleep. We couldn't possibly have both slept past ten, could we? After fumbling for my glasses, I reached for my phone to glance at the clock.

4:36?! You've got to be kidding! Good morning, jet lag!

Resolved not to get out of bed before 5 on my first day of vacation, I lay back down, closed my eyes, and tried to drift back to sleep. It was no use.  My brain was awake and there was no convincing my body otherwise. I settled for closing my eyes and "dreaming" of all of the things we were going to see and do on this vacation.

After nearly an hour, I decided that I could no longer lie still anymore. Glancing back at my husband, I realized that he had not budged an inch. Thankful that he is a heavy sleeper, I began to tip toe around our room in the dark.

Buried in my carry on was a granola bar calling my name. There was no way I could wait three more hours for breakfast. My body's internal clock was all messed up and the overwhelming signal it was sending to my brain was, "Feed me!"

With a belly a bit more satisfied, I suddenly had a bright idea. What time dose the sun rise here?  I clicked away on my phone, grateful for free wifi, and learned that the sun would rise on Kamari Beach in Santorini at 5:56 a.m. If I hurry, I can hop in the shower and still make it outside in time for the sunset. Geography has never been my strong suit, but I was pretty sure that we were facing east, so I thought that my odds of catching a gorgeous Greek sunrise were pretty good.

I was right. Fifteen minutes later, after opening our balcony doors, still trying desperately not to wake up my husband, I looked to the horizon and let out a little squeal of excitement  The sky was painted with a stunning array of colors. Moments later, the bright, blazing sun peeked its face over the horizon and rose slowly into the sky. It was absolutely beautiful.

Sitting down on our quaint little balcony, I soaked up the morning beauty around me. Maybe jet lag isn't so bad after all.

Catching the sunset on my first morning in Santorini

The view from the balcony of our cozy B&B

The view from the other side of the balcony wasn't bad either!

Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Brother/Sister Bonding

At 10:45, as I was rubbing my tired eyes and getting ready to say good-night to my family, realization dawned on me. 

"Oh man, it's Tuesday and I totally forgot to blog!" 

My comment piqued my brother's attention. "Wait, you have a blog?" he asked inquisitively. Then, almost instantly... "Show me!" 

For the next ten minutes, I put on my tour guide hat and showed my brother around my blog. Although I was hesitant at first, wondering if he'd find it boring, I found myself gradually giving more detail as he expressed a growing interest. Each question he asked or comment he made led to a new explanation of a different facet of my writing or of the Slice of Life challenge. 

"So, do people read your blog? How do they find it?"     
                            We looked at the statistics section of my blogger account and then jumped to the 
                             TWT website to learn about the Slice of Life Challenge. 

"Wow! That post got a lot of views! What was it about?"
                             We clicked over to skim through a few of my posts...

"What else do you write about?" 
                              ...and then we kept scrolling and reading together.

"Oh, Mrs. M (his English teacher) would love that sentence..." 
                             My heart smiled as he singled out and recited one of the sentences I had tried to carefully craft in a previous post. 
And then, my favorite question came..."So, are you going to post tonight?" he asked. 

I had been asking myself the very same question. "Well," I responded, "I do every Tuesday, but we were so busy today that the day just sort of got away from me. It's the first week I've missed since March 1st, though..." 

"Write a post now!" he cried, inching a bit closer to the laptop. "You could write about our day today! You know, write about all of the places we went together. Or write about all of the details we had to go through when we bought the laptop just now." 

"I was thinking about it..." I told him hesitantly. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to craft a blog post this late at night after such a full day. 

"Come on, I'll help you!" 

And that was all of the convincing I needed. If my "little" brother (it's hard to call him "little" when he is 18 years old and towers 15 inches above me, his "big" sister) was willing to help me keep my Slice of Life commitment, then how could I resist? 

Having just spent the entire day together running errands for his upcoming graduation party, we certainly had enough to write about. We could write about the brother/sister breakfast date we had at the local diner... or about purchasing a graduation cake and party supplies...or about any of the errands we did as we hit 14 different stores together today! 

But as the clock inched closer and closer to midnight, I decided to rely on two simple pictures (per Andrew's suggestion) to relay how Andrew and I felt after a very fun and productive (but exhausting) afternoon. After all, they say a picture is worth a thousand words... and we are both far too tired to write that much tonight! 
Secret snapshots taken by my mom after Andrew
and I came home from a marathon of errand running for his
upcoming high school graduation party


Slice of Life is a weekly blogging challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Check out their webpage and then join us each Tuesday to share a slice of your life!