Magical Molyvos

DSCN0090The Greek word “philoxenia” is literally translated as “friend of strangers” but its essential meaning is “generosity of spirit.” I have experienced this Greek value every day in Molyvos for the past two months. In addition to having flowering pastures,  dramatic hillsides, sheep bells clanging through the valleys, amazing food and beautiful beaches, Molyvos is home to some of the most friendly, caring people I have ever met.

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Elpiniki who has made me feel like family.

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Natasha who works for Starfish NGO and has a tiny store in town that sells art and special soaps and scented oils.

Thanks to philoxenia, I have become very comfortable in the community. I take detours to say hi to someone I met a week ago. I stop to offer rides to people walking along the rode. I know four men named Kostas.  Elpiniki, whose family owns the property where I am staying, is like my yaya. A couple of times a week, she brings me sweet pastries or home made olive oil or flowers from her garden.  She tells me stories in Greek that I mysteriously understand. (She says she is glad none of her sons smoke. She says Greeks can have blue eyes. She says I need clean towels when I tell her to stop cleaning my cottage.)

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Panagiotis and Aphrodite enjoying an Easter egg hunt in the park….they have been so generous with their time and friendship even though between them they have about six jobs and two young children.

And maybe I am becoming a little bit Greek. I don’t get anxious when the driver in the truck in front of me stops in the middle of the road to chat with a friend. I don’t look for opportunities to eat Asian food. I shrugged my shoulders after scraping a gash in the side of my rental car. Occasionally, I hear myself speaking with a sort of Greek cadence.

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Lunch with Joanna. Camera shy: a bottle of ouzo, grilled calamari and stuffed tomatoes.

But it seems the most most Greek thing you can do is to help others. In the course of researching material for my book, I have talked to many people on this part of the island who have made life-changing sacrifices to help others.  Some contributed food, clothing, water, words of kindness — day after day for months.  Some risked arrest by transporting pregnant or disabled people across the island. Some sailed their boats out into dangerous waters to save lives. Some stayed up all night at campfires to guide boats in. When they talk about the past year, they cry and laugh. They look out into the distance as if they are trying to hear another voice help them explain what they have seen and done. Many are not comfortable taking credit for their contributions or they apologize for describing them by explaining “It was nothing.  It was just what we had to do.”  They talk about how they were changed by the courage of the people coming across in boats or a sense of loss that those people are no longer part of their lives. Here is a recent PBS story that features some of the people and places I know here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phpFZsPw_5E.

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Normal day at the taverna. The love and trust of the “born free” animals is a reflection of the community’s kindness. And fresh fish.

Next week, I am going to Armenia with my notebooks and post-it notes and strained, partial drafts of disconnected stories. I have 1,000 pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but I don’t know whether I will be able to piece them together into a worthy picture of Molyvos and the island.  I do know that my time here has been one of the most important times in my life.

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“Let the world change you and you can change the world.”
Che Guevara

8 comments

  1. I love that you are “becoming Greek” and this is YOUR community! How wonderful to be a part of the daily life and ways. Good luck with your writing. Just spread out that jigsaw puzzle and it will come together – that is how I write. 🙂 Have a wonderful time in Armenia. Love you Kim!

  2. To my amazing “sister”‘ I feel blessed  to have you in our family & especially as my friend.  Much love   Sheila

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