In my post Exodus, I shared what I wrote just before I moved to Greece in 2011. It was a love story started by a family trip to Cyprus when I was still in high school. Afterwards, I visited other places in Europe – France, Belgium, Portugal – and the rest of the world – Thailand, Australia, Fiji. Although New Zealand is, in my opinion, the most stunningly beautiful place I’ve been to, it was Greece that got under my skin. And I can’t even explain why. Yes, I could make you a list of all the things I love about Greece, but I could also make you a list of all the things I love about the UK, where I’m from. Or one of all the things I loathe about Greece. … True love is complicated.
I think I was meant to end up here, though. I dreamed of Greece from the age of fifteen – perhaps even earlier, since I read Gerald Durrell’s beguiling account of growing up on Corfu when I was eleven or twelve – but I never told anyone about my daydreams. Apparently, it’s called ‘visualisation’ – the idea that years of solid daydreaming in French lessons and on long train journeys can eventually change your life. I don’t think I believe that, but fate or coincidence or Providence certainly had a hand in things.
That oft-quoted extract from The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo cetainly applies to me. The day I started university, I knocked on the door of the room next to mine and a beautiful guy with a foreign accent answered it. I had no idea at the time that he was Greek, only that I very much liked the look of him. It took us a while to get together – mostly due to his already having a girlfriend and me behaving like an idiot – but I eventually married him, so I guess first impressions do count for something!
This guy – Mr Chef, we’ll call him, because that’s what he is – didn’t much want to move back to Greece. He’d left sometime after his 20th birthday and was of the opinion that the whole place – including the people – was backward, and not in a charming, ye olde worlde kind of way. I suppose that’s why he left. But I cannot be put off once I’ve made up my mind up about something, so we moved anyway.
In a crisis. For which we paid dearly. And then all that other shit happened to us. But hey – “the course of true love never did run smooth”.* The fact that I stuck it out through the hardest times of my life (so far) is a testament to how crazy I am about this country. Or at least to how crazy I am. I’ve been here nearly six years now, and people still ask me if I think about going back ‘home’. But they don’t get it.
I am home.
*Shakespeare always gets in somewhere.
Photos are my own work. The title picture was taken in Messonghi on Corfu and the other was taken in Parokoia on Paros.