Staycation 2016

The year so far has been…eventful? Something like that. The usual up, down, left and right, and some going round in circles too – so my staycation had to be one full of calm and that was the plan, a do-very-little week.

But when the first day of that precious quiet time arrived, there was no coffee in the house (in spite of all my perfectionist cells, I do forget things) and it was 7:00 and everywhere was shut.
Apart from that traditional kafeneio on the corner, the one with old wooden chairs and peeling walls steeped in the smell of ouzo and seafood. I walked in expecting surprise, awe or something similar from the 70-year-old regulars, but instead got a heartfelt good morning from each one. They were all sitting around two tables, talking and making worry beads. At 7 o’clock in the morning, in August, in Athens. The owner/cook/waiter – and very much smiling human – brought my coffee and said “I’ll turn the radio on”. So I sat there having my double Greek, listening to the unexpected “Franks Crumhorn” by the Tiger Lillies, to which no one visibly reacted, and watching cheerful and determined men create their favored accessory.

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A decisive start to this staycation: let’s calmly make things. Usually I plan crafts, props I’ll need for lessons, ideas that I pick up and want to have, personalized gifts and so on. No plans this time though, just shelves of materials and cases of tools. And some inner turmoil too, I guess. Having a free week in between packed schedules and deadlines is always a welcome break, but what to do? I picked up a random box and decided to do something with whatever there was inside – seashells came out and it took hours to settle on what they would form into; starting and stopping, this looks ok but, no, maybe that idea is better, all leading to good crafting and good thinking. Every time I sit down to make something, I see the connection with teaching – and why picking something random is most times what leads to great rewards, true connections and effective learning on either side. It’s never about this or that book, grammar rules or must-know words; it’s about strengths and weaknesses, about skills and needs. It’s about forming character, trying to learn, to know, because we want to get somewhere. And we always get somewhere, even when we have to go down winding roads and through uncertainties and over obstacles. While putting together that seashell string of lights, it seemed that all these connections really took shape – not simply visualizing them anymore, but holding them, displaying them on the right spot.

Note-to-self #1: more crafting with students, not just for them.



Making, however, doesn’t mean crafts only.

The third day in my staycation was weird, I’d woken up and just didn’t want to leave the bed. I had no ideas for the hours ahead and that was frustrating, but I did get up eventually and sat with my coffee out in the balcony. The silence Athens has in August is something remarkable, both comforting and exciting. The only thing noticeable was a faint smell of fried eggs coming from somewhere, which seemed out of place – it didn’t match the coffee smell around the balcony and I felt slightly annoyed.
I went to the kitchen and started cooking and kept cooking all through the morning until almost everything in the fridge was something of a meal. I even made lemonade, far too many lemons in that fridge. And then there was all this food around, which I couldn’t eat by myself even if I wanted to and which would have gone to waste, if my next door neighbor hadn’t come over to ask for a bottle opener. Liana did, though, and apart from that twirly piece of equipment, she got lunch too. So did Mrs Athanasia on the first floor – the super Cretan grandma who makes a killer spinach pie to share with the whole building but never gives the full recipe to anyone. And just to put things in place, her in-house caretaker pointed out that Ukrainian dishes are less spiced up, but breads are very similar.
A frustrating start, but a day that became a hands-on reminder that food is an international language and that sharing makes all the difference. The cool and tasty perk: homemade kompot 🙂20160812_247658

Note-to-self#2: Keep making, even when you’re feeling frustrated. Remember to share.

The remaining staycation days simply flew. Meeting people, going and staying out for most of the day and night, crisping in the sun and gazing at the moon in great company. A walk back in my 20-something shoes.
Another kind of making, this time of bonds, either joining best friends or meeting new, or both.
I extremely enjoy alone time, with the risk of being misunderstood sometimes, yet this wouldn’t be possible without the people in my life. We all have our own ways of thinking and being and yes, it might seem that there is no connecting point. But that’s not true at all. The people we are truly connected to are always there and we are there for them too. When I take a long walk somewhere out in the city, everyone I care for walks along with me, they’re part of me. This might be the rather romantic side of me stepping forward, but it’s what I always experience – it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the last meeting or phone call or chat. the bond is there and only gets tighter and stronger every time we come together. There is somehow a universal understanding in our circle of true connections and it’s made possible by each of the similarities and differences among us. The connection stands because of our efforts, alone and together. I’m more of a practical idealist then, perhaps, not a romantic.

Note-to-self#3: Alone time is never lonely – the world is always inside.

Somewhere in those seven days, “Franks Crumhorn” popped back in my head and I searched for it, to listen to it again. And I discovered that the album name is Here I am Human. Well, yes.

The week came to an end and now it’s back to going forward, with a view of my city from high up on the hill
where I enjoyed my last staycation day: