Sep. 2, 2015

A Greek Village Perspective - Welcome to Petrina

I promised to describe to you what the Panagieri event was like on August 15th and haven't done that yet.   I'm sitting quietly at the house right now, while Aris has taken his Mom and Dad again to another village (a bit of a bigger one, where there is the Municipal office) and after having cleaned up a few things, (scrubbed the shower and washed the kitchen mat, organized the cutlery drawer..) I now have some time to myself to type a bit.    It does take some time to charge up all of our devices and the converters are a bit dicey, in that they heat up quite a lot and in turn, charging is slow.  I don't think they derive quite the right amperage to do the job, but when I woke up this morning, my iPad was at 100%.

I kind of wish I had gone along for the ride, as today, Aris will be applying for his Greek Citizenship.   I'm not sure how it all works, but it means that next, he will be able to apply for an EU Passport.  I have been wondering if this is possible for me as well, and plan to look into it when I return to Canada.
The village has two sections to it, a very old, dilapidated, and therefore unoccupied section, where Aris's Dad was born in 1933, and where the houses are all built of field stones.   The newer part, however, was started in the 1930's and has many white and beige buildings, some with flat roofs and some with peaked roofs that have the typical red ceramic tile on them.  The house where we are now, is on a piece of property that once belonged to one of the Diamandakos Great Uncles, and is now divided up amongst the remaining siblings and cousins, so there is a chunk of an area that is all Diamandakos (Diamandas) homes.   
Many of the newer houses puzzle me, in that the bottom appears empty and unoccupied, and the living quarters are upstairs, seemingly so that farm equipment and even animals could be kept below, right on the property.   Up through the flat roofs, re-bar pokes toward the sky, with no real purpose except to possibly be something for the future.   Over the years, as the farming has decreased and the occupants have become more modern, the lower levels have been converted to proper living quarters.  My favourite features of the peaked roofs are the corner details of the tiles, usually with a nice shell design on them and a little face, and also, the vent covers which look like large storks as they sway around and around in the breeze.
A wealthier home will have a couple of solar panels and a water tank on the roof and this is where the hot water comes from.  Older ones simply rely on the tank itself heating up, and since they are black, this works well too, but it is not there as easily 'on demand'.  
There is a difference between being a long time villager here and being someone who left for North America, coming back only once a year or so, but we are still welcomed with open arms and big smiles.   On our first visit here, I was told in no uncertain terms that it would not be acceptable for Aris and I to be seen holding hands in the street, much less a kiss - any display of public affection is frowned upon.  This was very painful for me at first, because since did I not understand any Greek, I was looking to Aris for reassurance and really wanted to have the connection, at least to hold hands while walking to the Platia.   Now that we are married, and have been here several times, we are more relaxed about it.  
The 15th of August is the highlight of the summer and almost everyone plans their visit in order to coincide with it.  We made sure that we didn't take off for anywhere else until this event was completed.   This festival happens throughout Greece.  The morning of the event, there is a Church Service to attend, but we had been away at Marmari the night before, and wouldn't arrive back in the village until around 4pm.   I think Aris's Mom was a bit disappointed that I was not there to go to Church with her.  
The Platia is filled with tables and chairs and it is a bit of a challenge to organize where you will be sitting.  Some said that we could arrive fairly early and put a makeshift sign with the family name on it, to reserve a spot together.   We asked someone to do this on our behalf, as we would not be returning in time, but when we got there, in typical fashion, there was nothing with our name on it and a bit of chaos ensued while we all figured out where to sit.  I think I was asked to change my seat at least four times before we could settle in for the evening!   Then, of course, there is no room for anyone to get past the seats and tables at the front.  We had to disturb the people in front of us several times during the course of the evening!
In the past, there have been a few speeches but this time it was straight to the line-up to wait for food, which is packed up take-out style and brought back to the table.   It's actually really good, roasted chicken and pork that we can divvy up and then eat with our hands.  (Yes we have the tiny plastic knives and forks but really, who wants to use them?!)   The salad was so/so.   It's pretty difficult to make a nice salad for 500 people.
Aris brought back a bunch of stuff and it was shared with those at our table.  I remember one time, someone putting food on my plate for me... I didn't like this, since I wanted to choose my own morsels of meat ;0 
The best part is the music and this year they had a live band, with two bouzoukis, an electric violin, a keyboard, drums, and a female vocalist, all of whom I enjoyed very much!   Let the dancing begin!    
I love Greek dancing and I try my damnedest to follow the steps, focusing really hard on a person's feet who is a few ahead of me in the line!   Even then, I mix up when I should step behind or step in front...give me a simple grapevine or a 3 step with a kick, and I can do it!   I still remember Aris's Mom just crushing my hand that first year, she held on to me so tightly!   Now that I'm older, the dances where we all have our arms on the next person's shoulder is pretty tough, after having had a bit of a rotator cuff issue...eek, I avoid this one!    
The best dance for me is what they call Σηρτακι (Sirtaki) which is a freestyle dance, done by oneself.   Even the men do this, and others will kneel down on one knee and watch, clapping to encourage the dancers.   In contrast to the line dances, I am able to do this, easily!  It feels like a mix of Anatolian, Persian and East Indian style, a bit of hips, a bit of hands, suggestive and slow.
For a non-Greek, this whole thing is quite a spectacle, and one can feel lost in the shuffle, but it is an experience second to none.
As the sun goes down past the mountain range that looms up just beyond the village, I see the silver leaves of the olive trees, their ancient, twisted trunks rooted firmly in the red earth, from which the olives derive their value in iron.   Some of these trees are over 400 years old, according to Patera.  He recalls a field being cleaned of brush, to find baby olive trees growing, and remembers also that in 1935, many new trees were planted.
After visiting the Magistrate, Aris and his father went to see one of the fields so that his dad could show him where some of the family's trees actually were.  The oil is made in the town's Co-Op, where all of the farmers deposit their olives, and by weight or some sort of quota, the resulting oil is measured back out and the yield is calculated.   Much of the Διαμαντεοι / Diamanteoi (This is plural for Diamantakos!) oil is shipped back home to Canada, where it is shared with family members, or given away to friends with much pride, a true gift from the land.   (Generally, 5 kilos of olives will yield 1 kilo of oil)
This trip has been very special, as we have traveled with Aris's parents.  We have seen them light up, upon meeting old friends, and also, this morning I got a surprise when Aris's dad began to sing quietly to himself.  This was a first!!   It was a song about how a cloudy Sunday was like a cloud across his heart, "Synafyiasmene Kyriaki" is the tune and it is by a beloved Greek singer, Stelios Kazantzidis (a Greek Frank Sinatra) who was able to capture the feelings of everyone in post-war Greece.  There is definitely more Greek music that I'd like to learn to sing, ultimately this time, choosing some pieces that will resonate more with Aris's family.    <3  Any suggestions?