A traveler often wonders about home.
Depending on the journey the thought may be wistful, or full of gratitude for the chance to be transported. The location matters–domestic or foreign or strangely, oddly-domestic, as the USA is full of contrasts in culture, English dialects, climate, attitudes, religious clairvoyance, landscape.
For me it takes time to digest a journey’s memories. Shreds of memory filter in and out as I resume my routines. A sad looking purple fig in my local NW grocery evokes the perfumed memory of a Turkish or Italian fig, ripe in September’s warmth. A latte at my local Starbucks reminds me of Turkish coffee, served in miniature china cups in a rug merchant’s den in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The aroma, the conversation, the procedures invoked while examining carpets is choreographed yet foreign to the prospective buyer. The mystery is felt, even when not seen.
Remembering these bits months afterwards is trying. But especially in this time of unrest in America, a glimpse outside ourselves is important to me. I want you to know about life outside our borders. For we are not the entire world.
Athens, Greece. September 23, 2016 |
I am convinced the way to experience local culture in a foreign place is to arrive with a problem. Example: husband with a sports jacket with too-long sleeves. A last minute trip necessity. Problem: need of a tailor. Solution: ask your local waiter in a casual street-side cafe in Athens. The kind ordinary citizens frequent.
This of course leads to marking up a map and setting forth with advice like watch for the sign with scissors. Thus the quest begins; not quite Odysseus but almost as important. We meet the most charming, perhaps eighty something, Greek-only speaking speaking tailor, in his little shop. A female customer in the dressing room sticks her head out and translates. Domani, I say, believing the word to be Greek for tomorrow. My only Greek word, from some old movie song, comes to the forefront.
I notice a small dish of candied peanuts beside the old man’s treadle machine. Notice the way the man carefully eats them one by one while he listens to the translation by the dressing-room woman. He smiles a lot. Measured up and redressed we take our leave.
Only then do I rethink the word and believe it is Italian. No matter, we have made the human connection.
Just down the block is an open-air nut shop, the kind on many street corners in Athens. We stope to admire the enormous selection, and the owner offers us tastes of various versions of nuts. Sweet, salty, spicy– they are all possibilities. We remember the tailor.
A short while later we return with a packet of fresh-roasted pistachios for the sweet man, after learning from the nut/coffee shop man up the street they are his favorite. The tailor beams. No words are necessary. It’s the small stuff somedays that make the adventure worth doing. The jacket is ready the next morning and we embrace the tailor. No words are necessary or possible. The world turns. We will think of him every time my husband wears the jacket, and perhaps keep a nut in the pocket as a talisman.
Category: Indie It Travel