Saturday, January 23, 2010

Agiasos: The place to be (?)

I realised I have written about my job as a village doctor before, but I have yet to describe the village itself. So... it's time for that too.

The place where I am now working is called Agiasos. It is a traditional and pictoresque village, with approximately 3,000 inhabitants. It is built at the slopes of Mount Olympus (not the famous one, which was supposedly where the Greek Gods resided - this one is in Central Greece), at an altitude of 500 metres.

If you are a fan of nature and you love long walks on steep slopes, enjoying the magnificent view and passing through olive groves and chestnut forests, Agiasos really is the place to be. But also if you choose to stick to the housing itself, you can wander at its cobbled streets and photograph its preserved buildings.

Agiasos took its name from the image of "Saint Sion" or "Agia-Sion" in Greek. This was a picture of Holy Mary, painted by Saint Lucas. It was brought here at 802 AD from Jerusalem. A church dedicated to Virgin Mary was built 2 centuries later, and the settlement gradually developed around it. The picture is considered miraculous even to this day, and hundreds of people rush to worship it on 15th August, where the Orthodox honour the Mother of Jesus. A great festival takes place here, and some people even come from Mytilene (22 kms away) on foot. (Yes, a crazy doctor you may know attempted this last summer, she might have scratched her knees in the process, but she finally made it to the village in one piece!)

But this is the info on Agiasos that you can easily find online. I guess you expected more from me - and you are gonna get it. One cannot begin to know Agiasos, if he/she doesn't become aquainted with its people and their mentality.

The people from Agiasos... now that's a long story! Before I came here, I had heard a lot on this matter. The people from Mytilene accused them often - they were "tight on the money the spent", "rude", "they disliked foreigners", "overly proud of themselves", "they fed on fights and arguments" and so on. Literally everybody on this island seemed to dislike them, and I have to admit I was a little prejudistic when I first arrived here.

And now? Well, after spending 5 months here, I have come to know them a little better. Setting the fact that I am in love with one of them aside (major LOL), they are not so bad after all. It all depends on how you behave when you first meet them - if you start with contempt, you are sure to get some back.

Ok, they are not the most sociable people on the island. They are not the ones who smile idiotically at tourists, and rushing to meet their every need, only to curse them under their teeth later. Having lived at a mildly isolated environment, and depending on anything but tourism to earn a living (they turned to farming and wood carving instead), they have grown to be mildly suspicious of new faces. But once they like somebody, they become really open-hearted and friendly to him/her.

Tight on money? No, not really. As all Greeks, every night you go out and have some ouzo or wine, you are most likely to have somebody buy one more bottle for you. Also, I experienced their generosity as their doctor - when you make a home visit, you simply cannot leave without a "tip" (I personally try to avoid them as much as possible), some fresh eggs, sweets or other goodies.

Proud of themselves? Well yes, they are. They definitely are. But they might have some reason to be. It is impossible to be on the island, and not find someone from Agiasos at key places like the area of health, education or the government. Also, they have managed to preserve their specific characteristics through the centuries, such as their traditions or their dialect. If you are not from around here, you are unlikely to understand what they are saying to you. They have their own festivals, their Carnival, they defend their arts and customs with great passion - and sincerely, I wish we all did the same thing at our own villages.

So, is Agiasos the Paradise on Earth? Of course not. There are days where I cannot stand the mist and the cold, and I crave for some sunshine instead. Sometimes, I get tired of trees and mountains, and I want to enjoy some amazing sea views to relax. And of course, being blunt and speaking your mind out loud can occasionaly be quite tiring - some old fashioned savoir vivre and politiness wouldn't be bad.

But overall, I feel lucky to have come here. Learning some dialect, enjoying some new customs and getting in touch with my true self. Dealing with difficult situations and discovering that, surprisingly, I can make it.

And yes, falling in love does add to the positive points a little bit... :P

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm still here!

It's been a while - and that's quite a euphimism. Life was too hectic and demanding and exciting and crazy to even consider things twice, much less blog about them.

But now I have some time, and some thoughts I'd like to share.

First of all, I thought about quitting this blog. It's no use having one if you don't update it regularly, and if you cannot read and comment on the adventures of your friends on the blogosphere. You have to be there, you have to make time for it. And gradually, it becomes an obsession, or at least one more thing to do, unless you want to feel guilty all the time.

We have so many obligations in our everyday lives. We have to be effective and productive at our jobs, loving and caring for our families, responsible with our hosehold chores, considerate with our neighbours. There are things that need to be done - yesterday, if possible. Important stuff but also trivial ones, that tend to bug as all the time and fill us with guilt about neglecting them.
Having responsibilities is good. It means you have a life for yourself and gets you going. But being buried under a great pile of "to do-s" and not enjoying the ride is a crime. It only means that you're wasting your time doing nothing but worrying.

I started this blog because I love writing. It has always helped me clear my mind and relax. Truthfully, obsessing about my posts, my comments and my followers does not relax me one bit. However, the answer is not to stop writing, but to stop worrying. As a result, I won't be quitting the blog - I will be quitting the need to be there more than I really want to. I will be quitting the guilt.

Secondly, I thought about creating another blog, a new one. I am a totally different person now than the one I was last year. My life and "hers" look nothing alike. Don't get me wrong, I haven't fugured out as much stuff as I would want to, I am still goofy and make wonderful mistakes. You can only change so much about yourself, you know. But at least now I act, rather than agonize about making a move. I walk and fall, rather than sit and wait for things to happen. Of course, it is now statistically much more easier to make mistakes, but also do things the right way.

So, a new blog for a new girl? Nah, it's no use. Because the girl is basically the same inside. Only a little stronger and more mature, but still sillly, clumsy and so soft that cries with baby food commercials. After all, this year's experiences wouldn't have happened, it it weren't for the last year's ones. Change is impossible, unless there is actually something to change. As a result, I am sticking to the same old blog.

But enough with the serious and cliche "words of wisdom". What about some things from my everyday life?

I am still at the village, of course. It's been 4 and a half months now, and I have as much time to go. I got used to my life here, and now know what I am capable of, and what I am not. I am better aware of whether I can fight or I should quit in each case.

The island is beautiful, even though it loses a great part of its charm if you take the sea and the beaches out. I still have my summer friends, and some new ones. My driving has improved, my binge eating has not. Oh, well...

It was my birthday 3 days ago - I turned 25. 25 had always seemed such an important age when I was younger. I had always thought that, by that time, I would have created the life I had always wanted. I would be succesful and happy, with a great job, a great family, great looks and great hobbies.

This is all cr@o, of course. Not only because it is impossible. Life is too complicated to sort it out that easily. After all, if you have everything at 25, what's the point in living for at least another half of a century? But mainly because, when you blow your candles at 25, you realise that the life you had dreamt of at 12, 18 or 20 does not resemble the life you want now one bit.

Things change, people change, we ourselves change. Sometimes it is painful, but generally it is okay. Even if a certain situation appears to be worse after that, change itself makes it possible to turn things over again - and again - and again.

My Christmas was ok. For the first time ever, I worked through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after, but it was okay. I was able to take a week off after that, and by Day 3 I was bored and wanted to get back! Yeah, I am a freak, but you knew that already.

Oh, one more thing I forgot to tell you. I kinda sort of fell in love...

WHAT? Well, yes, it happened when I least expected it - as always. I am at a really good place right now, more relaxed and happy (in fact so calm that my parents suspected I did drugs when they saw me during the holidays, or that I became a part of some weird paganistic clan!). No, it is all natural, and I will write more on a future post.

Until then, I will enjoy myself, and I advise you to do the same. Laugh, go out, dance, have some drinks, read a great book, watch an amazing movie, make love or take a long walk, whatever YOU want really. As long as you have fun. See ya!