It’s amazing how easy it is to slip back into life in Greece. Even when I’m walking streets I never walked 22 years ago when I lived there, they feel familiar. It’s instinctive to watch for uneven pavement, or to look left, right, sideways, behind me when I cross the street. I’m confident in the knowledge that pedestrians never have the right of way, no driver will simply stop in goodwill to let me cross, and a motorbike can come from anywhere (sidewalk, pedestrian area, wrong way on a one-way street). It’s just an easy reflex to pull in elbows and feet without a pause in my retsina drinking when a car drives up a too narrow street between tavernas.
The natural instinct is still there for how much attention to give restaurant hawkers and pushy souvenir-selling salespeople—not too much (newbie gawker) or self-conscious total avoidance, but just a simple acknowledgement nod dripping with “No thanks” that I never manage as smoothly anywhere else.
My comfort must show. Whenever I leave the tourist areas, people start talking to me in Greek. (At least, I hope it’s because they think I belong here, not because they’re saying, “You poor thing. You must be lost. Let’s get you back to the Plaka.”)
I was genuinely horrified when an American I met suggested dinner at 7 p.m. I couldn’t imagine eating that early—too early and too hot to consider it. Last night I settled into dinner at 10:30, just about right.
Even my lungs have adjusted. A week ago in Seattle, a woman sat down next to me on an outdoor bench, then lit up a cigarette. I stalked away, glaring in disgust. Yesterday, I sat in a café with smokers on either side of me, and merely leaned back, not missing a turn of my newspaper page as their smoke drifted around.
It’s so easy and natural, I could be home in Seattle. I am at home. In Greece.
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