Samos – The Homecoming
I open all four paned double windows, throw back the shutters and lean out into the scenery. A breeze gusts up against my face and the familiar scent of musty fig, walnut and pine combined, that is so uniquely Greek, assails me. Across the sea, beyond the church, olive groves and distant mountains, behind the gorge, still green thanks to copious amounts of winter rain, and the terracotta roofed houses perched above it, lies Turkey.
Gramataki sees me at the window from her potted flowered balcony just down the road. She smiles a huge welcome and comes out for the traditional homecoming. It’s been 3 years. I make my way outside and am grasped in two strong arms attached to a squat body , topped by a beaming face. I return her joy, hugs and kisses with a reciprocated affection.
“Kalli mera. Ti canis?” she asks
I struggle to remember the right reply. “Calla, Gramataki, Calla and you?”
“You need to learn Greek “ she scolds yet again
and yet again I say
“I know, I know” whilst rolling my eyes upward and shrugging my shoulders in apology.
Throughout the day, as we clean and air house and contents, inspect water damage and dry rot, deal with an insect infestation, unpack and wash 3 loads of musty sheets, clothes and towels, villagers drop by to say hello. Arthur, our Greek American neighbor proffers emergency milk and juice rations for breakfast then drives us into town for shopping. By the end of the day we have caught up on local gossip, commiserated over the early demise of a friend, heard about and witnessed the bite of the economic crisis.
It’s the beginning of July. The village is quiet, too quiet. No music blares from the village square, the tavernas are closed for good, houses that reverberate with the sound of family life are silent. Even Stamati is voiceless , the full moon unable to tempt him out into the night air to deal with his demons in public.
During the day cicadas dominate the airwaves their calling only fractured by the occasional short sharp crackling megaphone blasts of a van selling bread, fish or vegetables. The announcements fall on ghost ears and they depart ,wares untouched. As the sunsets, swifts soar and swoop on the currents and hawks glide in the thermals. I count at least 10 birds – that’s eight more than our last visit. I hear the owls hooting in the distance as night sets in but the usual pinpricks of lighted windows fail to punctuate the darkness of the village or the port road below. There is hardly anyone here.
Yes it’s quiet and yes Samos is feeling the bite of the economic crisis but the essence of this island and its people remains unchanged, so yes it’s good to be back.