Sunday, 29 July 2012

Night and Day

This is Dimitri - a native Skyrian. By day he works at Ferogia ( my current address) where he traipses around serving drinks and salads to hungry-holiday makers. It is a long day for him punctuated by lessons in 'how-to-make-a proper brew' by well-meaning English tourists. He works all summer so he can pay for his studies on Crete.

Sometimes, however, he dances too.

Although obviously not with me since I seem to perform best in shady Canberra bars accompanied by a chair. But yes he does dress up in traditional Syrian garb and dance under the moonlight to intermittently (depending on the power situation) live music. The last time he did it was two nights ago.  The official reason I still can't quite decipher but I am beginning to think that nobody else really knows either.

It began at twilight with a  flotilla of little fishing boats making their way out to a barren rocky island just off the coast. On the island is a solitary church with an enormous brass bell which one of the priests chimed as all the locals clambered across the rocks. Somehow I managed to wing my way onto one of these over-crowded fishing boats where I sat amongst the nets and listened to the Greeks gossip - there was way to much eye-rolling and arm-waving for it to have been anything else. I had been told there was a dress code for the island so I had brought a pretty colourful scarf with me to cover any offending bits. Turns out I think it was more offending not to reveal your bits.
Anyway I made my way up to the church where there was an altar of bread waiting to be blessed. Fairly soon a Dustin-Hoffman lookalike priest came out to sing grace with two other priests. (Actually I am not sure if singing grace is part of the Greek Orthodox tradition but it sounded like that to me.) I have to admit that if there was a prize for most attentive congregator I might well have won it apart from a few elderly women dressed in black right at the front. Everyone else seemed much more interested in perching on rocks and scandalising.
After some time had passed I began pondering how exactly I was going to get off the island as the Greeks are not prolific queuers and they tend to board boats like a row of line-dancers -   arms linked; one next to each other instead of behind. Happily I found a small boat ferrying people back and forth constantly so I joined this one before the masses had line-danced their way down to the rocks. I ended up sharing the boat with an Athenian family who told me 'Greece suits you'. (Not sure whether this is because of my appreciation of feta cheese or the sparseness of my wallet) Maybe it was simply because I was smiling like a dog and enjoying the wind in my hair just as they were.

Once back the dancing began and out Dimitri and his troupe came to do an array of traditional numbers, improvising whenever the power failed, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. At the end all the locals linked arms and joined in the dancing too. I watched on feeling a little bereft that I don't come from a culture where the elderly and the young, the middle aged and teenagers, all come together and link arms to dance. Surely the currency of such community spirit has got to be worth something!

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