Saturday, July 23, 2011

Week In Review Sabbatical Style: T-10 days!

10 days left! Can you believe it? I'm starting to get my head around it as I make my last stop in the Balkans--Thessaloniki, Greece. From here I basically start the long stretch of flights home (and by long I mean 7 legs of flights long). Thankfully I'll stop to see some friends along the way in Milan and in Sevilla. I had some things set aside for the week in review last week but then didn't have wifi for a long stretch. As I'm getting towards the ends of things I thought I would see I would try to give a little overview.

So, here you go! It's the week(s?) in review:

  • I decided to pop over to Corfu for a few days when I was in Saranda, Albania. It's just a short ferry ride away and was absolutely beautiful. The number of tourists walking around was a bit shocking after spending a couple of weeks in Albania. 
  • The "easy" bus connection I needed from the port to the otherside of the island turned out to be a little less easy than I was told. I got a little lost finding the bus stop and arrived just as the buses were leaving. No problem. I was told they were really frequent. Except, when I asked (at 1:30) I was told the next one wasn't until 4. Boo. So I walked around in the heat, with my bag and killed the time. 
  • 2.5 hours later I showed up to confirm where the bus would stop at 4:00. The guy told me, no--the next bus is at 6. It's already 5 o'clock. Yep. I forgot about the 1 hour time change. Time to wait...again
  • Part of the way I ended up killing the time was sitting around with 5 crazy, old Greek taxi drivers. I shared my cookies with them and they tipped me off about the new road to Thessaloniki. They said it was ridiculous to go back to Albania to make my way to Thessaloniki (which would take a whopping 16 hours), that I could take a direct bus from Corfu to Thessaloniki in about 5 hours.  
  • I chose that one. Sorry, Gjirokaster and Korca--maybe next time. The Greek bus was only half full, had AC and passed through lots of lovely countryside (and on new roads to boot!). 
  • Only downfall? On the only half full bus, the super curious toddler ended up sitting right behind me. Along with almost constant screeching, every once in a while I would feel little fingers squeezing my arms from behind or poking my freckles. Telling myself there was something wrong with him made me more patient. 
  • Throwing out my 5 phrases in Albanian got one of two reactions consistently: proud amazement OR deep belly laugh. Every time I said good evening to my hotel owner in Himare he laughed in a way that I am sure if he had any liquid in his mouth he would have spit it all over the place. 
  • In Corfu I decided to do a little sea cave exploration. I'm not a very good swimmer (I realized that, along with riding a bike, I have basically forgotten how to swim), but I didn't let that hold me back. In the end I explored some of the caves not by boat or by canoe, but by tiny inflatable square. 
  • The owner of my hotel in Paleo, Corfu gave me a list of native dishes to try while I was on the island. The sofrito was especially delicious!
  • I finally fulfilled an item on my Albanian to-do list: swimming on a beach with bunkers. (The former ultra-communist leader had them built all over the country after he effectively isolated the country from absolutely everyone.) 
  • I sat in the shade near the Roman agora here in Thessaloniki and had a read through the latter part of Acts and Paul's two letters to the Thessalonians. Seems there is a legacy of friendliness/loveliness in the people here. 
  • Because I didn't go back to Albania as planned I have one major problem. I have $200 worth of Albanian currency on my hands. And NO ONE wants to exchange it. I checked into it before buying my bus ticket, but the bank teller incorrectly told me I would have no problem exchanging it at the main bank in town. I went to five banks, seven travel agencies, stopped 2 groups of people on the street and asked one security guide. No luck. (If you have ideas, send them my way!)
  • In Corfu town I went into the church there and got to see the mummified town saint (...kinda creepy) but then was introduced to a super friendly priest (monk?) who had spent time in Canada. Along the same lines, I have noticed a lot of really young priests/monks both in Corfu and here in Thessaloniki, which surprised me. 
  • And finally, the story of walking home so full of free-ness yesterday (see last post): I walked past the bus station and saw a guy who suddenly and visibly had something dawn on him. He threw his hands up in the air and started mumbling to himself frustratedly. He asked me something in Greek, and when I said I didn't speak Greek he told me in English that he got nervous about a situation with his girlfriend here in town and came to see her (he lived in a village outside of town). He came to try to change her mind, but she broke up with him anyway. Now, he told me, he didn't even have money for the bus ride home, was hungry and, was sad. "You know how is love." Poor guy. 
  • He asked if I might have 2 euros to get him home on the bus. The smallest bill I had was a 5, but I just gave it to him, told him to get something to eat with the change and asked if he needed a hug. I gave the guy a hug, told him everything would be ok and was on my way. 
  • Today I went to see the town's white tower. And who did I see walking around? The sad guy! Long story short, he is a heroin addict. 
  • Poor guy.
  • (I didn't really care about the 5 euros--I mostly just felt stupid for giving the guy a hug!) 
The end! A few pictures below. See you soon!

What's a few months? Right?

Beach bunkers near Ksamil

Beautiful west coast of Corfu 

The "Blue Eye" cave (the water was so blue that it almost seemed ridiculous)

My mighty, cave exploring, inflatable square!

Corfu Town, Corfu

The Rotunda (former Roman mausoleum turned church--really striking)

Roman Agora

Enjoying the sunset on the Thessaloniki port

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