It felt more like three days, in the same sense that Jesus died and rose in three days, departing on Friday evening and returning on Sunday morning*. But it was really one day spent away.
*death is not exactly a vacation, but try to follow the logic
I was a somewhat unwilling candidate to leave Thassos. I’ve been saying I’ll visit Kavala–one of the port cities from which ferries depart to Thassos–since I arrived on this island 73 days ago, but every time I seriously considered leaving, I was thrown into a panic. I get anxiety even from taking the bus to the other side of the island for more than an hour. It’s possible I have an unhealthy attachment to Aliki, something akin to children who nurse from their mothers until they’re eight years old, but I’m not ready to change it.
But as with most things in life, necessity politely encouraged change. I ended up being in-between places to stay, and while I could have called every pension in a ten mile radius**, I decided it would be a good idea to see the people in Kavala I’ve been lying to for 2.5 months about visiting. Besides, when I went there to be denied a visa extension, the city seemed nice. I was willing to explore it more.
**Actually, I would have resorted to crying, and Tassos of Thassos would have made the calls
The day I left Aliki, I took the latest bus I could. I was nearly persuaded to stay because the waiters at Archodissa couldn’t understand why I was leaving. They offered to house me. Paul said I could share his tent. Yianis offered to sleep in Emelio’s trailer and give me his. Dimitris lied and said I could stay in his cubby with the weird toilet he has yet to show me. “Don’t go to Kavala,” they petitioned. “Stay with us.”
I came very close to cancelling my plans.
BUT I went through with it, thinking some space is a good thing. Trying to wean myself and whatnot. The universe was against me, though, because the bus was late, which meant I missed the ferry that goes directly to Kavala, forcing me to go to the port city of Keramoti instead. The bus from Keromti to Kavala, leaving every hour, which I waited 40 minutes for, never came, so I had to wait for the next bus, and that one had a transfer stop. The transfer bus was also late. I arrived at 10 p.m.
Thankfully, things went uphill after that.
My hosts were wonderful.*** I had a big bed, a shower with an actual bathtub (instead of just a drain in the floor), a cat, and a constant flow of warmth and hospitality. My first night I ate a quick dinner and then went out with friends of my friends for drinks. I came very close to falling asleep at the table, but they were understanding. One of women I met will be on Thassos this weekend because her family owns a hotel 2 k.m. down the road from Archodissa. “What is the possibility of that?” she asked, after naming Tassos of Thassos and the owner of the another pension where I’ll be staying. “We know the same people on Thassos island,” she said with a shake of her head.
***I stayed with the family of one of my Greek friends from Rhode Island
The next day I ran errands with my friend’s parents, fixed my vodaphone that loses minutes quicker than Donald Trump loses credibility, and enjoyed a relaxing morning. My host family prepared a lunch of gavros (small fried fish) and Greek salad, and while they went into a post-lunch siesta, I walked 45 minutes to the port. Granted, all the stores at the port were also closed because of siesta (which lasts roughly four hours), but coffee shops were open. I drank, I wrote, I talked to one of my friends whose voice I haven’t heard in 2.5 months…it was a pleasant afternoon.
In the apogevma, about 6pm, my host parents took me to Philippi–the Philippi!–which I learned was not its real name. It was changed for King Philip, but before that was called Krinides, meaning flowing water, or a fountain of water…? Something with water. A couple who are friends of the family joined us, one of whom was a walking history book, and he acted as our guide. He did such a good job that complete strangers started walking with us so they could listen to him narrate.
In the crevices between the slates, we could see the underground space where lions and other fierce animals were kept. It was eerie, to stand in the same arena where gladiators fought.
Reminder: an earthquake broke these cell doors open, and when Paul and Silas did not leave, the prison guard was saved from killing himself. He ended up converting, along with his whole family.
The old market was here, on the ancient road to Constantinople, and later, churches were built. The one in the background, to the left, still holds a service on the night of the full moon every August, when the moon appears the biggest.
I bet even two thousand years ago, I would have gotten stuck in this shop for hours.
I stopped to look at each stone, and I was humbled as I considered how long a fresco like this would have taken to create.
After a tour of the ruins, we went to the town of Lydia, named for the first Christian convert in the area (“the woman of the purple cloth”) for drinks and dinner. A majority of the conversation was spent conspiring ways to get me to stay in Greece, which ultimately led to a discussion on whom I might marry. I said two weeks is probably not enough time to find “the one,” but the teacher couple said they were engaged after knowing each other only a month. Maybe there is hope?
Again, I almost fell asleep at the dinner table.
The next morning I woke up early to catch the Flying Dolphin****, only to discover that the online schedules were out of date and we’d missed it by 40 minutes. Nevertheless, the trip back was considerably easier than my journey to Kavala. When I returned, I was greeted with hugs and joy. We gathered in the kitchen to taste the assortment of pastries I’d brought back with me, and it was like being reunited after weeks apart.
****a ferry, not the sea animal that appeared in John Recor’s narrative non-fiction essay about me
I’m not sure how I’ll be able to leave knowing I won’t return in three days. Kavala was beautiful; Rhode Island is beautiful; but goodbyes are never easy.