Rhodes Greek Island Village Life, Simple Predictability, Or Is It?
The days pass by in simple serenity. Village life is unhurried and is almost, but not quite predictable.
One morning I awake early and decide to go exploring while it is still cool. It is only 6.30am but already the village is coming to life. A few old men are having coffee at Toula’s restaurant. A truck or two rumbles along the main street which passes through the square. The trucks are laden up with produce; the farmers are probably heading to market. Cockerels are crowing.
The nights have been hot in the little studio, and I welcome the cool breeze as I stroll up a steep street towards the high side of the village. I’ve not been to this part before and am surprised by how many houses there are.
I go further up the hill meandering along small streets with simple but lovingly cared for homes lining each side. Pink Oleander, purple and white Bougainvillea and bright red hibiscus are only a few of the vivid blossoms that dominate the gardens. The sweet smell of jasmine fills the air.
Reaching the top of the village, I stop for a moment to take in the view. Beyond the village, a valley stretches to the sea. Olive plantations and vineyards fill the lush landscape; a medley of greens and browns contrast against the hazy azure sea. There is an island in the distance; Symi perhaps.
Along the road a few goats roam freely and directly in front of me next to the road is a large, well-tended vegetable plot with a range of fruit trees growing to one side. A spacious chicken enclosure runs along part of the fence next to the road, and I watch the chickens scratching in the dust and shrubbery.
As I walk further along the road, I can still hear the chickens rustling in the shrubbery, or so I think, until I realise the noise is coming from a tree just above my head. I look up and let out a yelp of surprise. There is a man in the tree!
‘Kalimera,’ I greet him, quickly recovering from my surprise.
‘Kalimera,’ He replies with a smile. ‘Here, catch…’ He throws me down a fig.
‘What do you call them in English,’ he asks.
‘Figs,’ I reply.
‘Figs,’ he repeats, ‘In Greek they are Sýko.’
‘Sýko,’ I try to pronounce.
‘Here,’ he says and throws me another fig.
‘Efcharistó,’ I thank him with a wave and carry on walking.
It is early in the season for figs, but these are perfectly ripe, and I hungrily eat them as I walk. They are warm and juicy, and are as delicious as you can imagine.
I have a spring in my step as I stroll back into the village. For the first time, I see the open bakery. I already know of its existence, but whenever I ask about buying fresh bread I am told, ‘you must get up early for the bread!’ I am not a particularly late riser, but until now the open bakery, a plain fronted shop with no signage has eluded me. I now know, ‘getting up early,’ means before 7 am, as it closes after that.
In the square, I meet the old man, Dimitris, who lives near me. He is rotund and cheery with a toothless smile. He can’t speak English, and I haven’t made it past ‘hello’ and ‘thank you,’ in Greek yet, but he waves his arms around in gesticulation, and I surmise that he is asking me what I am doing out so early. I gesticulate back, telling him that I’ve been to the top of the village taking photos. He is happy with my explanation, and we carry on our different ways.
I arrive back home, my neighbour, Selia, is just returning from dropping her husband off at work. She stops and winds down the car window.
‘Kalimera, Anna, ti kánis?’ She asks how I am
‘Kalimera, ola kala, everything is good,’ I reply with a smile.
We exchange some more small talk in English before she carries on to her house.
My studio juts out at a slight angle onto the street, and when I open my two external doors, people walking past can see straight through. I don’t mind as I like to let the breeze come through the studio and the open doors act as a code to tell visitors they are welcome. Johnny often pops his head in with a bunch of flowers or freshly picked lemons on his way to the cafe, and I frequently exchange a few words with passing neighbours.
I am preparing breakfast when Dimitris comes to the door with a large bag of beans, freshly picked from his garden. I am delighted and thank him in Greek.
A moment later, he returns with a plate of bean stew. He has made it himself, and it looks delicious. I thank him once again and return to preparing my breakfast. No sooner have I started when Dimitris returns and hands me a large junk of fresh bread to have with the stew.
I remember that he does a bit of handy work and show him a little problem I am having with the wooden slats of the bed. They keep slipping off the bed frame, causing the mattress and me to plummet suddenly in the middle of the night! I am over thinking I am waking to an earthquake, but the sudden mattress shift when I am in a deep sleep is disconcerting nonetheless.
Nodding his understanding of my predicament, Dimitris disappears out the door. A few minutes later he is back with a hammer and nails, and together we fix the slats.
He is happy he has done a good job, and leaves with a toothless smile and a wave. I start on my breakfast preparation for the fourth time, deciding to use the fresh bread instead of toast, planning to have it with cheese and tomato. But no sooner have I picked up the loaf to slice it when Dimitris is back! This time he brings me three fresh fish!
He guts the fish for me and shows me how to cook them: chop up onions, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and squeeze some lemon over them. I have an oven, but no baking dish. Not a problem. Dimitris disappears once again and returns with a baking tin!
My kitchen and fridge are small, so I work to find space for the fresh beans, bean stew and fish, humbled by Dimitris’s generosity.
A moment later I hear my name being called out.
It is Selia.
‘Here Anna, I made some apricot jam yesterday. Have a jar,’ she says with a beaming smile, as she hands the jar to me. I accept it with humble gratitude.
Eventually, I sit down to have breakfast. What an eventful morning! I chuckle, biting into the soft fresh bread, oozing with delicious apricot jam. It is not yet 9 am.
To protect the privacy of the people I write about I have changed some details including their names. However, their warm generosity and my stories are real.
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