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Newsletter Number One

Published 22 April 2002

This is the first newsletter from Michael & Karin Shepherd of Aliki, Paros.  

Hi, I cannot believe only 2 weeks have gone past, we have been so busy that it seems longer!
We are settling in, but it takes awhile.  There are so many things that are "different" here.  I know we have been on Paros twice before (in Nature House), but living in a pension is very different from living in a house.  Why you ask?  Well, it does not have the same flow.  Rooms do not open onto rooms, or a hallway.  Instead, we center our life around a small open courtyard.  We live in Room 2, which is a big enough room with a balcony and a nice bathroom.  It's just when we want to leave that room to go to the kitchen, we must open a door, close the door, walk into the courtyard, open the kitchen door, close the kitchen door, and when we want to go to the office, where the TV and computer are located, we must open the door enter the courtyard, and then again close the door.  Now a bit of that is an exaggeration, as obviously on fine days, we do not open and close as many doors, only when it rains, (and it has been surprisingly cold and rainy).
Cold and rainy?  Yes, I am a bit surprised by the weather.  Although, I did read in a guide book that April can be like this.  We have experienced some very damp days with rain really pelting down in torrential downpours.  But, I must say, it is as likely to go quickly away and stay away for the rest of the day!  Neither Michael nor I have learned to predict the weather patterns yet.  Actually I am not sure if we face West or South....except at night when the sun sets...which we see from the office window...only then I can orientate myself.  The winds from the North blow cold, the ones from the South blow warmer...just like in Ireland. 
One good thing about the rain is that it was badly needed, so no one complains.  Last year on Paros we had a severe water shortage....we even ran out of water...this year the reservoirs have more than filled up, and they are even building a new one to hold more.  Unfortunately, this years rain will not go into that one, but never mind....this rain is gold.
The plus side is that rain also brings a wealth of beautiful flowers.  That is one of the reasons we chose to come so early in know springtime.  I had seen pictures of the flowers and green hills and could not imagine them...because in the summer time brown is the prevailing color. (Summer brings it's own unique beauty ).
Today we truly enjoyed the fine spring day and all it had to offer. We got up early and decided to go to the neighboring island, Antiparos, which is only a short 5 minute ferry ride away.  We found the village quite sleepy, because it was Sunday, and not yet tourist season.  We enjoyed a coffee at the harborside taverna (serving Illy Coffee; expresso for me, cappuccino for Michael).  We then walked along the sea on a footpath taking us to one of our favourite summer haunts - a long stretch of beach with shallow water, and lots of teensy tiny seashells and trees.  Of course today I saw it as never before:  not a single soul on it, only us!  We sat in the shelter of the trees (it was windy) and just mediated and vegetated in the warm sun!  Also read and went ankle deep into the water, which was cool, but not too bad.  How does it warm up so quickly?  By summer it will be warm and fantastic!
I think bright sunny spring days make everyone happy, not only the flowers!  On the trip home our bus driver who was young and handsome (Greek Gods do still exist!),  was happily singing along with his radio which played at just the right tempo, some beautiful Greek music.  As I looked out the window on my right, I saw the green hills of Antiparos across the blue glistening bay, with the wind playing on the water, and skidding white puffy clouds crossing the sky.  On my left, I saw the green mountains of Paros, and field after field after field of white dancing daisies, myriads of different varieties of yellow daisies, interspersed with red poppies!  Along the roadside are various types of purple flowers.  If I had chosen to walk on any paths instead, my footsteps would have crushed tiny camomile flowers that grow abundantly everywhere!  What a paradise!
But of course, life is not all paradise, as settling in has shown me.  Just getting acquainted with new differently, searching shelves for food takes me much longer than Michael is used to, because I have to try to figure out what all the Greek words say!  Thank goodness, our local supermarkets here in Aliki and in Parikia have some knowledge of English.  Although, I like to try to learn as much Greek as possible and shopping is one way of learning. 
We have been eating the rewards of a neighbor, Wolfgang and his Greek wife Antonia.  They have a wonderful garden with a path through it, leading between our houses.  They have encouraged us to take, take, take!  So we have been eating fresh salads, with fennel and parsley and onions.  They also have artichokes, so that delicacy has become common eatery!  I religiously take my peelings or parts I do not eat to the chickens, and in return, we buy free range eggs from them at 15 cents each!  The only thing I can say is:  garden food is so-o-o-o-o delicious and fresh.  Also he gives us sacks of free oranges, so our mornings start off with freshly squeezed orange juice.  Again, I say, this is paradise!
I am slowly making friends with the Greeks.  This is easy for just is in my blood to speak and smile, and that seems to be a good start!  I have learned to say the proper greetings, and they always respond in like.  I hope in time to be able to have more meaningful conversations.  Wolfgang is great to help us understand the roots of Greek words....a lot of them are not as foreign as we think!
And Antonia has been showing me ways of Greek cooking.  We were invited to share a Greek artichoke recipe, which was made from the hearts only, and cooked in eggs, like a frittata.  I am not sure what spices she used; we still struggle with words, as she speaks limited English.  But it is fun.  She also helped in solving our twin bed problem!  Yes, we have twin beds pushed together.  We solved it by sewing 2 sheets together as one, but I was shocked at her sewing machine!  It was a beautiful antique Singer (vintage early 1930's?) which was a portable. She set it up, threaded it, and then proceeded to make it go by turning the wheel by hand!  It made my arm ache just to watch her....but she is proficient. As most Greek older women are...used to hard work, and not having the latest gadget.  However they still manage to sew beautifully, and cook delicious foods!  One of my personal goals is to learn from them and become more knowledgeable in their ways.
For evening entertainment we attended an opening night art exhibit in Parikia (the port town only 15 minutes from us).  It was the work of a German sculptress and painter who winters here.  We have also chosen Saturday nights to go to the local taverna (Manoli's) and celebrate our arriving here on a Saturday.  We drink ouzo, and eat their specialty:  American style hamburgers!  Then a short walk home along the beach and a game of cards and sleep.  But it does not end there....
We rediscover our first hour of paradise when waking up to a new day with the distant crowing of  roosters, opening the shutters to the early morning sun and enjoying the first cup of coffee on the balcony.  That is.....if it is not raining!!!!!
Till next time....

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