Not much happened today. I got up and went to the airport, got on a plane, slept until Greece (ok, I woke up when I smelled food. They served a small, hot lunch on a flight that was less than 2 hours. I love European airlines.) I didn’t eat much, though, I wanted to go back to sleep. Made it to Athens and got on another plane for a short jaunt to Santorini. When my bag came out on the carousel I saw that the bottom zipper compartment was open. Great. I picked up the bag and something fell out. I didn’t want to think of all the things that could have fallen out previously.
I walked outside, hoping to see someone from my hotel holding a sign for me. I had emailed them last night asking for a pickup, because I didn’t see it on their website until last night. I hoped they would have seen the email today and been there. But alas, they weren’t. So I got a taxi. For a total of 20 euro. At least this guy drove from one side of an island to another. But still. I walked in to check in and it was a little café/bar area. They wanted me to set all my stuff down in this tiny little space (which had other people sitting at tables) so that I could have a free glass of coffee, tea, or wine and get a map. I talked them into showing me to my room so I could set stuff down and join them in a minute.
When I got down there, Mario, the guy who helped me the most, was eager to show me the map;. But first he gave me a cup of tea. He was very excited to point things out and circle things on the map. He very much wanted to be at my service! (He finally stopped talking about how terrible it was that I didn’t contact them to pick me up…when I said I had emailed last night, he said I should’ve called. Uh, ok. So he insisted they would take me to the airport when I leave!) He told me about a 3-hour trip to a Volcanic island that has hot springs you can swim in. If I want to go, just tell him and he will arrange it! He told me I could take the bus around the island, but if I wanted to rent a car, just tell him and he will find the best price and arrange it! He was fantastic. He also said he forgot to give me the bottle of wine for the fridge in my room. When we were finished, he handed me a cold jug of white wine that is produced on the island. Seriously, who gets a free jug of wine when you check into a hotel? Yes, please!
As I was finishing my tea, an older gentleman sitting at a table across the aisle from me started talking to me. He was a bigger guy with long white hair and an even longer white beard. He was asking me if it was my first time in Greece, did I come through Athens, etc. We talked a bit and I asked him if he had always lived here, as I didn’t know if the people in the café area were locals or hotel guests. He was a hotel guest. Whoops! He is from Israel. I told him I have always wanted to go to Israel and that my BFF has been twice. He had seen me reviewing a menu for one of the few restaurants still open this time of year and asked if I wanted to have dinner with him and his friend tonight. Sure, why not! These were the types of interactions I had wanted to have all along on this trip, but have been fewer and farther between. So we agreed on 7:30pm.
I rested a bit and caught up on things like laundry before going downstairs to meet them for dinner. His name is Chebi, but I don’t know how to spell his friend’s name. They were great. They live in the north of Israel, about 4 miles from the Syrian border. They said some people think their land is actually Syria (or should be or whatnot, you know what borders are like in the Middle East). They ordered pork for dinner, so I assume they weren’t Jewish. I didn’t want to bring up any hot button topics, especially when one commented about Palestine…like called their country Palestine. Or something. I could’ve misheard…they spoke phenomenal English, but heavily accented. They did say that they could hear the fighting all the time in Syria, which I thought they meant ISIS. But the friend said, “ISIS isn’t there…yet. We just have Al-Qaeda.” You know. JUST Al-Qaeda. I said that would be a little too close for comfort for me, but they said you get used to it.
It was fun talking to them. They are definitely well-traveled, which sort of surprised me because they aren’t “well-to-do.” Chebi is a farmer, he has an orchard. He also runs a taverna out of his house. He is also a volunteer police officer and EMT. His village is only 70 families and there are thieves, so they all volunteer as a way to give back to their community. His friend also used to be police officer. They both joked that they were not guilty or didn’t do it, when they found out that I was a prosecutor!
I ordered chicken souvlaki for dinner. Three chicken skewers, a pita, a lemon, tomatoes, Tzatziki sauce, and French fries. They helped teach me how to eat it properly, which was nice! So I didn’t look like too much of an idiot! And the food was really good! I only ate two of the chicken skewers, though. When were finished, they brought us each a little chocolate ball with something kind of crunchy or crispy on the outside with some honey drizzled over it. Yum!
It was a fantastic night and I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to dinner with them! Chebi gave me his card (not helpful because it’s all in Hebrew… except his phone number!) and his phone number so when I finally go to Israel, he will be my guide! He was just such a genuinely nice person and I am glad he struck up a conversation!