All good things must come to an end. Not a cliche, but a reality.
As we fly back the long 10.5 hour flight we remember the amazing times we had in my homeland, where Paress indeed had the opportunity to swim where I used to swim as a boy, feel the magic of mainland Greece and Cyprus, walk where our ancestors walked 2500 years ago and experience first hand the warmth and hospitality of the people.
We remember my parents in Cyprus, so happy to see us, Jeannie’s family (and my very good friends now) in mainland Greece, Apostolos and Eleni (who still ride their vespa!), Fotis and Kaiti at Aigion with their simple style and warm heart, Eleni at Loutraki and theio Dimitri`s sisters, my cousin Sophocles in Cyprus and his treat to Paress’s first soccer match, my brother and his beautiful family, my cousins from my mom’s side with their growing families. We remember Thodori and Dionysis and their families, and sweet little Matina who connected so closely with Paress. We remember reuniting with Mrs Maroulla at Takkas Bay at the Aphrodite`s Baths area!
We remember the beautiful trip to the island of Trizonia with the sailboat, the Heraion and the full moon, the passing from that incredible bridge at Rion – Antirrion, the beaches in Cyprus, the Colossi castle and the fish we so much enjoyed everywhere we went.
And we remember the Parthenon and Paress falling in love with the gorgeous statues of the Karyatides, still asking what ever happened to their missing sister.
We remember and cherish the time we spent with my older daughter Aliki, and I was so happy to see progress in her own Journey. I am sure she will find her Way. Baby-girl, I am here for you.
I remember the poet, Dimitris Iatropoulos, and his passionate speeches, who proclaimed that “what is irrelevant. Of importance is only how“. I remember vividly my good friend Apostolo`s apology for allowing the poet to go off tangent. “When the poet goes off tangent you let him continue”.
I remember my dear uncle and Teacher Antonis Kontemeniotis and our in-depth discussions on a variety of subjects at the small tavern `The Philosophers` in old Nicosia. It`s really too bad that my mom`s family still don`t see eye-to-eye with his personal tragedy and their own responsibilities in the matter over the years. Like anyone else, I too have the right to choose sides, and my choice is clear.
We remember my dear cousin Marios and his amazing tour at the Troodos mountains. His sister Elena and the kids, my brother and his family, as well as Amanda and Rania with their families for taking Paress and myself to the beach on numerous occasions. Navarchos, theia Sofia and my mother-in-law Voula and everyone at the triplex at Kalyvia for taking care of our little Princess prior to and after my arrival.
Above all, I bring back in memory the tragic situation in Greece, a result of five years of austerity and immense financial problems. Prior to my trip I had opinions. I thought I could have opinions. But I was missing the reality from the ground. Having experienced the lives of simple people on the ground was an eye opener to me. I apologize for not seeing this earlier. I am much more careful now. All I know is despite what governments do or don`t do, I now know for a fact that people on the ground suffer, because I have seen it first-hand. A cousin in Greece sits on a chair, silent, chain-smoking. Without a job for two years, every day is a challenge for his family of six. Another close friend in Athens, once financially comfortable, now admits `I am poor`. Cafes in Athens, once buzzing with life, now close at …12 midnight. What ever happened to the Greece I knew!
In Cyprus I experienced a more financially stable situation. But there the problem with the Turks remains, and in my opinion it has become more dangerous than ever. The vast majority of people I talked to feels that the upcoming `solution` to the Cyprus problem will be to the benefit of the local population. My belief remains the same: We are headed for a disaster, simply because I think that a symbiosis with Turkish settlers is impossible and it will prove disastrous for the Greek population of Cyprus. A small group of people thinks that something will happen at the very last moment and this plan will not go forward. But “από μηχανής Θεοί” (deus ex machina) existed only in ancient Greek plays. No one was able to convince me that such optimism is founded.
I asked the question everywhere I went, both in Cyprus and mainland Greece: “What comes next?” But apart from Apostolo`s realistic analysis in regards to near-future Athens politics, all I got was disagreements and tensed discussions as to what brought us here. “It`s the politicians`fault. It`s Germany`s fault. It all started with prime-mister Papandreou, or Karamanlis, some 30 odd years ago. It`s the fact that we abandoned agriculture”. As far as current politics are concerned, I found that the Kaiti`s statement from Aigion was spot on: “Tsipras (the current Prime minister) forced an opposition in the government that supports him, but the opposite would not have been possible”. There is truth to all of that. But the general feeling is that for the first time Greeks admit: “The worst enemy of Greeks are themselves”.
The purpose of this trip was to introduce Paress to her roots, and to the place I lived my younger life. I always considered it of paramount importance to know where we come from. She practiced the Greek language and the effect was impressive to say the least. She has now begun to realize what 2500 years of history feels like, what it really means, and what is our responsibility as ancestors and guardians of the tradition as this is manifested through language, the Greek Orthodox church, way of life, food, scenery, friendships and family. She got a very good glimpse of all that. Therefore, I must say that `Mission Accomplished`. At 12 she had the opportunity to sit in the pilot`s seat of a modern airliner. (See photo below, shortly after we landed back in Toronto.) Soon, she will be on the pilot`s seat of her own life and I feel very happy and at peace for giving her a little something extra to help her in her upcoming Journey…
As to the real dangers that Greece and Cyprus currently face, I find that the poem by Cypriot Vasilis Michaelides, who writes that Hellenism cannot be lost, is spot on:
Η Ρωμιοσύνη εν φυλή συνότζιαιρη του κόσμου,
κανένας δεν εβρέθηκεν για να την ι-ξηλείψη,
κανένας, γιατί σιέπει την που τα ‘ψη ο Θεός μου.
Η Ρωμιοσύνη εν να χαθή, όντας ο κόσμος λείψει!
Σφάξε μας ούλους κι ας γενεί το γαίμαν μας αυλάκιν,
κάμε τον κόσμον μακελλειόν και τους Ρωμιούς τραούλλια,
αμμά ξερε πως ίλαντρον όντας κοπεί καβάκιν
τριγύρου του πετάσσουνται τρακόσια παραπούλια.
Το ’νιν αντάν να τρώ’ την γην, τρώει την γην θαρκέται,
μα πάντα κείνον τρώεται και κείνον καταλυέται.