Sunday Blog 102 – 17th September 2023
It’s there in my Vision Book – “I allow myself to have regular independent Greek holidays with Zoe.” My beautiful half-Greek daughter. This year, finally I have achieved this. And it was absolutely in every way worth the wait.
It’s a complicated life path to here – Greek people want to know why I speak a little Greek, I tell them I lived in Thessaloniki 25 years ago. Then I throw in a half-Greek daughter and it becomes a to-and-fro of “Does she live in Australia?” “Do you live in Australia?” “Where does her dad live?” The answers are Yes, Yes, Thessaloniki. Then when I mention a husband in Perth the whole round of questions start again. It’s complicated.
Since moving back to Perth for good in 2000 with my then one-year-old daughter, there have been trips back and forth to Greece, where her Greek father paid for us to come in lieu of maintenance. That all came to a screaming halt around the Global Financial Crisis of 2009.
Then, it wasn’t until 2016 that I was able to fly the both me and my daughter over to Greece. As my daughter was 16 it was necessary for all three of us to spend time together. A trip to Halkidiki from Thessaloniki was on the cards, but who knew when? Day after day passed in the sweltering city of Thessaloniki with no air conditioning or places to swim. Eventually we hit the road in his hot van, then there would be many puzzling stops, without any pre-warning. We would never know for how long or what the purpose of the stops was for. Eventually we ended up at a Beach Bar where I felt caught in the middle of a frat party. My daughter loved it, but then again, it was age appropriate for her. I was horrified.
I longed to escape the disco thud and get to my booked writing retreat in Delphi. This enterprise was gently mocked, and I was unable to extort any information about how to get there. Not all Greek travel arrangements can be solved by google. The beach may have been delightful, but I was marinading in impotence and frustration. Memories of the eight months I had lived as a dependent mother of a small baby in Thessaloniki in 1999-2000 washed over me again and again.
One of the frustrating days at the Beach Bar, to the backing of the disco beat, I couldn’t stop crying. It was embarrassing, but it worked. Nek minit I was dropped off at a bus stop in the next town, caught a bus back to Thessaloniki, a plane to Athens, a metro to Athens Bus Station. Then a long wait in a profoundly charmless station with a drop toilet, and then, finally, finally a bus to Delphi. It wound around tortuously across half of Greece but delivered me there, late for the first session of the retreat. I felt so accomplished to just get there!
Then there were the Greek holidays I have had without my daughter. Wonderful writing retreats and beach holidays, time with my husband and sister and friends. While independent holidays for me, I couldn’t share them with my daughter. They didn’t allow us to integrate together our connection to this beautiful but frustrating country.
And then this year, after floods and tempestuous rain (the island of Alonissos where I was) and food poising and earthquakes (Marrakech where my daughter flew out the same day as the earthquake) we met up in Thessaloniki. We were transported to a beautiful Halkidiki town of Afitos (10/10 would recommend) where I had booked us the perfect air bnb. I had evaded all suggestions of the friend’s house in (much less charming) Moudania with no hot water.
The Afitos house and the beach – it was just six days of perfection. And then – drum roll – made our own way back to Thessaloniki with only a taxi booking mishap and an unknown bus transfer to make before the 70 minute journey was achieved in two and a half hours. I enjoyed every moment of that bus ride, rolling past the same land but this time independently.
May it just be the beginning of our Independent Greek holidays together!