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Posts Tagged ‘animals’

People do funny things when they travel. Things they wouldn’t usually do. I am no exception to this rule as I haven’t shaved in almost two months and regularly go without shoes, two basic activities that I would never have done in “real” life. I guess that’s one of the biggest draws of traveling. Being pushed out of your comfort zone. You are meeting new people, trying new things, and seeing new sights. It’s a fairly simple concept, I suppose.

Let's compare. Would I do all these things in the US? Grow my beard that long? Probably not. Write on the celing? Probably not. Smile that ridiculously for a picture? Unfortunately, probably yes. For the records, the names on the ceiling belong to all the people who have worked and lived at the shop.

Let's compare. Would I do all these things in the US? Grow my beard that long? Probably not. Write on the celing? Probably not. Smile that ridiculously for a picture? Unfortunately, probably yes. For the records, the names on the ceiling belong to all the people who have worked and lived at the shop.

Let's play one more round of "Are these things I would do in the US?"  Have a nice beer with dinner?  Yes.  Have that beer be 80 cents?  Probably not.  Sell books to people from around the world?  Unlikely to no.  Be on the computer too much?  Absolutely.

Let's play one more round of "Are these things I would do in the US?" Have a nice beer with dinner? Yes. Have that beer be 80 cents? Probably not. Sell books to people from around the world? Unlikely to no. Be on the computer too much? Absolutely.

As I have mentioned before, Santorini’s economic livelihood is nearly completely dependent upon tourism. Particularly during the “season,” the crowds can be overwhelming and stifling. As Craig (one of the owners of the shop, not my dad) said, the tourists here are like the weather. Sometimes you just gotta wait it out if you want to get anything done. Now, this is touchy territory, because undoubtedly I am a tourist on my own level. Euphemistically, I like to call myself a visitor, but for all intents and purposes, I am a tourist.

Very few of the people who work on the island stay around for the full calendar year. They leave when the season is over, because there is no work to be had here. The bookshop is a special case because people live here year round and stays open for almost that whole time. The island, and in my case Oia, is a dramatically different place come winter. To give you an idea, the bookshop is located on a small street made of marble that houses more than its fair share of touristy places to spend your money, jewelry shops, and overpriced restaurants. But in the winter, this is all closed. There are no cruise boats and most of the town is left deserted until the beginning of the next season.

Hey look!  It's the Greek God of tourism.  The locals call him Michael Hurley (mention 7).

Hey look! It's the Greek God of tourism. The locals call him Michael Hurley (mention 7).

So, understanding the huge number of tourists that pass through this town is important when you begin to think about the out of the ordinary things people do as they travel. Naturally, we are going to be witness to a large number of strange occurrences involving tourists. Of these phenomenons, nothing has struck as the apparent loss of memory that is known to stricken some tourists. Let me be more specific. There are a remarkably high number of stray animals in Santorini, and it seems that upon arriving to the island, people completely forget they have ever seen a live, domesticated animal. Immediately upon the arrival of a stray cat, the streets of Oia are filled with approximately 57 languages saying, “I must take a picture of this strange animal that I have never seen before,” and dozens of people gather and snap pictures. When some people walk in and see our cat asleep on our lap, they say, “Oh my god, a cat! May I hold your cat?” “Yes”/Well, I guess. I mean, its asleep, but I guess/Seriously?

Okay. I’m exaggerating slightly and clearly there is bitterness in my voice. And when I got here, I was similarly taken by the strays. Proof:

Guilty!

Guilty!

Here’s the thing. We have a cat at the bookshop. Her name is Maxi and she likes to do two things. One, sit in the window where all passing traffic can see her, and, two, sleep in the recommended section of the book shop. We regularly just have people peeking into the shop, losing their mind because they have spotted an ever-elusive cat, taking a picture, and moving on. Perhaps you are thinking that I am being a bit hateful, but you are missing out on the most important thing. The noise. The international noise for calling cats. Everyone does it. It’s just this really abrasive, “Psssstt,” over and and over.

Psssst. Pssst. Pssst. (Snap picture) (Snap picture)

All day this is what we hear.

Who really runs this bookshop, Mr. Hamilton?

Who really runs this bookshop, Mr. Hamilton?

Craig and Maxi battled over this spot for the length of his time here.  Craig wanted to put books here.  Maxi wanted to sleep here.  Maxi won.

Craig and Maxi battled over this spot for the length of his time here. Craig wanted to put books here. Maxi wanted to sleep here. Maxi won.

So, Jack and I have obviously become quite tired of this noise. I really never had a problem with the pictures or the talking until the noise became too much. But lets take a break from that for a second.

First, a musical treat. This is one that we sometimes project on the ceiling of the shop.

Jack and I sometimes get up early and take swims at Ammoudi bay early in the morning. Great way to start the day. So, we did this one morning and came back to open the shop.

A crowd of onlookers gather to take a break from having their picture taken and watch Jack swim.

A crowd of onlookers gather to take a break from having their picture taken and watch Jack swim.

Upon our arrival back to the shop, we find…the smallest, feeblest, most delicate, tiniest, and most adorable kitten the world has ever seen. Right on the steps of our shop.

"The Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day and he began to see things in a new light."

"The Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day and he began to see things in a new light."

It was so feeble, we couldn’t help but give it water. MISTAKE NUMBER ONE. Then we noticed that it was so tiny and malnourished even. So, we gave it some food. MISTAKE NUMBER TWO. Then we just started making incoherent noises and just taking photos, as if…as if we had never seen a cat before.

"What is this strange creature?  I should take a picture."

"What is this strange creature? I should take a picture.

Why can't I stop taking pictures?

Why can't I stop taking pictures?

"Oh my god, a cat!  Can I hold your cat?"

"Oh my god, a cat! Can I hold your cat?"

Maxi didn't know what to make of the whole situation.  She still doesn't.

Maxi didn't know what to make of the whole situation. She still doesn't.

So, the cat begins to feel at home and just walks itself into the bookstore and takes a seat on the books. We are impressed by how brave it is. We name it Rambo, which we later change to Sylvie. We named it. MISTAKE NUMBER THREE. This cat will surely leave, right? No, it goes to the back of the shop and takes a nap.

The kitten continues to stick around. It finds a permanent spot on the lap of whoever is sitting at the till. We feed it again. And then regularly. And then the unthinkable happens. I don’t know where the cat is, and I need to find it. So, I make a noise. Not just any noise, but the international noise of calling a cat.

Pssstt. Pssst.

Embarrassed, I immediately look to Jack in hopes that he didn’t hear the noise I just made. His look is a mixture of disgust and of someone who just had a small piece of them die. And while, we have since promised to never make that noise again. Things have clearly changed at Atlantis Books.

Cat naps.

Cat naps.

Don’t worry. Not everything in Greece has been this traumatic. The other night we hosted a movie night on the terrace. The featured film? E.T. The turnout? Two awesome American girls who are sisters. While the movie was going someone had to be at the till, and while there, Jack met two Spanish women who had their violin and guitar with them. Jack, ingeniously, invited them to play on the terrace. They agreed.

Meanwhile, in traditional Greek time (a feel for time that makes New Orleanians seem like they have the regularity of the sun), all of our friends and guests showed up for the movie- when it was over. This is okay, though, because we suddenly had about twenty party guests and a band. So, we headed up to the terrace and made a fire in the fire pit. What else was there to do?

The two women played, and did so beautifully. Those in attendance were as diverse as the night was incredible. UK, America, Greece, Maritius (small island off of India), France, Canada, Russia, Serbia. I’m sure I’m missing someone, but I’m sure you get the idea. Then the guitar was passed around. It was an amazing night. So amazing, in fact, that it was suddenly four o’clock in the morning- something I would have never done in the US.

Who gave me the guitar?  Seriously.  Good time?  Ruined.

Who gave me the guitar? Seriously. Good time? Ruined.

One of those nights where the whole next day I just keep saying, "Wow, last night was great."

One of those nights where the whole next day I just keep saying, "Wow, last night was great."

So, the story goes. Greece continues to present me with new experiences and I catch myself opening my mind and broadening my horizons. Here’s to hoping thats something I can always do- no matter where I am and for how long.

Sometimes its just best to say yes to new things.  Just ask Maxi.

Sometimes its just best to say yes to new things. Just ask Maxi.

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