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Posts Tagged ‘Jack’

Let’s start with this: A lot has happened since I last wrote. I don’t mean a lot as in someone saying they ate a lot after having a second helping of a good meal or when another person says they did a lot of walking following a five-mile hike. When I say a lot here, I mean it as a bold, stark understatement. I mean the kind of a lot that would convey brimming over, filled to the top, or having NO capacity for anything else. A lot in this context means there is literally no way that I will be able to get all of what has happened on this blog. But just know. A lot has happened.

So, where to start? Well, music, of course. It has come to my attention that many people have been unable to listen to my music clips the last few months, and through trial and error I have concluded this is largely due to the fact that this site’s music player only works on Firefox. Knowing that not everyone uses Firefox and in an effort to create the best blog-reading experience as possible, I have switched to another music widget. Hopefully, it works for everyone. You should be able to download the song by hitting the arrow on the right of the player and streaming should be better for everyone. In case you are wondering, I learned this from Michaela (aka Mak, Mak Attack, Makintosh Computers, MakDonalds, MakFace, or Makaroni and Cheese) who has recently unveiled her own wonderful blog that is well worth a visit or two or eight.

Tom Waits- You Can Never Hold Back Spring

If I remember correctly, we left the story off when I was last at the farm in the Czech Republic. I concluded my time there feeling rested and thankful for the opportunity to work with my hands and have time to process everything that had happened. I left with my love of the Czech Republic, chopping wood, and reading by one light underneath the covers as strong as ever, my pocket a bit lighter from losing at poker to Rich and Katie, and my hatred for doing the dishes at an all time high. I remember feeling a bit disappointed that I hadn’t seen any Czech snow, as some of my finest memories from being there in 2006 was from it dramatically snowing in the way that brought out anticipation in every flat place in the city and made the quietest of streets just a little bit quieter. But sure enough, my last night, after having an impressive homemade curry that made me forget how cold it was outside, someone muttered “I think it’s snowing,” and upon double checking on the porch, it sure enough was snowing just slightly.

As you can tell, I am almost single-handedly responsible for the deforestration of a whole Czech forest.

The next morning I made my way back to Prague with high hopes of my second stint in the city in as many weeks. The first day was spent and felt much like my brief stay their before the farm, familiar but only in a nostalgic way. Despite a visit to the Communism museum (where I had never been before) and the celebratory and slightly subversive way the sun was shining even though it the beginning of December, I still felt much like I was knocking at the door of the city, not being able to fully access it in the intimate way I knew it when living there.

Here was what I brought with me from Greece as a present for the Czech Republic- sunlight. I could barely get it through customs but it was worth it.

It wasn’t until I met up with Katka that Prague opened its door fully and let me back in. Katka is a dear friend I made back in 2006. With the exception of a stop at her parent’s flat and a viewing of the classic Czech film “Closely Watched Trains,” our relationship back then mostly consisted of meeting up in the cold Prague night and just walking and talking. Walking a lot and talking a lot (see above description of a lot) in ways that makes a city your own as it yields its finest secrets- little cobbled side streets, views of the city that literally move you backwards in your steps, or the sounds you might have missed in the noisy, busy daylight. And there we were, just like we had been almost four years ago, and feeling like we were the only people in Prague walking and talking. I was madly in love with Prague again, intoxicated by the lighting and the cold air and happy to be with an old friend after spending the two or three weeks prior very much in my own head.

The only photographic proof that Katka and I are friends.

That night feels significant on many levels because it felt like for the first time many of my thoughts on where I was going and the places I was coming from became clearer, not concluded but clearer. It was as if I had been lost and then suddenly found myself on a map. I still wasn’t sure where I was going but at least I knew where I was. And it should be noted that as a taxi took me to the airport, it started to snow. A lot.

It is here where I would put Greg Brown’s song “Every Street in Town,” but I only have a copy I bought on iTunes and it won’t let me do that. Reason #1 I don’t buy anything from iTunes anymore.

This will have to do. I’ve been listening to this over and over recently on trains and buses and just being taken by how beautiful it is.

Lara St. John- Bach’s Concerto No.2 in E Major II Adagio

After catching my plane and leaving the Czech Republic, I arrived in London, once again staying with Jack but this time having two other great friends, Ellie and Debbie, to visit. Here are things that every visit I’ve had with Jack involve: good music and good food. There are no questions about these two things and within the first night we had gone to one of the best restaurants in Central London and listened to the Dirty Projectors on vinyl. The next day we took a trip to a British beach town which I for the life of me can’t remember the name of and I ask Jack about once a day. Sorry, blog.

The English seaside, the English pub, and the English sweet touth- English traditions I was able to adopt immediately.

The next day is when things started to get crazy and when you start to understand what I mean by “a lot.” I boarded a EuroStar train, which takes passengers under the English Channel and to Paris and/or Brussels. I made my way to Brussels with the goal being to see Horse Feathers in concert. According to my Last.fm page, Horse Feathers is my most listened to artist by a long shot, so that is saying something. The perk of seeing Horse Feathers in Brussels is…well…being in Brussels. I had been warned on more than one occasion that Brussels wasn’t very beautiful and might not be worth my time but this couldn’t have been more wrong. I took to the city right away. It had a way about it, an honesty, that I don’t sense from many cities, particularly ones that I am just passing through. It wasn’t beautiful, though it had beautiful things in it. It just was and it felt like the city and its citizens were ok with that and you had the choice of either taking it or leaving it. I, wisely, took it. I walked around the city center at night before the concert, enjoying the fact that families were out and also enjoying the city and not just tourists. I stopped in a cafe famous for chess being played there at all times, and sure enough I was able to watch a few games of speed chess by guys who were profoundly better than I currently am.

The Horse Feathers concert was incredible. Simply put. And the Belgian crowd was the greatest concert audience I have ever witnessed in my life. Horse Feathers was firing on all cylinders; their harmonies and arrangements were perfect, his voice was better in person than on the record, and they closed by coming out into the crowd and playing acoustically with everyone sitting quietly around them. While much could be said about Horse Feathers, and I had good conversation with three of their four members after the show, the star of the evening was the Belgian crowd. Forget Belgian waffles (which I had and was blown away by), Belgian chocolate (also enjoyed), or being the capital of the EU (despite this, ATMs could not be found anywhere in the city, especially not when I needed them), I want Belgian music fans in my life all the time. The was a silence in the underground venue that was charged with an energy that was distinctly directed at the performers. The artist’s silences where exactly that- silent- and their music competed with nothing at all. I realized that in such a context a musician is no longer just playing music but rather they are filling a space with themselves, with their ideas, with their art, and that energy just pulls everyone towards the artist as we hang on their every note and, much more importantly, on their every silence.

Two easy steps to meeting one of your favorite bands: 1) speak the same language as them, and 2) act like you know what you’re talking about. I did both of these things well, though one more than the other

Are you seeing what I mean by a lot yet?

So, I took the train back after a morning of more exploring in Brussels where I found an antique post card shop, a whole building decorated in Chinese lanterns, and numerous groups of school children that made me wish I was able to take my students to Europe with me. Maybe I will just yet. At this point, I’m starting to feel the weight of “a lot.” I’m feeling overcome by the beautiful things, places, and people in the world and feeling almost frustrated that I can’t experience it all and contemplating not sleeping anymore so I can do more things (ask people who know me well- family, coworkers, roommates- how good of an idea this is. It’s just terrible.).

I arrive back in London, take a shower, and immediately head out to meet Ellie to see none other than…Horse Feathers. If there was any doubt that incredible relationships transfer from the bookshop to the outside world, this has been shattered by my friends in London by this time. Despite electrical problems that kept the house lights on and the stage lights off, Horse Feathers played beautifully again. Once again, the European audience surpassed even my greatest expectations of an American concert crowd, and they once again were able to venture out into the crowd for an acoustic encore.

Horse Feathers- Working Poor

By now, the term “a lot” is ceasing to even be in the ballpark of appropriate. We ended the night by walking down Brick Lane, having a beer at a wonderful bar that made me think, “Alright, London, that’s where you’ve been keeping your secrets,” and having wonderful conversation. The next day Ellie started to check things off a Whimsical To-Do List. We marveled at the British Museum and explored the wing completed dedicated to clock making. Just a lot of clocks.

I need you to understand that I haven’t even met up with Debbie at this point, and when I do shortly after leaving the British Museum, she took me on a quick whirlwind of her neighborhood which included Rough Trade records where I was so overwhelmed I just had to ask to leave, a ukulele shop, and grocery shopping. A lot? I would say so. We went back to her flat and played chess on a board that we made right there and then we had dinner with Ellie and a group of their friends who were some of the best dinner company one can ask for.

Have you even made it this far? If you have, you must surely be agreeing that “a lot” has happened, and its not even close to ending. Do you need to come back in a bit? Don’t. Stick it out.

The next morning Ellie took me to a meditation class and I realized how much I could probably benefit from meditation in terms of being present, focusing, and calming down. We met with Debbie and had lunch in a cafe that should submit itself in the “Cafe most likely to be called perfect and then be featured in a charming romantic comedy movie” contest. I could’ve gone to sleep at this point and had enough whimsy in my life to sleep into 2010, but Debbie then took me to a farm…!!!…in the city, and we ate gelato and hung out with the goats and Debbie didn’t even make any jokes about my beard when we happened upon the “Ginger Pigs.” That night, Atlantis Books worlds collided as Jack met Debbie and Ellie, and guess what we talked about? A lot of stuff.

Debbie was in love with this goat and showed it through repeated praise and petting.

I showed my love for the goat by getting in its face and making fun of its biggest fears and insecurities.

I rose the next morning and caught a train to Sheffield, England, which if you don’t know is in the North of England and is the fifth largest city in the country. Pete met me at the station and we started doing- yep, you guessed it- a lot, and here I mean a lot in the way that there was so much goodness around me and so many new experiences that I just stored them away as if I was a bear about to go into hibernation.

Here is a fashion of "Where's Waldo?" that some people think is too easy, its called "Where is Pete in this photo?" Next post we will use this same picture for another game called "Guess what Pete is doing in this picutre." I like my readers to feel successful.

Now, understand, Sheffield is not at the top of people’s tourist list of places to visit in the way that Prague or London might be, so, as has often been the case in my travels, I found myself feeling like I was in a secret, but the only thing about this secret is that the people who lived there were well aware of the secret. I have been few places in my life where I experienced such hospitality and witnessed the way people take pride in where they live as I did in Sheffield. Not only was Pete letting me stay in his house, wear his coats (I left mine in London), eat his food, follow him around, and meet all his friends, but his friends all had distinct ideas of what I should do while in their hometown. But instead of just recommending things to do like most people would, they went the extra mile to ensure I did it right. I liked this. A lot. When Neil thought I should be be able to go for a car ride through the country side, he came and picked us up himself and took us driving to a near by village for a gentleman’s brunch. When Kate told me to try geribaldi biscuits and read Ted Hughes, she bought them herself and brought them to me. It is here I learned just how much of a difference being hospitable, going an extra mile for a stranger, and just generally following through with the things you talk about can make a huge difference in others’ experiences. Meeting all these people, feeling so welcome in their home, and sharing a part of their life was one of the most affirming experiences I have had in a long time, and is the exact epitome of what I blogged about all those months ago about meeting new people, planting seeds for friendships in your little garden of life, and hoping for the best.

Pete and I walked the countryside and ate chipbuttys (which I just cannot say correctly no matter how hard I try) and had what was simply called a “pint of tea.” We enjoyed excellent beer as often as possible and listened to excellent music. A lot of all of this, and I concluded that whether or not I return to Sheffield in my lifetime, it will always hold a dear place in my heart.

I present the Chip Butty, a northern English treat that gives the New Orleans po boy with fries as the most carbo loaded sandwich ever. This sandwich, it should be noted, was ridiculously delciious with that English brown sauce and a pint of tea.

Another thing that happened in Sheffield is that Pete’s roommate Rosie opened a photo exhibition at Pete’s bookshop/coffeehouse called The Rude Shipyard (which is an incredible space). For the event, I was asked to open for Pete as the music for the evening. This was the first time I had played a proper gig as such in well over three years or so and the first time I had ever played by myself in this way, and I must say, I loved doing this and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel like I was just playing music but I was filling a space with myself and my ideas and I felt an energy as people listened and I felt the weight of respect in my silences. It was a really special evening and yet another reason to love Sheffield.

Wow. This is a lot. I’m impressed you’ve made it this far. I’ve returned to London and find myself yet again blown away by the new friendships I’ve made as I feel the power of this great city below me, around me, and towering high above me. London is such a big city that having three great friends in the city means that you see three incredibly different worlds. Ellie’s ability to continually come up with whimsical adventures is similar to Mary Poppin’s ability to pull objects out of a hat- the goodness just keeps coming. Debbie knows the coolest places in the city it seems and, blog, you need to know, that she beat me at chess today and Ellie has decided she is ready for the world championships. Jack’s work in the classroom and at his school as he rises every morning at 5:45 is inspiring in ways that have me missing teaching more than ever, and after he took me to my first Pantomime at his school (which I will add next to tea time and free museums as something that Americans have really missed the boat on) I was as inspired as ever.

So, here it is. Walking through the city and seeing Christmas decorations, walking through the London snow today, and seeing a performance of Handel’s Messiah in the British Library have made me realize it’s Christmas. I leave for the US on Friday, meaning tomorrow is my last full day in Europe. What this means exactly I still don’t know. I can’t tell you if my journey is over or not in the way John Steinbeck could at the end of his journey. I can’t tell you what I’m doing next and I can’t quite verbalize the ways I’ve changed and grown. What I can do, though, is remember why I chose this path in the first place. I refrain from using the word “expedition” here or adventure because as I just read in “Lady Chatterly’s Lady,” an expedition hints that you will be returning home. In a way, I suppose I am in that I am going home, but I don’t feel as if I will be returning anywhere. Despite physically returning to somewhere, I feel myself moving forward in so many more ways.

I’ve don’t a lot to say the least. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful places and met a lot of beautiful people, and I use “a lot” in the way that you might say that Dikembe Mutombo had a lot of blocked shots in his NBA career (he had 3,289). I learned a lot and had a lot of new experiences, and I mean that in the way that you might say Bob Dylan has released a lot of albums (according to iTunes, there are 77 of them including greatest hits compilations). More than anything, I’m thankful. A lot.

Happy music for safe travels. Talk to you from the US.

Fanfarlo- The Walls Are Coming Down

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The blues run the game- Nick Drake

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/BluesRunTheGame.mp3?attredirects=0

Let’s take it back for a bit. Shortly after my last entry, I found myself stuck somewhere in the middle. I was still taken aback by the views of Santorini, but I was getting lost in a routine and not taking time to enjoy them. I was stuck somewhere in between feeling protective of the bookshop and spending WAY TOO MUCH time there. I wasn’t being trusting of other people and was being too hard on myself, and consequently didn’t leave the bookshop for days on end- about five to be exact. I was stuck in the middle of feeling lonely and wanting people around on one side and on the other I was growing increasingly tired of the repetition and routine of meeting new people who would just be leaving in a few days. I was well aware of how idyllic and perfect my life was, but I feel purposeless in many ways. Clearly, I had gotten myself stuck. And, more than anything, I was more homesick than I had been since I left for Greece in July.

Bookshop life featuring a handmade cat toy.  Don't ask why I am holding this with no cats in sight.  It was a quiet night at the shop.

Bookshop life featuring a handmade cat toy. Don't ask why I am holding this with no cats in sight. It was a quiet night at the shop.

For as much as I work to be in the present and enjoying moments as they last, I cherish the places I have already been, the places I am from, and the people I love and have loved long before this given moment. I always try to remind myself how much those places and people have shaped who I am. I miss them constantly and the nostalgic part of me often wishes I was still there and with them. Here are some pictures of people and things I miss:

I often miss dressing in yellow and Sophie's unapproving glare.  Though, mostly I miss Sophie.

I often miss dressing in yellow and Sophie's unapproving glare. Though, mostly I miss Sophie.

The original style family dinner at Nirvana.

The original style family dinner at Nirvana. I miss family dinners almost as much as these people.

Equally, for as much as I cherish my memories and take time to live in the present, I am still a forward thinker, and not knowing what I am doing after Greece often stresses me out.
None of these things are extraordinary. It is natural when you have been in a place for long enough that you eventually deal with day-to-day problems, you get homesick, and your mind starts to wander to future adventures. But, it is clear that something had to chance.

That’s where London comes in.

The world's largest hamster wheel.

The world's largest hamster wheel.

All for the best- Thom Yorke

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01AllForTheBest.mp3?attredirects=0

I arrived in London last Tuesday on a direct flight from Santorini. Immediately upon arrival, I was taken by the city, charged by its energy, lost in its endless, winding streets, absorbed into its big grey sky, and kept on my toes by the cars moving on the other side of the street than I am accustomed. I wanted nothing more than to be swept up in the bustling crowds as they completed practical tasks, ran real-life errands, and didn’t take four hundred pictures of the building I live in, two hundred more of my cats, and then NOT come in.

The last time I was in London it was 2005 and this was the crew I was with- Danielle and Corey.

The last time I was in London it was 2005 and this was the crew I was with- Danielle and Corey.

The crew this time: me and Jack.

The crew in 2009: me and Jack. I made a point of having the same haircut and a similar hoodie for the sake of these pictures only.

Here is me with Big Ben in 2005

Here is me with Big Ben in 2005

Big Ben in 2009.  Turns out London has some staying power.

Big Ben in 2009. Turns out London has some staying power.

This is London, one of the most significant cultural and historical cities in the world. Let me give you concrete examples of this. In my first full day here, I went to the British Film Institute, which has a room called the Mediatheque that allows you to watch free films for hours that range from 1920’s documentary footage of London to post-war tea advertisements to recent independent British movies to BBC comedy specials aired a little over a month ago. Then I hopped a bus, got lost and did some letter writing at a cafe and then a pub. The night was capped by a visit to a pub with various Teach First teachers and alum. My interactions with teachers all over the place continues to inspire me.

In other news, how good is tea? The longer I am in Europe this time, the more I am enjoying tea.

Folks, I have only told you about one day in London so far and I have been here for SIX. Wow. That almost sounded like a threat.

On Thursday, I walked myself to the Tate Modern Art Museum, which, if you were wondering, was FREE, like most museums in London. Because of this, I was able to wander freely without feeling like I “need to get my money’s worth.” I could simply get lost in the ideas around me, and thats what I did.

Speaking of ideas, if you happened to be wondering what Justin “Chilly” Lamb thinks about English food, you can hear it in great and clever detail here.  Enjoy.

From there I walked to Borough Market where I had a mission to accomplish. I was going camping for the next two days with Jack, a few other teachers, and a handful of his students. My mission was to assemble a lunch at this market for the adults on the trip. Of course, before I took on such a task, I had to eat, and eat I did. A freshly-made veggie burger with fresh salsa followed by cheesecake with fresh fruit on top was just the ticket. Then I assembled what could be argued as the greatest picnic lunch in the history of teacher-chaperoned camping trips. It starred notables such as apple-tamarind chutney, fresh ciabatta bread, fresh apples, pears, and grapes, some of the best cheese in the universe from Neal’s Yard Dairy which is unarguably one of the the most renowned cheese shops in the world and has a sister shop in New Orleans, English biscuits, and sweet chili crisps. Please contact me if you would like me to plan a picnic for you because it is advisable that you do. Following this trip, I met Helen Boobis and Jack Ream for a little Atlantis Books reunion, complete with plenty of pints

The English Pub.  A home away from home for the last eight hundred years and counting.

The English Pub. A home away from home for the last eight hundred years and counting.

Then came the camping trip. I genuinely feel like I should devote another whole blog post to this camping trip because that is the only way to do it justice. When you work with students everyday, you sometimes lose sight of their growth from day to day. I had the opportunity to witness profound student growth in a matter of two days. Briefly, the boys in the group are who I spent the most time with, and they started the weekend not necessarily getting along and having little to no idea on how to navigate the glorious English countryside, which was their assignment. They were supposed to use their compasses and maps and find their way from one site to another. High point of the first day: happening upon a group of the girls in high spirits, feeling successful and knowing exactly where they were going. Low point of day one: The boys becoming lost for what proved to be quite a few hours.

Girls: Found.

Girls: Found.

Boys: Not found.

Boys: Not found.

By the end of the weekend, the boys were getting a long, working together, and striving to achieve a common goal. There confidence was higher and their independence was noticeably higher. Hmmm….Let’s just agree that I am not going to be able to do this experience justice in this post and call it good. Rest assured, I had a wonderful time and the English country side is everything I hoped for and then some. I have been told on numerous occasions that seeing London does not mean you have seen England. You have seen London. Having seen both, I can confidently say that I am a fan of both London and England.

UPDATE: Boys now found!

UPDATE: Boys now found!

Sunday was spent the way Sundays should be spent. I slept in, listened to music, and had dinner with a family. In this case, it was not my family or my best friends, but it was Dan’s, one of Jack’s roommates, parents who had come in from the Oxford area. We paid a quick visit to the Imperial War Museum and took a pretty long walk to meet some more of Jack’s friends at a pub where we stayed for a few hours and enjoyed the uncharacteristically good weather.

It is important to note that I was really, really looking forward to the grey weather of England. I wanted to be walking in the rain, be cold, and seek shelter in pubs and cafes from the cold. Strangely, most of my time has been marked by incredibly PERFECT weather, in that it is 65 to 70 degrees everyday and the sun shines bright all day. Now, I am not one to complain and I am not going to start now because for as much as I would have liked to be feeling like it was fall, this weather was too perfect to not enjoy.

Look at that sky.  What is this?  Santorini?  Actually, it was the church where Darwin's wife was buried, for the record.

Look at that sky. What is this? Santorini? Actually, it was the church where Darwin's wife was buried, for the record.

Tomorrow I return to Santorini as a refreshed person and one very much looking forward to seeing my sister.

There’s something to be said for breaking your routine and doing something out of the ordinary. I’ve had that now and been reminded of the value of enjoying the moment I am in, but I am still finding myself worrying about the future and making the right choice and missing the people I love. This is normal, of course, and okay at that.

I wanted to make a correction. I said that reading John Steinbeck was like having your first crush and this is incorrect. That feeling is far too fleeting and something you look back at with good humor, but in no way wanting more of it. Reading John Steinbeck, for me, was like eating a home cooked meal for the first time in a very long time. You can’t help but wonder what else you have been eating for all this time and you finish feeling full and resolved to never eat anything other than homecooked meals for the rest of your days.

The reason I bring this up is because at the end of “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck talks about the way that journeys pick us and how they also pick when they end all themselves. There are times when you journey is over well before your trip is over and other times when you journey continues well beyond the end of your trip and back into real-life routines and day-to-day life. As for me, I am well aware that this journey is in control of me and where I am going, and I’ve yet been able to determine if and when my journey is or will be over. I wish it was this easy, but unlike Mr. Steinbeck, I have still have to buy a place ticket home in order to finish the trip itself. But, like Mr. Steinbeck, I know that no matter how much I see there is always more to learn and until this journey is definitely over, I need to continue to take it all in stride.

In the Night- Basia Bulat

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/07IntheNight.mp3?attredirects=0

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I’ve been having this creeping feeling lately that something big is about to happen. In a good way. I can’t be sure what is bringing this feeling on or if it is true but the last few days have found me with this exact feeling- that something important is going to happen.

Here's whats coming, James.  Checkmate.

Here's whats coming, James. Checkmate.

Upon Sophie’s recommendation (which is something you should almost always follow, particularly when it comes to books), I have started reading “Travels with Charley” by John Steinbeck, which is Steinbeck’s travelogue of his trip across the US in 1960. First of all, I should reluctantly admit that this is the first time I have ever read any Steinbeck, so I am taken in the same way one is when they have their first crush. “Oh, this is what everyone has been talking about.” Or maybe, more accurately, I am taken in the same way I was when I first started listening to Bob Dylan in high school and vowed to ONLY listen to Bob Dylan for at least two weeks. I called it “musical cleansing” and I think I made it the two weeks, or at least very near. If you don’t remember this, ask Gabe, because I’m sure he does because I made him listen to more Bob Dylan in that old Le Baron of his than he could have ever wanted. I feel like a world has just opened up to me.

It doesn’t hurt that the book contains so much of Steinbeck musings about journeys, exploring, leaving home, and experiences in a way that resonate so deeply with me that I often just put the book down after a passage and walk away. There have been very few times where I have had to do this in my life. I should clarify that the themes in the book are more numerous and much deeper than I am even beginning to explain, because I am only touching on the things that immediately affect me and this blog. I should also note that I only about a third of the way through the book, so if something drastic happens and I no longer like it or something changes, I will be sure to notify you. But currently the book has been turning the way view this experience on its head.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep.  True story.

This was the same time that I went to go see the sunset but fell asleep. True story.

Perhaps what I have been feeling is momentum, as the last week or so has felt as if I have taken a step definitively in a direction. What direction exactly, I don’t know, but it is in a direction.

This last week has had many firsts and changes. First of all, it rained here for the first time. Before that, though, it was foggy, as in fog descended over this whole end of the island and overtook everything. It started at night and we chose to go nightswimming in it. This was a good choice. But the next day, it was even more so. I welcomed the weather change, as the weather has been virtually the same from day to day for over two months. Also, I grew up in Colorado, which was incredibly distinct and pronounced seasons, and four of them, at that. So, I have come to appreciate having variety in weather and despite moving to New Orleans and then onto a Greek Island, I really love the cold and gray.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists.  Also, not pictured: Me.  Happy as could be.

Not pictured: thousands of disappointed tourists. Also, not pictured: Me. Happy as could be.

It stayed gray and rained for a few more days. On the last day of this, Amanda and I sat in the shop as customers walked in and out virtually unphased by the change in weather. I understand this. It is their holiday and, to be very honest, it wasn’t THAT cold, just chilly. However, Amanda and I were acting like it was the dead of winter or the coldest day of the year. We holed up, read books, act popcorn, drank copious amounts of hot tea, messed around on the internet, and pretty much did the things you do in Colorado when it is a blizzard and school has been canceled.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did not do that on this day.

This is an example of a real life winter day in which one might hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did not do that on this day.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea.  We did that anyway.

Add some clouds to this and you would still not have an example of a day where you would hole up, read books, and drink tea. We did that anyway.

Also, I shaved. It was just time. It’ll grow back. Here you go. This took me no longer than a few minutes to make, so don’t judge the quality, but enjoy the product.

Although it wasn’t a first, I went to Ammoudi with Chris and Amanda one day. We swam and found a spot secluded from the mid-day crowds. It was not swelteringly hot so I just sat on this rock overlooking this beautiful place that has been so important in my time here and has seen so many chapters of my experience. I was perfectly content. Slowed down. Relaxed. This is why I came here. It felt like a first for some reason.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot.  I was there.

In case you didn't believe me, I included my foot in the shot. I was there.

There was another first. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is the start of something that later turns into a sort of revolution. We officially founded an activity called “pool skimming,” though it has been loosely and unofficially practiced for decades by rebellious teens everywhere. It involves locating, entering, swimming in, and sharing high fives in private pools. There were five people participating so it was no small task to silently get everyone in the water at three in the morning, swim, high five, and leave, while many of the pools were immediately next to rooms of the residents of the hotels and villas where these pools could be found. We did this NINE times in a little more than an hour. There is something to be said for a group of full-grown adults (I was the second youngest to give you an idea) not being able to control their giggling as they enter a pool in the same way a ten year would do as they enter any room clearly marked “DO NOT ENTER.”

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright.  They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

This is a picture of Oia at night where you can see some of the pools glowing bright. They were all victim to the famed pool skimmers of Oia.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

I decided to take a break from shaving to go pool skimming, so I looked like this as I entered private pools.

Today marks another change in Atlantis Books personnel. Liz left a few days ago after a FULL YEAR of traveling around the world. September 9 to September 9. Read her blog when you get a chance. It’s awesome and the things she has done and seen are remarkable. Many of the pictures on this post are from her. She also gives a good description of her last night here, which had Liz, Amanda, and me “getting our America on” after a botched attempt to see “Inglorious Bastards” at an open theater. We listened to music VERY loud in the car, sang, ate popcorn, and drank beer in parking lots of strange mini-bowling alleys

Amanda left today, though with a promise of returning in a few weeks, and Rich and Chris will leave in about an hour. That means its just me and Tony for a few days.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

The constants at the bookstore are me, John, a guitar, and us tuning out everything else to play music.

As a preview of things to come, I just booked a flight today to visit Jack in London. We will be going south of London for the weekend with some of his students and camping in the English countryside. More on this at another time.

The day I arrive back is the day that this one girl gets here. Her name is Aileen. She is my sister. I am somewhere between absurdly and unnecessarily excited about this happening.

She likes me more than it appears here.

She likes me more than it appears here.

Maybe I don’t feel like something big is going to happen soon, but I am just feeling forward movement. In “Travels with Charley,” Steinbeck talks about the Spanish verb “vacilar.”

If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction.

One of the many reasons that pushed me to come to Greece was knowing that there is so much more in the world that what I have experienced and what I have seen. Its humbling, for sure, but it is part of the reason I was driven to do something new. I am most definitely “vacilando.” I am heading towards something, though, unlike Steinbeck’s definition, I can’t quite tell you where, but I feel my movement in that direction. Though, at this particular moment, I can’t say I’m in a rush to get there. I can’t foresee being in a rush until I understand how I am going to manage how to experience all there is to experience.

Of course, this is a question that can’t really be answered, and surely not in a blog post. It’s more of a question of how to find meaning in one’s life, which is for another post to say the least, and a question that we all answer every day. So, I’ll just continue to love where I am, learn as much as possible, and move forward thoughtfully and meaningfully. The rest, I have faith, will follow.

Greg Brown- China

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/05China.mp3?attredirects=0

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How ridiculously good is this song?

The Left Banke- Walk Away Renee

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01WalkAwayRenee.mp3?attredirects=0

This blog post has been particularly hard to write. Its probably due to various factors, none more than the fact that I have waited so long and spread out the writing over a few days instead of just sitting down and doing it. And time does funny things here. Not this kind of funny. Or even this kind of funny. Not even this kind of funny. So, really maybe a better word is strange. Okay. Time does strange things here. The pace of life is slow and I am living at the slowest pace I ever have. This is healthy for me on many levels and I have reflected on numerous occasions on the value of taking time.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop.  Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

These grapes grow about one mile from the shop. Because I now move so slowly, it took me almost 29 hours to get there.

However, it is the way that certain things just fly by here that has been perplexing me lately. I have been here for two months now, but these two months can be dramatically broken into various chapters, all of which are profoundly different from the others. Since I last wrote, I have experienced essentially three different chapters.

Jack left last Sunday, along with Helen, who is a(nother) teacher from London who stayed at the shop for five days. Jack and I got a long famously, and I think this came down to our shared decision to spend our days intentionally seizing every opportunity that came our way. We lived this time to the fullest and did so very much on purpose. First and foremost, we worked hard in the shop to make it our own and I believe we succeeded. The recommended section featured a strong combination of our tastes (that sold many books, nonetheless), we had good communication and routines, and the shop always had a positive energy. Furthermore, I am most likely going to visit him in London in a few weeks, but thats neither here nor there.

We added a "Currently Reading" section.  Jack did the artwork and the reading.  I just stayed as current as possible.

We added a "Currently Reading" section. Jack did the artwork and the reading. I just stayed as current as possible.

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess.  On purpose.  Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack.  But that was also on purpose...

Speaking of doing things on purpose, this might have been one of the times I beat Jack at chess. On purpose. Or it might be one of the times I lost to Jack. But that was also on purpose...

There is something that makes this chapter different than any of my others. I refuse to compare one segment of my time to another in terms of what is better, but what I can say is that I sped up for the last three weeks, and it all started by learning how to say, “Yes.”

I would say that often I default to “no” in new situations, or at least I have historically. This is not to say that I don’t try new things, because I would say I do, but somehow saying no, whether initially or ultimately, always allows me with a certain level of control that makes me feel comfortable.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Here are things Sylvie says yes to: 1) being disguistingly adorable, 2) terrorizing the rest of us, and 3) through some combination of the last two, getting away with it all.

Once again and to clarify, this does not mean that “no” is my final answer, but for these last three weeks I have made a concerted effort to say “yes” first and then think second (I promise it hasn’t been as dangerous as that sounds, Mom).
I’ve said yes to night swimming at 3 in the morning with people I had just met and was witness to some of the most incredible beauty I have seen here yet. Ammoudi (our regular swimming spot) was a different world at night. The stars shone proudly and brightly above us. The water was warmer than is right for 3 in the morning. And, most amazingly, the water was filled with incredible, glowing phosphorescent things that lit up the water.

Oia at night.  Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea.  (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

Oia at night. Not the swimming spot, but you get the idea. (Pictures courtesty of Helen Boobis)

I said yes to a sunset with wine and cheese one night and beach time at a part of of the island I had yet to visit the next day with Lauren and Mary Kay, friends from high school and New Orleans, respectively, who traveled to Greece together.

I’ve become closer with new friends on the island. We’ve had numerous music nights on the terrace that last well into the morning. I’ve learned more Greek in the last three days than I have for the whole rest of my time here. Jack and I let a new friend match us to our respective energy stones at his parents’ shop and then we bought them. I still wear it actually. I’m not sure how much I believe in such things, if at all, but, if nothing else, it has come to remind me to try new things.

And these things started with yes (and good judgment, Mom). Saying yes is not always easy for me, but, somehow, it is continually bringing me wonderful things here. And with each passing yes, time somehow gets stranger and stranger, and instead of hearing “Yes,” time hears “GO!” and it moves as quickly as possible.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Just try to say no to that sweet face.

Try this on for size and tell me what you think. She is an Icelandic singer-songwriter. I think its beautiful.

Ólöf Arnalds- Vittu af mer

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/06Vittuafm%C3%A9r.mp3?attredirects=0

Whatever the case, I must admit, I like what is happening, and I think I’m going to keep doing it. Not recklessly. Not stupidly. But just here and there. At times when I wouldn’t usually do it right away.

After Jack left, I was alone at the shop for three days. I enjoyed this time with the bookshop and I got to spend some great time with John and Zalina, friends of the shop who have been very, very good to me.

Now, I am beginning another chapter. A crowded chapter, but a fun one nonetheless. There are currently five other people in the shop, but luckily they are all outstanding people. The shop is a happy place and each night has been marked by a family style dinner on the terrace, somewhat in the vein of family dinners in Nirvana in New Orleans.

I have been thinking a lot about New Orleans lately, particularly with the recent anniversary of Katrina. I will spare you of anymore of my musings on this incredible city with its incredible people, many of which I love quite dearly. I have said time and time again that I know I will never be able to understand what this disaster actually meant to New Orleans. I had never been there before the storm, and this is something that you can’t really understand unless you lived through it, but I feel like New Orleans is in my blood now, or at least somewhere deep in where I feel rooted. More than anything, I just want it out there that I am thinking of New Orleans.

Bob Dylan said in his book, Chronicles:

New Orleans, unlike a lot of those places you go back to and that don’t have the magic anymore, still has got it. Night can swallow you up, yet none of it touches you. Around any corner, there’s a promise of something daring and ideal and things are just getting going. There’s something obscenely joyful behind every door, either that or somebody crying with their head in their hands…There are a lot of places I like, but I like New Orleans better.

I know its clique, but I just couldn’t help myself

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/21DoYouKnowWhatItMeanstoMissNewOrleans_.mp3?attredirects=0

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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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A song for your listening pleasure. Something that has been hitting the spot.

Jim Cain by Bill Callahan

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01JimCain.mp3?attredirects=0

It has been almost two weeks since I last posted a “Boot of Spanish Leather,” as my posts could possible one day be known. I wish this was the case, though that is neither here nor there. Much has happened in these two weeks, and many of these things have indirectly kept me from writing. This is not to say that I don’t have time to blog, because Lord knows I do, and I have even tried on many separate occasions to pull something together, but thats what it was- pulling something together. I have been at a loss of words for these last two weeks, but I am back now- with words in tow.

This is the part of the blog where you say, "Are you kidding, James?"  Then you point at this sunset, courtesty of Ms. Sarah Morrison, and say, "That's what you got yourself into!"  Then you flip the screen off.  You are very angry.

This is the part of the blog where you say, "Are you kidding, James?" Then you point at this sunset, courtesty of Ms. Sarah Morrison, and say, "That's what you should have been writing about!" Then you flip the screen off. You are very angry.

If that last part was not really your style, then here is your part.  You are going to say, "Well James, it seems you gotten yourself into some sort of Greek paradise that involves playing cards next to the sea."  Then you are going to mumble some bad words under your breath and vow to stop reading my blog.  You are apparently also angry.

If that last part was not really your style, then here is your part. You are going to say, "Well James, why don't you write about some sort of Greek paradise that involves playing cards next to the sea?" Then you are going to mumble some bad words under your breath. I will not have an answer for this.

CJ once wrote about how fortunate one is to have people in their life that make saying goodbye a rambling, ongoing task. These last few months of my life, chocked full of rambling, ongoing goodbyes, have truly illustrated this principle to me. One of the most difficult of these goodbyes came when Mike and Sheena (mention number six) left two Wednesdays ago. The goodbye was not rambling at the time, as I think it was about five in the morning and I found myself quite resolute that I would not be able to express to them what I wanted, needed, to say.

The thing about the mornings in Santorini is that there are very few people out until about ten or so, and if you are around before this time you can witness the magic of the morning here. It is quiet. Strangely quiet. Beautifully quiet. It always feels like you are in on this big secret that no one else knows about, and the wind is the only sound you hear, as it whispers, “Shhhhh. This is the real Santorini.” And as I walked away from their cab that morning, I knew I had been in on a secret- having shared such a beautiful place with beautiful people I love. “Shhhhh, James. That is the real Santorini.”

Oia!  All pictures in this Boot are thanks to Sarah Morrison, with the exception of one, which was from Sheena.  This is because, for one, they take better pictures than I do, and, two, I can't currently find my camera cord to upload new pictures.

Oia! All pictures in this Boot are thanks to Sarah Morrison, with the exception of one, which was from Sheena. This is because, for one, they take better pictures than I do, and, two, I can't currently find my camera cord to upload new pictures.

And the goodbye has, indeed, been rambling, because since the day they left I have been searching for words to give to Mike and Sheena about how thankful I am for them- for our time- and in my mind I have rambled on and on, unable to construct a proper goodbye. But, I realize how fortunate I am to have people in my life that make saying such a rambling task.

Quick…highlights of Mike and Sheena’s time in Santorini, featuring Sarah Morrison who quickly became one of our best friends and will stay that way forevermore. Ready, go.

This song came on while I was picking these pictures, and it fit wonderfully. So, enjoy.

Don’t be shy– Cat Stevens

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/10Don%27tBeShy.mp3?attredirects=0
Three people playing music.  Three sets of eyes closed.  This is not good for the people around us.  We have gone to another place.

Three people playing music. Three sets of eyes closed. This is not good for the people around us. We have gone to another place.

Mike, Sheena, and Sarah took a boat to another island.  I used my Olympic swimming ability to beat them there.

Mike, Sheena, and Sarah took a boat to another island. I used my Olympic swimming ability to beat them there.

I may not be able to read Greek, but that doesn't stop me from driving a Greek car.  It just means speed-limits don't apply to me.

I may not be able to read Greek, but that doesn't stop me from driving a Greek car. It just means speed-limits don't apply to me.

We probably didn't move from these spot for hours.  No need.

We probably didn't move from these spots for hours. No need.

They probably didn't move from these spots for hours.  Because they couldn't.

They probably didn't move from these spots for hours. Because they couldn't.

Popular things to do at the bookstore: play backgammon, read books, sit awakwardly on igneous rocks.

Popular things to do at the bookstore: play backgammon, read books, sit awakwardly on igneous rocks.

This is where we said goodbye to Sarah.  We are not as happy as Mike's smile and the ouzo make us seem.

This is where we said goodbye to Sarah. We are not as happy as Mike's smile and the ouzo make us seem.

So, Mike, Sheena, and Sarah have all made it back to the United States safely and are back to their lives, and thus started a new chapter in my time in Oia. For a while, it was only me and Craig (one of the owners and one of the people who helped get me here) in the shop. During this time, I stopped going to the beach as much but did some wonderful exploring of other parts of the island, which often involved eating fresh figs and fresh grapes that I found a long the way. I finished some good reading, enjoyed music, great conversation, and some sunsets with Jana (a teacher in the San Francisco area) who is a friend of one of the owners and stayed with us for a few days, and am learning how to cook in the kitchen here because I never once had to make anything while Mike, Sheena, and Sarah were here. This has proven to be quite an adventure, one that has involved burnt oatmeal, flavorless lentils, and empty gas tanks. I promise I am not this bad at cooking when I can read the labels, but simple vegetarian recipes are welcome.

Walk this way to get to where I live.  If a stranger ever tells you this, don't follow them.  But since you know me and this will acutally lead you to where I live, you can listen.

Walk this way to get to where I live. If a stranger ever tells you this, don't follow them. But since you know me and this will acutally lead you to where I live, you can listen.

Tierra Jolly recently posted an article on Facebook, I believe, from the Washington Post entitled, “Why I Left Teaching Behind,” by Sarah Fine. And while I can’t say I completely agree with all of her reasons for leaving teaching, there were a few things that she wrote that resonated with me, particularly her beginning.

“This will be the first time since I trooped off to kindergarten two decades ago that I will not celebrate the new year in September, and I find that hard to imagine. Somebody else will cover the holes in the classroom’s walls with posters… Somebody else will stand at the door and greet the students — my students — on the first day.

As for me, I plan to travel, write and try not to think too much about what I have left behind.”

I am in the midst of a strange time- a sort of identity crisis, in a way. Sophie once wrote a recommendation for me, and said something along the lines of I introduce myself “as a teacher first, and everything else second,” and that I ate, slept, and breathed teaching. And, in large part, this is true. But now I am in a place where I am not a teacher and Wilson has already started school and the rest of Greater New Orleans schools are about to start or have started school. So, how then do I introduce myself? I feel as if I have left quite a significant piece of myself behind and, no matter how much I love the bookshop, have been unable to fill this hole. Time will tell what is real, though, so stay tuned.

Lesson plans?  Curriculum?  Bobbing for apples!!!

Lesson plans? Curriculum? Bobbing for apples!!!

About a week ago, another person arrived into the shop. His name is Jack, he lives in London, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Jalls (Justin Halls). He, coincidentally, did Teach First, which is the UK equivalent of Teach for America and is still a teacher. His presence at the bookshop has been a breath of fresh air and I feel we have immediately struck a balance in the shop. We’re working on a list of things we MUST do before he leaves which I am sure will be featured in a later post, and hopefully started a healthy routine this morning by waking up early and going swimming. Also, we cleaned, reorganized, and ALPHABETIZED the Greek section over the last few days, and it looks better than I have ever seen it.

Yet again, I find myself wowed by the people that the bookshop brings in, which I believe is not coincidentally largely comprised of teachers. There is something to be said for the way teachers often appreciate the power of learning and growing, regardless of age or place. Knowing this, and knowing how difficult teaching can be, it never surprises me when another incredible person who identifies themselves as a teacher walks through the door to leave their mark on this humble bookshop.

So, all in all, things are going well. I constantly miss the places and people I am not with, and at times it can be overwhelming, but I am challenging myself to love this place while I am here. It is far too easy to love a place like this in retrospect. “Oh, those were the days,” and “Oh, that was the place.” But it is a much greater challenge to engage your own sense of place while you are present and love a place for what it truly is, for the ways it makes you feel, and the things it brings out of you. Tonight, a woman walked into the bookstore and said, “I wish I could turn back time and come to a place like this.” And, if nothing else, I will never have this wish or regret. This is why I am exploring the island, continuing to eat a pita a day, learning to cook, enjoying the light of the night in the bookshop which no picture could ever do justice, and meet new people and, at the very least, just ask, “Where are you from?,” and mean it genuinely.

“Shhhhh. This is the real Santorini.

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