Hello, the winter sun warming your face is such a wonderful feeling and a great way to remember to live in the moment. The girls are playing on the rocks at one end of the beach with Isabella who is having a sleepover.
Emilio is waving around some of his treasure that he has found on the beach (that boy is a treasure magnet!). Toby is at a soccer game in a nearby town called Neapoli and Sandy is at a Greek lesson with her incredible teacher Georgia! All in all a lovely and ‘quiet’ Sunday morning. Isabella and her brother Alex and other friend Manolaki have become such good friends with our kids and they want to spend as much time as possible together – all our kids just adore them and will miss them terribly when we leave Crete.
Soon I will be picked up by another lovely friend Irini (met through Couchsurfing) and we will visit her family village, Kritsa, 10 kms up the hills. I love Sundays like this.
Later in the day…..
A lovely afternoon in Kritsa – first we walked through the very hilly town taking lots of photos of the empty old homes that dot the village now – it is the case with many villages in Greece – they have literally halved in population because the young people generally want to move to the towns and cities in search of work. Agricultural existence is seriously on the decline. Kritsa, a mere 10 kms from Agios Nikolaos is so hilly and picturesque with incredible views.
What better way to end a great walk than with some good wholesome home cooking at Irini’s parents house. Home made cabbage dolmades, cheese pies and green pies. Yum yum – ate far too much!
The other day we bought our tickets out of Crete in June (after the end of the school year) and I got very reflective and sad. I couldn’t even press the confirm button on the website – so Yasi technically bought them. The next day I was sitting at my favourite cafe Ano Kato and I couldn’t get my eyes off the view. Tears were welling up. Yes it is an amazing view, though much more than that it symbolizes the life that we have enjoyed here, the wonderful friends we have made, the language we have learnt, the special family moments we have shared, the family routines we have created, being able to live without a car and walk everywhere.
Crete has been so much more than we ever expected, we have bonded as a family in ways that are very difficult with a 9-5 job lifestyle, we have met friends that will be life long friends and I suspect it will always feel like home. June is still a long time away, though I’ll be very sad to leave this behind. If our family and children were at different stages we would definitely consider staying longer – it is much easier with school and language for the younger kids, though much harder for Toby and Yasi who were landed in grade 4 when they hadn’t learnt the grammatical basics of a pretty difficult language. I’m so proud of all they have achieved though they do crave for Whitfield Primary. They do want to have their final primary school year there in 2015. Unfortunately the Greek school system doesn’t have the resources to provide Greek as a 2nd language special classes as there would be for non-English speakers in Australian schools. So much of the learning depends on individual teachers who are sometimes inspiring and hard working and then sometimes not. It doesn’t help that their salary has been halved in the last few years and is pretty much on the poverty line if that’s their only income. It makes you so so appreciative of amazing teachers at Whitfield who give so much. Luckily Toby, Yas and Kalika have a fabulous Greek teacher who comes to our house 3 afternoons per week. She’s been a god send. Furthermore, in the last few weeks Toby and Yasi have started switching school on Mondays and Thursdays to attend Sandy’s council run adult language classes – which means they are learning the basics of grammatical structure and they seem so much happier about it all. So, the school system for the older kids is obviously a big reason of why we wouldn’t stay longer. Another pretty significant reason is the army. Greeks still have to do national service (I think there are only two European countries who still have compulsory service). I have an army exemption form which I got through the Greek consulate in Melbourne when I was 18 yrs old. Technically however, I am allowed to live in Greece for 6 months per calendar year………and you are apparently eligible for army duty until 45 years of age (I’m 44!), so I don’t want to push the boundaries and I definitely ain’t joining anyone’s army, so we’ll be out by end of June.
About a month ago while we were hiking, we started to think more seriously about what we would do when we left Greece. The only time commitment we had made was that we promised the kids we would be home in Australia for Christmas. Flying to Sth America for 6 months was going to be costly as we were having trouble finding frequent flyer tickets home from there on Virgin Velocity or one of their partners. South America was still one of the dreams but there were about 10 other crazy options we came up with ranging from:
Finding a cheap car and driving through Europe to London and then Sth America
Flying home via Iran
Flying to India and spending a few months there and then overland through Burma and Thailand.
Flying to Botswana and Sth Africa then home via Perth
Train to Vladivostok then fly home via Japan
Train through Central Asia and then China
Just go straight to Sth America then home
Then one day we were reading some emails and came across a course that Sandy was recommended for and was very interested in – Kids Coaching Connection – which is about ‘soul/personal development and emotional mentoring for kids’ – She would be so good at it of course.
The course however is monthly in Canada which is geographically impossible from Australia or Europe. However, they were offering a summer intensive this year in July and August. It just felt so right. Sandy’s gut was telling her she wanted to do it and I really wanted to support her in making it possible and within an afternoon really – our 2nd half of 2014 was kind of nutted out.
Now we had a time commitment so we leave Europe on July 9 to Toronto where I have some lovely relatives. We fly out of Brussels so we still get to see our friends Werner and Corina and their fabulous kids in Holland which we are so excited about. We also get to spend time with my brother and Sally in London and see Paris for a few days which has been Yasi and Kalika’s dream ever since their wonderful friends Charlotte and Pippa went there.
Not sure what the kids and I will do while Sandy is at her course but if anyone has ever been camping around Ontario, Canada and has some recommendations – I would much appreciate them. I have always wanted to head north to Hudson Bay. I could go over the border into America though I really don’t fancy trying to get through American customs with 5 kids on my own and having to explain the whole story. I might save that till the first half of the course is done and then Sandy is back with us.
Toby and I were ultra excited to have spent a few hours on the net and booked our tickets home to Australia solely using frequent flyer points on V Australia from LAX. We get back to Melbourne at the beginning of November. Again, many options in the few North American months – probably a month road trip around Eastern States where we have many friends to visit ending in Chicago, which is like my American home since I studied in Illinois for a year (many moons ago now). Then probably some time in Central America and/or Peru-Bolivia and back to the west coast where we want to do another ‘visiting friends road trip’ before home.
Though as you’ve probably guessed – plans are fairly organic at this stage and who knows what will pop up. I like planning though I’m finding I am enjoying going with the flow.
Now back to our wonderful life in Crete. I’m so glad we decided to do all four seasons in the one place. Winter in Crete is fairly mild and there is still much opportunity for beach fun – though it is so nice and quiet without the hordes of tourists that are likely to start when April arrives. That season can be thrilling too.
Have an awesome day.