number twenty one: already missing them

Two years ago our next door neighbours moved away. They were really great people and we held our breath waiting for their successors, hoping they’d be okay. The driveways of our houses are very close together and the division between our back yards is quite fuzzy, and it would be an awkward situation if we didn’t get along with the people in that house.

Our new neighbours moved in shortly after. First impressions were good as they had a daughter Elliot’s age, a son Amy’s age and another daughter two years younger than Amy. We introduced ourselves and chatted occasionally as our paths crossed in the driveway. Having children helped break the ice, but it was winter and we weren’t outside much, so it was a slow process. We were invited over to their house for a New Year’s Day open house, but we did very little socializing otherwise throughout the next few months.

Summer came, and it became easier to connect as we were outside more, and the kids really seemed to get along. Often (actually I think pretty much all the time) all five kids were playing together, using both yards as one big play area. Their kids do not go to the same school as ours, which I think made things even easier, and the kids started to develop a sibling-like relationship.

Over the past two years we haven’t spent a whole lot of “scheduled” time together. We’ve shared a few dinners, usually around birthdays, and a couple of summer BBQs, but most of our time together has been spent outside in our yards, with impromptu cups of tea (or beer, depending on how the day was going), sitting on the patio while the kids played. It’s evolved into one of the easiest relationships we’ve ever had with another family. We trade eggs, butter and whatever else we’ve forgotten from the grocery store, we occasionally look after each other’s kids, we say hi to each other almost every day, we lend out our truck, we watch each other’s houses when we’re away and we thank our lucky stars that we have such good neighbours.

A few weeks ago (you know where this is going) they informed us that they’d taken a job offer in Bangladesh, and they would be gone for a year. While being very happy and excited for them (what an adventure) I was really disappointed. I was looking forward to another summer of patio drinks and easy company. They left early this morning after a whirlwind of preparations, and I’ve been looking at their empty driveway all day this morning with a feeling of sadness. I will truly miss them, and I’m crossing my fingers that they don’t get the overseas bug and stay away longer than a year. I have a feeling they might. They’ve rented their house, so they still have ties here, but I’m trying not to expect too much. They are adventurers and I can see them not coming home for a while.

The new tenants move in April 15, and it’ll be very odd to have strangers beside us. We are hoping the strangeness doesn’t last long.

number twenty: was supposed to be a bit more about my mother…

Last Monday night my mother had a fall and ended up breaking her pelvis. She is doing okay and is home today after spending a week in the hospital, but I feel like it’s just the beginning of something new for me…taking care of my aging mother.

It’s stirring up all sorts of stuff for me…some selfish thoughts around how this will impact my already depleted supply of “me” time, some worrisome thoughts as I imagine her in her house alone, navigating with a walker (I’m with her now and Greg will be here tomorrow and we’ll take it one day at a time on that front, but I will have to leave her at some point!), morbid thoughts around how this is probably the beginning of a series of setbacks for her, and her death seems closer now…nothing really uplifting. However despite all this I am thankful she has moved to Victoria, because if all this was happening in Langley it would be much more complicated.

The other aspect is I’ve just spent a week dealing with the medical system, and while I feel we actually had a good experience overall, I am reminded of the fact that I feel inferior to those in the medical profession, especially doctors, and I have trouble advocating for myself, much less my mother. I am thankful I have my physician sister and brother-in-law to back me up if needed (it hasn’t been needed), but really I wish I could just get over it. It drives me nuts that I feel this way. I’ve been sitting here fuming all day because my mother’s doctor said no when I asked her for a copy of Mum’s various test results — hospital policy is to send them to the family doctor. What’s the point in fuming? I don’t actually need the records — my sister asked to see them if she could, and she can follow up if needed. They will be waiting at my mother’s family doctor’s office when Mum goes to see her next. The appropriate actions have been taken, and the results would be meaningless to me. I guess it’s just the principle of it. I asked for information that is rightfully my mother’s and was turned down.

Anyway, not sure what this post was supposed to be about, but I’ve gone off track…I think I’ll stop here and hope my little rant was therapeutic.

number nineteen: greece day 8

This post was written on Friday, October 18th, 2013. This is the last of the posts that I actually wrote in Greece — I didn’t write about our last day in Athens. I’ll see if I can remember enough for a post!
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Today was the island of Rhodes. We did another excursion through the ship — “The Acropolis of Lindos”. We got off the ship and boarded a bus which took us along the coast of the island. About half way to the Acropolis we stopped at a ceramics factory and got a demonstration of both the making of the ceramics and the painting. It is a family run
business and the products were beautiful. I bought a small plate. Not sure what I’m going to use it for, but it’ll be a nice reminder of a good day.

After that we went on to the village of Lindos, where the Acropolis is. Yet another beautiful site. Acropolis means
high city in Greek, and the view from this one was 360 panoramic. You could see the coast of Turkey (20 km away), blue oceans, sandy beaches, and much of Rhodes. We walked up to the Acropolis from the town of Lindos, and it was nice to approach it that way instead of directly by bus.

We spent a bit of time in the village of Lindos looking around the shops, but I’m getting a bit shopped out. I did buy another fridge magnet (I already have one from Corfu) because it was the nicest one I’ve seen so far. Whenever I’m traveling I feel like I should by this for that person, and something else for someone else, and I worry that I’m not getting “enough”, but I’ve bought a fair bit on this trip (probably too much) and I’ve got something for the kids, something for Greg, a few things for me, and a couple of things for friends who bring me back things on their travels. So I think I’m doing okay!

When we were done in Lindos we boarded the bus again and went back to the city of Rhodes, where the ship was docked. We had about an hour or so until we were due back on the ship, so we first put our hands in the Mediterranean (first time this trip!) and then walked around Rhodes for a bit. It’s a walled city, and…what is another word for beautiful?! I keep repeating myself. But it was just that — beautiful.

Then it was back to the ship for some R and R in our room. I also watched another cooking show – fish tacos and a mediterranean orzo salad, both of which I’ll be making back home. Yummy!

Tonight is our last night on the ship. We disembark tomorrow morning at around 8 am in Athens, and we’ll be spending the day there. We have an 8 am flight out to Frankfurt the next day (Sunday), and then home via Vancouver. I’m a little sad it’s almost over but I’m very ready to see my family.

number eighteen: greece day 7

This post was written on Thursday, October 17th, 2013.
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Today was our one stop in Turkey, at the port of Kusadasi on the Aegean Sea (west side of Turkey). We did another ship excursion and visited Ephesus, a city built in the 10th century BC. And also one of the most preserved historic sites. We got lucky with the weather and it stopped raining for most of the time we were there, and the temperature was in the high teens. The week before had been super hot and people were apparently fainting, so I’m thankful.

The entrance we went in was impressive, but no more so than Olympia, but then it just kept getting better. They have been digging out this city for about 40 years and they figure they are only about 25% done, and what they’ve uncovered and restored is stunning. We saw the stadium (and sat in it!), the library, the latrine (!) and more.

After that we got back on the bus and returned to Kusadasi for a carpet-making demonstration. Turkish carpets can take months to finish. We saw some beautiful ones, and got to sample some Turkish beer (just as good as the Greek beer).

We spent a bit of time walking around the shops in Kusadasi but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Corfu and Oia. The shopkeepers were pushier here (similar to Mexico) and the merchandise lacked variety. I know we are in a very artificial setting (there are four cruise ships docked here today), and that other parts of Turkey would not be like this, but I was happy to just look around and not buy anything. Part of me felt that I didn’t deserve to buy myself anything from Turkey, as I saw such a tiny part of it (the same applies to Greece I guess, too, but it feels different for some reason). So I didn’t even get a fridge magnet. I’ll have to come back for it.

We are back on the ship and I’m going to have my first nap of the cruise. Then a run on the treadmill then dinner, followed by “Jamm the Piano Man” — more on him later.

number seventeen: greece day 6

This post was written on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013.
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Today we stopped at the island of Santorini, and here is where I saw my first taste of what I imagined Greece to be — white and sand coloured houses rising from the sea, with bright blue doors and bougainvillea blooming everywhere. I hate to admit that this image comes from Hollywood and I’ve now learned that not all of Greece looks like this, but my goodness is it beautiful.

Approaching the island was also beautiful — the area was a volcano, so all the islands have sheer cliffs with the houses built along the top — from far away it looks like snow.

This was our only tendered port, so we anchored along with three other ships and took a tender to shore. We didn’t book an excursion for today so we thought we’d have to wait for a while to get off the ship, but it was surprisingly quick. We arrived in the town of Fira, and because everything is built atop these volcanic cliffs, our next goal
was getting UP. There is a cable car, which I would have done even with my fear of heights, but none of us wanted to wait in line. There is also a zig zagging staircase up the cliff, but it’s a 900 m rise and we weren’t sure Mum would make it. More accurately, she probably would have made it, but that would have been it for the day.

There were also water taxis offered to the more historic town of Oia, and these included a bus ride back to Fira. We decided to do this, and it was a good choice. We had a 30 minute boat ride along the coast, a ride up the road to Oia, and we spent a couple of hours there before taking the bus back to Fira. Oia was breathtaking. I can’t do it
justice with words. All I kept thinking was that Greg would love to take pictures there. All the buildings are connected, and it’s just a maze of little alleyways and archways, with brightly coloured doors (mostly blue), and lots of flowers. Add to that some beautiful displays of pottery, scarves, silk and other goods and you’ve got one
of the most picturesque cities I’ve ever been in. I want to come back with Greg some day. (About now you’re probably wondering when the hell any pictures will be posted…)

After a snack of olives, olive oil and walnut bread at a cafe overlooking the water, we caught the bus back to Fira. There we decided to make the trek down the cliff on the staircase. Mostly because I was too chicken to take the cable car. Plus it was free. What we didn’t take into account were the donkeys. You can rent a donkey to get up or down the hill, and once the donkeys get moving they don’t really stop for anyone. And there are a lot of them. So you have to watch out for your feet! Not to mention the donkey shit. Mum was a trouper and made it down with her arthritic knees. It was a long way!

We got back on the ship in the mid afternoon and Jan and I had a snack and read for a bit on the deck. The weather has been spectacular, but some rain is moving in.

We had dinner and then Jan and I watched “White House Down”. So corny it was entertaining.

I really enjoyed today. I truly don’t have the words to describe how beautiful it was.

Purchases: Necklace for Mary Ann