Thursday, December 3, 2009


It's a gray day and I'm treating myself by writing in bed, under the covers, my knees making a table for my little red laptop. I've been up for hours. The pigeons, car horns and the women shouting to each other over their balconies as they hang their laundry to dry make for early mornings even when I would rather have a late sleep.

The 12th marks the last tour of the season. After that I'll pack up some clothes, a few maps, a few plastic bottles filled with olive oil from the Peloponnese and head back to the States for Christmas with my family and some new, interesting additions. There's a little baby named Lilly that I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet, and the growing bulge in my sister's tummy counts for at least half a person. Then there's George, (the other one, the driver) who will be a guest in my family's house. Yes I'm bringing a little bit of Greece back with me, and we'll also be promoting our company and booking trips to Greece for anyone who wants an adventure. He’s been talking an awful lot about riding on top of a big, Western style saddle attached to a big, Texan horse. He wants to eat good Mexican food and see a gas station in the middle of a desert. Well we might have to get a little outside of the sprawling lines of Best Buys and supersized HEB grocery stores, but I think it can all be acheived.

All Summer long I have been learning ancient history and story telling. I’ve also been learning about people, the different philosophies of travel, how to be able to adapt and struggling with how to also maintain my solid ground. I spent most of the Summer failing to write down my day to day discoveries in a way that I could share them. For one, I needed to vent. It's been a real education working with so many strangers on such an intimate level from day to day, adjusting to their characters, approaching them like puzzles, trying always to remember the lessons I learned while living in Austin and reading countless books on spirituality and looking at every person and seeing the face of God. I also had a nice little library during my stay in Holland with Laura Klaasen and read about keeping my head clear from distracting negative thought patterns that are coming from the snarly pit of my ego. Maybe all of this work did actually help because I got through even the worst of days without so much as a frown while on the clock, but on occasion, on RARE occasion, I let my tongue slip in the car, after dropping the people at their ship and sending them onto their next port.

"They didn't TIP!??? The *#!@!!!"

And then there is my private log, to help me remember who is who. I've changed names to protect (I won't even lie) myself, and I’m only showing snippets, because I could get a little mean.

June 18th

The Massachusetts Puritan Brain Gang goes to Delphi

Let's call them the Sneezies. The mother was a frump allergic to garlic, pine, and genuine laughter. The father was okay but when he was told something he didn't know anything about he resorted to cliche.

"Guess no place is perfect!"
"Guess everyone has their taste!"

And then I got a little more poetic

Road conditions were absolutely beautiful. The colors of the mountains were electric, the pinks and violets of the clay nearly competing with the wild oleander. I never get tired of the sweeping views of the valley of the olive trees with the sea peeking through the apse of the arches of the hills from our little taverna, nicknamed the "miga taverna" by George due to the heavy number of flies that land on your bread and lamb. Today I had little zucchini florets stuffed with raisins rice and herbs and it was absolutely heaven.

and then back to mean

The Puritan Brain Gang makes the third family in a row that didn't want wine with lunch, and I'm a little surprised at how much I distrust people that don’t drink when they're in the land of Dionysus.

In the below, you’ll note my newly found arrogance with my own plan

June 28th

Oops! They're French.

My first By-Night tour and I had prepared three seperate, golden plans, taking into consideration that we knew absolutely nothing about the clients save that there were five of them, they would be delivering a car they had rented at seven and they were to be at Piraeus port by 11 pm. "Watch it be two adults and three children!" George joked.

First uh oh.

Martin. The bottom three all under the age of ten.

Second uh oh, FRENCH Canadian. Lucky for them George spoke French. Unlucky for me that I didn't, but George swears they were boring people. They had already eaten so we wouldn't get to impress them with my fantastic selection of dinner options, not to mention we were to fill up four hours now with nothing but tour. We persuaded them to climb up to the 19th century church of St George while we ate cold turkey cheese sandwiches in the parking lot, trying to restrategize. I have to admit that in the big scheme of things, what I realized is that I was sitting on a mountain that, as legend has it, was dropped by Athena herself, well, I love my job.

In the end I took them to Starbucks for pastries, because pastries is what they wanted and it was the only place in walking distance that was open (that I knew of) took them on the little train and got them to the boat.

July 23rd

Picked up some jokers from Park City Utah yesterday from the airport and took them directly into the city after a 12 hour flight. Some people are really crazy. The 15 year old wouldn't eat and was having a dramatic episode of heat exhaustion and didn't want to drive or walk, so I lead the boys around on foot while their mother sat with her in a coffee shop. Took them to the New Acropolis Musuem where I waited in a que for 30 minutes just to get to our meeting point in the cafe.
Learned I should not make the meeting point the cafe, and also learned that going to the museum in the mid day is a little like shopping on Black Friday. Only for the fiercest of souls.

They were amazed by Lycabettous Hill. When I offered to take a picture of the family all together I was impressed at the 15 year-old’s learned ability to pose for the camera.
She did this complicated procedure of hair flipping, chin turning, and squeezing her eyes shut until the last possible second before popping them wide open and flashing a mouthful of teeth. They loved having tiropita at the Ariston Bakery. If it hadn't been for the little girl they probably would have stuck it out longer but we took them to their ship (where she immediately began feeling better because she was excited about the pool.)

A little proof that on occasion I found people not only manageable but delightful.

The days before that we had some Chinese from San Francisco, a very nice family that had us first on a trip to Delphi and then on a tour into Argolida, skipping out on Epidaur and Mycines and going straight to the Corinth Canal for a cruise and then to the fortress on the Acrocorinth, where they appreciated the "homegrown" quality of the humble eatery at the top. The woman used oregano on her horiatiki salad that she had collected from the "castro" just the day before and the french fries were cut from her own potatoes, grown in her backyard.

Then we drove them through the windy road to Nafplio where they had ice cream on the square. They even treated George and I to a cup and told us they hadn’t ever had a better vacation.

And finally, I surpass being bitchy and achieve being constructive

August 6, 7

Boston, Boston, always with the strange clients. But looking back I see that I believe most the clients to be strange. First day Sounio and Athens, second day Delphi.
We took them to the Acropolis museum first and advertised bringing them to the actual Acropolis last, a good solution for avoiding crowds in both circumstances. After a driving tour of the city we took them south toward Sounion stopping on the way for lunch at Panos's. Bad luck for us a bus full of 130 Japanese tourists also chose the spot. Instead of leaving the way we went we continued through Lavrion and returned from the North. This was nice for a change of scenery and if they hadn't had lunch or were a little faster, we could have included either Marathon or the Peainea cave, or the modern olympic complex.
The weather was cloudy and perfect for seeing Sounio in the middle of the day, usually a bad time for viewing it. I pointed out to Tom my secret place for sitting and getting a sight of the cave. Again someone has reported that you can climb all the way down and suddenly I think I should pay my own entrance to the Poseidon site and wander down there myself. My poseidon and Sounio story is getting much better.

The second day was Delphi. We skipped again the modern olympic complex because they wanted to see Osios Loukas which I finally learned is one of the three most important Byzantine monasteries of Greece, the only one of its kind from the tenth century, Protected by Unesco and famous because a sweet perfume called "myrna" eeks out of the remains of St. Loukas, preserved in the chapel, and gives healing properties. Loukas predicted the invasion of Crete.
Lunch was veal stew, formalia cheese, tiramisu for dessert. I learned that Teo, part one of the two brothers that serve there, is an uncle of an adorable little blonde and Steve (part two) is a good father, dragging the little one around the floor in a wicker basket and tickling her.

And so on and so on. The times I didn’t write entire accounts of my day, I made up names, codes, for the groups as if they were rock bands or snappy titles for books. Some of the better ones include:

Ossias Loukas and the Honey

Sunshine Betsy and her Mm Mm Mother!

Uh Oh! Sam and the Duprees

Allergic to Delphi

Yaya gazelles

What time is it in Hong Kong?

Utah Uber goobers and the pouty pouty princess

Finally in spite of it all, I’ve learned about myself that at the end of the day, I really like this variety of people and meeting each job like standing over a mystical Mayan puzzle with balls and mazes... you just have to learn how to best maneuver it to the other side of the board. You have to do it with them feeling as if they’ve had the best day in their recent memory and without them having even an inkling that you don’t find them to be the most fascinating people in the universe. What’s more, is you can’t be fake about it! You really do have to dig down deep inside and understand what makes the people in front of you unique, because they are.