by Amitis Sina, Sweden
As I sit on the bus from Athens to Kalamata, passing the many but small stone houses, I get the sense that my stay in Greece will be anything but ordinary. Lush greenery, scorching sun and beautiful colors. I just get the impression that this is a place that produces juicy fruits, savory foods, interesting stories and life-loving people. I arrive to the hostel and my eyes are instantly caught by the pittoresque beauty of the worn down buildings and how they go perfectly with the baby blue sky. I smile to myself as I’m observing the old men sitting beneath the trees playing chess. Entering the common room I’m greeted by my fellow volunteering peers, everyone equally nervous as they’re excited.
Our first day together is filled with mostly group-bonding games, and some information about our stay in Kalamata. We all joke about how silly we feel playing these games, at one point jumping up and down pretending to be pink bunnies. Later on we all get settled into our rooms and I have to be honest, it takes some time and an open mind to get used to it. For example, you cannot flush down toilet paper because of the old plumbing. If you enjoy taking a hot shower you need to heat the water thirty minutes before. In my room I have a resident beetle, I’m thinking of calling it Gregory or George. For someone living in Sweden, all of this kind of comes as a shock.
Now it’s nighttime and everyone is about to walk towards the restaurant for our first dinner together. We stop at a small diner that offers Greek food. Everyone agrees that the food is so-so but we are all happy to get to know each other. After finishing my, what could have been tasty, spinach-black eyed peas dish I start to listen to everyone and I’m just trying to take in as much I can. I don’t actually talk that much tonight, but I love hearing about all the different life stories. “I really think we could be friends” I think to myself as of one of the volunteers is describing something particular to their country.
After the restaurant some of us are having some wine and cigarettes on the balcony of the hostel, having deep conversations that are quite personal. Me as a person, I can talk forever about the pains and joys of life. I genuinely feel like I could become really good friends with these people. And then I look over at the street below us. We have a lot of different cafes as our neighbors so you can see all the locals still having their coffees and drinks. It’s quite late, perhaps past midnight. In Sweden you usually don’t stay out that long during weekdays. I think to myself, “These people really know how to live”.
It’s getting really late so all of us say our good nights and we go our separate ways. I get to my room and the heat is almost unbearable, so my roommate and I make the joint decision to have both windows open. I lay on the bed; I twist and turn a little. I close my eyes. The air is filled with the sounds of street cats fighting over; I would assume a piece of food, and the song of night crickets singing me to a peaceful sleep.