JULY 27, 2007

Before I got married, had a kid, and started working for a man who flips out when I leave the room, let alone the country, I used to love to travel. I was always up for anything, as long as it meant getting to see someplace new. I've seen the Great Wall of China and the World's Largest Ball of Belly Lint, how many people can say that? (how many people would want to say that might be a better question.) But probably some of my best memories are from the semester I spent in Greece when I was nineteen.

Since I was always eager to get as far as possible as I could from home (and by home I mean my parents), when I was in college I decided to do an exchange program and I decided to spend the summer in Greece. I had this image of myself basking in the sun on one of those blue-and-white islands you always see in pictures, and meeting tons of cute Greek fishermen. Well, luckily for me the reality wasn't all that far off; I did a lot of excellent basking-in-the-sun, and met my share of cute guys. I also ate so much fantastic Greek food that my clothes wouldn't fit and I almost had to become a nudist out of sheer necessity. I learned to embrace the mid-afternoon nap and the ten o'clock dinnertime. I rode around on scooters, I drank frappes and sat around at the coffee shops, I starting kissing people on both cheeks when we met, I went topless at the beach I did it all, and I loved every minute of it.

Well, maybe not every minute. I have to say that the one thing I didn't fall in love with in Greece was the language. Or maybe I should say I fell in love with the language, but it didn't exactly love me back. I'm just no good at foreign languages, so it was tough-going when I ventured out on my own. Everyone was super warm and encouraging as I stumbled through my beginner's Greek, as if they were just flattered that I would even try to speak their language or something, but I ran into a few problems during my time there. I was constantly mixing up words, saying "kiss" when I meant "friend," little things like that. One time I went in to a pharmacy looking for baby powder and got nothing but blank stares when I asked for it at the counter. I learned later what I'd done wrong, and why the lady at the pharmacy had looked so confused; I'd asked her if she had any "baby dust." Another time I caused a minor panic at my host family's house when I took a phone message and announced that their friend Maria had called to say that she had just checked into the hospital. Yeah, she had just checked into a hotel. A pretty important distinction, as I learned after almost giving poor Mr. and Mrs. Mavropoulos heart attacks.

Linguistic challenges aside, it was an amazing summer, full of surprise and little adventures. I learned a lot (if you're ever looking for baby powder in a Greek pharmacy, just ask for talc), got a great tan, met some great people, and got to experience a way of life completely different from my own. I started a love affair with the whole way of life there. Mainly I loved how relaxed everyone was, how the Greeks I met never seemed to get too upset about things. (Unless their favorite soccer team lost, or you told them their friend was in the hospital.) They just didn't let little things get to them the way certain people I know do.

Speaking of certain people I know, I think what I love most about traveling is the way it opens your eyes to new things and makes you see your world in a whole new way. And even though I don't get to dust off the old passport too often these days, in a way working for Mr. Monk is a little bit like taking a trip to another country. Or another planet. These past few years have definitely been full of surprise and adventure, just like the best journeys. I've learned to see the world with new eyes, eyes that can spot crumbs from a mile off and can tell when a painting is hung even a fraction of a centimeter crooked. Every day with Mr. Monk is like taking a trip to a faraway land. And my, what a strange trip it has been.

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