We celebrated and packed tonight. And we also reflected on the highlights of this experience. Here are our favorites.
1. The bachelor party. How many other teams have been lucky enough to make the guest list at a Greek bachelor party? Um, none. We danced, learned to toast (“Yia Mas!”) ate lamb cooked three different ways, and were completely embraced by Greek hospitality.
2. Greek salad. We learned that you eat it with every meal, and that the block on top of the lettuce and tomatoes really is feta cheese.
3. Greek soccer. So there we were, having a nice, quiet meal at Petousis, , down the street. Suddenly, the place exploded in a restaurant-wide unison cheer: Heraklion had just scored a point against another Greek soccer team. Pandemonium ruled—as does Greek soccer.
4. Raki. Distilled from leftover grapes, shots of this drink are what foreigners call “firewater. “ The locals claim it can be used medicinally. Right.
5. Sam and her children. We guess that not every service programs includes not only a fabulous team leader, but also that leader’s fabulous children, who translate, teach the volunteers to dance, help them shop, and join them for pizza. Thank you, Millie, Lia, Gabriella, Antony, and Alice!
6. The Handakas Hotel and its family. It’s not quite right to call it a hotel. It’s more like a town square, where the locals gather to talk, play cards, and watch the news. Then, they make dinner for their guests. And breakfast the next morning.
7. The taxi strike. OK, it was a bother. We had to drag our luggage around. But protest like this isn’t unusual in Greece. Protest signs are everywhere and about everything. It’s best not to take the media coverage too seriously. By the time we left, the strike had been “suspended” until September.
8. Dancing. Everyone dances the traditional Greek dances. Kids learn them about the time they learn to walk, and then do them with everyone else at parties, weddings, and end-of-school celebrations. We learned these dances, too. Sort of. Everyone welcomed us to the circle, though, and we got points for trying.
9. Day trips. We’ll file this under team bonding., as we remember the weekend jaunts to the ancient ruins of the palace of Knossos and to the dramatic island of Santorini.
10. The kids. They’re noisy, smart, funny, and serious about being bilingual. They are challenging and competitive. They tease and hug. They have boundless energy. And they all dance