Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Look For the Swimming Priest

The maid at the Olive Oil Press Hotel used to live in America.

She and her husband left in 93 when the economy was bad and returned in 2010 when it was better, only to have it tank again. Her educated children can't find jobs. She has to work as a maid.

They ran a Greek restaurant in Reading Pennsylvania for 17 years. "My husband was homesick for Greece. I would go back now, but my husband says he is too old."

And so our maid becomes my friend. She tutors me in Greek phrases while she makes the bed. I try to help, but she won't allow it.

We talk about olive oil, about the economy of Greece, about the refugee crisis.

"First it was the economy, then the refugees, now the earthquakes. What will it be next?"

Our first afternoon in Molyvos, after the 6.3 in Mystenga, when a mild 5 quake hits, we run from the old hotel. We sit outside in the garden, read, calm our nerves. The next night, after we've put on our pajamas, we again run from the hotel and wait it out. We walk around the pool, watch the stars, talk about anything but the earthquake.

The next morning the maid asks if we felt the quake that morning at 7:45. Somehow we slept through that one.

How does a person adjust to such stress?

As I lay in bed that night wondering if I'd ever sleep again in the quaking village of Molyvos, I said a prayer surrendering my worry to Heavenly Father. I don't remember anything else, because I was fast asleep within seconds after giving my burden to God. My life as always, was in his hands, therefore I was free to sleep.

Now the part about the swimming priest.

I've gotten in the habit of packing my suitcase with clothing I intend to leave behind. Most often it is clothes I am tired of, or clothes my daughter handed down to me, but I also try to include something I would have kept if not having made a conscious choice. I had intended to leave the clothes at Kara Tepe, but we'd helped sort a warehouse of clothing donations, and they didn't need any more clothes. I would find a place in Molyvos, and our maid might know who would need them.

"I have a small bag of clothes I brought for the refugees. Do you know where I can leave them in Molyvos?"

"Ah yes," she answered. "You can take them to the priest. Did you hear the singing this morning?" I nod my head when I remembered the music through our open door.

"After services, you can find him at the cafe (she names a cafe). But it will be easier if you just walk to the beach. He goes swimming every morning after his coffee."

It would be easy to identify the priest at the church, and with his Greek Orthodox long black robe and cap, it would be easy to find him at the cafe, but swimming? What would distinguish him from all the older gentlemen at the beach? Why do I assume he's old? I'm sure he wears swim trunks--, but if he's young and fit, maybe he sports a traditional European speedo; maybe he wears a speedo if he's old and portly.

The maid realizes the conundrum, or maybe she sees the flash of humor in my smile as I think about searching for the swimming priest, speedo or not.

She offers to deliver the clothes herself. My gratitude is profuse and sincere.

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