Posts Tagged With: driving


Since I was in Greece for nearly three months, the last 10 days back in Lake Charles have presented me with the usual adjustment issues.  I’m getting there, but still have some challenges.

For the first few days, I found myself awakening (without any clock) between 3 and 4 a.m.  Wide awake, not sleepy.  Of course my still-on-Greek-time body thought it was 8 hours ahead, and that I’d slept until 11 a.m. and noon.  By 5 p.m., I was whipped and ready for bed, sound asleep by 6 p.m. This was awkward when I wanted to meet friends for dinner, or watch television, but I just let my body dictate what it needed.

So from the day I landed (Thursday) until the following Wednesday, I woke up early and went to sleep early.  Each day, though, I found that I woke up just a bit later and went to bed just a little later.  By the Thursday after returning, I was sleeping until 6.  That was fine.  I had no real demands.

Now, ten days after my return, I’m waking up at a more reasonable hour (between 7 and 8 a.m.) and staying up as I’m used to doing.  Right now, it’s almost 11 p.m., and I’m beginning to yawn.

Sleep patterns are only the most obvious and immediate adjustment, though.  Others quickly emerged.

For three months, I’ve gotten around by walking and taking trolleys, buses, and taxis.  Until last Friday, I hadn’t driven at all.  Within 24 hours of my return, it was a different story:  once more if I wanted to do anything, I had to drive.  Driving is something I’ve always loved, so that really isn’t too big an adjustment.

Shopping has also been something that I have to do differently.  In Athens, I walked to the markets, limited to buying what I could carry home to the apartment.  My refrigerator there is American-style, not a small apartment-sized unit, but there I shop frequently.  Here I have a car and can manage to shop less often.  I found myself buying for a day or two, though, and only today did I actually buy enough for several days.

Usually, I’m gone until mid-August, but this year I went to Greece early (I landed in Athens on April 20) and thus returned in mid-July (July 18).  I returned to Louisiana in full summer, with high humidity.  My air conditioner here is always on, while I ran the apartment AC only when I needed it; it wasn’t yet hot enough there to keep it on for hours (unless I was cooking and having guests).  I get outside here, walk to the car, get in, and realize that my sunglasses have fogged with temperature changes and have to take them off and wipe the lenses so that I can see.

In the 10 days I’ve been home, it’s rained almost every day — not necessarily for long, but enough to leave the sidewalks, lawns, and streets damp for a while.  Only on Saturday, while I was driving back from Baton Rouge, did I actually find myself in a full-on thunderstorm, complete with sheeting rain and lightening.  I slowed down and tried to guide by the taillights of the 18-wheeler in front of me.  Luckily, it cleared pretty quickly.  High temperatures, high humidity, possible thermal showers, thunderstorms, and light rain.  Normal summer in Southwest Louisiana.

Oh, and it’s hurricane season, of course.  I keep my eye on the Hurricane Tracker app every day now.  And remind myself that it’s time to begin gathering the usual hurricane supplies.

For the first time in months, I’ve got to deal with the pets.  Dogs need attention.  Cats do too.  Cat litter.  Dog papers.  Water.  Food.

Once more I have a house to keep up, not a small apartment. I need to mop floors.  Mondays are the days I must roll the garbage can out to the curb for pickup (and I have to get up early enough tomorrow to have it out there by 7:30 a.m.).  I think this week will see me re-organizing my office, first of all, and getting ready for the writing projects and some jewelry work.  The office looks nice, and I want to keep it that way, but it definitely needs some work before it’s just right.

My calendar has also begun to fill with appointments and meetings – even in retirement.  In the coming week, I need to schedule an appointment for car maintenance, another for a three-week program I’m going to direct at a local library, and yet a third for a writing project I;m planning.  I realize that I have no idea where my checkbooks are, and I will have to find them.  I still need to finish sorting through the mail that piled up while I was gone.

In a few days it will be August.  I haven’t been in the U.S. at this time in a while, and I’m remembering daily what my summers usually are like.  Hot, steamy, and sticky.  I find myself wearing shorts a lot, even to run errands.

At least I don’t have to worry about getting ready to begin teaching in a couple of weeks.  I now am planning writing projects and road trips to the beach and to Egan.

Re-entry into my Louisiana life isn’t too bad.  The  issues are familiar from almost 13 years of summers away.

Time to get some sleep.  Garbage day is tomorrow.  Pets are ready for some cuddle time.  And the laptop battery needs recharging.  Guess my battery does too.

Ah well.  I am still retired.  That’s the continuing adjustment I face now.

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Peripetia (Adventures)

Sunday afternoon, June 18

Yesterday was the wedding – and the day was lovely.  It was hot, but clear and not rainy (which some feared).  At 6:30 p.m. or so, we processed from the hotel to the church and sat down after taking photographs.  Eventually the bride arrived, and the wedding began.


Controlled chaos might be a better way to describe the wedding.  An Orthodox ceremony is beautiful to watch and the men’s religious chanting was an extra bonus.  The bridal party stood for the entire wedding.


There wasn’t a procession in the way Americans might be used to:  the party sort of entered, not to any musical accompaniment.  The music was the religious chanting that accompanied the priests reading/chanting/singing of the liturgy.


Instead of the kind of hushed quiet of an American wedding, here you could hear whispers of entire conversations taking place during the ceremony.  We also watched as one of the little flower girls dragged her stuffed lamb with her up and down the steps, at one point even wandering behind the priest.  Even the photographer moved to capture her travels, but eventually someone (a mother, an aunt?) corralled her and got her to stay put.

The bride’s aunts were a bit taken aback at just how informal a formal wedding can be here.  There were people in jeans, and people dressed up.  People sat, but others just walked around and kind of jostled for a good location.

The best man and maid of honor were there in part to help with the stephania, the wedding crowns, that symbolize the union of bride and groom.  Separate, the two are linked by ribbon, tied together in a bow.   After the bride and groom are crowned, they are led around in what is known as the wedding dance, or the priest leading them in several circles.  The maid of honor holds the ribbons of the stephania during this, following them in their slow circling.

Once the wedding was over, there was a kind of receiving line right there at the church in front of us.  Then we all moved outside and many more photographs were taken.  Then it was time to head to the reception, held outside on the patio of a restaurant in the city park.  The view beyond us was sloping hillsides, green trees, and a sky that soon began to fade into twilight.

As we entered, we were given a table number and went to our table.  Almost immediately servers started their jobs.  Soon we had bread, water, wine and appetizers.  Our feast continued through a salad course and a huge selection of beef, pork, and lamb.  All this was washed down by more water and wine.

The music at first was provided by a band – and before too long, many of us were up and dancing.  Eventually, the band was replaced by mix music.  Dancing continued throughout the night.  I think some of us left about 2 and walked back to the hotel.  I slept till about 8:30 a.m., and then got up and packed my suitcases.  Some of the group got in about 4, I think.

Today we left Naoussa and took a charter bus to the airport in Thessaloniki.  There I rented one car and the mother of the bride rented another.  A third car for another part of the group joined us.  By the time we got our cars and got out of the airport, we had a caravan of three.  Within a few minutes of hitting the road down to Chalkidiki, our caravan had dropped to two.  We persevered! We had a map.  We had a destination.

I have rented  a Jeep Compass, stick shift.  Loaded with so much luggage that the view out the back window was blocked, it was easy to drive—on flat land. However, going uphill with four people and a ton of luggage meant that we had a bit more difficulty accelerating.  Once more, though, we persevered.

Getting to the area where our hotel was didn’t take terribly long.  It was 45 kilometers from Thessaloniki airport to Nea  Moudani.  Another 15 or 20 kilometers and we were in the resort town of Afitos.  Finding the hotel, though, was another story.

We drove past it.  Didn’t see the sign.  Couldn’t see the sign.  Not clearly marked.  But the other problem, once we actually located the place (after a phone call) was the parking.  One thing the hotel failed to tell us:  there was an all-day party.  My first thought was that it was a wedding reception:  lots of bunting, flowers, music.  At checking in, though, we found out that it was not a wedding reception but a child’s birthday party.  A very elaborate child’s birthday party.

Finally checked in, I am now sitting on my small patio right outside my room.  I am not going with the crew – I am ready to sit and relax.  Someone else has taken the keys and all I want is some ice, a diet Coke, and time by the pool.  Later, I’d like an adult beverage and food.  I may have to drive to the LIDL grocery store just a couple hundred meters away.

Back here, not far from the pool, it is relatively quiet.  The birthday party is over.  Instead of being bombarded by the bass of pop music, I am instead surrounded by nature: a cypress tree, some pine trees, an olive tree, orange tree, and roses and geraniums right around me.  Just behind my two-story room suite (living room/bath downstairs, loft sleeping area up) is the stone wall of the back of this property.  Behind it, fields stretch out.  Apparently the beach is about two kilometers away, and because I know just how crazy it will be there, I think I’ll skip it.

I’ll sit here, listen to the crickets and the birds, and feel my blood pressure drop.  Not bad.  And it’s just now 4:30 p.m.


Tuesday June 19

It’s just almost 11 a.m., and I’m sitting by the pool, waiting for others to return.

We’ll spend another day here and then head back to Thessaloniki.  Not sure what we’ll do after we drop the car off, but we’ll figure it out.

It’s been a very lazy time here for me – I slept, read, and enjoyed my small patio.

Yesterday we went to the little town near our hotel, returned after a little while, and then ate dinner at the tavern here at the hotel.  It was a lovely, lazy day.  I’m looking forward to more of them.

There were only a couple of minor problems, and one involved sea urchins — a kind of nasty discovery without benefit of water shoes.  But the local doctor even came to the hotel and picked people up, drove them to his office, and returned them.  What a switch from the U.S.!

From this point on, the various parts of the group go different ways.  The bride and groom and some of their friends will go on to Skiathos.  The mother of the bride and some aunts and an uncle will head to Thessaloniki.  Two aunts and I stay here a day more. The groom’s parents will return to Naoussa.  Two of the friends of the bride and groom are heading to Istanbul from here.

On Thursday, my friend and her sisters and relations will fly back to Houston via Zurich.  I’ll catch a slightly later flight on Thursday morning to Athens, and by noon I hope to be in my own apartment for the first time since early December.

I’m ready to wash clothes and stock up the refrigerator. I will meet friends for drinks.  I will be home.  And in my own bed.  Or at least one of them.

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A New Month

It’s June 1 today, and the end of a whirlwind couple of weeks.  I’ve put more miles on the truck and car than I can recall right offhand.

Weekend before last I came to Lake Charles, put a truckload of tools into storage, went back to Egan, and left on Sunday for the farm, carrying another truckload of wood and tools.  The wood and some tools were for my friend Adam, who is using the wood to make my sister and me some computer tables.  It’s rough-sawn black walnut, cut on the farm in the 1950s.  Dad had one gun cabinet made and never used the rest.  I’d been planning to have a new bed made for him, but somehow that never happened, so now Kay and I will each have some of the wood.  Adam is a former student, and he and his wife have become dear friends.  He is also a talented craftsman, so he got to pick some tools out.  Then it was on to the farm that evening.  By Tuesday I was headed back to Lake Charles with yet another truckload of stuff for storage, after Kay and I got Affadavits of Heirship for the truck and Blazer.

Last Friday, Kay and I drove to Beaumont to get a duplicate title for the truck.  Then it was on to Crystal Beach to clear out my camper trailer/beach shack on the lovely slab (left by Hurricane Ike after Ike decided he needed the house — and many others).  We signed the contract to rebuild a beach house.  I drove us there and back to Lake Charles.  On Saturday we both drove to Egan, packed up some more things, and came back to Lake Charles on Sunday to unload stuff.

This week I clocked a lot of miles as well.  By Tuesday I’d located a CD that I thought Dad had.  The original issuing bank had gone under and been acquired by another bank.  Thanks to Google and the ‘net, I located the bank’s center of operations, made a phone call, and knew what to do.  I only had to visit a local branch.  The catch?  Yes, you know there’s one.  That branch is in Orange, Texas.  I drove over on Tuesday, but missed the bank hours.  Lesson: call first.  On Wednesday, I drove over, and an hour and half later had completed the paperwork.  I drove back to LC in time to meet my friend Charles at the movies for a noon show.  We got out of the movie and I had a message that the transaction had been approved.  We drove back to Orange and I completed the paperwork necessary; I drove home with a check in my purse.

On Thursday — yesterday– I drove to Crowley (in a summer thunderstorm) to the bank to deposit the check.  I left a bit after 1 and got there into the bank about 2:15.  After an hour and a half, and lots of phone calls and yet more paperwork, I managed to deposit that check.  I also managed to stop payment on a bill for Medicare gap insurance.  I went to Egan for a bit, visited with Charles, and packed my Mini to the roof with more of my own stuff.

Today — Friday — I have only driven around town.  The truck is being detailed.  I went to an eye exam.  I came home and have spent the afternoon on follow-up phone calls and business.  It’s been a productive day, and I’m pleased, mostly.  I’m going to pick up the pickup soon.  Sorry — I’m Southern.  Trucks are pickups.  Be glad I didn’t say pickup truck, which I know is definitely redundant.  I’ll drive it back to my house and park it.  By then, I think Kay will be here.

Tonight we’ll meet friends at the movies for a 7:30 feature of  “Snow White and The Huntsman.”  I’m ready for mindless entertainment.

Tomorrow?  More road time.  We’ll both drive to Galveston (appointment regarding the kitchen countertops at the new (beach) Warehouse.  Then we’ll drive to Houston to a Carmax.  We have an appointment there for an assessment of the Silverado.  Unless the price assessed is ridiculous, we will sell the truck and I will drive us back to LC tomorrow night in Kay’s car.

Sunday?  I’ll have coffee in the morning with one friend.  Then I’ll be on the road to DeRidder to visit Adam and Carol.

Next week, at least, I think I only have to go to Egan one day to the bank and maybe once to get the gas re-connected.  Kay and I will spend Thursday night in Egan, go to Baton Rouge for an appointment on Friday, and return to Egan.  I will come back to Lake Charles on Saturday for dinner with friends.

If I’m lucky, I don’t have to drive out of town anywhere until Tuesday June 12, when I get on a plane with friends.  We’re going to a wedding in Greece.  They’ll return on June 21.  I’m staying in Greece.

But there’s a lot of packing to do, and lots of phone calls to make.  There is still estate business to take care of.

And it’s only June 1.

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