Friday, January 24, 2014

Stranded on a Greek Port

The port in Tinos
This story happened a long time ago on my first trip alone, but it is one that I always go back to when I think of travel. It still amazes me that when forced to extend beyond the limits that you place on yourself, things happen. Sometimes these things are exciting, sometimes they are scary, but hopefully they help you grow and stretch into becoming a better human.

Normally when a person decides to go abroad for the first time, there are many things to consider. Some of these things include safety, transportation to and from lodging, cost, and location to name a few. When I decided to go abroad for the first time I just wanted to get out of Orlando. It didn't really matter where, as long as it was cheap. I managed to find a way to teach English for a summer while living with a family (in this case the family owned hotels, so I got to live in one). All I had to pay was a small program fee and my airfare.

I booked my ticket and stopped my mail. What else was there to do other than pack a suitcase and get out of town? I was told that I would be met at the airport by "the family." That's all I thought I needed to know. What would have helped was if I looked at a map over the course of my travel planning. If I had, I would have noticed that there were multiple steps to my journey. This journey took two days.

I stumbled off the plane dazed and confused to find uniformed men with dogs and machine guns. I definitely wasn't in Kansas anymore. Fast forward past the car rides, meeting Christine, my host mom, and ending up at the port near Athens drinking a frappe. I was exhausted, but the adrenaline from everything being new was spurring me on to my final destination. I boarded the ferry bound for my new home, the island of Tinos. I was on a boat in the Aegean Sea, when only yesterday I was back home. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it. It was getting late; the sun was starting to dip into the water. I was looking forward to getting settled in my room and going to sleep. All was right with the world until I stepped off the boat.

Within minutes, my excitement turned to concern and I'll be honest, a little bit of panic. The port had cleared out completely. The ferry had moved on to the next port. Everyone who had disembarked had found their families or their taxis and left. I was alone with my suitcase. I looked around feeling the confidence drain from me. What was I thinking coming here all alone? Why didn't I just stay home and have a nice quiet, predictable summer? How am I going to get to my hotel? Where are all the people? These were just some of the questions that peppered my thoughts on that pier.

As most travelers know, survival instincts kick in when situations like this arise, and suddenly I had cast away my confusion and traded it in for laser- like focus on how I was going to get from port to bed. Suddenly, my mental fog lifted and I saw three teenaged boys sitting along the pier. Why hadn't I noticed them before? Fear and lack of foreign language skills aside, I marched up to them. I used the international signal for phone (i.e. fist to ear with thumb and pinky extended) and handed them the phone number for my hotel. I'm not sure if they were so caught off guard that they couldn't refuse or if they understood my desperation. Either way, they saved the day. Being teenagers though I think they had a little fun with the situation. Not having any knowledge of Greek at the time, I'll never know. But about five minutes later, a full sized coach bus came rambling down the hill and into the port parking lot just for me. I thanked the boys using the only Greek word I knew, and I was on my way. They laughed and waved goodbye to the crazy American girl.
Beautiful Tinos