Takehome lessons from Tinos, Greece

The week of 4th of July is my favorite week of the year. It really has nothing to do with the 4th of July – actually, I haven’t spent this week in the US in the past three years. I love the week of July 4th because it is the week I spend in Triandaros, a village known as the “balcony of Tinos,” on Tinos Island in the Greek Aegean Sea. Almost 50 years ago, my maternal grandfather bought a house there. It fascinates people from Tinos that I am not Greek, and that I do not have any Greek family. My grandfather, Yaya as I used to call him, taught Greek philosophy and Ancient Greek. He thought, if he were to be a “real” professor of these subjects, he should experience Greek culture, Greek life, Greek people, firsthand.

For the past three summers, I have been so fortunate as to spend a week in this house. And every year on the way back home, with melancholy, I think about how I can take some of Triandaros back with me. This year, here are my takeaways:

  1. Eat more fresh food. The rule at every meal (except breakfast, although I don’t know why) is that every meal I have starts with a Greek salad. I’ll write on that separately for the Georgetown Dish – but the important thing is that the Greek salads I have, regardless of which Taverna serves them, are made of ingredients grown or made basically in the garden. Fresh tomatoes; fresh cucumbers; fresh peppers; feta cheese; olive oil and rosemary. It’s like my Mom always said: a tomato a day keeps the doctor away. Try 5. And the second best eating rule: “Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.”
  2. Spend more time outdoors. On Tinos, other than “sleeping time,” no time is spent indoors. Breakfast is taken on the terrace. The day is spent at the beach or walking through the island. Dinner is eaten at a restaurant, outdoors. And after-dinner drinks are taken on the same terrace as breakfast. Spending so much time outdoors reminds me that however long ago, man spent all of his awake time outdoors. Somehow, it seems healthier. My body feels better. I have a slight tan. My hair is blonder. I am happier.
  3. Find simpler pleasures. This is perhaps the essence of the magic of Tinos. I don’t think about stilettos (I don’t even pack them anymore since my first trip). I don’t consider air conditioning a necessity. I forget about TV. I think instead about the direction of the wind. About the color of the sky. About the phase of the moon. About the state of the fig trees. I want to learn to take that back to DC.
  4. To find simpler pleasures, spend more time in quiet and be more present. On Tinos, my phone works as a phone. Very old fashioned, I know. No emails, no data, no internet on the phone. Just a plain-old voice device. I will work against my every instinct to not look at my phone during meals (meals that involve others). To not be a slave to technology. To remember quiet time. To quiet my mind.

Next time you see me, please remind me of these four commitments. I may need help to remember them until end of June 2013, when I hopefully will go back to my happy place.