Thursday, November 29, 2012

Donkey Traffic

In the village, we don't have home mail service, but rather there is a small post office where everyone goes to get their mail. There is one employee, who opens the office from 8:30-10:30 AM (unless he's sick or on strike or something). Earlier this week, I walked to the post office along the village's Byzantine-era cobblestone paths and I passed, both coming and going, this above donkey, who was hauling manure to someone's garden.

When taking a walk with the kids earlier this week, we noticed that we could see the Monastery of Panagia Odigitria -- a dependency of Philotheou under the spiritual direction of Elder Ephraim -- as we looked northwest toward the neighboring village of Makrynitsa. If you look closely, you can make out the stone roof of the monastery's main church just right of the very center of the photo.

Here's a map of our parish.

Anyway, as you can tell from the photo, the weather here went through about a wintery, rainy period of about 2 weeks. The highs have been around 60 F.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back in Greece, Move to Portaria

After a very, very long and tiring flight from the West Coast back to Greece, I was sick for several days, but I recovered just in time for us to move all our stuff from Thessaloniki to Portaria. While we were away, they had finished several projects in the new house, including some new ceilings and floors.

With the help of some friends in Thessaloniki, we were able to pack up all our stuff and get it on a moving truck relatively easily. Getting it into the new house was more of an adventure, since a moving truck can't get anywhere near our house, which is back on narrow cobblestone paths. So the truck parked at a central point in Portaria, and they off-loaded it into a small pick-up truck, which then took it within about 100 yards of the house. Then a crew of guys carried it into the house.

One of the first orders of business was to set up the kids' new bunk beds. Their room has a little crawl space for storage, but we decided to make it a reading loft. Above, you can see them climbing up into their loft from one of the bunk beds.

Here's Benny coming down the stairs from where we park the car to the church and the house.

We arrived just two days before the parish's feast day on November 1 (Holy Unmercenaries), so it was busy time, but we had a good turnout for the feast day, despite the fact that it was a weekday, and we kept plugging away at unpacking boxes and getting the house set up. The following Monday, the kids started pre-school, which we had arranged before we left for the US. On the Saturday before school started, the kids and I took a walk down the winding labyrinth of cobblestone paths to try to find their school, which is located in the village right below us. We found our way and it turns out to be only about a 15-minute walk downhill. On the way back, the kids and I decided to explore a little and we veered a bit off track. But we found this shade-covered spring that reminded me exactly of what one would see on Mt. Athos. In fact, then, posted on the spring was an icon of the Panagia protecting Mt. Athos, as well as a hand-written sign that read: "Drink of this all of you. This is running water," in the archaic Greek of the New Testament. The climb back uphill was much tougher, so we all stopped for a much-needed drink.

Eventually, a kind old lady saw us coming and came out with a chocolate bar for the kids. She pointed us in the right direction. A little later, I asked an elderly gentleman for directions, and he said, "Fr. Gregory, is that you?" It turned out he was the father of another priest in a nearby village. We stopped and had a snack with him and chatted for awhile. He explained where we were, which was still in the lower village of Katohori, but close to the "border" with Portaria and our parish.

One day, we were cleaning out one of the side chapels on the main church, the chapel dedicated to St. Athanasius the Great and St. Tryphon. Above, you can Benjamin standing in the door as Paul comes flying out.

There are a couple small park nearby. Unfortunately, the budget cuts in Greece have reduced the municipalities' ability to maintain the parks, but the kids still like going there. This one is near where we have to go to take the trash, so it's a nice excuse to stop and play.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Part 1 of our trip to the US was visiting my family on the East Coast. Part 2 was on the West Coast with Pelagia's family.

One day we stopped by an old family friend, who gave the kids their first professional hair cuts.

Yiayia made the kids their own personalized chef hats so that they could help her in the kitchen.

One day, we drove down to the monastery in Goldendale to visit the sisters. Above are Paul and his cousin Simeon hanging out with the nuns' goats.

And here they are playing on a tractor. In the background, you can see the monastery's present church, really a chapel located in one of their buildings. We got a tour of the great progress they are making on their permanent temple.

One day, our friends Gabe and Erin visited us in Yakima from Seattle. Above, Gabe is reading a book to his son and Benjamin.

Pelagia's family's parish, Holy Cross, held a fall festival while we were there. The kids loved it.

Here, Paul was dressed up as a bandit. You can see the temple in the background.

During our stay in Yakima, I was able to go to San Francisco and take care of all our paperwork for Greece. So we returned to Greece on schedule toward the end of October.

For more photos from Yakima, click here.