Saturday, March 6, 2010

Living the Life

By Claire
March 3, 2010
We were both commenting, tonight, on how much we enjoy our life of camping and how quickly we’ve been able to get back into the ease of it, after a 3 month hiatus. Tonight I decided to experiment in the kitchen—a little eggplant, a can of diced tomatoes, some basil, some salt and pepper, add some macaroni and—voila! Oops, we’re not in France anymore. Eureka! Chuck even liked it; but then, he likes everything.

I really do appreciate the sense of home that I feel and the fact that we can stay or go at will. No matter what, we always know where we’ll be sleeping each night; but perhaps not what the view will be. And, no matter what difficulties we have, at least we’re having them in nice locations. As time has marched on, I feel like I’ve really mastered the art of living in a small space—we have both developed systems to our daily life. I have my shower routine down so well that I can grab my stuff almost half asleep and everything works. I’ve learned some things along the way, either by trial and error, or from fellow campers.
1. Never pass up a WC, even if you think you don’t need it.
2. Always carry toilet paper.
3. Store wine bottles and honey on the floor of the pantry.
4. Ask for help, then ask again.
5. Hang your stuff in the shower in a plastic bag. That way when the shower head spews out errant high pressure streams directly at your clothes and towel, they will remain dry.
6. Always carry toilet paper. Did I mention this already?
7. Keep a pair of indoor shoes close to the door. The ground at campgrounds is either sandy or muddy.
8. Load up on cash withdrawals at ATMs when the Euro is down.
9. Plan ahead. Know your directions.
10. Be kind to your partner.

We made our way to a camper repair shop in Thessaloniki, and again, thanks to Chris, from Guernsey, we found it easily and spent the afternoon getting things fixed up. First up, a replacement skylight with retractable sun shade.

They replaced our broken vent on the roof (oh those pesky tree branches), adjusted the side door lock and attempted to fix the problem we’ve had with the lights while free camping.

Turns out we would need a new leisure battery at the cost of €260—no way, Jose. We’ve managed so far and it’s just not worth the investment for the 6 months remaining, especially when we don’t particularly like free camping. They also did a few other minor jobs and we’re just grateful to have found them and to be able to communicate in English with them. They even served us espresso.

Ironically, we are free camping here tonight but hooked up to electricity, courtesy of ZAMПTAΣ Camper Repair.

Free camping

Tonight’s view

It’s annoying to have to deal with these problems but if we were home, we’d have these kinds of things happening as well. It’s just a little more challenging here. Today has actually been a good day. Chuck even checked and added some oil along the way, with the help of a friendly dog.

On the way to the camper repair place we spotted our beloved IKEA! Since it was close to noon, we decided to stop there first and perhaps have lunch.

The prices were too high, considering the fact that we had perfectly good food waiting for us in Homer. However, we couldn’t pass up a cappuccino.

With a great parking spot in their huge lot we were pulling our lunch things out when a knock came at the door. I opened the door to a smiling couple speaking rapid Dutch. I quickly explained that we were Americans. They were startled to find Americans since we have Dutch plates and a conversation ensued. They were so surprised (and hopeful) to find another Dutch couple, I hope we weren’t too big a disappointment to them. When they told us they were heading to Turkey I told them to wait a minute, I had something for them. I grabbed the 8 TL I had forgotten to spend and handed it over. They laughed and she said she would gratefully spend it on our behalf. It was a nice encounter.

Another surprise was finding Helva in a Greek supermarket! It was almost as good as the stuff we bought in the shop in Bergama.

While we waited for the work to be done on Homer, we wandered around and toured the brand new (and a few used) campers and caravans. I think we’ve found what we need once we’re home again.

Next camper

I’m finding it hard to believe that we only have 6 months left. It’s going too fast!

Next morning, the guys at ZAMПTAΣ Camper Repair finished the last touches on a cracked fender they had glued and sent us off with the address of a place in the city where we could find a new tail light. Yes, we had a little backing up mishap that broke the tail light lens. Alex sent us off with a note to the owner who is a friend of his.

Driving down a main drag of Thessaloniki, one pharmacy after another flashing their green cross signs every 12 feet or so (someone please tell us why on earth they need this many pharmacies!?), we made our way to our destination with Sunya, our brilliant GPS navigator leading us perfectly.

Pharmacy—can you find the 3 pharmacy signs?

However, Chuck had to double park and jump out, leaving Homer with the emergency lights flashing. It wasn’t long before a clutch of horn honkers, bleating impatiently, were lined up behind. We drove around the corner a second time and were able to find a spot to stop. While we were navigating around the block, the guy in the store found what we needed, Chuck raced in, bought the tail light lens and we were off.

You know you’re in Greece when you see ruins just sitting there in the middle of a big city.

We hopped onto the motorway then stopped at a pullout for lunch. Chuck quickly attached the tail light lens and we were off. We are so grateful to Chris for all his help. He found the repair place online for us, gave us the GPS coordinates and even loaded the Greek map for us and then followed up with an email letting us know the place was easy to find. Thanks to him, we accomplished everything we needed to do.

By Chuck
I was surprised at how quickly and easily I fell back into the routine of Homer: I was able to shift, reasonably, despite the dying synchromesh. I have decided to ride it out as long as possible—to avoid the expense of yet another transmission and to gamble on the adventure of it. I find I worry less about how I hold up traffic, by my wide (vehicle) body and my slow shifts from first to second—I am bigger than they are and they simply will have to wait. I am less concerned about getting stuck down a narrow street with no way to retrieve myself—but, I am also wiser about which streets I choose to journey down.

I notice I take the entire wakeup and bathroom experience in stride: It is cold—so be it. The shower is sub-standard? Figure out how to use it to satisfaction. I hope we can either avoid really cold weather—so far so good—or that I can maintain this equanimity despite the likely downturn in weather at some future point.

Only time will tell if this adjustment (acceptance?) is temporary or an earnest adaptation. I believe I am influenced to this current state by three factors—probably interrelated: This is the reality; the belief that suffering comes from attachment—“I don’t mind what happens” as an ideal; the current (still!) reading of T.E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In his book, he describes feats of physical and mental endurance that make what I (imagine I) face pale to insignificance.

I do notice that I continue to vow to be more patient; so, little progress on that particular front; but, this also means that I am sometimes (often?) aware of this offense; yet again, I often fail to catch myself in time and can be harsh with myself—and with Claire; but, this is nothing new and we seem to come to grips with the situation and its place within the larger, happier scheme of things—within the minute, the hour, or the day, depending upon the mood and the circumstance.

It is hard to believe that we are half way through our European (Plus little parts of Asia & Africa) Adventure! It has been the trip of a lifetime. I am not sure how the second half will go; but, there is much to look forward to: I have never been to any of the places we will go in the next six months—unless we alter our itinerary or count our departure from Amsterdam in late August as déjà vu. One special pleasure is the reading time we are able to log—though I am not nearly so disciplined as Claire. At this point, at least, I am wholly unconcerned about any issues of re-entry into “normal” life. We are recently retired, and so will have time on our hands to do whatever we want to do upon our return; we did not have the freedom to pick and choose our pleasures in the two months before we left on this adventure—there was still so much planning and preparation to do before we left. So, perhaps that will be our American Adventure—but, there is another story behind that aspiration: Time will tell.

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted. ~ Bill Bryson

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ahhh - well said!

- Carina