Monday, August 17, 2009

Santorini, Greece: An Occasional Series

My completed novel is partially set in Santorini, Greece. Some of you have asked me about the time I spent there as a kid, and I wanted to answer those questions here.

I was ten when my mother and I arrived. We arrived with the intention of living there for at least a year—in any event, she bought school books to homeschool me for fifth grade there. One of the pieces of feedback I got in my writing group regarding my character arriving on the island was that there seemed to be an absence of culture shock. That’s because there really wasn’t any, for me or for my mother.

Maybe by ten I was a seasoned traveler, but Greece in the 1980s was like a permanent vacation. There really wasn’t anything shocking about it. There was the lack of a few amenities to get used to—like that fact that the island’s sewer system couldn’t support toilet paper, which meant that we had to put used toilet paper in a bin next to the toilet. Totally gross to think about, but it really wasn’t a bother then, and I don’t remember smell being an issue. We didn’t typically have phones then. The big houses did, but for anyone else, you had to go to the OTE office in the main city of Thira (Fira). There was the lack of cow’s milk (and still is), but again with goat milk it wasn’t really a problem.

The island is pretty tourist-ified and people speak enough English so that it’s not like, say, going to a small village in Pakistan and expecting to assimilate.

We stayed more or less for two years in Santorini, and a year or so in Athens, where I attended an English-speaking school. Santorini is only 12 miles long by six miles wide (and I question the six), and I was allowed to scamper all over the place as I pleased. I spent a lot of time running up switch-back paths cut in the hillsides, or running through the pistachio tree groves. I owned the beach at Kamari, and was on a name basis with many shop keepers.

One of the questions I got often from other tourists who discovered me on the bus between Thira and Kamari was, “how do you like it?” I liked it fine. Who wouldn’t? I was a wild child, and the island was pretty safe. My Greek was good enough to get what I needed. My dad sent me care packages of books since getting hold of English reading material was limited to two-week-old magazines and romance novels left behind by tourists. I read too many Harlequins at that tender age. I also read my entire English book upon arrival. Getting hold of reading material was a real challenge.

Next time in this series: the music.


coffeelvnmom said...

How interesting Sierra! Can't wait to hear about the music!;)

bustopherjones said...

Sounds fabulous! I want to go and see the Caldera! (I've been to Crete, but not Santorini).

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