It's strange sitting here, looking at my empty room with my entire life for the last 4 months packed into a suitcase and duffel. My fan is clicking as it turns, as it always has and the sun is streaming through my balcony door. I hate seeing my room here devoid of my things, my pictures, my presence here. It feels so strange. So strange.
It's hard to imagine leaving this room and this city behind-- all the memories, all the friends, all the lessons learned. As I get on that plane in just a few short hours, I realize that I'm setting foot on it as a changed person. I am not the same person I was four months ago.
Greece has taught me many, many things. To sit for coffees and dinners for hours on end, enjoying relaxation and friendship. Greeks put family and friends first in their lives. Everything else comes second to their relationships. I've learned the value of going to small bakeries and markets, of making friends with the people who work there. I've learned to cook, I've learned to clean, I've been more independent here than I ever have been before. Again, I've learned to be myself. It's a lesson that we learn again and again and again in our lives. It's not a lesson like tying your shoe or don't touch the hot stove, the kind of lesson that you learn once. Being yourself is an art. It's not something you learn to do once and then you know it for life. You need to be reminded constantly that you are who you are and that is who you should be.
I'm leaving behind quite a trail of friendships that I truly hope are strong enough to withstand the thousands of miles that separate us. It's terrifying not knowing if I will ever see these people again. Even if I return to Thessaloniki in a few years, who knows if all the friends I've made will still be here. A lot of my friends are Albanian or Serbian, they will have graduated school here and headed back to their countries. A lot of my friends also want to go live and work in other countries because of the status of Greek economy. So who even knows if my Greek friends will be here if I return. Goodbyes have never felt so final before. When I said goodbye to my friends in high school or my friends at summer camps, I always had faith that I would see them again, it was never goodbye; it was always see you later. But here, I can't be so certain. And I hate that feeling. When I traveled to Romania a few years ago, I felt the same way, that the goodbyes had more finality to them and it was equally as unsettling feeling ripped out of people's lives so violently. But in Romania, I only lived there for 2 weeks, part of a volunteer group. It was nothing compared to 4 months of doing everything with these people, seeing them every day. It's a much stronger level of goodbye.
I know that the memories I've made here will stick with me forever. I still vividly remember arriving here in Greece and arriving to my building and my room so late at night. It's such a strong memory. Some of the memories I've made here I've actively made an effort to cement them in my mind: my arrival, dinner at Efi's, being on the beach with George and Maria, being surrounded by my Greek friends at my goodbye party at ICE. There are certain memories I will refuse to let go of.
This is more difficult than I expected. It's more difficult than I ever imagined. I'm one of the last American's to leave. There's only four of us left and two of them are staying here all summer and one is sticking around for another ten days. So, I'm the lone traveller.
After 4 flights and 28 hours of travel, I'll be home at my mother's house in Iowa with my kitties and my couch and my family and friends. I know that it is time for me to go home. I feel it in my bones. But I also feel a new tug in my heart as well, the tug to come back to Greece. Who knows when I'll get the opportunity to come again, but I think it will be sooner rather than later. I can feel it.
With So Much Love,