I AM THE MOUNTAINS
Getting here took far longer than I ever could have anticipated, but at last I have arrived in Katerini, Greece! Two days of cancelled flights leading up to my eventual departure from the US meant that I was already exhausted before I even got on my first plane. I kept mentally and physically preparing for the move, only to arrive at the airport and have something happen.
My journey was three flights and a bus ride and took a combined total of around 29 hours to get from my house in the US to my apartment in Katerini – with just 4 hours of sleep in that time.
But! I am here and have been welcomed with many hugs, a home-cooked meal, fresh deliveries of produce from a local farm, and lots of old friends.
Upon first seeing me, my co-worker Dimitris embraced me and joyfully exclaimed, “Welcome home!” I was already super emotional and very sleep deprived so of course his words made me tear up immediately; they just felt so true and really struck a chord.
I was greeted at my apartment by my landlords, a delightful retired couple that I met during my stay here in August. They showed me around again and then invited me down to have a big meal with their daughter and her two children. The six of us sat around their table for a long time laughing, getting to know one another, translating words for the young boys, and drinking plenty of homemade wine (two varieties – one sweet and made from a blend of grapes, and one a more traditional red wine).
At one point in the evening, the husband started talking about how I needed a fan in the apartment and he would work to find me one. His daughter and I were surprised because the apartment already has air conditioning, but he shook his head and spoke animatedly in Greek. He used grand gestures and I was able to follow his thinking – he told us that when I was sitting on my balcony in my swing, looking out at the mountains in the distance, it would be perfect if I also had a fan outside to give me a breeze, too. He told us it would feel like I was in the mountains then, and I joked that not only would I feel like I was in the mountains, but I would feel like I was the mountains. He grinned and shook his hands in the air, happy that I had understood.
Today, my first full day in Greece, I have thought back to those laughs and that particular conversation many times. I am the mountains. This phrase keeps running through my head over and over again.
After first visiting Katerini in August of 2016, I knew that I had to return somehow. After my second trip in February of 2017, I felt certain that I needed to move here and serve as a GMI (I just had to talk my bosses into it..). After my job training in August of 2017, I never wanted to leave.
My journey to moving here has been filled with unknowns (Could I create my own GMI placement if I felt called to work in a particular context? Would my visa work out? Would my FBI background check ever arrive? Why aren’t any of my flights going as planned?) – but through it all I stood steady in the knowledge that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. So many things were up in the air over the last year, but I was confident in my call and did not waver. I weathered challenges I never expected and while the storms have passed, I still stand.
I am the mountains.
Seeing Mount Olympus in the distance is a daily reminder of all that I went through to get here and my dedication to this place and to these people. Each day that I wake up and see that view, I will be reminded of my journey to get here and follow my call. I feel a kinship to the mountains now that I didn’t have before.
I am the mountains.
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”
– John Muri, My First Summer in the Sierra