It’s 5:30 a.m. here in Athens and I just can’t shake the fact that, today I got stood up. Yes, that is Athens thanking me for all the praise I’ve been paying it apparently. After spending 10 love-stricken days in this beguiling city, I returned just two weeks later in hopes of finagling the missing pieces to a travel story I’m laboring over.
Instead my interviewee, the most critical missing piece, stood me up at the Thissio metro station. I waited 45 minutes.
Not surprisingly, the day unraveled from there. Nothing major, just small reminders that I am indeed a tourist in Athens no matter how close I’ve parked the city to my heart. Mostly these reminders were linguistic; that I still don’t comprehend the language, scraping by with a few key phrases and words. My inability to hold a conversation in Greek or reply to people on the street asking for directions (for some reason this has been happening a lot!) has certainly underscored my outsider status.
Upon returning too soon to places which at first deeply conquer your psyche, I find the romanticism wanes and that perhaps it’s better to say goodbye when you’re completely enamored. If you return too hastily and become more acquainted with your lover, you uncover a smattering of flaws you never saw during your days of infatuation, when people welcomed you with gifts of fresh herbs, ripe grapes and abundant smiles (yes, this happened).
Now I will admit, the day was not a total loss. I basked in the sun on a seven-mile run, traversing up and down Philopappos Hill – decorated with myriad ancient ruins and offering unadulterated views of the Acropolis – while waving hi (yiasu!) to everyone on my path.
Yes, traveling isn’t all hearts and puppy dogs. It forces you to confront personal and societal issues while you’re plucked far from your comfort zone. But in spite of the adversity I faced today, that we face every day no matter where we are, it’s important to discern the small threads of beauty weaved softly in between.