I’m still working on Plan B and find it difficult to accomplish in Crete. Alexandra, my Greek cabin mate on the boat to Crete, offered that the difference between Greeks and Americans is that Greeks are slower from the heat, while we Americans—most of whom live in a colder climate by comparison—move faster, get more done, and are a bit more ‘advanced’ as a result (her words, not mine). I didn’t exactly feel at liberty to comment on her observation, but I think there might be a smidge of truth in that—at least in the ‘moving faster and getting more done’ department. People do move slower here and seem largely unaffected by things that would have our knickers in a twist. I’ve found that when I ask questions here, it’s not uncommon for me to get no answer at all—or at the very least, a lack of commitment or urgency to discovering their answers, no matter how responsible that person is for it. For example, when I reported a problem with my hotel’s phones (it affected more than my phone, it also affected other ‘public’ phones in the hotel and prevented me from making an external call), the reply I received was an exaggerated half-shrug followed by an ‘I don’t know why that is.’ Now, given that I am not going to be the only person who will attempt to make an external call from the hotel, you might expect a bit more than this—maybe an ‘I will look into this,’ at the very least. But no. I got The Shrug. This is a gesture you will see a lot in Greece, but even more so on the islands. It is accompanied by a furrowing of the brow and a facial expression that says ‘it pains me that you’re asking this question on such a beautiful day. Go out, enjoy the sun.’ The woman actually had the gall to appear miffed when I informed her that I wouldn’t be paying for any of my failed attempts to make a phone call.
Overall, however, I must say that the vast majority of Greeks with whom I’ve spoken are friendly and sincerely try to be helpful—it just may not be as helpful as you need. Take the signage in Greece, for example. The signs pointing to archaeological sites start off great, but sometimes dwindle off, leaving you unsure of whether you are still moving in the right direction. Then, when you hit a fork in the road (which invariably happens): no signs. The same is true of verbal directions. They all seem to be geared toward pointing you in the general direction, but not necessarily toward getting you there in a timely fashion. After all, you have all day to get there, right? What’s the rush?
But I digress…given that formulating a Plan B while in Crete is proving to be toilsome at best, my plan at this point is to reverse my plans a little and see as much of Crete as I can, then head to Santorini (instead of seeing Santorini somewhere toward the end of my stay in Greece), then make my way back to Athens, where I can actually get my secondary plans in order. In the meantime, I’ve contacted several other volunteer organizations in both Greece and Spain (I did a great deal of research on them prior to coming, so already had some in mind) and hopefully something will work out by the time I return to Athens. We shall see.