Morning is my favorite time at the hospital. Since our shifts don’t start until 9:00 am and most volunteers sleep in until shortly before, that means that waking up at 6:00 am affords me several hours of alone-time to have my coffee, read, say ‘kalemera’ to my favorite animals (which means ‘good morning’), and savor the morning ‘stillness.’ I use the word ‘stillness’ loosely—this is a wildlife hospital, after all, so my morning stillness is filled up with the goings-on of the animals. The storks make their loud, throaty noises that culminate in a sharp clicking of their beaks. A manic red fox (the very same that bit me) digs futilely at the floor of his cage, seemingly unaware that it’s the same spot he’s been working on without luck for nine days. Sheldon stretches his neck out and peeps away as if to say ‘kalemera’ right back at me. Then there’s the sound of the peacocks, seagulls, eagles, marmoset, parrots—you name it. The morning stillness here is a cacophony of sound…and I savor that.
It occurs to me that I’ve published several entries about my experiences at the hospital but haven’t said a thing about the island of Aegina, where the hospital is located. Aegina is the second largest of the Argo-Saronic islands with a population of over 12,000. It has been inhabited for 4000 years and has a few important archaeological sites, such as the Temple of Aphaia, which dates back to the 13th century B.C. The main town on the island is right on the port and imaginatively called ‘Aegina Town,’ a place with a very picturesque harbor that attracts lots of visitors. It’s main road is lined with tavernas, shops, and pistachio vendors on one side (Aegina is known for its pistachios), and on the port side with caiques (fishing boats) that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. The wildlife hospital is located in a remote spot in the hilly center between Aegina Town and Agia Marina, another touristy town on the opposite side. Our location may cut us off from town life (except on our days off), but its elevation presents a breathtaking view of the ocean and the neighboring island of Agkistri.
Now that I’ve apprised everyone of Aegina, I ought to mention that this will be my last post regarding the island and my adventures at the hospital. Though you would never know it by reading my journals, I’ve been at the hospital for three weeks (remember, I’ve been consistently behind in my posts all summer long, so the dates you see are the dates of publication, not the actual date of events). I had intended to stay at the hospital for four weeks, but I was invited by the three volunteers from Barcelona to accompany them on a road trip through the Peloponnese, and I accepted.
So here it is my last day and I’m not actually spending it on Aegina—or at the hospital, for that matter. It seems to be my habit to spend my last day somewhere other than the place where I had been staying, probably because by the last day I’ve already thoroughly explored my immediate surroundings. My last day in Madrid was spent in Segovia, my last day in Athens was spent in Delphi, my last day in Heraklion (Crete) was spent touring the entire east side of the island, and my last day on Santorini was spent in a police station filing a police report. Okay, maybe that one doesn’t count. So, true to form, my last day on Aegina is being spent in Ydra…you may remember it as the island that I failed to see previously because of a ferry snafu. As I write this particular journal entry, I sit upon the Venetian fortress wall that lines the main port of Ydra. From my vantage point, I enjoy a view of not only the beautiful blue Aegean, but also the eastern portion of the Peloponnese. And since there’s a ban on motor vehicles on this island, the ambience isn’t marred by the sounds or smells of cars and motorbikes; instead, all I hear is the sound of the ferries, the boats passing by, and the cicadas in the tree that is giving me my shade. Lovely.
I am really going to miss the hospital and these islands, but in the interest of being open to new adventures, I embrace the opportunity to see something new. Besides, I hadn’t originally planned to see the Peloponnesian part of Greece, so this is a particularly fabulous opportunity. So, next stop: Korinthos in the Peloponnese!