Saturday, 25 September 2010

The sky is the limit

Having seen the millennial buildings of the ancient Greek capital, my travelling buddy and I decided to ferry our way down to the sandy beaches of Santorini – a seven-hour boat ride south of Athens.

It was day three and we had already seen the must-see views (Perisa’s dawn, Ia’s sunset, the caldera view); done the must-do things (scuba diving, wine tasting, parasailing) and hit the must-go places (the lighthouse, the capital city, the white, the red and the black sand beaches). With still two more days ahead (more than what we had spent in the Colosseum, the Eiffel tower and the Parthenon combined, and more irrefutable evidence of our limited itinerary-planning skills) we decided to rent a car and see those forsaken spots tour guides fail to mention. With a cloudy day ahead, we felt like something more cultural was in order.

We set off to the Santorini monastery in our unusually bright yellow vehicle. We came to the road we were looking for after asking for directions from three different locals, which none had warned us would be as winding, as steep or as narrow as the one we found. The already complicated ascent was further aggravated by the sight of oncoming cars going at a brisk speed, their drivers on cellphones, the fact that there was no guard rail, and the realization that attempting to make a U-turn would equal crashing headlong into the abyss. There was no way to go but up. 

Some nerve-wrecking twenty-odd minutes later, and thanks to my friend’s outstanding driving skills, we made it safely to the summit and were welcomed by impressive views all around. To our right lay the 18th century monastery, perched on the apex of the mountain. Above us, there was the most magnificent deep-blue sky. Down below, an imposing view of the island. And all around us, the clouds, piercing through our bodies before making their way to other patches of sky.  

After we got over the excitement of literally being in the clouds – and the paralysing fear of being as high as the clouds – we began the descent. Looking back on the experience, my friend found comfort not only in the fact that she had once again conquered her fear of heights, but also that she couldn’t think of anything else that our adventurous spirits – or our small brains – would compel us to do that would be as reckless or as kamikaze. But I begged to differ. “There’s that volcano we haven’t’ checked out yet...”

Friday, 17 September 2010

Culture Shock

In the international scene, saying you were from Argentina triggered all sorts of replies. The most common included the mention of a talented, albeit notorious, former football player. Others registered an element of surprise: apparently it is that hard to believe that one of us should be a proficient English speaker. Granted, at least they knew English is not our mother tongue. Some others proved ignorance is a global problem by asking where Argentina was. For others, words were unnecessary (yes, mimicking the smoking of pot will definitely get your message across). I was offended when I was asked if we’d been blessed with the gift of electricity, and flabbergasted when asked if we had literacy.

Admittedly, most people got over their prejudice once they started talking to me and realized that a) I was not illiterate and b) that not only do we have electricity back home, but also cell phones, computers, iPods – the works. Yet my dear Australian acquaintance Lawrence, apparently more informed about my country than the other foreigners I encountered along the way, made no comments, asked no silly questions and passed no judgment. He had nothing but a simple request: “Argentineans, stop kidnapping people: it is not a job.”

Saturday, 11 September 2010

And what now?

My whole life has been about the next move. I always made myself look forward. There was always something at the end of the road waiting for me to go get it. Sometimes my endgame was long term, and along the journey the objective deviated from the original. But I always got there. I always had a road to follow. I always had a plan.
I’d never felt at a crossroads before. I content myself by thinking that this not all bad, that it’s not a dead end, that I have options. Or maybe the sheer number of possibilities is part of the problem. But having multiple opportunities has never boggled me before.

There’s so much I don’t know right now. What is my true calling? Where do I see myself in five years’ time? What is it that I want out of life? I don’t have answers for these questions. But I do know that I will never have them if I don’t have new experiences, if I don’t dare act upon my whims and make mistakes along the way. There’s much I don’t know except for this: ACT. DO. LIVE.