On my last day in Ikaria Thea took me aside in her kitchen as I was making my morning mountain tea in a little tin pot on her gas stove and she was heating up the goat milk. “Sarah, I need to ask you one thing. When you go back to Australia and you’re busy and in your life, promise me you will remember one lesson from Ikaria. The most important thing you’ve learned here, try to remember this each day.”
The most important thing. I knew what it was.
It’s best explained by this very Ikarian phenomenon which I touched on briefly here. Every day on every tiny, winding road, wide enough often for only one car, Ikarians pass by someone they know – on the street or in another car- – stop, wind down their window and chat. Animatedly, passionately and with love.
Traffic will bank up in both directions. But the other drivers never honk. They wait patiently, happily. Because this is what is done in Ikaria. It’s truly bizarre and took me a while to appreciate. I’ve been in the car and on the back of bikes many times when this has happened. I can’t understand what is being said during these middle-of-the-road chats. But I get the vibe and I’m told later what the gist was.
Traffic isn’t held up for gossip. The chat instead is more often to engage in the welfare of the other person. And it will continue for as long as it takes to connect with the other person and to convey one’s care. I’ve watched it many times now. It’s beautiful to observe. I’ve seen it in the street, too.
Two men will approach each other and hug. Really hug. And then hold each other’s arms and look into each other’s eyes and smile. They chat, they chat, they chat. Another hug. A big grin. And then off. “Ah! That’s my cousin. We haven’t seen each other since one month.”
The take-home, sound biteable lesson from this? The most important thing I will remember every day back in Australia?
Take time. Give the time required.
This is not the same as taking your time. As in relaxing, or going siga siga (slowly, slowly). It’s more than this.