There is a natural spring on Ithaca, the Kalamos, where we collect our drinking water. It has the following inscription:
“Welcome stranger to Kalamos well
Bend and drink from your cupped hand its ice cold water
Breathe in around you the holy fragrance
And you shall return again to Ithaca.”
(A translation from the original Greek by E. Raftopoulos)
We joke about the amount of Kalamos water that we consume and say that we will probably never be able to leave Ithaca, considering that only one drink will make you return.
After nine months on Ithaca, I decided that it was time to take a short break before the summer season starts. A necessary break, those who know, say, because the island is small and you need to see that there is a different life out there. A shopping break, I thought, because Ithaca is not really the place where I can buy what I need!
So, when my brother and his wife offered me their apartment in London while they were on holiday in South Africa, it was the perfect opportunity. However, as the time came to book my plane tickets, I was quite apprehensive about leaving.
I seem to have a love-hate relationship with London. I absolutely love the familiarity (nothing really changes) and that it is a functioning, civilised, developed country, where you can do and buy just about anything. I absolutely hate the darkness when you don’t see the sun for days, the insane pace and the impersonality of it all. And, I seem to associate this place with a depression that consumed me when I lived here many years ago.
But, I still love coming here – and, I know that I can leave after a month and go back to sunny, friendly, laid back Greece.
My arrival this time around threw me off balance a bit. Somewhere, between Athens and London, I developed the worst headache that I could simply not get rid of, for days! If this was jet lag, I was simply not used to travelling anymore. The tube ride from Heathrow used to be something that I relaxed into – I had arrived – I would look at all the people and marvel at this incredible cosmopolitan city. This time around, I simply wanted to close my eyes and escape from the masses of people and noise.
I used to be a city girl. I love being able to get what I want when I want it, meet new people and live without the constant scrutiny of my neighbours – and well, that is not Ithaca. However, after nine months of simple living… London overwhelmed me. In the past I used to wander through the supermarket isles and marvel at the variety and absolute vastness of choice… this time around, there was just too much choice and I left after selecting a few vegetables and fruit and walked home. Maybe I’ll have to reintegrate a little slower.
I get irritated with the small-town mentality of Ithaca, because I don’t want everyone to know my business. But, those same people who know exactly who I am, greet me when I walk past them. And, I’ve come to love that. Here, in the streets of London, I have to suppress the urge to greet the people who walk past me. And nobody knows who I am. This city girl, who used to love anonymity, seems to have changed.
I now laugh at this girl, who, only a year ago was flying around the world, changing countries every month… and now, the simple act of leaving Ithaca for a familiar destination (I mean, London is like a second home to me) threw me off balance.
Maybe, the Kalamos really does have a hold on me.