Renovated with love

Its been almost two months since my last post. I’ve been getting emails asking whether I had stopped the blog – but, I hardly had the time to answer the emails, let alone come up with a good enough blog post. See, when I finished my waitressing gig, I had to report for duty at a building site – the house in which I planned to spend the winter.

Ripping out rotten floorboards

Renovating a house anywhere in the world is a challenge. Renovating a house that is on the verge of becoming a ruin – in Greece – with Euros (that aren’t worth much when converted from Rands) – during the summer season… well, maybe challenge is not the right word…

You see, in Greece, everything will be done avrio (tomorrow), methavrio (the day after tomorrow), next month or next year. In August, its too hot to work all day, and by October, most people are too tired (after the crazy summer) to work. No wonder that building/renovating a house here takes a few years. Its a slow process that requires a lot of patience.

Mixing cement for the new floors

My family decided to do it a different way. Instead of relying on the local labour force – my dad and my brother (with the help of some relatives who came during the summer) did most of the work. They built a brand new bathroom and kitchen, ripped out old rotten floorboards, and put in new floors. And this happened while I was waitressing at night, and recovering during the day (with some visits to check on their progress).

After the summer, my mom and I had to start with all the ‘fussy’ work (while the men were doing the tiling, ceiling boards, electricity – stuff that I would rather not get involved with). We were washing, sanding and painting – the walls, the window panes, the doors, the ceilings… you have no idea how much dirt can accumulate when a place is uninhabited. It seems that more time goes into preparing the surfaces than in the actual painting thereof. But, by the time that we had to move in, I did not want to paint one more surface – of anything.

Most people are amazed at the fact that the four of us did most of this on our own. The older generation are glad that we are rescuing my great-grandfather’s house. The mayor used to drive past every day and wave with a huge smile on his face (he was also our removal man, seeing that he owns a truck!) – and he brought us olive oil and wine when we moved in. Our neighbour, Maria (she reminds me of my grandmother) came almost daily to check on our progress – worrying that we work too hard.

One of the many doors that I painted.

It turns out that I was not really made for the building trade – I’m too slow when speed is needed, and I don’t like all the dirt! But, what I lack in efficiency, I make up for in quality. Having a perfectionist sand and paint windows and doors is not all bad!

“Efficiency is overrated. Don’t worry about trying to live the most efficient life or become the most optimal human. Instead, embrace life as a meaningful adventure. Pursue adventure and passion instead of efficiency. In learning to embrace change, we create the possibility of adventure. Part of adventure involves letting go of the attempt to live the most optimal life. Instead, do whatever you can to live the most meaningful life. If more people did this, I think the world would be a better place.” [The art of non-conformity, Chris Guillebeau]

My brother and I finally moved into the house (although some parts are still under construction). There are days when we sit in the living room and marvel at the fact that we can actually live in this house, considering what it looked like only a few months ago. The winter will, however, be a whole new adventure – every time the wind blows, we have to check on the roof tiles (they move!); and when it rains, we anxiously check for water leaks.

Maria still checks on us daily, and we have “basic” Greek discussions about the weather. She brings us roses for the living room, chocolates, biscuits… and this morning she brought a plant for the garden (overseeing the planting process) – and although we can hardly communicate (she speaks no English), I know how to say “beautiful” and “thank you”. This is a great home, renovated with love.

3 thoughts on “Renovated with love

  1. Thanks for the update, what an inspiring project – you should’ve let the BBC know 🙂 please post more photos and give my love to your family.

  2. It is always interesting to me how powerful physical work can be – it is never a singular act, whether you are consciously aware of it or not. For many of us, our vocation entails “mind work” that often results in a lot of stress that manifests physically. Your concept of adventure in the context of renovating embodies to be passionate about what you do. We often lose passion for life – the salt that brings forth bursts of flavour in our lives.
    Renovating the house meant that you had to look with new eyes at the old – you had to see possibilities. Possibilities brings about hope and enthusiasm – it opens our closed hands so that we can receive anew. The sheer joy of seeing the fruits of our labour, is in itself the most rewarding. We created something – albeit a small thing in our view – but creation is in our nature, that resonates the purest note of humanity.

    After all, life is not about finding yourself…it is about creating yourself.

    Enjoy you hard work, the adventure it created and keep yourself warm this winter with passion for life!


  3. For some reason I missed the new blog entry notification on my e-mail!! Only saw it tonight while doing some e-mail housekeeping.

    You have an amazing way with words! Your picturesque description of the special time we shared (laughed (often), cried (a few times), got frustrated (sometimes), but mostly working together in amiable silence or chatter) brought tears to my eyes. How precious the four months have been to us all. We will cherish it as a very special time in our lives. Good luck with the winter. May your spirit always stay positive even if your heart sometimes feel heavy. Hang in there – I’m sure: the best is still to come!

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