I am working on a poem about an experience we had last summer. From our veranda at night, we can see flickering lights far away in the mountains. When I asked a neighbor the name of that village, she says, “Oh, it’s just Vrastama.” I wanted to go see “just Vrastama,” so one hot day we began driving in that direction. Up through a curving road through millions of olive trees as far as one could see, in about 30 minutes we approached the village of Vrastama and parked our car. We began walking towards the center, the plateia, of the village and found a shaded cafe under a huge sycamore tree. Grateful for the respite, we ordered our kafedakia to catch a breeze. Along came an old man who stopped by our table and looked hard at us. He asked us where we were from. Not many xenoi foreigners pass through Vrastama.
Even though my husband is Greek, there must be some aroma of foreign-ness about him and me (American tourists are rare in Halkidiki, so I am often mistaken as a German). We told him we live in America, and he began to tell us his story about his daughter. Tears often overtook his lament about his daughter’s paralysis and lifelong stay in bed helpless except for his and his wife’s assistance. How do you escape such a sad tale when all you want is to rest and drink your coffee. My husband knew all the right words for this poor man to try to comfort him and give him hope. Pretty soon, I felt choked up and teary, too. Vrehi sta Vrastama is a true story.