This might not come as a shock to most of you, but I’m not the best driver in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had a major accident or anything. I just seem to have lots of little issues when it comes to cars (for instance, crashing my beautiful Santa Fe into a lamppost in the middle of the day).
Due to these car problems, I have become a rather reluctant driver. I would much rather take public transportation or let a friend give me a lift home. Another reason I love living here in Greece: I never have to drive. The bus has been my best friend this summer. There’s only one main road through my little corner of the country, so the bus route passes right outside my apartment every hour. And there’s no need to walk to a bus stop; all you have to do is wave at the driver and he’ll stop! (Of course, there is the occasional rude bus man who speeds up when he sees a group of kids wanting to head to work in the morning. Desperate times call for desperate measures– like standing in the middle of the road to make sure he can’t ignore you.)
Motorbikes are also a rather common means of transportation. You can rent one just about anywhere for 15 euros a day. They’re fast, don’t require much fuel, and the breeze on your face feels absolutely wonderful! (I wouldn’t know this, of course, because my mother forbid me to ride one before I left home. Thanks for keeping me safe, mom!) A number of my housemates are rather obsessed with their newly borrowed vehicles and talk about them incessantly. But they are incredibly dangerous– most of the guys who’ve rented them have bumps, bruises, and cuts that serve to reinforce this fact.
Another travel option which can be a little sketchy is hitchhiking. Now, back in the States, there are enough terrifying hitchhiker stories to keep your thumb safely out of sight. Here in Greece, though, it is a fairly common activity. Like I previously said, there is only one main road, so you’re either going up it or down it. About half the population of this area works at Costa Navarino anyways (I might be slightly exaggerating on this point, but sometimes it feels like its true. Every time I go out for dinner in Gialova, I have to stop and say “hi” to a dozen people at the various tavernas and bars!) If you get lucky along the road, you’ll have a ride straight into the heart of the resort. Hitchhiking is the option most kids turn to if they miss the bus. A large group will stagger themselves out along the road in twos and threes and give it their best shot to look harmless and helpless. While there is safety in numbers, occasionally a situation will arise that necessitates venturing out on your own. For example, my roommate, Rima, waved down a guy on a tractor. A TRACTOR. He smiled and indicated that she should climb up the ladder on the side and just hang on!
There is only one type of vehicle that I drive here in Greece, and that is a golf cart (*ahem* golf buggy). I ride them on the course, pull them in at night to be washed, park them in their preordained spots, and pull them out for arriving guests. We have several 4 and 6-seater buggies that we use to transport guests on tours of the golf course or up to the hotel after their round. These larger buggies are also used to ferry players up and down from the range (it is a bit of a walk down to the driving area). During tournaments, shuttling players becomes a full-time endeavor. During my first week at The Dunes Course, I drove the shuttle for the Aegean Pro-Am event. It was a great opportunity to meet and interact with people. This week we had our second major tournament of the summer: the Faldo Series Greek Championship. It was a youth tournament for kids, ages 8-20, playing in their respective age categories. The winners of this tournament qualified to play in the overall Championship, held in Ireland! Once again, I stepped up to the task of shuttling the golfers back and forth from the range. The kids were from all over the place: Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Malta, Scotland, Kenya. There was even one American, who happened to be in Greece on vacation with his family and signed up on a whim. There was a lot of talent in the group. Thomas, who was young enough to play in the tournament, won his division (shooting one over par during the final round). But the overall winner? The fourteen-year-old Alabama boy on vacation with his family. I sat with them at the awards dinner last night and they were thrilled to pieces. Both of his parents are of Greek origin and were so proud to see their son find success in his first European tournament.
But back to my theme. I shuttled these kids for three days straight on a 6-seater buggy. It’s a rather awkward, ungainly vehicle, and the road to the driving range is a packed-sand/gravel track that winds around olive trees down the 18th fairway. Not exactly a delightful combination. To add to the problem, the kids were using golf trolleys on the course and many insisted on bringing them down to the driving range. So here goes this big buggy with trolleys being dragged alongside and off the back. And then there were puddles. One of the sprinklers tends to create a series of small pools just a short way from the driving range. I splashed right through without thinking… Until one girl in a spotless white skirt shrieked! The wheel of her trolley had spun the watery mud right into her lap, as she sat in the back, rear-facing row. I felt absolutely awful (and couldn’t even express my apologies to her because she hardly spoke English).
I thought this was the only disaster. I was wrong.
It wasn’t until the last night, after all the rounds, after all the driving range practice, when I was hanging out with some of the players at the resort, that somebody mentioned my other misdeeds.
We were discussing miscellaneous bits about the tournament, when one boy complained that he had had to spend half an hour cleaning the mud off of his golf bag. Suddenly, I had eight sets of eyes trained on me and the floodgates opened…
“Yeah! You got my pants soaked!”
“I lost two water bottles driving down that hill. They flew off my trolley around a turn.”
“My shoes will never be the same again.”
“I didn’t think we were going to make it down alive!”
Literally, everyone had something to say about my buggy driving. How was I so oblivious? Well, I was often trying to chat with whoever was sitting next to me. Sometimes communication was difficult because of the language barriers, but I really enjoyed meeting the kids and hearing about their golf game. I was particularly happy when some of the kids I talked to made an effort to sit up front by me; I was rather pleased that they enjoyed my company. So I had to laugh when one of the guys who had been particularly eager to sit by me said…
“Yeah why do you think I always sat up front by you? I wasn’t going to make the mistake of being in the back again!”
We had a good laugh about it and they were all very forgiving. But I think my reputation for disastrous driving has been permanently sealed.