“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R Tolkien
I have found myself reflecting on this quote an awful lot this summer. Every single day brings a new experience, a new adventure. Everything is exciting and exotic! But more and more often I find myself losing my footing. I make spontaneous decisions and put myself in some precarious situations (hitchhiking, climbing up cliffs, etc.). It is easy to trust the people in my community here, because we are all essentially strangers. I go out with new people almost every night and have a wonderful time. But I’m learning how important it is to “keep your feet”, to make wise decisions in the midst of all the thrills. There are nights where I go home and curl up with a book or watch a few episodes of Mad Men. I enjoy cooking dinner at the apartment and coming up with new recipes using my extremely limited supplies. I value my roommate’s friendship and the honesty we share. Rima and I often go out together and watch each other’s backs. Greece is the place to get swept off your feet– that’s why I make sure to always wear my golf spikes…
Sunday happened to be another ridiculously fantastic day.
We had a great session with our junior golfers in the morning. The group has been growing steadily; kids often bring friends and some new families have arrived for the summer months. After a short practice session on the putting green, I sent them off hole number 10. They are getting much better at managing the course. I am particularly impressed with how well the girls are playing! It’s great to see them progress in the sport and know that golf has a future here in Greece.
After relaxing a bit over lunch (those kids are fun but they can be rather exhausting), I went down to help clean up the practice range. While I was remaking the pyramids of golf balls, I spotted two guys attempting to hit a ball out of the sand trap. It looked more like they were hoeing a garden! I went over to give them some tips and realized they were two of the resort workers who had participated in my lesson last week. I was thrilled that they had come back for more practice. Georgios and Kostas, I learned, were from the Raquet Academy. As in, they were the head pros over at the tennis courts. They said that they had been coming back to practice every day so far! This is exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with my weekly golf sessions. Georgios invited me to come for a tennis lesson and I said, “Sounds great! When should I come?”
“How about eight o’clock tonight?” he replied.
I agreed on the spot.
The rest of the day passed quickly. I was just about to head home when Petros (my boss) asked me if I would like to go see the new Bay Course. He was taking a German couple over and there was an extra spot available in the car. The Bay Course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course that will open the first week of October. I have been hearing about the design and the construction all summer; there is a lot of buzz about Costa Navarino’s second golf course! Of course I wanted to see it. We piled in the car and headed up the road. It is about 15 minutes away from the resort. In that time span, I learned that the German couple were not the VIP guests I expected them to be: The husband was going to be doing the golf course Slope Rating. During the next hour, as we drove down the unfinished cart paths, I received a full introduction to the world of Course Rating. It was fascinating to hear about the mathematics and science behind a golf course, while viewing one of the most magnificent landscapes every covered in green grass. The Bay Course is right on Navarino Bay, with several holes coming right down to the water’s edge. Highly reminiscent of Pebble Beach. Hopefully, I will have a chance to play the course before I head back home!
My afternoon was mostly gone by the time I returned to the Dunes Clubhouse. It was still warm so I headed up to one of the many resort pools (I’ve found four pools so far, and I still think there’s more hiding somewhere in the vastness of the resort complex). I spent several hours working on tanning my feet (if you’re a golfer, you’ll understand) and reading on my Kindle. My phone buzzed.
“Hello Debby? This is Chef Hussein. Would you like to have dinner tonight?”
“Absolutely! What time?”
“Does eleven work very good for you?” he said in his Lebanese accent.
“Sounds perfect, Hussein. I’m looking forward to it!”
Chef Hussein happens to be the Executive Chef of Nargile, the Lebanese restaurant at Costa Navarino. We had met several times– Nargile is by far my favorite restaurant around here. The waiters all know me and inform him when I’m eating dinner there. Each time he surprises me with some delicious dish: the Nargile filet, chocolate souffle, and (my absolute favorite) pumpkin kebbe. Chef Hussein makes me feel like a princess!
But first, I had to face the tennis courts. My stomach was starting to get a little tight at the thought of facing several skilled tennis pros. I told them I had played a little. And by that I meant very little. I arrived at the Romanos tennis courts just as Georgios was finishing a lesson. He smiled and waved me inside the court, yelling that I would be up in five minutes. I picked up a racket and started bouncing a ball, hoping to muster a little confidence. When it was my turn, he realized quickly that I was not an experienced player. We started close to the net. He fixed my grip and showed me where the “sweet spot” on the tennis racket was. I hit the ball better and better. We moved further apart and I got to really swing at the tennis ball. It was so refreshing to move. I’ve been working out a little bit up at the resort, but I forget how good it feels to really pour out my energy. Georgios helped me with my serve (“hit it higher, Debby. Reach!”) then we moved to full court practice. Kostas arrived, having finished up his last lesson at the Westin courts and suddenly I had two teachers sending balls my way! They turned the lights on at the courts and one of the Raquet Academy receptionists joined me on the court. Balls were flying everywhere, but we had a blast. Georgios sent us to the sidelines for a bit as he and Kostas faced off. I felt like I was watching the Wimbledon. After a short break, we continued to practice. Our tennis session lasted nearly three hours! I realized rather abruptly that I was due for dinner shortly… and I was drenched in sweat. I quickly said my Thank-yous and Goodbyes and ran off to the showers.
I arrived at Nargile right on time. Nargile is the term they use for hookah over here in Greece, so the meals always begin with a beautiful waterpipe brought out to the table. The man in charge of the hookahs, who reminds me of Aladdin’s Jafar, knows that Mint Green Grape is my absolute favorite. Chef Hussein ordered a vast array of plates to get us started: salad and falafel and hummus and kebbe… So many things to taste. I savored each dish as he told me about his special recipes and his attempts to modernize the traditional Lebanese foods.
“I make the hummus every morning myself,” he explained. “It is my secret recipe.”
For the main course, he ordered me kebab with yoghurt. I was unsure of what to expect, and I certainly wasn’t ready for the dish that was served to me. Chunks of tender lamb meat were immersed in a bowl of hot, white cream (a twist on the traditional yoghurt serving). Baked bread and spices were added to make the dish even more rich.
But nothing could compare to the dessert. He asked if I liked chocolate, and I asked him if he was crazy. Unfortunately, some things get lost in translation so I clarified, “Yes, I love chocolate.”
Out came a chocolate truffle oozing hot fudge. Creamy vanilla ice cream complemented the dish perfectly. I scraped the plate clean!
Dinner is a full experience here in Greece. My meal with Chef Hussein lasted well passed 1 o’clock in the morning. As he drove me back to my apartment, I thanked him for the delicious meal and interesting conversation.
Sports, math, kids, golf/tennis balls, hummus. The perfect equation.