Santorini | 3. Those Who Leave Traces

In the end, it is not about the city, nor the streets. It is also not about those picturesque hills or beaches or mountains. And it is not about the local food or delicacies, traditional dances or performances. It is definitely not about the tourist attraction, nor the hidden exotic spots. And, surprisingly, it is not even about the photographs you have taken, no matter how wonderful they turned out to be.

It is always—always, about the people you meet along the way.

From my previous travelling journeys, I realized that the places I cherish the most are places with names and faces; places where stories and dreams are being shared with someone you have just met for the very first time; places where you arrive as a stranger and depart as a dear friend. It is that connection that matters. It is that warm feeling of friendship that lingers—even long after the post-journey excitement fades away. It is that kind of feeling that stays with me after I got back from visiting Karachi, Pakistan, June last year; and it is also that kind of feeling that remains as I was sitting on the plane, leaving Santorini behind.

It is about G, and our casual talk at the reception area.

About how he introduced me to his friends and showed me the best spots in town to eat, hang out, or take beautiful pictures. About how he wanted me to bring a bottle of his family’s wine back home. About how he gave me his phone number and said, “Anytime you need anything, just call. I’m available 24 hours.”

It is about AD who greeted me every morning just because I always walked past his place on my way to the bus station. It is about our small talk every day when he asked me where I would go that day and what I had seen yesterday before giving me that pleasant smile and shouted, “Have a nice day!”—while waving his hands cheerily.

It is about AP who came to my table when I dine at his place. About how he thanked me for coming and told me stories about how he went fishing in the morning and caught the now-grilled sea bass I was eating. About how he told me that the baklava I ordered for dessert was a treat from him.

It is about MS who welcomed me at his tavern and said that he remembered me (“You’re staying at G’s place!”) and sent a free Vinsanto wine to my table when I finished my meal.

It is about F who was watering his plants when I passed by his house. About how he asked, “Hello, everything’s alright?” because he thought I was lost. It is about how we chatted after I told him that I was not lost; I was just wandering around the alleyways to take pictures of people’s fences, doors, and windows.

It is about MA who shouted, “Apa kabar?” whenever I passed by her little shop after she learnt that I am from Indonesia.

It is about O, a friend of G, who gave me a crash course in Greek.

It is about the guy at the bookshop who pulled out a wooden puppet from somewhere and asked me, “Do you know Karagkiozis?”—and when I shook my head, he said that Karagkiozis is a kind of shadow play from Greece.

About how you can move the wooden puppet by pulling on the strings attached to it. “It is played behind a white screen, so people only see the shadows,” he explained, before slipping the wooden puppet into my shopping bag and said, “This is for you. A gift from Santorini!”

In the end, it is all about the people. It is always about the people.

They are the ones who make your journey memorable. They are ones who teach you something new, who enable you to see the world from a different perspective, who send subtle messages that somehow feel relevant to your life. They are the ones who shape the faces of your journeys. They stay with you throughout, because somehow—no matter how brief their kindness had brushed up on you, they have left a part of themselves in you. And whether you realize it or not, you have also left a part of yourself in them.

And that’s exactly why, no matter where you are, whether you’re heading out on a new journey or simply going back from one, you will always feel at home.

____

Also in this series:


Santorini | 2. The Road Less Travelled

When travelling alone, I am the kind of person who will be spending as much time to do things I am interested in, in places I am most attracted to. It is never about the number of places I have visited or photographed, and it is definitely not about walking around with a tourist map in hand, check-marking the sites flagged as “must-seen” by others.


Travelling alone is about a journey that is taking place inside of me. It is about waking up very early or very late. About enjoying or skipping breakfast. About wandering aimlessly or looking for a particular spot. About sitting in one small patisserie—reading poetry books for 2.5 hours straight or fluttering from one art shop to another in 15 minutes. About coming back to the hotel before dark and writing in my room or going out after midnight to take a peek at the bars or having a very late dinner. It is about what I feel like doing. It is about slowing down and taking a deep breath. About stopping and being still. About following where your heart is taking you. About not being in a rush.

Santorini is the perfect place to do just that. Nobody is scurrying or honking or yelling or cutting in line. It is like seeing the world moving in slow motion, and it is such a wonderful scene to watch. You can see how people move their hands. The way the wind ruffles somebody’s skirt. The color of someone’s eyes. The freshness of the tomatoes on your salad bowl. The shapes of doors and fences and rooftops. The sound of a lizard moving lazily on the gravel path. This is a small island where everybody knows everybody. Where one is always somebody else’s childhood friend. Where people actually go to the beach or to the hills by bringing along their canvas and paints or guitar; then spend hours there, painting or strumming—just like in the movies. Where the streets and shortcuts and alleyways become amazingly familiar to you in just a day or two (“It’s really difficult to get lost here, trust me,” said G—the owner of the hotel where I stayed, when I told him that I have a very poor sense of direction. He was right).

On my first day, I tried my luck (and courage) in taking the shortcut from the hotel to the city center. Instead of following the main road, I climbed the alleyways behind the mini market, walked past people’s homes and establishments, took pictures of everything beautiful while trying to avoid stepping on the fresh donkey manures. I did well. I went out (somehow) at the right alley, just before the bus station at Fira’s city center. From that day on, I got all the courage in the world to take shortcuts and alleyways to some small villages nearby, never once got lost.

Later that day, having seen the photographs, G was surprised knowing that I had snapped a picture of his family’s old cave house. “How did you find it? It is hidden from the street…!” (well, I did take the road less travelled!). G’s father and grandfather was raised in this cave house, a traditional house—built deep into the rock face—of the locals in Santorini. At the moment, most cave houses have been sold or leased as hotels/villas.

“The cave house is empty now, and we’re planning to sell it as well,” said G.

“Must be hard to let go of such a precious family possession. It holds the family’s history,” I replied, reminded of a friend of mine who had recently sold her family’s old house.

G just shot an ‘it-is-OK’ smile.

I wandered around Fira’s city center that afternoon. The sun was shining brightly, but the wind was blowing hard and cold—enveloping me in the fresh and salty scent of the Aegean sea. Wrapped in my pink cardigan, I climbed up past the little shops selling local delicacies; Vinsanto wine and olive oil in pretty bottles, to the stretch overlooking the caldera.

{Note: The present-day crescent shape of Santorini island is essentially what remains of an enormous volcanic explosion some 3,600 years ago. This created the current geological caldera; a giant central lagoon, more or less rectangular, and measuring about 12 by 7 km, surrounded by 300 m high steep cliffs on three sides.}

I just sat there for I didn’t know how long; mesmerized by the stunning view and the fact that I was actually here, standing right in the middle of my fairy tale. How far can a dream take you? I would say, far. Really far.

———-

On these series:


Santorini | 1. The Art of Travelling Alone

Started in 2007, at least once a year, I travel alone. It doesn’t really matter how far or how close the destination is. The idea is simply to go to a foreign place, a place where you know no one, alone. It’s not that I dislike travelling with friends. I do enjoy spending summer with my best friends: shopping and partying with the girls and going poetically mellow in a remote village with the boys. But travelling alone gives a different kind of pleasure. It’s more of a journey to know who you really are, better.

Travelling alone gives you a lot of time to spend with yourself, to do things as you wish, to see things that you want, to spend more or less time in places that you find most or least interesting, to say yes or no to a stranger’s invitation for a drink without having to consult anyone, to spend your time doing nothing—or anything, for that matter. To me, it’s an opportunity to wander around, to daydream, to write, to read, to draw, to take pictures, and most importantly: to think.

The most interesting part is, when travelling alone, you have no one to accompany you but yourself. It’s a great test to see how much you like being in your own company. Do you see yourself as a good friend; someone you can feel comfortable with, or someone you can’t stand? Do you see yourself as someone you can count on to? Will yourself disappoint or fulfill you? Can you make peace with your own thoughts, worries, fears, dreams, passions?

Travelling alone also teaches you in a humble way. It makes you see things with lovingness. Deep down inside, you realize that if things go wrong somehow, you can only rely upon the kindness of fellow strangers or locals you meet along the way. This makes you see everyone around you as a good friend. You feel happy and generous in offering directions to someone who seems lost, helping those who carry a lot of stuff while trying to lift their luggage to the pavement, cleaning the table once you’ve finished eating, or running—chasing for a baby hat that’s being blown away by the wind. A pleasant smile, a short stop to chat about the places you’ve been yesterday and places you’re about to go today, a polite nod with a hello, an exchange of good-mornings, a waving of the hand, a simple thank-you note after a great meal, a farewell card, a bottle of wine as a friendly gift.

This year, I went to Santorini in Kikhlades, Greece, alone. I’ve been reading Greek mythology books since I was in elementary school, and have always been interested in the country—but Santorini drew me in when I saw it for the first time on TV and postcards as a teenager. The picturesque island looked like a distant dream, a place hidden somewhere inside a fairy tale. However, I always believe that everything—no matter how small, no matter how big, starts with the courage to dream. And until today, there’s always a place for fairy tale in this world. When you’re patient enough to hold on to it, you can have your own, too.

Just. Don’t. Let. Go.

————–

On these series:


Santorini (Prologue) | 0. The City

This afternoon, I picked up a book at a lovely bookstore hidden in the midst of Oia’s endless gravel path. It was a poetry book called “A Greek Quintet”, an anthology of poems by Cavafy, Sikelianos, Seferis, Elytis and Gatsos. A few hours later, I found myself stranded in a small patisserie overlooking the Aegean sea, enjoying a huge cup of pistachio ice cream and the fruity-sweet Vinsanto wine. I flipped open several first few pages of the poetry book, and my eyes landed instantly on The City. If you do believe that there’s no such thing as coincidence in life, then I’d like to share this poem with you.

The City by Cavafy

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed
them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighbourhoods,
will turn grey in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things
elsewhere;
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.

No matter how far one goes (or runs away for that matter), one will always meet oneself again and again and again and again.

αγάπη, H.


Rain from Hertfordshire

I got mail from Hertfordshire today! ^^

Astrid is a design student, a designer, and a talented artist. Today, I found out that she is also a talented writer.

We first crossed path via Twitter, when I featured one of her drawings, and then we connected via Facebook, started to read each others’ blog, and left messages via the comments section. I think we connected in so many ways, especially because we’re one of those old souls—who appreciate “old things” like a piece of hand-written letter, a typewriter, or an old book. Astrid’s wonderful drawings, paintings and illustrations have also drawn me to her, especially because I had just started drawing again a few weeks before we bumped into each other on the Net. So, to me, she is something like… a sign, or a tutor, probably (and of course, a very dear friend).

I sent her a small card last month, and this morning I found her mail on my working desk. Inside the summer-looking envelope, there were a bookmark with my name on it, a drawing of owls, and 3 pages of illustrated hand-written letters. I was the happiest girl on earth!

This is my favourite paragraph from her letter. So beautiful, I got teary eyes while reading it! :’)

____

RAIN

Today I’m sitting in a garden on campus, and enjoying some lovely British sunshine. There are bees buzzing around me as I sit under a cherry blossom tree in full flower, just as spring ordered. I love they way of the weather here, I all too often hear people complaining about the rain, I wish they could look past it wetting their shoes as they scurry about with their umbrellas. There are so many things worse to worry or be concerned about in life. For I love the way rain falls for days, blessing the earth as intended, and then a day like today appears and it makes all the rain worthwhile. I love to sit here and share that—I have no doubt you will agree, we are emotional beings. With rain we have our tears, with sunshine comes a silver lining. We need both.

Astrid

___

Happy Friday, lovelies, and have a wonderful weekend!


Lovebits.

I miss us. And all the things we’ve accidentaly missed | I Miss You. Much,, 2005

Why do people understand this world merely in black and white—
while other colors are there to beautify life itself?
| Question Everything, 2006

As I started to think that I should have just ended it all, I realized that it was impossible:
because nothing has ever begun after all.
| Scrapblog, Scattered, Broken, 2006

Deep down inside my heart, there’s this feeling…
a kind of lonely feeling that comforts me instead of making me feel low.
A silent place where I could find myself who’s loving you. Just us, as I always love it.
| Gone, 2006

Your chaotic life is like a stain over my spotless canvas | Cinta (1996-2007), 2007

Nietzsche: “Anything that doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…”
Dan perempuan itu menyahut: “Stronger, but not happier…”
| Pulang, 2007

Bukankah kita semua membutuhkan jarak? | Enam Dua Puluh, 2008

Untuk lelaki itu, diam adalah depresi. Tetapi untuk kamu, diam adalah afeksi | Bandara, 2008

Wow, you are meant to be here.
And I want to spend the rest of my life to know how to love you more.
| What the Hell Is She Doing Here, 2008

“What are you doing the rest of your life?”
“Loving you.”
| What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life, 2008

Kehilangan telah mengajarinya bahwa tak ada sesuatu pun di dunia ini yang sungguh-sungguh ia miliki
| Melepaskan Cinta, 2008

Perempuan-perempuan dalam hidupmu itu akan menjagamu dan memastikan bahwa kamu takkan terluka.
[Tapi ternyata mereka melukaimu juga]
| If I Were There, 2008

Tetapi siapakah yang berhak mengajariku tentang mencintai kecuali hatiku sendiri?
| Back to Where I Belong, 2009

An all-access ticket to do whatever I want with you (and your heart). I couldn’t ask for more.
| Coffee-flavored Kisses, 2009

That particular kiss—the kind where the fireworks show is happening here;
right here: sparkling, it fills the tiniest gap between our flaming lips
| Fireworks, 2009

Pujangga hanya memantulkan keindahan yang ada di hadapannya lewat kata-kata.
Jadi, aku cuma bisa ada kalau kamu ada.
| The Departure of a Loved One, 2009

Karena yang aku cari bukan bahagia, tapi kenangan buat disimpan | The Departure of a Loved One, 2009

Life is about chances you’ll never get back (Dawson’s Creek) | The Ferris Wheel, 2009

Mengetahui akhir ceritanya sejak mula ternyata tak bisa menjadi pengurang rasa sakit
ketika kamu sampai pada halaman terakhir.
| Tears are Words the Heart Can’t Say, 2010

I’ll close my eyes, I’ll find you by following my heartbeat… | The Pavement of Our Lives, 2010

The best gift someone could ever gave me is the clear view of the night sky.
| Hadiahi Aku Langit Malam, 2010

Sometimes I wonder, whether lovers are made for a lifetime or (only) for a lovetime.
And memories, are those actually traces of our long-gone past, or silent prayers for the wishful future?
| Oh, Hi, 2011

Ada saatnya kita tak tahu kapan harus memagari hati atau menitipkannya pada orang lain | Jarak, 2011

Tapi jarak adalah teman yang baik. Pelan-pelan, jarak mengajari kita bahwa sesuatu yang indah akan tetap indah,
baik ketika dilihat dari jauh maupun ketika dilihat dari dekat.
| Jarak, 2011

Mungkin kita memang masih berjalan beriringan,
tetapi tanganmu sudah terlanjur lepas dari genggaman.
| Sebuah Jalan, 2011

The more you let things flow, the more you ‘surrender’ yourself to Life and accept things as they are,
the easier life would feel and would be to you.
| Flow, 2012

You can’t come closer. Because you’re afraid that reality might turn ugly on you.
Because you’ve learned that some things are more beautiful to be seen from a distance.
Or maybe you’re just afraid of getting hurt, again.
| Bokeh, 2012

I write because I know no other way to show my love for you | I Write Because, 2012

I write because you can keep these words even long after I’m gone.
I write because one day—whether things will work out between us or not, I’ll put these words underneath your door.
I write because when that day comes, I want to show you how much you are loved.
| I Write Because, 2012

Namamu berjatuhan di atas kepalaku. Ribuan keheningan.
Seperti doa-doa yang sampai ke tujuan.
| Liturgi, 2012

Kamu bilang kamu ingin bersama seseorang yang impiannya menyentuh bintang-bintang,
namun kakinya tetap menjejak tanah.
| The Place I Like Best in This World is Beside You, 2012

Kau sudah sering terluka. Kau sedang tak ingin terikat pada apapun, pada siapapun.
Dia bisa tetap tinggal jika dia ingin, tetapi kau tidak akan menjanjikan apa-apa.
Dia bisa pergi jika dia ragu, dan kau tak akan kehilangan apa-apa.
| The Art of Looking Sideways, 2012

A dancer knows that life is the magical tunes he had been carrying in his heart since the day he was born,
and as always, he will only need to follow the tempo, surrender to the sensation and dance it away.
| The Gift, 2012

A lover loves and nothing else matters | The Gift, 2012

A sky-gazer knows that looking at the future is like gazing at the night sky.
Deep down inside, we’re actually looking back in time to who we were and who we used to be.
A sky-gazer receives this knowledge like something that has been written in his DNA:
that life always flows to the future carrying everything from the past along, and nothing is left behind.
| The Gift, 2012

Mungkin selama ini, Tuhan hanya menunggu waktu yang tepat. Waktu ketika saya sudah benar-benar siap.
Tidak ada yang terlambat. Doa-doa saya dikabulkan tepat ketika saya sudah belajar melepaskan.
| Circles, 2012

Aku menemukanmu. Kamu sedang berdoa.
Sesungguhnya, kamu sedang memanggilku.
| Nada, 2012

The gravitational pull of your thoughts draws me in.
It envelopes me in such a dreamlike mood: the world seen from a lover’s eyes.
| I am Lost in You, 2012


A Kamikaze Pilot’s Love Letter.

Unsent letters are sad. Depressive. Melancholic. But these letters are hopelessly romantic as well. I have a stack of unsent letters in my drawer. Sometimes, though I have expressed my feelings to a particular person, the unsent letters I wrote for that person remain unsent. Maybe I’ll send it one day. Or maybe not :D

The ocean breeze feels so cool on my skin. That very ocean is soon to be my grave. They told me I will die a hero. That the safety and honor of my country will be the reward for my sacrifice. I pray that they are right. My only regret in life is never telling you how I feel. I wish I were back home. I wish I were holding your hand. I wish I were telling you that I have loved you. And only you since I was a boy.

But I am not.

I see now that death is easy. It is love that is hard. As my plane dives, I will not see the face of my enemies. I would instead will see your eyes. Like Blackrock frozing in the water. They tell us that we must scream ‘Banzai!’ as we plunge into our target. I will instead, whisper your name.

And in death, as in life, I will remain forever yours.

——————-

*) by Hiroshi Takahashi—a Kamikaze pilot. This unsent letter dies with him.
[From Gus van Sant's movie, RESTLESS, 2011]

**) the picture is an edited snapshot from the brochure of my Lomo Super Sampler.


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