Where to even start? It has been a week since we got back to Florina and getting settled back in has taken longer than I thought it would. It shouldn't be a surprise I suppose, it has been four months. Nothing says, "I'm a new parent" like having all of your well laid plans dashed to the ground while having to make new ones up while juggling five other new plans.
Yup, these things come more and more each day...
The other day I finally had the time to go and pick up my last bit of residency paperwork. Considering that the initial plans started last June it was a good feeling to finally be done with this. Since this is Florina and one can (if they so desire) walk from one end to the other in a reasonable amount of time AND the weather was very cooperative we were able to do this with James in tow.
Let the fun begin...
On the way to the city hall we popped in to one of my favorite coffee shops. The owner there likes to exercise his English and of he hadn't seen any of us since well before Christmas. Many smiles and well wishes and of course doting over James. This is one of those stops during walks through town that I have made on many occasions so I had to make sure that my son could find his way there. He even managed to almost wake up to say hello to Costas and ask him if he had milk. Since he didn't we said our goodbyes and moved along.
We stopped by to see Irene and pick up an extra set of keys. She was thrilled to see us (and by that I mean James) and I finally got a tour of her new place. It is always nice to see good friends after being away. It reminds me that no matter how much some things have changed the important things stay the same. Friends that are like family are always a pleasure to spend time with.
But we had to keep moving. One thing that has really sunk in since my son was born is that making time to do things that are necessary needs to be respected. No matter how much you plan an infant is not going to say, "Oh, you want to just goof off. Well then, I will just read my book while you have at it." We were on the clock, operating inside of the feeding and sleeping window that we are lucky enough to have. So we hiked on over to the city hall to pick up my papers.
Since this was where we got married it was nice to come back all as a family. One of the nicer things about smaller towns is that people tend to remember you. For me it is even more so being an American living in Northern Greece. Yeah, I stick out like a sore thumb at times but it has made it easier to be remembered. The women that worked there asked about James and of course had to peek at him. Everyone loves to get near a chubby little baby, they tend to lighten any day. Of course, being Greece, my ID card was not there. Taking care of these things always turns into an adventure. After a while you get used to it and I must admit there is a sort of scavenger hunt quality to dealing with the bureaucracy.
As Eri was making some phone calls a lady was yelling out the second story window at us. It was the person who has helped us many times along the last year. She told us that the other office outside of town was where we needed to go. If we hurried we just might make it before they left for the day. Standing on the other side of the walkway for where our wedding photos were taken I couldn't help but take one of James.
Different colors but definitely the fruition of our union...
So off we went to find a cab. There was not time (and it is a pretty far hike) to walk outside of town. As is usually the case when you are looking for a cab none showed up. We ended up walking back to the center to where the cabbies all hang out. By that time we were getting a bit hungry and decided to grab some cheese pies. Why not, we have enough time. Just about enough. Next door to the pie man is the cheese store. I had stopped by to stock up on some good local cheese the day before and in my own shattered Grenglish way told her we were back with our son. So when she saw my wife and I with him she lavished attention upon James. Yet another of the people that he will meet over and over that was just thrilled to finally meet him.
We managed to extract ourselves with the help of some customers to go and grab our pies. The pie man was thrilled to see us all. One of our friends has been keeping him up to date as to how we were doing while back in Athens. This guy is great. Not only does he have the best pies in town he is not terribly fond of Americans. I know this because he has told my wife so. However, he decided early on that I was okay. He even tends to correct my terrible Greek as one would a child. From this we have found a great way to get along, by doing our best. He gave James a small amulet to be pinned on his carrier. I would guess this particular one came from a local church. The Greeks are very protective of the little ones. Many smiles and congratulations later we had our pies and crossed the street to grab a cab and get to the office before it closed.
Yet another nice thing about the little city of Florina in Northern Greece is that people are quite friendly and helpful. Our cabbie had no problem with waiting for us while we ran inside. In fact, as soon as he parked someone he knew wandered over to the cab to talk to him. Everyone seems to know everyone here. Having grown up in a small town I know how this is and for some time thought of it as a negative. After living in big cities over the years I have come to appreciate this "small town" sensibility again. It is comfortable even if at times it feels like everyone knows your business. It is the feeling that people are good inside and care.
It was a really nice day. I now have my resident card and James got to meet many of the people that we see daily. The next time I wander to the market there will be more warm greetings and more people that are happy to see us. As I sit here wrapping up I realize there were many others we ran into on that day. From Mrs Efi to the guy with the best kokoretsi in town one thing is sure, they were all happy to see that we made it back to Florina safely.
As for James, he was tired and hungry and happy from the day's excitement. As my wife fed him he could barely keep his eyes open. Days like this really make me appreciate being a dad. Have a wonderful day everyone. Keep on smiling...