Month: July 2013

Greece: Heating Up or Cooling Down

Rhodes, Greece – What can I say about Greece? Ancient yet modern, idyllic yet flawed, and energetic yet sluggish. I can also say that it tells some of my favourite stories of all time–those of the Trojan War, Medea, Cupid, Zeus, Hera, Helios and so on.

It’s a wonder I didn’t make my way here until now.

Anyhow I’m here. Speaking of Helios, he’s breathing hot air on the island right about now–idyllic for some (e.g., Paul) and flawed for others (e.g. Sonja). Make no mistake about it, I like the sun. I grew up in Georgia USA and have spent plenty of time in Fla., the sunshine state.

But having lived in London for about 15 years, my skin and hair have both taken a mild disliking to intense heat. Hence, the armour of creams and sprays to battle it. Of course, there’s two sides to every story and the other side to warm is cool, easily found here too, if you like a dip in the pool or the ocean or only come out at night for strolls by the sea. The latter takes care of idyllic for me.

As for the modernity of the place, you’ll find fancy resort hotels that come for several dimes a dozen and plenty of decent shopping in Rhodes town. But if this is not what you came for, a trip to the city’s acropolis and/or a stroll around the old town will surely offer the traditional Greece.

Meanwhile, in spots at the resorts, in town, and transporting there and back, you get the feeling that Greece is on the upswing. And so it is,according to analysts. Most recently, the country’s ship tycoons have agreed to help with the debt. Still, the ailing economy, which faltered back in 2009, has a long way to go–empty restaurants, bars, etc…are more apparent than full ones. And this is the high season.

Heartbreaking for me and I’m just a tourist. I can only imagine what the proprietors feel like, trying to lure the few people milling around into their establishment.

During good times, this might have been a sport or a game for these big hearted people. During the down times, however, I get the impression that they don’t feel in charge of the game at all. Still, as a group they couldn’t be any more hospitable. Paul and I have been welcomed generously everywhere as have others I have noticed and made to feel right at home.

To this end, there’s no way to go but up. But before we are back in the air and on the way back to England, we will get out and see more of the upside of this idyllic island–Greek dancing tonight and a trip to Lindos to come and much more.

Meanwhile, time to cool down. A toe in the pool. Okay, a leg at least. How refreshing!

Going the six mile distance and looking ahead

A few weeks before turning the Big 5-0 last year, I panicked that I hadn’t achieved all the things that I wanted to achieve by that milestone. What was I going to do about it? Sink or swim? After a short debate with myself, I decided to swim, though I literally don’t know how, and have never been much interested in learning either.

But I do know how to run. Ah ha! Very interesting, I thought and willed myself to sign up for a race and then running school to secure my goal. You see, I had been playing at running so to speak, since stalling in a race in middle school.

Thus, one of the fifty goals I set for myself to attain before my next birthday was to run a major race. Not to worry, all goals were not as lofty as this one.

Good thing or I’d have to admit defeat. Although, I’m thrilled to have gone the distance, well over two months before the deadline, I ache beyond what a fit finisher should ache.

Hence, the foot and leg massage at the Chelsea Day Spa.

Meanwhile, let me tell you a little bit about my race. I ran it, the British 10k, along with approximately 20,000 people, not in record time, but in 1 hour 19 minutes roughly. Metaphorically, I ran a blind race. All I can remember focusing on to any degree was the Blackfriars underpass because it was a haven of shade. Imagine.

Definitely an iconic route as pegged by the race promoters, the 10K starts on Piccadilly and winds through St James, goes along the Embankment, up to the City and back to Parliament Square and ends at the junction of Royal Horse Guards. Apparently, I passed St. James Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey (kind of remember) and countless more notable landmarks.

Though I have driven around and sauntered around the areas many times,  I didn’t see much Sunday.

My brother wrote yesterday and asked if I had run the entire time.

“Of course,” I boasted!

But I didn’t confess that around the 6k marker, I fiddled desperately with my iPhone until I finally had to stop and get some much needed music to spur me on. I must have lost a minute or two there,  and once in the tunnel, I stalled after being bumped and then again on the Embankment. On Victoria Street, as I turned the final corner to head to the finish line, I went into a power walk for about five seconds and realised that  walking could be the death of my finish, so back to a slow jog I went.

I made it! Photos to prove it!

Despite the hot weather and the fact that I had not trained properly throughout June, I celebrated my finish, time included,  jubilantly, perhaps a little too jubilantly.

While getting ready to meet the family for some champers, I had my first glass of the bubbly. Cool and crisp though it was, I’m not bubbling today, nor was I yesterday, climbing up and down stairs in train stations. Still I feel great to have gone the distance. Never mind the hurdles, the roadblocks, the near quits.

I am a runner; for real! I can’t promise that I will become an enthusiast or a recorder breaker for that matter, but never again, knowingly, will I stall at the start line. Never!

No looking back, for me; it’s all looking ahead. Next!

Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_1  Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_3 Re-energising Going the six mile distance and looking ahead_2 Crossing the Finish Line_5Crossing the Finish Line

Expat writer prepares to go the distance

Yesterday morning I completed my last run before my first 10K on Sunday. Hurray! As I came to the end of the 5.1-mile run, I felt like I had accomplished the 6.2-mile job already.

Make no mistake about it, the run wasn’t easy and I’m sure Sunday’s won’t be easy either, maybe tougher. Meanwhile, I caught up with Paul before he dashed out to work and he, who never tells me I look a mess, couldn’t hold his tongue.

Never mind!

But having come back from the US just over a week ago with little preparation during the month of June, I wouldn’t have thought that I could make four miles, certainly not five.

And though I struggled at the 3.86-mile marker, I dug deep. The Chelsea Bridge, a mile behind me and the Albert Bridge, less than a quarter of a mile, I looked towards Wandsworth Bridge, theoretically. At that stage, I couldn’t see it for the bend in the Thames Path.

Still, I somehow convinced my knees and the rest of me that it was a necessary task to reach that bridge. It would serve us all well.

If the lady who smiled widely at me around that time is reading this, I’m glad for the opportunity to explain my singing, more like moaning. I was struggling and found myself digging deep to keep going. Thank Heavens for Kirk Franklin’s Smile and your smile too!

I couldn’t help smiling that last mile myself. After stretching and showering, I went through my email messages to find tips from the race promoters and the training program I am following:

Pick up my race pack  – ✔

Plan attire – ✔

Hydrate – Working on it but admittedly was stomped by the advice not to drink sports drink with protein until I read up on it. Eek so protein might have been at the centre of my digestion woes during Monday’s run. In any case, all is well that ends well!

Head to the start line – Will do with plenty of time.

And remember you always have one cup left. Good because I am going to need it!

In the meantime, I’m continuing to carb load but not too much and I’ve given my muscles some strength training as promised today to ensure that my knees are not the only ones working. Tomorrow, I’ll spend recovering.

And Sunday, I’ll run, bringing the mileage since April to 86 miles. A closer inspection might reveal that I didn’t put in nearly enough miles to properly prepare for a 10K , but at first glance, it looks like a heap of miles. Yeah!

Expat writer returns to balanced existence

A month  in the US calls for a reality check. Never willingly or knowingly will I disown my birth country, but for the first time in 15 years, I felt seriously homesick for my adopted country, at least my adopted city.

Though my time in the US was both fulfilling and rewarding, it left me feeling rather melancholy.

I could blame the sombre feeling on a number of things, but I will spare us all the analysis and pin it on one thing–imbalance.

Precisely, the relationship between my life in the UK and my visit to the US were completely out of sync. In fact, my world in the UK ceased to exist, except for the short  conversations I had with Paul daily.

Rightly or wrongly, I found myself in a web of commitment  to my parents that left little room for anything else. Some say it was a web of guilt; in any case, that’s another story.

The point is most days from 5.30 a.m. to at least 11 p.m., I stayed on task, shirking the following: reading, running (except two hard three mile runs), exercising (withstanding two insufficient work outs) and writing, full stop. My dad likened me to our hardworking caregiver who reminds me of the never tiring Energizer Bunny, though I did tire.

For instance, every time I found the time to sit down with my iPad or my dad’s MacBook to write, I became listless, wordless to be exact. To my editor in the UK, I must say sorry for dropping the ball and never picking it up again on the Huff Post blog. Ironically, its subject had to do with writing (metaphorically) one’s own ticket via thinking.

Too deep I told myself and tried my hand at lighter subjects, including running in dreadful heat, dealing with cashiers as slow as molasses, and being hugged by a hostess in a restaurant. Still, I didn’t produce anything.

It was only after Nadal lost at Wimbledon, followed by Federer, then Maria Sharapova, and finally Serena Williams that I accepted the melancholy for what it was–imbalance.

No matter how accomplished you are if you are imbalanced, you’re likely to be off your game. Very well, I told myself! But it doesn’t have to define you.

Sure it has to be acknowledged and even mourned. But after that, it has to be left in the past.

So it has been. Today, I think back over the month of June and see that homesickness was less about leaving Georgia and more about returning to a balanced existence, that is if you can call a chaotic airport a balance. Heathrow, true to its reputation, was overflowing with thousands of passengers at the border, most of them foreign.  Good thing I tagged along with Paul or I might be still queueing now.

And never mind the weather’s cool and gray reception, far from Georgia’s hot and bright climate, even in the rain. Memories of sun rays burning through steamy rain are fresh in my mind. Now that was refreshing.

Still, it was time to say goodbye. Anyhow, with time the memories will become stale, as will the melancholy. Quite frankly I have a book to promote, several blogs to write, and a race to run, literally–10K coming up soon!