For me, and–dare I say–for many others, 2016 was a year of change.
I once saw something that appealed to the word nerd in me. It said, “You must go through challenge to find change.”
Maybe some of us have already made it through the middle (or the “lle”) of our challenge, or maybe it’s still ahead of us–or, quite possibly, both–but as this year draws to a close, I’d like to end with a brief reflection on my Top 16 list of 2016.
For those of you who don’t know me, or have not visited my blog before, this is a summary of my year in three stages:
- I prepared to go to Greece.
- I went to Greece.
- I returned from Greece.
It forms the basic narrative arc of the hero’s journey, and not because I am a hero, but because Odysseus was, and there’s a bit of his tale in my story.
The fact that Odysseus was Greek just happens to be a coincidence. I think.
But in this archetype, the protagonist undergoes a transformation. If you search the back files of this year’s blog posts, you’ll find highlights of my journey, but there’s more to the story, of course, than what I have written. Maybe, someday, I can find a way to record all the ways this year has changed me. For now, though, I’d like to share with you something simple and positive, as a way of segueing to my next blogging venture.
Not to spoil the surprise, but…
In 2017 I am starting a new project called “Joyful: A Year of Capturing Happiness,” in which every day I record something I am grateful for. I’ve chosen to create a new website for this because I didn’t want to inundate my current subscribers with emails. I would be delighted, however, if you wanted to give the new site a glance [when it’s ready…God willing, in 24 hours].
In any event, in keeping with my annual blogging tradition: here is my Top list of the year—My Favorite Pictures of 2016, because if a picture is worth 1,000 words, then it will save me quite a bit of writing.
My Top 16 Photos* of 2016
*keep your expectations low. My greatest photographic accomplishment was learning how to use Snap Chat filters (and that wasn’t until October).
(I’ve broken the photos down to represent the stages of my journey)
Stage I: Preparation
Before going to Greece, I earned my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, which is something I had registered to do three years ago but never completed. I’m proud to say I did complete it now, but I have yet to use it overseas. During my practicum hours, I worked with a mixture of beautiful souls, two of whom are pictured above.
2. “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
Lauren and I were supposed to get–as our first tattoos–the words from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. But I rediscovered a quote from The Little Prince, in Greek, that I knew immediately was “the one” I had to have. And Lauren, ever the best friend, agreed to get a tattoo she couldn’t read. (It says, “It is only with the heart one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”)
PS. our tattoos are in my handwriting, since the artist was not well-versed in the Cyrillic alphabet and I was having an anxiety attack about his ability to transcribe it.
3. The Mati
These are charms I made as party favors for everyone who bid me farewell before I moved. The Mati is the evil eye, and in Greece, it’s taken very seriously–it’s important to be protected. I wanted my friends to have a keepsake that reminded them of me, and this photo reminds me of them.
Stage II: The Journey
4. Coffee with a View
I met up with another blogger during my brief visit to Athens, and this was where we met. To me, this is the essence of Greece: simple pleasures weighted in thousands of years of history.
5. When Hiking With Germans in Greece…
This photo was the highlight of my hike with my German parea. The chairs were actually just metal frames that had no seats, and the table was falling apart, but it was just so Greek to have a dining area in the middle of a forest. So we decided to stage some photos, and could not stop laughing the entire time.
6. “Let’s Hunt Octopus”
This was my second year with Writing Workshops in Greece (WWIG), and it was my second year working with Christopher Bakken, the master of food and travel writing. When we weren’t on the patio reading, workshopping, or cooking, we were going on excursions, like octopus hunting. Granted, only Tassos and Christopher actually caught octopus, but this was one of my favorite adventures (particularly because of the feast that followed).
7. “Then Thelo Tetious Filous”
This was my first Zimbekiko dance, and someone kindly captured it on camera. Zimbekiko is an improvisational dance performed by one person while everyone else circles around him or her and claps and throws napkins, and it’s traditionally performed by a man. I was so nervous that I was shaking, but it worked out okay. “Then Thelo Tetious Filous” became my song (I stole it from Demitri), and I danced to it every week after that.
(“Ella, Tzenaki” = “Come to the stage, Jenny”)
8. Tassos Sandwich
You’d think this island would only have room for one Tassos of Thassos, but actually there are two, and they are cousins. It doesn’t take a lot for someone to be taller than me, but if this photo were a metaphor, I’d be replaced with “life.” Two men, larger than life, who both know how to embrace it.
10. The Greek Table
This meal captured the magic of Greece. My story about it was accepted for publication in Vagabond Magazine, and you can read it here.
11. Table #4
Every day I sat at this table, every day I admired this view, and every day I ate yogurt with honey for breakfast. As a gift to the Kouzis, I brought homemade granola from RI, and then sometime in July I ate it all. (Tassos would ask, after I’d ordered yogurt with honey yet again, “You want the bullshits on top?”) The staff all knew it as ‘my table,’ and so it is forever marked as Tzenaki’s.
12. Morning Glory
I’ve never seen a sunrise so magnificent. My camera didn’t do it justice, not even close. A devout nonbeliever would have felt God speaking through the rays of light that morning.
13. In Memory
I captured this moment on one of my last evenings in Greece. At the bottom left is the iconic Archodissa boat; in the middle right is an octopus hanging from a wire. Two months later, they both would burn, and the boat would turn to ashes. But a new one will rise, and the old one will forever sail through my dreams.
Stage III: The Return
There’s nothing like New England in the Fall. This photo was taken during my mom’s visit, when M-Dogg took us to the second most hiked mountain in the world. Our reward was dinner at a Greek restaurant.
15. East Side Home Group
I write a lot about the Greek parea, describing a group of friends who fellowship together, and this is my Providence parea. This photo was taken on the last night that Lauren, the original East Side Home Group leader, was with us before branching off to plant seeds in a new field.
16. The Curriers
Full circle, at home with my parents, celebrating Christmas. To them, I owe it all.
As we embark on another year, I hope that you find strength through the challenges, and beauty in the change.