The White House… We have arrived in Washington, DC. It is cloudy, slight rain.
Tourists gather outside the fence. Photography sessions. Selfies. Group photos. All with the White House in the background. Something to show when you get home.
Memories come back….
It was in July 1962. I was 18 years old. I had been a foreign exchange student. One year in a high school in northern Iowa, just south of the Minnesota border. At the end of the school year, I got an invitation to visit the White House in Washington together with a group of other foreign students.
President John F Kennedy received us in Rose Garden. He talked about youth. “You young people are the future of the world”, he said. He talked about his Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was a volunteer program started by President Kennedy where young Americans where sent out into the world in different aid projects. He urged us “young people” to go out in the world. To see, to learn, to help.
Some days in your life are more important than other days. This was one of those days. I was at an age when you were easily impressed. And President Kennedy impressed me. What he said impressed me. Later back in Sweden, I read books about President Kennedy. I read books with his speeches. “Young man, move out into the world” was the message I had taken with me from that sunny day in the garden outside the White House. And I did just that. Some years later, I moved out into the world. Sweden was my birth place. The world became my home.
That day, I had been inside the fence of the White House. Inside the fence, looking out. Today I am outside the fence. Outside, looking in.
More tourists come. More photos are taken. A group of Chinese tourists wants me to take a photo. A photo of the group with the White House in the background.
It is a peaceful day at the White House. President Trump is in Saudi Arabia…
The sun is setting over the hills, casting long shadows on the road. We walk slowly downhill, from our house to the beach, a few minutes’ walk. The heat of the day is slowly subsiding.
It is quiet. The smell from the pine trees fill our nostrils. The silence is broken by a fast motor boat crossing the clear water of Tzaneria Bay. Then the boat is gone. Silence is ruling again.
For minutes or for a week?
Only Peter and Zelda have put their boat into the water. But the small bay will soon be filled with boats, attached to the buoys, swinging and moving with the waves. But still, the waves are the rulers of the bay. The beach is empty. Soon, umbrellas and sunbeds will fill the beach. Tourists will fill the sunbeds. For now, at this moment of time, the beach is ours. A slow walk in the sand. Not a tourist in sight.
For another week…
At Sklithri Taverna, our gem on the beach, Emilio and his men are preparing the taverna for the season. A new kitchen. Emilio tells us that they plan to open in a week. Now it is quiet, no guests, no food, no wine.
For another week…
Our shoes sink into the sand, made soft by the waves. At the end of the beach, a place to sit down. A place to contemplate. To listen to the waves. Birds singing. A dog barking far away. A place a thousand miles from the world.
Velvet for the soul…
For another week…..
Then summer is here…
The first charter flight of the season has arrived. Thomas Cook from Manchester.
You can spot the tourists from a mile away. A couple of hours after the arrival, they walk in pairs or small groups slowly up and down Papadiamantis, looking totally lost. Papadiamantis is the small main street in Skiathos town, a pedestrian street. They are pale. Very pale after a long winter in England. They wear shorts. They have paid a lot of money to wear shorts for a week, sun or rain. The legs are extremely pale. Some of them wear funny hats, first thing they shop on the holiday. Hats that they would never even dream of wearing on High Street in Doncaster. You see the same groups several times, first walking up Papadiamantis and then down Papadiamantis. A slow walk, looking lost as if they haven’t yet understood that they are on a holiday.
The bar and café owners along Papadiamantis and down in the harbor have waited six months for them. “Welcome!” and then “Where are you from?”. Everyone in the street knows that they are from England but “Where are you from?” is one of the standard introductory phrases. “Sit down!”
Some of them sit down and have the first pint of beer of the day (not counting the ones they had on the plane). The café owner is happy. The first catch of the season.
Skiathos has got two seasons, the winter season and the tourist season. The face of the island is now changing into tourist season mode. Total contrasts. The winter population of the island is 6,000 people. In August, the peak tourist season when the Greeks and the Italians have their holidays, there are more than 60,000 people on the island. In January, there may be one car passing by on the coast road below our house every half hour. In August there is bumper to bumper traffic on the road.
Let the tourist games begin!