The airport in Mytilene, Lesvos, Greece resembles a large aquarium with automatic doors. It consists of a couple gates, a luggage delivery belt, and a few scattered kiosks for food and car rental. There wasn’t an “information” booth to be found, however.
Arriving from Athens at 0730, we claimed our luggage and assessed the best way to get to the long-distance bus station. Our plan – if you could really call it that – was to hop the mid-day bus from Mytilene to Skala Eressos. About 3 hours, according to our friends at The Lonely Planet.
Standing outside the airport, we found a bus stop. No schedule. Just a sign. Fellow travelers from our flight had already headed out, and there weren’t many people around – so i asked a police officer about the bus to Skala Eressos. She said “That is the only bus”, pointing at the sign.
We decided it might be wise to take a taxi to the bus station in town, so we dragged our luggage to the taxi stand. En route, our driver asked about our destination. He also asked what the bus fare would be. We were so prepared that not one of us knew the answer, but we guessed about 18-20 Euro each. Yeah. Something like that….
Our driver offered to take us there for 100 Euro – explaining that the bus didn’t leave til afternoon, and he could get us there in an hour and a half, for only a little more per person. Sold! We were on our way, and it wasn’t even 0800!
Our driver, Manolis, asked about where we were from – Australia, South Africa and The States. He mentioned that he’d lived in Boston for a long time, working near the docks. “My favorite seafood place is on the docks in Boston!”, i said. Turns out, he worked there – with some connection to the family who owns the restaurant!
Manolis did a nice job of explaining the history of the island, describing the terrain, and discussing some of the local points of interest – without being an over-zealous pain in the ass. He also did a damn fine job navigating some village street passages that were so tight i wanted to smoke a cigarette and change the sheets when we successfully emerged on the other side!
Delivering us to our destination, he gave me his card – and said he’d be happy to pick us up for the return trip. Our hosts assured us that 100 Euro was a good price for the journey, compared to what many other drivers quoted, so i saved his card.
A week later, we had abandoned the plan to rent a car and do some sightseeing on the island on our way back to Mytilene. That was too much like work. We decided to give Manolis a call on Sunday and arrange for him to pick us up Monday at noon. When i called, he said he couldn’t make it, but would send a driver for us.
Arranging the car for noon gave us plenty of time to regroup and devise an alternate plan should the driver not show up. We were quite surprised when the taxi arrived at 1100 – while we were still packing! Dolce was the best prepared, and hauled her luggage outside. The driver told her that he wasn’t sure exactly where he’d been headed, so he left extra time. She reported this back to us, and said that he had a pretty strong U.S. accent.
Nursemyra and i finished packing, and brought our bags out for loading. The young driver, sporting a fine bit of designer facial hair and “faux-hawk”, did indeed speak with a thick accent – BOSTON! He said he’d lived there until he was 10 years old. George was the son of Manolis.
Far less talkative than his father, George entertained us with a ridiculous 1980’s techno-dance mix CD – providing moments of “holy shit, I haven’t heard that for years” interspersed with group sing-alongs as we made our way along the rugged road back to Mytilene. Never mind that he had the driving skills of a Formula One racer! He was quite helpful in getting us to our hotel, and offered to pick us up the following morning at 0620 to get us to the airport for our return flight to Athens on Tuesday.
It was during the ride to the airport on Tuesday that George asked me “So, how are things in The States? I’m planning to move back there with my wife and son.” In just fifteen minutes in the taxi that morning, he relayed a family tale as old as time. His father wants him to stay and work with him in the family business, but the son wants to make his own fortune in the new world…
He also shared that his parents were separated, his mother still extremely pissed off about it, and that he was constantly stuck in the middle of the arguments between them. He’d had enough of it, so he was planning to bring Mom with him on his “fresh start”. The plan? Pack up his family – his wife and son had never left Greece – stay with cousins in Boston, find work until he could get his own business going.
i was touched by his optimism and bravery. Also noted that despite all the crap that happens in the ol’ U.S. of A., that it still holds the promise of opportunity for a young man.
But mostly? i was touched by the tale he wove of family. Defying cultures and continents. Eternal tension. Father and Son.
How can I try to explain? When I do he turns away again! It’s always been the same, same old story. From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen, now there’s a way and I know I have to go away.
Note: The video is dated, and pretty cheesy. But that’s part of the point… Recorded in 1970, the song holds the original power. i was also reminded what an incredibly beautiful man Yusuf Islam is… More recent version of “Father and Son”, recorded for the BBC One series, found here…