Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta greece. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta greece. Mostrar todas las entradas

jueves, 14 de mayo de 2015

Citrus fruits

   The fields of oranges were huge, covering many square kilometers. The best part though, was the smell of the whole place: it felt like it opened the nostrils and entered strongly into the body, making you feel more alive than ever. Here and there, workers picked up the oranges from the trees and let the ones that were in the ground for the eventual animals that came and ate them. Many machines existed to pick up the fruit but this farm kept with the usual method of using people, which were more careful. They had even go one more step further by hiring only women.

 It was funny to be at the gates of the farm in the afternoon, when the shifts ended, and seeing all those women come out, like a horde of soldiers coming back from a particularly tough battle. And it was exactly that as many times, the climate was particularly harsh. The sun was always a bother but they also had to deal with various animals such as bees and wasps, that every so often tried to make a hive in the area. The women had learned how to deal with them long ago and they rarely sent someone to the main house to ask for help. They could deal with it themselves.

 In the house there was only a first processing plant for the oranges, which selected the best of the best. But the curious thing was that rarely any oranges were thrown out because of their state. Those that were, however, were transformed into compost to feed the plants that existed all over the farm. The owner of the emporium was called Archibald Kostas. He was an English but with a Greek father and a German mother, an uncommon but effective combination as he had inherited all the good traces of both cultures.

 Archibald had been born in London. His family lived there because of his father’s work and they were happy it was that way because they way all of this differences would make him a better person and a more intelligent one. His mother was always very strict but loving and his father was the kind of man that always brought a gift for their children when coming back from work. Archibald had a sister called Athena, who was also an English citizen. His father worked in a company that owned many shipyards across Europe and that’s why they always moved and why they loved the sea. They had always lived close to it and they wouldn’t change that for anything.

 When he was a bit older, just before college, Arbchibald traveled Europe with friends and discovered how much he really loved the sea and what nice warm climates made for his body and normal behavior. When he visited the Alps or the cities along the Danube, he was miserable. Not only because of the lack of ocean but because the environment didn’t made him feel good. Some people said it was the altitude and other that he was too used to the same thing that he had lived all of his life but it didn’t mattered. He discovered what he loved and decided to pursue it. In the end, most people had no idea what they liked so young in life, so he guessed it was good it happened to him.

 Archie, as his parents and friends lovingly called him, received his degree in agronomy and decided, when he was only twenty-two years old, to fly down to Greece and settle there. Because it was the birthplace of his father, he knew the country very well and how the people were and what they liked. So with help from his dad he bought a good piece of terrain north of Athens and began exploring what would be the ideal crop to plant there.

 There were a lot of options but Archie wanted one that would employ many people of the region and also be good for them. He wanted the farm to be completely ridden of any chemical agents or strange artifacts that were used in the huge farm of Europe and North America. He wanted something big but more relatable, close to the people. Citrus fruits were a great option and most of them were cultivated the same way so if the farm got really big he could mix things up by having many kinds in one same place.

 He started with the basic citrus fruit, the one that everyone loved and that he knew would sell beautifully in the region: oranges. It took some time to have all the trees giving fruit but, when they did, he decided to hire workers from the region to help with the harvest. It was like that that it all began, with just a bunch of trees and some hands. Today, the farm spanned various hectares of not only orange trees but also other citrus fruits like lemons, tangerines, grapefruits, limes and many others.

 At first, the farm sold only the raw fruit but when his father visited the farm for the first time, some months prior to his death, he advised his son to also process the fruits in another plant and turn them in to juice. People love all those natural flavors, rid of the chemicals that most brands put on their liquids and it was time people had another option. They could start by selling some bottles on the local market and then see if people actually like it. If they did, they could began expanding to bigger cities and then the whole country.

 Archibald had achieved exactly that some five years after his father’s passing and, in his honor, had put a plaque next to the main gate of the farm to inform people that his father had always been a visionary, although frequently in the shipyard business. He had also been a great father and Archie would always thank him for being such a great guy, so relatable and supportive. Eventually, the juices that he sold all over Greece got the name of his fathers, Kostas. Every person in the region loved driving past the Kostas farm because of the smell that invaded the body and refreshed the environment nicely.

 Archie, however, had not inherited his dad’s ability to form a loving and caring family. The owner of such a great enterprise was also a lonely man after three divorces and the death of one wife that surprisingly showed no signs of wanting to leave him until she died in a car crash not very far from the farm. From those relationships, he had gotten two sons and one daughter but they rarely visited him, after living with their respective mothers for a long time. Those women hated him too much to tell anything good about him to their children and it was clear they all resented Archie, for no apparent reason.

 He invited them every summer, to the farm; in order to try to connect with them one more time but it was all a waste of time. They just didn’t like anything that he did, anything that he said. The only time he felt they were a bit sympathetic was when his mother died after a long and painful disease. He was broken and more alone than ever and seeing them in the funeral and staying some time in his house was comforting and he even go to think it would last but it didn’t. They were just being “nice” but they couldn’t keep up forever so they left and rarely came back.

When turning sixty, Archie had decided to stop looking for love. It had brought him nothing but trouble and preferred to live in peace in his farm, surrounded by helpers and workers that liked his company and that sometimes talked to him about the problems they had or about general issued that everyone had on their mind. Of course, he still liked to look at women but he had no intention of taking any of them as a bride. Anyway, he thought his looks had passed, being a thing of his early days so even if he wanted; looking for a companion would be very difficult.

 The thing that made him happier than anything else was walking his farm, seeing the workers do their job and feeling the scent of so many fruits. He would take a small bag with him and walk to the edge of the farm, which now reached a cliff overlooking the sea. He would sit there and take out of his bag a bottle of orange juice and picture of his parents. He always remembered the first time they came here and knew how proud they both were of what he had done with his life. The way they looked all over was like seeing children in a candy store, in a really huge candy store.

 He realized that precisely was the greatest achievement of his life. Not the farm itself, not his children or the millions of dollars won with the fruits and the juices, not even all that he owned. It was the fact that he made his parents proud and happy. It should be every son or daughter’s goal to make their parents smile and he knew he had achieved that. Unfortunately, he would never get to be proud of his children, as he didn’t even know them. He regretted it for a long time but then, he just didn’t care.

jueves, 19 de marzo de 2015

Aegean Cruise

   Maureen Sullivan ran to the railing and held her hat before the wind had a chance to blew it off her head. The city looked gorgeous from there and, as she soon realized, the cruiser had began to move. It was just perfect, feeling the wind on her face, the smell of the salt water and the beautiful city, which began turning on its lights for it was already late in the evening. Maureen stood there for several minutes until she heard the announcement of a special dinner to welcome all the passengers to this journey.

 Maureen then decided to go to her room and change clothes for dinner. When she got to her cabin, she went through her luggage and started hanging some dresses and taking out all the shoes she had. She loved to dress nicely as she hadn’t being able to do so for many years. The thing is that Maureen used to be a nun. Yes. She had her calling at an early age, after being a devoted catholic for all of her childhood. Now, when she thought about it, maybe she had been too young and should’ve thought this more thoroughly.

 She decided to put on a beautiful purple dress with a matching purse and green shoes. For a moment, Maureen thought she was going to look like an upside down eggplant, but then she decided to go for it. So what if people talked? That was better. This fifty two year old woman had not being able to use such rich colors back in the convent, and one of the things she looked forward as she left her former life was the use of many types of clothing and makeup. It seemed shallow but it was understandable after more than thirty years wearing always the same thing, and the same boring shoes.

 She arrived at the dining hall just in time, as every single passenger was making their way into their respective tables. Maureen thanked God she didn’t have to look for a seat but instead only ask one of the waiters where she was supposed to seat. They had electronic screens where they checked it. After receiving directions, Maureen asked the waiter where could she find one of those screens. She was fascinated by the invention.

 A few minutes later she was already siting between a Canadian couple and a lady from Moscow, who was a bit older than her. She started speaking in English to her and, to her surprise; the woman was fluent and very educated, telling her about her life in the Russian capital. Maureen didn’t want her to stop but the show had started on the stage they were facing and it was too good to miss.

 As she watched the dancers, it was almost impossible not to think what would she be doing if she had still being a nun. At this hour of the night, probably sleeping or trying to at least. She used to love knitting and to embroider to calm her nerves, which always seemed restless. The doctor, one that came to the convent once per month to check on all the sisters, had given her some pills to calm that restlessness but she had never taken a single one. Something deep inside told her that she didn’t need that because her impatience, that weird energy inside of her was what she needed to keep on living.

 Maybe it was because of this, or maybe not, but she started to have blood pressure problems just after learning that her mother and father had died. A horrible accident and half her family had disappeared, as if they had never existed. She still had a brother but he never went to the convent to visit her and talk. He had gone to college, got a great job abroad and the last thing she knew was that he had gotten married and had one child. As the dancers finished, she thought how much she would love to meet her nephew.

 Maureen went on talking to the Russian lady and learned that her name was Valentina and that she was actually from Yekaterinburg, a city located in the Ural mountains of central Russia. She told Maureen about the harsh winters when she would stay inside for many days and enjoy lots of sweets because her parents said chocolate helped resist the cold. Valentina also told her about the trips along the river in the spring, when the water was so still and the flowers blossomed all over.

 It was just magic listening to all of Valentina’s stories. She seemed like the kind of woman she would have liked to be: limitless, doing what she liked the most, enjoying her life fully. It isn’t that she had hated the convent or anything. Quite the opposite: she missed the sisterhood that she had left there. If there was something beautiful about being a nun, it was the fact that they took care of each other, every single day. But, nevertheless, she thought she would have liked to enjoy more of life, getting to do more things in life, experience new things.

 That’s why, with the money she had inherited all those years ago, she had decided to take this cruise. She knew that a trip would make her happy beyond anything she had ever known. Because there was one thing she missed the most and that was people. Yes, she did do a lot for many people on the convent but always going back to those four walls, always helping but not really relating. That was her reason for leaving. She argued that God must want more of all of us, not only helping and be good but to be interested for real, to be there for each other. And she didn’t feel that she was doing that so she left to do it on her own.

 But first, she had to do this trip. With Valentina, she toasted with champagne and was surprised at how nice it tasted. She had a couple more glasses and talked with her new friend about both their lives for hours, until the master of ceremonies took the stage to announce it was bedtime. The next day they were docking in Mykons and he advised everyone to have a good rest to enjoy a whole day in such a beautiful island. The two women complied and agreed to meet at the dock the following morning to scout the island and buy souvenirs to bring back home.

 That night, Maureen was sad. She couldn’t sleep wither so she took out a small notebook from her suitcase and a pencil. When she couldn’t sleep now, she would also draw. She was not very good and didn’t do any drawings of what she actually saw. She thought the world was too beautiful as it was to be rendered ugly by her hand. So what Maureen did was drawing things that came up in her mind. She liked to think of them as cartoons although she didn’t think any child would understand them.

 A child… Her nephew… That still hurt her so bad, being cut off from her family like that. She had called her brother after she left the convent. Her idea was to visit him first and them take the cruise but that wasn’t possible. Her brother told her she had decided to be cut off from them for a reason and now that their parents were gone, it didn’t make any sense to fuel a relationship that had been dead for so long. He argued that she had always thought of herself as special because of her devotion and that’s why she got to go away. For her brother, she had always been their parent’s favorite child and he had to live with that until he left the house.

 Maureen knew that, on the phone call, Brian had tried hard not to be rude because it wasn’t in him to be like that. But he stated clearly that he couldn’t just forget all about his past to rekindle a relationship with someone he was sure he didn’t know well. So she would never meet her nephew or at least not very soon. She drew at least three pages until she realized it was past 2 AM. She left her notebook and pencil on the bedside table and forced herself into a restless sleep.

 The following morning, she put on a nice flowery dress and sandals with a white hat and sunglasses to go down the dock and meet Valentina. She had not rested a bit but decided she couldn’t spoil her holiday just because of one bad night. The two women walked together along the beautiful streets and up and down stairs. They separated from the main group fast and explored many shops by themselves. They bought some presents and Valentina asked Maureen why she was taking so few. Maureen answered she was by herself now so it didn’t make any sense to buy many gifts.

 At lunchtime, Valentina decided to stop walking around and invited her new friend for brunch at a nice café overlooking the bay of Mykonos. They had all the entrées, as a way to taste the most of the local food. They had fun asking what it all was and, afterwards, going to the archeological museum were they discussed art and politics. It was fun for Maureen because she had so much in her mind about so many subjects but she had never been able to talk to anyone about it. She had a lot of fun with Valentina and when it was time to get back to the boat, they decided to have a few drinks at the cruise lounge on the top deck.

 When she got back to her cabin, Maureen had also decided to call her brother again. She did so disregarding any special fees. She didn’t care about prices or times. Maureen had to ask for forgiveness and try to get her family back to her because, if there was something to learn about her day with Valentina, it was that people are very important in everyone’s lives because they are the ones that make us feel alive. And who better to share your life with than your own family?

miércoles, 31 de diciembre de 2014

On The Queen Victoria

All the guests and hosts in the Queen Victoria sat down to eat, just past sunset. The yacht was so big it had a decent sized dining room, enough for all twelve guests. As people sat down, they greeted Johann Ronson, the owner and part-time captain of the vessel. He was the magnate that had bought the boat and had invited his closest friends to wander the Egean Sea with him for a week.

The main course, served after a shrimp cocktail and a couple of glasses of champagne, was king crab. It was fresh and only served with a butter sauce and a special fork to eat it. Everyone enjoyed thoroughly. A lot of crab, of wine and champagne and a lot of conversation. Even millionaires would start talking a little bit too much after such a meal.

It was a certain English lady that spilled the fact that her husband had made many stupid investments over the years and now they had absolutely nothing. Those who weren’t as drunk as her had heard it perfectly and had made a mental note never to deal with the woman or her family again.

Late at night, everyone went to bed. They were all full and tired. Only the captain stayed behind in the dining room, drinking and coursing the day he had bought the boat. The reality was that he needed somewhere to go, to escape from all the responsibilities he had with his family and numerous investors in his company. He felt so much money didn’t gave him as much privilege as he would have wanted.

He felt asleep right there and, for a good time, the ship was silent, anchored near a rock formation were a large amount of seagulls nested. It wasn’t until the next day, early, when a scream woke everyone up.

It came from one of the rooms in the stern. As people got near, they could distinguish that the voice that screamed was the one of a woman. Actually, everyone knew who was screaming. They found her on the bed, looking at her side. The scene was simply too much for anyone.

The lady that had no inheritance finally fainted, just besides her husband who was covered in blood from legs to neck, where he had been cut with a knife or something.

A couple of woman, helped by the staff of the boat, took Lady Emerson, the now poor and widowed woman, out of the room and into another one, until she woke up. When she did, she looked as if she had lost her mind, babbling nonsense and trembling uncontrollably.
The men passengers check Lord Emerson’s body, as the crew had been ordered by the captain to call the police but not to move the boat from its current location. He told them that if a crime, and that seemed to be the case, had been committed on board, they should call the police and wait right there to avoid the killer to escape.

But what was done had no way to be undone. They covered the body with a large blanket and waited for the police, who had been called on the radio. Lunch was served, as normal, but no one was really in the mood for sea bass. A dead body was only rooms away and it may prove insensitive to eat, as a murder had been committed.

The police finally arrived late in the afternoon. They had sent a translator with them and the inspector that had been sent with them was half American, so he had a way to talk to everyone in the boat.

The first thing they did was to get the body out of the yacht, as the smell was beginning to take a toll on the people in the nearest rooms. A young girl had already vomited profusely overboard, leaving the Greek waters a little bit more polluted than they were before.

The room were the crime was committing was closed and checked thoroughly all night. When it got too late, two officers were left there to protect the place from been contaminated. Before leaving, the inspector said he was sure he would find the murderer as he or she was still on the boat.

When he said that, everyone realized it was true. It was silly, but everyone had treated the murder as a natural death or something of sorts. But no, Lord Emerson had been killed when one of the passengers had slit his throat from behind, assuring he would not yell and no one would hear anything.

At breakfast, the next day, the Captain had to order the kitchen staff to serve everyone in their rooms, which was exceptionally annoying as breakfast was a buffet. So now, they had to go room by room to ask what people wanted and then bring it to them. In the kitchens there was also the discussion: “What if were serving the murderer”? To answer that, a boy who cleaned the bathroom only said “We’re all working for a killer right now”. Everyone laughed but it was certainly not funny.

The police came back during breakfast to commence the sweeping of the place of the crime and they found the sheets full of blood, the seal of a bottle of wine that had slipped beneath the bed and a stain near the back side of the bed, where there was a window.

When they finished, the captain was told his ship would be escorted back to Rhodes, where they had the equipment to do a full search on the yacht. Mr. Ronson was sad and even depressed but he had to accept if he wanted all of it to end soon. So by sunset, they were already in the island. To ensure the investigation, they were all put under “house arrest” in a hotel by the police station.

All the passengers were rich and had more interesting things to do than waiting for a murder investigation to finish. They had only reserved a week to travel to Greece to spend some time with old Ronson, because he was wealthier than any of them could ever be. If they ever ran into financial distress, it would be him who could be able to save them from it.

Ronson was known worldwide because of helping people that needed him: saving companies from bankruptcy, hiring the best lawyers, paying mortgages… The man was the savior of the rich, or so he was called in many economic magazines that praised and despised him, all at the same time.

The police told Mr. Ronson, that his boat was not going to be dismantled as the crime didn’t seemed planed or that structured but that they did need to search every single inch of it, as the be sure of what the investigation was pointing to.

So all the crew and passengers had to spend one more week in Rhodes, trapped in a fancy hotel, waiting for the results of the probe. The crew was especially happy as they didn’t have to work any more and they were the ones being treated to beautiful restaurants, an elegant swimming pool and all the drinks they could handle.

The wealthier guests almost always remained in their room, already trying to book flights or boats out of the damn island for the day they had been promised to be released. To be honest, they were looking forward more holidays and sunny locations, but away from all the fuss and annoying aspect of a murder.

The truth was none of them really cared about someone being killed just doors away from their rooms. They didn’t mind at all. What made them grind their gears, was the fact they couldn’t keep behaving as they always did and as what they were: rich spoiled brats who needed to be able to do whatever they wanted, even if they had no intention of doing anything.

Happily for them, not as much for the members of the crew, the boat was released on the promised date. However, they were all summoned to be present in the press conference were the murderer would be announced, as the evidence against that person was irrefutable.

The police babbled even more than most of the rich passenger of the yacht but, when it finally got to it, it was revealed Lady Emerson had been found guilty of the crime.

According to the police, it was found that only her could have been able to enter the room and kill him, as there were no traces of anyone else doing so, not the day of the murder or before. The stain found by the bed, was left there by Lady Emerson, as she opened the window to throw the murder weapon to the ocean. Of course, the weapon was nowhere to be found.

As for the seal of the bottle of wine, the police claimed they had found the bottle on a trashcan on the kitchens. Apparently, Lady Emerson had gotten her husband drunk before killing him with a knife and then, she went insane because of what she had done.

The inspector announced Lady Emerson would pay for her crime in the Attica prison for women, near Athens, and that she would do so in the psychiatric ward of the prison, for the next twenty years. He declared they had gotten a psychiatrist to run some tests to her, all of which certified she was beyond insane, losing all grasp of reality.

The yacht went back to the sea, with only Mr. Ronson inside and a few crewmen. The rest of the passengers left for Athens or London, or other destinations in the Mediterranean.

The actual murder? He left for Cyprus and then for Israel. As it happened, an old lover of Lady Emerson had been the real killer. She thought he had married another woman to spite her but he had married her to get close to her and to his husband, who he hated for having put her through so many bad times. So he killed her with a knife and she went mad when she woke up to see his lover, arms covered in plastic, killing her husband.

Lady Emerson died, insane and in pain, in the Attica prison. She had no children or real family. Her former lover lived in Eilat for several years, until one of the many wars in the region, in which he died.

sábado, 27 de septiembre de 2014

Mount Athos

My name is John Tiberius Johnson. I was born in Exeter (England) and from a young age, I've loved to explore: I had a tree house built by my own hands, I had small canoe in which I explore calm rivers and their banks and I always had the company of Akakios, my labrador.

Thanks to my parents and my persistence, I went on to study anthropology and archaeology. I love ancient civilizations as well as contemporary ones, just watching how people have had different solutions for the same problem and even the same solutions, being separated by thousands of kilometers.

Working for the British Museum, a dream of mine that was fulfilled by a "enlightened" thesis on the customs of the North American peoples, I got to travel a lot, all around the globe.
I saw the Great Wall of China, the pyramids in Egypt, the massive forests of Indonesia, the majestic Machu Picchu and so many more.

But this time I want to tell you about a small part of the world. Many, won't even know it exists. It is called Mount Athos.

Resting on one of the "fingers" of the Chakidiki peninsula, Mount Athos is a strange place. First of all, it's an autonomous region from the rest of Greece. They have a different way of doing things there.

Second, the place is filled with monasteries, all around the peninsula. Beautiful forests unite the sites.

Third, one must get a special permit to enter Mount Athos. It is called a diamonētērion. And, most curious, only men are allowed there.

Preparing for my journey, I travelled to Thessaloniki and applied for my permit, which would allow me to stay and the Megisti Lavra monastery for as a week.

I decided to walk all around the city, waiting for the permit. On one of those outings, around an open market, a strange gypsy woman almost threw herself and me and asked to read my hand. I refused but she insisted and I was bored so I complied. After paying her 5 euros, she grabbed my hand and told me I should avoid facing God soon, as death was near.

A bit annoyed, I went on with my walking. Coincidence or not, a old man looked at me with crazy eyes and spoke fast and loud in greek. Being rusty in the language I could only understand two words: "avoid" and "danger".

Looking to forget all about these weird encounters I went to my hotel and had a nice calm dinner.

After a week of my request, they called me to say the permit had been approved. So I went to pick up the strange sheet. There, I was told to travel to Ierissos, where I would board a ferry to Mount Athos.

I have to say the boat ride was even better than I imagined: the view was not to be missed. Mount Athos, the actual mountain, looked massive but calm and peaceful from the boat. I was traveling with two others: Alex, a photographer for National Geographic and Cedric, a french travel journalist.

When we got to the dock, a small wooden structure on a rocky beach, we were received by a lonely young monk who told us to follow him. It was short walk to Megisti Lavra, as the place rests just above a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea.

We were shown our bedrooms and the bathroom we would share and told us we could only remain on the monastery or inside its boundaries. Alex then intervened, saying he had been authorized to go hiking, in order to take pictures from the mount. The young monk asked him for his permit, read it for himself in whole and then gave it back. He bowed and then left them in their rooms.

Day one, I went to the main temple and asked to see the manuscripts. They were held in a small library, feeling a bit uneasy as a monk was asked to guard my stay in the room.
I was baffled by the writings, and then by codices. They were a treasure I had wanted to see for long. I took notes for work as well as some photographies, although my guard didn't seem to like that.

Then, a scream. A truly awful, heartbreaking scream. I carefully put away the codex that I was making notes about and went out the main courtyard with my guard. He then indicated me to go to the monasteries main entrance. The place was beautiful, adorned with olive trees and small hedges.

Then, we saw: Alex was running towards the gate. The monks let him in and he fainted in front of me.
Hours later he woke up and told us he had seeing a body laying in the road to the mountain. A group of monks left to check it out. When they left he told me that the man he saw did not have a face, crushed by rocks or something. He was trembling so I accompanied him until Cedric came back from the a stroll down the shore.

Then the leader of the congregation came and asked us to remain in our chambers for the day as something had occurred. Then Alex asked for the body and the man told us that it appeared to be an assassination. They had even found a big rock tainted with blood.

During the next few days, I had to accompany Alex, with two monk guards, to take his pictures. We ascended part of Mount Athos and, although astonished by the beauty of the place, my mind was still wondering about the killing.

So it was a surprise when we came back to the monastery and they told us we were going to stay under lock and something had, once again, occurred. 

They had arranged a large room with three beds for all of us and the leader of the monks came again. It had happened they had found another body, this time on the water, just floating by the monastery. They had voted to enclose us for our safety and because we were considered suspects.

 - We were on the Mount!
 - Mr. Cedric wasn't...
 - I was walking with one of your guards!

But then the monk pulled out something from his pocket. Kept in a white cloth, he showed us an object and I recognized the knife immediately: it had been a gift by the director of a museum I had been to in China. A dagger made in times of the Tang dinasty. The only difference was that this dagger was tainted in blood.

And blood was the thing that drained out from my face, as I realized I was trapped here, no way to get out.