The men in Greece look alike: squat bodies and frizzy dark beards. The stewardesses are lovely and glowing and they wear the same muted red lipstick which glows against their tan skin.
The man waiting in the office eyes us with a puzzled expression. “You lose your passport?” he says. We launch into a long and detailed explanation. Afterwards there’s a thoughtful silence.
He clears his throat. “You lose your passport?” he says again.
“Yeah,” we say.
“Okay. Wait,” he says. He makes a call. He hangs up the phone and nods at us. We smile at each other.
After a few minutes my friend ventures:
“What happened? What now?”
“Now,” he says evenly, “we wait.”
“What are we waiting for?” my friend says.
“They’re looking for my passport on the plane?” I said.
There’s a pause. “You lose your passport in plane?”
Another phone call. More Greek. He hangs up.
“What are we doing now?” I say.
“Now,” he say, “we wait.”
“I can tell you which seat I had on the way to Greece,” I volunteer.
He blinks. “You lose your passport in Greece?” he says.
Greece – our layover on the way to and from Egypt – is a striking contrast to the tense misery of that country. Everything is green and blue and pastel and seems to wave and flow. The houses are bright and the streets winding to the glorious ancient ruins are narrow and charming. Cobbled pathways lead to small stone doors, small paths, small houseplates. The atmosphere is so easy, I can feel the stress flowing from my blood and bones.
There are four of us: myself, my friend Giselle, a Japanese monk we met in Egypt, and an Iranian we met on the bus, a quiet, intelligent and well-spoken man. We meet no one else on the path to the Acropolis, though there are some hand-painted wooden signs with ‘Parthenon’ and an arrow. It’s odd that the ancient sites are surrounded by these quiet homes instead of towering building like they might be in another city; we feel like we’re walking through some remote village. It’s nice; people here don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.
When we hit the top we’re suddenly surrounded by schoolchildren from what appears to be every school in Europe. (How did they get up the hill? Magical flying powers?) Apparently this is the European equivalent of a grade trip to the Statue of Liberty. The place is stripped of stores or hawking vendors, as though in respect to what was once held sacred there.
The Acropolis lies on a rocky outcrop like an awe-inspiring, but menacing, castle in a fairy tale or a horror movie. It’s a series of ancient buildings which grow more and more impressive as you climb, finally hitting the Parthenon, its climax. We wander about two hours around the beautiful buildings, much of which is restored. Of all the damage done to the Acropolis, the worst was from Venetian shells besieging Turks stationed there. (1687) Afterwards there was periodic looting; much of the contents are lost or in museums or simply destroyed.
Afterwards we walk down a long staircase lined on either side with coffee shops. The tables are near the staircase on intermittent flat surfaces. No one sits inside. People who are there when we sit down are still there when we get up, smoking and chatting and drinking. It’s the middle of the day, but no one seems to be going anywhere – no rushing off to work – I don’t even see someone on a cellphone. Because no one ever leaves there are no tables free – eventually we sat down on one of the flat pieces of ground and have lunch there. The owner finally brings our food – he doesn’t seem to be in any particular rush – lays the pots and plates around us. We share our lunch (which is delicious) with his dog.
On the way back we both fall asleep on the bus with our bags sprawled around us. We manage back to Israel by a miracle.
“So,” I said. “Should we wait?”
The man in the office blinks. “For what,” he says.
“In case you find the passport.”
“No, no!” he said, waving his hand around. “No need, no need!”
“Do you want our phone numbers?” we say.
“Should we come back?” we say.
He looks like he doesn’t know what to make of this. He says, “For what?”
“So I’ll know if my phone is found,” I say.
“No, no, no, no. If Alexander find it, he come out, look for you in airport, bring you passport, give you coffee.”
And that’s what ended up happening. Good coffee comes to those who wait.