returning home

OUR HOME IN GREECE | UNEDITED FILM

 

We are headed back.

In that complex and very unpredictable way that life works, where it catches you by surprise in an off-handed way, we are returning home. We have two, quite different, homes: Ohio and Greece. We landed at Eleftherios Venizelos airport outside Athens two years ago. We piled into our aunt's compact car. And as we came around the bend in the road that leads into Porto Rafti—a place that became our second home over the course of the next three months—we saw it: the clear, blue waters of the Aegean. From the time we had to say goodbye, we have longed to relive that moment; to come home to our sea.

Greece is a wild, untamed place. Its natural beauty is no rumor, nor are its manmade troubles. Its a land where the rhythms of life are informed more by the position of the sun in the cloudless sky than by economic indicators or the law of the land, for better or for worse. The Aegean Sea is Greece's crown jewel and Porto Rafti rests on her shores; nestled among the coastal foothills, on the other side of which you will find kilometers upon kilometers of silver-leaved olive trees, pistachio groves, and dry, thistle-y brush.

Porto Rafti is a town of 2,000 in winter and 50,000 in summer. Stray dogs and cats co-mingle with the patrons at seaside tavernas and cafes. Street vendors, slinging anything from grilled corn on the cob to terra cotta planters, proposition you in a language you won't understand. Groups of men drive by in rusted pickup trucks, advertising to all via loudspeaker that they will buy your unwanted junk. The airspace falls silent around two o'clock, when lunch has been consumed and all take refuge from the sun for an afternoon siesta. It's like clockwork, says our uncle.

We are convinced theirs is a way of life anyone could get used to, whereby (at least) two daily swims are an expectation and church bells can be heard ringing every single day. And we'll be living it out again, if only for a moment.

Home sweet home. Bless you, Greece.


—M

ON RETURNING HOME | A SLOW COFFEE PROCESS

 
bagofbeans

After nineteen days abroadtraversing lumpy green landscapes in Ireland & dramatic, often surreal, combinations of land & sea in NorwayI have returned home to Ohio. Counter to all of the glamor & excitement of exploring new places, I have always found the act of coming home to be one of the most satisfying stages of travel. It is a return to normalcy, to daily rituals & loved ones, and to the life you lead in pursuit of happiness.

That pursuit is pretty well tied to coffee in our household, if you couldn't tell. And some of the less glamorous elements of life on the road involve instant coffee, airport coffee, stale coffee... you get the picture. More than the quality of the joe I drink at home, though, I missed the routine. I missed my everyday coffee date. 

coffeebeans

So we planned one. If you'd like to play along, here's what you'll need:

  1. Good, whole bean coffee. (Be sure to store coffee in a way that will preserve freshness. We like mason jars. Never ever refrigerate.)
  2. A 7 g/0.25 oz coffee scoop.
  3. A coffee grinder. (Bonus points for manual and/or adjustable for fine to coarse grinds.)
  4. A kettle & French press.

In truth, coffee is and should be a very simple process. No electricity or priority given to convenience. It's all about that heavenly, full-bodied cup of joe enjoyed in good company at the end of a beloved, if lengthy, process.

scoopingcoffeebeans
grindingcoffeebeans

Usually, when I drag myself out of bed I will just have been dreaming of pre-ground coffee to wake up to. But the extra prep time in the morning is worth it for the freshness & flavor you get out of it, and I certainly didn't mind the process after missing it for the previous three weeks.

The French press method of brewing calls for an even, coarse grind. The best ratio of coffee to water isin the endwhatever tastes best to you, but a good rule of thumb is to do about 1 tablespoon-sized scoop of coffee for every 1/2 cup of water. I usually eyeball it.

You'll want the water to be about 200 degrees F, or 20 seconds off the boil. If it is hotter than that, you can burn your coffee. We use a thermometer, but it's not necessary. After all, this is a post about our process, not an advocation for dropping a paycheck at a specialty kitchen shop. Set a timer for 4 minutes, give it a good stir with a wooden spoon, and slowly press the plunger down when the time is up. Simple, intentional, and effective.

groundcoffee

The beauty of this homecoming French press is that it could be enjoyed even more slowly than it was prepared. I told some travel storieslike the time we found our address-less lodging in Norway's countryside via GPS coordinates displaying latitude and longitude, and when a particularly mischievous pigeon in Dublin decided to relieve itself on my head & shoulder. All of this over several cups of Kapsokisio, a very special coffee from Kenya that's roasted at Tim Wendelboe, a coffee shop in Oslo which I failed to track down but whose coffee I successfully found 500 km away in Bergen. 

As it was, other less pressing "daily" topics quickly found their way into the conversation. A very normal, casual ritual at home lends itself to very normal, casual outcomes. And that is exactly what I crave most whenever I come home, be it from abroad, another state, or a couple towns over. Ordinary life can be quite extraordinary when you are taken out of it for awhile.

It is one of the great and beautiful paradoxes of travel: by immersing yourself in a new place & appreciating a way of life different from your own, you almost always come away with a heightened sense of gratitude for what you do have, day after day, cup of coffee upon cup of coffee.

frenchpresswithmug

—M