Several years ago, during a brutal Bosnian winter, I first learned of the existence of the remote Greek island of Ikaria. Before the pandemic, Sarajevo was one of my regular stops as I pursued a frantic international life, evading a permanent residence and, more importantly, avoiding country of birth enforceableUSA.
On this particular visit to Subzero Sarajevo, I alternated between falling on the ice outdoors and sitting in my apartment looking at pictures of summer scenes on the internet. And it was because of this later pastime that Ikaria entered my consciousness, through a series of articles praising the rugged beauty of the island and the extraordinary longevity of its inhabitants.
Guardians send For example, since 2013, 100-year-old star Gregoris Tsahas, who enjoys a pack of cigarettes and more than a few glasses of red wine a day, has hiked the four kilometers of hilly road between his home and his usual coffee shop. myself, and have never come once. except for appendicitis pain.
The New York Times Magazine in 2012 essay tells the story of Stamatis Moraitis, who was 97 or 102 years old, and who returned to his native Ikaria from America in the 1970s after being diagnosed with cancer. He recovered with no treatment but gardening, brewing and playing dominoes past midnight with friends – and went on to outlive all of his American doctors.
No one has pinpointed the exact secret to Ikarian endurance, but it seems to involve a combination of slow life, close social friendships, olive oil, and wild sage tea. wilderness, goat’s milk, outdoor labor, napping, wind therapy and sexual activity in old age – not to mention the sheer subtlety of the physical environment. As if that weren’t good enough, it’s even better: Ikaria is known locally as a “red rock” in relation to its communist leanings, only intensifying under the island’s offerings as a where the Greek leftists were expelled in the mid-twentieth century.
I don’t personally care much about getting to 97 or 102, but I find the prospect of island communists drinking immortality strangely inspiring. After running around all my life, I thought maybe I should slow down and see what it really means. My first visit to Ikaria in 2020 was plagued by the coronavirus, but on June 12, 2022, I arrived by ferry from Athens in the small coastal Ikarian village of Armenistis.
My plan is simple: I will take a month to relax, reorganize myself and become an extremely quiet person – nourished by goat milk and communist emotions – take frequent naps and read beach book.
Things looked promising at first. The terrace of my penthouse offers expansive views of the Aegean Sea and the cove below, where the water consists of an enchanting patch of blue. I have hiked through the hills, smelled the trees and flowers of the island and drank half a liter of homemade wine at the pub, on which is a picture of a man who looks about 90 and often swims or drives machine around. .
The man lived in New York, he told me, and invited me to his ranch on the way to get some apricots. One young Ikarian – who also tried his hand at life in America and quickly returned home – wittily remarked to me: “Ikarians are terrible at capitalism.”
Unfortunately, in Armenistis I quickly realized that I happened to be pretty good at it. Although I want to relax, teaching is hard to die for. I have begun to effectively apply capitalist thinking and work ethic to entertainment.
It’s not enough to relax on the beach with a book; instead, I have to be the best beach book writer ever, exuding grace and harmony with a serene backdrop even as I race to fill my page quota. his day. I had to simultaneously become the best island hiker, island plant-sniff, pub frequenter, sea swimmer, etc., despite fully realizing the counterproductive nature of its approach. Entertainment became a chore and/or competition and the vicious circle was only reinforced by my growing agitation with the fact that I clearly couldn’t relax.
I am also acutely aware that this is a strange kind of privileged torture – and that the vast majority of people in the world cannot afford to spend their time being neurotic in paradise. Whenever it seemed like I wasn’t going to complete all the countless tasks that I had assigned to myself for the day, I experienced the kind of heart palpitations that defined my teenage years in America. Back then, the need to excel in all academic and extracurricular endeavors to achieve the perfect “whole” status on my college application greatly affected my nervous system.
On June 29, I attended one of Ikaria’s famous panygiria – parties honoring saints and usually lasting all night. These festivals don’t fit into my schedule, as I have a habit of waking up before dawn to feel that I’m beating the rest of the world. However, I went to the village of Pezi, up the mountain from Armenistis, to greet Saints Peter and Paul.
I have chosen hitchhike, and was first picked up by a Norwegian couple looking for a gas station and then by a young Greek on a motorbike. He twirled calmly around the mountain curves as the sun set over the sea, and I dug my fingernails into his shoulder and let out cries in different decibels.
Hundreds of people attended the outdoor party, enjoying goat meat, drinking local wine and dancing to the music provided by a tireless four-person choir. Concentric circles of dancers spin around with clasped hands; aside, a gray-haired man made an energetic leap to the encouragement of a man and woman crouched on the ground in front of him, clapping their hands.
At first, I was numb, immersed in the existential pain of not having a culture, a community, or, I decided, even an identity, other than being a cog in the capitalist machine. In the end, though, I’d had enough of the booze that nothing was more important, and I stormed the outer ring, holding one hand at either side of me. Around us go at breakneck speed, as I cling to dear life and feel before nostalgia for this fleeting eternal moment.
I tried to leave panygiri at one o’clock in the morning but was informed by the Greeks at my desk that I would never find a train so early. I finally left at 2:30 a.m. and was escorted back to Armenistis by three men in a car. Two women in another car took me the rest of the way.
The next day, I had a large rash that started under my right arm and extended down my side and all over my back. I rushed to the nearest place to a pharmacy in Armenistis, which also served as a barber shop and where I bought a beach towel with a giant lion on it. The boss’s daughter took a look and claimed it was the work of the white Ikarian moth, she said, I must have been exposed to panygiri.
In response to my follow-up question, she looked at me with amusement mixed with seriousness and replied, “Of course you’re not going to die, you’re in Ikaria.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.