After my first introduction to Greece I knew that I felt a connection to the people and the culture. I felt like I belonged. I knew that my 3rd summer was going to have to be on a Greek island. Thank goodness the Travel Gods heard my prayers...I was headed to Rhodes for 6 months and I was chuffed to bits.
I’m not sure why I always felt I had been caught off guard when I arrive in Greece. Somehow I manage to forget that the toilet paper has to go in the bins, there are no washing machines and accommodation is as basic as a broom cupboard. I forget these major issues…yet I still want to go! Is that glutton for punishment or simply embracing a past life? Whichever it was, I was thrilled to be in Rhodes like an excited child in a candy store!
“Rodos” (as the Greeks called it) is an island which has one of the most infamous places in all of Greece…Lindos! Such a beautiful picturesque whitewashed village perched on the side of a hill with its little cobbled stoned walkways, quaint shops, boutique bars interspersed with traditional tavernas. The beach located in the cove below was probably the best on the island…white sand and crystal clear water that lapped gently onto the shore line. Sounds rather glorious doesn’t it? One small, tiny, itsy little downside to Lindos…it was the HOTTEST place on earth in summer. The temperature would reach to over 100 degrees….in the shade!! If you were brave enough to withstand the heat on that side of the island… Your car tyres may not have. There were instances where the heat was so bad car tyres would literally melt. Yup…some would have said “hell”…but since I wasn’t located on that side of the island… I was in heaven!
The one time I did go to Lindos for a night out with a bunch of reps, I got so blindingly drunk in one of the bars I ended up puking all over the beautiful cobbled stone streets in front of the locals, climbed over some wall, and had to be escorted back to a reps apartment where I passed out until morning. So my one time in Lindos was scarred and I was far too embarrassed to show my face down there again.
Rhodes is a very historical island covered in huge amounts of ruins and old temples. There is amazingly dramatic scenery, picturesque views and overwhelmingly lovely people. There are trips to the nearby island of Symi – home to the worlds finest sponge divers – yes…thats right…’sponge’ which you use to bathe with, originated at the bottom of the ocean. This was a fascinating eye opener for me…learn something new everyday! Not only are they renowned for their sponge diving abilities, but also their shrimp…YUM! Symi shrimp has got to be the most delicious crustacean I have ever had the pleasure of eating in its entirety.
For those people who like cheap bargains such as cheap cigarettes and even cheaper dvd’s, then Turkey is pretty much a hop, skip and a jump away by ferry. Ok…let me rephrase that…on a map it looks like a hop, skip and a jump…in reality it is a stomach churning 1 hour journey that feels more like 3 days. That particular day we went across to Turkey was AWFUL! It was raining, the sky was dark, it was freezing and the waves were strong enough and big enough to rock and roll this giant sized catamaran/ferry boat thingy.
My first 3 months in Rhodes was definitely not hunky dory. My first couple of months was in Kalithea – where I couldn’t drive, so I had to rely on my colleague to get me to my 2 hotels. I was quite close to Falaraki – but the 2 nights I went out there for the entire summer was definitely not all it was cracked up to be. After 2 months there was a ‘rep shift around’ – which meant I was transferred to a hotel in the middle of freaking nowhere in Kolymbia…my view was a mountain. I was actually the one to beg for a transfer…luckily one of the newbies decided she couldn’t handle the job and left…the Universe answered my prayer and I was moved closer to civilization.
For the remainder of the summer I was based near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Rhodes Old Town, in the resort town called Ixia. I was repping 4 hotels that were located along the single main road that led around the island. It was a great spot actually. My hotels were all in a row, there were reps from other companies based nearby (who I got on really well with), and there was a cafe a few doors down from my hotels that served awesome food and had English channels so we could catch up on soaps and shows like XFactor.
I lived in one of my hotels…which was pretty awesome…only from the point of view that I could sneak off to my room early and get reception to call me if guests needed me. Bonus! What wasn’t so great was being on the sane floor as guests…I would literally have to become James Bond every time I walked in and out of my room. I would come out of the elevator and pretend I was delivering a note to my door. I would pause….wait…look around…and quickly open the door and run inside. Coming out was kinda the same. I would stand at my door quietly, crack it open, take a quick peek and bolt out of there like a bat out of hell. The hotel staff used to laugh at me and my stealth moves. I’m sure I entertained them a lot.
Living in a hotel had its perks. I had a clean room. Fresh linens and towels delivered once a week, free meals available on the top floor restaurant, an abundance of friends (all the staff in the hotel), TV with a couple American channels and not very far to go once my day was finished. However the downside was major… No cooking facility…except a kettle. No place to hang wet clothes after hand washing them and absolutely no privacy since every staff member knew your comings and goings at all times during the day and night.
Life in Ixia was quite peaceful. I enjoyed having meals with my colleague (LT) once a week at a taverna that quickly became our regular dining spot. We would regale each other with stories of our guests antics and we would compare notes on our sales techniques and customer service approach. Sometimes we would go to Bar Street and have our own mini bar crawl. Life in Ixia was quiet because we were the only reps in the area since everyone was spread out across the island.
To be perfectly honest, my season in Rhodes passed without much of an issue… until the end…when I actually waved goodbye to the entire team and watched the hotel I lived in, close down for the summer. It was not by choice I was staying….I had been too much of a procrastinator when it came to to renewing my passport. Now I was literally stranded on a Greek island which was now officially closed for the summer!
For the duration of my stay on the island, I had to find somewhere else to call my temporary home. I had no idea when the passport would turn up – but I knew I needed it to arrive asap. In the meantime, I had to arrange an alternative flight to the UK via Athens (with a 6 hour layover) and I had to find a friend who could pick me up in the UK and allow me to stay with them until I could find someone else to stay with until the winter season started. Sigh!!! What a rigmarole!
Naturally I was a rep…which meant I had luggage…and lots of it! How on earth was I going to get my entire life back to the UK without incurring major costs that would require the sale of my left kidney and first born child?? Luckily enough a local friend of mine suggested a grand idea – and for anyone who doesn’t know about this – its so SIMPLE… I posted my 3 over sized suitcases to the UK for a fraction of the cost of being charged the overweight fee! (It took about 3 weeks – but if you can wait, then I definitely recommend it).
Eventually, after much panicking and worry I finally got my passport in my hand! I can barely describe the relief I felt. After spending nearly 3 weeks eating subway sandwiches in a hotel room, nothing felt greater than being able to confirm my flight out. This was no longer a holiday destination where I was living my dream – the weather had taken a turn for the worse as winter was drawing in quite fast, and it felt like I had entered a nightmare.
I went to bed the night before my flight feeling relieved that I was actually leaving… but I was quite anxious about where I was going to stay and if my friend would be able to pick me up. I remember quite clearly that I woke up the next morning and my ear was completely blocked and hurting me! I panicked – because I knew that if this had happened to a guest I would have strongly advised they got an all clear from the doctor before flying. Here I was with liquid now draining from my ear, and the mere thought of going to a doctor to be told I couldn’t fly was NOT high on my list of priorities. There was no way in hell I was going to be told I couldn’t fly – I knew whatever I did next would have been a huge risk….
I remember landing in Athens a few hours later unable to hear a sound out of the still draining ear, and in rather excruciating pain. I went to the pharmacy got some drops and cotton, and simply prayed because there wasn’t much else I could do. The layover was the worst part of the entire journey, because this is the point when a raging fever started. I felt delirious, exhausted and so unbelievably cold. Every ounce of energy was starting to leave my body slowly as I waited patiently for my flight to be called. All I wanted to do was sleep. My eyes were burning me, my throat was dry… I knew I couldn’t fall asleep otherwise I would miss the flight. Thankfully after a torturous 6 hours the flight started boarding and I slumped into my seat like a rag doll feeling rather frightened and unsure what was going on with my ear as it continued to drain a funny colour.
I barely remember landing in the UK, waiting for my friend (RG) to pick me up or reaching her parents house. I know I made small talk but I kept dipping in and out of consciousness. I know that by the time I got to her parents house I was burning up and I literally passed out. I remained delirious for what felt like weeks. I couldn’t eat or drink anything…it made me puke. I was burning up on the inside and I had made peace with my Maker…I was just upset my mom didn’t know what was happening to me and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
God bless RG’s mum for taking care of me with cold rags, ice, medication and a trip to the doctors….once the fever had broken. Turns out I had contracted a rather serious ear infection which had damaged my eardrum. I was lucky it hadn’t ruptured…but I was completely deaf in one ear for 2 months….worse feeling ever!
My time in Rhodes was wonderful and thoroughly enjoyable – but my procrastination proved I had to manage my time properly, get organized and stay focused. I changed a lot after that incident – I definitely made sure to check my passport expiry date every year…just in case I had another brush with death.