Wednesday, April 25, 2007

We like American

Greece Day 1-Santorini, April 11.

Katie and I are heading to the bus stop. We want to explore the island of Santorini and have been told the bus is a good way to do so.

We pass a local grocery and remember that we need bottled water for our outing. The prices are much better here than at our hotel, which is just one block away. I suppose this is not surprising as the four star hotel is normally filled with tourists from America, Germany, France and Great Britain.

It's not full now. We are two of a total of eight guests, the first of the season. The others are all Americans. As far as I can tell, they are like us. Not rich, scraped enough money together for a dream vacation and that is why they are here in April.

But the Greeks don’t buy it. We are from America. We are rich.

We are not yet at the bus stop. We’ve got our water, at 30 cents, Euro, and we are trying to get there. We see the bus kiosk and make our way down the walk. Katie spies a carpet and handwork shop, embroidery, stitching, that sort of thing. An old Greek man in an old Greek suit smiles and beckons us in to look around. We are one block from the hotel, day one of our eight day tour of Greece, about ten minutes into our trip.

“Come, come. Look.” Most everyone here speaks English. He is old. He doesn’t.


“No, we are from the United States.”

“Ah,” with some excitement. “American. Welcome. We like American.” And strangely, he stands like a soldier and salutes.

“For you,” he continues and starts digging around under some carpets and then produces a nice Santorini postcard.

Katie is looking at the embroidered table loths. Uh-oh.

“How much?”

“Four hundred.”



Katie and I look at each other, wondering.

“He can’t mean four hundred Euros. That would mean almost $550.”

I turn back to the old man. He smiles. I notice that some of his teeth are missing.

“Do you mean forty Euros?”

He gets a pen and a 2 inch wide scroll of printer paper. There is no cash register or printer around. He writes, 400.

I turn to Katie. “Maybe he means 4 Euros?”

I write.
400? And push the paper back.

He circles the 400, then grabs another ebroidery that Katie is looking at, placing it with the other one. He hold up two fingers and writes, 600.

We are very confused.

“Four daughters, 65 days,” he says and makes some stitching motions.

“Hold on,” we say and disappear a couple doors down to get the grocer. He tells us that the carpet shop is closed but we know that the old man is there. He comes with us, leaving his cash register open. We think the grocer must be good at English. He is not timeless old, like the old man, but he is old enough not to care that most of the world speaks English.

He talks to the old man. The old man talks.

“Six hundred for two,” the grocer says.


“Yes.” And disappears.

“Can’t be,” I say to Katie. “Let’s go. We just got here. We need to talk to somebody that speaks English.”

She hesitates and the old man smiles. “Daughters.” More stitching motions.

We write again. He writes. We aren’t getting anywhere. I pull some Euros out and show him a 10.

“How many?” I ask.

“400 for two.” Fingers up.

“40 tens?” I say, waving a Ten Euro in the air.


“Too much,” we say, now keeping two one syllable words. And we start to leave the shop. We know there is some serious communication problem going on.

“Wait. For you, 300.”

I pull out my wallet again and count out three tens.

“Will that do?”

“Yes,” he says, and more missing teeth.

We take the pretty do-dad, I’m not exactly sure what it is, and start for the door. His wife makes an entrance and she is all smiles, too. She makes stitching motions. “I make.” We get a picture and then leave.

This incident provides us with many laughs and a lot of conversation for two days. Did he really want 400 Euros, 600 for two? Or was it really 40? Or 4? Maybe we paid 30 and could have gotten five of them.

We are not sure and we never made it to the bus stop.

No comments: