Life & an education on Kefalonia by UK volunteer – Sam Howell.

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Sam
Sam

Sam grew up in Gloucestershire, England. He concluded his formal studies with a BA in Creative Writing and English in London. He is regularly drawn to Greece and Italy, before being drawn back to England. Though his future is uncertain, his main concern is to be based where he can continue to learn, experience, and write whatever he feels needs writing.

His poetry has been published in ScintillaSouth Bank Poetry and Reflections, as well as various ezines. He is currently working on his debut collection, Lines.
Sam can be found on Twitter and www.sam-howell.tumblr.com.  Here he shares with Life Beyond Borders his experiences on the Greek island of Kefalonia.


A few weeks ago (the fifth of my eight here so far), having the day off I decided to spend it in and around the centre of Sami.

The morning had passed by swiftly with a visit to the acropolis and the monastery nearby, and before long I thought it best to make a local restaurant my next stop. However, having become used to the late hour that Greeks tend to eat their last meal of the day, I decided to follow the shore from the harbour at Sami to the other side of the bay, where Karavomilos sits at no great distance. It being the beginning of winter, I had nearly all of this walk to myself. Winter but the sun still shines, temperatures still approach the mid-twenties—a Greek November that outshines an English August. Tourists have made way for the winding down of the island as it braces itself, with wood-fires and winter-sheets, for the decline into the end of the year.

As I sat down on the smoothed and levelled stones of Karavomilos’ beach, looking out and across the water back towards Sami, I had ample time, as the warm late-afternoon sun made its gradual descent, to reflect on my first month, and to think on those yet to come.

My godfather is a Rhodian and I have had for my whole life a connection with Greece, though I have never lived here before.

I first experienced (though I don’t remember it) Rhodes when I was only a year old, newly christened; again at twelve, coming to gradually understand the place through young eyes; and since then I have often returned. It’s only now that I am in my early twenties that I’ve had enough time to become acquainted with not only Greece itself, its sunny surface as a popular holiday destination, but everything that is important; all that it was, is now and hopefully always will be: the birthplace of democracy, poetry, drama and so on. I could indulge in a fuller portrayal of its merits, but I trust the reader has been at least sufficiently introduced to the thanks that the modern West owes this country.

And so where am I now? I find myself in Kefalonia.

Why Kefalonia? First I might ask, Why not? But I would point out its many aspects that I value highly – not least in terms of their benefits to a poet. There are the arcadian landscapes – mountains carpeted in rocky heights verdantly thick with laurels and cypresses, ‘the exclamation marks of a landscape’, and the familiar trickling of goat-bells – these mountains, the hills and the sea, wrap themselves round the towns and villages, where you sit, outside some café, with eyes and admiration elevated. You have never seen blues like those which the sun stirs into the varying depths of the Melissani cave; the eerie chill of the Drogarati.

The island is rich with history.

In the museums at Argostoli, you can see ancient artifacts from the Mycenaean Age, or one of the original Greek ensigns from the Greek War of Independence, bearing modern Greece’s immortal motto, Ελευθερία ή θάνατος. Not far from the city sits St. George’s Castle: huge metal gates, tireless ancient walls, the abandoned canon – you can picture the canon, young again, raised and hot from action; the screen of smoke from gunpowder rising, overwhelming, shot after shot thundering through the air to the plains below; picture the soldier busying himself, back and forth, preparing each shot, screaming through the smoke and tumult –Τώρα! Τώρα! –as his comrade hurries to assistance…

I am here in Kefalonia volunteering on an organic farm with a local family.

It was the beginning of October when I arrived, fresh from the drear of England and raring to apply myself to anything and everything. I was greeted at the island’s small airport in Argostoli by my host—every bit the amiable, easy-going and passionate Greek I had become used to over the years.

The locals on Kefalonia ;0)
The locals on Kefalonia ;0)

Now settled into the rhythms of Sami and its environs, I live the quiet life (quiet until the goats “the devil’s children,” as my host likes to call them—stumble upon some new mischievous way to spark irritation).

Naturally there are as many Greek swearwords and fits of despair as there are kind words and fits of laughter. This is a Greek farm: we work hard, eat well, sleep well and go out to meet the next challenge, whether it require speed or, as is usually the case, the Greek way: ‘σéãά, σéãά’.

Busy on the farm
Busy on the farm

Whether the hour be given to sweating, rake in hand, up an olive tree, or, coffee in hand, sitting watching the sun play its colours through the dangling worry beads of a local, I give myself to that hour—for the experience and the inspiration afforded me by working well for board, lodge and a place among the family.

I am reminded of two of Socrates’ principles of a proper education: ‘exercise for the body, and music for the soul’. My education continues.

1 COMMENT

  1. We visited The Ark animal rescue centre last May, on the outskirts of Argostoli. My daughter has decided when she is old enough she will volunteer there. We have a network of friends in Kefalonia, she will be lucky enough to have accommodation with friends. It’s a fantastic experience on a fantastic Island! And don’t forget to visit Ithaca whilst on the Island, ferries from Sami tend to be once a day at 8am (please check if you plan to travel)

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