Expatriation with the family often raises many issues, including safety, infrastructure and cultural integration. Having opted for my part for single-parent expatriation on the Cretan island, here is my assessment a few months after my arrival.
In search of a nursery
When arriving in Crete last year with my daughter, It was difficult to find resources on the web before leaving regarding the reception facilities for her. Greece does not do particularly well in writing and even less in virtuality: when one wishes to obtain information on reception infrastructures, whatever they may be, it is on the field that they'll find them.
So I imagined myself landing in Crete and desperately searching for weeks for a daycare centre, filling out long forms, going back and forth to the administrations. Finally, the wait was short. In one day's time, on the second daycare visit, registration was completed. A few papers to fill out, a check-up visit to the paediatrician, a tax number to be created and registered by the Greek administration and our adventure at the local pre-school had begun.
The results of my few visits were unanimous: encouraging. Very well equipped and organized buildings, smiling and ultra-avenant staff, and impeccable cleanliness: nothing to envy to the Western European cousins, despite a standard of living far below that of most of them.
This all was foreshadowing my general upcoming experience with Layla here: a walk in the wood!
"To moraki", the baby is everything
It must be said that here, if the monarchy is no longer, to moraki - the little baby - is king, with religion. Having an infant at his side is like winning the lottery. A universal fact, you will tell me, difficult to find a country where the bulk of the masses are not softened by a cherub. But Greece remains a champion among the champions. The first results of the experiment were visible in the neighbourhood where we live. The neighbours of the Guesthouse, used to my winter presence for almost 6 years, all smiled up to their ears when they realized a few months ago that I was coming to spend the summer with my miniature version.
Since our arrival, even the most austere of them, the "Papou" (grandfather), my neighbour across the street, until then particularly austere and stingy in words, have become true tender hearts at Layla's sight. Marks of affection, unexpected smiles, improbable chirping… And what about the "yayas", those grandmothers who make up our daily landscape.
Without exaggeration, I could stop feeding my daughter. Our passage through the maze of village alleys and our frequent stops in front of each house door where her name is shouted out, like a star, allows us to take home every day enough to fill the fridge: fruit from the orchard, fresh eggs from the henhouse, chocolate bar, cinnamon biscuits, and so on.
The child, a matter of state
Agapi mou is''my love'', a sweet word reserved for lovers in Greek language. In fact, it is a very common expression for babies and young children, whether they are familiar or not. This is how Layla is called every day by strangers, who have a duty to transmit affection, who kiss her chubby arms, caress her hair or even take her in their arms.
A gesture that some, coming from cultures with more reserved morals, would feel like an aggression. But cultural integration requires the assimilation of differences. And the collective attention paid to children, which is in fact a shared responsibility, quickly becomes a comfort for solo parents, a category to which I belong.
Lots of babysitters
I leave home, my arms loaded with heavy and cumbersome bags, Layla drags her feet at the idea of climbing our alleyway on a slope, in the heat of the middle of the afternoon. No worries, the neighbour, who is usually not very talkative, leaves his garden, extends his hand and helps her to climb the mountain.
I am in a tavern, I have ordered delicious mezze and I am looking forward to enjoying the Cretan cuisine while staring at the sea, but Layla, who explores every nook and cranny of the tavern, is
heading towards the street, passing by. No problem! No problem! The customers, the boss, all attentive, all with a mission, intercepts her and explains in a Greek that she understands, that the
playground is inside.
Layla is asleep, the night has fallen, but my day is not over, I have to clean up all the plant debris I left on the street after my gardening session. I need someone to come and sit near the house and watch for a possible night wake up. I pass my head, shy in the grocery store on my street, still open and in my few words of Greek, I ask for a volunteer. I am made to understand with a broad smile that it is an honour and the grocer, her daughter and niece rush into my yard to take their turn on guard.
If ever you were thinking... just come :)
I ever you were thinking to come to Crete with your kids, young or older, don't hesitate. You will not regret the experience! The Guesthouse is fully equipped in toys, board games, activity cards,everything to entertain the whole tribe when you won't be out on an adventure with them!