I must have been around 16 when I promised myself, I would visit Greece by the time I was 25. Growing up, I just knew my destiny laid way beyond my little home town in Asia. My mum had a saying in our local language, which loosely translated to, ‘You’d sell the world’. I was charming, had the gift of the gab and my mum knew long before I did, that I was destined for bigger and better (her words).
At the age of 23, I landed my first job upon graduating, and the first order of the day was a 2 week training course in… you guessed it, Greece. (I have only very recently realised I had manifested this dream into reality!).
The training course in Crete had participants from all over Europe and I got on especially well with the Dutch team. It must have been the second or third evening. My friend Breda and I were chatting over drinks when she waved over a colleague who was in her class. He came with a friend and we exchanged introductions, but I didn’t give his friend a second glance. I must have been away with the fairies, for when I did look up again, I was smitten! Edwin and I became good friends over the two week period and he introduced me to his other Dutch colleagues, all of whom very lovely. The training course was quite intense – we were in class from 8am to 6pm daily (with a 2 hour break in between) and the daily evening ritual started with dinner, then drinks by the poolside, followed by more drinks and dancing at the local club ‘The Paradise Bar’. I was a teetotaler back then but I probably had twice as much fun. Living La Vida Loca (Ricky Martin) and I’m Blue (Eiffel 65) became our party anthem.
The training course took place at a lovely resort. The route leading to the Paradise Bar entailed walking down a very steep hill which needed careful navigating on the return trip back to the resort! One very strong colleague and friend was even known to give piggyback rides to the boys who were a tad legless after a night out, up that very same hill.
We had both Saturday and Sunday off the first weekend and a tour into Crete was organised for those who fancied a bit of culture. It had been a long week, so understandable quite a few of my colleagues decided to lounge by the pool/on the beach. But not I, who had dreamed of Greece since the age of 16! We had a fantastic tour guide on the coach who regaled us with Greek myths, we visited two museums, followed by a stop in the town centre for a browse and coffee. I had photos from the trip filed away somewhere which I must dig out soon.
We were assigned a project one day – to design a car poster, with a catchy marketing slogan. There must have been four people in my team, but my memory fails me for I only remember Piotr from the Warsaw office, who had a brilliant idea. We had found two pictures from a magazine. One with a guy flanked by two models. The other, a picture of three luxury cars. Our poster started with the words ‘If you think there is only one thing on a guy’s mind’, followed by the picture of the guy and the models, and the words ‘Think Again’, concluded with the pictures of the car. Our team were done in an hour and we had the afternoon off! We found out later that evening that our team had won the competition!
My two week stint in Crete was over in a blink. I networked every day, made new friends and just felt blessed at the opportunity to realise the dream I had held since my teen.
I must say I was rather ballsy back then. I had developed a bad cough towards the end of my stay. On the flight from Athens to London, I was assigned a seat in the smoking area. My cough got so bad that I actually had the temerity to ask someone to stop smoking. Needless to say, I was quickly re-assigned a seat in the non-smoking section.
Edwin and I promised to stay in touch and we did for several years. When he heard my friends and I were visiting Amsterdam the following year, he met us for dinner and drinks (a story for another day).
My husband and I have made a pact that we would visit a new country every year from 2018. He has never been to Greece and I would love to visit Santorini. Here’s to making this dream come true too.