By Scott Shephard
Those who have travelled to foreign lands and have encountered people in remote areas who don’t speak English, can find it intimidating. Add a stern looking bearded man who seems to demand that you stop your car (as you drive on a road that goes from public to private without signage) and you can find it especially scary. But a couple years ago when it happened to us, it was not what it seemed.
The bearded man was simply inviting us to have coffee, break bread and enjoy his and his wife’s hospitality. And so for an hour or so my wife, my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law and I sat on the porch of their home in rural Crete and enjoyed the opportunity. We didn’t speak Greek and they didn’t speak English but through pantomime, pictures and ultimately Google Translate, we conversed.
It turns out that the man and his wife were shepherds who hand milked 100 sheep every day. They had work to do but they interrupted their early evening to host us. We ate their pastries and drank their raki. They offered to feed us dinner and, thinking that we must be lost, they offered us a place to sleep. It wasn’t easy but we convinced them that we had a place to stay and dinner to eat there. But before we left, we watched them herd the sheep into the barn and begin the laborious milking process. As a parting gift, they gave us a liter of fresh sheep’s milk.
Traveling to a foreign country involves planning that starts months before the trip. But, as is often the case, it’s the unplanned things that happen as we travel that leave the strongest memories.