Not only is it Election day, but today is the day we have to visit the house that is for sale next to Pam's in Vatoussa. The owner is coming at two. Pam and Andrea decide to spackle the shutters of Yaya's house. Amarandi and I go for a walk in the back yard where we find a big fig tree in the olive grove beyond. We eat a few figs and take some pictures of what's left of the house until it's time to go. As we leave Xidera and approach the outskirts of Vatoussa, we pass people on their way to the polling places, all decked out in their Sunday best. Well, it is Sunday too, but it is obvious that the Greeks are the best dressed voters in the world. When we get to the platia of Vatoussa an old man yells at us."What's the matter with you? They are waiting at the house." Pam looks at her watch. It's only five minutes til two. We are early. Andrea is following a few meters behind. The old man gives her the same treatment, then continues on feeling proud of himself for having gotten the best of the Americans. The owne r unlocks the house and gives us the tour. It's a nice house with lots of rooms and some terrific views. When he tells us the price it's eight and a half million, double what we were told four days before by the neighbors. Special price for Americans. He won't negotiate and I don't want the house anyway so it's a short meeting. We get in the car and drive to the beach.

Our first stop is the grilled sardine restaurant at Campo Antissa but they are out of food Kosta tells me. This time he says they won't have sardines until summer. Instead we drive to the fishing village of Gavatha on the other side of the valley and go into the only restaurant that is still open, which is also a hotel. There are several large parties of people visiting for the elections. We order grilled tuna fillets but an hour later we get fried tuna steaks. The woman who cooks and owns the restaurant has been here for twenty years but is from Jersey City. The service is terrible but she is nice, if not a little overwhelmed by the amount of business today. Anyway the few is nice. After eating we walk down to the tiny harbor. Gavatha is a beach community badly in need of developement. They have a beautiful paved stone harbor but the surrounding houses are placed anywhere, half of them in ruins, the rest in bad taste or filled with garbage. I am content to throw bread to the fish but Andrea tells me to come quickly to where she is standing on a hill overlooking the sea. She points to what remains of a corrogated steel shed on the hill above her next to a small white church. The wind has ripped apart half the building. Inside is a tank with it's gun pointed at Turkey. I investigate closer. It's treads are in a pile on either side and it's covered in rust. It's clearly a piece of junk. Greece's first line of defense. Still it looks dramatic and powerful even in death, like finding the decayed body of the minataur or a cyclops. I walk up to the church. It's dedicated to Saint Pandelimon and full of garish modern icons. There is an ugly cement sidewalk that leads down the hill and back to the village. I follow it to the car and pick up the girls so we can go to the beach of Liota. On the way Pam and I have an arguement about the potential of Gavatha. She takes the traditionalist point of view and says to leave the village the way it is. I ask what is traditional about a bunch of cinderblock huts filled with garbage. It's a beautiful spot. Put in a nice little park and organize a few buildings along the waterfront and you inject life into the area. Bring in some experienced people who open restaurants and cafes, clean the place up and teach the villagers that if they keep it clean it will attract visitors.They won't have to go hungry and their lives may become more interesting. To Pam this is "spoiling it." To me there is nothing to spoil.

We turn on to the dirt road that leads to Liotta. We drive through the village and run smack into a herd of sheep who panic and turn down the wrong road. The woman shephardess has to run after the and bring them back. She looks annoyed. We continue but come to a dead end. We backtrack and take another branch in the road but this one leads up a mountain and gets so bad that I make Andrea and Pam get out of the car so I can back down the mountain without tearing off the muffler. We change our plans and stop in the platia of the village. There is a spring in the square with sweet water pouring out. I go to look at the church. It's ancient and full of old icons. The girls make their crosses and kiss their favorite images while I sit on the hill behind the church that has a view of the entire valley. I am amazed at how green it is. I feel like I am in the Smokey Mountains. When we go back to the platia we meet a woman who lives in the village who tells us the history of the church and the holy spring. In the tenth century the daughter of a king in Anatolia developed leprosy. Her father sent her away in a boat and she came here. When she walked to this spot she saw some pigs that even though they were rolling in the mud from the spring, they didn't get dirty. She thought that perhaps this was a magical spring so she too rolled in the mud. She was instantly cured and built this church. It was over a thousand years old. As amazing is the platanos tree that shades the platia. It's base was the size of a giant California Redwood. The woman tells us that according to the records from Molyvos, the tree is also a thousand years old.

The woman invites us to her house for coffee but I elect to stay by myself in the square and enjoy the tranquility. Leaves from the old tree have fallen into the waters of the spring and it suddenly looks and feels like autumn. I am relaxed and at peace, until I hear Amarandi crying from the woman's house. An old man walks up leading his donkey and sees me at the fountain. My presense takes him by surprise and he asks me who I am and what I am doing here.I tell him I am from Xidera. "But why do you speak like that?" he asks me. I admit that I am American and to my relief he doesn't talk about Clinton. He tells me that everyones has left the village except for a few families. Now some Germans have bought the ruins and restored them. He points at a monstrosity of a house with enormous windows that looks as out of place as a Coney Island hot-dog stand. "Malakas", he snorts and walks off. I return to my contemplation, half expecting him to come back and continue the conversation, but he never does.

When the girls return we drive back to Xidera singing the Twelve Days of Christmas even though it's only September.

Tonight the village priest makes his first appearance at Aglaia's. According to Thanasis he has been hiding out in his home because he has been drinking too much. This must be a tough posting for a villlage priest. He is pleased to see us. We tell him we had seen a portrait of him on Andrea's Aunt Yota's piano. "In the bedroom?" he asks us with a shocked look on his face. "Of course not", says Andrea. "In the living room, on the piano".

I go across the street to watch the election returns with Thanasis and a group of men who keep filling my ouzo glass and offering me what I thought were little sausages but discover they are merely hot-dogs. They are also eating something called 'elies pikra' which means 'bitter olives. These are the green olives that fall early from the trees. I am told not to eat them alone but in the same mouthful as a piece of bread and tomato. All I taste is the bread and tomato. It's too early to tell who the winner is so I go across the street to have dinner with Andrea and Amarandi. Pam had fallen asleep and was skipping dinner. I'm not very hungry and have to struggle to finish the fried eggplant and salad Aglaia has given me. Just when I thought my task was completed she plops down before me another plate of the sheeps liver and spleen. She must have an endless supply, and for some reason Amarandi is not interested in it tonight so I have to finish the whole plate to avoid offending Avglaia's hospitality. I am able to stop her before she gives me a second helping and hurry across the street to avoid any more and to watch the elections. Miltiades Evert, the leader of New Democracy is not only giving his concession speech, but stepping down as leader of the party, stating that the loss is his responsibility. He had cancelled his party rally in downtown Athens saying that the Greek people are tired of these shows. Pasok had held theirs and as Simitis spoke the camera's panned on hundreds of thousands of supporters filling the square at Green Park, and the large avenues adjoining it. It was a powerful image.

I sit next to the priest who tells me he has submitted a blank voting card. "What do you expect", he tells me. "I'm a priest". Everytime I ask him a question about what's going on on TV he says "How should I know? I'm a priest." I'm hungry for information and I'm sitting with the one guy in the village who knows less then me. He invites me for coffee at his house tommorow which I accept. Maybe he has a spiritual problem he wants to confide in me. I get up for a moment to quickly ask Thanasis what is going on and from the corner of my eye I see the priest slip out, most likely offended. Thanasis explains that Pasok has won.

But the election is not over in Xidera. Stavros asks if I want to help him bring food to the soldiers at the school where they are tallying the votes. I carry the bread. We walk to the top of the village to the school. The entrance is crowded with teenage boys awaiting the results. Lost in the group is a short soldier, guarding the entrance in full battle dress, holding a large automatic rifle. We are allowed to pass. The boys are envious of Stavros being able to pass the guard and curious who I am. Inside a classroom it looks like a barracks. Mattresses and sleeping bags are laid out on the floor and the soldiers are involved in various activities until the food arrives and they jump up. There are childrens drawings and educational posters and pictures on the walls and it's strange to see the soldiers and the guns in this setting. We leave but return with more fried potatos, retsina and coca-cola. One of the soldiers asks me where I am from and is surprised to find out I am American. He is from one of the lo wer class neighborhoods near Omonia Square in Athens. Though he is very young his teeth are falling out. I ask him how he likes the army. "What's to like? he asks. "Do this. Go here. Do that. Yes sir. No sir. It's a bunch of crap."

"Yes but you get to do jobs like this", I point at his surroundings.

"Yes. This is fun," he admits but he doesn't like being posted in Petra where all the tourists are old British couples. He's only got six months left and he'll survive. Stavros and I say goodbye and the soldiers thank us and wave. As we leave one of the officials is dialing the phone and I wonder if he is calling in the results to Mytilini. At the gate of the school we are surrounded by the teenagers who for some reason want me to do a chin-up on the trellis. I resist but finally make a feeble attempt. Then they want to know who my favorite NBA team is. I tell them Charlotte Hornets and they seem dissapointed. They all want to talk about Michael Jordon and the Chicago Bulls but I don't think this is an appropriate audience for me to criticize either, which is my usual stance, and so we say goodbye instead. When we get back to Avglaia's everyone wants to know what it was like in the school. I describe it as best I can and leave them discussing it to watch whatever's left of the election on TV. A few minutes la ter, Thanasis' son Yorgos, who has been staying with an aunt while he attends trade school in Mytilini, runs into the cafeneon from the polling station. He excitedly recites the numbers he has heard. 289 for Pasok. 210 for New Democracy. 33 for the Communist...and down the line. One of the men tallies it up. "It's impossible he says. This adds up to six-hundred and there are only 400 people in the village. Yorgo seems disappointed that his information is inaccurate. I continue to ask Thanasis questions about voting in Greece and he wants to know about America. I laugh about the soldiers and tell him that when I go to vote I walk into a room where there is a desk. Behind the desk is a big fat old man with a white beard, a black man, and a woman. Who check my name off a list.

"Wait a minute. Do you mean everywhere you vote in America you have one black man, a fat old man with a beard and a woman?" he asks incredulously as if the three are some kind of symbolic triumvirate tradition dating back to 1776. I appologize for not being more clear and explain that this is just my village. Who knows how the people look in other villages. He nods and happens to look out the door just as the village president is passing by holding a manila envelope.

"Get in here!" he yells. "Let me have those numbers so we can start collecting on our bets",he jokes as he writes down the results the village leader gives him. George had been correct except he had said two-hundred for both Pasok and ND, where it was only one-hundred. "Tomorrow the paper will give us a breakdown for the whole island", he tells me. "Something to look forward to", I think as I say goodnight and walk home.