Last night we got on a boat that was full of young men in casual clothes. By morning they had been transformed into uniformed soldiers. Lesvos is a few miles from the coast of Turkey and there is a strong military presence here. I watch as a soldier who has been waiting patiently by his jeep salutes one of our fellow travelers now in the uniform of an officer. He tosses the chauffer his bag and goes to the port cafe for a coffee. The quay is full of soldiers waiting for transportation to bases around the island. Most are the equivelent of American Green Berets. With the double murder of two Greek/Cypriot protesters these are tense times. Especially on these border islands. I suddenly feel like a wimp, pushing Amarandi's stroller and bending with the weight of my pack. I am aware that even though I am much older, I am like a boy among men. These are Greece's elite fighting men who have had the boy trained out of them. They are on Lesvos for one reason. To protect the country from Turkish invasion. It's an unli kely event. Turkey is surrounded by enemies who would leap at the chance to join the fray and take a piece of the spoils, while within the country the Kurds are waiting for their moment. An attack on Greece may be the signal they all need to justify the long waited retaliation for Ottoman oppression. For this reason it is unlikely the Turks would attempt to invade Lesvos or any Greek island, but the threat unifies the Greeks which is remarkable in itself.

So these boys who overnight have turned to men prepare for a war that will probably never happen while I feeling meek and vulnerable in T-shirt, shorts and baby stroller make my way through the crowd of uniforms thinking of my own little war. For the next two weeks it will be me, pitted against the Jerome sisters in verbal hand to hand combat. My only ally will be my daughter Amarandi, who will switch sides like a bedouin arms merchant, supplying whoever will offer more, be it hard currancy or ice-cream.

Mytilini town at seven in the morning is a beautiful place. Traffic is light and the air is clean. Already the market street is alive with fish, meat and vegetable sellers.I am instantly attracted to the fish shops which are full of sardines, anchovies, and mackeral for under two dollars a pound. I can spend hours looking at these fish, so fresh their eyes shine like cat's caught in headlights. I stare at the sardeles pastes, easily my favorite. These were caught this morning and immediately salted.

By evening they will be sold in the cafeneons to be peeled and eaten with ouzo, the Lesbian equivelent of sushi, and to my taste, superior. And at a thousand drachma a kilo, a hundred times cheaper.

Andrea pulls me away from the magnetic fish and into a cafeneon full of old men. Though she usually has no qualms about invading the sanctitiy of these men-only cafes, this time she hesitates at the door. "Is it open?" she asks me even though we can both see the place is full and loud male voices are echoing off the stone walls and high ceilings. I know what she means and I feel iritated that she would cross a boundry that no woman from the island would dare, and that I was her accomplice. I become self-concious about my role in her incursion. I am a traitor to my race and my gender. My shirt is too orange, my shorts are too purple and holding my daughter I feel like a fool in the company of these old men who have fought for their beliefs and for their livlihoods in harder times. I notice on the wall two portraits of Aris Velouchiotis, the communist guerilla leader and hero who harrassed the Germans and helped liberate the country after WWII, only to be hunted down and killed by the army of the right-wing gov ernment that the British and Americans decided should rule after the occupation. In Greece the end of the second world war meant the beginning of a civil war which was even bloodier, as the army, which had fled from the advancing Germans and gone to Egypt with the government in exile, returned to go to war with the communists, who from the mountains, had organized, attacked, and then filled the vacuum created by the retreating Germans and controlled almost all of Greece.

A communist Greece was not part of the post war vision the great powers had in mind so in what could be called the beginning of the Cold War, the Americans supplied the money and the weapons in a bloody fight that pitted brother against brother and tore villages and families apart. Men who had been heros for their exploits against the Germans, were now called murderers and scoundrals, hunted down, imprisoned, tortured, exiled or killed. When it was over Greece was 'free' from communism until it was legalized after the fall of the military Junta in 1974. Now in a country in which over 80% of the people vote for either Pasok(socialist) or New Democracy(conservative), the island of Lesvos is known for the popularity of the communist party. I am aware that I sit in a room full of old men who half a century ago wore their hair long, rode horses, wore cartridge belts and used vintage rifles against a powerful enemy with tanks and modern weapons and after attaining victory found themselves doing it all over again ag ainst their own country men, this time suffering defeat. It is unlikely that I will ever know the feeling of betrayal that these men have felt. One old man sits next to his cup of turkish coffee, his mouth and the lines of his face point to the floor in a permanant frown. His eyes stare at a pop-art poster that looks completely out of place on the wall, though it is obvious to me that what he is seeing is the sadness of his own life. Lost loved ones, and broken dreams. I feel unworthy of the Turkish coffee I drink. To furthur drive in the point they have given it to me in a glass instead of the small white cups the old men drink from.

I escape to the market and look at the fish again. While the rest of Greece has watched their fish populations decline due to unorthodox fishing methods such as dynamite, it looks to me like the industry is alive and well in Lesvos. Most of the sardines and anchovies come from the bay of Kaloni, more like an inland sea. They are sold everywhere, fried, grilled or raw. Last year I carried home at least fifteen pounds of canned fish and another ten of tinned ouzo and was never asked to open my bags after sending them through the x-ray machines at Kennedy. The ouzo went fast. Canned sardines are a poor substitute for fresh and I still have some remaining. Nevertheless I am still inactively shopping for them. The headless ones in the blue cans are the best I have been told. The trick is to eat them before they eat their way through the cans.

At eight we rent a car from our friend Maria at Just Rent-A-Car in the harbor. Andrea talks her down several thousand drachma a day and is very proud of herself until she realizes we paid less in Sifnos. I don't care. I'm happy to be behind the wheel of a small car on a big island. We throw in our bags and Amarandi, who has fallen asleep on the rental office couch. The attraction of Mytilini town is strong, with it's tiny crowded streets, shops, restaurants and cafeneons, but we have a whole island to explore, villages to visit, beaches to swim, sardines to eat and ouzo to drink.

What lesvos is most known for is it's ouzo. It's common knowledge that the best ouzo comes from the island and while you could say the same about olive oil and several other of the Lesvos exports, there are few in Greece who would disagree when it comes to the quality of the ouzo. There are several comercial brands that are sold all over Greece such as Ouzo Mini with it's logo of a girl in a mini-skirt, or Ouzo Veto, Andrea's favorite, a red label with what looks like the same stamp that US presidents use to exercise their power. There are some smaller companies that are unknown outside of lesvos and there is the Xima, homemade or nameless, as good or better then the commercial brands. Then there is Barbayannis from the village of Plomari where it is said that all the inhabitants are insane. Whether it's from the ouzo I don't know but Barbayannis is generally considered to be the strongest ouzo which some translate as the best. To me ouzo is only as good as the mezedes that are being served with it.

Unlike most nationlities, the Greeks don't drink to get drunk. They drink to enjoy life and drinking ouzo is an art form. Never taken alone it is served with snacks called mezedes. My favorites are of course the sardelles pastes, octopus, and the simple tomato, feta and olive combo. In the fancy ouzeries of Athens and the more exploited islands the meze is ordered seperately for about a thousand drachma a plate. In the remote villages of Lesvos they are served when one orders a glass or caraffe of ouzo. The food, and some say particularly the olive oil, help the drinker to maintain an even keel and instead of becoming abnoxiously drunk they become profoundly appreciative of life in the moment. The villages are filled with glassy-eyed old men with contented smiles. Friendly towards foreigners, they ask questions and laugh easily or they can sit in zen-like silence until a falling leaf or passing caterpillar captures their attention and illicits a comment. This is the life that awaits me as we drive up the pine covered mountain roads, across the plain of Kaloni and over the next mountain range where the pines have changed to olive groves and the terrain is noticibly more rocky.