The pandemic has changed all of us. It taught us how short life can be, and for many like myself, living a life of delayed gratification was no longer an option. I decided to turn this pandemic experience into an opportunity to marry my two loves- Greece and cohousing. Of course, my wonderful, talented, kind, handsome son is my most treasured love, but that is another story.
While only half Greek, on my father’s side, I have always been fascinated about my Greek roots. As a child, my parents took me to visit my family on Lesvos, and I fell in love with Greece while swimming in the sea, eating Loukoumathes, and enjoying family. I was unabashed in my appreciation for Greek culture and would embarrass my cousins as I asked to ride the donkeys. Like all who come to Greece, I fell in love with the light, the food, the sea, the mountains, the history, the culture, and the people.
I would later return to Greece to develop an NGO to provide legal aid to refugees. I had graduated long ago from University of Virginia law school with a specialization in human rights and refugee law, and I enjoyed a focused and dedicated career in refugee law and services for over 20 years. When the war in Syria and Iraq led to rafts full of refugees washing onto the shores of Lesvos, I researched the need and wrote a proposal. I was lucky enough to have a talented and able supporter to champion my idea, and I went on to develop a Greek office of HIAS Greece. After a bureaucratically exhausting and complicated process, in the middle of a crisis, without speaking Greek, and with the whole of Europe in chaotic upheaval about this subject, I managed to complete the logistics, the hiring of multiple attorneys and interpreters, the organizational infrastructure, got the organization operational, and I handed the Greek office over to the very capable hands of a Greek Attorney and Refugee Law Specialist Director, Vasilis Karasiotis. It is successful to this day thanks to his skills and talents, hard work, and achievement. My work in Greece, however, left me no time to enjoy my family and to travel and learn more about this country I Ioved. I vowed to return and allow myself the opportunity to experience what I had not had the time to enjoy amidst nonstop work.
Touchstone today ((https://www.touchstonecohousing.org/):
Earlier in my life, I also spent several years living in Touchstone cohousing , and I found the experience transformative. Within just a few days of living in this community, I was overcome with how incredibly different and more supportive a place it was and what a joy it was to live there. Cohousing communities are “intentional communities.” This means they are full of people who intentionally choose to be caring neighbors and to invest in spending time with each other by cooking and eating together a few times a week, sharing some common resources like beautiful gardens and indoor spaces, and investing in collaborative community projects and celebrations. When you bring together a group of people who are diverse and have their own private lives and activities, but who also value and invest in each other and are there for one another, you are baking a community cake with great ingredients. Add to this a wider cohousing community of support as well as a host of cohousing professionals to help ensure everyone feels heard and conflict is minimized, and you have something I have never felt in any other village or neighborhood have lived in, no matter how warm. It feels very much like extended family, except extended family by choice. The popularity of cohousing among introverts like me is demonstrated in the long waitlists for available homes in most communities.
So, amidst this unprecedented time in history when so many beautiful properties are available in Greece, and amidst a new campaign by the Greek government to provide low tax incentives to remote workers and retirees to relocate, and amidst the unparralled demand for close and supportive community after this pandemic, I truly believe this is the time for the first cohousing community in Greece. I am excited to work with this wonderful group of talented people to make this happen. We are having a blast doing it, and while it may appear odd to those who have no experience in cohousing, these DIY community projects really do succeed, as is evident by the 160 in the US and the hundreds more in Denmark, UK, and many other countries. Why not create this community in one of the most beautiful and wonderful places on earth?!