Nothing gave me a greater experience of Greek culture than going to the hospital. My roommate James and I went to the beautiful Sounio to revisit the Temple of Poseidon and of course spend a day at the beach. Rather than tarry where all the other beachgoers lounged, we explored the rocky areas, found unrestored pieces of temple, swam in sea-urchin infested waters, and threw fragile sedimentary rocks against boulders to watch them explode. Then, he began to climb up a bunch of rocks and made it look so very easy. Naturally, I had to follow. I lost my footing and felt down straight six feet, and then helplessly tumbled and rolled down the rocks another six feet. I ended up with a severely sprained ankle–and praising God that it wasn’t much worse! Unaware of the intensity of my injury, James and I walked up to the temple, spent some time in the next town (after dressing my wounds), and then finally took a cab home. The adrenaline wore off and the pain set in.
The next morning I told Nikos, our graduate student guide, about the injury. Immediately he dropped everything he was doing and insisted that I go to the hospital. He asked me about my pain level every 15 seconds of the 10 minute ride, all while reassuring me that it would be okay. Every time I told him that it was fine. When I got to the hospital, I saw people with fairly minor injuries wincing and rolling in expressions of dread and agony. I had an epiphany. Greeks are obsessed with health. Even their word for hello means good health, and toasts are always to continued good health. Therefore whenever anyone has anything but perfect health, they treat it as a major crisis. This was totally confirmed when, upon returning to the hospital a week later for a check-up, I saw a guy whose arm was propped up in a homemade pillow sling. He continually and urgently walked into the doctor’s room in order to receive priority healthcare, and he walked out with the sling over his shoulder and his arm looking just fine. He might have had a bad bruise. All I could do was chuckle. To good health!