Off to Greece 6: The isle of Aegina

Saturday morning we assemble at eight o’clock in the lobby to go and get tickets for the boat going out to the isle of Aegina. Taking heed of my experiences from yesterday, I decide to have breakfast even though it will be bad for my stomach. I make my best effort to avoid the bread, eating the eggs, ham and cheese in stead.

It is a beautiful morning as we start walking down towards the ticket office at the docks. There are two types of ferry going out to Aegina. One being a high speed ferry that utilizes the same principle of moving through the water as a hydrofoil. The other being a large boat that also takes cars and that takes about 90 minutes. We decide on taking the fastest boat out, as it was less than a forty minute trip, and then maybe take the slower boat back home.

Arriving at Aegina, we start walking along a harbor lined with a mix of small, local fishing boats interspersed by yachts and cruisers of many different sizes and nationalities. On land, this same shoreline is lined with little street restaurants, fruit vendors and an open fish market. This picturesque scenery frames a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere that completely removes any stress or tension remaining from the hardships of yesterday.

Adding to this, I also get to appreciate the amazing connection that has developed between the two Masters of the Art that are accompanying us. Bjørn Eirik and Georgios are constantly exchanging funny stories, trading interesting little gems of information and generally having the best of times. Their conversation is an ever-flowing stream of talking mixed with bouts of laughter, rubbing off on the rest of the group and possibly making Aegina the happiest place on earth for the short time that we stay.

We walk along the shore. We have frappucinos on the beach. We move through wonderful little side streets, and we dine at a fish restaurant. Georgious takes one look at the menu and then tells the proprietor to just get us a variety of good foods so we get to taste a little of everything. Not long after we are having one of the most heavenly lunches I’ve ever experienced. The food being further enhanced by the introduction of retsina and tsipouro.

Retsina is white wine laced with pine resin. Like the hops in beer it was originally introduced as a preservative, but has turned out to add something positive to the taste of the brew. Tsipouro, on the other hand, is a spirit burned from the brew of refuse from wine production. It is kind of the Greek version of the Italian grappa. Like grappa, it will work nicely as a digestive. The Greeks often pouring it over ice to make it more smooth.

The ride back on the slow boat is mostly spent sunbathing on the poop-deck and listening to Georgious make accounts of ancient sea-battles fought, and invariably won, by the Athenians. We arrive back in Pireus and again we go to the hotel to get ready for practice.

This time it is Bjørn Eirik that is instructing the classes. The qi-kung excercises that he takes us through at the start of each class are something I have learned to both love and fear. Bjørn Eirik has a way of going through the motions so that they really start doing their work on me. He does not rush, meaning that the core muscles all over my body is forced to work constantly at keeping my posture, while my mind is never released from being wrapped around the breathing. I guess it is possible to let the mind wander or to let up on your posture to secretly or unconsciously work less hard. To me, though, Bjørn Eirik’s presence makes me go at it constantly. I usually do not sweat that much at practice, but Bjørn Eirik’s simple warming up exercises is making my body produce enough moisture to make a large oval shape on the mat, marking the spot where I have been standing.

Breathing is the key word for Bjørn Eiriks classes these two days, and he shows us how our breath works to either relax or give strength to our movements so that we, by controlling and timing our breath, also guide and control the flow of power through our movements. Georgios has for the two last days made me cut away ever more of unnecessary and involuntary movements in my technique, helping me reach new levels of precision. Now, Bjørn Eirik is turning on the power that will through through my improved technique. The two senseis are the perfect match.

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