the wandering yaya

I said,

The wandering yaya in a housedress who is the only other person in the breakfast room here in Hotel Kouros and whose spinal cord — the top half of it, anyway — is LITERALLY parallel to the horizon just came over to give me a pillow because I guess she didn’t like how I was sitting in my chair.

And then she came back a minute later and gave me what I think is some kind of candy — a chocolate ball in blue foil? — and then put a finger to her lips, gesturing to the kitchen where the woman who is working breakfast is, and I’m fascinated, thinking about what the secret is.

Is it that I’m not supposed to have candy but she’s sneaking it to me anyway?

If that’s what it is, Brava, Yaya.

My other idea is that it’s actually like some medication she’s supposed to be taking and she’s like Shhhh, you take it instead, and don’t tell Euphrosyne.

(Euphrosyne is the fantasy daughter-in-law cooking in the kitchen in my mind. )

I wonder if I’m a surrogate in some memory she’s re-living.

Now she has just come back and given me a ribbon that matches the foil on the chocolate ball.

He said,

I like the stories you tell yourself.

I said,


— get ready —

Yaya has brought me a clothes pin.

I thanked her in my limited Greek and clipped it to my knapsack.

She seemed satisfied and moved my bread basket and my salt shaker a centimeter each and went away again.

I think we’ve established something.

halvah must at its roots mean something much less specific

I said,

This breakfast is GREAT except for the coffee

which is so bad I almost think someone is playing a weird joke

but is more probably a Greek preparer-of-morning-drink’s attempt at American filter coffee

without ever having tasted it

or talked to anyone who has.

The woman working the dining operation just caught me watching her bring Yaya a bowl of something brown, and she held it aloft and said to me “Sweet?” and I said “Okay!”

because what am I doing out here except saying yes to things I don’t understand

and she brought me a matching bowl and, setting it down, said, “Halvah”

which both pleased and dismayed me because I love halvah but definitely can’t eat eight ounces of it…

…and now I realize it’s not remotely a crumbly, flaky brick of ground sesame and honey

but some kind of semolina porridge

with cinnamon on top.

This is one of the things I find interesting in traveling and tasting the world in a linguistically anarchic way

that there are certain words I — we? — understand as evocative of a specific food item, and then you — we? — I — you — get to somewhere far away from where you started and find and ask for a food called by that word and what comes is something totally different, and at first you’re like “WTF this place has got it all wrong,” and then you come to understand that the *actual* word means something pertaining not to the product but to the process

or the texture

or the original ingredient

or some unknowable thing else that is broadly interpretable

and that you just happen to have come to expect this one certain version of

simply because it is the version that took hold in your particular sociocosm of origin.

I mean

“halvah” must at its roots mean something much less specific.

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