"Flight QU547 to Athens, Greece departing at 11:30 pm is now ready for boarding." A bored monotone voice said over the loudspeaker as I fished a packet of skittles out from the vending machine.

Sydney Airport. I love flying. I have only ever been overseas once, to New Zealand, with a choir tour, but that doesn't count. So basically I had never left the country.

"Could all passengers make their way to the boarding gates immediately, we will depart in 40 minutes" the cold voice continued. There was something exciting about hearing my flight being called, no matter how boring the voice calling it was. Mum had booked her flight late; the only flight available was a late night flight.

I tucked my skittles into her bag. I strung it over my shoulder and made a beeline to the boarding gate. A string of people were lined up, with smart looking girls wearing crisp suits were taking boarding passes and ushering people through a doorway, leading towards the plane. A huge glass window showed the tarmac, and planes taking off and landing smoothly. I was excited, my stomach was a ball of knots, and butterflies were in there too!

I lined up and waited for my pass to be stamped.

"What do you mean she can't get on? We live in Greece, she's my wife!" an angry passenger said to one of the girls stamping passes.

"Please calm down sir, your wife's visa is unable to permit me to let her travel today. You need to go down to head office and have them fix it up for you. Would you like me to pull you and the rest of your family off the flight?" she replied nervously, picking at her nails

I watched with curiosity.

"I suppose you'll have to, won't you? Fine. But I want my money back for this flight!" he demanded, as the clerk awkwardly crossed out the pass. The family moved on, grumbling.

Then it was my turn. The girl still looked a little dishevelled.

"So they won't be able to get to Greece?" I questioned her gently, smiling at her, hoping she would upgrade me into business class.

"No. Her visa ran out. She needs to get a new one. Unfortunately for her that may take a few days, and they won't be able to get their money back for the trip. Shame as well, they were business class." She replied, looking a little brighter, taking my passport, "Anyway, you have a good flight, you hear." She smiled and returned my passport and boarding pass, ushering me through the gate.

The first few steps to Greece. First few steps into the aeroplane. I walked down the carpeted ramp, where the aeroplane connects to the ramp. A blonde air hostess gave me a fake smile, and directed me to my seat, midway up the plane, window seat as well. I tucked my passport and boarding pass into one of the pockets on my bag and made my way through the throng of people trying to get bags into overhead lockers, and climb over other people trying to get to their seats. I finally found my seat, and slipped my bag under the seat in front of me, and relaxed into the seat.

"10 minutes until we take off" The captain said over the speaker, then proceeded to say it in Greek and 3 other languages.

I fastened my seatbelt and opened a bottle of water, and took a sip. A fat older woman, Greek looking, found her seat next to mine. She didn't look like she would be making conversation with me. Good. I took my shoes off, and set up my seat, making sure everything was correct, earphones plugged into the sockets, blanket and pillow stuffed under the seat in front of me, on top of my bag.

"We will now be departing Sydney at 11:34 pm June 3. I wish everyone a safe flight." The captain said it in Greek...AGAIN and the 3 other languages, then, the plane started to move. It gracefully rolled to the take off zone and waited for the all clear, which shortly came, and the plane rolled at high speed towards the water, down the runway, and lifted into the air. It got higher and higher, and zoomed towards stopover at Dubai. At least mum had got me a stopover that was only for 2 hours. I did not want to stay the night.

How did I get here...

Well, of course I knew, but wow. A few days ago, I didn't know I was going to be on a plane to the one place I was desperate to go to. Not only because of family, but because it was my dream destination. Now, it's not so much of a dream but a reality.

Dad cheated on mum. He told us about a week ago that he was leaving us to go marry his secretary Connie. Ironic, I know. Mum just couldn't handle me being around. She said I looked like him too much – too Greek looking. After one day, she determined I had to go away. Both she and dad agreed that it would be a good idea so that I wouldn't have to go through the pain of watching my parents get a divorce. So they sent me off to sunny Greece. I'm not complaining, by far, I mean, I'm 16 and travelling by myself, and I just got a whole new wardrobe for the trip, 2 days ago. But still, I'm going to miss them, and it's going to be completely different when I get back. I don't know what mum told the school to get me off 3 months of school. She wouldn't tell me.

So now I'm on the plane next to some fat woman who snores like a gorilla. Great.

I looked at my watch and decided to get some sleep. It would be a long flight.

Sunlight hit my face as I awoke from a restless slumber. The air hostess had brought dinner and after watching an episode of FRIENDS, I had decided to get some sleep. Now it was morning. The stopover at Dubai had been longer than expected and slightly annoying, having to get off my comfy chair and stretch my legs, then return 2 hours later, enough time to get some food, go to the toilet and wash my face. It was just – annoying. Tired little me had wanted more rest. Now, I was woken by the clang of forks, and the fat lady next to me poking my face and speaking in rapid Greek, while the air hostess asked whether I'd prefer fish or omelette for breakfast. It was Qantas, after all!

I rummaged through my bag and found my iPod, untouched the whole plane trip. I put the buds into my ears and listened to some music while I ate my "airplane food", which surprisingly wasn't as bad as everyone says it is. The lady next to me tried to make conversation in broken English, showing me photos of her grandkids. Her name was Katriona, she kept patting me on the head saying "Hellas". I know what that means. Greek.

She gave up trying to talk to me, determining English was too hard. I pulled out my guidebook and began to try to learn some basic Greek.


Katriona looked at me with interest. "Kalimera", she said.

My pronunciation is great... not.

"Kalimera" I repeated, "means good morning" I read.

I kept going "parakalo." Katriona smiled and nodded. "Ne" she said

I read in the guidebook that ne means yes.

She wasn't so bad after all.

The boarding pass said I would get to Greece at 2:30 pm. That was 2 hours away. 2 hours to kill. I had already eaten everything I had packed including skittles and a massive block of dairy milk. I was not tired any more. That only left one thing to do: movies. Airplane movies generally are pretty dodgy, but these ones were ok. After looking through all movies available, I settled on 'Troy'. Brad Pitt wearing almost nothing. Yum. Oh, and Orlando Bloom.

I floated through the movie, until the air hostesses came and told us to buckle up again and put up the windows and adjust everything so that we could land. I put back on my volley sneakers and buckled up, and got some chewing gum to stop ears popping on the way down.

The captain did his language thing over the speaker for the millionth time "We will now be landing at Athens International airport. Temperature in 35 degrees Celsius and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Slight breeze towards the north-east. Time of landing 2:37 pm. I hope you have enjoyed your flight with Qantas Airbus 807 today and wish you a safe day." He did his thing in 3 other languages. Then the plane started to descend. Outside the window, I could see the sprawling city of Athens waking up to a new day. I could feel my stomach dropping as the plane began to circle around the tarmac, and felt a bump, the wheels hitting the runway. The plane rumbled towards the end of the tarmac and towards the building, the airport got closer and closer, and then we weren't moving anymore. Passengers were unbuckling seatbelts, standing up and stretching, yawning and looking excited, tired and bored, collecting belongings from under seats and trying to get out of the plane.

"We have now landed at Athens International Airport. I hope you have enjoyed your flight with Qantas tonight and have a great time in Greece." The captain said for the last time, "We are now opening the doors. Please make your way out of the aircraft in an orderly fashion."

I unbuckled my seatbelt and sat. Better to let all the masses get off the plane before getting crushed. I picked up my bag and put it onto my lap, resting my head against it. The plane cleared a little, and i got up and walked out towards the front of the airplane where the fake blonde air hostess gave me another fake smile, and directed me out.

Walking into Athens airport, a stewardess asked for my passport and boarding pass, and she stamped the passport and ticked the pass. Athens airport was a mix of many different languages, a hive of activity. I could see customs, where I had to go to get out of the airport. But first – the bathroom! I needed to get out of my trackies. In Sydney it was going into winter, here in Greece, it was summer. Hot scorching summer.

The bathrooms were cool and refreshing I sprayed deodorant and washed my face, ran my fingers through my hair. For a flight, I didn't look too bad! I locked a cubicle and changed into shorts, flip flops and a singlet.

Stepping out off the airport and into Greece, customs a memory behind me and pulling a massive suitcase, I pulled some sunnies out of my bag and put them on.

Where is Grandpa Theos? And Nicho? Hope they don't take too long. They have my number...Don't they?

I waited. And waited.

"SHIT!" I gasped, remembering a note that mum had given me before getting onto the plane. She had said "Plans have changed, you may need to make your own way to Theos' house. Call this number when you get to Greece."

I rummaged around in my bag and finally found the note with the number on it, and called the number from a pay phone inside the airport. No way was I wasting credit!

Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. Ri-


"Hello? Is this theos? Nichlaos?"


"Theos?" I said, "Nichos?"

"Ne! Theos!" the voice spoke rapid Greek. It made my ears hurt.

"English? Maria!" I desperately said.

"Maria! Maria!" he recognised. More fluent Greek.

"English?" I questioned. He obviously didn't know any English. I looked around. Help? A security guard was not too far off, I waved him over.

"Can you speak English?" I was getting desperate.

"Yes ma'am, I can speak English. Do you need any help?" he replied.

"My grandpa can't speak any English. I can't speak any Greek. I need to get to his place; can you please be the translator for a little while?" I pleaded, giving him doggy eyed expression.

"Um... I guess I can do that. Hold on for a minute." He spoke into the phone, rapid Greek, probably explaining what was happening to grandpa.

"Tell him it's Maria, and I'm in Greece now, and how do I get to his house?" I told the security guard when he finished talking to Grandpa.

"He knows it's you, and that you're here. He said your father told him you would call when you arrived. But there's a small problem. Your grandpa lives on the island of Kythira." The guard continued, "That means you need to get there yourself. No one told them when you were arriving so they can't pick you up, and your uncle has just left Athens to go to Kythira yesterday..."

"Wait. So what you're saying is that I'm in Athens, and they're all in Kythira?" I questioned, "shit..."

"That's correct..."

"Ask grandpa if anyone can come over?"

The guard spoke into the phone, looking doubtful.

"He said that no one can come, but there are 2 ways to get to Kythira. The first is the port of Piraeus, catch a ferry from there in a few days to the island, or catch a bus down to Neapoli, and catch a daily ferry." The guard concluded.

"Tell grandpa I'll come down as soon as I can. I need his address. Can you please get it for me?"

"Sure" the guard reached into his pocket and retrieved a piece of paper and a pen, and scribbled down the address, "I can get you a map of Greece and Athens after the call ends. Want to say anything else?"

"Just tell him I love him. Tell him my number, 0208674827. Say bye for me"

The guard finished with grandpa on the phone. "Come with me" he said, leading me to the security desk. He walked around the back, and came back holding two pieces of paper.

He pointed to one "This is a map of Greece, and major roads and ferryboat routes. This one is the map of Athens, including train lines. To get a bus down to Neapoli, catch a train from here" he circled a point on the map, "where we are, to here" he circled another point. "It's really simple to get to the wharf in Neapoli. The locals will help you. Greek people are nice people. They will help you out. Stay the night at the Bella Castro. It's cheap and will let you stay, as you are under 18, no? Get up early to go to the bus station, as the last ferryboat is at 4pm."

The guard handed me both the two maps. He smiled, and I returned the smile. I turned around and started to walk away.

"Hey – what's your name?" I turned around.

"Carlos" he replied.

"Thank you Carlos." I thanked him with a hug. He patted my head awkwardly, "Without your help I would still be sitting out on the curb scared. Now just one more thing...Which way is the train station?"