Submitted by Aram Mac“Any work going sir?” I spoke politely to the dark-skinned man who sported an impressive swatch of tight curly hairs that grew wildly across his chest and back. He looked up at me from inside a small beach hut packed with water-sports equipment.
“You are wanting to work for me?”
I glanced up and down the beach to see who else he might think I was talking too. “Yes, I would love to work for you.”
The Greek looked at me again. “Can you windsurf?
I hesitated for only a fraction of an eye-blink. “Yes, of course, I grew up windsurfing.”
We both dared the other to object. He broke first. “I am Hector. My guy is sick and I need someone to teach the tourists to windsurf. I give you 5,000 drachma’s a day. Okay?” My new boss held out his hand to shake. I pumped it hard.
“Sounds good.” 5,000 is an impressive number. “I’m Aram. Thank you.” We looked at each other a moment longer both unsure in the newly formed relationship.
“So okay, be here tomorrow at eight o’clock. We work from sunrise to sunset. I see you then.” Hector dismissed me by turning back to the ski rope he toiled on.
I walked back to Far-Out Camping with a lighter step to my gait. The only hitch in my jubilant thoughts was the pressing need to learn how to windsurf.
“Hey guys.” I called out to the pair of Irish and a Kiwi, “Guess who the newest windsurfing instructor at Mylopotas Water Sports is?”
“Cheers to that.” Paul answered my rhetorical question. “I just found something working the door of a bar in town and looks like Neil might be getting some work helping mix paint for some local artist or something, bloody poof that he is.” Paul laughed at Neil’s punch.
“I’ve got my mom visiting in a few days, so no work for me.” Jules spoke from behind what seemed an ever present beer. It appeared the Irish and my issues with obtaining cash were not present in his reality. “Good work on getting the job Aram. I had no idea you were a windsurfer.”
I laughed. “Ya me neither, but we all got to learn sometime right.”
“Are you serious? And you’re the instructor?” Neil looked at me with a grin. “Remind me not to sign up for that course.”
Beers clinked, music played from the pool area and night found us once more asleep on Ios, an island square in the middle of the Cyclades group that dots itself across the Greek Mediterranean. Someone had told someone else that someone else had said this was the place to be and upon arriving in Athens we’d caught the first ferry here.
Five hours later I stood on the white sand. Bleary eyes struggled to focus on a rippling sea. Mylopotas Beach wrapped its way like a soft crescent to touch up against rocky cliffs on its either side. The sand was grainy, nothing like the Bahamas, but the weather was warm and I stood contently wearing only a t-shirt and shorts.
“You are ready?” Hector looked me up and down. “First we must put out the reclining beach chairs.” I took in the sight of the many stacks and groaned inside. With an Aussi who’d been working there a month we set upon our task. I was shirtless by nine o’clock and sweating like an out of shape forty-year old by ten.
The first day went well though - nobody wanted windsurfing lessons.
Packing up the beach chairs after a day of spotting for water-skiers and trying not to stare too obviously at the countless women sunbathing topless, I took my 5,000 drachma’s and went home with the feeling of a job well done.
When I worked out the exchange rate I realized I was making a dollar an hour. A job well done began to feel a wee bit less than satisfactory.
Windsurfers came the next day and I bluffed as best a complete ignorant can. The balance thing made sense and check for holding the sail, but after needing Hector to man the speedboat for retrieval of the fifth student out of my class of seven I began to think my Greek boss might be on to me. The constant wind seemed determined to take every windsurfer to Athens and unfortunately tacking is a bit more complicated than you’d think.
“You!” Hector’s index finger made it clear that it was indeed me he meant, “You are no windsurfer!”
At this point I was pretty sure Hector was on to me.
Hector cut off my feeble protests with a practiced Greek lack of concern. “No, you are not so good at this.” I waited for the axe. “But I like you.” My left eyebrow was first to recover and ventured an arc up from the sand. “I like your spirit.” Hector continued. “You can still work for me, just not teaching windsurfing, it is much too risky for my business.” His laugh was deeper than I would have guessed. “But keep working with Scott here.”
He gestured to the Aussi who stood watching the action with a bemused expression. “He will show you what else we must do. Its okay, my real instructor is feeling better so he can teach again tomorrow the windsurfing. He is in fact an Olympic windsurfer for Greece.” There was a pause in respect for all things Olympian. “But you…” The bared finger wagged at me again. The unfathomably deep laughter followed. Footprints walked away from me.
“Alright mate.” Scott’s chuckle was impossible to interpret. “You heard the man, let’s go.”
The rest of the afternoon we spent repairing paddle boats with glue, sandpaper and gritty elbow grease. 5,000 drachma’s a day began to feel a bit like complete exploitation - almost dishonest like. With splintered fingertips and my brief career as a windsurfing instructor come to an abrupt end I went to bed in the company of mixed feelings.
In the morning Jules left to visit his mom across the many beautiful islands Greece offers and the Irish settled into their respective careers on the island of Ios.
Every day not starved to death shouted success.