Thursday, August 30

AHMET

On my way home today, a skinny little man got on the bus and, with a small bow-like gesture, asked if he could sit beside me. I responded that indeed he could, and so he sat and gave me a shy smile, and I smiled back, and etsi started a conversation. It wasn't a terribly singular conversation, but it made an impression on me. So this, to the best of my memory (and slightly condensed), is how it went:

AHMET: Where are you from?
ME: Canada.
AHMET: Ah! Toronto!?
ME: No, Montreal.
AHMET: Ah, Montreal. I have a friend in Canada. But I thought that you were from France.
ME: Really, France? Why?
AHMET: (Shrugs and gestures - at my attire, I suppose.)
ME: So, where are you from?
AHMET: Pakistan.
ME: And how long have you been in Greece?
AHMET: Two years.
ME: And before that?
AHMET: Oh, many places... many places... Always moving nowadays, you know? People are always moving, here, there. How many days are you here for?
ME: I live here. Four years now.
AHMET: (Total shock and incredulity registering on his face.) Why??
ME: Well, my father is Greek.
AHMET: And your mother?
ME: Russian and Polish. (This seems to sit better with him.)
AHMET: And your name?
ME: Ranya. You?
AHMET: Different name, Ranya. Hello, I'm Ahmet. (We shake hands.)
ME: So, do you like it here?
AHMET: No. It's very bad country. Not friendly to foreigners at all...
ME: That's true...
AHMET: You like it?
ME: Well, it's got its good things and its bad things, you know? Like anywhere.
AHMET: Yes... good and bad... Job good?
ME: No, not really. I want to go to the islands, to a village. I think it'll be much nicer there, close to nature.
AHMET: Yes, probably much better... Funny to hear different opinion about Greece! I like to hear that... Interesting.
ME: What about you? Have you found a job here?
AHMET: No. Two years I'm looking now and I haven't found anything. Very bad for jobs here. I'm small man, you know? So it's hard for me to find...
ME: Yes, I imagine it's much more difficult for you here than for me...
AHMET: Yes, very difficult. Government very corrupt, police very bad. Worst country in Europe. And now they let these people die in fires... very bad, very bad.
ME: Yes. It's horrible... So, you want to leave, then?
AHMET: Yes, I want to go to Spain. I have friend there. And little sister in Holland. No problems.
ME: And your parents are still in Pakistan?
AHMET: Yes, and my other sister. Studying medical in Islamabad. In two years she'll be doctor. Very good for me, very good for my family.
ME: You must miss Pakistan. Do you ever think of going back?
AHMET: Yes, of course. But very bad country, too. Government changing every two years, very corrupt. And no jobs. But maybe, if god is kind and I make money in Spain, I can go back.
ME: What do you want to do in Spain?
AHMET: Open business, if god is kind. You know, like McDonalds?
ME: A fast food restaurant?
AHMET: Yes.
ME: Well good luck with that!

Ahmet seemed to find this very funny (I guess relying on luck for something, instead of god's kindness?) but alas it was my stop so I bid him farewell and went to get off. As I did, though, he called out, still smiling like it was a really good joke, "Good luck to you too!" And so we parted.

I wasn't going to editorialise, but allow me just one comment, please. Perhaps even more interesting than the conversation were the reactions of the Greeks and other immigrants on the bus:
The 20-something Greek cool guy, studied nonchalance, eyes continuously averted and headphones in, but he managed to make his way over to near where we were sitting, and kept leaning in to hear better.
The 50-something Greek man, openly staring, completely flabbergasted.
The 70-something Greek woman, openly distasteful, many shakes of the head and mouth turned down in distaste.
The 40-something Filipino woman, openly hostile, seemingly directed (from the angle of her glare) at Ahmed. Perhaps he was breaking some unwritten social rule by talking to me, a non-immigrant?
The 30-something African dude, completely impassive. In fact, he seemed to be the only person on the bus not at all phased by our talk.

And those were only the people within my line of sight.

And isn't it sad that just a simple, everyday conversation engendered such a strong reaction?

And also, it just occurred to me, why are people from less developed countries called 'immigrants', while we from the West are called 'expats'? Are we not immigrants, too?

Sunday, August 26

FIRES

What a sad reason to return to the blogging world, but I really feel the need to join Ellas devil and others in expressing how at a loss for words I am regarding the fires.

Or maybe I do have a word: enraged.

At whom is this rage directed? Politicians? Arsonists? I can't say. It's just kind of a blanket rage, I guess, the rage one feels when one sees something one loves being destroyed, and can do nothing to stop it.

So there's another word: impotence.

It's awful sitting here, watching the news in spurts for as long as I can take it, in a mournful, funereal silence, and not being able to DO anything. Anything to help. Anything to punish those responsible, either by their actions or by their lack thereof.

With elections looming ahead, I am left with no one to vote for. There is no lesser of two evils here - both are equally bad. Not even, anymore, a small party I can trust and rely on to not make me cringe when they state their opposition. So politically, too, I am impotent.

And what of the victims of the fires? Those who have lost their livelihoods, homes and loved ones? Is no aid being organised for them? Will there be no international relief funds set up, as there have been for numerous others the world over who have experienced tragedy of late? Karamanlis has promised those affected 13,000 euros compensation. It's almost better to offer nothing at all, no? The amount is just insulting when your home, your crops, your family is gone. And on the other hand he's got a spare million lying around for those who provide information leading to the arrest of arsonists. What should our priorities be, really? Does the need for revenge, to make someone pay, surpass the needs of the victims? Here, too, I am impotent, unable to offer any comfort, help or words of support to those whose lives have been ruined.

I can't help thinking, too, of the irony of the blood tax, a term fittingly coined by teacher dude, that these fires will no doubt serve to pay.

Most of all, however, watching the ashes fall, I feel sad and devastated at the senseless loss of our beautiful land and forests, which neither we nor our grandchildren will see restored in our lifetimes, if ever. The rains are coming next week, or so they say, and while they may aid in quenching the thirst of the fires, they will also wash away the detritus left by them - nutrient rich ashes which, if allowed to soak into the soil undisturbed, would render it fertile again. If they are washed away, the land will become completely and permanently barren.

We can only hope for the best, hope without reason that the government will manage to pull itself together in the wake of the blazes and take measures to minimize the damage, start reforestation, and most of all do whatever it can to stop the land from being developed. Sadly, I fear that none of these things will come to pass, and that the half of Greece which has been burnt will be lost to us forever.

In the face of that possibility, I am truly left speechless.

UPDATE: The Hellenic Red Cross is accepting cash donations for the purchase of essential items for those in need. These can be deposited at the following bank:

Bank of Attica
23 Omirou Str, Athens – Greece, under the indication ‘Fires in Greece'
Bank account: 069/84298361
IBAN: GR54 0160 0690 0000 0008 4298 361
Swift Code: ATTIGRAA XXX

For details, visit www.redcross.gr/files/preliminary_emergency_appeal.pdf

Thanks to buruburu for the link.

Wednesday, June 13

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BOYFRIEND TO LET THE CAT ON THE BED

Having a boyfriend can be a great thing. They’re cute, cuddly and entertaining, and offer companionship for many years. They are even know to reduce stress! Many people own boyfriends, and mostly the experience is a rewarding and pleasurable one. However, every now and then boyfriends can exhibit undesirable behaviour which they must be trained to suppress. Unfortunately, unlike cats, training boyfriends can be a bit tricky.

For example, imagine the following situation. A new cat enters your life and moves in with you. Your boyfriend, though normally an easy going and open minded dude, and though not overall averse to having a new playmate, may nonetheless become exceedingly territorial about one particular area, an area which was previously uniquely his domain: the bed.

The reasons for this reactionary behaviour are unclear. Perhaps it is simply a matter of instigating boundaries and maintaining control? Perhaps it is the thought of urine and faeces being tracked directly from litter box to bed? Perhaps it is indeed, as he claims, a matter of not being able to sleep for fear of turning and squishing said cat?

Whatever the root of the problem, finding a solution can be difficult. When all attempts to reason with boyfriend have failed, when boyfriend flat out refuses to sample – just for one night – how pleasurable it is to have a cat snuggled up in the crook of your knee or arm, purring away, when boyfriend turns up nose at all proffered treats and bribes, it’s easy to get frustrated and not know what to do.

But there is a solution out there! Our new, scientifically proven training method has been specially designed to make stubborn, recalcitrant boyfriends come round to your way of thinking. Now you, too, can alter your boyfriend’s troublesome behaviour – and all for the low low price of $29.99! Call today to learn more, and you'll soon be sleeping well at night with your boyfriend to one side… and your cat to the other.

END ADVERTISEMENT

Please, if anyone knows where I can get this product, or how exactly it works, could you let me know? Thanks,
R.

UPDATE: Six months later and I'm happy to report that not only does Ziggy enjoy the comfort of our bed nightly, but the boyfriend has fallen deeply deeply in love with him, slathering him with love and attention and care, playing with him for hours upon hours, feeding him gourmet cat food and petting him and greeting him the second he walks in the door and... and... in general spoiling him rotten. Hmmm. I think I might be a bit jealous... Hazo baba!

Tuesday, June 12

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet... ???



So this is my new baby, everyone. Isn't he adorable? We have not decided on a name, yet... are torn between "Ziggy" and "Samba" (short for Sambucca) and can't decide because "Ziggy" is cooler, but harder to say, and "Samba" in Greek (so says my boyfriend anyway) sounds like a girl's name. So I said, pretend its name is "Sambas" cause anyway when we address it that will be said as "Samba"... but he didn't seem convinced...
Any ideas? Ziggy? Samba?

Tuesday, April 24

GREEK ANECDOTES ANTHOLOGY

I just read one very funny post on Melusina's blog about crossing the street in greece and almost died laughing. I then skipped on over to Flubberwinkle's blog and found a very similar, in terms of style and humour, post about seat lurkers on the bus in greece... and almost died a second time.

And at that very moment, the germ of an idea sprung into my head. Within a few seconds it had blossomed, and a pretty neat idea I think it is.

Many of us blogging in Greece have written humorous, anecdotal-style posts about various aspects of modern greek life and society. These anecdotes are like 'snapshots,' if you like, perfectly conjuring some small splinter of life that is generally banal to those of us who live here, but mad-sounding to anyone who doesn't. And when we read it we, too, realise how mad it is, and that we would almost have become inured to that madness (and what a sad thing that would be) were it not for the post.

Well, I think these little anecdotes deserve more than being relegated to the dusty corners of the archives section of our blogs. I think we should start collecting them together and, once we've done so and a final selection has been made, maybe post them on a separate blog of their own, or maybe even a real collective web page - if some web savvy person is willing to come up with one - or some other clever idea I can't think up on my own. Suggestions are welcome.

So, in detail, here's what I propose:

NOMINATING:
- In the comments below this post, 'nominate' posts that you think are worthy of being anthologised.
- Please include:
1. the name of the post
2. who wrote the post
3. a brief description of the subject matter
4. a link to the post.
- Please read previous nominations and avoid nominating a post which has already been nominated once.
- Nominated posts can be written in Greek or in English.
- Feel free to nominate your own posts.
- All nominations MUST be published ANONYMOUSLY (to avoid any potential hurt feelings). (All other comments, re. the idea in general, do NOT have to be anonymous).
- Nominated posts should be similar in subject matter and style to the description above. i.e they should be:
humourous in nature
about a single EVERYDAY aspect of Greek life
something that most Greeks/foreigners living in Greece will have experienced, too.
- Nominated posts should not be purely complaints about some part of Greek society the author does not like. i.e. if it is complaining, at least it should be doing so humorously, and not be denigrating Greeks or Greece as a collective whole (or anyone else for that matter).
- If you have previous posts that almost meet these requirements but don't quite (e.g. you talked about several things in one post) it would be a good idea to re-post a modified version of the original so that it can qualify. Or write a whole new one!

VOTING:
-Once a reasonable number of posts have been nominated (do I have to specify a number in advance? I think it'll become clear when we've exhausted the supply, and can just play it by ear. What do you think?) I will, after a week's advance warning, 'offically close' the nominating period.
- From that point on, all further nominations will be rejected (ie deleted) and the voting period will begin.
- in the comments of this post again, 'vote' for the posts that you think deserve to be included in the anthology by referring to them by NAME and AUTHOR.
- Vote for as many posts as you like, several within one comment if you like, or each alone.
- Again, all votes must be ANONYMOUS.
- Please be honourable, and only vote for each post once.
- I will post a one week warning before the end of the voting period (again, I assume it'll become obvious when voting has tapered off, but if you think it should be more restricted let me know) and then voting will be closed.

At that point I will tally the results and publish a list of the chosen posts... and we can decide via comments and general consensus where to go from there.
C'est tout! Sounds fun, no?

Sunday, April 22

THE BIRTHDAY CAKE CONSPIRACY

It being my boyfriend's birthday tomorrow, I decided to bake him a birthday cake. However, not being the most experienced of cake-bakers (and, OK, being a bit lazy), in a remarkable show of foresight I stopped by my local supermarket last Friday and purchased 1 box of Betty Crocker devil's chocolate cake mix and 1 (very large-looking indeed) tub of her icing.
Past experience has sold me on the Betty Crocker icing - I can never get mine quite as thick and creamy as she does - and so I figured her mix would equally surpass mine. In that I was not disappointed. Carefully following the instructions, I mixed in the eggs, butter and water
(adding tons of bitter chocolate chunks to the mix, cause my boyfriend is a chocoholic) and poured the batter, as per the written instructions, into a TWENTY-SIX centimetre cake tin. The cake came out of the oven, and a sneaky taste off the bottom confirmed that yes, Betty makes a mean chocolate cake.
All well and good. But then came time to spread the icing on the cake. Being (as aforementioned) a bit lazy, rather than make 2 separate cakes for a layer cake I usually just slice a normal cake in half and slip a bit of extra icing in between. Well thank goodness for my laziness! Having used a very average amount of icing as filling , I slapped on the top half of the cake and started spreading the rest around to cover the sides and top. However, it soon became clear that the icing that remained in the tub was barely going to suffice for decent coverage. Intrigued, I looked at the directions and, lo and behold, in plain lettering on the side of the very large-looking tub, it was indicated that the amount of icing held within is only sufficient for a TWENTY-THREE centimetre layer cake.
OK, so this was not actually a huge problem as, for good measure, I was going to cover the icing with a thick sprinkling of chocolate shavings, thus concealing any patchy bits. BUT WHAT IF THIS WERE NOT THE CASE? What if I wanted JUST a nice, thick creamy layer of icing over a 26 centimetre layer cake? And what if I were not so lazy, and had actually made two separate cakes, thus creating a much greater side area to be covered? Well, I'll tell you what if. I would have to buy a SECOND pot of icing - a pot whose contents would largely go unused, thus prompting me to make a second cake, purchasing a THIRD tub of icing, so as not let the contents of the second tub go to waste.
Now, I'm pretty sure this is not simply an oversight on the part of Betty Crocker. After all, she's been in the business of making cakes for a quite some time now, and surely during that period someone has pointed out to her the 3 centimetre discrepancy. No, I am left with no option but to conclude that Betty is a sneaky little b**** who has come up with a clever ploy to make us bake (and eat) more cake than we want to. So given this scenario, when I slip into my little string bikini this summer and see more unsightly bulge than I'd like to, I'll know who to blame. Yes, I'm talking to you, Ms. Betty Crocker.
But now for the icing on the cake - metaphorically speaking this time. As a final touch I wanted to spike the cake with birthday candles. And, since my boyfriend inconveniently refused to stop getting older at the age of 24 (and has now reached a whopping 31) this meant buying 2 packs of candles as the largest pack available only contains 24 (leaving me with a - rather useless since I don't know any 17-year-olds - surplus of candles). But anyway, I sucked it up, bought the two packs, and went to put them on the cake - only to realise that along with each set of 24 candles only TWELVE of those little plastic candle holders-that-stop-the-wax-dripping-all-over-the-cake were included. What the %#*$??? What use to me are 24 candles if I've only got TWELVE candle holders? What am I supposed to do - whittle the ends of the candles down so that two will fit in each holder??? By my calculations, in order to have enough little candle holders to support all 31 candles on my boyfriend's birthday cake, I would have to buy not two but THREE packs of candles, leaving me with a surplus of 5 candle holders and FORTY-ONE (!!!!!) candles!
Now that this birthday cake conspiracy has been exposed, I trust we will all take up arms against Betty Crocker and the other birthday cake paraphernalia manufacturers, demanding that the amounts of things that go together, within a said package or group of packages, make some logical sense.
Otherwise, I'll just have to boycott birthdays altogether.


Saturday, February 10

SHAME ON ET3! BAN ANIMAL CIRCUSES!

I am sitting here with the TV on mute in the background, by chance on channel ET3. As usual on a Saturday evening, they're showing footage from a circus... you know, the kind you usually sit in a big tent to watch, but on TV instead. Who watches this show every week I don't know, cause it's deathly boring - just people doing lame stunts and tricks and the like, but today is different; I just glanced over and saw that they've got THREE TIGERS and a guy FORCING THEM TO DO TRICKS with a LONG ROD on. I am so #%&*$#% furious right now I can't express it. It's bad enough that they give permission to the animal circuses (most of them from Italy) to even perform in Greece - just yesterday I saw a truck drive by advertising YET ANOTHER one, and thoroughly cursed it to hell - but now they are being SANCTIONED and essentially advertised on STATE TELEVISION.
Have we learnt nothing? Do the people taking their kids to watch these things not realise what is happening to these animals behind the scenes? Things that would make their kids have nightmares for weeks if they were to see them?
AAAAAAAGH.


On a more positive note, yesterday I attended the (wonderful) Thanassis Papakonstantino concert, which was being held to raise funds for the 'Steki Metanaston' - a group for immigrants' rights and support. The place was packed and full of high spirits, and hopefully lots of money was raised... will post at greater length tomorrow or Monday on the show/collective. There was also a protest today at Omonia for immigrant rights, but I'm afraid that after standing for 5 hours last night and getting up early for a greek lesson my poor body couldn't face it... If anyone else attended let me know how it went...