Thursday, November 16

BLOG ON BLOGGING ON BLOGGING ON BLOGGING...

Ellas Devil tagged me, ages ago, for the meme about blogging that’s been going round, and thanks to my lengthy absence I’ve only just noticed. But I always say better late than never, so here goes!

Do you like the look and contents of your blog?
Well, given that I've just spent the last two days giving my blog a facelift, yes I like the looks! It was a real pain in the butt to do, too – all these little image bits that had to be downloaded, adjusted, uploaded… and they still didn’t all work out right but I don’t think anyone will notice unless they look real close… I hope. But I like the colours – vibrant and lively, and not quite as pink as the last one (though still too pink for some - you know who you are! What can I say? I like magenta!)
Regarding content - I usually end up thinking everything I’ve written is drivel a day or two after posting it, and I always have the uneasy feeling that I should be posting about some stuff that is, I dunno, a bit more serious and important maybe? But I suppose I have managed to produce some vaguely amusing stuff here and there...

Does your family know about your blog?
I told my mom about it but she didn’t ask to see it so I didn’t volunteer the info. Perhaps she was being ‘sensitive to my needs’ and didn’t want to push me into telling her. Such is our relationship, sigh. My dad doesn’t know a computer from a vacuum cleaner, so he’s out too. I did tell my stepmom about it – I think she’d like it – but she doesn’t have a connection at home and isn't likely to check it out the rare times she heads over to the net café. I can’t remember if I told my brothers or not, but they’re self-involved teenagers so what would they care!

Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?
I have done. Most of my friends have blogs, too – check them out in my blogroll! As for private - private shmivate! If I wanted it to be private I'd write it down on paper in a journal and hide it under my bed. As soon as you've posted something on the WORLD WIDE web, your privacy has gone out the window - you never know who'll stumble across your 'carefully guarded' secrets... in fact, SEVERAL old friends of mine that I'd completely lost touch with found me just by chance - which, though it was nice to hear from them again, was kind of freaky. I mean, I immediately started ticking over all the people I have known in my life to make sure there isn't anybody out there that I DON'T want to be found by...

Do you read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? Or do you try and discover new blogs?
I generally read the blogs of the people who've left comments - on other people's blogs, too, not just mine. Especially if it's an interesting comment. There are so many excellent blogs out there though, and so little time to read them all, that mostly I keep it local unless something really catches my fancy. I definitely don't go trawling through random blogs hoping something good will come up.

Did your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example...
Ummmm… in that it has helped me to not entirely lose my ability to speak English within a limited English-speaking environment, and has kept my writing muscles limber, yes. Therapeutically/psychologically speaking? I’m not so sure. I enjoy writing the posts, cause I enjoy writing generally. I enjoy having a 'captive audience' that I can blab away at (my mom always called me a chatterbox)... but I don't enjoy the feeling of guilt I experience when I look up at the clock and realise I've whittled away the entire evening doing it, especially when there is something else I could have/should have been doing (I have time management issues). And I don't think it really helps me get things off my chest or deal with my issues in the way that it seems to for other people. Basically it's just another time-wasting guilty pleasure, like watching Lost every Friday night...

What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you have a traffic counter?
Yes, I have a traffic counter, and yes I check it. My ego is about the size of a peanut so it can use the boost it gets from lots of hits! Everyone likes to think they’re interesting... don't they?

Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
Not really… I've kind of naturally developed a hazy impression of what all the people whose blogs I frequent look like, taken from their profile pics I think (even if those pics are completely abstract) and from they're writing style. No doubt I'm way off, though.

Do you think blogging has any real benefits?
Of course! For those people who actually write about important stuff, that is... ie, not me. But for those that do, those that care, it’s a great way to disseminate and share ideas. For the rest of us… it sure beats watching Survivor.

Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone world community separated from the real world?
Kind of… I mean we’re all real people living in the real world (I hope!) so we all bring real issues and ideas to the table, but somehow the act of writing about them puts us on a separate plane of reality from those who're purely living them - as though writing relieves us of the 'duty' of really participating in and experiencing life; we can choose instead to just intellectualise our reactions or feelings to things. But then again, I had a love hate/relationship with computers from the get-go - read my first post ever to see what I mean - and am uneasy about the implications of digitising so much of ourselves... I guess it's more a philosophical/metaphysical uneasiness than anything based on solid grounds for complaint.

Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
Depends on the politics! Some people’s views make me sad, that’s all. And yes, scared I guess for the fate of the world. I do avoid them cause I don’t like feeling that way.

Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
There’s a difference between criticizing my blog as a whole - as in, "what is this garbage and why do you bother to write it, you waste of space" - which is not constructive, v.s. someone criticizing something I have said – which is. Even if I vehemently disagree with them, at least it gives me a chance to rebut or defend myself. And sometimes I might actually learn something new or come to see things a different way. SOMEtimes…

Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog if you died?
Upon my death, my spirit will be magically infused into the blogosphere, and will keep my blog updated through the ether. At last, everyone will know what the afterlife is like!
...But seriously, this is exactly the type of question which, when I start to think about it, makes me uneasy about having so much of myself on the net. Because we are communicating directly with each other (unlike publishing a book) yet have never met each other in the flesh, we have essentially created a purely digital, yet (within the medium of the web) very real identity for ourselves - an identity which exists independently of our earthly bodies. To go back to the question of whether we imagine what other bloggers look like, I'm sure we've all formed some impression - given a 'body' so to speak - to the digital entities we are communicating with, because this is what is natural for us - to communicate with concrete presences. So each of you reading this has an impression of who I am, of me as a physical entity, but you don't know me - you know the version of me I choose to present you with. For all you know, I could be a fat middle-aged balding man named Joe living in Alaska, but the entity I have chosen to call Kassandra and the picture of Kassandra that you have formed for yourselves from my writings exists - as a distinct individual - and has little to do with who Joe is. So if Joe dies, does Kassandra necessarily die too? Even if this blog were eventually taken off the net, the digital entity of Kassandra, perhaps entirely fictional, would continue to live on in the minds of all the people who read this blog. And since she never really existed, could she ever really be considered dead??? (Now pause to let the goosbumps settle before reading on. And no, I am not a fat middle-aged balding man named Joe living in Alaska. I am who I say I am. Except that my real name is not Kassandra. Unless 'I' refers to my digital self, not my physical self, in which case it is... :P)

Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
Oooh loads. But most notably emilyz because of her beautiful writing, flubberwinkle and melusina because of their humour and quite simply for coming across as lovely people, devious diva because she reminds us of all the serious things we might otherwise choose to ignore, ellas devil for keeping me up to date on what is going on in the country when I can't be bothered to watch the news in Greek, and buruburu for getting me into this mess in the first place (and for, every now and then, writing something so completely level-headed and fairminded on a seemingly complicated issue that it just blows all the dust away - though I still haven't forgiven him for switching to Greek for a while there!). Seawitch used to be on my list, but then she had to go and move to Canada and get all contented and happy with life or something... grumble grumble...

Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?
EmilyZ. I think we’re both at similar stages in life, and we both like cats and ethnic food, among other things. Though I have the sneaking suspicion that she's ATHLETIC (shudder), which I most certainly am not, and she probably reads a lot more quality books than I do. (Though if anyone wants to send me some quality books, I'll gladly read them!)

Name a song you want to listen too.
At the moment I'm quite happy listening to the sound of silence, thank you. (Or rather, I should say the sound of my computer fan humming.)

Tag some people.
buruburuburu, documentarist, mel… it’s your turn! Also the rather mysterious mr melancholy, I'd be curious to see what you have to say...

Sunday, November 12

So, how's the water?

Well. It's Sunday evening, I've got a pile of laundry waiting to be hung out and a sink full of dishes begging to be washed, so this seems like an excellent opportunity to ignore all that and dip my toes in the water again, so to speak, by attempting to write a new post.
But what to write about? Is blogging like riding a bike, or have I lost the knack of spewing my guts out in the hope that some poor soul will actually find my ramblings interesting?
I suppose I should begin by reporting a truly miraculous occurrence - miraculous to me, at least.
This past weekend my father came to Athens... for the SECOND TIME in as many months.
Wow.
Now this is a man who, it would seem, is bound by a sturdy iron chain - one end of which is strapped round his ankle and the other end to the bottom of the huge gangly olive tree that has sprouted, for at least the last couple hundred years, at the foot of our garden, in the middle of the fields and sheep where our house is situated, on the outskirts of the village of Molivos on the island of Lesvos.
(My my, it seems that my sentences have grown since last I wrote. Bear with me.)
This event, of my father's multiple visits, is miraculous because, as far as I know, and excluding the last couple of months, my father has only ventured away from his beloved garden (which will surely wither and die if deprived of two days of his attention) to come to Athens twice IN THE LAST TEN YEARS. And then for only half a day. But both these times he has actually stayed the whole weekend!
Now, either he's finally figured out (two years down the road) that he has a daughter with a comfortable permanent residence (where he is more than welcome to stay) and the requisite sofa and TV available for his nap time, or it just so happens that two weddings have gone down here in Athens in the last months that actually demanded his attendance.

The first wedding was my second-cousin's (the big sister of the cousin/parter in crime often referred to in these pages) and was a lovely event - everyone, besides the stressed-out bride, enjoyed themselves thoroughly and, to digress a moment, I can truly say it was the best wedding I've ever attended. It took place in a small church somewhere near Peania or Kanza (on the outskirts of Athens - and we nearly died driving there in the rain thanks to bad signage which led to us driving ONTO an off ramp of the Attiki Odos - but that's another story). Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for the ceremony, the setting was lovely, the priest genial (he even cracked jokes throughout the ceremony), the dress simple and elegant, and the guests for the most part dressed with a modicum of taste - a first for me at any Greek social event! And actually a disappointment as I was deprived of my usual favourite pastime at such boring social drags: mocking the elaborate bespangled costumes of the other guests.
However this was more than made up for by the reception, held in the Italianate courtyard of a winery (if that's what they're called) with excellent booze, gourmet food, and the amusing pastime of running around with my cousin and other assorted relatives, watching as they tried to sneak cigarettes away from their parents' eyes. It was like being 16 all over again! One girl actually announced she was going to the bathroom, then waited expectantly until it dawned on me that I was supposed to follow her. Good grief.
Mind you, the ceaseless 'kai sta dika sas' (and to yours) got a bit tiresome, not to mention being told about 6 times in a row that 'did you know so-and-so is your third cousin' (I hadn't known at the beginning of the night, but by the end I was starting to wish that the family connection between me and the girl, a rather insipid creature in a neon-green bouffant mini-dress, could be severed immediately) but despite these mild annoyances, my father and I had a very good time.
So that was visit number one; a nice wedding, followed, the next day, by a relaxing meal of mezedes where my boyfriend and father proceeded to bond over army stories and football. Typical. (Here in Greece, before men can be friends or talk about anything interesting, they have to get a few things out of the way: namely, where were you in the army and what interesting/terrible things happened to you there; what football team do you support, and finally, what are your politics. If they agree on at least 2 out of these 3 things they can, in my experience, take the relationship 'to the next level'. If, however, a common ground cannot be found within these three critical parametres, that's it. No bond will ever grow between them. And though my father and Panos had met before, they had never talked at length so, needless to say, I was relieved to have that out of the way between them.)
One last thing of note regarding the first visit: my father had arrived early Friday morning, before I left for work, and I simply had not had time to go shopping or cook anything before he came (as usual, he had left it to literally the last minute to tell me he was actually coming) so, feeling rather guilty, I had left him with a hunk of thawing mincemeat, a can of tomatoes and a packet of pasta, and had told him to fix his own lunch. I returned, however, to the sight of him be-aproned, spoon in hand, preparing his famous (really weird-sounding if I were to tell you the recipe, but excellent nonetheless) pasta sauce, having explored all the shops in the neighbourhood to procure the necessary ingredients. Moreover, I have the sneaking suspicion that, had the house been a mess as well as the pantry bare, he would have scrubbed it top to bottom like a proper Greek mama - this man who, in his own home, cannot even be bothered to throw out used tins of cat food. Humph!
I tell you this because it ties in to visit number two. This weekend my father arrived to attend the wedding of the daughter of a family friend, a local Molivos girl and fellow dentist whom he helped set up in practice here in Athens. And this time he came prepared!(I won't bore anyone with the details of this wedding - let's just say that for every good thing I said about my cousin's wedding, in this case you could say the opposite.)
Yesterday morning, (earlier than I would have liked to be woken up on a Saturday but never mind) my father arrived at my door wearing his oversized coat and raggedy colourful sweater, grey hair and moustache blowing wild (looking, as a friend of his later commented, like a compatriot of Toulouse Lautrec's) and clutching a faded green duffel bag. He gave me a hurried hug then, with rushed pride, wrenched the bag open and pulled out two enormous bags of fresh-picked wild mushrooms. Before any 'Hi, how are you's' could be exchanged, I was required to quickly transfer these to the fridge before they could sweat any more in their plastic prisons.
Now, I guess, would be a good time to mention that my father is a huge wild mushroom aficionado. He is actually considered something of an expert on the island, often helping others determine whether something is edible or will impart an instant and horrible death, and has a shelf of books on the subject and a lifetime spent tramping the fields of Lesvos in search of the succulent treasures. And though his long, rambling eulogies to the mushroom often get boring, and my stepmother must cope with a veritable carpet of mushrooms covering the sizeable dining table end to end each winter, we don't complain because the end result is just so very delicious.
If you've never had fresh-picked wild mushrooms, or (heaven forbid, like my freak of a boyfriend, don't like mushrooms at all) my rapture at the sight of those two bags will no doubt be lost on you. If you do, however, enjoy the velvety texture and the rich, heavenly taste, it won't, and you will no doubt start salivating as I now describe to you how, on Saturday, my dad whipped up a simple but exquisite field mushroom and cep's soup for us to feast on, and today a dish of pork chops which had been marinated in wine overnight, then slowly braised with a spoonful of capers and heaps and heaps of no less than 5 varieties of mushroom, for just about the tastiest resulting dish I have ever had the pleasure of savouring. And I've still got a portion of it sitting in my fridge for tomorrow's lunch! Oh joy!
So, to end this lengthy gastronomical post, here's hoping my father will be making many more trips to the ends of the earth that we call Athens, bringing with him more mushrooms (or, if they're out of season, wild asparagus, or in fact any of the other goodies he likes to collect). And now I suppose I had really better get on with doing those dishes! So farewell, dear readers, if you have gotten this far, and till next time - whenever that may be!

Friday, July 7

TELL YOUR FORTUNE WITH YOUR iPOD!!!

This meme was too cute to resist. The idea is, you set your iPod to shuffle, then press next for every question. The song that comes up is the answer to the question! Neat huh?
I got some freakily sensical (OK that's not a word, but it should be - as in the opposite of NONsensical) answers (or maybe I'm reading too much into them?)
This is also a good way to take a peek at what other people are listening to (and yes, I have very diverse taste in music).

Feel free to post your results in the comments, or just link to them.
(I suppose any mp3 player will do, even just iTunes, Winamp or Media Player on your computer - so long as you don't cheat and look ahead. Unless the iPod specifically has some supernatural powers. Let me know what you used to see if there's a difference in clarity!)
Look forward to reading them!

How am I feeling today? Tora kai ego tha ziso (Now I Too Will Live) – Haris Alexiou
If only I didn't have to work so much at the moment, this might actually be true. Perhaps it's what my subconscious is demanding.

Will I get far in life? Here Comes Your Man – The Pixies
An ambiguous - and rather disturbing - answer. Apparently where I get in life will depend on my man. But whether this man will help me get far or not isn't specified. A closer look at the lyrics is not especially revealing - all that seems clear is that there will be a "wait so long".

How do my friends see me? Sure Thing – St Germain
Umm...? I guess I can live with that.

When will I get married? I’ll Stop the World I’ll Melt With You – Nouvelle Vague
Not much help in fixing a specific date, but this song certainly seems to suggest marriage is in my future. Humph.

What is my best friend's theme song? Hallelujah – The Happy Mondays
I certainly hope this will turn out to be true.

What is the story of my life? Naïve Song - Mirvais
Ha! If only it weren't true.

What was high school like? We Used to Be Friends – The Dandy Warhols
Succinct and to the point.

How am I going to get ahead in life? I’ll Smash Some Mugs – Eleftheria Arvanitaki
A reference, I think, to the fact that I have to be more forceful in how I confront the world and obstacles. Also perhaps a nod to THE BIG PLAN (those who know what it is should get it), which leads me to interpret this as a sign that it'll be a success.

What is the best thing about me? Word Up! – Cameo
I don't get it. Can someone help me out on this one? Lyrics not clear either.

How is today going to be? Freedom – George Michael
Given that it is almost midnight, I'll take today to mean tomorrow. Leading me to believe that perhaps I won't make it in to work as planned.

What is in store for this weekend? Move On Up – Curtis Mayfield
OK!

What song describes my parents? Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson
Hmmm... Interpret this as you choose. Given that the question states "parents" and my parents are entirely different people, it's a bit of a tricky one.

What song describes your grandparents? Like Tears in Rain - Covenant
All passed away... all had hard lives... pretty sad, but true.

How is my life going? What a Man – Linda Lyndell
Again a reference to a man. Either this is because I have too many lovey songs on my iPod, or my man is pretty important to my life. And, according to Linda Lyndell, a mighty fine man he is. Which, come to think of, I agree with! So I guess that's one good thing about the way my life is going. Maybe the iPod didn't want to hurt my feelings by mentioning the rest...

What song will they play at my funeral? Step On – The Happy Mondays
Again strangely appropriate. I just might play that at my funeral, too. Wait and see.

How does the world see me? Extreme Ways - Moby
Ha ha! I wish. "Extreme" is something I aspire to but most of the time I think I just manage to scratch the bottom rung of "slightly eccentric"

Will I have a happy life? You Got the Love - Candi Stanton
Once again, my future seems to depend or be intertwined with love. But the lyrics do provide a quite plausible prediction for my future state of happiness: "Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air... (but) You got the love that will see me through." i.e. life will be tough sometimes but I'll have someone whose love will make it all OK. Sounds like a decent future to me.

What do my friends really think of me? Panic – The Smiths
Ha ha ha ha. OK I'll admit that these days I do seem to be in a constant state of panic.

Do people secretly lust after me? The Other Man - Sloan
Hmmm cryptic but suggestive.

How can I make myself happy? Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
Find religion? Start my own religion? Humph. Starting to not like this little game.

What should I do with my life? Whole Lotta Love – Ike and Tina Turner
OK OK Mr iPod. I get the point. My Future=Love. A whole lot of it. Fine.

Will I ever have children? Apopse Thelo Na Pio (Tonight I Want to Drink) – Haris Alexiou
Hah! A clear indication, I think, that I am not yet ready to ponder that particular question.

What is some good advice for me? Get Down Saturday Night – Oliver Cheatham
No argument from me. I really should get out and down more.

What is my signature dancing song? I Got the Blues – Della Reese
Ha ha ha. Is this a reference to the fact that I'm a big complainer? Actually I think my signature dance song would have to be Diana Ross' 'Upside Down' - from that summer that I worked at a club and the other bargirl and I would get up on the bar to dance to it, Coyote Girls style.

What do I think my current theme song is? Summertime – Billy Stewart
Yes! Well, maybe not right this minute, given that I haven't seen daylight since last weekend (except through my office window). But am looking forward to "summertime, when the living is easy" just as soon as the holidays start!

What does everyone else think my current theme song is? Nowhere Fast – The Smiths
Oh dear. I hope not.

What type of men/women do you like? Working With Fire and Steel – China Crisis
Ahhh... no comment.

What kind of kisser are you? Crazy – Gnarls Barker
Damn straight!

What's your style? Suntoucher – Groove Armada
Not sure what style that would be, but it has a nice ring to it.

What kind of lover are you? Surround Me With Your Love – 3-11 Porter
Hmmm....

What would be playing on a first date? Not If You Were the Last Junkie On Earth – The Dandy Warhols
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Depends on who the date was with, I suppose.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Under the Milky Way - The Church
Cool.

Saturday, June 24

IT'S NOT JUST GREECE - INTERNATIONAL BUREAUCRACY SCANDAL REVEALS!

This is for everyone who complains about Greek bureaucracy, and thinks it's not a problem anywhere else in the world. It's for all those foreigners who incessantly complain, and for all those Greeks who regard me dubiously when I tell them their country is not the only one with a red tape problem.

It is an e-mail my friend in Canada sent to the government office in charge of issuing drivers' licences. And if you didn't know better, you'd swear it was Greece!

Read on and you'll see...


"There are many things that I can complain about the SAAQ. Getting my first driver's license has been more trouble than it is worth. first the strike last year - occurred the day before my original written exam -after already waiting over 2 months to do that, I had to wait another 2 months. when finally I was able to write my exam it took over five hours to get through it, even though the test only took 20 minutes. I was shuffled around from one line to another - never receiving even a smile from a single employee.


my driving exam was scheduled in late April - the earliest appointment available was on June 7th. over a month and a half later! my "appointment" was for 12:10 pm. the security guard at the front door of the henri bourassa center wouldn't let me take a number until the time of my "appointment". this should not be called an "appointment for a driving exam", as you call it, rather it should be an "appointment to take a number." finally as I walked into the waiting room, almost every single employee left their windows and went off to lunch - leaving me sitting and waiting for almost two hours while employees wandered around doing nothing. why would you schedule an "appointment" in the beginning of the lunch hour? it just get things even more backlogged. ridiculous that I could see all of the employees chatting in the back room and ignoring the 300 people waiting to be served - why aren't the breaks staggered like any other place of business - you can't send all of your employees to lunch at the same time without closing the shop!!!


Finally being allowed to take my exam, and passing it, just to come back and get ANOTHER NUMBER (this being the fourth or fifth) to wait to have my photo taken. while getting my photo taken, the woman noticed an error in my address (which I had just changed with the first agent I spoke with (I wrote it down for him and he STILL didn't enter it correctly) she changed it by removing one letter from the street name (good thing she knew Decarie and how it was spelled)


finally after almost three hours (better than last year but still too long) I was free. having been given a temporary piece of paper permit and being told that I would get my license by the 16th of June. well, today is the 16th, it isn't here and the rude man that I just spoke with on the phone told me that it's MY responsibility to got BACK to the saaq AGAIN and have my picture taken again and they would mail it again AFTER that.


it is utterly ridiculous the way that I have been treated by all the employees that I have encountered at the saaq both last year and this year. the man on the phone basically called me an idiot by telling me that maybe I didn't see it in my mailbox. excuse me? I’m not blind, or I wouldn't be allowed to drive. I have a herniated disk in my lower back (partly due to sitting and waiting so long at the saaq last week) and can't even get out of bed for another week and yet, I am expected to get to the saaq before June 26th to have you take a photo that you already have on file - twice.


the service that I have received from your "company" (if only it were privatized maybe we would get some real service) is abominable, shameful, and disgusting. your employees (thanks to the union probably) lack enthusiasm and any drive to be helpful; instead they are constantly scowling at customers and treating them like they are a hassle, as if the people who pay their salaries are disturbing them somehow. and lucky me, I get to do it all over again. and if Canada post manages to lose it the next time, then it will be my fault again, and I will have to go through the process until the end of time."



Original post here.

Also see a more personal account of the ordeal here.

SUMMER IS OFFICIALLY HERE

Hi faithful blog readers... if there are any left?
This is just to let you know that I have not dropped off the face of the earth, died and gone to heaven or hell, joined the trend and moved back to Canada, or any such thing. I have quite simply been:
- taking care of some mundane practical matters in my life (like the messy state of my house, the empty state of my refrigerator, and the scattered state of my brain. I guess I'm having one of those "I've got to be a responsible adult" months.)
- racing to watch seasons two and three of Six Feet Under, which we finally managed to get our hands on, before Panos leaves for Mitilini this Monday (we finished both seasons last night - yes that's 2 seasons in under a month. And I have to say we have become increasingly disappointed and disillusioned with the series as it goes on. Please, someone, does season 4 get any better? As in, does any of the black humour, focus on at least semi realistic drama, etc, come back?)
I have also more recently been:
- On a short (5 day) vacation to Sifnos last week. Which was very nice. Unfortunately, I have no pictures to share with you as the digital camera broke on the first day. Grrr. I must say though that the real pics, taken with my Exacta of course, are amazing. Maybe I'll do a brief write-up on what I though of Sifnos in the next few days. Maybe. If it rains and cools down a bit.
Which brings me to the fourth and last thing I've been doing recently: melting from the heat. I mean seriously, guys, when it's 37 degress out, who can be bothered to site on a sweaty desk chair near a box emitting even more heat, rather than just wilting somewhere on the bed? Besides, the ceiling fan (newly installed by handyman Panos!) is in the other room.

Besides that not much new. Just saw the Botero exhibit this morning, which was pretty fantastic. Oh, and yeah, I'll soon be boyfriend-less for the next month till I join him on the island in August (nothing compared to the near-3-month separation we underwent last summer!) Also am hating my job more and more with each passing day. Gotta figure out something temporary I can do until The Plan is put into effect, cause I don't know how much more I can take.
And c'est tout.

So postings to this site will most likely be fairly erratic for the summer - and non-existent in the month of August, but bear with me. We should be back up and running during the winter months!

Besides, it's SUMMER. Go OUTSIDE. You shouldn't even be online right now! Go to the sea or something. Sunbathe on your balconies! Drink frappe at an outdoor cafe! Whatever! Just get out there and enjoy yourselves!

KALO KALOKAIRI!!!!

Monday, June 5

IN WHICH WE ARE ALL RESPONSIBLE

I've been reading and watching and thinking along with everyone else about that little boy, Alex, who was murdered. It truly is horrific and tragic and has made all of us stop and think - about what I'm not sure - many scattered thoughts are tossing about in my brain as I try to comprehend how children could do such a thing.
But one thought that seems to be crystallizing - at least in the posts and comments I've read - is whether or not the murder was racially motivated.
Personally, I think it more likely that Alex was murdered because (from the looks of his photo and what has been said about him) he was a sweet, sensitive, fragile little boy who wore glasses. That's all the reason kids need - kids filled with hate, that is. And if race came into it, I think it was more likely that they were trying to find a "good" reason for hating him (because it's really hard to say outright that you hate someone for being happy and good) - a reason society conveniently provided.
But there's no question that hate was the cause, and hate at that age can only come from the surroundings. In a way, the kids responsible are just as much victims as Alex; victims of a society that bred such hate and unhappiness in them that they were capable of committing this terrible act. And while it's possible that these kids would have grown up to be awful people, it's just as possible that they would have risen above their milieu. Just because you're a savage at the age of 12 or 13 doesn't mean you'll end up as one. From the kids I've observed there's a tendency when they're in packs for the worst in them to come out, the most primitive and animal. Who's to say, they might have outgrown that.
Or perhaps the enormity of what they have done will somehow shock them into realising how awful hating is; perhaps they may grow up to be decent people as a result of what they did - people who will carry with them for the rest of their lives the burden of it. Neither can I believe that they've spent the last months sleeping sweetly - if there was an adult involved, I suspect they were coerced into silence, or so terrified at the magnitude of what they'd done that they didn't know what to do, and have been wretched and terrified all these months. I'm hoping that's the case anyway, cause to believe otherwise is really to accept that mankind is evil - something I try to avoid. Even when adults are horrible, hateful and racist, I try to imagine what they might have been through that made them that way - not to excuse them necessarily, but to understand what makes them tick better, to understand better how to prevent more children from growing into people like that, and maybe even to understand how better to convince them change their minds.
So while first I mourn for Alex and his mother, I also mourn for the other kids involved, who were victims of their society and who will have a heavy burden to carry with them all their lives.

The other thought which struck me is one I encountered on Devious Diva's post on the subject - the notion that "we are all responsible, in some way, for what has happened". We are all (well, most of us) resposible because we allow this society of haters to continue unattacked. We generally don't challenge, we don't speak out, we don't try to nip hatred in the bud. Perhaps your first reaction is "that's not true, I'm always speaking out against hatred and racism." I'll be honest, it was mine. But then I realised that the people I "speak out against it" to are the already converted, or the "safe" ones; that often I won't confront the people who need to hear it most because I have too much to lose. An example:
I don't hesitate to try to convince my aunt for hours that all the thieves in Thessaloniki are not Albanians - that not all Albanians are thieves, and that Greeks commit these crimes too. This is because she is my aunt, she is sweet and goodnatured and will love me no matter what I say (and it seems it doesn't matter what I say, she stands firm in her beliefs).
But when a girl at work makes numerous slurs against Albanians (for example, when arguing with her boyfriend about his choice of hotels for their vacation she said "What am I to stay there, an Albanian?") I keep my mouth shut.
Why?
I could say to myself that she doesn't really hate Albanians, she's just using a figure of speech (though such figures of speech are the most dangerous cause they're the easiest to let slip by, and the clearest indicators of how pervasive racism is).
I could say to myself that it's a lost cause: she's not one of those people who's willing to listen to any criticism, and is likely to fly off the handle when confronted (as she did when we tried to broach with her the fact that we didn't like her constant gossiping).
But the actual fact of the matter is that I don't say anything because it would make my life difficult. Why? Because I have to sit with this girl in a room 8 hours a day, and for the most part we manage to be friendly to each other (though I think we both know we couldn't care less for each other in terms of having anything in common or anything real to say to each other) and were I to confront her, no matter how nicely or persuasively, it would create a strained atmosphere - an atmosphere I would have to live with every day.
So I grimace, with my face to the computer screen, and keep my mouth shut - a coward.
So that's how we're all to blame. By allowing these opportunities to at least try to talk to people, to try to make them change their minds (no matter how futile it seems) slip by. Through our complacency, we are to blame.
If you are one of those people who does speak up each time you hear something racist or hateful said or done (in a constructive fashion of course) then this post is obviously not directed at you. For the rest of us - myself included - I guess we'll just have to keep working at it.

Thursday, June 1

MY SOUL, MY SOUL FOR A HOT SHOWER

I am currently sitting here killing time while waiting for four pots of water on the stove and my kettle to boil.
Why?
Because my thermosifono has been broken for three days now and I simply CANNOT muster the courage to take YET ANOTHER freezing shower.

It was OK the first day, when it was a really hot sweaty night.
The second day I just kind of splashed some water around and called it a shower.
Today I'm seriously wondering if those people who say cold showers are good for your health are off their rockers. Do they really mean ICY cold? Or just lukewarm?
So I've run a shallow bath with cold water, and am dumping the hot water in, one pot at a time.
This might take a while. I started with one pot and the kettle... It didn't really seem to take the icy edge of at all... So now I'm waiting with all burners going full throttle...
Next thing you know the fuse will blow.

Why haven't I called a plumber?
BECAUSE MY BOYFRIEND THINKS HE CAN FIX IT HIMSELF.
What a cliche.
OK he can actually probably do it, being pretty handy, but he's currently setting up and running two shows at the theatre, and has hardly been home the last few days... so too bad for the bloody boiler.
He did call his electrician friend for advice, who asked if the little light is blinking.
Apparently not. Apparently this means that it's the thermostat that is broken. Apparently the thermostat should be really easy to replace.

Time will tell...

The leaking pipe we had a month ago was also apparently easy to fix, but apparently not so judging by the amount of grunting and swearing coming from the vicinity of the bathroom while he was fixing it.

I suppose I should be grateful to have a boyfriend who is willing and able under normal circumstances to do these things.

But right now I just want to take a HOT SHOWER.

***

UPDATE: 5 pot and 3 kettle-fulls later, and the 1/3 of the way full bath was warm... just barely.
I must conclude that this is an interesting scientific experiment exhibiting the natural tendencies of cold water to REPEL HEAT.

And if you don't approve of my scientific method, TRY IT YOURSELF! And see what conclusions you draw. Brrr.

Wednesday, May 31

IN WHICH I MEET THE RUDEST COUPLE ON EARTH

Today, I decided "bikini-figure-be-damned" - I'm going to have an ice-cream!" So I stopped at the periptero to pick up the yummy frozen goods on my way home.
Hovering over the ice-cream fridge was a couple. By the looks of it they were in their mid-twenties. But judging by how they were acting they could have been 5 or six.
The two of them were prancing in front of the freezer, blocking access to it from all angles, while squealing delightedly and trying to decide which ice-cream flavour to get.
Now, I'm all for acting like a kid sometimes, so I smiled on them benevolently while trying to edge past and grab my tub of "Scandal Extra Gooey Caramel Nut" or whatever it's called. But as soon as I tried to dodge in to the right, there'd be an oblivious, happily shrieking body between my hand and the ice-cream. Try from the other side, same result. I felt like I was trying to get a ball into the net past the offense or something.
Finally, with great agility and perseverance, I managed to reach in and snatch my prize from behind the human wall, and went to pay. Behind me, the couple continued making a spectacle of themselves - but OK. I had my ice-cream, I was happy. I reached into my bag, pulled out some money, and went to hand it to the periptero lady.
If this was a movie, the next scene would be shot in slo-mo: my hand extending towards hers, hers towards mine, frozen in a Michelangelian pose. Then, just as she was about to grasp the dough, the couple appeared at my side and the girl proceeded to SHOVE ME out of the way, and thrust HER OWN money in the periptero lady's face, all the while screaming "Se parakalo! Emena prota! Emena! Ella, Ella, Se Parakalo!" (Please, me first! ME! Come on Please!)
The periptero lady and I stared at each other a moment, stunned, then the amazingly unphaseable woman shrugged, rolled her eyes, and gestured to ask if she could let them go first - since apparently there was no saying no to them. I shrugged back, and gestured in turn expansively in their direction (all this gesturing was necessary because making oneself heard over the girl's screeches would have been impossible).
While the obnoxious brat - ahem, sorry - girl, got her change, I just stared open-mouthed at the guy, silently asking him what the hell planet they were from. He kept right on giggling - though to give him credit his giggles did start to get a bit uncomfortable, and was I imagining that he looked a bit shame-faced?
The best part of all this was that they were in no kind of rush: after they had paid, the girl continued to look over stuff in the drinks fridge while I continued to exchange disbelieving glances with the periptero lady. (What the heck do you call the periptero people anyway? You can't call them shop assistants, cause they're not in a shop, right? Any ideas?)

Now I know a lot of you are going to be saying I should have said something to them BUT:
a) either they were on drugs (though it didn't look that way) or so ridiculously unaware and self-centered that nothing I could have said in my not-so-sophisticated Greek would have gotten through to them, and
b) doing so and getting into an argument would just have raised my blood pressure and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day...
...so I chose to laugh it off instead.

But REALLY!!!! I'm still speechless!

Tuesday, May 30

IN WHICH I LEARN NOT TO COMPLAIN SO MUCH

On my way back from work today I sat on the bus directly in front of two immigrants. I’m not sure where they were from, but they were communicating with each other in very broken English, so evidently not from the same country.
The woman was trying to fill in some official document, and the man was trying to explain to her how to do it: “This is for your name, this is for you passport number. Then you have to go to the police station to get it signed, then somewhere else to get it stamped…” and so on. I think we all know the steps involved in getting official documents in Greece.
So I was remembering what I had gone through to get my docs when I first got here – barely speaking any Greek at the time – and what a hair-pulling, nerve racking hassle it had been. And I had had GREEK people helping me. Greek people who not only knew the system perfectly, but also spoke my language and were able to explain everything clearly.
Listening to these two people struggling to figure out what the hell they were supposed to be doing, I suddenly felt ashamed for the amount of moaning I had done when going through the same crap. I can only imagine that what they go through is at least 100 times worse than what I did – not only do they have more papers to get, they have no one to show them the ropes thoroughly, and are likely to be treated with a lot more disrespect and impatience than I was by the public employees.
I really don’t know how they manage it, but they have my respect for their courage and determination.

Monday, May 29

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

On Saturday night I went over to my cousin's house to celebrate her having gotten a new job. (Here's hoping this one is better than the last few!) I passed through Syntagma to get there, where they're selling lovely plants and flowers at the moment (and I heard that sometime in the next few days they'll be giving them away free!!! Can it be true? I must get myself down there to check it out as I'm busy filling up my balcony to capacity with greenery at the moment, and a few free plants wouldn't hurt.)
Anyway, I picked up a couple of pots of pretty flowers for her as she'd been saying that she'd like to get a few; her one plant, a jasmine given to her by her grandmother, hadn't fared too well over the winter.

When she saw the plants, she continued telling me her jasmine saga: it being pretty much dead, she had cut it back down to soil level in the hopes that it would grow again. And sure enough, something had sprouted - but to the side, not out of the main stem. However, something wasn't right with the newly growing jasmine plant... she wasn't sure what, but she couldn't get it to wrap around the trellis, and it didn't have many leaves. Her sister had even come over to have a look, and had proclaimed that the jasmine would be fine, but my cousin wasn't so sure.
Intrigued, I went out on the balcony to have a look.
"But... where is the jasmine?" I asked.
"Right there," my cousin replied, pointing to the long green stalks coming out of the pot and looking at me as though I was blind.
I walked over for a closer look... already trying to hold back my laughter.
"See," she said. "Here's the old stem, and this is the new growth which has come up. But it just won't stick to the trellis. Can you tell why?"

"Well," I replied. "It could be because what you have growing here is a very fine specimen of GRASS, with some clover thrown in for good measure!" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the so-called jasmine was in fact some very long, wild grass - the kind with the feathery tufts on top. And my cousin was complaining of allergies... wonder why!
Anyway, after much mirth on my part, and embarassment on hers, the death of the jasmine was mourned over a bottle of wine.
Bad luck for the grass, which had been enjoying frequent watering, love and attention, and will now be promptly uprooted!

Monday, May 22

IF I HEAR THE "E" WORD ONE MORE TIME I'M GOING TO THROW SOMETHING

OK so on Saturday I joined most people in watching Eurovision.

We laughed, we cried (if we were Anna Vissi anyway), and we were fairly well entertained.

But then, on Sunday, I wanted to do nothing, take a day off and doss about in front of the TV.

Unfortunately, it seemed that on every single channel all one could find were panels of talking heads discussing WHY IT WAS THAT GREECE CAME 9th.

And not one person had the courage to come out and say - "Hey, maybe it was because the song sucked?'

Yeah, Greece loves you Anna.

But really, enough already. Please. Cause if I hear the word Eurovision one more time....

Thursday, May 18

THE VILLAGE VS. THE CITY

OK, Seawitch’s post “Waiting” has finally inspired me to put my nose to the grindstone, gather my notes, double check a few sources, dust off the keyboard, and write: THE VILLAGE VS. THE CITY. Seawitch, this post is dedicated to you!

First instalment: The Village. Wait – what’s that you say? What are my qualifications? How can I claim to be an authority on village life? Well, actually I can’t, having only really lived in a village full-time for a year. But being the avid observer of society that I am, or think I am, it was enough – or at least it’ll have to do. So, let's get started then, shall we?

Having just finished university and needing some time to chill out, de-stress, reflect, meditate on life, and all that stuff that recent graduates feel compelled to do, I went and stayed with my father, stepmother and two half brothers (who, since the last time I’d seen them two years previously, had exploded into fully grown, larger than life teenagers) in my “home village” of Molivos/Mythimna, on the spectacular island of Lesvos. I arrived in November, and left the following October, for Athens, just one month shy of a year.

SO, YOU THINK YOU WANT TO LIVE IN A VILLAGE...
The number one complaint of those who live in villages is that there is nothing to do in winter. And rather than try and convince you otherwise, let me tell you exactly how I passed the wintry months there, and let you decide for yourselves.
Days were spent in quiet contemplation – or in building my dream house on the Sims deluxe edition – and evenings were spent huddled round the kerosene stove, reading or having inspiring conversations with my stepmother. Believe me, we figured out how to solve the world’s problems many times over that winter – and more! Alternatively, if there was a good film on telly, we’d all gather round to watch. We also all, as a family, became incredibly addicted to the first season of Six Feet Under, which I’d brought with me on DVD, and, when there was a power failure (which is often on Lesvos), we’d assemble around the old, large scarred table which dominates the main room and play board games like Trivial Pursuit.

I also had plenty of time to try my hand at cooking various dishes – sometimes to the satisfaction of the critics, sometimes not (my dad just can’t understand what is pleasurable about vegetables that have not been cooked to death, and then cooked some more, so Chinese stir-fries were not always met with favourable reviews) and attended various courses – Greek and photography lessons organised by the dimos and “dancercise” classes offered by a long-time ex-pat. I also toyed with the idea of joining the “Carnival committee” and helping to build the floats for the parade, which looked like a lot of fun if a bit kitch, but, unfortunately, the times they met conflicted with my scheduled English lessons.

These English lessons were a bit of work I’d picked up upon arriving, in order to have some pocket money on hand, and were a nice slice of enforced order on my otherwise haphazard days. They were also a great source of exercise! Twice a week I would make the trek into the village from our country house, a 15 minute’s walk away. I’d then schlep up numerous flights of steep, worn cobblestone steps to the castle, and enjoy an hour or so with two eager Bulgarian teenagers. Then it was back down the steps, and another fifteen minutes walk into the country in a different direction, for a lesson with a bright and winsome, though lazy, 12 year-old, who had the curious habit of replacing every verb in the English language with the word ‘take’ – perfectly conjugated of course. Then back into the village, towards the harbour, and up an incredibly steep street to the last lesson of the day – my least favourite – with a psychotic 7 year-old who, though he jumped for joy each time I came and sulked when I left, would spend the entire lesson trying to stab me with a pencil or scattering my materials across the room. Needless to say, my thigh muscles have never been so sculpted, and the steep streets of the village, which had at first left me gasping for breath, were soon overcome as I galloped my way happily up and down them.

If I was in the mood for a night on the town, we’d meander over to the small but cosy Manda bar, one of two places open in winter, and have a quiet drink to the reggae tunes emanating from the oh-so-high-tech tape deck. Or, for more high energy action, I’d join my brothers at Nuevo, the main teenage hangout, and get down to some Skilathika (and if you tell a soul about that I’ll have to kill you!). When I got really bored, I even attended some meetings of the dimos (municipality), of which my father is minister of the environment, and though I couldn’t really follow the proceedings, everybody seemed be terribly enthusiastic about the issues being debated, judging at least by the amount of shouting going on. And of course following these meetings, over lunch, we’d all hash out what had been said, and update each other on all the village news and gossip.

My father being a huge nature/environment buff, there were also a great many excursions out into the wilderness: to cut down a Christmas tree (only one growing right next to another tree, which would therefore not survive on its own, would do), to collect mushrooms and then, later, wild asparagus. Excursions to the hot baths were also organised, and trips up into the mountains to eat at poli paradosiaka tiny village tavernas. Or, often, I'd just set off for a walk into the strangely green (I'm used to seeing them in shades of ochre and rust) fields, camera in hand, snapping shots of curiously formed bifurcating olive trees and crumbling dwellings, and soaking up the gorgeous nature and wildlife.

If all this sounds like heaven to you, then move to a village, now! If it sounds like the 10th level of boredom, you’re probably better off sticking to the city.

NOT ALL A WALK IN THE PARK...
For me, at that time, it was heaven. Whether it would have continued to be heaven year after year is hard to say: it was not all quite as idyllic as I make it sound - the reason we huddled around the stove was because it gets bloody cold there in winter without central heating, and the howling winds and trips up and down the muddy path to the house sometimes got a bit much. Similarly, the frequent power failures (and the tendency of everything else to break down frequently – and take ages to fix) would have become nerve-racking after a point. And the problems being debated at the dimos meetings were serious in nature – ranging from garbage disposal issues (every year, in August, the dump catches fire and spreads noxious black fumes over the area), to arsonists setting fire to large chunks of forest so as to build on the land, to people pushing for (horrible) measures which would allow more cars to pass through the village… and other matters concerning the constant desecration of traditional life, the struggle to preserve of the look and spirit of village and the areas surrounding it – all a losing battle in the face of the money to be made from cheap, poor-quality tourism.

Then there were the courses – attended more in the interests of getting out of the house than in the hope of learning anything. Needless to say, they were terrible – the photography class, especially, I could have taught better than the camera salesman they’d managed to round up for the job. The dancercise lessons were nice, but following them we’d usually go for an ouzo and mezedes, which meant several hours of listening to 50 year-old and up ex-pats moan on about how horrible Greece is. Greek language lessons were also followed by similar ouzo sessions, but at least the people there were less negative (being recent arrivals, and thus still enamoured of their adopted country) and, generally, more interesting.

This, of course, highlights another of the main problems encountered in village life: there is not a huge selection of people to socialise with, and often you are stuck hanging out with people to whom you would not normally give the time of day. If there is one person in the village whose company you actually enjoy, and with whom you have real things in common, you can count yourself lucky. The rest of the time, either out of desperation, or to be polite, you just go along with the crowd and manufacture things you can all talk about.

Why be polite? you may ask. Well, because in a village with a population of 1000 people, max, and three places to go out to, having enemies is something you want to avoid at all costs. If you have had a falling out with someone, you will run into them continuously, everywhere you go, and so you will either be forced to put your misunderstandings aside, if possible, or, when not possible, look through said person as though they are air. Which is a rather strange and awkward thing to have to do, is it not?

And since everybody knows everybody, lines are soon drawn delineating whose side you’re on in other people’s battles, so you get sucked into these things even if you, personally, couldn’t care less, and find yourself giving the cold shoulder to people who’ve never personally done you wrong. Or, worse, you walk into a taverna full of people you drank and ate with just the other week, and are conspicuously not invited to join the party. In short, there’s no such thing as neutrality in the village – or at least it’s nigh on impossible to maintain. People living within shouting distance of each other are sure to have interpersonal issues, and, at some point or other, you too will become involved - don't kid yourself.

These enmities occur because in a small place, with not much to do, people pass most of their time gossiping about each other. So you hear from so-and-so that someone has called you, say, the biggest slut on earth, and are then faced with two choices: pretend you never found out and greet that person cheerily every time you see them, or make them your enemy. This of course means that, often, you are pressured into being friendly with people who you not only have nothing in common with, but whom you think are the scum of the earth and would rather be sending death glares.
Get the point?

But if you find a way around the gossip problem, and find one or two good people to pass the time with, you’re set for the winter. Basically, for lack of anything to do, you make your own fun, sort of like the pilgrims, and often this turns out to be more fun than more orchestrated and pre-coordinated forms of entertainment.
I can honestly say that in my year in the village I was never once truly bored.

WHEN THE MOUNTAIN COMES TO MOHAMMED...
But what happens when the winter is over? Everyone has just spent the season moaning about how dead it is, then suddenly, with the arrival of the summer months, the village is crammed with tourists, xeni, and everyone starts moaning all over again about how busy and crowded it is. And rightly so. Driving anywhere becomes a nightmare as you must navigate past gaggles of tourists (who apparently don’t have cars where they come from) and all your favourite, quiet haunts are suddenly invaded by them. On the beach to which you have been coming with your dog to enjoy moments of solitude, you are suddenly confronted by obnoxious German tourists telling you how unhygienic it is to bring animals to the beach and that they’ll report you to the authorities. Your ears are filled with inane chatter every which way you turn (“Oh! What a nice castle! It’ll be great when they finish building it!” and “Hey – this doesn’t look like Portugal… Where are we?) and the balmy, jasmine scented evenings are shattered by the sound of music and revellers from the open-air bar. For a young person, it’s actually pretty fun (like I need to tell you that!) and teasing the tourists (or in the case of my brothers, doing their best to pick them up) is always good for a laugh. But for those who came to the village to find peace and quiet it can get trying.

Then autumn comes, which is a lovely time of year weather-wise, but also a melancholy one because, as the tourists fly out, shops close, and the village slowly empties of life, you realise you were just getting used to the hustle and bustle, and suddenly everything feels dead, devoid of life, and you start looking to the winter with apprehension, wondering what you’re going to do all these months with nothing open and no one to talk to.
And so on, the cycle repeats itself.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING...
My mother couldn’t hack it. After 7 years of collapsing roofs and errant plumbers, she’d had enough and called it quits.

My stepmother has kept going now for 20+ years, and loved almost every minute of it. But, with my brothers grown and flying the coop, and with many of the close friends, whose company she relied on, spending more and more of their winters abroad, she is finding herself a bit at loose ends. With nothing constructive to do with her time she is, herself, trying to get away as often as possible to Athens, England, or Dubai (where her brother lives).

The other ageing ex-pats I know are doing like-wise. After years of contented life in the village, they are now getting the inescapable urge to pick up and leave, and go somewhere with a bit more life and culture.
Strange how, as all these people have gotten older, the quiet life which suited them when they were young is no longer enough. With each passing winter, they’re feeling the call of the city ever more strongly. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way round?

TO BE CONTINUED...
But anyhow, next up, the place they are all flocking to: the grand and the glorious, the stinky and filthy, the, to quote Devious Diva, “small and horrible and great and secretive and special and disgusting and wild and unpleasant and wonderful and surprising and different” city, Athens.


Sunday, May 7

2 DEGREES OF SEPARATION FROM JON STEWART... SORT OF

So my friend Liz went to New York and got to go see the Daily Show and sat 10 feet away from Jon Stewart and I'm insanely jealous.

Read about it here.

PUPPY GIVEAWAY!!! YOU COULD OWN A CUTE, HELPLESS, HOMELESS PUPPY!!!

On a more serious note: My cousin found two puppies last week and needs to find a home for them.
She was walking her dog late at night when she came across a box in the middle of the street. And in the box were two adorable puppies. So of course she brought them home with her.
She's taken the puppies to the vet and they've had all their shots and received a clean bill of health.
The puppies are 3 months old, and probably a cross between a German Shephard and a Collie.
So if you have a big house, yard, farm, etc. (cause they'll be big dogs), please, take pity!!! They're really, really cute. And homeless. And someone just dumped them. They'd probably make great sheep dogs!
Contact me via e-mail (link top right below my profile).

The really ridiculous thing is that all she's gotten from her entire family is flack for taking them in! They're all making her feel bad, telling her it wasn't her problem and she should have ignored them!!! Now, I really don't understand this behaviour. If you don't have the guts to do the right thing yourself, don't make others feel bad for doing it! Like having to mop up puppy pee isn't enough of a challenge (two puppies = a lot of pee - but she's working on getting them house-trained), to have to deal with unsympathetic family members as well is too much! (And no, she's not sharing accomodations with any of them).

And lastly, to the people who dump their dogs and cats like that: SHAME ON YOU YOU HEARTLESS BRUTES LEAVING PUPPIES TO DIE AND FORCING OTHER PEOPLE TO CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!!! GET YOUR DOG NEUTERED OR SPAYED, OR FIND GOOD HOMES FOR THE PUPPIES THAT WILL RESULT. TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!!!

Saturday, May 6

I'M BACK

Hi all, I'm back.
In case you hadn't noticed I was gone, I was away for easter over... well, easter, and returned to a.) tax time looming ahead (don't ask - usual hassle over getting required veveosi from bank) and b.) a big pile of dog poo at work that required lots of overtime and such... including woking from home the entire trimero. This whole job thing is getting rather tiresome. When is my grade 11 (last year of high-school in Quebec) art teacher's prediction for my future going to come true???
Curious? This is what he predicted:
The last day of class, he told everyone what they would be when they grew up - he was kind of an eccentric ex-hippy guy. Anyway, around the class he went - you'll be a graphic designer, you'll be an architect, you'll be a this and a that, and when he got to me he said... "You... you're going to marry a Greek millionaire and live on top of a mountain in Greece and paint all day." At the time I was insulted, but now that real life has reared its ugly head I must admit the idea is growing increasingly attractive by the day.
ANYWAY that's OK I don't need a millionaire. I've got my own plan to escape from the drugery of the 9 to 5 - or 8... or 10... or even 10:30 when the secretaries start calling me up and telling me to leave or they'll lock me in - grind.
Yes I know I've been keeping you all on tenterhooks since my last post about just what this plan is. Ha ha.
(Thanks all for your comments and support by the way. I'll get around to answering at some point when I'm not as lazy as I am now.)
But you'll have to remain breathless for a while longer. All the details aren't yet worked out and I don't want to broadcast something that just aint going to happen. Or maybe I'm just sadistic.
However, my time away at easter was well spent back in the horio, doing a study of all the minutae of village life, that you may all benefit from my experiences there. Based on my tireless and selfless research, I am now preparing a brilliant sequal in what has become known around the Net as the "V.S." series. It will be called BIG CITY BLUES vs. THE VACUOUS VILLAGE.
Sorry. See. Too much work and stress makes me vent through ridiculous, and probably highly unamusing, sarcasm. Therefore someone should offer me a better job in order to stop me from writing this kind of drivel. But seriously now, I am writing up a little post on the subject - as it seems to be one of interest to everyone, with strong feelings on both sides... patience please, it's simmering away in there.
In the meantime: two things I have been doing to de-stress at the end of each long day, which you, my fellow bloggers, may enjoy.
The first, in fact, should immediately be added to your REQUIRED READING list, if you haven't read it already. It is called EURYDICE STREET, by Sofka Zinovieff, a British anthropologist who married a Greek and (after living in MOSCOW - !) moved with her husband to Athens when he was transferred here. Not only will ex-pats identify with much of what she goes through adjusting to life here, everyone (including native Athenians) will learn a lot about Athens, or at least get a new perspective on the city. And never fear, though Zinovieff doesn't shy from discussing the problems she encounters, she doesn't fall into the trap of "Greek bashing" either - extra brownie points from me.
The only criticism I have of the book is that the couple are wealthier than average (her husband is a foreign minister) and her experiences may not be entirely representative of the average ex-pat's - they live by the beach in Vouliagmeni, and think nothing of socialising with a Papandreou and the likes of Koulouglou (from Reporters Without Borders - gasp! I really admire that guy, and got a thrill when I realised who she was having coffee with!) Anyway, I'll stop before I get too book-review-y and bore everyone to death. Here's a real review. (Btw the book is also available in Greek.)
The second mode of entertainment I discovered are three games in a series called Hapland which I think are just really cute and whimsical - not to mention tough. If you don't resort to walkthroughs they'll take you hours, if not days to complete. I cheated, I must admit, but to deter others from doing the same, here's some useful info that might have helped me not give up so soon (it'll make sense once you see the game):
- The torches are those little bracket things over the archways.
- It's not enough to click on things in the right order - you have to click on some things simultaneously as well.
- Little round green things are grenades. You can throw them. Where you are standing and which arrows you click will determine where they are thrown.
- Try to see where the beginning must be, then determine where you want to end up, and what is standing in your way. Then, using logic (and trial and error) figure out how to remove the roadblocks and set everything up so everyone and everything is where it needs to be for the finale - like a complicated piece of disassembled machinery.
- Lastly, as the instructions say, click on EVERYHING, in different sequences and combinations, until some things start to happen that make sense. Then try to string these events together in an order that works, based on your observations from the point above.
Good luck!
And with some luck on my part, I'll soon have enough time and energy to write something with a bit more substance... Here's hoping anyway.

Thursday, April 13

FAREWELL O ATHENS OF MY HEART... I WISH

I don't know about everyone else, but between the mounds of stinky garbage that are slowly consuming our fair city, the summery weather (which only serves to remind us that we could be lying on a beach somewhere), and the resulting increase in surliness one is encountering on the streets these days, I think it's about time to get the heck out of Dodge, don't you?

I mean, really, what is it that keeps everyone flocking to the big city? Is it the jobs? Cause, last time I checked, they were kind of in short supply. Is it the access to culture? If so, why is theatre, cinema and so on in decline? Does your family live here? Get them to move somewhere else with you. It shouldn't take too much convincing.

Why don't we all pack our bags and go harvest olives, peaches and ouzo on some gorgeous, sun-drenched island? Live the simple life. Drink and swim and laze and soak up the sun all day. Was it not, after all, the image of the sun-drenched island that captured our fancy and enamoured us of Greece in the first place?

I, for one, am currently planning my escape. It'll be tough. It'll be dangerous. It might even be painful. But I know for a fact that I will not live in this city forever. (More on my grand escape scheme another day... it's still in the works, though slowly coming together.)

Don't get me wrong. I am not normally among the Athens Haters. As those of you who have read my blog fairly regularly may have gathered, I actually find it an eternally fascinating city, full of spontaneous drama and hidden beauty.

So when I go, I'll make sure I have easy access to a quickie back in Athens every now and then, for when allure of sleepy island life wears thin and the big city clamours ever louder in my imagination.

But right now, in reality, the clamour of the city is getting to be a bit much.

A semi-irrelevant anecdote:
I was walking to work this morning, alternately beaming with pleasure and grimacing in horror as conflicting wafts of jasmine and putrefying garbage were blown my way, with my arms crossed across my chest cause it was a bit chilly. From the opposite direction came an decrepit, toothless old man. A few meters before our paths crossed, he started blabbering and gesticulating wildly in my direction.
Eventually I made out that he was telling me to uncross my arms. In fact, he seemed positively infuriated by my arms crossed position.
Yet another soul lost to the madness of city life? Or was I breaking some ancient Greek canon I've never heard of? (Or, though this is really stretching it, was he angered by the fact that I was denying him a view of my breasts?)

I continued on my way, dazed, murmuring over and over under my breath: "Oh, it's off to the island I go, I go! It's off to the island I go!"

Saturday, April 1

JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY

Well, another Saturday has passed over a bottle of ouzo - only today it was really SUMMERY outside, and thus a million times better than last. (For those of you reading this from Montreal and going on about how nice the weather is there, I'll have you know it was WELL into the 20's today. Ahhh.) I got a real kick from watching all the tourists who've suddenly invaded our city. There I am, still wearing a jacket etc., and they're wandering around the city (always with a really lost/helpless expression) sporting tank tops, sunhats and sunburns. OK, the weather's been nice, but surely not hot enough for sunburns??!!??
Anyway I discovered two really nice places to go out. One was called GLIKI - somewhere in some not-crowded backstreet of plaka, a kind of funky but non pretentious mezedopoleio. Great food, great atmosphera, a little of the beaten path. Perfect. Sorry I can't tell you all where it is cause those twisty Plaka streets really throw me for a loop and I'll be hard-pressed to find it again on my own. Then we went to a little bar in Exharia, and the drinks and conversation continued... till now.
The only problem with these afternoon drinking sessions is that I really don't have the energy to then go out at night. The fact that I'm not nineteen is starting to show, I think, at least internally. So instead I'm sitting here listening to all this goth/techno/dance music my little brother dumped on my computer off his portable hard drive, getting a real kick out of it. Currently playing song has the lyric "clone your lover". Ummm yeah. What can I say, it reminds me of my youth. Nothing like a bit of Covenant blasting through your headphones to clear the ouzo haze. Maybe I will go out after all!

Thursday, March 23

DOCTOR PANTS DOWN LOOKED ROOM

Allow me to join the trend of posting about the searches people have done which have led them to our blogs. (There's a bit of a thrill in checking out other people's searches - it's like peeking inside their brains, isn't it?)
Along with the to be expected google searches for: "canadian citizen living in Athens Greece" and so forth, I got the following:

a voice thing when pou type it it talk about the thing s you typing

... I don't know what to tell this person. Maybe to do a search for 'a brain thing when you think it it help you make sense about the things you thinking'

AND (most mystifying of all):

doctor pants down looked room

OK I'm stumped. Was he looking for porn??? Was she molested by her doctor and looking for a support group??? What???!

COULD SOMEONE TELL ME PLEASE WHEN THE COOKING GENE KICKS IN?

We've been talking, the last few days at work, about cooking. Not the most scintillating of subjects perhaps, but our conversation has revolved around the fact that most of us seem entirely incapable of bringing our own homemade lunches to work, and on just why this is the case.
How is it that we’ve become such a lazy, shameful, fast-food/take-out generation?
If it weren’t for the rather limited fast food options immediately available to us within a 2 block radius - Goodies, Pita tou Papou, and Everest – we’d be lost. And those few of us who do manage to bring homemade lunches are regarded with bewilderment and something approaching awe.

Don't get me wrong: I love food, and I love to cook - in theory at least. That is to say, when I have a special occasion for which to labour, and the luxury of having the entire day to do it. And I've been told (OK, no false modesty here, I know) that I'm a damn good cook. …Perhaps I should have more dinner parties.
But, truth be told, on a regular basis I am something of a sporadic chef. I'll manage to whip up at least 3 decent meals a week for about a month, then go almost two months more without so much as lifting a ladle or lid. The sad fact of the matter is that the buzz I get from crafting a creative, original, delectable meal fades when it is required of me daily. After 8 hours of work, no less.

My boyfriend is not much help either when it comes to my dilemma. No, he’s not a typical Greek man; he's a whiz with the iron and the laundry machine, and does his fair share of dishwashing and tidying up. But food and cooking, alas, just don't interest him very much. He is strictly a meat and potatoes (well, bread since this is Greece) kind of guy. Anything resembling a fruit, vegetable, bean or lentil is immediately suspect and unappetizing. Not to mention anything which is just a little bit spicy - even ordinary pepper is too much for him! (I have trouble understanding why he isn't suffering from a serious vitamin deficiency and languishing, sallow and weak, on the couch all day, but anyway.)
Needless to say, this doesn't provide me with much incentive to cook anything nice or different. When I do, he just won't eat it. Which is fine by him (he prefers souvlaki from the place downstairs over just about anything anyway) but not much fun for me. After all, what is a cook without an audience?

The other major roadblock to my cooking consistently is what must come before the cooking can begin, namely grocery shopping. It has always been something that I've disliked intensely. Moreover, I have never gotten the knack of buying really useful food. What I mean is that, though I may buy an entire shopping cart (worth 100 euros) full of food, once we get home and put it all away I am suddenly confronted by the fact that there is nothing to eat! I'm not sure how this is possible, or what food-stealing elves may be hiding in my cupboards and refrigerator, but still it remains the case. Perhaps it's that I’ve bought nothing quick to eat. But then, if I decide to cook something “real” and substantial, it seems I don't have any of the necessary ingredients for anything!

I know the solution to all my woes, of course. All I have to do is sit down once a week, search the site epicurious.com for 5 inspiring recipes or so, and base my week's shopping list on that.
Yeah right! I'm afraid that that level of organisation and forethought is quite beyond me.

What I want to know, though, is when the grown up gene will kick in? After all, I don't imagine that our parents were born knowing how to meal-plan, shop and cook. They must have learned at some stage though because, by the time they had us, they had managed to get it together and plunk down three square meals a day.
But I just don't see that ever happening to me, and the years are ticking by ever more quickly. Do you have to have kids for this mysterious cooking gene to start working? Or does it automatically activate once you've reached a certain age? If so, what age exactly would that be?

Please let me know, cause I don’t wanna be a fast-food girl no more!

Sunday, March 19

VINDICATED!!!!

When I told everyone about the hell I went through to get my health book at my local IKA office, everyone looked at me kind of askance, as though I was making the whole thing up. Apparently, not all IKA offices are as bad as mine - most people went once, waited an hour or so max (and complained mightily about it), and that was that.
I, on the other hand, made a total of FOUR trips to my IKA office (IKA Patission) before I got the book. The first time I showed up at 11. OK that was overly optimistic. They had, of course, stopped giving out numbers. So the second time I got there at 8:30. The place only opens at 8:30, for god's sake! After stopping to ask for some information, I got to the correct floor at quarter to 9.
They had stopped giving out numbers.
Ahem.
OK, so I went back a third time, arriving at ten to eight.
I got a number! Number ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE.
And remember, this is FORTY minutes before the place even OPENS.
So the guy "organising" everyone told us to go away and come back in a couple of hours. "OK, that's not too bad," I thought to myself. "At least we don't have to sit in there for ages while waiting."
So off we went, sat and drank coffee in a dismal cafe for a couple of hours, and returned at 10 expecting to served.
On the number display board was an evily red-glowing number ONE.
"How is this possible? What's going on?" we inquired. Turned out the computers were down, so they hadn't opened yet. And no, they didn't know when the computer would go back on, but anyway, my number 181 wouldn't get me to a wicket before the place closed. Right. Might I add that I was losing time off work to do all this? I was starting to wonder if it was all worth it...
So the FOURTH time, I showed up at QUARTER PAST SEVEN. The lineup already stretched two blocks from the front door.
At quarter to eight, they started letting people in a few at a time. By the time my turn came round, I ended up with number TWO HUNDRED AND ELEVEN. OK. This time I was determined to stick it out. I sat down on the filthy IKA stairs in the hallway (the tiny waiting room was jam-packed with smelly humanity) and proceeded to read my way through an entire book, popping up periodically and futiley to see how we were doing.
There were three wickets open for all these hundreds of people.
The numbers advanced all too slowly.
Finally, at A QUARTER TO ONE, my number came up, and I was shortly and uneventfully(thank god) the proud owner of a drab health book, printed on cheap, chewed-up looking paper. I had never in my life felt so ecstatic to hold something in my hands. If I have a child one day, after I've given birth and am handed my baby, I think I will feel something approaching the happiness I felt, holding that damn book.
OK, don't believe me? Think it can't have been QUITE so bad, that I'm exaggerating? Well, I have news for you my friend, literally. The other day, while flicking channels, I came upon a piece on the MEGA evening news about - you guessed it - IKA Patission, and what a truly abysmal, impossible, ridiculous branch it is. I cheered and danced up and down as the pictures of what had been my private hell flashed onscreen, and laughed at the disgruntled old men and ladies who were surprised that there weren't any numbers left at eleven o'clock!
I felt... vindicated!
Strange, huh?

A Note From the Editors

We, the editors, would like to apologise for the recent lack of activity on this blog, on behalf of its negligent author. We are very disappointed in Kassandra, and are seriously considering having her flogged for her lack of dedication. We will not accept any excuses, such as that she has been working 1o to 12 hours a day in an attempt to make up hours lost (due to sickness/obsessive and lengthy commenting on the blog). We stand firm in our decision. No pleas for mercy will penetrate our stony hearts. Thank you.

Kassandra says: Ah! The voices! In my head! Make them stop!

OK OK, no I'm not schizophrenic. That's just the voice of my conscience talking. And damn, while I've been "away" everone has been writing such interesting stuff on their blogs it'll take me ages to catch up.

Anyway, I've just got back from a very nice ouzo/mezedes with my cousin, and have a head bursting with thoughts, fighting with the ouzo fog that is trying to subsume everything with its sticky sweetness. My cousin has that effect on me - she's very vital and alive and no matter how much ouzo I drink we always have the most intersting conversations.

And the product of our conversation today is a Plan.
Yes, that's capital P Plan.
And we need your help.

As we all know, those of us who live in Athens anyway, life here can be a bit... frustrating to say the least. The lack consideration, empathy, decency, and basic politeness that one encounters on the streets - the result of living in a city overrun by the human swarm - is not only annoying, it is de-humanizing and may affect us more deeply, in terms of our psychological well-being, than we realise.

Something must be done!

To this end, we have decided to publish a manifesto of sorts (I do like my manifestos, don't I?) entitled: Twenty (30? 40? 50?) Steps to Being a Selfishly Successful Athenian. (working title - suggestions welcome).

This manifesto, when completed, will be photocopied and plastered over the city, at least until our supplies of change for the copies run out.

The items in the manifesto will be along the following lines:

1) When I'm driving in my car and see someone trying to cross the street, I will put my foot to the gas pedal and do my best to run them over. And I will remember that children, pregnant women, and old ladies are worth bonus points.
2) When the metro arrives and it's time to get on, I will forcefully push and shove my way through the people trying to get off, scattering their bodies left and right in my attempt to claim my prize - a seat. And should an old lady, pregnant woman, or injured/handicapped person get on, there is no way I will offer them my hard-won seat.
3) When a woman is trying to get on or off a bus, encumbered by children and a baby carriage, I will sit back and smile smugly as she struggles to get them all on safely. Never in a million years will I help her lift the carriage up.

And so on and so forth.

But that's just three items, and we're aiming for at least 20, or more if we can think of them. So please, if you've got any witticisms/criticisms you'd like to contribute in that vein - that is, scathingly sarcastic tips for being an asshole in Athens - feel free. (Maybe that should be the title!)

And perhaps when it's done you will see your contribution pasted on a marble pillar somewhere.

Thanks, and never fear, I will be posting more frequently from now on.
K

Wednesday, March 1

MORE RANTING ABOUT SEXIST ADS

Ah, one of my "favourite" buffalo jeans ads, which was to be seen from my apartment building in Canada.

I was reminded of this in a discussion with seawitch in the Dewars post below.

As I said in my comment, this ad was on a huge banner, in a part of town where kids were walking by every two minutes.

Does the girl in the ad look old enough to you to be sitting like that? I think she looks like she's waiting to be raped - her body language/ posture is so vulnerable - not have consentual sex with someone. Actually it looks like someone just picked her up and threw her in the corner, smashing her head on the wall - maybe hence the dazed look.

It's by far not the worst of the ones they had up, either - some of the girls in the others were far younger looking.

Is it sexy? Maybe. Did it sell jeans? Probably, to women who sadly want to look like that. Does that make it appropriate??? For little girls to see and probably emulate???

I found the picture on this site, on media literacy which I haven't checked out yet, but at first glance it seems pretty informative and relevant to the discussion we've been having about media awareness.

Tuesday, February 28

DEWARS - YOU'LL NEVER BE TRULY MINE

Has anyone noticed the ad campaign for Dewars whisky that's been running the last few months (here in Greece anyway - it's probably older in the rest of the world)?
In case not, here's the concept: a guy/girl has been working at a good, stable, but perhaps somewhat restrictive or stuffy job. Inspired (by Dewars, of course) they quit this job to pursue the "career" they have always wanted - a really cool, "free" job that lets them "express themselves" fully.
There are two versions, one with a guy, one with a girl.
So, the guy: he's a classical concert pianist. He quits, leaving behind his "tux and bow-tie" to play piano in smokey jazz clubs. We see him playing in the club, having a grand old time, everyone cheering him on, loving him, he's letting loose, discovering the music he has always loved, etc. It's quite a nice and effective ad, actually. You really admire this guy, and think he's pretty cool for giving up such a good job for his passion. You probably envy him a bit.
So I was just about to give Dewars some kudos, when I see the girl version.
She's a detective. Woman cop. Which is already a pretty cool job if you ask me. But, get this, she quits her job to go work in a bar, DANCING in a CAGE above the crowd. A CAGE. Oh, and she "kept the handcuffs". WHAT THE *#@%$*&???!!!
So, if we follow the logic of the first ad, dancing in a CAGE is a job to be envied? This woman is cool? To be admired and, perhaps, emulated????
Obviously this ad is not oriented towards the female market, but it is still such a transparent piece of male-chauvenistic, keep-women-in-their-place-dancing-in-a-cage GARBAGE - It really makes my blood boil that people still make these ads - and that there must be a market for them since advertisers supposedly do tons of market research.
And people try to tell me that "my generation" is lucky cause we don't have to deal with sexism.
Urgh!!!

Sunday, February 26

Η ΠΟΛΗ ΜΑΣ ANHKEI


Η ΠΟΛΗ ΜΑΣ ANHKEI
Originally uploaded by kassandrapoised.

So I've finally gotten round to getting some of my photos online. I really like this one... "the city belongs to us". You can access it and the rest thanks to Flickr by clicking on the badge in the sidebar.
I don't actually have that many photos in digital format, at least not that I've taken myself, cause I'm really oldschool and will never, EVER give up my old analog camera for a digital one. Well, never say never, but I will always insist that nothing beats the grainy, glowing LIFE of a "real" photograph. Digital ones can look great superficially, but they don't have soul.
Luckily, I've got this amazing, quite rare camera that belonged to my mom. It's called an Exacta, was made in East Germany in the 1970's, is built like a tank, and has got a Carl Zeiss lens which takes just amazing photos. But unless my boyfriend gets his scanner fixed one day you'll never get to see the photos I've taken with it. I guess digital has some benefits...

Friday, February 24

ON THE GREEK DOCTOR'S COUCH...

Well I'm back from a week long trip to a plethora of doctors' offices. Seriously: my every waking hour this week has been spent either in my chair at work, or on a couch in a doctor's waiting room. Fun, fun - well, not for me, but hopefully for you, cause here is a detailed account of my journey through the various rooms.
The beginnings of this journey can be found in my post called MY LITTLE ENDOMETRIOSIS.
Since then I've been waiting for the right time of month to embark on the second round of doctor's visits. Well, the time swung round, and off I went.
First, my wonderful sweet kind cousin, who is a very... shall we say, alternative kind of girl, insisted I see her gynaecologist to get a second opinion (in addition to the first, given to me by MY HERO, the doctor at IASO). Rather reluctantly, I went, and not surprisingly, (as this was no regular gynaecologist but rather a family friend) the waiting was funky lo-key: big overstuffed couches splayed around a homey kind of living room; millions of tiny baby eyes staring down at you from collages covering every available wall space; a collection of rather bedraggled plants, and a serve-yourself filter coffee machine.
Unfortunately, after a two hour wait (we'd already shown up 3 hours late, as recommended by the receptionist) the doctor was less homey and comfortable than her workspace. In fact, the 75 euros I paid got me the conviction, held for two days, that I had cancer and was going to die. I was just working on the third draft of my will when my first blood test results came back.
To go back a little - this is important cause Greece gets yet another point in the ongoing Greece vs. Canada Battle: BLOOD TESTS IN GREECE ARE A MILLION TIMES EASIER THAN IN CANADA. It's like this: I am (was?) DEATHLY afraid of blood tests. Days before the appointed time, I start getting strange numbness and weakness behind my knees and elbows, and little whimpers escape my mouth whenever I am reminded of the awful fate that awaits me. On the day itself, I am fairly composed before the ordeal, but afterwards I emerge ashen-faced, hyperventilating, with pain and numbness coursing through my entire body. I swear I am not exaggerating. Ask my friend, Liz, who came with me once. She still has nightmares about the day, and has developed a (previously non-existent) needle-phobia herself.
So, here in Greece, I started getting the same symptoms, started coaching my boyfriend so he wouldn't freak out completely and run out of the office when I turned into a blubbering puddle of cowardly jelly, and tried my best to steel myself for WHAT WAS TO COME.
Which then never came.
My boyfriend is convinced I made the whole thing up to freak him out.
Actually, this is what happened: I walked into the clinic. Two girls were behind the desk - both about 16 years old by the look of it. The younger of the two - about 4 foot 5, blond and pixie-like, gushed at me to follow her to THE CHAIR. Which I did. She then started preparing the needle, and I was like - hang on a minute, aren't you going to call your mommy to do that? (OK she was actually married and just really young looking, but in my panicked state I wasn't noticing details). But anyway, before the question is out of my mouth, she's saying "OK, we're done, sweetie/glykoula mou."
And we were. That was it. I didn't feel a thing. Phew.
Needless to say, I spent the next hour laughing.
My only explanation is that, in Canada, they siphon off extra blood to secretly donate to the blood banks, hence the exaggeratedly large needles they use, and the large amounts of blood they take.
Go Greece!
Incidentally, the results were below the cut-off point that indicates cancer. (!!!) Phew again.
And back to my dissertation on waiting rooms.
So, with my blood tests in hand, I set off to see my original doctor who, if you recall, I had originally seen at the hospital. So I had no idea what to expect from his waiting room. However, the girl who had recommended him to me was definitely a POINTY SHOED kind of Greek girl. If you followed the debate on buruburu and Scruffy American's sites, you'll know what I'm talking about - perfectly coiffed, leading a trouble-free existence of coffee bars and clothing stores, very chi-chi and chic. So, (again not surprisingly) when I stepped into THIS doctor's waiting room, I thought I must have walked into the wrong office. It looked like a posh modelling agency or something - abstract modern art tossed about in every corner, plexi and chrome galore, and a very stylish black girl serving the ladies coffee - your choice: cappucino, espresso, filter, the works, from a very fancy looking machine.
Unfortunately, the elegance of the place did nothing to detract from the waiting time.
I got there at 7pm, on the dot.
The doctor saw me at 11:15pm. (An aside: these doctors amaze me, really. They're up at six, spend the morning at the hospital, then work all night, regularly, until 11 or 12, and still - at least in this case - manage to be cheerful and answer all my questions and more!)
Moreover, since I had to wait so long, the consultation was on the house! Whoopee, as my funds are quickly dwindling due to the constant stream of tests I am having to undergo.
Also, I had plenty to entertain me while I waited. In fact, I barely had time to concentrate on the book I'd brought, foreseeing the marathon wait ahead of me (Eleni Gage's 'North of Ithaca'. Yes, She's Nick Gage's daughter. No, it's not a work of genius, though rather amusing, and, ironically enough, she had ovarian cysts too, and in fact had to delay the start of her voyage due to them!)
Anyway, in the large, main waiting room, equipped with leather couches and all the latest trendy magazines, I was privy to a constant parade of women with bellies bulging out of tight designer pregnancy pants. Really. Who the hell buys DESIGNER PREGNANCY PANTS when you're only going to use them for a few months?? But that's what they were. (Have you ever seen the film Dr T and the Women? It was kind of like that, but more so.) Of course, the non-pregnant women were even more glamorously dressed, and the multitude of attractive staff looked ready to step out onto the ballroom floor. For example, the woman who typed in the info while I got my ultrasound was wearing a flowy, see-through ruffled black dress, stilettos, and huge dangly silver earrings. Humph. I would've at least cast off my baggy jeans if I knew I was going to a fashion show.
As if that wasn't enough, the elegant couple sitting across from me were a constant source of amusement, namely because the husband spent the ENTIRE FOUR HOURS with his head thrown back on the couch, mouth open, snoring loudly. His demure wife, for the duration of this manly display, stared vacantly into space, every now and then patting his bald crown in an absent-minded kind of way.
But whenever this carnival started losing its charm, I had a third source of amusement: the SMOKERS waiting room, into which I kept popping in order to celebrate my state of non-cancerness.
This room was, of course, much smaller than the main one - about the size of a closet, in fact - but everyone who wasn't pregnant was jammed in there. Not only did it hold the lure of nicotine, but there was a TELEVISION on the wall. So we alternated between watching the Pireas riots (which were SO staged - like, "Hello, guys, it's 8 thirty. The news is on. Let's throw some stuff around then go home and drink Metaxa, OK?") and two women who were staging their own, personal, cold war. It went something like this:
WOMAN ONE: It's cold in here. Close the window. (ed. note: What, and suffocate?)
WOMAN TWO: But we're smoking. It's smoky.
WOMAN ONE: Just for a minute or two, OK? I'm freezing.
WOMAN TWO: (grumbling) OK, OK...
five minutes later (woman two re-opens the window)
WOMAN ONE: What are you doing?
WOMAN TWO: Opening the window.
WOMAN ONE: But it's cold. Can't you see it's cold? There's a draft hitting my legs.
WOMAN TWO: I'll just leave it open for a minute or two. I can't breathe.
five minutes later
WOMAN ONE: Are you going to close the window or what?
WOMAN TWO: But I just opened it!
And so on. As far as I could tell, they were at it continuously for the entire four hours. All this because, of course, woman one couldn't concede defeat (or relinquish her smoking chair) by moving to the mainly empty main waiting room and just relocating for cigarette breaks.
But to make a long story... a little less long, it was with some reluctance that I finally made it to the doctor's office. Good news, he's still convinced I have endometriosis, and that, with a small operation, I'll be cured - well, at least until the bloody disease/condition comes back, as is its wont, apparently.
The bad news is that, done privately, the operation costs 2000 euros. And that's just the hospital fee. I didn't get round to asking how much the doctor's fee would be, or the cost of the monthly hormone injections I'd need to get for the next half a year. 2000 is already, sadly, out of my budget.
SO the next morning, having recently (and with many failed trips, pain, suffering, and waiting in lines) gotten my vivliario (health book) I ventured to the nearby IKA office to see what the whole deal was with public insurance. After waiting 10 minutes for the information lady to finish her (I'm sure private) telephone call, I shoved my way through the hordes of smelly people to the basement and got a family doctor written into my book (as required) with something approaching ease. I was then directed to the imioropho to book an appointment with a state gynaecologist.
So, I enter the waiting room. What confronts me: a stark white room, entirely bare walls, linoleum tiles, and a stack of broken chairs in the corner. Nothing else - besides a mass of poor unfortunates who, like me, cannot afford private healthcare, waiting their turn to be... somethinged... through a stained metal door.
Needless to say, after my whirlwind tour of the glamorous private health care world, this was all a bit much for me, and I fled.
So what now? I see two options: apply for private health insurance (and lie and say I'm perfectly healthy, though it might seem a bit suspicious that as soon as I hold that golden card - or whatever they give you - I'll check myself first class into the IASO), or 'Go Greek': pull some strings, call up some favours, rely on connections. In fact, as I type my uncle is speaking to an IKA doctor on my behalf, and my dad is calling up every doctor he knows, to see if someone can pull some strings and get me, IKA offices-free, into a halfway decent state hospital like the Alexandras. Never mind the so called "black fees" - the illegal, but well established fees you must use to bribe the guy doing the operation - if you want to get it sometime before the year 3000.
Jesus. Minus 10 Greece.
But I'll cross that bridge, and all the rest that await me, when I come to it.