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.