Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Burn, baby, burn!

Ah, the heady days of youth... opening Greek bank accounts because Barclays screwed you over, hitching up a tropical print dress to ride a motorbike to an ATM, (walk? ha! only losers do that!) burning your thigh on the red hot exhaust of said motorbike... isn't being young fun??

So now I've ruined my legs for the beach, well, at least the left one. Oh, the irony! A month ago I was too conservative to wear shorts out in public and cringed the first time I had to step out onto a beach heaving with people in nothing but a bathing suit. Now all I can wear are itsy bitsy shorts. How the tables turn!

Thanks to my burn, I can't even go shopping because I can't try anything on trouser wise. So each day the sales pass me by, and I have to sit at home prodding the blisters on my burn. Fun! There go my plans of transforming into a hot Athenian babe. I also can't shave the area above or near the burn, turning it into a hairy, gloopy mess. Last night I forgot the burn was there and rubbed my leg in my sleep. Ah, the follies of youthful misadventure! Pass me the burn cream!


Monday, July 18, 2005

Death by Summer Sale - at a highstreet near you!

The summer sales started today. I alighted from my ride and tried to make my way to the bank to check if the money transfer from my useless Barclays account had arrived.

Total panic.

Bug-eye sunglassed Athenian ladies everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE. It was like all the building were heamoraging well-dressed Athenian women.

They were strolling along, but even with their cool style it was easy to see the panic in their eyes. Actually, that is a little hard because of the bug-eye sunglasses, but anyway. They were walking in a way that only a woman will understand, in a way that only a woman can during that most urgent of seasons.

The summer sales.

Yes, today the summer sales start in Athens. Tomorrow I am delving into the throngs. I hope my shabby wardrobe will attract some pity and allow the crowds before the bargain bin to part before me like the Red Sea, but I doubt it. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am scared. So much so, that I had to switch radio channels when Athens International Radio started talking about the sales.

When I go bargain hunting, I wear something easy to take off so I can try things on. The women of Athens dress to kill, especially, it seems, when bargain hunting. It's as if the message they are sending is "You silly little fool, do you really think that item of clothing which I have my eye on will look good on you? Look at me! Can you not see how much style I have whereas you, poor wretch, have none. Do you know why I dress like this? Because I don't need to undress and try things on like uncertain fools such as you. Every item I like was made for ME!"

Maybe I should just get over myself.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You sell WHAT?

Isn't it dumb how when you find stuff overseas which you had been craving you pay really stupid prices for it. Even worse, you invent memories in your mind of how this was your absolute favourite thing back home.

On a walk around the maze of markets around Omonia, I discovered a street full of Chinese and Indian shops, and attracted more attention to myself than necessary by clasping my hands together in delight every time I came across some random Indian object like kebab mix and all the other things from the Homeland. "Hooray" I thought "now I won't starve!"

The highlight of my escapade was a barren Halal meat shop with a fridge stocked with mango juice, a TV perched atop it blaring out Bollywood. I nearly wet my pants with joy. I purchased said mango juice at the hefty price of one euro per can. Later when I was scraping together change for a bus ticket, I questioned the wisdom of my youthful enthusiasm. Hey, when a girl wants her mango juice in a forgein country, she's gotta have it! All I needed after that was a cotton sari to wear to work. Strangely enough, on trips to Birmingham's Sparkhill, I tend not to go into fits of happiness with mango juice and just have water.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Musical tastes and sundry items

An entertaining aspect of foreign countries is popular culture.


This crime against fashion goes by the name of Arash. He's an Iranian singer who somehow, mysteriously and miraculously has hit the big time in Europe. How come we never heard of him in the UK? I feel deprived! He has released a song called Boro Boro (translated as go away). I doubt he'd have been as successful if he hadn't stolen the Bollywood format. Everyone loves Bollywood!


After Arash, most Greek pop music is comprised of the power ballad, and all the singers sound like they're trembling on the edge of bursting into tears. Never in my young life have I heard such warbling. Talk about miserable! Most days it's fine, but every once in a while you think "If I hear one more warbling note with bouzoki playing, I'll kill myself."

Athens International Radio 104.4fm:

Hooray! They speak English!

Cafe Waitresses:

Aloof, skinny and always fashionable, the Athenian cafe waitress can make you feel bad about yourself without even trying. In fact, all the women in Athens manage that with a mere flash of their bug-eye sunglasses, which they all wear. Rule number one for survival and any hope of being a part of decent society: you don't go to the corner shop in your jim jams. Nothing less than this season's cutting edge fashion and immaculate hair and makeup will do.

Let's go for a coffee:

Never say yes to this offer unless you have at least three hours to spare. Ordering is superfast, service follows at the speed of light, but more often than not, that precious frappe, ambrosia of Athenian life, will lie there untouched for a minimum of two hours while its owner talks about anything and everything. And God the Greeks can talk. They may have missed out when God was handing out pieces of land, which is why they say they ended up with some rocks in the sea, but they must have camped out overnight to be first in line for the Gift of the Gab.

Damn the Euro!

Everyone I spoke to hates it. They blame it, along with America for everything. Like an old person looking back on their youth through rose tinted glasses, everything was better with the drachma, and the sad thing is this is probably true. The Greek government's finance department has some funky ideas. They've proposed a 25% tax for all earnings across the band. So if you earn 100 euros, you pay 25% tax, if you earn 10,000, you pay 25%. Hmmm! Good idea - not!


Friday, July 08, 2005

"If I help you, my genitals will fall off"

Okay, I've never actually heard a Greek man say that, but it seems to be how some of them feel about housework.

This country is pretty cool, but the worst thing about it is the gender inequality. A survey 58 countries analysing gender equality put Sweden at number 1, Egypt at number 58 and Greece at number 50. I guess the women aren't really helping themselves because gender inequality doesn't appear in a vacuum. Should they stop appearing on breakfast tv and politics shows with their cleavages hanging out, perhaps? I don't know.

Don't expect too much. Greek men may be experts at old-fashioned romance, but the second the honeymoon is over, he will curl up into a cowering mass if you so much as suggest that he picks up after himself or does the dishes for once. Don't you know that even the mere suggestion of treating you like an equal human being risks making him impotent?? Greek men are inherently spoilt rotten as children by their mothers so can't help the fact that they grow up expected to be waited on hand and foot. It's actually spookily reminiscent of the Homeland.

There are, of course exceptions, but it's like finding a very equal needle in a very sexist haystack. Lucky for me said needle came up and poked me in the eye so I didn't have to do much looking. So you can't always believe everything statistics tell you, I still feel safer here as a woman than in Britain.


Monday, July 04, 2005


Today makes one year since Greece won Euro 2004. I followed most of their surprising rise in Euro 2004, only to forget what day the final was on and walk into the living room seconds after the trophy had been handed over. Talk about bad timing. At the time I didn't think much of it, seeing as I hadn't anticipated my soon-to-unfold love affair with Greece. In exactly one month's time, I would be flying to Athens for the first time to volunteer at the Olympics. Except I didn't know it then.

So Greece had Euro 2004, they had Athens 2004, then they got Eurovision 2005 and now they have ME! The summer of 2004 was pure magic for me. As volunteers at the Olympics, we got all kinds of funky perks such as free tickets to the final dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony, the next best thing to being at the real deal. I don't know what it is about this place, but sitting in the crowd with everyone around me chanting "Hellas, Hellas" I felt.... well... Greek!

Here in Greece they say it's not nationality that makes you Greek, it's your attitude. That said my lack of interest in drinking or smoking makes me a bit of an oddity. That and the fact that I came to spend three months in the Med without knowing how to swim. Never mind, I had plenty of people willing to teach me.

Another thing that takes some getting used to is the Greek custom of kamakia, roughly translated as harpooning, or in more familiar terms cat calling. Yes ladies, men of all shapes and sizes go into overdrive according to what you wear. The more skin on show, the more cat calls you get and the higher the volume. The first day I went out wearing a skirt, a boring little brown office number, this big guy on a motorcycle crooned "Yia sou koritzi mou" (hello my girl) Bleauh! Koritzi yourself!