Tuesday, December 19, 2006

With All my Love...

In case you live on Saturn and didn't know, Christmas is now within spitting distance. For this occassion of festive consumerism, I am in the UK with my family, allowing me to pick up some unusual items for presents.

Take a look at this piece of work. This is the Voodoo knife display by Italian designer Raffaele Iannello. It's Mr Zeus's Christmas present from yours truly!

My boss thought it was the wrong present to buy for someone you love, but just look at it! It's so much fun! In a sick kind of way.

Buy online at:

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New Lows

If you had the misfortune of being downtown yesterday between 7-9.30pm anywhere around Plaka and Syntagma, my apologies in advance.

Yesterday was the culmination of several days of flat-out deadline meeting with work, leaving me no time to do any laundry. When I was finally able to wash some clothes, they were still not dry by the time I went downtown. Realising with 15 minutes to spare that I had a bus to catch, my primary motivation was warmth.

Hence, beautiful people of Athens, yesterday evening I assaulted your eyes with the following combination:

- An oversized, clean-ish beige jumper belonging to Mr Zeus
- Grey baggy sports bottoms with an orange stripe down each side. Not so bad if it wasn't for the fact that I had slept in them the night before AND spent all day yesterday in them
- A brown scooter jacket with furry collar, missing a drawstring on one side.
- Scuffed red sports shoes
- An out-of-place nice looking brown shoulder bag

Having had too much work to do to care, I couldn't be bothered less what I looked like as I exited my humble abode. However, it's only when you have sunk to new depths of fashion abuse that you realise how well-dressed Athenians are.

My entire time out I caught scornful/horrified glances. The look on the women's eyes was: How revolting / That poor little refugee
The men was more: I looked up for THAT?!/ That poor little refugee

So I want to apologise. Let me make it clear that while my fashion sense is 65% towards practical, 25% decent and 8% glamorous, it tends to stick to an annual 2% of absolutely terrible.

I'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again, oh well-dressed Athenians!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

10 Reasons

In answer to the continuing bitchfest that has become my post titled Summer in Greece, here are ten things I like about living in Athens:

1. 20 C at the end of November
2. The Acropolis at night
3. Souvlaki
4. Galaktoburiko
5. Greek summers by the sea
6. The pastry shop around the corner
7. Hot, crispy loukoumades with melted honey
8. Abundant eye-candy
9. How there's always a way to get around any rule
10. Happy faces on the street

There! Now stop baying for my blood! Because you have been naughty and didn't read all the nice things I've previously said about Greece I am rejecting all mean comments on that post from now on. Let's put it in a simpler way that might help you understand:

India is a beautiful country rich in history, with friendly people and delicious food. You'd love it if you went for a visit, but living there is a whole other matter. After a few months of the same spicy food all the time, the language barrier, the cultural differences, squealing Bollywood songs on the radio all day, you might start to find parts of life there irritating.

It's no reflection on India's greatness if you are finding it hard now and then to settle down there. Replace India with Greece and you'll see what I mean. Do you get it now? Will you all calm down and stop campaigning to get me kicked out of the country?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Memory Too Low

I have stumbled across a rather sad fact. My brain seems to have the capacity for only two languages at any one given time. As my growing Greek takes over space in my already taxed brain, I have discovered that my second language, acquired while growing up in the Hinterland is slowly filtering out of my brain like oil from a pressed olive.

Mr Zeus being a glutton for punishment like me, now and then asks me what we call such and such thing Back Home. And more often than not I find myself saying I don't know.

So here we have history repeating itself and the Greek language taking over where Alexander the Great left off and invading braincells instead of countries.
Image: http://www.dancingstarfoundation.org/images/No-Vacancy-Open33.jpg

My New Best Friend

A mysterious Jenny recently left a comment on my blog and she is my new Best Friend. Why? Because she knows Sarbel!
To learn more about my twin Sarbel (born same day, same month, same year as me... destiny...) see my post titled Sweet Sugar Goodness.

I don't think Mr Zeus even knows about this blog, but if he is reading this I know he won't be pleased that I actually have a way to meet the lovely komati of sokolata Sarbel.
Sarbel, in case you are wondering, there's still no ring on this finger you know... Just saying that anything's possible. Heck, you might even be a big fan of this blog and one of the anonymous posters, wondering, just wondering how to meet me. Now you know! Hooray!

Image: http://www.smartgiftsolutions.co.uk/images/misc/eating_chocolate.jpg

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cutting the Umbilical Cord

As time moves on and friendships progress, people tell you things about their life that make you go"Hmmm". The recurring topic with the biggest "Hmmm" factor is Greek men and their mothers. Greeks are very close to their families, and coming from a similar culture I appreciate that.

But whatI find a little strange is the hostility some Greek mothers display to their daughters-in-law. Sure, Mamaka's favourite hobby isn't to invite her friends over to douse her daughter-in-law in petrol and set her alight like in the Home Country, but why do the mothers of Greece, a modern and progressive nation, seem to prefer their sons over their daughters and treat daughters-in-law as rivals? And how come some Greek men will always take Mama's side and not Wifey's side. It's all a bit Oediopal, isn't it? Someone enlighten me!

On to more serious matters...

"She was stuck-up because of her grades."
"She lied about the rape."
"The boys are from very good families."
"If she comes here again, no one will speak to her, she will be isolated."
"I say it would be better to lynch her."
"She wasn't all that attractive, I'm telling you she wasn't worth it."
"She was belittling their manhood."
"By saying they knew nothing about sex she was asking for it."

The above are comments from boys at the school where a 16 year old Bulgarian schoolgirl was gang raped by four local boys in Evia, Greece.
I'm very shocked by this and that's why it's up on my otherwise pointless blog. I am planning to make Greece my home, who knows what my future children will be treated like one day if this is the attitude of some teenagers in Greece?
Interested to hear what Greeks think of this.

Image: Corrupted from http://www.allposters.com/-sp/The-First-Rendezvous-Posters_i391532_.htm

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tourists and the Destiny of Teeth

You've probably been wondering why I haven't written anything about my Greek classes, it's actually because I've had no time what with all the homework for two seprate classes etc. No, the truth is that I am just plain lazy.

My language progress goes well, though I must say that the Hellenic American Union classes are pretty hard. I bullied them into letting me attend Intermediate instead of Beginners and it really isn't that bad except we talk Greek the whole time and I didn't realise sentence construction could be so mentally exhausting. My options are:
1) Panic and run
2) Pretend I'm invisible
3) Sacrifice a few braincells in the name on communication.

Yesterday I was finally able to go have a coffee with friends of my own after class. As we walked into the cafe, it was immediately obvious that we were foreigners, maybe because us girls were letting the side down with our comfortable shoes, high-neck sweaters and minimal makeup. Anyway, gazing around the table I had the utmost sense of peace at having found something I had lost since moving to Athens - a social life of my own!
Image: http://www.utdallas.edu/~pjb011000/Tourists.jpg

On to other matters. You have to love the artistic value of how the Greeks talk. The other day I was remarking about how I think I need to see a dentist, much to my irritation and a regime of brushing and flossing. "My teeth should be fine!" I exclaimed. With a shrug, Mr Zeus said:

"This is the destiny of teeth."

Image: Corrupted from http://www.smilemakers.com/Smilemakers/assets/images/rcl14.jpg

Friday, October 13, 2006

Good eating

This week down at the Laiki, you can find sweet potatoes. I have no idea what Greek recipes involve sweet potatoes, but I do know that in the Home Country they were a popular roadside snack which we were forbidden from eating. So here's how you can enjoy of slice of Asian road-side cuisine:

1) Wash a sweet potato and boil it in a pan with its skin still on until you feel a knife easily pass through the centre
2) Cool slightly and peel
3) Slice into thick rounds
4) Sprinkle with salt, chilli powder, fresh corriander and a squeeze of lemon juice
5) Expose to some roadside pollution
6) Enjoy and don't tell mum.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Down with Alitalia!

I have been reading the recent news reports of Alitalia's severe financial problems which threaten to fold the company and I thought "Thank God, why has it taken so long?" I've flown plenty of airlines over the years and the one and only experience I had with Alitalia was so bad I never flew with them again.

In fact, everyone I've talked to who has flown by Alitalia said it was terrible, not one person had had a normal trip with them. Delays, lost luggage, rude staff and phonecalls that never get answered are the top complaints. As someone said: ALITALIA = Always Late In Take-off And Late In Arrival.

Last year I made the mistake flying out for a long weekend to Athens via Milan with Alitalia. Leaving from Heathrow the plane was two hours delayed. Two. Hours. The heavily make-uped staff, who looked like they wouldn't pee on you if you were on fire, told me I wouldn't miss my connection. Of course, I missed it, and got stuck in Milan for a night. Nightmare. Not to mention hell is an in-flight sandwich on Alitalia.

Good riddance, Alitalia!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Plaka mou kaneis?

Early this morning (7:38 am to be exact) I took the Hellenic American Union's placement test to register for their classes next week. I was aiming for Intermediate I. Do you know what my score was? 8 out of 15, meaning Beginners. So I called them up, surely if I can guide a taxi driver home at midnight with my pigeon Greek, I can't be beginner's level.... I can't! Right?

Well, wrong as it turns out. Knowing my ABC counts for jack if I can't remember my accusatives from my nominatives, and three months without Greek class is apparently pretty damaging to your progress. So either I haul myself back to beginners, thereby discounting seven months of Friday night Greek classes in London which destroyed my social life, or I risk humiliation by attempting Intermediate I. That or sign up for the free immigrant classes to get back up to speed. Choices choices...

So as you can see this post has nothing to do with pomegranites. I posted the picture after picking that one from a tree that grows at the back of the flat to console myself and my beginner's standard language skills. Boohoo!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I'll keep you always in my Fridge

While I work I keep the radio on a Greek radio station so I can get some practice exercising my language muscles and mentally translating lyrics in my head. The other day, I was left scratching my head by the following romantic lyrics, which went something like:

"I'll keep you always in my fridge"

Strange, I thought, could this be a lovesong from a psychopath? I consulted Mr Zeus, who fell about laughing at my stupidity. The word for fridge in Greek is psigeio (ψυγειο) which sounds pretty close to the Greek word for soul, psikhi (ψυχη)

Needless to say I felt pretty ridiculous. Now that other song I heard, in which I thought the singer was unhappily declaring that he was closing his fridge forever, also makes sense.

Image: http://news.bbc.co.uk/media/images/38548000/jpg/_38548659_cool-pa150.jpg

Friday, September 29, 2006

Winter in Athens

Well okay, not quite, but getting there. I've been coming to Athens on and off and for two years after deciding to settle here in June this year, so this is going to be the first time I have watched the season changed in the city.

As all Athenians know, we have been experiencing some pretty dramatic weather lately, monsoon style rains and thunderstorms. Why, it's like being back in the Homeland, all I need now is a wet sari. Very nice, we drove up to a bar with one side made of glass and watched the lightening fall a few nights ago. I can't remember the name of the bar, and I wouldn't tell even if I could, since it was great having it all to ourselves while it pelted it down outside.

In my absence from writing I have had a shock to discover that my blog has become strangely popular (sort of) and even more surprised that people are saying nasty things to me like leave Athens if you don't like it. Now now children, if you read the whole blog you'd know that isn't the case, and besides, since I've heard far worse things said by Greeks I think I can safely say that Greece, like any other country has good points as well as bad. I admit that missing my family can at times wear down my patience with living here, but if this blog was only about how wonderful Greece is then you wouldn't have left your comments, would you. Got you there!

On the plus side, I think irritating cold callers will soon completely stop bothering us, because since I work from home, the average once a day junk call gets the following response (in Greek, with names changed naturally)

Me: Hello?
Caller: Kalimera
Me: Kalimera
Caller: Is Mr Zeus there?
Me: No he isn't here right now, sorry.
Caller: Are you Mrs Zeus?
Me: No I'm not
Caller: Is there a Mrs Zeus?
Me: No I'm afraid not. Mr Zeus gets back at 6:30
Caller: Thank you I'll call back then, kalo misimeri
Me: Episis.

Or variations on the above. Sometimes they start asking me questions and I have to come clean that that's the extent of my Greek.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Since last summer the flat I'm staying in has been suffering a plague of small moths. Once, we went away just for a weekend and came back to find the air thick with the little creeps.

I invented my own pest control by using the Dirt Devil to hoover up any offending creatures, but as of late their numbers seem to be growing. Just now I was enjoying a nice cup of tea with a packet of Hob Nobs. I love Hob Nobs, with their comforting oaty goodness...

What do I find? Little stringy trails of moth silk across my HOB NOBS!! NOO!!!!! Is nothing sacred?! Eat what you want by the Hob Nobs are off limits you winged spawn of the devil!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Summer in Greece

Last summer, I drew your attention to one singer called Arash, who got zero marks for fashion but full marks for effort and his naff song Boro Boro. Arash has since grown up and now makes swish videos, smooth songs and has gaggles of babes around him, making one think "Boy done good."

But lest we worry about what happened to the cheese shaped hole left behind by the now grown-up Arash, I bring you a song called Summer in Greece by George Mazonakis, with truly terrible lyrics like:

I like your country very much
I like the way you people touch

Surrender to your victory
I like your country's history

What the HELL??!! I knew Greek pop has its blonde moments, but this song is so bad I get nausea every time I hear it.

Today's entry is also dedicated to the other things about Athens that get on my nerves, just for the sake of balance because generally I quite like it here:
  1. Post offices and banks closing at 2:00 in the afternoon, boo!
  2. Parcels not being delivered to your door and you having to go get them from the post office before 2.00.
  3. Taxi drivers
  4. Footpaths which are barely big enough to walk on
  5. People who park on said footpaths forcing you to walk in the road, where you could be hit by afore mentioned taxi drivers
  6. Scary Greek women who present the news done up like glamour models
  7. Greasy Greek boys who whistle and make kissing noises
  8. Greek disregard for any sort of authority (this is a country of egocentrics)
  9. Mysterious lack of fresh coriander - the seeds are easy enough to come by
  10. Enthusiastically renting the latest foreign cinema offering to discover there is only one subtitle option - Greek

Friday, July 07, 2006

Enter the Godson

This little stunner is my godson John. He was born yesterday in Athens and I missed it because I'm back in the UK. Isn't he a stunner? If you're looking at this be sure to say ftou ftou!

At last, a Greek who speaks less Greek than me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I forgot to add that yesterday I went and exchanged a pair of pink heels all on my own and all in Greek. Getting there, day by day...

Image: http://www.lewrockwell.com/barnhart/shoes.jpg

The Spice of Life

I am ashamed to have used such a cliched heading, but my creativity is running a little low in this heat today. Apologies also for the badly photoshoped image. Anyway I digress.

Before I left the UK, a movie was released called Mistress of Spices starring Aishwarya Rai. I didn't watch it, as I knew the synopsis and knew that such a movie needed vast doses of passion, of which Aish has as much as a damp dishcloth. In the movie she plays a woman who uses the secrets of spices to help people, because due to some under-the-counter stuff she's probably been at, the spices talk to her to give her advice and warnings.

I don't profess to have such powers, but I do miss the spices I take for granted when they suddenly become so hard to find. I knew they existed somewhere, after all there is a budding Asian community here in Athens which would not be possible without certain staples. Chillies and turmeric are the frappe and feta of the Subcontinent.

My tolerance towards spices plummets every times I spend extended amounts of time in Greece and this time I wanted to maintain my tongue as suitably burnt and my insides nicely scarred. The spices, my little friends from the Hinterland, were tucked away somewhere in this city, beckoning me, talking to my spicy sixth sense "Fiiiind ussss, taaakeee usss hooooomeee, looook booooth waaaays when you cross the rooooaddd. Wooooo!"

So a few days ago, I was taken downtown with the promise of finding all the spices and ingredients I was missing. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, so I went and true enough, an entire labyrinth of spicy delights unfolded, each turn revealing another culinary chum I had pined for.

We got off at Monastiraki metro station and headed to Athinaia Street. My Athenian guide also was careful to instruct me when to speed up my walk past the junkies loitering at corners and passed out in doorways. Junkies, huh? I had just thought they were napping from the heat.

Unsavoury as it may be in one respect, this street is the place to go if you need Asian spices. Even the hard to find items turned up, like aniseed, green cardamom, Chinese gunpowder tea, whole cumin, mustard seed, turmeric, tamarind, small but lethal green chillies and mangoes (pickled, green or ripe). There's even a sweet shop selling jalebis and gulab jamuns if you fancy a sugar rush Asian style. Between these was everything and anything you would need to perfectly preserve a lifestyle from Back Home, from smelly carbolic soap to a Bollywood rental shop. Add to this a sprinkling of greasy haired freshies shouting “Hello! Hello! I love you!” and it feels as authentic as the real deal.

Image: Badly altered from http://www.sxc.hu/photo/279172

Friday, June 23, 2006

Nature's Way

In my belly dance class on Tuesday, as I was revealing my life story and how I ended up in Athens, a lady asked me why I chose Greece, because "Life here is hard."

So far I haven't experienced anything too crumby to make me feel that way. I guess having spent your formative years in a third world country makes you immune to the crap-factor of anywhere with a flushing toilet.

I found another reason last night why I think I've made the right choice to land here in Athens. Being somewhat of a nature lover, I like seeing things looking the way nature intended. That doesn't apply to me, of course, thank heavens for my Venus razor.

Ten years in Britain almost made me forget that tomatoes are not meant to look like freakishly perfect round orbs, that cucumbers don't always grow poker-straight and potatoes come in all kinds of bumpy shapes and sizes. I was in a vegetable shop yesterday evening revelling in how beautifully natural everything was. There were curly courgettes and cucumbers, speckled tomatoes of various sizes but all a delicious sun-ripened red. Pity the fools in Britain who think orange is the colour of a tomato, had I not known otherwise even I'd have thought that.

There was lettuce that was at the end of the season. Yes, stuff is available here in seasons which I don't think is inconvenient at all. It adds to your culinary creativity to make do without when the stuff isn't around and means that when it is aubergine season, the aubergines you eat will be full of flavour. I'm looking forward to eating an aubergine to remember how they're supposed to taste. I've actually forgotten, because I used to hate them and by the time I started liking them I was living in Britain and consuming I-don't-know-what from I-don't-know-where.

There was a box of tomatoes being sold cut-price because they were hovering between rotten and crispy salad fare. Still okay to eat and fine for making red sauces, I was informed. Imagine that!

Image: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/5567/1146/1600/289440_tomato_cuore_italy.jpg

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Face the Music and Belly Dance

When I was in London, I used to attend the belly dance classes of Asmahan at Pineapple Dance studios. I admit that I use the word ‘attend’ loosely; I was religious from September to December 2005 and then attended only once in the new year due to self-induced guilt about up-coming university deadlines. Asmahan is from San Francisco, though beloved of Egyptians for mastering the art of Egyptian-style belly dance. In its highest form, Egyptian belly dance is on a par with ballet due to the level of difficulty, grace and control required.

Now in Athens and working from home, it took me the grand total of three weeks to start going a little crazy being cooped up all day. Remember my complaints last year of the agonized warblings of Greek singers and how it grated my nerves? I thought I had grown up a little because it didn’t seem to be irritating me half as much this year. But yesterday I finally snapped. One more crescendo, one more warbling change of key accompanied by the plinkity plink of a bouzouki and I might have killed someone or myself.

So I decided it was time to find a hobby that would remove me from the flat. I picked up where I left off and sniffed out the belly dance classes of Rhea. I threw my belly dance gear into a bag (one chiffon blue skirt, one tribal belt) and headed downtown to the Acropolis. On exiting the metro station I turned the wrong way and couldn’t find the correct street, which gave me a chance to practice my Greek and ask where it was.

After being pointed in the right direction, I found my destination and descended down the stairs of an apartment into some sort of Kasbah containing a small dance studio. Rhea’s classes are much, much smaller than those I had previously been to. Her style is also a world away from the Egyptian style I was used to, and leans more towards Turkish. The spooky thing is she trained with my former teacher Asmahan under the same teacher in San Francisco.

Given my rather ungenerous hip span, Rhea’s Turkish style probably suits me better than Egyptian style, in which bigger hips give you an advantage in the small, controlled movements you have to make. Asmahan’s classes were much tougher and good for taking my mind off things.

I find Rhea’s classes easier, and a fantastic chance to get out of the house and maybe make some new friends. Classes operate on a drop-in basis, so they’re a good way of doing something other than the touristy stuff if you’re in Athens this summer.

Rhea’s Dance Studio is located in 9 Vironos, Plaka
Ph: 210 32 31 289
Closest Metro: Acropolis (exit and turn left, Vironos is directly ahead of you)
Beginners: Monday and Wednesday 7.00 - 8.30
Tuesday and Thursday 7.30 – 9.00

Image: http://fire.firepixie.com/img/content/bellydance.jpg

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Thelo na po...

Any fool who has ever tried to learn Greek knows just what a difficult task it is. I bet most English speaking folk didn't even know what accusative and nominative meant until they took Greek classes.

I've been learning Greek since October 2005 at the Hellenic Centre, London
My darling sweety of a teacher Xanthipi is excellent, with boundless patience and enthusiasm. With twelve different words for ‘the’ that’s a much sought after trait in Greek language teachers. She also has excellent dress sense and a very cool name. If I were her, I’d prefix it with ‘Princess’.

Expression is very important to me. This is why I know I need to get fluent in Greek and fast. There’s only so far I can get with phrases like ‘Do you know if there is a bakery nearby?’ Of all the trials I had to endure last summer with my antics in Athens, not being able to communicate was by far the most trying. If I were a man, I would equate it to having your bits chopped off. I felt like Samson without his hair, the Little Mermaid without her tail, Beyonce without the jelly… like I’d lost my Magic Powers because I couldn’t make myself understood.

I’ve got about two weeks now before I come to Athens again for a month, then it’s back to the UK to help out with my sister’s wedding (that will take up most of July), so realistically I can’t commit to Greek classes until August.

And they cost a butt load! It’s around £800 for a four-week class in most places! Cheaper is the National & Kapodistrian University of Athens at about €600 for a year’s worth of classes that run September to May

But what I’ll lose in money I’ll gain in expression I suppose, and for me any price is worth paying for that.

Image: http://www.1976design.com/blog/images/65a.jpg

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

My Life! Now with 50% Extra Difficulties FREE!

Some people just never learn. For a start, I should be working on my university deadlines right now and instead I am updating a blog that no one reads with information that no one cares about. If proof were ever needed of just how foolhardy I am, it’s this: I have less than one month left in the UK before I take myself back to Athens. Yes yes, I know I wept (in a virtual sense) over leaving Athens last time, I kind of got to like it there, the thought of going back does raise a question in my mind:


Over the course of this blog, I have deliberately revealed very little about myself. To protect the innocent, you understand. Here’s a brief synopsis:

1. Girl is 22 and looking for fun
2. She applies to the Olympics as a volunteer
3. She gets accepted
4. She comes to Athens. On landing, she thinks “My, I thought it would be flat” This is the first shattered illusion
5. She falls in love (with a person, not Athens)
6. She leaves Athens to finish studying
7. She turns 23
8. She returns to Athens for a summer spell
9. She leaves again for the start of term
10. Now she is almost 24 and almost done with studying so love beckons her back to Athens

Yes you cynical fools, all this is for LOVE! You understand, my behaviour is just about the worst thing that could happen to my unsuspecting parents. Girls of my ethnic and cultural background just don’t do this kind of thing, and boy have I paid the price emotionally! I shall elaborate no further… lest my identity be discovered… So now I am back to moaning about Greece and all their hair-brained ways. It’s only temporary, come on, I’m young.

ps: regulars to this blog (ha! if they exist) will notice this post changed. I realised teamed with certain background info plus details of my schedule, any crazy cousin o' mine could take it upon themselves to cleanse the family's honour... kidding! But you never know eh, one stalker is enough for this lifetime.