Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Winter, Spring, Summer or Generic

In the UK, there are four seasons in a year and sometimes five. This fifth season rolls around every four years or so like a Leap Year extra day. It's called Generic.


Actually, calling Generic a fifth season is unfair. Generic is the season that gives the rest of the season the year off. It steps in and tells Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall to go have a holiday somewhere nice, like the moon maybe.


Hence you get the weather we currently have in the UK. Walking to meet a friend yesterday, I could smell freshly cut grass and thought "Aaah, Spring is in the air."


In fact, Generic is in the air. Each day across the whole year has been more or less the same. I had the heating switched on in August on the weekend. Stepping outside, today could be any one of the following:


1)     An unseasonally warm winter's day

2)      An average day in Spring

3)      An autumn day where the leaves are still green

4)      An unseasonally cold summer's day.


Such is the beauty of Generic! One size fits all!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

London Calling

Did you know that yesterday's highest temperature in London was Athens' lowest? I know, and I know this because I have the misfortune of experiencing this phenomenon.


The first shock to my system was suddenly realising that I could understand everything being said around me. This is not necessarily a good thing. When some chavtastic girl is sitting next to you on the bus, blabbing away on her pink bejewelled mobile about how much she likes Chase but Chase don't like her 'cos he likes Mercedes, which makes no sense 'cos Mercedes is a f*cking fat cow and so on and so forth, you wish you could erase the neurological pathways that enable you to understand English.


The second shock to the system is all the ethnic minorities. After initially thinking how diverse Athens seemed to have become all of a sudden, I remembered where I was.


As time goes on, I feel myself being slowly spat out by London, the city I lived for two years. I have found that settling down in London takes the same time as unsettling down. It happens slowly, over time, until you eventually find the city feels so familiar/alien.


Journeying into my office from the airport, I observed what a selfish, miserable bunch Londoners are. Standing in anyone's way for a nano-second results in loud tut's and sighs of exasperation. You'd think everyone was on their way to perform life-saving surgery, but they're all in such a rush mostly to get to their workplaces.


Jesus, people! You have the excuse of a decrepit and overcrowded transport system to carry you around London. Blame that rather than a leisurely stroll by Thames for making you late into the office.


Using my laptop as a battering ram, I was able to exist and enter carriages quite effectively. The rest of the time I decided to adopt a relaxed Athenian pace, because reason number 1 I hate coming to London is that everyone rushes around so much. So I thought I'll spare myself the anxiety by taking my own sweet time to use up the change in my wallet when paying for things. I reckon the headache I currently have is due to all the kako mati I've collected in the 24 hours since making that decision.


Another strange side effect of living in Athens is that all the English I would have spoken when I wasn't speaking Greek has accumulated at the back of my throat. There it has sat, decomposing while I spoke Greek. Now that I have the need to speak English, these half decomposed words have all decided to head for the exit.


Hence I speak in a bizarre mish-mashed accent of all the places with an accent I've ever lived (Midlands, Wales, London, Athens, Homeland) as well as half rotten grammar and no worthwhile syntax. "You sound like a drunk!" my little sister kindly pointed out to me last night.

The next generation of Hotmail is here - Windows Live Hotmail

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer Song

This is one of the songs I listened to while I was in Tunisia and it really grew on me. Okay, Dana can't exactly sing, but it's a pretty fun video!

Monday, August 13, 2007

This Day in History

Exactly three years to the day yesterday, I was sitting on the metro from Syntagma to the airport, fretting as I watched the airport bus whizz by and realising that by taking the metro, I had made myself late for my very first training day as an Olympics volunteer.

I got to the airport and me and fellow stragglers took the bus to the Marcopolo centre where we were based.

By the time I got there, training was over and everyone was sitting in the cafeteria eating the hideous free lunches provided to volunteers. “Rubbish!” I thought, “what a way to make an impression on your first day.” I was apologising profusely to everyone and anyone.

“Don’t worry,” the head of the centre said. “You didn’t miss anything that important. Anyway, tonight we’ll all go out in Syntagma and you can get to know your team better.”

For those of you who are interested, no, I did not ‘get to know my team better’ that night in the Biblical sense. We went out, we all enjoyed some good clean fun, and we returned the day after the opening ceremony to pitch in as a team with the excellent management of the head of our centre, who not only hand picked his team to create an international mix, but also made sure everyone was regularly moved around to limit time under the sun or separation from friends.

The head of the centre was Mr Zeus. Much later, he told me that he stole me from the volunteer list destined for another centre, and I was the very last name on his list to complete his selection of volunteers. And the rest is history, muchachos!

Make me feel like a WOMAN!!!

Following on from the Domesticity post, here is a joke as told to me years ago at university by my Greek friend, K.

A packed transatlantic flight is halfway through its journey when it hits a serious thunderstorm and turbulence. The plane jolts and shudders and begins to fall out of the sky. The pilot tries his best but there is nothing more he can do, so he tells the passengers to say their prayers and prepare to meet their maker.

A young woman stands up, hysterical. She screams "I'm not ready to die, I've experienced so little of life! I need a man to make me feel like a woman, right here, right now!"

There is silence in the doomed plane as everyone waits to see who will take the young woman up on her offer. Suddenly, a gorgeous Greek man stands up at the back of the plane. He walks towards the woman, unbottoning his shirt to reveal a perfect body.

He stands infront of the breathless woman and rips off his shirt. He hands it to her, and says "Iron this."

Hee hee hee!

Image: http://images.jupiterimages.com/common/detail/47/58/22595847.jpg

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Greek women iron everything. EVERYTHING. Mr Zeus and I only acquired our washing machine a few months back, and that was because his sister finally bought a new one, so we inherited her old one.

Prior to this great event, I was taking all our laundry next door to his mum's. Out of the kindness of her heart, she had a habit of taking the laundry down and returning it ironed. This drove me to feel hugely embarassed, but also admire her thoroughness. She ironed all the underpants, socks, towels and bedsheets.

Once we got our own machine, I was able to do the grown-up thing and take care of the laundry myself from start to finish. Early on, I did what I normally did, I ironed just the clothes.

"You don't understand." Mr Zeus said, holding up a crumpled pair of clean underpants. "You have to iron them to kill the germs."

The germs? What germs?

"The heat from the iron kills the germs, you have to do it for hygeine."

Riiiight. Because a 60C wash and 40C sunshine won't kill them. God knows why people believe this. Seems like some male conspiracy to create extra housework for women. Oh well, if you can't beat them...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Enjoying the Holidays

Some pics of me enjoying my holiday in Tunisia

Dressed for a bedouin night

Camel rides in the desert

Riding a moped for the first time after being allowed to do so by our Tunisian friend, Ali. Wheeeeeee!!!

Images: My own


I have a feeling I know who one of the people who was leaving anonymous, nasty comments on this blog is.

I have no way of verifying this except some clues that suddenly hit me when I was reading the blog of another fellow Athens blogger.

I hope I'm wrong. This is someone who I respect and admire.

The person who was leaving those comments had an obvious problem with the fact that I moved to Athens with a transferable job and a social network in place. Their solo experience was obviously much tougher, but doesn't justify the things that they said to me.

I know I may not be the gutsiest or bravest of people. I know things were relatively easier for me having been coming to Athens for a while and already having a place to stay waiting for me when I moved here. But I say relatively, because it was still by no means easy. I don't say I am an expert about life in Athens, but I simply thought there may be others out there like me who found they had to move to Athens to be with the one they loved, and maybe they'd like to know they're not the only ones. Being able to keep my job from London was just a case of pure luck and negotiation.

I don't believe that people who move to another country to be with the one they love are cowards. In fact I believe in some ways this decision is harder because you're moving to a place because you have to. Moving to Greece was an impossibly difficult decision to take. I wasn't particularly crazy about living here, I didn't want to face the effort of learning Greek, I eroded my relationship with my parents. Each move is different, each person is different. So it's impossible to say my move was harder than yours, or your experience was tougher/easier than mine.

We're all here and we're trying our best. *Sigh* I HOPE I'm not right about the anonymous poster...

You Know You're Greek if...

The following list has been compiled from an online student group and on a Facebook group called Greeks Invented Everything, and even though some of it is written from the perspective of Greek-Americans, it's still highly amusing and relevant:

  • You make frappe before leaving home, when getting to the office, after lunch, when having guests, before the guests leave, after the guests leave and before going to bed.
  • When shops have a sale they call your mom.
  • You still have clothes that you used to wear when you were five stored in suitcases.
  • You call an older person you've never met before "Thio" or "Thia".
  • You hide everything from your parents, but they still think they know everything about you, and make you believe that they actually do.
  • You learn how to beg the personnel at the airport to allow the excess baggage you've got as soon as your father stops doing that for you.
  • When you arrive home you find 20 people waiting for you at the airport.
  • You always curse at Greeks and then when you travel to Europe or the States you only make Greek friends.
  • When you come back from college you still have to live withyour parents, and fight over curfew all over again, as if you never left them before.
  • Your relatives alone could populate a small city.
  • Everyone is a family friend.
  • You fight over who pays the dinner bill.
  • You teach Europeans/Americans swear words in your language.
  • When you go on a date you start thinking of places that you never thought of before to avoid family or family friends. You end up in a lousy place and still bump into the relative with the biggest mouth.
  • You think you are liberated when you can't even smoke in public.
  • If you are 25 and not married yet, your parents make you feel that you are getting too old.
  • Getting married becomes the only way you could escape your parents.
  • You tell your friends how to rebel against their parents when you can't stay out past midnight.
  • You always say "Open the light" instead of "Turn on the light".
  • You ask your dad a simple question and he tells you a story of how he had to walk miles just to get to school with no shoes.
  • You're 5'4", can bench press 325 pounds, shave twice a day, but you still cry when your mother yells at you.
  • Your uncle owns a restaurant, has $300,000 in the bank, but still drives a '76 Monte Carlo.
  • You share a bathroom with your 5 brothers, have no money, but drive a $45,000 Camaro.
  • Your mechanic, plumber, electrician, accountant and travel agent are all blood relatives.
  • You have a relative that has done something that required the IRS to threaten him.
  • Your 2 best friends are your cousin and brother-in-law's brother-in-law.
  • You are a card-carrying V.I.P at more than 3 dance clubs.
  • Despite the hair on your back, you still try to impress the ladies by wearing your "Just Do Me" tank top.
  • At least 5 of your cousins live on your street.
  • All 5 of those cousins are named after your grandfather.
  • A high school diploma and 1 year of community college has earned you the title of "professor" among your aunts.
  • You are on a first name basis with at least 8 banquet hall owners.
  • If someone in your family grows beyond 5' 9", it is presumed his mother had an affair.
  • There are more than 28 people in your bridal party.
  • You netted more than $50,000 on your baptism.
  • At some point in your life, you waited tables.
  • 30 years after immigrating, your parents still say "Embros" when answering the phone.
  • You have at least one relative who wore a black dress every day for an entire year after a funeral... or their entire life!
  • You spent your entire childhood thinking what you ate for lunch was pronounced "sangwich."
  • Your family dog understood Greek.
  • Every Sunday afternoon of your childhood was spent visiting papou and yiayia or extended family.
  • You've experienced the phenomena of 150 people fitting into 50 square feet of yard during a family cookout.
  • You were surprised to discover the FDA recommends you eat three meals day, not seven.
  • You thought killing the lamb each year and having feta, tzatziki and olives on your dinner table was absolutely normal.
  • You grew up thinking no fruit or vegetable had a fixed price and that the price of everything was negotiable through haggling.
  • You were as tall as yiayia by the age of seven.
  • You thought nylons were supposed to be worn rolled to the ankles.
  • Mamas main hobby is cleaning.
  • You were surprised to find out that wine was actually sold in stores.
  • You never knew what to expect when you opened the margarine, after all you thought washing out and reusing margarine containers was normal.
  • You thought Orthodoxy was the only religion in the world.
  • You thought every meal had to be eaten with a hunk of bread in your left hand.
  • Yiayia never threw anything away, you thought seeing washed plastic bags hanging on the clothes line was normal.
  • You learned to play tavli before you went to school.
  • You have at least one relative who came over on the boat.
  • You have relatives who aren't really your relatives.
  • You drank wine before you were a teenager.
  • You grew up in a house with a yard that didn't have one patch of dirt that didn't have a flower or a vegetable growing out of it.
  • You thought that talking loud was normal.
  • You thought everyone got pinched on the cheeks and money stuffed in their pockets by their relatives.
  • Your mother is overly protective of the males in the family no matter what their age.
  • There was an icon in every room of the house, including the bathroom.
  • You wear or at least own a gold chunky bracelet.
  • Garlic is considered a main meal.
  • Olive oil is like a drug - you can't survive without it.
  • You don't know half your relatives.
  • You have a wedding at least twice a year.
  • You or at least most of your uncles own a spit
  • You consider soccer the eighth wonder of the world.
  • Your cheeks receive their weekly work out every time you visit an aunt.
  • Your last name ends with: opolous, os, as, or is
  • Your last name consists of the entire alphabet
  • When leaving a house, you stand at the front door for a half hour more and talk
  • You arrive 2 hours late to a party and think that is normal
  • Your church has a fully loaded bar
  • No air conditioning is on at the house or you'll get sick... "regma"
  • You use plastic grocery bags as garbage bags
  • Your parents have never realized phone connections have gotten better in the last 20 years and still continue to scream on the phone when calling Greece
  • You expect atleast 600 people at your wedding
  • Your 15 year old brother/sister can out drink ANY American guy
  • Your only vacation is back to the homeland
  • You tell your parents you're seeing someone and they start sending out wedding invitations.
  • You're home an hour late and you're already listed as a missing person.
  • You're Dad has those old Greek tapes in the car, and plays them on family drives. Especially in the vicinity of attractive members of the opposite sex.
  • You break a leg, and yiayia thinks your life is over.
  • You tell your parents you're having a party. They buy out the whole supermarket.
  • It doesn't matter if people can't hear what you're talking about - you talk so much with your hands that people know what you're going on about anyway.
  • You go to a wedding, and take a fancy to one of the guests. Later you discover that the guest is somehow related to you. =(
  • You go to a wedding, and are introduced to cousins that you never knew existed.
  • You tell mama you're not hungry and she thinks you have an eating disorder.
  • You can distinguish between kefalotiri and kefalograviera
  • You're an adult and are forced to be with your family at 12 midnight on New Year's eve
  • Your yiayia / mama / thia has a miracle cure for everything.
  • If you're a girl, your mother still tries to put those pony tail holders with the BIG plastic balls on the end on your hair.
  • If you're a guy, your mother still tries to make you wear that super frilly dress shirt with that huge bow tie, because it looked so cute when you were 7.
  • Your mother or father still feels the need to tell you, "katse kala" in public
  • You have been hit at some point with a pandofla
  • You can dance kalamatiano, tsamiko, zembekiko without music
  • You go to church picnics pretending you're there for reasons other than to check up / gossip about other Greeks
  • You or a family member has been photographed with a donkey
  • You are familiar with the phrase, "Sto leo yia to kalo sou"
  • You have one or more of those porcelain figurines in your house or you have broken one of those porcelain figurines and mama still hasn't forgiven you for it
  • Your parents make up the name of a street / store / TV show because they couldn't remember it or they couldn't pronounce it
  • You still get scared when you hear the name "Baboola"
  • Upon meeting another Greek you try to find out what village they're from
  • You or a family member wears their Sunday best to go grocery shopping
  • You were spanked by your friend's parents because your parents gave them permission to
  • You go to a wedding or a baptism and complain about the food, but are the first one to ask for a "to go" plate
  • You know someone who always feels the need to point out how much something they bought costs
  • You have a bottle of OUZO in your house right now
  • You have been threatened to be eaten by the Kako/ baboola / yero / pontiki when you were little
  • Add aki to the end of any American word, and it becomes Greek
  • Someone in your family owns any type of restaurant
  • Your family inheritance includes olive trees and xorafyia
  • Your entire house is a needlepoint warehouse...

I'm amazed that most of that list would apply if you changed it to: You know you're from the Homeland if... Guess we have more in common than I thought.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Got Coffee?

My trip to Tunisia was the first time I’d traveled anywhere with a hefty group of Greeks in tow. It was hectic, loud, and a lot of fun.

Further to my previous post detailing the life-saving property of frappe, the following conversation took place on our crack-of-dawn chartered flight to Tunisia:

Parea: So what’s Tunisia like?

Tour guide: It’s nice, you’ll enjoy it. Good food, a little spicy though.

Parea: What’s their coffee like?

Tour guide: Different to ours, but it’s nice, they have coffee there.

Parea: Ah so they have cold coffees too.

Tour guide: No, no, not in Tunisia. They drink their coffee hot.

Parea: WHAT?!! No cold coffee? Aman!

(mild panic for a few moments)

Parea: But they have cappuccino and espresso?

Tour guide: Not really

Parea: Aman paedia! What are we going to do? How will we wake up in the morning? How will we be refreshed in the day? With hot coffee? Po po!! What life is this, without cold coffee. How do they live?

But as I mentioned before, they didn’t have to worry in the end.

Since the dog died, the neighbourhood cats have been getting bolder and bolder. There is a corner shop across the road from us which has closed temporarily, and the ladies who own it keep a lot of cats.

Before this was no problem, except for their ear-splitting midnight orgies. But yesterday morning I woke up to find a chicken bone mysteriously out of the rubbish bag in the kitchen and picked clean.

This morning I heard a clang in the kitchen and Mr Zeus startled a cat that was sitting on the counter and making breakfast out of last night’s dinner. On the stovetop. Out of the frying pan.

How long before their midnight orgies move into our bedroom?

Image: http://www.blogigo.de/coffeecat/CoffeeCat.jpg

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Touring and Exploring

I just got back from a wonderful holiday in Tunisia, feeling refreshed and full of energy. Mr Zeus, me and two friends bundled ourselves off on a guided tour composed of 3 large busfulls of Greeks.

I found Tunisians to be some of the friendliest people I've ever met, and rightly proud of their country. Tunisia is the only African nation that owes no international debt at all. Tunisians are also very skillful at making guests feel at home.

Hence picture which we took at a remote rest stop in the middle of nowhere. I found that in areas frequented by Greek tourists, the locals had usually picked up the trick of making frappe.

Now, only the Greeks can get away with having a national staple provided overseas without being accused of being too chicken or arrogant to try the local drinks. Sure, the Americans and the British have managed to get burgers and chips and fish and chips to appear on almost all tourist menus, but frappe and the Greeks is different for two reasons:

1) Without frappe, Greeks die. This is a fact. They just fall over and die. No government wants the paperwork that comes with scores of Greek tourists falling dead on the soil of their nation. That's why they provide frappe stations at convenient places, and that's why diabetics pack insulin for their holiday and Greeks pack frappe making material.

2) The Greeks have a history of not really upsetting any country. Thus they can thunder into a cafe and wonder loudly why there is no frappe without pissing off the locals. Almost everyone likes Greeks. That's why they don't want them to die (See previous point)

I loved Tunisia. The food was great, the people were fantastic and they must be doing something seriously right to impress 3 whole buses of Greeks, to the point that they commented on how much calmer the people were and how much more polite they were to each other on the roads. And they said this as a compliment, not as is usually meant which is by poking fun at people who are quieter than they are. Indeed, everywhere we went, the cacophony generated was entirely Greek. We moved in a haze of self generated noise.

It was the people that made the holiday so memorable. One of the funniest moments came when me, Mr Zeus and a lady in our group jumped in a taxi. The lady began fumbling around for the seat belt and realised it didn't work. "This doesn't work?" she asked the taxi driver, to which he replied with howls of laughter and proceeded to drive us back to our hotel dancing in his seat to Tunisian songs set as high as the volume would go.

Image: My own