Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Are you there God? It's me, Bollybutton

It's true what they say about everything in life being relevant. When I was at uni I thought I was really bad at following my religion even though I prayed pretty often. I remember graduating from full sleeves to half sleeves and feeling like everyone was staring at my brazenly uncovered arms.

How deliciously ironic to find myself five years down the line in spaghetti straps and a cohabiting partnership.

Still, I can’t shake off the all-consuming religious influence of growing up in the Homeland. I’ve worked out most of my issues with my lifestyle, but now and then I do wonder.

I am pretty sure these days that God has other things to do than make a note of my wardrobe indiscretions and I do believe that we are buddies in some way. But living in Greece, which is 98% Greek Orthodox, I feel a little bit out at sea sometimes. Sometimes I need reminding that God the way I know Him is out there somewhere, thinking of me.

That’s why each time I cut open a tomato I look to see if God’s name is in there. I did this at first after reading a news story years ago about a woman who found God’s name written in a tomato (and then cooked that tomato in a curry – so practical, so Asian).

But lately I’ve been paying closer attention and making strategic cuts. I don’t discriminate. I even check to see if Mary or Jesus have decided to make an appearance in my vegetables. Someone up there must be thinking of me, right?

I am 95% over my religion-induced guilt over my lifestyle. But that 5% still bothers me, like not having called a very good friend for years and years. The time will come when I will have to admit that if I am looking for God, I am certainly not going to find Him in a tomato.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September Meme - Tέσσερα (4)

Like the fat kid finally picked for the football team, I have been tagged for the monthly meme by EllasDevil. Here are my answers in no particular order:


1. Waitress
2. Receptionist
3. Entertainment Journalist
4. Call Centre operative


1. Strictly Ballroom
2. Amelie
3. Shawshank Redemption
4. Mean Girls (reminds me of my first months in British school)


1. Desperate Housewives
2. Spongebob Squarepants (uses easy Greek)
3. Sex and the City (a current addiction)
4. Anything narrated by David Attenborough


1. Johor Bahru, Malaysia
2. Rome, Italy
3. Hammamet, Tunisia
4. Reims, France


1. Dosa
2. Chicken Chow Mein
3. Fish head curry with Roti Chanai
4. Seafood Chilli Char Kway Teow


1. The Guardian
2. Times Online
3. Daily Confession
4. (to watch Sex and the City online)


1. Watching TV with my sisters and passing judgment on it
2. Out on the town with all my girlfriends from uni who are now scattered across the globe
3. On a beach in Bora Bora
4. Eating roadside food in Kuala Lampur


1. itelli
2. betabug
3. Hope
4. AL in Athens

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Drinks and Advice Don't Mix

I learnt two things this past Thursday. 1) In Greece, girls can go to a bachelor party too 2) Potentially useful advice is always best given when sober.

On Thursday night, Mr Zeus’s good friend was throwing his bachelor bash and Mr Zeus asked me if I wanted to go. I was alarmed and pointed out that I was neither a stripper nor a bargirl and therefore had no business attending a bachelor party. I was assured that it wasn’t necessary for a bachelor party to be exclusively male, and even though the venue was a rock café ( I hate Rock and Roll) I was convinced.

The rock café wasn’t so bad. Almost all the men had long hair on their heads and faces. I knew one song in every 10 and excitedly pointed out these tracks to Mr Zeus. He is a rock and roll buff and nearly threw me out of the car when one day The Scorpions Winds of Change came on the radio and I said “What the hell is this garbage. They let anyone make music these days.” Not the best thing to say on a road trip with a car full of rock loving Greeks. I swear they practically screamed in horror at my ignorance. It was the faux pas equivalent of throwing a vintage Chanel dress into the washing machine on the 90C cycle in front of the editor of Vogue.

In the end, the evening turned out to be quite wonderful with a little help from Jose Cuervo. Now, I am an extreme lightweight drinker. Like everything else in life, I caught onto drinking about 10 years after everyone else. Knowing that I would get home safely with Mr Zeus and seeing as it was his friend’s last night of freedom, I tried to be as game as possible by having three whole shots of Cuervo.

LL Cool J was right when he sang to JLo that she was “Hotter than a shot of Cuervo”. Man that stuff burns. This is where the staying sober when giving advice comes in. There was another girl in our party who just did a Shirley Valentine two weeks ago. I was chatting to her and giving her advice about language lessons and culture shocks which started off quite well.

But by my third shot of Cuervo, I began drifting into my horror stories of when I first moved to Athens, like terrifying Greek women who give you the evils if you reveal you stole one of their men.

Thankfully, the small logical part of my brain that had managed to keep it together finally shouted at me loud enough for me to shut up. By this point I didn’t even know what music was playing and Mr Zeus decided it was home time on account of having work the next day. I made a solid effort to walk in a straight line, but when we got home, he had to walk over to the passenger side and help me get out of the car.

Before we all headed off to the café I had given this girl my contacts because she doesn’t live far and I remembered how lonely my first few months in Athens had felt. She still hasn’t called.
So there it is. Don't give advice of any kind if you're anything more than a little merry.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Crawling Curbs

There is a magic phenomenon in my small English town. The curbs move on their own. That's what happened yesterday morning. All was going well on my test. Then I had a left hand turn at a closed junction and the curb crawled under my wheels and I failed.

That's about the only way I can explain it, seeing as I've never even done that before. A lot of other things, but never climbing onto the curb. I dissected that moment a million times on my flight yesterday and I still can't account for why it went wrong. I was in the right place at the right speed. Crawling curbs, I tell you.

Six weeks. £2500+ in total since last December. No license. I’ll just have to become rich enough to afford a chauffer. At least I’m back in Athens! *tries to feel hopeful*

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Am I Coming or Going?

Tomorrow I come to the end of my 6 week stint in the UK. It's been interesting. While having my assets frozen in mid-teen temperatures, my finances have been drained trying to reach the golden grail that is the driving license, as well as the never ending fun of family politics.

My life for the last 3 years has been a constant cycle of missing someone and feeling guilty for missing them. When I'm with my family I miss Mr Zeus and feel ungrateful for not being super happy I'm with them. When I'm with Mr Zeus he can't understand why I still miss my family. I'm always missing someone. Also my Dad's interest in my Greek life is almost non-existent. He calls Mr Zeus "That Greek Troublemaker."

Oh well. I am coming back with one more published article to my name and maybe something else with my name on it tomorrow. Who knows. My new instructor thinks I am test standard now and the rest of the equation is down to luck, traffic conditions and all that shizz.

Reading through my appointment letter, I have discovered that attempting to bribe a test examiner is a criminal offence. So I dragged my cheque book all the way from Greece for nothing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Not Out

Being stuck in the UK for nearly a month does have its perks. For one thing, I get to watch the only sport I actually watch with any interest. What could it be, I hear you ask? What gets Bollybutton's passions fired up and has her jumping around on the sofa and shouting at the screen?

The answer... CRICKET! Yes, laugh all you want but for me there is nothing more entertaining than a nice, meaty international cricket match between two closely matched teams. Cricket is a complicated game to the untrained eye, and can be quite slow moving. So to attract a younger crowd who's substance abuse has shortened their attention spans, a new revised format has been introduced called the 20/20 and the first world series of this new format is currently being played in South Africa.

I wish there was a scrap of open, flat ground somewhere in Athens and a few fellow cricket fans with whom I could play a game I am crap at but enjoy. Sadly, water cricket has yet to be invented.

Until then, here are my 10 reasons why anything else just ain't cricket (geddit?):
  1. Cricket players are better looking than rugby players
  2. Cricket uniforms are fancier and better looking than football uniforms
  3. Cricket fans are the best looking of all
  4. A cricket ball can kill you if it hits you on the head. Rugby or footballs can't
  5. Cricket bats can be used for recreational fun
  6. Golf. Enough said (bleurgh!)
  7. Tennis has an elitist reputation. Cricket is for everyone!
  8. Athletics is all about me me me. No sense of team
  9. Cricket makes you a better person, potentially even a better looking person. An ugly man in cricket gear creates the beer goggle effect.
  10. Cricket being made compulsory in all schools around the world would result in world peace.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Buying Jeans, Athens Style

There is a fine art to buying jeans in Athens, as I discovered one day downtown with Mr Zeus. Unimpressed with my collection of tattered and baggy jeans, he very sweetly offered to buy me a new pair as we walked past a denim shop.

It seemed harmless enough to try on a pair, so in we went. The shop assistant was surprisingly nice to me. Maybe it was because Mr Zeus was there, he has that affect on them. I told her what European size I thought I was and she handed me a pair two sizes smaller than that.

It was a bit loose, she went another two sizes down, which was quite a comfortable fit. When I stepped out of the changing room, she said “They’re too big, try a smaller size.”

Who was I to question a Greek shopping assistant in her domain? I did as I was told and breathed in as I did up the top button. I showed off the results and she looked happier. “I think the next size down will be perfect.”

“Ha ha ha! You’re joking!” I thought. But she wasn’t. She and Mr Zeus ganged up on me and an even smaller pair was produced. I could hear the jolly banter outside the changing room curtain as I huffed and puffed and struggled to do up the buttons. I’ve never before found myself in that half bent over half hopping position women use to squeeze into jeans that are too small for them, because I’ve never encountered jeans too small for my small size.

After what felt like forever, I walked out, John Wayne style and Mr Zeus and the assistant oooed and aaahed. “Great!” she said “Thank God” I thought.

“Now if we go one more size down, they’ll be exactly right.”

My jaw dropped. Was she serious? I tried to swallow as the next size down was handed to me, but the jeans were so tight that I couldn’t. Her logic was that jeans over time loose their stiffness and what feels like the right size now will be loose in a few months.

By some miracle of time and space distortion, I managed to get into the tightest pair of jeans I’ve ever worn and the deal was sealed.

Wearing new jeans that are too small feels like having a vice around your hips. They’re also a pretty fashionable form of contraception, seeing as they are just as frustrating to take off as they are to put on.

But I have to say three months down the line, the jeans did indeed loosen slightly and are now just about right. So if you’re a foreign woman buying jeans in Athens for the first time, guess what size you are and work down the sizes. When the jeans are so tight that you can feel the circulation to your nether regions being cut off, go one more size down. Don’t be a quitter. All top buttons give up and do up eventually, even if it makes you feel like the next breath will snap you in two.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Suffering for Arts Sake

Artistic souls live for their art. There are things we wouldn't normally do except in the context of preserving it in our chosen craft. I know I have a running narrative in my head in boring, dangerous or weird situations I end up in, writing out what is going on inside my mind in case it comes handy one day when I'm going to write books for a living.

Sometimes the innocent pursuit of what you love to do can remind you of the pig-headedness of other people. I'm talking about fellow Greece blogger, TeacherDude. He was recently viciously beaten up by the police for taking photographs of them during a protest. No verbal request, no warning of the consequences if he defied them, just straight in, leaving him with a broken nose and a dislocated shoulder.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Building Walls and Breaking Hearts

This March on my way back from the Home Country, an interesting thing happened. While I checked in my ears pricked up upon hearing a fellow passenger speaking in accented English and saying that his final destination was also Athens.

My curiosity was aroused. What was a Greek doing in the Home Country? Was he on holiday? If so, why the Home Country? Much as I enjoy the place, it doesn't exactly enjoy a reputation as a top holiday destination. Last time I checked, the Home Office was advising against all travel there.

So once I was checked in, I began to observe. I watched him go directly to the smoking area, which confirmed that yes, this was a true blue Ellinas and it was definitely interesting that he should be in the Home Country. I decided to have a cup of tea and make my approach.

How I wish I could have recorded the next few moments. It was 5 am in Home Country International Airport. I was dressed in my traditional get up and sauntered over to him, speaking in Greek as I approached. He looked like he was hallucinating. He actually looked scared! I admit, I must have been a pretty strange sight, Home Country girl speaking Greek.

Anyway, the short version of the story is this guy, let's call him George (generic enough) works in the Home Country for a Greek company. I was fascinated to hear his perceptions of the country I used to live in, and give him my impressions of the country he used to live in. We became friends.

Recently George started to email me because he has fallen in love with a Home Country girl, but sadly due to religious draconianism, for them to get married is almost entirely impossible, to the degree that even if they tried, they're sure to get lynched by the media. I emailed back and forth between him and his partner, and finally she admitted that they would just have to wait and hope that things in the Home Country changed.

I find this desperately sad. As this article in today's Guardian points out, intercultural relationships can be so incredibly rewarding. Since I have a very mixed background from my mother, there is every chance that mine and Mr Zeus's kids could all turn out different shapes and colours. We speak six languages between us and celebrate a double set of religious holidays. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles to be with him, cultural, religious and social, and I'm eternally grateful that my family is one of the more liberal ones.

I really hope things work out for George and his lady. Finding the one you want to spend your life with and then being denied that is not only painful, it's cruel.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New Blog Award

WhenI read some of the other Athens blogs, it strikes me just how intellectually pointless my own blog is.
Other bloggers tackle social subjects of the day and partake in stimulating comment and opinion discussions.
And mine covers... what exactly? Anyway, someone's gotta write this type of bubblegum blog so it might as well be me!
I hereby nominate myself Athens' Most Pointless Blog.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Reflections on Failing

After spending 24 hours tearful and depressed, today feels brighter.

Some people think believing in destiny is a cop out from taking responsibility for your life, but I believe that things happen for a reason, because everything we do is interconnected.

That's also how I would console myself on the London transport system when I would be sat in an overcrowded tube train that was in a tunnel and not going anywhere, or a train that decided to stop in the middle of nowhere and stay there for at least an hour because of dust on the tracks or something. I'd think "Look on the bright side, Bollybutton. Maybe there is a murderer outside your flat tonight waiting for you, and at this rate he'll get sick of waiting and leave. So you'll live another day!"

So I think yesterday passing my test was not in my destiny. Maybe if I passed, I would have caught a flight to Athens that crashed, gone for a drive and hit someone or other such colourful scenarios.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Drat It

Alas my first attempt at my mystery task failed this morning so I might as well tell you what it was. I was trying to get my driving license. Sadly for me the instructor I was using was an absolute waste of oxygen for other useful members of society and he left the car in reverse gear.

I get in, an anxious student wanting to pass so a detail like checking the gears which any WORTHWHILE instructor sets up for a tested student, I didn't do thoroughly enough and the car jumped back. I failed on the spot.

Let me tell you what this failure has cost me just to rub salt into my wounds:
  1. One week of holiday leave taken off work to learn driving intensively
  2. Over £300, closer to £1000 if you count the lessons I began since last December
  3. Wasted precious hours of my life with an instructor who was a trainee. A TRAINEE!!! After I specifically told them I have limited time and need to pass first time.
  4. Blisters on both hands from 6 hours of driving every day
  5. A serious dent to my confidence
  6. A current total this time of over 3 weeks away from Athens which will now continue

The next test date is in one month. I'm hoping a cancellation will come up. I was planning to be back in Athens this weekend if it had all gone right.

I feel SO SAD!!! I'm still a lowly pedestrian!


Monday, September 03, 2007

Why it's been so quiet

The reason it's been so quiet from me is that I'm still in the UK. Actually this time I came on a one way ticket. Panic not, I am going to be back in Athens soon, but I don't know exactly when.

If it all sounds very mysterious, I apologise. Rest assured that it doesn't involve anything illegal. I'm just up to something. Well, I'm trying to achieve something, and though not normally suspicious, I dare not talk about it for fear of jinxing myself. I've been working my butt off to achieve this mystery goal and if I'm successful I'll let you all know.

Just be thinking positive thoughts for me on Tuesday 4th of September at about 10.20 am Greek time!