Tuesday, October 30, 2007

On a more Serious Note

Today is the 30th of October and is No Pay Day in the UK to reflect the 17% pay gap between the hourly wage of a full-time male and female employee in the UK. What this means is that as of today, any woman working in the UK is effectively working for free until the new year as compared to a man.

It's just not right, is it. Since I'm salaried in the UK and pay tax in the UK, this applies to me too. It's 2007, and I don't think this is acceptable any more. This kind of gender discrimination anywhere in the world really grates my nerves. We're people too!

Click here for more info.

Image: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/eplive/expert/photo/20050822PHT01297/pict_20050822PHT01297.jpg

Made in Greece

The fact that I am posting means my parents visit is over and that it all pulled off quite nicely. So, if you're wondering, here is what happens at a Greek official engagement: the families get together, then the rings are presented by a parent of the man to the woman, and vice versa. Gifts are exchanged on both sides for the couple, and then of course a lot of food is consumed. For once, the one-size-fits-all greeting of xronia polla (many years/a long life) is not used. In its place is favoured na zisete (may you live long) to the couple.

What did my parents make of Greece? They didn't like the food much, but I can't really blame them coming from such a spice-rich culture as we do. They liked pretty much everything else, and I think part of them now understands why I wanted to leave Britain. They were supremely impressed that the garbage is collected daily, seeing as how they have to cope with a twice monthly collection in the UK and had maggots in their bin last summer.

I forgot, however, to warn them about the Greece Invented Everything conversations, which come flying at you from every direction on your first visit to Greece.

"Macedonia, yes they like to call themselves a country, but Macedonia is Greek"

"That's a Greek word."

"This rock/monument/yiayia is over 5000 years old. Imagine that. 5000 years."

"XYZ came from Greece. So and so's ancestors were Greek."

Is this adorable pride in your history, or is it like a fading beauty who has removed all the mirrors from her house so that she doesn't have to face her less than dazzling present, choosing instead to brood over images of a glory long passed?

Anyone with Greek friends will notice that few of them can just stand around and admire that something is pretty - they are obliged as a term of their nationality to tell you the entire history of everything, even if you've heard it a 100 times and even if all you want to do is look at how beautiful it is. Which is fair enough. It's their country after all.

What's the nicest thing about having family and friends visit you in a foreign country? It helps you look at the familiar with new eyes and appreciate the details that you take for granted, like how the laiki is not infested with flies, or how despite there being no physical barrier to getting on the metro without a ticket, most people will still do the honest thing and line up to buy a ticket. It helps reinforce my belief that after all the tears and the upsets, I have done the right thing for my life.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bollybutton's Bollywood Beatbox

It's Friday again, yipeee! Today I have many reasons to be happy. For one thing, later today my parents are coming to Greece for the first time ever and tomorrow I'm getting officially engaged for the first time ever. Last weekend me and Mr Zeus picked the rings in the record breaking time of under five minutes.

I have decided to follow an old Greek tradition of wearing the wedding band on one finger for engagement and then the other for marriage, seeing as a) I don't want the evil De Beers company to have any of our money, I knew about diamond cartels before Blood Diamond hit the screens, and b) I'm too forgetful and scatterbrained to be in charge of precious gems.

Today I am linking to a song which has one of those Bollywood So Bad It's Good videos. There are two reasons I picked this song. The first is that it has a line which says: the world is after me, but I'm after you which epitomises my current situation. Secondly and more appropriately, it has a line relating to getting engaged. The girl sings: fulfil my destiny, make my world come to life, get engaged to me my love.

When I was a little girl, the worst thing anyone could say to me was that I would get married. I remember flying into tears of rage when I was admiring an ornament of my mother’s and she said, in front of the other ladies present, that she would give it to me in my dowry. They all laughed, and I howled with fury. Another time I was playing with a red scarf and my grandma put it over my head, took a picture and said that I looked like a bride. I refused to talk to anyone for the rest of the afternoon.

God knows why I found the prospect of engagements and marriage so insulting. Maybe it was because I eventually started attending the weddings of sparky, boisterous girl cousins knowing that in a few weeks from their wedding they would be acting like they had had a lobotomy. No more explosive laughter, no more light in their eyes, no more silliness. It was a familiar pattern.

At university I was known as Bollybutton the Man Hater. I didn’t get my first boyfriend till the last day of University because I didn’t want a single thing to get in the way of my journalism degree. The moment a male of the species approached me, the iron curtain came down.

Which is what made my behaviour around Mr Zeus all the more impossible for me to explain. If I felt like talking to him, I did it, if I felt like accidentally-on-purpose seeking him out in the Olympic venue where we were based, I did it. Coy Bollybutton chased after Brazen Bollybutton telling her that this was not the way, that she was acting totally out of character and that no good could come out of such forwardness.

Brazen Bollybutton told her to shut up and that Something Felt Right. To this day I can’t explain what it was, but something over rid all my defence mechanisms for how to deal with The Mens.

So here I am today. I guess in life the biggest most unexpected surprises come from within ourselves.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's not me, it's You

I've finally realised what I suspected all along.

Mediterranean people are by and large all crazy. They all share the same hot-blooded passion/rage/irrationality, chauvenism and the belief that indicators on cars are just a decorative embellishment.

A Greek friend once told me no one in Greece/the Med wants to take responsibility for anything, just watch a Greek football game and you'll see how quickly a player tries to get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it.

Anywhere in the Med and the Home Country are the two places I don't trust the little green man to tell me when it's safe to cross the road, because, being Mediterranean, even he runs from his responsibilities and places them on my shoulders. There's no point me looking angrily at the drivers that carry on driving when the green man appears, I'm the one at fault.

I mean read this! Italy is planning a law that would force all bloggers to register with the state. This could only happen in a Mediterranean country. Do you know why? Imagine if your grandfathers and middle aged uncles were running a country. Most still rely on their mother/wife to buy their undies and consider the internet some left-wing conspiracy to topple them.

I wish the Italian bloggers good luck, but I can't help but laugh at how ridiculous this is.

Image: altered from http://content.answers.com/main/content/wp/en/thumb/5/5c/650px-Mediterranean_Relief.jpg

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Haiku to Alpha Bank

At Kolonaki
They might be able to help
I leave, defeated

Computer Says No

As I write this I am wracked with anxiety because in a few moments I have to go carry out an errand for Mr Zeus at the bank.
My number one hate of living in Athens is how simple every day tasks have become such a chore. Going to the bank is a task that takes me less than a few minutes in the UK. Here, I have to dedicate my whole lunch hour to it.

At the post office they know me now - not by name of course, I am to them what I am to everyone else, the Little Dark Skinned Foreign Girl. The ladies behind the counter keep chitchat to the minimum and help me when I don't understand what they are saying by describing alternatively.

The bank is a different story. I have stood in line so many times praying that I'll get one of the guys behind the counter because I find them generally more patient with my bad Greek. But no! Each time I get stuck with a gum-chewing female, bored and irritated and suffering from a chronic avoidance of actually doing any work. I'll be sweating with nerves by this point as I try to explain what I need, she'll try to tell me something back, I won't understand and then she'll get up and say loudly "MARIAAAA!! Can you come here and help this foreign girl, I don't know what she's talking about."

Cue the other people in the bank doing that unnerving thing Greeks do of just staring at whatever excites their curiosity. Roll up, roll up, see the Little Dark Skinned Foreign Girl attempt to carry out an everyday task! Watch in wonder as the sweat rolls down her face! Win a prize for guessing her stress level correctly!

And what do I do? I just stand there mutely like a mouse in a lion's cage, because I am scared of Greek women and I sure as hell don't want to get into a fight with one by telling her that I can understand her if she just tried explaining a little differently.

The last time I went to the bank I was in there for about 15 minutes. It took me a good two hours to come off the adrenaline. I can take comfort in the fact that most Greeks I know tell me their own bank experiences are not all that different to mine.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bollybutton's Beatbox

It's Friday all you sexy people and today's post is dedicated to The Music, in the hope that one of my readers is an Athenian DJ and will have his/her ears out for some new music. So today you are going to get a very essential education that will help you through life. No, really, it will.

Back in my university days, the days of my Yoof, there were three things certain in life.

1) Death

2) Taxes

3) If there was a bhangra gig in the city, Bollybutton would beg, steal and borrow to be there

So what's with bhangra? Bhangra for those of you don't know about it is music originating from the Punjab region of here and here. Punjabis, incase you didn't know, are the coolest and most fun people of all the ethnic spectrum in both these countries, and I don't say that because I have Punjabi blood; that's simply a delightful coincidence.

Bhangra music is full of beats from a drum called the dhol, which is a big drum played on both sides with two different sticks and type of guitar with one string called a tumbi. Punjabis like to sing and dance a lot and their music has evolved across the generations, resulting in today's excellent fusion bhangra. Since my university gig days are long gone, I rely on online radio and recommendations from friends to keep up with the new releases. Here is one of the current best.

It's Friday! Turn up the volume! (And, um, any DJs reading, get in touch via comments so I can direct you to more good music and spice up Athenian club nights. No respectable club night is complete without bhangra)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's not PMS, I'm just Crazy

Today I feel a lot better after yesterday's pity party. I spent most of yesterday periodically breaking into tears, but that was mostly because the wedding I've been invited to is the country my mother is from.

Finally getting the chance to see it makes me giddy with happiness, not to mention all the old friends from university I'll be reunited with, who I have missed so much over the years, who will remind me of a time in my life where my biggest worry was what outfit to wear to a bhangra gig.

What can I say? I'm a sentimental fool.

The cure for such scattered thoughts? A healthy does of Bollywood of course. If you've got three hours to spare and speak Spanish, click here and enjoy a cinematic classic. With Spanish subtitles.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Liar Liar

Yesterday was a strange kind of day. I was sitting at my desk typing an email when there was an almighty bang and I saw that a crack had magically appeared along the bottom of my fish’s bowl, threatening to snap it into two in the next moment. I had to run out and buy another one before disaster struck.

Later that evening I was taking the shopping down to the basement where the chest freezer is kept and I went tumbling down the stairs, landing squarely on my back. The only good news of the day was that a friend from university sent me an invite for her wedding in February. Her email gushed with joy and excitement and it got me thinking about weddings.

Chances point strongly to Mr Zeus and I getting married one day, seeing as our engagement is officially around the corner. But when I think about my wedding, I don’t feel happy and I don’t feel excited. I feel sad and I feel stressed out.

It’s not because I’m having doubts. The reason getting married to Mr Zeus fills me with dread is the same reason this blog is so sparse on details which are pretty obvious.

Why don’t I just name the Homeland? Some of you have already guessed it. Why is it that I sometimes wait a few days before I bl0g an event just to throw off exact times and places? Why not name people in my blog?

First off, I don’t do any of the above in an attempt to make myself appear more mysterious or interesting. How glamorous if that was the case, and how simple. The truth is I do this because I am scared.

Since I met Mr Zeus my life has been crammed full of lies and question dodging, but that’s not his fault. Meeting him was the catalyst for me deciding to throw of the shackles of social convention and live my life the way I wanted it, but freedom always comes at a price.

Not only have I screwed up my relationship with my Dad, who still tells me now and then to find a nice Home Country boy to settle down with, but I am constantly terrified that someone from my extended family Back Home will discover what I’m doing here in Athens. That’s why I do what I can to avoid this blog turning up in certain Google searches.

Let’s look at the absolute worst scenario, which is me paying with my life for my freedom. I just don’t know who out of my extended family might decide that I have so tarnished a good family name that they need to avenge the family’s honour. My sisters think I’m being crazy and say “Bollybutton, our family isn’t like that.” Are they really not? How many times have I read about someone saying they didn’t think their family was like that? Why take a chance?

A more likely scenario is that my actions will end up dragging my father’s good name into the mud. As for my mother, her reputation is not likely to suffer more than it already has. We lived in a small town in the Home Country, and my mother as a foreigner was never accepted. Every step we put wrong was attributed to her being a foreigner, and the crazy thing is not only is she Asian too, she also converted when she married my father, go figure!

One solution to this would be to get married, right? Wrong. Unless Mr Zeus converts, we will never be accepted as actually married. Neither of us has considered it important for the other to convert to be together, but that’s completely going to fly right up the noses of the busybody Aunties Back Home.

This ties up nicely to why am I not at all happy about getting married one day. Because with a wedding taking place, certain people will have to be invited from Back Home. Bear in mind this will be a wedding in Greece, with drinking, dancing, kissing and general merriment, all of which is going to completely embarrass my father in front of these people.

This is why I don’t feel happy, because my choices are not to invite any of these people and upset them and my father, or to invite them and have to be thinking of social protocol even on my wedding day. And even if I did that, even if there was no alcohol served and I didn’t kiss the man I loved, they’d still be disapproving because we’d not be actually married according to them.
They’d also think Mr Zeus was an idiot not to take up the honour and the privilege that is entering my religion, an honour so great that if I got him to convert, all my sins would be forgiven and I could basically spend my life raping and looting and still be guaranteed heaven.

Sometimes I think I'll get married just so I could stop lying. I’m tired of inventing excuses about why I'm Athens. A married woman in the Home Country has a little more license to speak her mind to other women. But then there will always be lies, there will always be conflicts. When you belong to the culture I do, you’re everyone’s public property, and everything you do is their business. Having my children baptised is just going to be the cherry on top of the Cake of Dishonour.

When I read my friend’s wedding invitation, bursting with happiness and anticipation for her big day, I really envied her. In the end, you might think, is a man really worth it? Is Mr Zeus really worth it? That’s something I won’t know until I reach the finish line. But is it worth it to live my life the way I always dreamt I could? Absolutely. Plus, I’m sure livening up the gossip at the hideously boring ladies’ tea parties back home. What would the Aunties have to talk about if I didn’t exist?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Potty Mouths and My Night Out

I had just finished deciding what to wear on Friday night when the heavens opened and I had to make a small adjustment. I scrapped the rose pink and gold outfit I wore to my sister’s wedding last summer in favour of the shirt of the bright blue outfit I wore to a friend’s wedding this March in the Home Country.

I combined this sparkly top with a pair of jeans, silver earrings from my hometown and the blue glitter and pink mirrored bangles. As I slipped them on, I remembered how I was one bangle short because I had leaned against a wall during the marriage ceremony and heard an ominous crack followed by a glassy tinkle.

I was all set, ready, excited and feeling good. My henna had darkened nicely and me, Mr Zeus and his best mate, let’s call him Z2, set off for Psiri for our rendez vous at 1002 Nights.

Let me tell you about Z2. He is a typical Gemini and can be the best or the worst of company. Friday night he decided to be the worst of company and spent almost the whole night with an expression like I had asked him to choose between losing his manhood or losing his entire vocabulary of swearwords, which if you know him is 95% of a conversation.

Between leaving the house and taking our table at 1002 Nights I felt myself slide from ecstatic to a bit agitated to furious. His complaints ranged from why did he have to come out, to refusing to go the way I said because he was sure I was wrong, to refusing to ask for directions, to making us go the wrong way only for it to be proven that I was actually right all along, to this place sucks, look at the d├ęcor, to what a crappy menu and so on and so on, like a queen bitch.

It was more than any reasonable host could take. This was my night! I held my tongue for as long as I could, but finally after he said how much the venue sucked one more time, I pulled out what my friends from university called my Death Look, which goes like this: I looked at him and said as sweetly as I could that if he was really having such a bad time we could go somewhere else…(pause) *DEATH LOOK DEATH LOOK DEATH LOOK*

That shut him up and right on cue our company arrived and from there the night skyrocketed. My toned down trad rags (traditional clothes) didn’t get me any weird looks, and my henna got a lot of admiration and questions, which I was happy to indulge. After dinner at 1002 Nights, we went on to Nara Nara for shisha and drinks.

At about 2.30 am we decided to call it a very successful night and parted company. We had the pleasure of being driven home by Z2 and learnt that there is such a thing as having your ears raped. That man can swear! But so what, I had had a really good time. Mr Zeus apologised for Z2 when I told him he'd got to me and said that he's so used to Z2's personality that he doesn't even notice when he's being socially retarded, which is fair enough.

Here’s to next year, and next year, dear friends, I am planning a proper shebang and any of my blog mates who want to join in are welcome to. The only casualty of the night was another blue glass glitter bangle, which gave up the ghost as I slide on my jacket when leaving 1002 Nights.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Party Time!

Last night was what we call in the Homeland Moon Night, meaning the new moon was spotted.

Back home, when the moon was sighted, fireworks were let off and phonecalls were made wishing everyone a happy celebration the next day. All our friends would gather at our house where my mother would set up a henna conveyor belt and we'd stay up late talking and enjoying ourselves.

The next day all the kids would go from house to house in new clothes collecting money and getting overfed.

Yesterday I went to see my turkish friend to wish each other, eat too much and do henna together. Even though I wasn't able to locate a single event through any embassy for today, yesterday really set the mood for me and this morning I woke up full of energy and covered in henna crumbs.

Tonight we plan on cobbling together a gang to go out somewhere, anywhere, and dance the night away. I might feel like the only person in Greece celebrating, but I'll do it in style!

If you want to get into the you-know-what spirit, tune in here and dance like this.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Christmas? Never Heard of It

I was trying to get to my bellydance lesson last night, sitting on the bus and waiting for it to move. This particular bus line has a habit of parking up and just sitting there for 15 minutes or half an hour, depending on how much frappe the driver feels like drinking. The result is you can always arrive in good time to get somewhere, and always end up late.

As I looked out the window, fireworks went off at the local zaxaroplasteo. I think they were celebrating however many years of business. What with it being the time of year it is, the young people cheering and the fireworks, for a moment I forgot where I was.

My mind took me back to the Home Country, where right about now everyone would be getting ready for the party of the year. Us kids would buy boxes of sparklers, bend their wires into hooks, light them up and throw them into trees. They would hang there like super fancy Christmas baubles shimmering away. Fire hazard, I hear you scream, but we had no concept of such things when it was coming up to party time.

Like in Greece, the religious heads hold a lot of power in the Home Country, more even than the powers of science, so they decide when it’s officially a new moon, not the official moon charts, which would make life a lot easier because it usually ends up with half the country celebrating on one day and the other half the day after.

I remember one particular time we were in a major city in the Home Country when the Bearded Ones announced that there was no moon and hence no party the next day. We all relaxed, since we hadn’t bought any presents for anyone anyway. At about 11 o’clock at night they changed their minds and everyone was loaded into cars to go shopping.

All the shops threw up their shutters and it was like the entire country was out laughing and celebrating. The girls flirted with the boys selling bangles, and the young men had monopolized the henna stands to have a legitimate excuse to hold a pretty girl’s hand. It was wonderful. That time in the Home Country, with the sounds, the music, the food, the happiness makes you feel like you’ll burst with either too much food or too much joy.

Watching the fireworks last night, I thought the young people were getting ready to celebrate and then I remembered where I was and to be honest I felt sad. Like Christmas, we wait all year for this party, and I felt like I’m the only person in Greece waiting.

Downtown in my bellydance class, I asked my teacher if she knew anyone in the Arab community who was celebrating. We thought of calling the tourist police but realized it was a pointless exercise.

So she called up a local Egyptian restaurant and after the usual niceties with the Greek waitress, the conversation went like so:

Teacher: “I was wondering if Ali was there because I have a question for him.”
Girl: “No he’s not but you can ask me.”
Teacher: “I have a girl here and she wanted to ask him if anything is going on for ***”
Girl: “For what thing?”
Teacher: “For ***”
Girl: “What’s that?”
Teacher: “It’s a festival, like we have Easter. She wants to know if there is a place to pray where she could find out.”
Girl: “A place to pray? For her father or something?”
Teacher: “No for her.”
Girl: “What’s this about again?”

At this point I told her never mind it was alright and I’d make some calls to various embassies. The girls in my bellydance class had listened in to the conversation on speakerphone and shook their heads. “She just didn’t want to help.” one of them said.

The big day is either going to be tomorrow or Saturday, depending on what the Bearded Men say. My family is going to be together and my sisters will be doing henna for each other. And I’ll be here, in a country where most people don’t even know what I’m talking about, with henna on one hand because I’m not ambidextrous.

I’ll make some calls today and hopefully I won’t end up all dressed up with nowhere to go. Do you see now why the 10 kids is a good idea? I’ll have my own multicultural group ready to celebrate at the drop of a hat.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Fishing Downtown

One of the most fun and vibrant places in Athens is downtown along Athinas street, the part of town many Athenians will tell you is the bad part of town. This area is poor and almost exclusively occupied by immigrants from all over the world, which is what makes it so interesting. I for one feel most comfortable here. I can lose myself in my thoughts, dipping in and out of the mysterious little shops like Elixir, a herb shop that looks like a witch’s pantry.

This Saturday I was showing a friend around Athinas street when we came across a tropical fish shop. I love aquariums and love to watch the fish swimming around in pet shops, admiring their beauty and knowing that someone else has to clean their stinky tanks when the time comes.

Something caught my eye as we walked in. It was rows upon rows of clear plastic cups on the tops of the two largest aquariums. In each cup was about two inches of water. In each of these small cups was a Japanese fighter fish.

These fish are some of the most beautiful fish in the world, but they will attack anything else put in a tank with them. The plastic cups were a clumsy attempt at getting around this. I’m not much of an animal lover, but I’d have preferred to see a fish like this with it’s lovely tail fanned out, not sitting at the bottom of a cup with no room to move.

We had a fish bowl at home so I asked the Pet Shop Boy (PSB) the price.

Me: How much are these?
PSB: €4.50
Me; Forty euros? (In the UK, these fish never go for less than £9, so forty didn’t seem crazy)
PSB: No, €4.50
Me: Really?! That’s so cheap

I tried to call Mr Zeus to okay the plan with him, but when he didn’t answer I went ahead and selected a deep blue fish with shots of red and took his little cup to the counter. Our conversation continued with my poor Greek.

Me: If I buy him he’s not going to die tomorrow, right?
PSB: (Looking shocked) You want to wait till tomorrow to put him in a tank?
Me: No, I mean will he live?
PSB: (Looking comically offended) Ma ti les my girl, do I look like I’d sell you a fish that would die?
Me: Are they easy to care of?
PSB: Ofcooourse, no problem at all.

I left my fish on the counter and tried to find some white gravel to put at the bottom of the tank to show of his lovely colours.

PSB: Do you need help?
Me: Have you got any of this (pointing since I don’t know the word for gravel in Greek) in white?
PSB: No but look at this stuff in black. (says something which I mishear)
Me: Okay, in how much time?
PSB: What do you mean how much time?
Me: In how much time does the black one turn white?
PSB: It doesn’t turn white!
Me: Sorry that’s what I heard. I’ll take some of that one there, that looks white. My bowl is this big (indicate with hands)
PSB: I’ll measure you a kilo
Me: What do they eat by the way?
PSB: Bloodworms
Me: (Imaging live bloodworms and looking like “come on now, where the hell am I supposed to find those”)
PSB: Don’t look at me like that! That’s what they eat!
Me: And where am I supposed to find those.

Pet Shop Boy got me a bottle of dried bloodworms which answered the question and a liquid that take the chlorine out of water so that I could put him straight into a bowl. With the fish, food, gravel and this liquid, my bill was €10.

I have to say, this conversation with Pet Shop Boy was the most fun I’ve had speaking Greek. He called upon his rusty English when I really didn’t understand what he was talking about, and I blundered along with my rusty Greek as he instructed me on what to do when I got home. By the time we were done we were both laughing.

My fish is now settled and free to swim around his little bowl. Look at his picture, isn’t he beautiful?

If you too would like to go save a Japanese fighter fish from a little plastic cup, here is where to go:

Aqua Planet
Athinas 59
210 522 3121

You won’t regret it!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Not Sari

On Monday night the lovely Andrea Bocelli gave a concert at the Marble Stadium downtown in Athens and I decided that a formal occasion like this was a very good excuse to wear one of my saris.

I was meeting a friend of mine at Syntagma and thought taking public transportation to my destination would be a cheap and convenient thing to do. I hadn’t bargained on how uncomfortable I would feel.

Despite saying that I feel no affiliation to any country, the Home Country is the one that I have been most strongly affected by. I spent most of my life there and it gave me memories, a language and a culture. Part of this culture is the wonderful clothes which I didn’t get to wear very often in the UK because the weather is usually too bad.

If you did manage to walk down the street in my small English town in traditional clothes, chances are no one would look. I did it a couple of times on sunny days and the most offensive thing that was said to me was a snotty little kid laughing and saying “Ha ha you’re getting married, you’re getting married, nya nya nya nya nya nya.” In a lemon yellow sari? I don’t think so, honey.

My experience in Athens was vastly different. I have worn traditional clothes once or twice before, but always with company. This was my first solo excursion, and I tell you, I understand how the Elephant Man must have felt.

To say that I got stared at doesn’t even cover it. The younger people were not much of a problem, they tended to look and then look at something else. The middle aged men had perfected the art of staring and then looking away the second I met their gaze.

It was the older people, especially the older women who looked at me like I was covered in the blood of a thousand Greek children. They looked disgusted. I felt like shouting “You know, I come from an ancient culture too! Just because I live here doesn’t mean I have to wipe it out so deal with it!”

The last time I felt that self conscious and stressed out was the first time I wore a bikini in public three years ago, but on that occasion my anxiety vanished the moment I realized not a single person on the beach cared what I was wearing.

I couldn’t get off the metro fast enough. But saying all that, I don’t plan on stopping either. I make no apologies for displaying my culture and why should I? And neither will the ten children I plan on having (for cultural diversity reasons).

As for the attitude of “Bloody immigrants coming to our country and xyz” Alexander “The Great” (note sarcastic quotes) came to MY country and tried to take the whole country! And I don’t think him and his army did as the locals did, they just did the locals, hence the northern tribes which claim descent from his army. Me and my saris are here to stay!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Oh Dear

Today checking up on my daily blogs I read California Kat's latest post about the dismal job prospects in Greece and I was forced to take a big sigh and ask myself a question I’ve been avoiding for a long time.

Does Greece just suck and I’m too scared to admit it? Have I picked a slightly more Western version of the Home Country to live in?

There have been times when I looked at Greece and thought how the hell did this country get into the EU? Greece’s membership in the EU is somewhat like a Greek civil service job – you can be bogusly incompetent and under qualified but if you know the right people you can get a slice of the pie and the big bosses will only slap you on the wrist when you screw up. Repeatedly.

Seriously though. This is the latest in a line of events which is making me confront the fact that Greece might not be such a fabulous place to live. I got lucky jobwise, but I’m planning a future here for my future children and to be honest, my school in the Home Country was better maintained than the local high school I attend for Greek classes and that’s pretty appalling considering the Home Country is so much poorer than Greece.

I don't hate Greece, far from it, and my experiences so far, apart from the sexism, have been good. No one for example has ever been racist towards me and I am very obviously foreign. The weather is great, it's a very child-friendly society, but children don’t stay children forever. They eventually grow up and need a good education and a job.

My parents left a decent standard of living both socially and materially to start from scratch in the UK in order for their children to have a better shot in life and it paid off. Have I taken a step backwards by choosing to live here, especially since according to the info California Kat has supplied, this situation looks highly unlikely to change in the future?

So answer me this, because I’m really curious to hear what you all think; does Greece suck?

ps: No nationalists telling me to f*ck off back home please, I’m here to build a future, I can’t just wake up tomorrow and decide to unwind everything I’ve invested. Constructive opinions only. In Greece’s defence, last night I went to an Andrea Bocelli concert for much less than it would have cost me in the UK.

UPDATE: Anyone else pondering this same question should read Hope's reply to my question. It's very good!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Make A Noise!!!!

Following the call from Devious Diva to spread the word about the treatment of a fellow blogger at the hands of the Greek police, I am answering with this post.

To recap, TeacherDude, who lives in Thessaloniki, was recently savagely beaten by the police during a peaceful demonstration for taking pictures. He was not warned to stop in any way before being beaten to the extent that he was left with a fractured nose and dislocated shoulder. You can read his full account here.

TeacherDude recently wrote to the Athens News about what happened and has also been interviewed on TV about it.

Anyone living in Greece knows that TeacherDude’s experience is sadly not exceptional and far, far worse has been done to other innocent bystanders in the past. It just keeps happening.

We hear ad nauseam about how Greece is the birthplace of democracy; how long will this type of behaviour go without serious penalty in the supposed birthplace of democracy? I hope everyone who reads this post today will carry on spreading the message so that the Greek authorities realise this is one case of police brutality too many.