Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
Mr Zeus was sitting in the front seat with his window partially down. A scrawny girl in filthy clothes and no shoes walked between the traffic with an armful of magazines and threw one through the window. It landed on Mr Zeus's lap, and he passed it to me in the back seat.
"How much do we have to pay for it?" he asked, searching around for some money. "It says invitation price 10 rupees, so I guess that means it's free but if you wanted to pay that's what you'd pay." I replied.
The lights changed to green and the girl reappeared at our window, banging on it urgently. We paid her and her face melted into a huge smile as she disappeared between the traffic.
Today I got an chance to start reading the magazine the little girl pushed through our window at the traffic lights and I'm linking to the cover story of that issue. It's the story of Dr Binayak Sen, a doctor in India who spent 30 years working with the country's poorest and most disadvantaged who was arrested last year on terrorism and conspiracy charges.
In my last post I wrote about the poverty in India. Dr Binayak Sen is someone who worked with the poorest of the poor. I couldn't have said the things I said in my last post and thought "Oh well! I don't have to live there." and carried on. I thought I'd share the story since it has received so little coverage. This is a tiny gesture from me to spread this story.
Please click this link.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Well I'm back from my travels and feeling the post holiday blues. I had a brilliant time at my friend's wedding mostly because I caught up with good friends I haven't seen in years and was on my territory.
When it comes to getting dressed in Asia, I know exactly what I'm doing. I can make myself look absolutely spectacular because the clothes suit me so much better and I know the rules and tricks of the trade. It's double the impact with half the effort
Frankly speaking in comparison I feel ugly in the West. The clothes, the lighting, my skin colour, it's all wrong, wrong, wrong. Oh well, if it bothers me that much I guess I could just move back. Instead I think I will give myself more chances to feel beautiful by wearing all the amazing saris I bankrupted myself with on this holiday.
When I first got the invitation for my friend's wedding, I was already there. I spent days daydreaming about the music, the food, the clothes. Now that I'm back, I'm still there. Every now and then I get a flashback of me and my friends dancing our little hearts out on the dancefloor at any one of the five, yes five, wedding ceremonies.
Our schedule went something like this:
Wedding Day 1 am: Henna Party
Wedding Day 1 pm: Cocktail Masquerade
Wedding Day 2: Pre wedding ceremony
Wedding Day 3: Actual Wedding
Wedding Day 4: Reception
Five ceremonies in four days. I ate, drank, danced, got a tan, barely slept and reminded myself what it was I did with all those spare hours at uni - I was with my friends laughing until I cried.
India itself was a bit of a shock for Mr Zeus because it's so grindingly poor, and that's where the catch lies. I had a great time, but I have to admit that walking around the gigantic grounds of the wedding venue and past the servants who had been up all night stringing marigolds to trees, I felt ashamed in my multicoloured saris that cost more than what they might earn in a year. And that's despite having witnessed similar poverty in the Home Country. In comparison I found the poor of India much poorer and the gap between that haves and have nots much wider. It was a hopeless, desperate level of poverty that even I'd never seen before on such a scale.
The wedding was on a scale I've never seen in my life and I've been to hundreds of such weddings. On the final day, the Prime Minister of India himself turned up, talk about well connected!
In terms of the sights we saw, Agra and Jaipur were totally worth it. Delhi was a bit of a dump and I wasn't much impressed. The city I liked best was the up and coming Hyderabad. It was much cleaner, less touristic and more relaxed than any of the other places we went too, plus the world's number one Dj, DJ Tiesto, chose Hyderabad for his first ever trip to India so it's got to have something special.
As for those Incredible India adverts on TV, they could do with a bit more accuracy by showing the chaos that is Indira Ghandi International airport. It ain't all elephants and yoga out there. We landed at 6.45 am. I had already changed by internal flight once from 8.10 am to 9.25 am to avoid missing it. Between 6.45 am to 9.25 am should have been plenty of time, right? We got through immigration at 8.30 am only to be told that internal flights leave from a whole other terminal.
So we grabbed a taxi which can best be described as a bucket on wheels. At the internal flights terminal, I ran up and down counters, between ladies swathed in screaming babies and over suitcases to reach the check in desk exactly 5 minutes too late and had to rebook a whole other set of one way tickets at double the price of the original return set.
If you think that's a pain in the ass, imagine when on the return journey we got stranded in Doha because of snow in Athens. Snow. In Athens. Athens, which is in Greece, which is supposed to be sunny. My office must have thought it was the worst lie they'd ever heard when I got in touch to let them know I wouldn't be online as planned because my flight got cancelled because of snow in Athens.
The gods of global warming conspired to punish me for all the flying I do.
Oh and if you're wondering, none of us took malaria tablets, just some anti-mosquito cream. To be honest the drugs are so heavy that getting malaria and treating it is probably easier on your body. My own sister had it twice and came out unscathed.
We also escaped Delhi belly. Boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it. That's what Mr Zeus stuck to. Lucky for me I grew up in the Home Country which blessed me with a stomach and nerves of steel, hence my indulgence in food that would have been lethal for him and my steady pulse in traffic that is 1000 times worse than Athens. There really are no rules in India. You wanna drive on the other side of the road? You do it!
I'll leave you with a song that I heard a lot during all the dancing I did. Ignore the video, enjoy the song.
Friday, February 08, 2008
A couple of months back I mentioned a wedding I had been invited to, which turned into the perfect excuse to take Mr Zeus to my part of the world for the first time. Not the Home Country, but the neighbourhood.
So I'll be gone for a while to my beloved Asia, where the weather suits my clothes and the food suits my palate, to charge my cultural batteries and bring out the East in me.
Monday, February 04, 2008
My good Irish-married-to-a-Greek friend, who I shall call Mary for privacy, recently had the luxury of a spa day with her hubby at a place called Evexia in Patision. Mary has been in Greece the same time as me and is quite proficient in Greek because her in-laws speak no English. When she and her hubby were done with their treatments, they were taken into a room where a fakity fake over made up woman tried to sell them more beauty treatments. Let's call her Janice for fun.
And there in that room Janice decided to embark on one of the worst sale techniques I have ever heard of. Not realising that Mary understands Greek, she addressed her husband on why they should buy more spa treatments and it went something like: "I mean look at her skin. God only knows what she's going to look like in 10 years. You should do something about it now!"
Mary was appalled and humiliated and I was appalled on her behalf which is why I decided to name and shame the spa, EVEXIA in PATISION - DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR BUSINESS!
I had a somewhat similar experience on Saturday night when I was on a flight back to Athens. I took the window seat, Mr Zeus took the middle seat and next to him sat a Greek woman. She was in her 30s and petite, which as I learnt is the perfect size for the fascistaki that she turned out to be.
Whiling away the time before take-off, I listened to her talking a friend about so and so who was married to a Japanese woman. And then she said, in Greek: "I really don't like seeing Greek men with foreign women. I mean, it really really bothers me. These women should stick to their own kind. We have or ways, our traditions which foreign women don't understand. They just come here and spoil things. They make people unhappy."
I looked at Mr Zeus, shocked and convinced that I had mistranslated. I hadn't. Yes, she was THAT stupid. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but to express those views with a very visible foreign woman sat one seat away and a French-married-to-a-Greek in the row in front of you is just plain stupid. She put the cherry on the cake when she was flipping through the in-flight magazine and said " Vasiliiiiiiii... where is Strasbourg?"
Stupid cow. So remember, dummies, wherever in the world you may be; don't try to hide behind a foreign language you just assumed the people around you don't understand. All that will do is make you look more ignorant and the likes of me and Mary look smarter.