Tuesday, February 26, 2008

One Click could Change your Life

Yesterday morning I woke up and in a scene reminiscent from my school days, I burst into tears because I had too much work to do and didn't know where to start. Thank God for Mr Zeus and his pep talks.

This morning I woke up and thought "Come on, bollybutton old bean, it's only a job." As I schlumped through my morning routine I remembered something. Something IMPORTANT! Well, sort of.

This Friday is my big sister's birthday and I'm not going to be there, which makes me officially a loser since she only gets a birthday every four years. But equally interestingly, we are in another Olympic year.

Sweet, juicy, precious Olympic years, I do love them so. I am painfully unathletic but I always watched the Olympics and I can chart my life in Olympic ceremonies. The earliest I can remember was the Seoul Olympics, which I watched in the Home Country sprawled on the pushed-together beds me and my sisters slept on. Next came Barcelona, which I watched in the house of my mother's best friend as the British summer streamed through the vast french windows and onto the cream carpets.

By the time Sydney came around, that house had been repossessed and Freddy Mercury was long dead. I watched Kylie Minoque singing atop a hot pink stiletto as I sat on the floor of a family friend's house in Cardiff on my first day at university. I was an ugly duckling 18 year old, with braces and frizzy hair.

And then of course there was Athens, without which this blog and my moving to Greece would never have happened. I watched the Athens opening ceremony melting into the sofa of my friend's downtown Athens apartment, smiling because I knew the ceremony already having seen the final dress rehearsal a few days before. I was so happy.

In contrast I watched the closing ceremony in my Aunty's house in a Welsh village, miserable and furious because her house had no mobile reception and I had fallen in love in spite of myself and maybe right now, at that very moment Mr Zeus was trying to take the step I had been too chicken to take and declaring his feelings for me.

And I'd never know! I'd never know because of the bloody little Welsh village and it's lack of mobile reception and agreeing to my mum's idea of having a weekend by the sea! He might take my silence as rejection and by the time I got home our relationship would have begun and ended without me getting a chance to join in.

I acted like a spoilt child with an angry scorpion up its bum that whole weekend and I still cringe at how I behaved. On the drive back home, I cradled my stupid mobile phone the whole way until we reached an area with a mobile signal, only for it to lie there, mockingly silent. So he hadn't tried to reach me, eh? Well I wasn't about to let the dream die that easily. And the rest is history.

Today I did the same thing I did four years ago and submitted an application to volunteer at the Beijing Olympics this summer. Like the last time, I got my application in pretty close to the dealine. The end of March is the final date for submission.

Are you interested, dear readers? Why not give it a shot. At worst you'll have a ball making new friends and being part of the Olympics. At best, it might change your life forever, like it did mine.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Jeans Shop, Take 2

I was having a bad day on Saturday so I decided to do some shopping therapy and catch the tail end of the sales.

Since I only own one pair of jeans it was time to invest in some new ones so I went to the same shop I blogged about. I told the girl the size I was wearing. "No way," she said "you're wearing one size bigger than that." Ignoring my protests to the contrary she pulled out a pair of jeans even tinier than the minute size I had forced myself into months ago. Admittedly they'd grown comfortably loose, but come on!

On the scale of asses, if you stood me next to your average Mediterranean woman my buttocks can best be described as mosquito bites. I felt a strange kind of kinship with the sisterhood as I stood in those changing rooms forcing, pinching and pummelling my misquito bites into a pair of too-small jeans. For a rare moment, I felt ample, womanly, like a ripe fruit.

Preditcably neither the zip nor the button would do up, and I was thankful that the mint green triangle exposed at the top of the sorry mess was one of my 'good' pairs of undies. "They fit fine on the legs, you just need to do them up. The guy downstairs can help with that. Shall I call him?"

This I had to see, so I said yes. She dangled over the banister and called out for the guy at the till and up he came. "May I?" he asked. With my permission, he stood behind me, hooked his thumbs through the waistband. "You need to get them over the hip bone and they'll close." he said and he hauled upwards, taking me and the jeans up off the floor.

With some fancy wrist work he got the button shut and I stood there, amazed. Remember a while ago there was scandal that posh Spice wears size 23 waist jeans? She must get this guy to help put them on. Next, he ran his hands up and down each leg and turned the excess length under. That guy must love his job. All day long he helps girls get into jeans too small for them and then crouches on the floor, ass at eye level, as he makes adjustments.

It was all very impressive but since the man was not included in the price of the jeans, no belt would convicingly hide the gaping button and zip and I obviously couldn't get into the jeans without help, I sheepishly opted for a pair of slim-fit Wranglers.

Same size, but with the gift of stretch denim.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Small Gesture

On my last day in Delhi, I was sitting in the back of a taxi which was waiting at a traffic light. The Sikh driver drummed his fingers on the steering wheel to the energetic bhangra tape playing, his electric blue turban bobbing from side to side.

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

Hello Again

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

Bringing out the East in Me

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.

Image: http://www.geotonphoto.com/gtp/images/photos/wedding/i025.jpg

Monday, February 04, 2008

Rise up Against the Dummies

It's a sad fact of life that stupid people exist. You know the type, the ignorant morons who just assume crap and vomit out whatever random nonsense comes into their heads. It's kind of a waste, really. We could use such people for more useful things like propping open doors, or construct book shelves by making two dumbasses hold a plank of wood between them. We could even burn them for fuel, thus solving the crisis of non-renewable energy because stupid people are quite plentiful. Unfortunately, all of the above is illegal, and stupidos are free to roam our planet.

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.

Image: http://www.northernsun.com/images/thumb/0826.jpg