Friday, December 03, 2010

An Apology to CaliforniaKat

I have a confession to make, along with an apology.

I've been blogging for four years now, and though it's mostly been a fun experience, from time to time it has been pretty rotten due to some fairly scathing comments I get.

A few years back I started to get some anonymous and particularly harsh comments berating my blog and its content, my lifestyle, and criticising my writing a blog about settling in Athens when I did not have to go through any of the difficulties that someone who comes here totally on their own does. This includes being portrayed as some sort of ex-pat gold digger who speaks no Greek, riding on the back of my sugar daddy older husband.

Anyway, if you're wondering where this post is going, it is directed at CaliforniaKat, journalist and the author of an excellent blog

For some reason, I got the impression that CaliforniaKat didn't like me very much, and based on this one feeling along with the writing style of some of the comments, I did the most childish thing possible and assumed it was her that was making anonymous and nasty comments.

I'm ashamed to say that I responded in a very stupid way. CaliforniaKat is a successful journalist and her articles appear in a popular British publication from time to time. I used the comment forums on these articles to make some pretty mean and personal attacks on her and her work.

A lot of time has passed and a lot has changed. I know it doesn't make up for my behaviour, but I would like to apologise. I'm not at all sure it will be accepted and there is no agenda behind this. The truth is I should have known better than to assume someone like CaliforniaKat would be bothered enough (or even have the time) to not only read my blog but also to write nasty comments about it.

CaliforniaKat, it's probably an apology too late. I think you are very talented and your blog is an exceptional resource. And yes, the truth is I was jealous. I call myself a journalist but the fact is I am not, nor will I probably ever be one. You on the other hand are successful in a way that I truly envy.

I would just like to say that I was very childish in my behaviour and I'm sorry about that.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Look Both Ways

I have had a driving license for a full three years now and done nothing with it until recently. First, there was the long process of getting my paperwork done to insure me onto a car. Then came the small matter of finding someone with the time to take me for a drive now and again. Despite many offers of help, these never materialised with any kind of regularity.

At the start of this year, we decided to buy a bashed up Fiat from Mr Zeus's pal Z2. It came with the added bonus of being ready dented from previous accidents, but despite that it was a nice little car and perfect for me to drive and park - park being the key word here as there is no parking space at all in Athens. Everyone owns about 20 cars and would park them one on top of the other if they could, not to mention the idiots who buy gigantic 4x4s to drive in the city. Seriously? Did you not look at how narrow Athenian roads are before you bought that vehicle with the sole purpose of advertising your social status to the neighbours? Never mind that you put yourself into debt to do it.

Anyway, one fine day I was sitting at home and thought "I have insurance. I have a license. I have a car. Just how frickin' terrible can it be?" And so I began driving on my own. I've been sticking to my own neighbourhood so far where I know the roads and roundabouts. This is good because my biggest problem with driving here, apart from having obtained a license to drive on the left, is the roundabouts. Athens is full of them and there is no hard and fast rule about how to navigate them. Each one is laid out unpredictably, like some sort of Russian Roulette of the Roads.

In the UK, you are taught to give right of way to anyone coming in from the right and once you're on the roundabout you don't stop unless you get into an accident because once you're on, right of way is all yours. In Greece, take your pick. You never know from one roundabout to the next who has right of way and who should have stopped, or if you should stop mid-flow as you very often see on roundabouts. The only way to approach them is to just do it and hope you don't kill or be killed.

So far though the driving has not turned out to be all too bad. It takes much more concentration since you cannot rely on anyone obeying Stop and No Entry signs, and you still check both ways even on a one way street because this is Greece baby! Going both ways was practically invented here ya get what I mean?

I actually prefer driving on my own. Z2 has so far been my most regular driving companion and as much as I appreciate his help, he has the unfortunate habit of getting terrified while I'm driving. He's not to blame. It stems from him taking out another friend the first day she got (or rather bought - you can do that here) her license and her promptly crashing the car. It took some convincing to get him to agree to take me driving in the first place.

Also, like most experienced drivers, he tends to underestimate my need for Instructions for Idiots 1o1, the result being me misunderstanding his directions and screams of terror emenating from his lungs.

By far the most useful driving skill which I have yet to master is the mind/horn connection. Whenever I witness bad driving, instead of my hand flying to the horn in outrage, I sit there looking horrified and think "But I had right of way there!" Thinking that and looking pissed is going to get you nowhere whereas a lightening fast reflex action will announce your disastisfaction.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Next Top Mollycoddle

Over the last couple of Next Top Model episodes, I've been scratching my head over 22 year old Jian Nan. It's become blindingly obvious that she is becoming increasingly isolated in the Top Model house and the rest of the girls don't really get along with her.

I feel two ways about this. On one hand I feel incredibly sorry for Jian Nan. When a few episodes back the girls played a prank on her by smothering her food in salt and pepper, my first thought was "Oh no. She's not going to react the way they think. She'll eat it." And she did, cutting later to her crying in the garden and later telling a friend on the phone that the girls were not being very nice. Personally, I don't think the prank was meant to be cruel. I think the girls expected her to react in a totally different way to what she did.
Sometimes the way she acts reminds me of myself when I was new in Greece and didn't really understand what was happening around me. It was over a year before I was able to work out if the girls in bellydance were teasing me or actually being mean but disguising it as teasing, or their sense of humour or way of thinking. But soon, with some effort on both parts, I was more easily able to navigate my new friendships.

But that was my first year in Greece. Jian Nan has been in Greece for 10 years, since she was 12 years old. Here is where I get confused. From her behaviour and her Greek, she gives the impression that she somehow managed to isolate herself completely from Greek society for the last 10 years. The easiest thing to do when you arrive in a new country is to seek out your own, but Jian Nan seems to have done so to such an extent that now when she finds herself in a house with only Greek women for company, she has no idea what to do with herself. It's as if she literally arrived yesterday.

I'm puzzled as to how she managed to do this. Did she never make any Greek friends? Didn't she go to school here? If so, how is her Greek still so poor? I don't say that to pass judgement. My point is children pick up languages much faster than adults. Jian Nan was 12 when she arrived in Greece. If she went through the school system here at that age her Greek and her mannerisms should be very different to what they are. If she didn't go through the school system here, how did that happen seeing as it's against the law not to send your child to school?

I feel sorry for her, but at the same time her strategy of trying to make friends by emphasising cultural differences rather than looking for common ground is backfiring miserably. Multiculturalism is wonderful, but you can't escape the fact that when you end up in a foreign country, in my opinion at least you are duty bound to try and integrate into your new society.

I don't think the girls in the house are particularly racist (except maybe for Nancy who I can not stand), but I also think they are not particularly interested in foreign cultures. They're becoming aware of Jian Nan's awkwardness around them and it's setting some of them on edge. As soon as Jian Nan seemingly steps out of line, tempers flare and the line between Us and Them becomes much more sharply drawn. I think this is more a case of a bunch of extremely insecure young women shoved into a house together and losing their shit over nothing, rather than racism. I get the impression that they're getting tired of trying to coax her out of her shell.

At judging last night Jian Nan ended up in the final two, and blamed her poor performance on her feelings of isolation in the house. She also slipped up during judging when the judges told her she was a babe (kouklitsa) and she said "Yes I know, I have a babe-tastic face." She probably meant to use the word koukla in its literal sense (doll) rather than its colloquial use as babe, thus meaning to say "I have a doll-like face". The girls in the back sniggered.

As for some well meaning but highly inappropriate cultural stereotyping, we can always turn to good old Harry Christopoulos who just can not seem to get past Jian Nan's cultural identity and simply see her as another contestant. Cringeworthy comments about China can always be guaranteed from his mouth, along with outrageous statements like "You are as sexy as an Asian woman can be." or with her terrified expression in this week's photo posing with two scorpions "But you eat those in China."

*Slaps forehead*

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Not Cool :-(

Apart from being Spot Chris Kontentos day, today is Eid ul Adha, a really important Muslim festival. When I woke up, Mr Zeus wished me Happy Eid, which he has never done before. I asked him how he knew, and he said he was watching on TV how public squares in Athens had been turned into prayer grounds for Muslims to come and worship. Eid prayers are considered quite important and people try to dress their best in new clothes for them.

I was happy when I saw this. Now, I'm not particularly practising... okay make that pretty much not practising at all. But it was nice to see the authorities take such a step, and I'll tell you why. Having witnessed the mess caused in the UK by unregulated mosques and imams, I very strongly believe it's important for Athens to designate an official mosque in the capital, monitored by the Greek government to make sure that the imams who preach there are moderates. Because extremism has no place in a modern society. Muslims in Athens gather at unofficial mosques anyway, where who knows who is preaching who knows what.

Wouldn't it be in everyone's interest to have an official mosque in order to keep control of extremist points of view? I'm sure we can all agree that no one wants that in Athens, especially in the current climate when things are hard and migrants are feeling hard done by. This is ripe ground for extremists to sow their seeds of hate.

Anyway, my feelings of happiness have now turned into feelings of sadness. Because a few idiots gathered at the squares where prayers were held, taunted and jeered the worshippers, scattered pictures of pigs around them and threw eggs at them. I can't imagine how humiliating this must be.

Ok, locals got upset, but to attack someone while they are praying is pretty damn low. I don't really have much else to say about this, when judging by comments on news pages about this incident the common feeling seems to be "They asked for it! Greece for Greeks!"

Just a final point for those wondering, from the comments I read. Yes, in my small home town in the Home Country, there is an active church. One of my childhood highlights was being a bridesmaid at that church. So now you know.

Be Still My Beating Heart

Oh my God guys, the most amazing thing happened today! This morning I was meeting two friends for a coffee near Acropolis metro station before work. As we walked towards a cafe, a rather tall and pec-tacular man floated into my view, struttting up the cobbled street next to the metro. After a moment I then saw who he was with.

Dressed in model black, lithe limbed and flick haired, there he was. Christophoros Kontentos. Oh. My. God. Chris Kontentos was working that cobbled street like it was a runway. Mere feet away from me! In the flesh! Breathing the same air as us mere mortals!

How I wish I had witnessed this moment when he was still in possession of his flaxen mane. I was desperate to run up to him and start fawning about how much I love Next Top Model, but the truth is Chris Kontentos comes across a little bit mean. If I had gone up to him and he'd blanked me, I think I might very well have died of disappointment right on the spot.

I obviously watch way too much TV to say that this incident made my day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bolly Moves in Athens

In May of this year, I took part in a bellydance show. I've been dancing bellydance for the 4 years I've been in Greece. It was the first thing I did when I arrived here and it turned out to be a lifesaver for me. Through bellydance I made some really good friends and was able to create a routine of my own in those early days when I was still fully reliant on Mr Zeus for entertainment.

In our classes, we like to encourage dancing for the group. It builds confidence in the dancer and helps the rest of us be not quite so critical - everyone who feels like dancing is welcome to do so, and it's only then you realise the amount of nerves that come with performing, even for a group of familiar faces. You're not quite so quick to comment on what you thought was sloppy dancing once you've been on the other side!

The teacher asked me if I wanted to dance some Bollywood for the girls. So I did. Once a week for a couple of weeks I danced something for the girls and I'm happy to say they loved it. Eventually, news came round of a show and my teacher bullied the organisers to get me into the programme. This would be my first time dancing on stage alone, ever. I would be dancing a form of dance that is not very familiar to the audience, and I'd be doing it in costume and thus praying with all my might not to step on the edge of my sari and fall off stage. To say I was crapping myself is an understatement.

Show night came around and I was a complete bag of nerves. I kept cursing myself for agreeing to do this as I stood in the wings. My heart was pounding and my mouth was dry. Eventually, the moment came when I had to step out of the wings and onto the stage. And what a big and empty stage it felt like!

But once the music started, I was fine, and even managed to enjoy myself. I flew back into the wings on a cloud of adrenaline, wishing I could do it all over again. When the next number went on, I made my way to Mr Zeus in the audience and members of the audience started coming up to me, asking where I teach.

Now there was an opportunity I hadn't thought about! Sadly I didn't pursue it. Although from time to time I give a mini-class with my bellydance teacher's blessing during our regular classes, I realised quickly I didn't have the resources or the time necessary to teach on a regular basis. First off, I had no idea how to teach a form of dance I hadn't actually learnt, I had just picked up growing up with Bollywood movies. Moves I can pop out without a second thought become impossible for me when I try to break them down into teachable sections.

But I do have good news for anyone interested in learning Bollywood. On the same night as I performed, another wonderful dancer danced a Bollywood number. This October, she has started teaching and having attended her class, I can say it's totally worth it!

Check out the website of Oriental Expressions dance school. Bollywood dance lessons are every Monday from 7.30pm and cost EUR 15 per lesson. Enjoy!


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Why Did you Do It!!!!!!!!!!

With Greece in economic meltdown, we are a little sensitive here at the moment to change. The public gave a big two fingers up to all the political parties last Sunday with a unusually low voter turnout at the local elections ("What's the point? They're all the same.") and an unusually high level of deliberately spoilt ballots (decorated with drawings, hearts, stars or scribbles according to observers).

So everyone here is basically saying please just do something that doesn't suck so bad without having to change everything.

I was not ready, not at all ready then to be assaulted by Next Top Model judge Chris "The Hair" Kontentos's new look. It was alarming enough when he shaved off his beard. But then, I caught a glimpse of him on a chat show and was assaulted by this, his new look:





Why'd you do it Chris, why! Who will bring me my Monday night dose of bitchy follicular spectacularness now? What next? Vicky Kaya with a beefburger in one hand? Jenny Balatsinou saying something I don't immediately forget? Harry Christopolous being left alone with a naked Next Top Model and saying "Let's just play Scrabble."? I can't take all these changes right now!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sitting at Home, Going Loca

Sorry muchachos for my lack of posting. The truth is I have had no life lately thanks to whole bunch of things, such as losing our dear Yiayia, coming down with a cold and therefore first not wanting to leave the house and then not being able to. I am still trying though to save this blog from a slow death.

So I've been stuck indoors without the release of my usual twice weekly session of bellydance to keep me sane. All I do is work and watch TV, the quality of which has deteriorated significantly this year.

When I first came to Greece I only watched MAD music channel and CNN since I couldn't understand anything else. And a hell of a lot of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. If I thought things were bad then, they're even worse now, because Greek TV in the last few years has discovered the fast food equivalent of TV programming- reality TV.

Thus our schedules are filled with Kati Psinete, Top Chef, Masterchef (someone gets an idea and everyone runs to copy it)Big Brother which I hate and Next Top Model which I LOVE and a host of other satellite programmes much too stupid to mention. And the worst part is, you'll usually find me on weekday evenings parked infront of the TV in my pyjamas, watching some reality programme or the other and making snide remarks.

Of all of those shows, perhaps the only useful ones are Masterchef and Top Chef. You could actually learn something that you could apply to your everyday life, such as a new recipe or a new way of using an ingredient. Because let's face it. The chances of me standing in the kitchen wondering what to cook are significantly higher than Vicky Kaya popping up and asking me to do a pose that's not so commercial but more boutique.

On a total tangent, Shakira has released a new video. When I first saw it, my immediate reaction was: Where did she go??? Girl has lost some serious weight which is such a shame because seeing her super fit but still juicy figure was a delight in a sea of stick insects. Disappointed. Hope she puts the weight back on because this new skinny look doesn't suit her at all!

Have a good weekend y'all!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Next Top Model 2

It's back, bitches!

And not a minute too soon. Just when the Greek version of Big Brother, with its parade of losers and people I've already seen about 10 times on other reality TV shows, was preparing me to poke out my eyes and mail them to the TV programmers, along comes our saviour headed once more by Vicky Kaya.

She got married a few days ago, you know! Maybe pre wedding nerves explains her choices this year, which were whore-ific. Either that or she had laser eye surgery that failed. All summer she's been barking on about how this year the competition is fiercer as the girls are fiercer. Seriously? Could have fooled me, love.

So let's start. As always, things kicked off with boot camp and our judges - Harry "Pervo" Christopoulos, Christoferos "The Hair" Kotentos and Jenny "Was not invited to Vicky's wedding, Meeeooooww" Balantsinou.

The show opened with the 35 shortlisted girls tossed onto a ferry heading off to Mykonos for Model Bootcamp. Sadly, none of the bazaa crowd fell overboard. Next arrives Her Majesty Kaya in a helicopter. Because, you know, it's Mykonos and no one there feels the economic crunch!

Then the girls were thrown to the lions one by one. I won't talk about the ones I thought had potential, that's boring. I'm going to keep with the mood of the show and bitch about the ones that made me think "WTF?"

This year we got a Chinese-Hellenic contestant, Jian Nan. I think she got through purely on the exotic factor. Okay okay, she has a good body too.

Next came Shelby who Vicky only put in so she could speak English with that whacky American accent of hers. Shelby is Canadian! She has piercings! Naturally Harry couldn't resist asking where she has them, and Shelby delivered. Maybe they could show each other their piercings some time if yaknowwhadamean.

Georgia from Cyprus is hoping to be the first Cypriot to win the competition. She hates women, which is totally going to work for her in the fashion industry which is full of women and bitchy gay men.

Laura-Ann has a Scottish mother and a Greek father. Harry asks her if she really looks in the mirror and believes she's beautiful. Ooooh bitch you did not just say that!

On the same note, Elena has a Greek mother and Italian father. Seriously, Elena, I don't mean to be harsh but have you seen the other bodies you're up against? Lay off the pies and come back next year. It's not just you. The judges would tell the same to anyone who actually eats.

Let me cut in here and say how the hell do most of those girls have such flat abs? I busted my ass in the gym for months and never came close. Maybe it's down to being on the right side of 25.

Speaking of which, poor Zoe got ripped to pieces for being 25, which is ancient in model years.

As for Kelly, I will only say this: TRAGIKO!!! It must take a gigantic amount of self belief to be so sure you're model material when Mother Nature gave you an extra dose of nose and ears. To top it off, hideous orange blond extensions. When they made her cry with their comments, Harry managed to keep a straight face while telling her she was a babe. But then Harry ain't fussy. And look what Monica Man O' Chin achieved last year. Maybe Kelly knows how to model at an angel that hides her ears, nose, chin... okay her whole face. That's talent I'd like to see.

I will point out Sindorela only for her name. Not Cinderella.

Now, Aliki. She is 21 and has a baby daughter, and somehow her body carries absolutely no trace of this. How did she do that?! Some people get all the good genes. Harry adores her, not for what she's achieved with her post-baby body, but for her juicy backside.

Cue eliminations, screaming and crying.

Night time at the model house, and they were given a choice of souvlaki or sushi. I was so sure that this was a test and that they would get ripped into for actually eating. Rule number one of modelling: models don't eat! And if they do, they eat sushi, NOT souvlaki.

The next day and a photoshoot in Mykonos took place. Kudos, because there's something about Mykonos that makes mere mortals look fantastically ugly. The one and only time I went there, I felt like the haggiest and most decrepit person on the island.

Marianna believes her strongest point in her shoot was her eyes, and the camera quickly cut to a shot of her lovely behind.

Hmmm. "Eyes" would be right. But with Harry O'Pervert shooting, what did we expect?
Eliminations! Not surprisingly 25 year old Zoe was eliminated, naturally, but maybe they gave her a walking frame or some thermal underwear to make her feel better about her age.

Don't miss tonight's episode at 9pm on ANT1, when THIS happens:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Flash Gordon

Today I had quite a weird experience. Half asleep from a late arrival last night and a disrupted sleep, walking back from a hospital where my very very beloved Greek grandma is very very ill, I detoured to pop into the local AB supermarket to get things to make dinner for the family.

As I was walking along the busy main road, half asleep and trying to cope with the fact that it was still only Monday, I heard a shout. So insinctively I looked. There, next to a main road and a bus stop was a guy facing me and the rest of the world with his pants around his ankles jerking off.


I just kept walking. I was shocked, sure, that's not what you expect to see so early on a Monday morning, but I wasn't scared since I was walking along a very busy road. Ok I was a little worried when I heard him shout after me again, not wanting his disgusting self to materialise infront of me for the money shot and so I walked a little faster.

Is it a worrying sign of our times that I didn't get all that upset? Maybe 21st Century living has removed the shock factor from such incidents, or maybe women today are better informed from an early age about these things happening. Or maybe I was too exhausted and upset about my Yiayia to care.

I went on to carry on with my morning as normal. On the scale of things, this was kind of unoriginal, pathetic and stupid and not as invasive as my run-in a few years back with a crotch grabbing jogger. Note that it was my crotch that was grabbed, not his. That was scary and upsetting.

But I did think later, while I was choosing between rictotta or cottage cheese, that I should have perhaps thrown something at him. Rocks were in plentiful supply along the path. But was a non-reaction better?

How have you dealt with such incidents if you've been unfortunate enough to deal with them?


Monday, October 04, 2010

Recession Busting

In wheelings and dealings with pals lately, I noticed two websites being mentioned again and again. Several times when we met up with friends who told us about all kinds of awesomeness they were up to, the names of these two websites kept cropping up.

And so, as we gingerly step into October, I bring you two sites that will save you a whole ton of money, tried and tested by friends of mine:



Simply enter your email addresses and every day you get sent an offer that you can purchase within the space of 24 hours, valid for use up to one year later. Offers include massive discounts on meals out at good restaurants, discounts on beauty treatments, gym sessions, dance lessons, manicures, pedicures, weekend trips and much more. A tiny example is the friend who told me she bought 12 Power Plate gym sessions for a total cost of EUR 60. The gym I go to offers the same thing for EUR 200. A big difference, I think you'll agree.

The only catch is the website is in Greek so if your Greek is not up to scratch, here's some motivation for you.

Sign up, it's for real and in this climate it's nice to know someone somewhere is making an effort to ensure the good people of Greece manage to still get up to fun things that are otherwise much too expensive with the price of living skyrocketing.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Life in Athens - the Sequel

It's slim pickings for blogging at the moment. With nothing better to do, Athens is being replayed on a loop. So if you missed out on the truck strike, petrol shortage and general shiteous economic predictions, congratulations! Because now you get the chance to relive them all again.

As you may have noticed, there is jack shit on TV. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Just replays of Jean Claude Van Damme movies, and if you live in Greece for the last 4.5 years like I have, by now you have seen his pouty face so many times it's become a form of visual waterboarding. It's as if TV execs are reclining in their leather chairs, sipping on black coffee (no milk, see above mentioned truck strike) and saying "Don't show any movie unless it's already been shown 10 times. I want the viewer to know it off by heart before seeing it again."

I went to the supermarket yesterday. It depends on where you shop, but slim pickings are abound thanks to those lovely truckers and their never ending strike. I went to Dia, which was so empty I actually felt depressed. There was practically nothing on the shelves, on account of Dia not having their own truck fleet.

The story in Carrefour and Galaxias is not as bad since they have their own private delivery trucks, but as of yesterday I was noticing gaps already, milk being the major one with pretty much half the brands of milk no longer in stock.

Where this will end is anyone's guess. Summer is drawing to a breezy close here in Athens and something tells me winter is not going to be much fun at all if things keep unfolding this way. It's got to the point where I don't even want to watch the news any more because I'm so sick of the constant misery mongering that's going on.

So I tried to think of something positive, like kittens, but even that reminded me of the one eyed teeny tiny little black feral kitten that I found not having a super fun time in the yard with our dog. Some cat parents are so irresponsible. A few days later I saw him dumped near a tree on the footpath again, with mama cat watching on nonchalantly. She's probably a cat crackhead. The family seem to have moved on since.

Anyway, kittens!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Doctor Will See You Now

"Bollybutton, you can't just expect people to be nice to you."

This was my mother's advice when I called her days after moving to London, complaining about how miserable and mean everyone was. I thought about it again this morning when I had to go into a hospital to get some test run. Just routine stuff, it's just that I spent nearly 2 years looking for a good doctor, and when I found him he sadly turned out to work in a private hospital.
Doctors are ten a penny in Athens, but a good one, one who listens to you and has a good reputation is really difficult to find. Most doctors here (maybe like anywhere) are of the opinion of "I know best and screw you if you disagree".

I won't name names, but when I got there, it felt like walking into a lunatic asylum. Chaos! Noise! Lights! I felt like a little ant lost in a big jungle and then it occurred to me - I've never been to a hospital on my own before, and never in my life to have tests run. A doctor father and nurse mother has that affect - my father operated on me when I had my appendix taken out and they took me home the same day, on account of having a mini hospital at home anyway. This was when we were still living in the Home Country - it's totally not okay to do that in the UK.

The receptionists were total bitches and told me the exact opposite of what I'd been told on the phone by another receptionist. After bungling around for a bit, I found the department I needed, and the receptionists there were total bitches too. They acted like they were doing me the biggest favour in the world to book me a slot with the microbiologists.

All in all, it was pretty horrible. "You're not a customer yet" Mr Zeus said. "When you're a customer they'll be fawning all over you." Which is true. Private hospitals are huge business in Greece and the way you are treated depends pretty much on how big and expensive your procedure is.

Bollybutton, I said to myself, you're not a baby any more. Time to take responsibility for yourself. Sure, it's nice to be at the point where my Greek is good enough to make appointments and discuss (up to a point) procedures and terminology, but beyond that, going into a private hospital confirmed everything I'd always feared about them. I was super grateful to come home and brood over a cup of tea. Phew!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Not the Summer Time of our Lives

So here we are now in September in Greece, the time of year when we all start wishing each other a good Autumn.

This is something I never thought I would ever say after weeping through 10 whole years of British summers, but I'm glad summer is coming to a close here in Greece. This summer for some reason seemed more exhausting than fun. None of the charms of summer seemed to catch anyone's attention. It's hard to enjoy a day at the beach when you will pay an arm and a leg for the entrance to the beach, the sun beds, a frappe and a bite to eat.

The country in general was in a bad mood, no one felt like having fun, no one I know went shopping with any real dedication, we had losses of loved ones and multiple exam failures (failed twice now, and counting) and as usual all my friends buggered off during the summer, leaving people like me who went on holiday late this year moping around their deserted neighbourhoods.

So, dare I say it, I'm waiting for summer to get on with it and leave already. It sucked me dry this year, and I'm normally summer's number one fan.

Hope you're all getting back into gear as Athens begins to revive after the holidays, and thank God for that!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jewels of the Summer!

This year has been a particularly sparse one for my favourite fruit, mangoes. Not that they weren't around, I was too busy to go get them from Menandrou Street.

This is going to be a really short post to let you know that last night, when I was on Korinthias Street heading to Salamat market, I passed a shop called Roxanne that was still selling juicy sweet mangoes from the Home Country. Surprising as by this time of the year, I really didn't think they'd be anything left to export.

So anyway, I paid nearly EUR 20 for 8 mangoes, which is a ridiculous amount to pay and I admit it, but if you want to catch mango season right at its tail end, go NOW to Roxanne and get your mangoes before you're gone. The guy in the shop said this would be the last week he had them. if you love mangoes, you will not regret it.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Anarchist Groups Celebrate End of Petrol Shortage

Anarchist groups across Greece broke into spontaneous celebrations today as the end of the week-long trucker strike was announced.

The strike which led to severe shortages of petrol across the whole country, with 80-90% of all petrol pumps running dry, has been wildly unpopular in a country where ones right to strike is usually begrudgingly supported no matter how much inconvenience it causes.

Tourists and the Greek public alike had their holidays ruined by the lack of petrol leaving them stranded at home or far away from home.

But the lack of petrol caused particular distress to the country's very active anarchist factions.

Petrol is an important ingredient - some might say THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ingredient in the Greek anarchist's calling card, the Molotov cocktail. 99.9% of anarchists surveyed agreed it was impossible to petrol bomb a shop or car without petrol.

"I've been fielding calls all week from young anarchists searching for an alternative, viable source of fuel for molotov cocktails" said Yiannis Thanassos of the Greek Anarchist Hotline.

"People were panicking and making all kinds of stupid enquiries about things that are just not viable fuel"

Not viable fuel

"It shows the level of desperation young Greek anarchists felt. This strike almost ruined our plans for a summer of mayhem!" he added angrily.

But the general feeling in Athens this morning was one of relief as the blockade was lifted and petrol pumps restocked.

"This is a great day for all anarchists," said Maria, 19. "Without petrol, works of anarchy like the Syntagma Christmas Tree of 2008 would not be possible."

Stavros, 21 said "Those pelicans in Florida or wherever it is can go to hell! Hooray for petrol!"

Stop being such a drama queen!

A spokesperson for the Greek Anarchist Youth Club confirmed that the end of the blockade would be celebrated with a Molotov cocktail making contest tonight at their headquarters.

Disclaimer: I don't think this strike was particularly funny, seeing as it ruined the much awaited holidays for so many people. I don't think oil spills are funny either. This disclaimer is to make my views clear and protect me from people with no sense of humour.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Get Thee to the Gym

At the risk of this post rating so low on the average reader's I-give-a-shit-about-this scale to as not even register, I joined a gym!

Actually, I joined a gym five months ago now. What can I say, something about the looming 28th birthday must have spurred me into action. I spent my whole life until 24 eating whatever the hell I wanted and not gaining a micogram. Seriously, I used to eat fried lunches every day simply because I could. I never skipped desert when eating out and baptised all my cake in baths of double cream. Just because I frickin' could! Thems was the days!

But to my own shock and horror it occurred to me that these happy circumstances might not continue forever, after turning 25 and the appearance of everyone's best friend, cellulite. Especially since fitting into the first pair of jeans I ever bought in Athens is now nothing but a distant dream. I couldn't even get half a butt cheek into them any more, so I got rid of them, by the way, lest they make me feel bad about myself.

I decided to join the nearest gym I could find, knowing myself to be much too lazy to take a bus trip to a cheaper one, and all sorts of hilarity ensued. "I'm interested in your evening classes" I exclaimed, innocent still of what was to follow.

The trainer looked me up and down. "Have you been to a gym before?" he asked.


"You might not survive the classes then."

Day one and the trainer took me around the equipment and made me do a few sets of exercises on the various machines. Yes, I was so unfit I actually had to be prepped for about a month before they made me a programme.

It didn't go too badly until we got onto doing leg curls. I tried one. "Oh God!" I wailed "I can't do this! Can you take some more weight off? I'm dying!"

The trainer said "Um... there aren't any weights on there. You're just working with the weight of the machine." Feeling like my thighs would snap off and slide down my knees, I persevered.

At the end of session one, the trainer warned me I might feel sore the next morning. I did feel a little sore the following day but nothing I couldn't handle, I thought valiantly, envisioning being able to crack open walnuts with my thighs in a week's time. Session two went much like session one. And the next morning I felt like every muscle in my body had been lovingly bathed in acid all night.

The pain! I thought I would never walk again. And yet I had to still keep going to the gym in order to stop it getting worse. I wondered when I stopped loving myself enough to voluntarily inflict so much suffering on my poor body.

Anyway, that was a good few months ago and believe it or not, I love the gym now. Here are some interesting things I have observed about my local Athenian gym (though it's not like I ever went to another one in the UK to be able to compare):

1. The serious people go in the morning. That's when you'll find me too, but only because I know if I leave it the rest of the day I will talk myself out of exercising

2. People bring their toddlers with them! I've seen this more than once. If you tried that in the UK someone would come screaming at you with a Health and Safety manual.

3. The beefcakes go in the evening and hog all the machines and make constipated sounds

4. The chicks hunting for beefcakes go in the evening too, with perfect hair and makeup. They consistently fail to work up a sweat. I admire their determination for beefcake baiting - gyms are expensive to join.

5. The male trainers are much easier on you than the female ones. But the female ones are much more understanding of what you want to achieve and determined to get you there dead or alive. Most likely dead in my case.

So there you have it. I can add "Joining a gym and following a gym programme in Greek" to my list of things I have achieved in my continuing, ever expanding adventure of life in Greece.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Greek Government Says Everything Now a Luxury!

The Greek government this month raised Value Added Tax from 21% to 23% and is considering doing away with the 11% tax bracket for non luxury items like food.

"We're asking the Greek people to be a little patient while we ride out this crisis'" said Prime Minister George Papandreou, "This means making a few more sacrifices, like food."


Fashion student Maria, 19, agreed that food is overrated. "Which is why I try to get by on fresh air. The fashion industry is a bitch."

But shoppers at Greek supermarkets were less than enthusiastic. A housewife who wished not to be named said she was still coming to shop, filling her trolley and then emptying it again. "Sort of like shopping bulimia" she added.

Stavros Spyridakis, 29, free camping in the national gardens added "I'm not free camping. This is the only place I can afford to live now. But I guess it's for my own good, as the government says."

A spokesperson for the KKE Communist party of Greece blamed the bourgeois upper classes for witholding the food and driving up the prices in collaboration with the US and Israel, while the far right party, LA.OS insisted it had hard evidence that the immigrants were operating on a stealth policy of starving ethnic Greeks out of existence.

They made a giant curry out of all the food. Try eating that, Niko!

Meanwhile the government appealed for calm and insisted this new measure was for a better, more stable and happier Greece. Greek nationals all agree that they can't recall being unhappy in the first place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Julia, Please make another Sex Tape!

All everyone is talking about these days is the deepening economic crisis. So far, we've played it down, but I think the time has come to admit that yes, it is that bad.

A walk around my neighbourhood reveals shop after shop that has closed and let the premises out. The most tragic of these closures was the clothes shop in my neighbourhood that sold extremely ugly, extremely expensive clothes. It was also named Up Just. No matter how many times I turned it around in my head I couldn't understand what they were trying to get at with a name like that. I guess someone really did just pull it out of their ass.

Up Just was more than a bastion of ugliness, it was the source of many laughs from visitors and a useful landmark for giving directions to my house. Many was the summer evening when I would pass it and be impressed that the clothes had got even uglier (T-shirt with a picture of some girl, seemingly taken with a webcam, anyone?) and the shop that never had a single customer inside.

Personally I always believed it was a money laundering operation. That, and this Chinese restaurant downtown that I have NEVER seen a single customer dining in, and I've passed it nearly every Wednesday for four years now.

On the plus side, the sales have not really stopped since the winter, resulting in prices that are actually close to what the stores should be charging anyway. For example, a Body Shop body brush that costs GBP 7 in the UK costs EUR 14 in Athens. With a 50% sale, it comes pretty much on par with the UK price.

Sadly, supermarkets do not do blowout sales. And that's a shame, because we can all cut a few corners but when it comes to food, we can't look at out bills and say "No more food this month, kids! We'll survive on fresh air and love!" Supermarkets in Greece are some of the most expensive in Europe. A typical monthly shop costs me about EUR 200, and that's just staple items, not a trolley full of champagne. Brand loyalty has gone out the window. I just buy what's cheapest, and I think everyone else is doing the same.

Tourism is down, despite the GBP 200 for 7 nights, all inclusive to Kos and other such places that I saw in the UK. Not in my wildest dreams could I get that deal internally - it would be cheaper to fly to the UK and then fly back on such a package holiday. That's just wrong! Think about the hotel owners making jack shit out of deals like that. As Flubberwinkle so perfectly puts it, we live in Greece but can't afford a holiday here!

We're all bored to tears about hearing that the economy is getting worse and worse, and I don't think we've hit the bottom yet. Everyone expects the end of the summer to reveal to us just how shiteous the situation we find ourselves in really is. So enjoy the summer because it's going to be a bumpy ride this Autumn!

I leave you with a song close to all our hearts right now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Yesterday I had my first swim of the year! Okay, I'll be honest. I had my first dipping my buttocks in the sea of the year. I took the 171 bus with my friend A to the end of the line in Varkiza and shoe horned myself onto the free beach there, which was more packed than usual thanks to the economic crisis. Pay for the beach? Are you joking?

The 171 was packed, packed with rowdy teenagers too broke to get to the beach any other way. At one point, close to Varkiza it got too much. I started to feel faint and elbowed my way off the bus before spilling into a nearby souvlaki shop, asking for the bathroom.

"Hey," said the guy "You're Bollybutton, aren't you?"
And it turned out that we knew each other through my friend A. Ah, Athens, the city where everyone knows your name! After a splash of water and something cold to drink, we set off on foot to complete our journey.

I left it much too late to take the first swim this year. But all that is coming to an end thanks for having officially failed my Exam from Hell, so I'm not studying for a while. I just enjoyed the sea and her charms, laying back on our towel with A and admiring the blue sky and scatterings of beautiful curly clouds. When on the beach in Greece, life doesn't seem so bad no matter how much you hate your job.

Speaking of which, remember my grand ambitions a few months ago about leaving my job? Well, they came to nothing. I pimped my CV all over the place and got no replies. Conversations with friends revealed that absolutely everyone, Mr Zeus included, hates their job but doesn't dare change it, or if they have tried they are getting no where. Jobs are mysteriously being posted and then not given out. Strangely, realising that jumping ship is not an option when you're jumping off into a shark infested sea has actually made me sober up and get serious. I hate my job, so does just about everyone else on the planet. No big deal. Someone once told me you can do anything you want in life, but not everything you want in life.

Prices are skyrocketing in Greece, pays are being slashed but still somehow people are getting by. As the lady in the post office said with a shrug "This is Greece. We've been through worse!"

On a side note, I have noticed lots of lovely emails in my address. Can I just apologise for the late replies to them, if you've sent a question and need an answer, drop me a comment here so I check my mail and Bollybutton, Agony Aunt will be getting back to you soon.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Clothes Maketh the Man

It's funny the details you remember when under pressure. I was told on a Thursday night that things with Granny were not good, and I should come immediately. I took the first flight I could get on on Friday morning. At least I made it in time.

Over the next two weeks, I was amazed by the rubbish I had packed. A meagre supply of mismatched clothes, enough underwear to force me into a wash-and-wear cycle for two weeks, only one pair of smart shoes and incense sticks. Incense sticks? I mean, really.

On the funeral itself, I had picked out a dress the day before that looked to me like a smart pink shift dress that could be worn in the office too. That is until I sat down and discovered the artful fold in the side was a split that showed no shame and mercy once one was sitting. It rode up embarassingly high.

As for my office, I had taken one pair of office trousers which I promptly got paint on. So I turned up for a few days at work in some rather fanciful combinations that I hoped would pass as office attire. Rather helpfully, my department has been banished to the ground floor so I didn't have to explain the unhappy reasons for my less than snappy dressing.


Speaking of clothes... in the Home Country we have a saying: when the fox gets her tail chopped off, she tries to encourage all her pals to go get theirs cut off too.

Ever since my godson's mother popped the much beloved sprog, she has been trying to get me to do the same. This has culminated in her sending over all the clothes he has grown out of while I was gone. Guys, I am not joking when I tell you there is a mountain of baby things in my doorway. An absolute mountain.

I was supposed to start looking through it this weekend and organise it into piles. But I don't know where to start. Especially with my own potential offspring still being no more than a twinkle in my eye (as my Dad puts it), I don't feel particularly motivated.

But she did tell me that many people have asked her for these things over the years, but she's kept everything just for me. It is a lovely gesture, something you would do for your sister. Should the time ever come, our expenses for stockpiling ammunition would stand at nearly zero since she's included valuable items like a stroller (though this is useless in the car infested pavements of Athens) and a baby seat.

When I used to live in London, I used to wander over to Camden market on the weekend and check things out. I remember one stall that specialised in tie dye baby clothes. Since my lack of creativity has probably led to exam failure, I think I will let rip on this stash of white and blue clothes and turn them into items of dizzyingly colourful delight.

Yeah, I know. My poor future children. Don't feel too sorry for them, they didn't stand much of a chance. The universe tried to spare them by giving me all the normal, conventional baby clothes they could want, but forgot that I have an A at A Level Textiles. Mwahahahaha! And anyway, studies show* that a hippy upbringing is more likely to turn a child into a successful and boring career person.

*I have no evidence to back up this claim
Image: Image:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Hello chums. I've just got back from a hellish, unscheduled two week trip to the UK. Reason being my grandmother died. I won't delve into family politics, suffice to say the whole experience was roundly awful. The death took place two weeks ago, yet the Church only had time to do the funeral last Thursday.

My poor mother's carefully planned funeral was ruined by a last minute speech by a drunk relative. To top it all, I then sat an exam on Monday which went terribly and finally flew out on Tuesday night. I give this tripe -250 out of 10.

When I landed very early this morning and the first blast of warm air hit my face, I cried great big tears of relief at being back in my dear city, Athens.

This morning things feel strange and disjointed. I can't find things in my kitchen where I'd left them. But I do want to apologise for abandoning you all. I was too busy studying to blog, or even go swimming. I still haven't set foot in the sea.

But since my well planned strategy of 100% study and 0% fun has probably yielded a big fat fail, I am now going back to my normal schedule of blogging and general merriment.

It's good to see you all!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Save Greece. Holiday here

Many, many moons ago, when I was still trying to adjust to the Mad Hatter's tea party that is life in Greece, a song irritated the hell out of me.

Proof that I have officially settled in Greece is that when this song plays, I am the one who is first on the dancefloor.

So, people of the world, we are in economic meltdown. A ton of you have cancelled your holidays after seeing the riots in Greece which, let me assure you, are a national sport and nothing out of the ordinary. Think of the interesting postcards home getting caught in a riot would make!

It's in your hands to keep us afloat this summer. Come to Greece! We need your tourist euros/dollars/yen!

Still not convinced??

Monday, May 31, 2010

Eurovision 2010: Nil Points to Europe for taste in music

I *heart* Eurovision, though after all these years, even I know Eurovision is not a search for Europe's best song. It's a popularity contest.

Still, I was not ready for Germany's asstastic song to win. And I'll tell you why. There were much better singers at Eurovision on Saturday. The best of the lot was the Georgian entry. I give you exhibit A:

That girl has the best voice live I've heard in a long time. I've paid vast amounts of Euros to see celebrities that don't even come close to how talented she is. Compare this to the winning German entry:

Huh? This won? The mockney cockney accent? A song about blue underwear? If I were the Georgian entry, I would have killed myself. Talk about a slap in the face. I don't care what anyone else might say, this song sucks ass big time.

I knew that Greece didn't have a winning song, so my hopes didn't lie there, though well done to them for getting in the top 10 and delivering the first peppy song of the night, otherwise we'd all be stuck on a one way trip to Ballad City.

If you ask anyone in Greece you won't find many fans of the German song, partly because of Angela Merkel and partly because the song was a stinker. I would have preferred anyone to win, anyone except Germany.

I thought the Romanian entry was really good (minus the opera bit):

Armenia was represented by a booblicious relative of the Kardashians. She would have won but sadly they forgot that women and gay men make up Eurovision's biggest audience, therefore making fabulous breasts pretty much redundant. Write that on a post-it next time.

But it was the French song that I thought deserved win because it was so fun and with Eurovision coming so late in the year, it really got you into the mood for summer.

But no, Europe! You voted a totally lame song to win, thus proving in spades that you have no taste! France's entry was probably too good for Eurovision anyway.

And so for yet another year the Eurovision song contest is stuck in a frigid North European country. It's getting too much. At this rate I'll never go to Eurovision!*

So Greece, here is my proposal to you, my recipe for a winning formula. The last two years we sent men dressed in white and didn't get anywhere with it. I propose the following strategy:

1. Send more girls. It seems to get more votes and at least adds colour to the stage

2. Send a transvestite. It worked for Israel that one time

3. Send a novelty act like Finland did with Lordi, thus getting the highest votes ever on Eurovision.

*You're rightly thinking "But Bollybutton you moron, if France won Eurovision would be stuck in North Europe again, so where's the logic. I have friend in France so I could have gone to this and stayed with them. Life is not fair!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tango Pimping

This is kind of an irrelevant post with all that's gone on in Greece. What can I say that hasn't been said already? There are plenty of other blogs covering this perfectly well. Last night I was at a show and while I was watching, I thought it would make good blog fodder. So here you go.

I shall not name any names, suffice to say it was a tango show and I went to support my brilliant and long-suffering tango teacher. I thought he was the best dancer, and always give him extra brownie points for tolerating my complete inability to progress in tango.

Now, we all know the history of tango and how it began in the brothels of Argentina, blahdy blah blah, and that tango is serious and dark and full of people making orgasm faces. Whatevs, said I, and went along for some light entertainment.

This is how it played out. Here's the story:

La Vie en Rose is playing. That must mean we're in Paris, chérie! A bunch of tango peeps are sitting in a cafe and enjoying themselves. They then break into spontaneous tango. Hurrah! Tango over, they go sit down. But, quelle horreur ! What is this? The hot waitress is being molested by a customer! He proceeds to rip off her skirt and tango-molest her. Then he decides he's packing this hot tottie off to Argentina with him. I could see it coming. She looked too happy.

Nooo wails the waitress, and the waiter tries in vain to wrestle her away from the evil Argentine, but he succeeds in taking her away. See, when I read that in the programme I thought they fall in love and run away to Argentina. But oh well. Kidnapping is good too.

The scene changes. On the boat over from Paris, the kidnapped and molested waitress gets a change of wardrobe and a lobotomy, because now she's totally happy to be hanging out with her kidnapper in Buenos Aires. But hark... all the other women here are prostitutes, and the head hooker ain't having none of this. She marches over to the evil Argentine and they dance, of course.

Dancing over, the fawning waitress is thrown to the group of hookers and then she realises she's been trafficked. Heinous!

Much tango dancing ensues along with looks of anguish from the waitress who is being dressed by all the other happy hookers of Buenos Aires. She's all weepy and stuff until she spots her pimp again, and then she's all "Yay there's my pimp!" Lots of hugs and dancing ensue.

The scene changes. Waitress has again decided she's pretty pissed at her involuntary change of career and delivers a passionate modern dance interpretation of her misery. Then the waiter from Paris appears and they're both like "OMG where have you been all this time! Let's go back to Paris."

But oh no, you guys! There's the pimp again! And he's not letting go of his prize cash cow. Dance fighting ensues, the waitress tries to flee onto a boat, and is stabbed by the jealous head hooker and DIES!

The End.

And now what's happening? Everyone is dancing again. So is this part of the show or what? Are they in heaven now? If so, why is everyone wearing black? Or is Hell this tangotastic?

I was sitting there, feeling totally depressed by all this. The dancing was great, no question, and the live music absolutely wonderful. But jeez, people. I came out to have my spirits lifted and ended up thinking about human trafficking, and that made me feel sad.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Of Mountains and Moros

I swear you guys I have been so busy that my inspiration is gone, squeezed out like a lemon lying tossed in the garbage outside a taverna. There is just no more room in my brain for creativity thanks to studying for work related exams. I've buckled down so that I can be exam free before summer gets into full swing. Nothing is more misery inducing than studying while everyone else is hanging out at the beach.

I will just say thanks for still checking in. This is turning out to be my year of re-evaluation and freakishly hard work. I'm trying not to sweat the small stuff and focus on the big picture.

Since I have nothing much to blog about, I will use this space and time that I have available to complain and say yes, I am still the only person who got married last year without a baby. but that's not my complaint. The babies are pouring out of our pals like it's going out of style. It's some kind of Babygeddon.

And with that in mind, to all those so helpfully pointing out my lack of a baby and who seem to think that reminding me of this will spur me into action ("A baby? Why didn't I I think of that! And Mr Zeus is not going to be young forever? What a revelation!") I ask you to click here.

Now you're probably thinking "But Bollybutton, weren't you yourself desperate for a baby a while ago? What's with all the evil hag-like behaviour?" and you'd be right, and I was, but since I can't procreate on my own, aphid style, I got over it. And I would be the first to advocate the joys of children in a home and parenthood etc etc, but if I go visit one more set of friends with a new baby that says "You guys should have a baby." and then look only at me, I will scream. Or I'll just ask them what time they got up today.

What's with the "You GUYS" line but looking only at me? Do I look like a magical human freak that can procreate solo?

Seriously, there's only so many times you can hear the same damn line over and over again before wanting to stuff Little Junior's pipila in your ears.

That's all. Back to studying. I hope to resurface in a more pleasant and creative mood.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Been Busy

But I will get back to posting soon. In the last few weeks my free time has dwindled to nothing, but I have baby posts scribbled all over bits of paper in snatched moments, so thank you for visiting and rest assured I am going to get back to posting once I have a few spare minutes!



Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sparkle Dust

Since I have nowt all to blog about at the moment and just to let you know I didn't eat myself into oblivion (though I came pretty close), here we are.

It's been hugely depressing to wake up for work again after the long weekend, especially considering there was only one day when I actually slept in. The rest I was up at an ungodly hour to use the time and finish up dozens of half baked projects.

So let's be cheerful today and hope that a blistering summer is on its way. Because I'm getting tired of these low 20s temperatures.

Time to get random.

Even a crushing workload seems possible...

After all, I have a magic sword

And my feline abilities are second to none

Evil shall not conquer so long as there are kittens in the world!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reaching Out

This is a post for the ladies, and the men who care.

Imagine this: you are in a foreign country. You don't speak the language. This country has a reputation of being quite safe and the locals are known for their friendliness. A stranger approaches you and offers to show you the ruins. It's broad daylight in public, so what could go wrong?

He offers you a bite of something he's eating, a local type of food, and you think what the hell, a little bit wouldn't hurt. After all he's eating it too.

Then everything gets hazy. Snow White's poisoned apple. You lose track of time and yourself and wake up in a strange room, alone with this man. He has drugged you and you have no idea what else he has done. You, your body which is precious and sacred to you, which you take care of and choose with love who you give it to - you have no idea what this stranger did to it and why he treated you with so little value. Like you were a nothing, a nobody.

Even if you were not raped, someone put something in your blood without your consent, took you somewhere you didn't want to go. You take care of yourself, there are people out there who love you. A fiance who is making plans to marry you.

What gave this man the right to do that to you?

On a scale of one to ten, how terrified would you be? Can you imagine this scenario? I can't, most of us can't because it's an unlucky few that have gone through the ordeal of having their body violated.

This is the story of Natalie Karneef, who came to Athens in 2005 and went through what I just described on the second day of her holiday of a lifetime. Her trial was due to begin this month, but the Greek courts have postponed it. To 2011. To start with, it was over 24 hours before she was able to find a hospital in Athens willing to run a rape exam on her. Then an agonising three months to see if she had been infected with an STD, or even worse, HIV.

This is unacceptable. The man they caught in connection with what happened to her had done the same 4 other foreign women. Unfortunately, there still exists a certain school of thought amongst certain men in Greece that foreign women are fair game.

I must say though that although assholes exist the world over, I did not expect the Greek courts to have the same attitude. Bah. She's a foreigner. No one in Greece to make a big deal of it for her. So what. They have sex with strangers on holiday all the time and then come crying to us afterwards that it was rape.

For shame. I say that not as a foreign woman in Greece. I say that as a woman. I say that as a sister. What if this had happened to Mr Zeus's niece? Or one of my Greek friends from bellydance class? Or my little sisters when they came here on holiday one summer?

What if it happened to someone you knew? What if it happened to you? This man has been left to roam the streets free once more, despite being convicted of other rapes. Us women who live in Athens could be coming into contact with him during our daily lives. Doesn't that thought make you feel completely revolted?

The Greek courts are a law onto themselves. There is not a lot we can do to make them take the issue of the abuse of women seriously.

We can, though, show our support to Natalie. She is one voice who wants to be heard out of God knows how many that choose to stay silent. I know that if this had happened to me, most likely I wouldn't have pursued it. Especially in a foreign country. I just don't have the courage and strength to last as long as she has.

So please, let's show her some support and drop in on her blog. Leave a comment, no matter who you are or where you are from. Let's let her know we are thinking of her and supporting her stuggle.

UPDATE: If you are a female blogger reading this, I ask you to link Natalie's blog in one of your posts. Let's look out for our fellow sisters. Let's not let this be a case of "There's nothing we can do." We can keep up to date with this case, and when it comes around again in January 2011 we can be present outside court. Numbers speak, maybe the judge will take notice.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Intergalactic, Planetary

I spent all day yesterday convincing myself not to lie in the middle of the road waiting for a car to run me over, and much to my surprise everyone I spoke to felt miserable yesterday. It must be something to do with the energy in the air, the feeling that Spring was so close, close enough to smell, before it disappeared again, the lining up of the planets throwing bad energy around and having the TV choice of more bad news on the economy and Julia's fame-whoring.

On the first point at least this morning I took matters into my own hands and helped the Greek economy by going shopping. My target was Greek shoe temple, Migato. I adore Migato because they sell overpriced shoes according to winter and summer seasons, and once a season is over, they drop their prices so low I can actually afford them.

Thank God for fashion's stupid slavery to seasons.

So today I took advantage of their gracious offer of any two pairs of winter boots for EUR 50 and bought four new pairs of boots for EUR 100.

There you go, EU, I just paid some precious tax euros into the Greek economy! Time to give us a break.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Into the Blues

I admit it. As of the last few days, despite fighting against it, I have sunk into a terrible depression. Yesterday we invited some dinner guests over, and I spent hours and hours cooking. But I was unhappy, so nothing turned out right and I refused to serve any of it to my hapless guests. We ordered pizza instead.

Today I have woken up utterly miserable again. The cold and cloudy weather is not helping, either.

I hate feeling this way. Mr Zeus is always telling me to snap out of these miserable spells, but it's easier said than done. When I feel this way I can't do anything. Work seems like an impossible task (and it is, since the job hunting is going from bad to worse and so I am stuck for the foreseeable future in an utterly soul-destroying job) even doing nothing feels impossible. I can't sit still without all sorts of dark and miserable thoughts crashing around my brain, or running through checklists of all the unfinished projects I have running.

Life is good. So why do I feel so hopeless today?

Here's hoping the weather gets warmer soon.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Look Into My Eyes

In a belated tribute to International Women's Day, I must say: Where can one acquire this fabulous accessory???

Monday, March 08, 2010

Economy and Pornography are Greek words

On Friday night I passed a Greek-living milestone. I went to my first bouzoukia at Frangelico. It's been almost four years since I moved to Greece and in all that time, Mr Zeus has never taken me to something like this. For those who don't know, bouzoukia clubs are your typical grass roots Greek entertainment - a club with live singing and music, usually very emotional and dramatic, where in the past plates were smashed on the stage to show appreciation of the performer.

These days, plates have been replaced with over priced trays of carnations. I've got to say, as corny as the whole set up struck me, I am a glutton for cheese and campness and I LOVED it!! Okay, it's not something I would do every night, but it was still hugely entertaining and completely different to any night out I've ever had.

Frangelico is frequented by some Athens celebrities, and on the night we spotted the mayor who married us and that mean chef from Efialtis Sthn Kouzina. And would you believe it, he was wearing a baseball cap even inside a dark club.

Anyway, at one point one of the performers took a break from singing, looked out into the crowd and said , "Ah... Julia.." at which point everyone broke into applause and a hand in the crowd shot up waving a DVD.

With everyone in Athens getting tired of talking about the shiteous economic situation, one of Greece's Queens of Skank, Model/Singer/Whatever Julia Alexandratou did us all a favour and released a sex tape of herself.

Okay so she claims it was done without her consent, but I'm not buying. According to her this was a private moment. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but personally my private moments tend not to happen with a professional camera man and a professional porn actor.

Furthermore, she claims someone did the same thing to her in the past and she didn't go public that time. Eh.. if it bothered you that much the first time, surely something in your brain would say letting a cameraman into your bedroom again is a bad idea? Or not? Dunno.

Within hours of the news breaking, everyone with internet access had seen the tape. That's the thing with porn in Greece, at least those out of Mr Zeus' generation don't take it seriously. It's watched to be laughed at, not to draw inspiration from. It was the number one topic at our dinner party on Thursday.

Normally, I avoid porn because you can never be sure who is exploiting who, and it's so obviously fake I don't see the attraction. But celebrity porn is considered fair game and even I watched it, and here's my verdict: she was stoned out of her brains, looked really bored, and it was too well filmed and edited to be an amateur job.

Actually, I listened to more of it than I watched because most of it was so boring. Eventually I got tired of that too and skipped along the tape to see what it contained. Your standard stuff really, some oohing and aahing, a bit of this, a bit of that and the money shot. Ta da. It's not rocket science, and you should think twice about denying something that is so obviously professional.

Especially when there are photos of you circulating with two representatives from the biggest porn production company in Greece! I mean, really Julia! No one is buying your story!

But everyone is buying your DVD. On Saturday as I walked through the vegetable market outside my house, someone was shouting "Two kilos of potatoes for two euros, and a free DVD of Julia!"

Oh well. At least we all got a brief break from talking about the economy.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

I Got Told!

When I pitch articles, they usually disappear into a yawning chasm of silence. Sometimes, I get a rejection email, sometimes I get an email saying write us 2000 words for $5. I share them with you here in order to pick at my scabs and strengthen my resolve that I don't care if my article was totally not appropriate for your magazine genre, one day you will beg me to write anything, anything at all for you!

This is the first one as of yesterday and Bollybutton's Quest to Make a Living From Writing:

Olive Magazine:

Dear Bollybutton,

Many thanks for your email and idea.

I'm afraid this idea would not be appropriate for Olive at this time. Please look carefully at the structure and format of the magazine before submitting ideas to ensure they are appropriate to the publication.

Many thanks,

So and So

May I punctuate this post with the following song, dedicated lovingly to myself. Nothing but death will stop me trying to make it as a writer, so take that, rejection letters!!

Sugar Smooth

Hope just posted something about her hairy legs (sorry, girl, there was no delicate way to put this) and it got me thinking. As a hairy Asian girl, I know which direction every follicle on my waxable surfaces points. I could wax with my eyes closed. And yes, I do it all myself because I don't want Anita at the salon taking a look and shouting, "Cancel all my appointments! This one's going to take me all day!"

I recently cracked the technique of making my own sugar wax. This is a really ancient method of hair removal involving a sugary goo and strips of cotton. What, did you think waxing was a modern invention?

I take equal parts water, sugar and lemon juice and boil them down in a pan until they turn caramel coloured. Sadly, here I can offer no advice on timings etc. It took me a lot of wasted sugar to get a feel for when the paste was done. I keep a plate near the pan and drip the syrup onto it at intervals, then I rub it between my fingers and when it gets to the right texture that's how I know I'm done.

This home made sugar wax isn't as effective as the usual waxes, but it has one major advantage: it's 100% natural and you know exactly what went into it. Plus, I don't see why we have the right to change a few thousand years of beauty wisdom. Sugar wax is the only type of wax that won't rip off the top layer of skin with it which means you can wax the same area a couple of times if you missed hairs, and the ingrown hairs are much reduced.

And finally, you can eat what's left over in the pan. Do I do this? Of course not! I'm Asian , remember? There is never anything left over in the pan! If anything you will find me scraping it with a toothpick to extract just a little bit more wax for a missed patch.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Life in Plastic

Good bed linen costs stupid prices in Athens, so I literally brought back all the high quality cotton bed sheets and pillow cases that I could carry from the UK this time.

If anyone had told me 20 years ago that bed linen would become my new Barbie, I would have laughed in their face. In 1990, I was still getting high removing a new Barbie from her box and inhaling her delicious, plasticy, fresh from the box smell, stroking her hair and promptly losing her little plastic shoes.

Fast forward to 2010 and I'm pulling new bedsheets from their packaging, inhaling the fresh cottony smell and insisting Mr Zeus feel their quality.

Barbie was a big, big part of my childhood. I don't quite remember when I stopped playing with her. I do remember my first university lecture ever was about Barbie's media image, her constant career changes and her bad influence on self-image. I sat there thinking "Really?"

I felt bad. I searched my inner psyche for things I could blame on Barbie, but found nothing.

Me and my sisters had about 20 Barbies between us, and none of them left a negative mark on us. The only doll who always played the sinister role in our games was our solitary Sindi doll. That girl was bad news, with her real eyelashes and rotating wrists.

Our Barbies were in total control of their collective destinies. They did what they wanted, when they wanted. They divorced and married one of our three Kens as they wished, with no ill feelings towards the previous wives. They had spa days before battling dragons and monsters, went on expeditions and discovered new countries while the Kens were busy being idiots.

It was the Barbies who always saved the Kens from the stupid messes they got themselves into, never the other way around. In my Barbie World, Ken was an unreliable and immature moron who often had to grovel at Barbie's feet to feel worthy. I mean actually put his plastic grin to her chewed-up tippy toes. That's another thing, why were Barbie's feet so deliciously chewable? Tiny bite marks peppered her little feet and some even had extra long, bumpy fingers until my sisters and I got over eating our Barbies.

Sometimes I wonder if people give kids less credit than they deserve. I knew Barbie wasn't real and didn't have an actual life, so I had no interest at all in being like her. I certainly never undressed her and thought "I hope I have a little plastic body when I grow up". I was only concerned with throwing elaborate Barbie weddings each year, complete with hand-sown Indian wedding gowns and once, a fight with the neighbour who owned a Ken, that now my Barbie had to go live at Ken's house i.e. her house as is tradition.

Barbie was the spokesperson for the things me and my sisters had trouble expressing as just ourselves. Our Barbies would sit in a circle and conduct conferences on the various issues in our lives ("Should I change schools like Mum says?", "Shall I cut my hair short?", "Mum was mean to me. Is it a good idea to run away?")

These conferences of us three sisters (before the fourth arrived) were voted upon by raised Barbie hands. Ken's were never invited to the conferences and if they were, no one paid much attention to their opinions.

If I had a daughter, I wouldn't stop her playing with Barbie. I would take extra care not to let any fashion magazines into the house which is easy since I don't read them.

For now, I fold my new bedsheets like little Barbie outfits. I miss her sometimes. I don't think I ever truly grew out of playing with her.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Walk, Walk, Fashion Baby

So it's all over and I'm left wondering what I'll do with my Monday evenings now.

This is how last night's GNTM episode unfolded. The girls returned from London and started taking part in photo shoots that would decide who goes and who stays. First, they had to ski down a slope and deliver a line in Italian for a video ad campaign. Seraina was all "I can totally ski" having a Swiss mother and all that, but went on to do pretty much nothing special. The rest of the girls delivered their lines on their asses.

Next, the girls were asked to pose in bikinis in the snow. Why? Because this is Fashion, baby! It doesn't work like the normal world you and I inhabit. In Fashion World they shoot all the summer lines in the winter and all the winter lines in the summer.

At first I wondered why you wouldn't just fly across the equator for each respective season, but then I realised it's probably a very cunning ploy for people like Harry Christopoulos to say "Are you cold? Come here, I'll warm you up / Are you too hot? My hotel room has split level aircon. And a big circular bed with satin sheets. And all the tissue paper you can eat." (I have it on good authority that models do that behind the scenes at fashion shows, which leads me to wonder why they don't just eat a cucumber - equally calorie free. Go figure)

Next came a catwalk challenge for the gorgeous-haired Christophoros Kotentos, the only judge with hard-core fashion experience of the catwalk, who is also a designer and has dressed the likes of Rihanna.

The catwalk is where Ioanna and Seraina dazzled, and Monica and Maria stumbled, Maria quite literally. She lost a shoe while leaving the catwalk and instead of just carrying on on tip toes AS THEY HAD BEEN TAUGHT by Vicki Kaya, she kicked off the other shoe. Mistake. Telos panton, Monica has bow legs and walks like a camel so catwalk was never her strong point.

Then, eliminations time! The girls came before Her Royal Highness Vicki and eliminated in pairs of two. Here is where I disagreed. They paired Monica and Ioanna, Maria and Seraina. Monica and Seraina got to the final two. Ioanna should have been in the final two. Seraina won it, but it wasn't really a fair win.

When asked why they wanted to win, Monica talked about her lifelong passion for fashion and how she will work her fingers to the bone to make it, something she has already proved by getting to the final. She's not pretty, but she has slaved and sweated to make it to where she is. Seraina was all like "Yeah now that I'm here I realise how much I'd like to do this." Out of all the girls, the one who deserved least to win it on effort alone was Seraina.

She is one of the most beautiful girls, technically she is actually perfect. Great body and stunning face. But she has made practically no effort simply because she's so beautiful. She hasn't had to try at all. In every single shot, her eyes are completely flat. She's so devoid of personality that even last night as she was about to be crowned Next TV Reality Star, her emotions ran like this:

"I feel really... I can't believe it" (o_0)
"So many emotions are running through me right now" (o_o)
"I'm just so happy, so very happy" (o_o)

And when she won, she was like this (o,_o,)

Girl got nothing on the inside. She'd make a great door stopper.

Anyway, to me it was obvious that Vicki really wanted Monica to win, and I think that's why she put her through to the final two. When she spoke to Monica about how hard she has worked and how she has proven all her critics wrong and done nothing but work and work and work to improve, her eyes shone with pride.

When she spoke to Seraina, you could tell her heart wasn't in it. Okay she squeezed out a few cynical tears for Seraina's victory, but I knew it was Monica she wanted to win. She couldn't let her, most likely because Harry Christopoulos didn't want a Top Model winner he didn't feel like banging, so the next best thing she could do is let her almost win.

So that's a wrap, and proves my original theory that judge Jenny Balatsinou had no reason at all to even be there. The woman said about two words throughout the whole series, such as "I agree" and "Yes".

Seraina is the perfect reality TV star because she's beautiful and empty as a Greek church on Sunday - you can sit her infront of a camera and put whatever you want in her head and she'll say it. Monica meanwhile will pursue a serious fashion career. High fashion does not fit well with classic beauty - they like weird faces and strange concepts. That's why everyone remembers Lady Gaga's videos.

And so ends Greece's first Next Top Model. It's been fun, and I'm looking forward to the next, seeing where the Reject Debris washes up. I've already counted one former contestant at a wedding expo.