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.

Image; http://th07.deviantart.net/fs49/300W/i/2009/172/9/3/snow_white__s_poisoned_apple_by_daughterofthemist.jpg

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.

Image: http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs30/f/2008/055/5/7/sad_bunny_by_mariaesthetics.jpg

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.

Image: http://www.sfgate.com/blogs/images/sfgate/culture/2005/08/05/barbies.jpg