Sunday, December 31, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Another year has come and gone, quicker and quicker each time. Somehow, 2007 sounds weird, but I guess we all bear the odd years with the same chutzpah as the even ones.

Bearing witness to the execution of a despotic Middle Eastern leader sure gets you into the party mood. Could 2006 have ended more oddly?

As my husband and I head out for our New Years Eve party, we want to wish you all a safe and happy new year and the best for 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Who knew?

Kitchen shopping is the most inane, boring, time sucking consumer activity I have ever participated in. I honestly believe that when Oedipus poked out his eyes he was debating cupboard choices at Neoset instead of agonizing over his illicit love affair with his mother, because the former is obviously far worse.

In theory, it seems like it would be fun. A whole, empty kitchen to design. Cupboards and counters at your choosing. Colors and countertops and sinks of all varieties. But after all the looking and dreaming you sit down with the salesperson, blueprints in hand and then it starts. The math. Not only math, but some sort of complicated math that seems to be best used in hell. Measurements and drawings, all to figure out exactly how everything you want fits in the space you have. Nothing is left to chance, and this is when all the questions start. What size cupboards? How many compartments? If you want drawers, how deep? Which handles? Do you want glass on any of the doors? How high? How low? By the time we were finished, I was ready to confess to crimes I had never committed if only I could crawl into one of the corner cabinets on the showroom floor and go to sleep and never have to think of kitchens ever again.

Believe me, I get the point. The measurements have to be accurate. I want to be sure that I get the kitchen I want, no mistakes. But when what seems like the realization of a dream turns into a two hour interrogation of facts, figures, and choices, you quickly begin to not care about whether or not you have the perfect handles for your cabinet doors. And when you realize at the end of it all that it will take a second appointment to have a computerized design and price quote ready, for a brief moment you think hell with it all, I’ll just have a spigot and a table in the room with my appliances.

I’m sure by the time it is all done and we have found the right kitchen at the right price and we are finally living in our house with my dream kitchen (not my husband’s dream kitchen, because he doesn’t get a say) it will all seem worth it. But for now, I’ll suffer the agony of Greek tragedy, just to make it so.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas in the hood

In the city center you can find several bedecked balconies with lights and displays of all kinds. Unfortunately, our street seems to be rather lacking, as there are only a few balconies shining with Christmas cheer.

This display, by far, is my favorite, mostly because I love the Santa climbing the ladder (that red blob in the bottom center of the picture). Ok, so maybe it is a bit overdone, but it is tasteful enough. I like looking at it, at least.

That same balcony, when your camera has dropped a couple of doses of LSD:

The same balcony when your camera has gone completely schizo:

I keep meaning to take some pictures about town, but everytime we go out it is either too early or for purposes that exclude the practicality of carrying the camera with us. Hopefully, we'll get some before all the Christmas displays are gone.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I never quit when ahead

Still basking in the afterglow of my Oatmeal Scotchie success, on Christmas Eve I decided to attempt to bake another type of cookie. Theoretically, it shouldn’t have been difficult. I chose a recipe that I had grown up helping my mother bake and made several times by myself to great approbation. Spritz (this is the newer recipe, I use a slightly different older one) – a simple butter cookie – is an easy recipe. The biggest challenges are egg separation and using a cookie press, both of which I have pretty much mastered (ok, maybe not mastered, but I know what I’m doing).

With my husband in tow as assistant I started. Right off I dropped an egg. No big deal. I got all the ingredients into the mixer (ah, laziness) and let her rip. So far, so good. When it was done, I noticed the dough had an odd consistency, and the flavor was not quite right. My husband looked at our bottle of almond extract and thought maybe the French on the bottle said it needed to be diluted. No matter, so they’d be heavy with the almond flavoring. Not so bad, right? I affixed the camel stencil to the cookie press and shoved a big chunk of dough inside.

As I prepared to press the first camel onto the cookie sheet, my husband had a look of sheer delight and curiosity in his eyes. He had never come across such a device as a cookie press before and wanted to see how it worked. Imagine my surprise when I squeezed out the first camel and it resembled something more akin to a microbe than a desert dwelling pack animal. In all his expectancy, my husband certainly wasn’t prepared for that, and he let out a peal of laughter that I am certain found its way into orbit around the earth. Camel after camel kept appearing equally deformed, and his laughter didn’t stop.

I was not amused.

Since the dough seemed too buttery, my husband suggested adding more flour, and so he graciously kneaded flour into the batter, a half cup at a time, working towards a more normal consistency. By the time it seemed right, we had already almost doubled the amount of flour the recipe called for. Not a good sign. Now, I realize that most logical human beings at this point in time might have realized the dough is completely wrong and perhaps the whole mess should be trashed. But I had already invested some time in the process and by god I wanted my camel and Christmas tree cookies. So I refilled the cookie press and tried again, with the hoped for results of perfect camels.

While I worked on the camels I gave my husband a chunk of dough to work with. His sole job was to use the blue and yellow food coloring to make the dough green, for the Christmas trees. By the time he was finished, the dough looked like a giant blob of toxic waste and his entire body was covered with food coloring. Since there was no way he was going to get the dough any lighter, we decided to go along with toxic sludge colored Christmas trees. Why not? At least it was green.

At this point the first batch of camels came out of the oven. They looked ok, pretty normal in fact. But as I began to remove them from the cookie sheet I realized they were quite brittle. I was decapitating camels left and right, limbs were coming off, it was an ugly scene. When all the camels had finished, we had a couple dozen healthy looking camels and a giant graveyard of camel parts. It was from these that we taste tested our work. They weren’t awful, but they sure didn’t taste like Spritz. They actually tasted more like a shortbread. Ah well. They would still be presentable.

By the time we were done, the kitchen appeared as if it had been the site of a horrible industrial accident. There were dishes and utensils everywhere, and little spots of toxic green dough spattered all about. We filled the tin with the cookies we would take to my in-laws and left the remains behind.

I was still bothered by what had gone wrong. It was a recipe I knew, a recipe I usually excelled at. Yet they had turned into a disaster. Why? I kept going over the recipe in my head, trying to think if I had left anything off. Finally I had a horrible sinking feeling. The butter. I had done the cups to grams conversion wrong, and used twice as much butter as the recipe called for! That certainly explained the weird dough consistency and the fact that it needed nearly twice as much flour to be normal.

Stupid metric system. When we first learned about it in the third grade I had a funny feeling it would come bite me in the ass someday. And I was right.

Monday, December 25, 2006

O Holy Night

Merry Christmas!

Well, the eve has come and gone, and yet again our cats did not speak at midnight. Maybe there is a specific time zone to that myth. There might be animals talking somewhere, but not in Eastern European Time.

Christmas Day will be spent with the in-laws but without my hardworking husband, who scored a 24 hour shift. I guess we've been lucky, this is the first Christmas we've spent apart in 6 years. We'll get New Year's Day together instead, and celebrate the coming of St. Vassilis instead of Mr. Claus.

To everyone who celebrates Christmas - have a safe and happy holiday. To those who don't, have a safe and happy day anyway. We all deserve that every day, after all.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Getting back to my old self

For the first time in over ten years, I made cookies for Christmas. Sure, it is only one kind of cookie when I used to make five or six, but this is a great improvement. I don't know exactly what got me off the baking bandwagon, a combination of things I guess - from a new found fear of burning myself (where did that come from?) to the lack of a decent oven.

I'm also not exactly sure what got me off my arse this year. I'm thinking a cross between having a halfway decent oven and the sheer frustration of lack of dessert choices at Christmas dinner. I tell you one thing, having only two (TWO!) small cookie sheets gets old fast in the cookie making process. It seems that Greek households aren't known for their proliferate cooking baking, because I'll be damned if I can find a cookie sheet anywhere. I suppose I’ll survive, for now. But when I’m ready to make more varieties, I hope I can find more cookie sheets.

These were made with special thanks to my parents, who sent me some butterscotch morsels.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The return of the light

Rejoice today in the return of the light, as the shortest day is at hand.

May your Winter Solstice be blessed with the happiest wishes of all that is to come.

Christianity for teh win

I don't know, but when two factions of monks start a brawl over living quarters it doesn't seem to be a shining day for Christianity.

Hey, I'm not even going to pretend I know anything about the background of this "rogue" set of monks who aren't recognized by the powers that be, or about the background of any and all tension on Mt. Athos. But to think that any monks, recognized or not, could actively get in an imbroglio with other monks and cause enough damage to one another to send a few to the hospital doesn't seem to be the pinnacle of Christian monk-like behavior. I also don't think it is very Christian of the legitimate monks to force another set of monks, recognized or not, out of a habitable living situation.

The story seems to change depending on which side is telling it, but honestly guys, you are both supposed to be on the same damn side. Not only that, you should also be setting an example. How am I ever going to find my faith when behavior like this is going on?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sunset in Thessaloniki, Mid-December

My favorite Christmas present

Does it really trump the digital camera we bought ourselves (yea, we can't really take a picture of the camera with the camera, duh)? It does to me, because hubby has always made fun of the show, and he bought it so we could watch it together. Honestly, I think the fact that he has been quite impressed with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip so far might have won him over. At any rate, I'm happy!

Thank you dear husband. Some day I'll buy you a Breguet pocket watch.

As Ouranos said to the clouds...

...I am still blue underneath.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I thought the Mediterranean climate was good for health

I'd always thought of Greece as a country where people in the 1920's fled to for good health in a good climate. You are always reading tales of American writers, their wives and friends taking Mediterranean vacations for their well-being, both somatic and psychological, and technically speaking, Greece does seem to be a good place for that, what with its overwhelming days of sun and warm weather.

Yet for some reason, ever since I've moved here - whether we lived in the big cities or the islands or the mountains - I have managed to get colds and/or the flu multiple times in the fall and winter months. In Nashville I had a sort of schedule for these illnesses - once in the summer, once in the winter, and once in the spring - which wasn't really surprising considering I have a "challenged" immune system. But here in Greece I seem to get upwards of a half dozen colds, right on top of another, between October and February. I'm now working on my third cold of the season, which started a week after I had been fully recovered from the last one.

I would understand this if it had been cold and wet for the last couple of months, but the temperatures have been relatively warm for winter and the days have been quite sunny. Why does Greece make me sick? Do Greece and I not get along? Do we have a bad relationship? I really don't think so. I've become quite fond of Greece since I've been living here and I like to think Greece has become fond of me. So why the sickness? Why does Greece seem to be a breeding ground for infectious microbes this time of year? And why, oh why, do I have to get sick so many damned times?

At first I blamed it on my husband working in a hospital - but when we were on Kos and in Litochoro he worked at the Army camps, not the hospital. I don't think I interact more with the world here than I did in Nashville, but I guess I do spend a lot of time at cafes. Still, I didn't really start doing that a lot until we moved to Thessaloniki. I just want to know why I keep getting sick. Why that scratchy, itchy, painful glut in my throat rears its ugly head so often. Why my nose is filled with concrete. Why I can't stop coughing.

Somehow, I think there is some type of Murphy's Law at play here. Leave it to me to move someplace that is supposed to have a healthy climate and get sick so often. For now, all I can do is take my decongestants, drink my tea, suck on my cough drops, and pray. At least I get one thing out of it - my husband waits on me hand and foot. Hmm, maybe my constant sickness is psychological...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

You call this cold?

Mid-December in Greece and temperatures are still what I’d call moderate – low to mid 50’s and sunny during the day, high 30’s/low 40’s at night. We haven’t had any real weather shocks aside from a brief cold snap in mid-October, and that was brief and not too extreme. The temperature has dropped slowly and steadily since then with a small disparity between highs and lows. I don’t think we’ve even hit freezing yet here so far. This is one of the many things I love about Greece – this gradual decline from fall into winter. It is something I almost never experienced in Nashville, a place where in December it could be 70 degrees one day and 30 degrees the next. You just never know what weather you are going to get in the winter in Middle Tennessee, but as a Nashvillian you learn to accept it as easily as you accept night and day.

Greeks, on the other hand, only seem to acknowledge and accept one type of weather – sunny, with temperatures of 70 degrees or higher. The hotter, the better, as many Greeks would say, although personally I think anyone who loves temperatures in excess of 95 degrees should be declared legally insane. With the Greek love for warm weather, it comes as no surprise that as soon as the temperature dips lower than subtropical, Greeks do not emerge outside without full Eskimo arctic gear, struggling along the city streets in their puffy coats, big hoods, and gloves that could handle dry ice. It is pretty obvious that Greek blood doesn’t tolerate the cold but at all.

Imagine my surprise, then, when my husband and I were out for our stroll on a slightly chilly but sunny 50 degree day and found scores upon scores of shops and cafes with their doors WIDE open. What in the name of all that is warm and fuzzy was going on there? My husband, in true Greek spirit, was in absolute shock. Why oh why would warm weather loving Greeks have their shops and cafes open in such weather?

As we approached the next open door, we drew closer, and a heavy, slightly malodorous burst of extremely hot hair punched us in the face. It wasn’t long before we realized that these places had the heat up so high, they had to open the door. Now, I’m not one for reason and logic, but wouldn’t it be better to lower the heat and close the door? Obviously, if Greeks are getting too hot, it is too damn hot. I suspect another ten degree drop or so will render no doors open, heat too high or not. In fact, in a month or so it will be so cold they’ll probably be using radioactive material to heat their shops. For now, I can walk down the street in my light jacket and chuckle at the frozen Greeks, wondering how they’d handle the Nashville climate. My guess is not too well. Not too well at all.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A fly on the wall

Nicole over in London turned me on to the Mayfly Project. I thought it was intriguing, and wondered if I could come up with 24 words to sum up my year perfectly. It is tricky, because even in a year when very little happened in my life, summing up without overstating any one thing is difficult. Of course, brevity has never been my strong suit.

Without further delay, here is what I came up with. Nicole’s is more interesting.

Can’t write thesis. Read. Overthink. Read again.
Stress too much. Get homesick. Discover Thessaloniki.
Love it. Miss working. No job this year. Maybe next.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Greeting card paranoia

My husband is convinced that my parents are trying to send him a message via the greeting cards they send us. Twice now the header has read something to the effect of:

For a Special Daughter and "Son"

He thinks the son in quotation marks has a hidden meaning, as in

"we'll-say-it-in-quotations-because-you-can-be-easily-replaced" OR "we-have-our-eyes-on-you-buddy" OR "we-know-you-aren't-really-our-son-and-we'll-treat-you-in-kind"

What he doesn't know is that my parents aren't really the evil nemeses of superheroes who think things on such elaborate levels. My mother was probably just trying to pick out a card that acknowledges us both on a not-so-annoying level.

For now, however, I'll keep feeding his paranoia. It's more fun that way.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

That's Mr. Smith to you

Me to husband: Hey, check out this search that ended up at the blog: What was the god* Achilles' last name?

Husband, not missing a beat: Papadopoulous!**

*To the person who was searching, Achilles was not a god, he was born of a demi-goddess and a mortal human. His mother tried to make him immortal by putting him in the fire but she held him by the heel, thus leaving that part of his body unblessed and rendering him mortal.

**For those of you not familiar with Greek last names, Papadopoulous is one of the most common surnames in Greece

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nope, I don't have a light, and I'm not lying

I’ve complained before - Greece is a country of ten million people, all of them smokers (ok not all, but we are looking at a pretty damn large percentage here). A non-smoker in Greece immediately takes on a heretic status – most people assume you smoke, and are aghast if you don’t.

So, to the woman and her man who were sitting next to me on the bench outside Plaisio, both with unlit cigarettes in their hand, I apologize. You just happened to ask the only non-smoker in Greece if they had a light. I realize you probably didn't believe me, but it is the truth. Luckily, you were able to snag one from a passerby about one second later, with whom you had a fabulously long-winded conversation about cigarettes.

I knew I should have gone into Plaisio with my husband.

Public Service Announcement

I have been getting a lot of hits recently for people searching for the meaning of the Greek flag. Since I don't think I've discussed it before, I'll make it short and simple for the folks that are actually looking for an answer.

The stripes represent the syllables in the phrase "Eleftheria i Thanatos" (Freedom or Death), which was a morale boosting chant during the Ottoman occupation. The colors represent the beautiful sea surrounding
Greece, and the cross is in honor of the Orthodox Church. In short, a lovely flag for a lovely country. The only thing that would have made it better in my eyes is if it was purple and blue instead of white and blue. When I have my own country, maybe I can design an all purple/blue/black flag. We can nickname it "the black eye".

And now, a word from our sponsor:

Just an ordinary Sunday

Comfort food:

The only Phoebe-approved show - Dr. G Medical Examiner (hey, at least it wasn't Animal Planet, in my husband's point of view):

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I'm dashing

Just a bit of fun while I'm spending all day updating an old laptop hard drive, since the newer one went crash and burn on me.

You Are Dasher

You're an independent minded reindeer who never plays by the rules.

Why You're Naughty: That little coup you tried to stage against Santa last year

Why You're Nice: You secretly give naughty children presents.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The amazing new elevator of claustrophobia

Our new elevator is finally finished, after weeks of agonizing stair climbing. As you can see, the outer door doesn't look so nice, but it will be painted so it will hopefully look better.

This is what you see when you close the inside doors that must be closed in order for the coffin elevator to move. The elevator is quite small, and you can't see anything from inside, so all you have to ponder is your plunging death. It is definitely NOT a good place for people who are claustrophobic, and even if you aren't, you might develop the phobia after a few rides in this puppy.

The panel is nice and flashy, and the elevator is automatic, which makes for fun times when you get in and don't hit the ground floor button fast enough so someone on another floor calls the elevator before you are done with it. Since there is only room enough for two people in the thing, it doesn't really work for it to stop at multiple floors on the way down.

The inside view, pretty standard for new, Greek elevators.

I wish I had the camera in time to take pictures of the ancient, scary elevator, but alas, those images are left to my memories. I'm a bit sad that I can't whine about the prehistoric moving box o' death anymore, but the new one is fast, sleek, and keeps me from climbing six flights of stairs. You can't beat that!

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm no Martha Stewart

This is the extent of our Christmas decorating this year (yea, I know the tree looks like crap, but you can't see the lights with the flash on)

and this:

I'm still not brave enough to risk a whole tree with cats running around. We'll see how long this tree lasts before it gets knocked over.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Five weird things

Tim, my Tennessee friend living life up in the frozen North has done the honor of tagging me. Now I realize I have not yet answered my tag by Flubberwinkle and Kassandra on the "about the blog" meme, but this one is much simpler and requires less thought than that one. Five weird things about myself, when I'm not even that weird! Piece of cake!

1 I bite and pull my fingernails. This seems rather common, I know, but there is a twist: I only bite and pull at the fingernails on my ring fingers on both hands. The other nails I leave alone, although I have to file them down frequently, because my ring fingers actually make me look like I’ve been tortured with some kind of fingernail pulling device.

2 Whenever I eat something in a wrapper (a candy bar, tsurekakia, potato chips, etc.) I fold the wrapper into a tiny square and sit on it. I have no idea why I do this, although it seems to go along with my whole need to consolidate trash.

3 When I was ten years old, my best friend and I got in a dog poo fight with her big sister, who was a real twat. If you want to know what exactly a dog poo fight entails, think of snow ball fight but with a smelly, brown substance. I did not have a predisposition for using dog poo as an instrument of violence, I actually thought it was quite disgusting, but these are the things that childhood ire can drive you to do. Not to mention, it was the big sister who started it. Of course, now as an adult I feel the need to question why their basement was literally filled to the brim with dog poo.

4 I scare myself awake about every other night. It seems to be some kind of weird, hallucinogenic type dream/vision that does it, maybe I am not fully asleep yet when it happens. It is usually linked to something I think I see or feel in reality, like an earthquake or a giant half bug/half frog creature crawling on the wall. The rush of adrenaline is insane, I just hope I don’t give myself a heart attack one of these nights.

5 I have a history of odd celebrity crushes. It started when I was five with Tony Randall, continued with Peter Sellers, Carl Sagan, David Bowie, and Boy George. By the time I hit my 20’s I guess I stopped looking for humor, intelligence, and weirdness in my celebrity crushes and started the Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, etc. phase. Then I had the celebrity couples phase (David Duchovny and Tea Leoni) and now I don’t really have a current celebrity crush, as my obsession with Michael Vartan finally passed. Hmm, I need a new celebrity crush!

See, I’m not weird at all!

I tag everyone and no one. A lot of Nashville folks have recently done this one, and since I don’t typically tag (I don’t play nice) if you feel like doing it, or want to leave weird things about yourself in the comments knock yourselves out.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Live goat cam!

The Gavle Goat cam in Sweden. Will the poor goat be burned down this year? They've got the bugger pretty secure! At least if it burns, we can see it via web cam.

Long night's moon

It is a brittle season Hades made dear, though a seed might trick us all. The Hellenes suffer silently the cold winter days in a land that was meant for the warmth of the sun. But Helios does not favor them – if ever in word or deed they had pleased him, Demeter’s maternal grief demands the chill of winter overtake us all.

The streets are filled with people wrapped like mummies against the bitter wind. Darkness comes early, a velvet covered hand clasped tightly at their throats. People move mechanically, sadly, bereft of the joy of kalokairi, their solemn faces a sober reflection of the dark skies around them. Fate has spared none.

So in this season we wait lugubriously with Demeter, her frozen tears blanketing us with melancholia until the sweet warm breath of a lost daughter frees us from the gloomy cold.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Let the soft, plushy toy speak for you

I suppose this is one way to let your lover(s) know you have a venereal disease. Fun and informative at the same time! I've always wanted to know my microbes better, and now I can!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ominous Nashville

The weirdest things make me homesick these days, like this brilliant picture of lightning striking behind the "Bat" building in Nashville. It is like a punch in the stomach, seeing something so recognizable in the Nashville skyline, and knowing I can't see that building any old time I want to anymore (not that I ever looked at that building on purpose, I definitely took it, and everything else about Nashville, for granted). The pictures make me feel so close to home I can almost touch it, before it fades away like a puff of smoke in my memories.

I guess the answer to the question "how long before you realized you were really homesick after moving abroad?" is 4 years.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thank God It's Friday

It looks like downtown Thessaloniki is getting a TGI Fridays, somewhere on Aristotelous Square. There is already one I wasn't aware of at that ginormous mall out in the boonies, but this one is close to home. Yea, I know, I have all this fabulous Greek food available, why would I seek out kitschy U.S. fare?

Because it reminds me of home. It reminds me of late nights at Elliston Square and Exit-In, drunk with the sound of music ringing in my near deaf ears, grabbing a table at TGI Fridays at 1am and having an appetizer or two before heading back out to party til 5am. It reminds me of days when my hair could get a bit spikier, my outfits could get a bit flashier and my tolerance for partying had no limits. It reminds me of Alien in the Land of our Birth, F.U.C.T., Clockhammer, Wishcraft, Anastasia Screamed, Suicide Alley, Apache Underground and some of the other great bands that shone in the Nashville alternative scene in the late 80's/early 90's. It reminds me of my youth, of being carefree, careless, and uninhibited.

Sure, I'll never get any of that back, nor do I want to. Life is different now, and just as good, if not better, in a more responsible, grown-up way. But it will be nice to have a constant reminder of all those good times just a few blocks away on the other side of the world.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Maybe there *is* a God

Frist isn't running for President in 2008. Tennessee can stay an obscure, Southern state that most Greeks don't know about. And maybe the Republicans can get a candidate worth a damn, so that if they do win again, we won't be in for another four to eight years of a living nightmare.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pope vs. Islam? Or Pope vs. Eastern Orthodoxy?

The world seems to be looking at the whole “Pope visiting Turkey” thing as some sort of potential Christian/Muslim clash, thanks especially to Benedict’s recent bad choice of quotes regarding Islam. While I am sure the Pope and his entourage saw this as a good opportunity to repair ties with Islam, the bigger concern should perhaps be his meeting with his arch enemy and rival, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos (Bartholomew I). Come on people, this is the stuff of comic book apocalypse here! Ancient enemies, meeting after a thousand year split, who will come out victorious? Yea, ok, the so-called “schism” was denounced 40 years ago or whatever, and Popes have come and gone, but these two churches can’t really be called buddies.

Honestly, if everyone involved really spoke their mind here, the Pope would have a better shot with the Muslims than the Orthodox. It isn’t that the Orthodox hate Catholicism, it is just that the nicest reply any Orthodox has given to a statement concerning Catholicism has been a sort of growl. I can’t claim to have been around in 1054, but I do know that all the grievances that caused the split seem to have withstood the test of time. Sure, some of it is semantics, but hey, I wouldn’t have liked the Pope claiming supremacy Über Alles either. Both sides consider themselves to be the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”, thus claiming to be the “true” church. Well, they can’t both be right. Personally, I think it would be really funny if Jesus came back just to say they both suck, but I don’t guess that’ll be happening. Hell, I haven’t found myself smack dab in the middle of such historic drama since I moved to the South from the North.

I don’t know what the internal politics are of both churches, but I have a strong feeling that each side still wants what they want. And since what they both want pretty much absorbs the other, I don’t think we’ll get any major agreements out of them anytime soon. But who will win, The Joker or The Riddler? How many ka-pows will it take? As long as they get a good illustrator, I guess it really doesn’t matter, because Batman will always save the day.

The Golden Alexander

The 47th Thessaloniki International Film Festival has come and gone, and unfortunately, due to myriad events that conspired to keep me from attending, I did not get to watch even one film. It is really too bad, because this is my one chance a year to see foreign films, including a plethora of Greek movies, with English subtitles (I’ll hold back about the irony of U.S. movies being considered “foreign films” here, because I find it too hilarious). Maybe next year, I’ll get lucky.

This year offered a variety of interesting films, including a tribute to Wim Wenders (which basically meant they screened most of his more famous films at least once). The festival also featured a host of Greek tributes, along with a special focus on films with teenage angst/lust as the theme. It would have been a good opportunity to see some U.S. films that haven’t yet opened here, including The Fountain and Fast Food Nation.

Of course, the problem with pouring over schedules for a film festival of this type is lack of knowledge about most of the foreign films. Which one do you decide to see? Do you pick based on country, how well you like the title, what? I guess that might be the fun of it. Unfortunately, my stupid husband knows nothing about Greek cinema so aside from a few popular Greek movies, he isn’t much help when it comes to making choices. Next year, I might just make some executive decisions. Or at least put the schedule on the floor, close my eyes, and throw a coin at it.

For those of you who are always on the lookout for a good foreign film, you might want to check out this year’s winner of the Golden Alexander, GAJOKEUI TANSAENG (Family Ties) by Kim Tae-yong, from South Korea. The Silver Alexander went to ASRE JOMEH (On a Friday Afternoon) by Mona Zandi Haghighi, from Iran. The Best Director award went to SLAWOMIR FABICKI for Z Oszysku (Retrieval), Poland 2006. A full listing of all awards presented can be found at the official film festival site. The thing to note is that most of these movies have been screened at other film festivals throughout the year, so they may available in limited release in some areas in the next couple of years, or at the very least available for rent some day.

I’m preparing ahead for next year. I’ll put some cash away, take my zinc tablets and vitamins, and be ready to head off, perhaps to do some live blogging from the festival. Eh, no, probably not. I'm not that ambitious.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life's little ironies

I'm still trying to figure out how I can get sick on Thanksgiving in a country that doesn't even celebrate Thanksgiving. Sure, I know why I always got sick on major holidays in the U.S., but really, why here? I guess it is part of that inner conditioning I spoke about, mere mention of a holiday and my throat constricts, my temperature rises, and my nose fills up. Honestly, though, I prefer to blame it on my husband, for bringing all sorts of interesting little microbes home from the hospital.

Four days later, and I am in the "I'm-really-tired-of-this-why-can't-I-stop-coughing-and-blowing-my-nose" phase, which I know means I am near the end. Even though I feel worse during the fever phase, the constant coughing of this final phase seems more terrible, because there is no rest when you are coughing. And coughing. And coughing. Wow, cough is a funny looking word.

On the upside (maybe the downside) I've been able to vegetate on my couch and pray for movies to come on our movie channel that I haven't seen before. So I finally watched Star Wars: Episode III and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Honestly, of the last three Star Wars movies this was the best, although my general feeling is that none of them should have been made at all. For some reason they kinda ruin the old ones for me.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, what a waste of movie reels. I got so bored by it I actually removed myself from my sanctuary on the couch and browsed websites. Both actors seem to have forgotten how to act (and both of them certainly lean towards being good actors usually), although the script didn't help too much. I didn't expect anything grand out of this movie but I figured it would be an action oriented picture that would at least occupy me for a couple of hours. Nope.

Here's hoping I'm better tomorrow so I can go back to reading and writing without words looking all squiggly and fuzzy. I just can't take another bad movie.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cuz he's a SCROOGE

My husband won't let me put up the Christmas tree until December 1st.

He's such a tyrant!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

As I Lay Undying

It seems that seven years ago, William Faulkner's daughter found among her father's things a completely finished, unproduced screenplay - about vampires.

I have two diametrically opposed thoughts about this. Firstly, no way, no how. Faulkner only wrote screenplays to make easy money and even then he never seemed entirely pleased about the process. But hey, that's what American writers back then had to do. So anyway, why would he write a complete, feature length screenplay that never got made? Had someone commissioned him to do it, but decided against it in the end? Because that seems to me the only way he would have written such a thing.

But then, when I think about Faulkner's body of work and his relationship with the deep, dark South, I can see how he might be tempted by vampires. Yet his screenplay is set in Eastern Europe, not the South. Would Faulkner really have written something not set in the South? Why a screenplay and not a novel?

It seems as though producer Lee Caplin is moving forward with a movie based on the screenplay, but I still have my doubts about its authenticity. If if was something he wrote for someone else and not a personally inspired work, should we be seeing it on the big screen as a Faulkner work?

I guess this serves as a caution to all writers: be careful what you leave behind.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Thanksgiving can be a surreal experience when you are living abroad. It is a holiday that takes years of conditioning – frantic, last minute grocery shopping on Wednesday, overeating on Thursday, Christmas shopping on Friday, and swearing you’ll never so much as look at another turkey or pumpkin pie again on Saturday. Over the years this settles into a comfortable, if slightly neurotic, routine. It can’t be an American holiday without an appropriate amount of neurosis, after all.

Obviously, Greeks don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, considering they are not a country founded by wayward pilgrims who saw the devil in nature and decided that razing, partitioning, and selling land was a good way to settle themselves in their new found freedom. I don’t know for sure, but I am fairly certain that no Greeks shared a thankful feast with aborigines they would systematically exploit and drive away, but that’s a different story altogether. Honestly, I’m not knocking Thanksgiving. I do think there is a lot of goodness in the core of the holiday, and any excuse to eat good food, make merry with friends and family, and be thankful for all you have is a good one.

My conditioned responses set in the Monday before Thanksgiving. I frantically make a grocery list, knowing that I should go to the store before Wednesday to avoid the insane rush of last minute shoppers. When I inevitably end up going to the store on Wednesday anyway (best laid plans, and all that) I stare incredulously at the near empty store.

“But, it’s 4pm on the day before Thanksgiving!!!” I cry out, exasperated.

People look at me curiously. Then it hits me. This is not America. It is not the day before eat-yourself-sick day in Greece. Ironically, it is smack dab in the throes of the Orthodox forty day fasting period before Christmas. It is a good thing America isn’t made up primarily of Orthodox Christians, or fasting might be a thing of the past.

Thankfully, most of the people staring decide that I am just another crazy American and go back to their business. The full realization sinks in. No turkey. No stuffing. No squash casserole. No homemade rolls. No mashed taters. No pumpkin pie. (Well, unless I decide to cook these things for myself, which is a huge mathematical improbability. Improbable, but not impossible.) No holiday cheer. No parade. No football. No Christmas sales. No family imbroglio. Just another day like any other day.

Each year I keep thinking that maybe I’ll forget Thanksgiving, that I’ll wake up one day and realize that Thanksgiving had come and gone and I gave it nary a thought. But somehow that never happens. The Thanksgiving conditioning automatically kicks in as easily as my instinct for survival. Pavlov might be impressed. I figure one of two things can happen. After about thirty years of living abroad, I’ll lose the conditioning, or I’ll start cooking my own Thanksgiving dinners, thus reinforcing it. The improbable might become probable. It might snow in August on a Greek island. Greek politicians might stop being corrupt. America might legalize gay marriage and overturn any constitutional amendments banning it. Fish might grow legs. Pigs might fly. But in the end, it will still be just another day – another day among all the days that I celebrate everything I am thankful for.

To all of you who are celebrating this thankful holiday, Happy Thanksgiving. To all of you who aren’t, perhaps you can take just a moment to think about all the things you are thankful for, and rejoice for a moment.

Thank you very much, Gwen Stefani

Thanks to Mrs. Rossdale's latest release, I can't get the effing goatherd song from The Sound of Music out of my head.

Everywhere I go, everything I try to do, it is in my head. It haunts me even now, as I try to sleep.

Sadly, one of my favorite songs as a child has now been ruined by excessive airplay.

RIP, lonely goatherd
Odl lay ee (odl lay ee)
Odl lay hee hee

Monday, November 20, 2006

You know you are married to a doctor when...

…you open up your sewing box and find sutures

…you can’t watch a medical show without hearing complaints about everything they are doing wrong

…you can’t be in the bathroom when he/she is washing their hands without getting sprayed by the “doctor shake” when they are done

…you tell him/her that they are getting on your last nerve and they draw an accurate picture of a nerve with a little stick person on it

…you find yourself constantly washing scrubs and white coats

…your house is littered with office supplies bearing the names of various pharmaceuticals

…you can’t complain of a scratchy throat without having a tongue depressor shoved in your mouth and your spouse looking at you from behind a tiny light

Friday, November 17, 2006

A very sad day

May she walk peacefully along the oceans of the great unknown.

Goodbye GAC/BJ. I wish I had had the chance to get to know you better.

My thoughts are with AT/Jake, their two young sons, and his family and friends during this terrible time of loss.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Conservative estimate?

This story reports that 1% of web sites indexed by Google and Microsoft contain sexually explicit material. 1%? Are you effing kidding me?

Every time I turn around I see some link inviting me to peruse some salacious web site. Now, maybe these are false links without pornographic content, but honestly, can I really believe that only 1% of web sites out there have pornographic content? The internet, after all, was created for the free exchange of ideas and information porn, so let's be realistic.

Maybe the proliferation of bloggers has crunched the numbers down some, but if I was going to make a conservative guess myself I might have said 5%, with a personal belief that the true number is around 10%.

The study the story was reporting on focuses on numbers to try to breathe new life into the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which would require a credit card or some other kind of "proof" of age before you can view pornographic material online. As if a child can't get his parent's credit card/driver's license/ID card info. The Supreme Court shot down this law in 2004, citing a breach in an adult's right to look at and buy what they want on the internet.

While I'm not thrilled with the idea of children ending up gazing open-mouthed at lascivious web sites, I'm equally unenthused about someone having to share their identity and/or credit card information to look at porn. The ACLU claims filters work well, and I'm sure they work reasonably well. The thing is, you can be searching for some perfectly innocent things and end up staring point blank at some full frontal. I don't have any particular objection to porn in general, it serves a need I suppose, but I'm certainly not a big fan. Despite my lukewarm sentiments, I do think adult people should have the right to look at porn if they wanna. When it comes to children, well, I don't think they should be exposed to porn, but I also don't think they should be brought up to be ashamed or disgusted at the human body. But there is a big difference in a teenage boy hiding a stack of Playboys and the same boy crawling into a site that would put the Marquis de Sade to shame.

Obviously, the European point of view regarding porn is a wee bit different. Porn is hanging in plain sight at kiosks everywhere. Naked breasts can be found on network TV without being blurred, and movie channels show a porn movie every night after midnight. To be honest, I much prefer living in a society where it is all out in the open, but I might feel a bit differently if I had children. Still, if my child saw a picture of a naked woman, I wouldn't start screaming and shield his or her eyes. That just makes them more curious.

Alas, I digress. My point is, I don't believe that porn makes up only 1% of web sites. Of course, I could be wrong. It has been known to happen, on rare occasions when pigs fly and it rains blood.

The great elevator shakedown of 2006

After three months of nonstop apartment building drama, we are finally getting our new elevator installed. The downside of this is that it means schlepping up six flights of stairs for three weeks, but that is a small price to pay for an elevator that doesn't constantly make you wonder if you would survive a drop from the second floor. We all know that the third floor+ is certain death, but a second floor fall is a grey area.

The original plan was for the elevator installation to start sometime in September. The bills were passed around in late July, so there was plenty of time for folks to come up with their share. But of course, there was a problem. The people on the first floor claimed they never used the elevator and thus had no intention of paying their paltry share of the bill. While it is true that on occasion I witnessed first floor folks using the stairs, it was always when the elevator was in use and people were waiting, so I reckon it was faster for them to just walk up a flight of stairs. However, there were plenty of times that I called the elevator to find it was "parked" on the first floor, or waited for the elevator to come down from the first floor, or found the elevator door wide open (thus halting all use of the elevator) on the first floor, therefore, it was utilized quite a bit by the first floor residents. So in addition to being cheap and whiney bitches, they are also big fat liars.

When September came and went and still no elevator, we got wind of some of the internal drama that was going on in the building. The first floor folks were outright refusing to pay for the elevator - and what would the solution be? There was some discussion of the rest of us making up for their share and just cementing over the elevator shaft on the first floor. Instead, the building manager decided to go with the shame and ridicule approach, posting a notice about paying for the elevator and a list showing who had not yet paid. None of the owners of first floor apartments were paying, along with their old woman toady on the seventh floor. This was an outright conspiracy!

In the end, it came down to "well, if he pays, I'll pay", and somehow it all worked out. I don't know for sure if the first floor has completely paid up, but I assume they did. If they didn't, I'm sure we'll be in for more drama after the elevator is completed. Maybe they'll even hire some Kostas from Crete to break some fingers. Anything to liven up the place.

For now, I'm just trying to get used to climbing six flights of stairs. I'm a bit worried that, should the neighbors hear me coming, they'll think I'm the big bad wolf coming to huff and puff and blow their apartment down. Here's hoping that by the end of this three weeks I'll be in better shape.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nashville/Thessaloniki, same difference

I was gazing at my time and temp. gizmos just now and I realized that Nashville and Thessaloniki are at this moment the exact same temperature. Of course, it is 3am here and 7pm there, but so what - these little things tie both cities together for me, and make me feel closer to home. Wherever that is.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Deck the halls

Behold, the people of Greece were forlorn as they had no Thanksgiving to mark the beginning of the Christmas season. What light would guide them to start celebrating the holy joy of Christ’s birth? And lo, the Lord heard their sorrow and presented unto them the giant Coca-Cola, who each year would bring joy to the hearts and minds of the Greeks by presenting them with festively decorated drink cans denoting the official commencement of the holiday season. And the people rejoiced, despite the fact that the holiday seemed to start earlier and earlier each year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Defining faith

Most people that know me, and some who read this blog frequently, know that I don’t do religion. I can’t do religion. Apparently, part of what I lack is faith, but a big part of it also involves not wanting to be a hypocrite by saying I believe in something in its entirety when I have issues with some parts of the whole. Over the past few months I’ve been trying to grow a little bit, to understand more about religion, and see if maybe somehow, some way, I can find faith in something beyond the temporal, physical, logical plane.

My husband has been translating the New Testament for me, because I wanted a simple translation that is as close to the original as possible. As poetic as translations into English are, it seems that some things are changed, in small ways, when trying to translate it into something that sounds beatific and wise in English. Sure, the gist is still the same, but language is important. I’m not doing well with the Bible just the same, there are so many things I find contentious – things that bother me, but maybe with a better understanding and good discussions with people that have faith I’ll work through it all. We’ll see. Of course I still fast with my husband on Wednesdays and Fridays – I support him wholeheartedly in his faith, although I don’t go to church with him on Sundays. Realistically speaking, even if I had faith, I don’t see myself getting up at 8am on Sundays. I guess I’m just not ready to sacrifice in that way. He understands that we are not at the same place – and may never be.

Yet recently, the devastatingly real struggle for life, health, and happiness that is going on right now for GAC and her family has led me down an unusual path. I want her to be ok, to be the same person she was before this ordeal began. I want her to live a long, happy life of health and well-being. I have faith that this can be accomplished by the hope, thoughts and prayers of people that love her, know her, and strangers like me from around the globe (although I don’t entirely think of myself as a stranger to AT and GAC, as I wrote before). Am I saying that I believe in prayer? Am I saying that I have faith?

Today was the second time I attended vespers this week – really the second time ever I’ve participated in an evening prayer (although there is a time that this may have occurred at a Methodist camp in Beersheba when I was a teenager – the details are sketchy and a bit dubious). I went each time for the sole purpose of lighting candles for GAC, and ended up staying for the prayer. I haven’t actually been fond of the Greek Orthodox Churches I’ve been in, they’ve been overly resplendent with gilded ornamentation in a such a way as to be distracting. In our neighborhood alone, there are three churches within very close proximity, and probably another dozen or so more in easy walking distance. My husband has been of late attending Acheiropoeitos, one of the older churches in our neighborhood, and so that is where we went.

I like this church, surprisingly. The interior is very unassuming, with a modest amount of shine and ornaments, along with some very austere iconic artwork. It is all stone, marble and wood - very dark, gothic, ethereal. As I was sitting there, ensconced within the warm smell of incense, surrounded by candlelight, with the soothing chants of the priest echoing in my ears, I felt a sense of peace – a peace I have never felt anywhere else but there, at that moment, in that church. I was sitting in a passageway where there was a marble step that had been so worn down by centuries of worshippers it could no longer be called a step, but a spillway – and suddenly I felt as if the faith of all those who passed there before me had gushed forth, flowing in and around me. It was a comfort, an odd feeling for me. I don’t understand what it meant, but somehow I feel as if I am a step closer to something I can’t describe or imagine. Maybe I am finding my faith, or maybe not. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the honest search, the continuing journey.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Keep hope alive

Things are looking better for AT's wife GAC, but she isn't out of the woods yet. This is just a reminder to keep her in your prayers, thoughts, and hopes. If the Democrats can gain control of Congress, we can bring a 29-year-old mother home healthy, happy, and safe to her husband and children.

The picture of her helps direct the prayers, but if AT wants me to take it down, I will.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The people have spoken

7 states elected to pass constitutional amendments that, among other things, ban same-sex marriage. Arizona said hell no to a ban on same-sex marriage.

South Dakota did not pass a near-total abortion ban. Thank goodness.

Democrats are in control of the House. The Senate is still a bit up in the air, but it seems to be neck and neck.

People must be tired of Republicans. For the sake of all Americans, I hope the Democrats do better.

Yes, I am disappointed about the same-sex marriage decisions, but I didn't expect much better. I did have a bit of hope, though. This is, after all, what voting is all about.

May God, Allah, Buddah, Zeus, and any other politically correct deities bless America.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A view from abroad

From Kathimerini

In more upbeat news...

This headline reports that "Greek Economy is on Good Truck", which is certainly a good thing, because we wouldn't want it on one of those bad trucks with bad tires and poor suspension spinning out of control all the time.

EDIT: Bah, they fixed it now. Ok, next time, ERT can make fun of my poor Greek translations

Monday, November 06, 2006

A midterm night's dream

Well, tomorrow is midterm election day, and to some extent, it seems rather trivial discussing politics when people in the world are struggling for life and dying. Then I remember that the reason some people are struggling for life and dying is because of politics and I realize that perhaps it isn’t so trivial after all.

My absentee ballot has long since been mailed, although generally speaking I wasn’t thrilled with the choices in the good ol’ state of Tennessee. Ostensibly, the big thing about this election is whether or not Republicans will lose control of Congress. While I consider myself a Democrat, if you ask me to answer honestly if I think Democratic control of Congress would make a difference I’d say probably not. Still, a different approach can’t hurt, can it? I certainly hope not. At any rate, the races are close and it is possible that the GOP will still have control after tomorrow, even though I think Republican control of the three facets of government really sort of defeats the purpose of the whole “checks and balances” idea. Whatever.

For me, the most important aspect of this particular election is the marriage amendment. I think something like eight states total are presenting marriage amendments to their constitutions in this election. Tennessee’s amendment basically states that marriage will be defined as that between one man and one woman, and it also acknowledges that any legal marriages outside the state of Tennessee that do not fall under the same guidelines will not be recognized. I know some Europeans find the idea of such an amendment offensive, especially the latter part – they see it as just another example of American superciliousness and defiance in the face of the world, and I suppose I see their point.

Obviously, this amendment would limit marriage of many kinds, but most tragically it would disallow forever any same-sex marriages in Tennessee. Sure, one reason I disapprove of this amendment is because I believe that it is morally wrong to have an amendment restricting same-sex marriage. But I feel that despite one’s like or dislike of homosexuality, the real reason to vote no on this amendment is because the constitution is meant to protect the rights of the people, not take them away. I’ve seen some conservatives lament that this amendment must be passed because god forbid, if it doesn’t, then polygamy will be rampant, farmers will marry their cows, dogs will marry cats and pigs will lose their curly little tails. Well, let me present you with some hyperbole from the other side. If we start messing with constitutional amendments that restrict rights, what is to keep more particular amendments from rearing their ugly little conservative heads? What happens if the next amendment restricts marriage to that between one white woman and one white man? Or between one American woman and one American man? Sure, I can see the answer to that – it would never happen. But I never thought an amendment like this one would happen either. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, married or single, this amendment actually does restrict your rights – whether it affects you or not. Next time around, it might be an amendment that actually impedes on your happiness. Do we really want to start pulling at that thread, only to have the fabric of American rights unravel before us?

I realize that for some people the need to “protect” the world from homosexuality is too strong to think rationally about this amendment. But for those of you who are really unsure, perhaps take a moment to think about it before you cast your vote.

To all of you, vote well, vote with your minds and not just your hearts. But most of all, revel in your right to vote, and GO VOTE!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

All is not lost

You know how it is when you are watching a good movie – one of those movies that really sucks you in, with characters you can identify with, or at the very least grow attached to because they are good people, real people, people you want to be happy and have good lives with everything working out great for them in the end. If something happens to one of these characters you hope beyond hope that somehow, some way, it will all work out ok in the end, that they will survive, persevere, and overcome everything that ails them. You feel it so strongly, that if the movie takes a turn for the worse, if something bad happens, it is as if it has happened to someone you love and care about. It is crushing, horrible defeat – and with every movie like that there is the same hope, the same strength, the same unbeatable will growing inside you to help the character survive. The same thing happens with novels too, although more often than not the spirit gets defeated in ways you can’t even imagine, but you live and breathe hope through this character until the final outcome, whatever that may be.

In this wide world connected so intangibly by the internet, we meet people, we know people, but these are people we only see on the screen, like a movie or a book. You read their thoughts and feelings every day on blogs and through their websites, and it is a weird connection – you feel attached in an odd way – they’ve become a sort of extended family, even though technically speaking you don’t know them. Yet when something happens to them, whether they are trying to get a new job, or buying a house, or having a baby, or become seriously ill – you feel that connection even stronger – you want them to succeed, to get what they want, to be healthy and happy and strong.

In the last few days a fellow blogger has become seriously ill, deathly ill, and through the pained and beautiful posts of her husband we are kept aware of how she is doing, how he is doing, how a man faces the potential loss of the woman he loves. And it is devastating. And I feel that old familiar feeling, that hope beyond hope, that if anything can happen in life, can we just somehow make sure she comes out of this ok, so she can continue being a friend, a daughter, a wife, a mother - a human being who walks this earth, full of life and hope and even sadness and regret, because everything we experience includes all the good and the bad, and just to be alive is to be grateful for both.

This post is dedicated to the struggle for life that is going on at this moment halfway around the world from me, in a hospital in East Tennessee. For GAC, for her husband AT, and for her family, I pray for her recovery.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Telemarketing is pure evil

When I left Nashville, telemarketing had become a major nuisance. I could count on at least one call a night, if not more, usually at the most inopportune times. It got to the point where I stopped being polite and attempted to use whatever powers I could muster to smite said caller back to the netherworld where he/she came from. They are tough lil' buggers, though.

Greece was a refreshing change. We could go for months without the phone ringing unnecessarily. Telemarketing had not yet cast its evil eye on the Greek market and it was a very good thing. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and slowly but surely telemarketing has picked up here. It isn't anywhere near as bad it was in the U.S., but we can guarantee that telemarketing call is going to come at a time when it really isn't convenient, not that such calls are ever convenient.

My husband is a bit of a pushover. While he won't buy anything, he is quite polite, listens to their pitch and responds amiably. I, on the other hand, have discovered the perfect device for offputting telemarkers in Greece. Whenever we get a call that shows up as "private caller" on caller ID (which could, of course, be family members so we just have to answer, don't we), I pick up and answer with the loudest, most obnoxious Southern belle hello I can muster. This is usually met with a few seconds of fumbling and muttering - obviously the caller has momentarily lost the ability to speak in their own language - and then I hear "Signomi, lathos". Not even sorry, wrong number, just sorry, wrong. Well yes, you are wrong. Quite wrong. Just to ruffle their feathers a bit more, I answer with "endaksi" and hang up. Let them mull that over a bit. Maybe she did speak Greek? But she sounded!

Look, I know that for some people telemarketing pays the bills. It has opened the doors to thousands, perhaps millions of jobs worldwide. But that doesn't diminish the fact that telemarketing is pure evil, and email spam is its hellish little spawn. I honestly think I would rather starve to death, and let my family starve to death, than work as a telemarketer. That's just me.

At least now I know the perfect trick to use with telemarkets should we ever return to the U.S. I can answer the phone with a hearty Greek greeting and see what happens. I might get lucky, or I might end up on the line with one of the millions of Greeks who have immigrated to the U.S. I guess you can't win them all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


My husband watched five minutes of Ta Koritsia Gilmore* and his head didn't explode. There is hope for him yet.

*I am just now watching the second season and I realize the show is in its seventh season, so please don't tell me what happens, like my sister-in-law started to do before I put my hands over my ears and started singing "John, Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" at the top of my lungs.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You know you are getting old when... select your birth year from a scroll down menu that starts at 2006 and get carpal tunnel from scrolling down so far.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Every day is Halloween

No holiday makes me miss America more than Halloween. Greece might as well not even be aware of its existence, for the little people seem to know about it. The only knowledge most Greeks seem to have of Halloween is gleaned from Hollywood, and we all know that is the most accurate source of information on anything American.

The traditional ghost story also seems rather absent from Greek life. In America, in just about any town that has a population of at least twenty people you can find a haunted house, or barn, or some local lore about some ghost or other that just won’t leave people be. Here in Greece, supernatural stories seem to exist on a grand scale, and you almost never hear individual stories of hauntings in someone’s home. No, Greeks don’t have a ghost or two haunting a house, they have a whole damn ghost army. They have snakes that appear spontaneously in a church. They have haunted caves, haunted woods, haunted mountains. But the haunted house is a rare phenomenon.

One of the most famous Greek ghost stories involves the Drosoulites of Crete, a ghost army that appears every year at dawn on May 17th at the ruins of Agios Charalambos, marches towards the fort at Fragokastello and eventually disappears into the sea. Many people have claimed to have seen this vision and science has not yet been able to explain it with rational facts. The army is so clear to the eye that the Turks fired on them in 1890, as did the Germans in World War II. Now that’s spooky. I fully intend to visit Crete some May 17th so I can have a chance of seeing the ghost army for myself.

Davelis Cave , along with the mountain it lies on, are reported to be sites for strange paranormal occurrences. Located on the Pendeli mountain just outside Athens, people have claimed to see odd beasts on the mountain, from giant bats to horned men, and odd things have occurred in the cave, from moving balls of light to the cave being swarmed with domestic cats.

On the island of Kefalonia the denizens of the village of Markopoulo celebrate the feast of the Virgin on August 15th. During the religious services marking this holiday, small snakes with black marks like the sign of the cross on their heads appear at the bell tower and make their way towards the church. Thousands of snakes crawl into the church, slithering over people on their way to their final destination – the bishop’s throne and the icon of Mary. After the celebrations they disappear as quickly as they appeared, and no sign is seen of them again until the next year. The snakes are welcomed by the locals, and do no harm to people. The snakes are thought to be the spirits of nuns from the village, who in 1705, upon attack by pirates, prayed to the Virgin Mary to be turned into snakes to avoided being captured. Apparently, their prayers were answered.

No doubt Greece is filled with more stories of the supernatural, as you can’t help but walk through the streets without feeling the presence of thousands of years of history.

Happy Halloween from Greece!

Gone with the wind

One thing I was never quite prepared for upon arriving in Greece was the wind. Sure, we had wind in Nashville, sometimes pretty darn strong. But I never experienced anything like the wind I’ve experienced here in Greece. Athens wasn’t so bad, at least I don’t remember it being too terribly bad. When we moved to Kos I remember some folks saying something about the tremendous winds there but you know, it is wind, how bad can it be? The answer is bad. Pretty darn bad. When we moved to the mountain it wasn’t much better, and here in Thessaloniki, being as close to the sea as we are, the wind gets pretty frightening, making booming, godlike sounds as it whips through cracks in building walls and weaves its way through the city streets.

When we were in Athens, I noticed a lot of people had awnings over their balconies, and boy did I covet those awnings. They are great for keeping the sun from blinding you during the day and especially practical in keeping the balcony dry when you have laundry out and the weather turns moist. We weren’t graced with an apartment that had awnings until we moved to the mountain, and that is when I learned that with the wonderful awnings comes a grave and important responsibility.

It seems that the great winds that blow through Greece are not especially awning friendly, in fact, it would appear that awnings and wind are great enemies of yore, constantly battling for dominance. And so the awnings must be raised when the winds come, to keep them from ripping apart and causing general havoc, not to mention pacifying the landlords. There was many a day I opened the shutters on the balcony to find that one of the landlords had climbed onto our balcony to raise our awnings in the face of the bitter wind. Oops.

I learned a great lesson in awning maintenance while living on the mountain, and that is why, if I wake up at 4am and hear the wind chimes singing like angels hopped up on LSD, I make a mad dash for the balcony to put up the awning. There is a trick to it though, because the act of raising the awning creates an insane, demonic sound, as if wild pigs were loose on the city and very, very hungry. So I have to turn the crank carefully and slowly, which isn’t very much fun at 4am when freezing, gusting winds are threatening to blow your soul to kingdom come.

I suppose I could be one of those brilliant people who lowers the awning in the morning and puts it up again when the sun goes down, thus avoiding all the rushing outside at 4am incidents. This would make a relative amount of sense, except that I am a bit lazy when it comes to general, routine maintenance activities such as raising and lowering awnings. Not to mention I enjoy the extra bit of privacy having them down allows. So for now I’ll take my stand between the wind and the awning whenever I am called, hoping that one day the battle will not be lost.