Tag Archives: ex-pats

Our Neighbor is a Pig

21 Feb

Mr. Mallios and I have been looking for some new digs for the past month or so.  We found one contender not too far along in our search that was nearly perfect.  Great location, big enough yet cozy, fairly new,  2 bathrooms!  We decided we would take it.  We called the real estate agent that showed us the place and he agreed to drop the price down.  Great!  We dropped off a deposit and were contacted the next day by the owner of the place who wanted to meet his new tenants.  Sure, no problem.  At this meeting we discovered that the owner never agreed to the new price the agent had quoted us. Since the deal had already been done though, he said ok.  About a week later we found out that our friends had happened to rent the exact same house about 3 years ago.  What a coincidence!  They didn’t have too many good things to say about it.   They were especially vocal about the hotel across the street (closed for the winter season, opening in April) and its live Cretan music on Friday and Saturday nights.  No Thank you!  There’s nothing that I, or Mr Mallios for that matter, could want less than blaring lyre and sorrowful crooning at 11 o’clock at night.  I know, we’re getting old!  But try and find me a Cretan song that is uplifting and full of hope and you’ll be looking far and wide my friends.  Needless to say we reneged on our end of the deal and collected our deposit and began our search anew.

We looked at a lot of places outside of the main city.  I guess we are turning into country folk (haha not really).  Most were uninhabitable.  One resembled an old warehouse.  Windows and doors circa 1978-no insulation, frosted glass, iron bars.  Don’t really want to live in a jail thanks.  I’m not sure this was intended to be an apartment or any sort of living qaurters.  Perhaps a re-purposed animal shed?  Upcycling at its most creative!  A wall had been erected to divide the two “bedrooms” from the rest of the living space.  Leaving the rooms depressingly windowless.  The plus side?  The bathroom was gloriously big!  Greek bathrooms tend to be on the smaller (claustrophobic) side.  Well they used to in any case.  Now a days houses seem to be built with more comfortable proportions in mind.  On to the next place!

The real estate agent from the original find informed us that he had a house in a town right next to where we were looking.  2 bedroom, 2 bath, lots of living space!  We agreed we would meet there the following day at 10am.  We arrived at the house looking westward toward the majestic White Mountains and due north to the mesmerizing Aegean sea. Score!  The agent approached the gate with a few BAGS of keys, elevating the whole janitorial keychain to new heights, and proceeded to try out a few before lamenting that he did not have the right set with him.  We decided we would meet again tomorrow at the same time.  We arrived at 10am.  That morning the agent battled with considerably less sets of keys than the day before.  Alas he did not have the keys with him again.   Since we were there Mr Mallios decided to jump the fence to take a quick peek around the property.  The agent suggested he might try going through a window to see the inside of the house too.  Breaking and entering apparently carries no penalty when advised by your realtor here!  He found a window that didn’t have the roll down shutters and climbed on in.  In the meantime the agent’s right hand man (assistant?)  found a large rock and was bashing it against the padlock on the fence in the hopes that he would break it, thus allowing us access to the inside.  Hmmmmm……peculiar real estate practices here.  Mr Mallios successfully entered the house through a window.  I guess this means there’s no alarm system!   The assistant,  still adamant that he can break the lock on the gate, continued to beat it with a rock.  The agent was barking at him to stop and yelling at Mr Mallios to pull the front door open harder.  Shouts from behind the front door revealed that the door was locked from the inside or was it outside? The assistant gave up and tossed the rock aside and decided to focus his attention on me.  He was trying to formulate a plan on how to get the pregnant woman (his words) over the fence to see the inside. “We can hoist her over that part of the fence…or you go over and I’ll catch her.”  I don’t think so buddy.  The pig across the street decided to make an appearance after hearing all the commotion, letting out a few grunts and oinks before retreating back to its sty.  I guess that takes care of meeting the neighbors.  We left again without proper access to the house.  Two days later we got a call from the agent stating that the owner of the house would be there tomorrow (with the RIGHT keys).  Finally!  We went and took a tour of the spacious abode and decided to take it.  Not only was it the right size, price, location-all those important real estate things-but there were other less obvious factors that enticed us.  Namely we already knew how to break in.  Important if you lose your keys once a month.  We knew we had good neighbors.  Quiet and solitary so no loud parties on the weekends over there!  And probably delicious to eat come Easter!  Moving in next week!!

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Eat yogurt. Move bowels.

4 Feb

Ive been consuming Activia at a pretty regular rate since Ive been pregnant.  The digestive benefits it boasts are certainly true and since I discovered my little bun in the oven I will never take another bowel movement for granted!  Back in the US yogurt flavors tend to be pretty run of the mill.   You’ve got your berry varieties:  strawberry, blueberry.  Then there’s the ubiquitous and oh so delicious peach! Maybe a strawberry banana combo finds its way into the mix YUM!  I’ve seen, on occasion, an exotic pineapple on the shelf.  Usually its the last man standing when all other flavors have been picked over.  Well here in Greece Ive noticed quite a departure from mainstream US yogurt flavors.  My first venture to the supermarket upon arrival had kiwi and prune on offer.  Hmmmm? Kiwi I can do.  Prune?  I guess with that flavor you get double your money’s worth.  Prunes are supposed to be a natural laxative so………let’s give it a try.  Come to think of it things were working out pretty good…uh nevermind. When it came time to replenish my stash  I went to a different supermarket hoping this trip would prove to be more fruitful (haha!).  Well all I found was plain.  I was more pleased with this option than prune and kiwi. Today, my third trip in search of Activia, proved to be interesting as far as flavors are concerned.  I saw plain and was a bit disappointed.  I was hoping for a blueberry or banana.  Then I saw walnut (wtf?) and thought plain sounds fantastic!  There was prune again and fig and something I couldn’t quite decipher-some type of cactus fruit?  Blech!  I reminded myself not to come back here for Activia.  I decided to give the refrigerator case one last look in hopes that I had missed something.  There shining like a beacon of hope at the very top I saw strawberry.  Cue the choir!

Imagine that in your yogurt! ouch!

Imagine that in your yogurt! ouch!

Crete

28 Jan

We made it to crete! We were up on the boat ALL night…..Amy picked us up with Pantelis (cab driver) so I guess that was our last ride in a normal car for awhile! Haha. Unlike our Athenian cab drivers he did not provide a personal fiscal report nor elaborate on his thoughts about the crisis. Thank god. 5am is just too damn early for all that!

Costas was up and at em at 7:00am waiting for us 😉 with a fire burning in the wood stove. Which is great because it really does a fabulous job of heating the house, only problem is the exhaust pipe thing doesn’t seem to be doing its job very well so it’s pretty smokey inside. I already feel like I’m camping. I smell like I’ve been out in the woods for days and I haven’t even been here an hour. I’m really glad i got that manicure before i left? We slept for a bit in our simply furnished room downstairs. We opted for the tighter quarters instead of the roomier suite upstairs with queen bed and private bath due to the installation of screens a few years back which render the glass part of the window useless in its inability to close. Besides I was worried that the open door policy of that room would signal an invitation to our four legged furry friends to come and join us and I just don’t think I’m ready for that yet. One thing at a time.

We met Amy for lunch at the neighboring taverna which appeared to be THE hot spot for Sunday lunch today. Every table packed with people and all kinds of delicious looking food! We paused to strategize where we would sit and how best to avoid all the cigarette smoke. Luckily we found a table tucked in a cozy corner next to a window I could open and close at my leisure. I couldn’t help but think this is what the great Buddha had in mind when he spoke of karma. “Retired heavyweight champion chain smoker forced to sit in enclosed space with reigning champion chain smokers as penance.” Well at least I have a shot at enlightenment now. Or would it be Nirvana? Anyway wrong country.

We sat at the table for some time before the waiter, who last time I saw him was literally working in his pjs, sweats and slippers walking around in the grass I kid you not! He cleared the table and we waited for what seemed like a really long time before the owner came out with a big beautiful salad! Yay! And then she made a bunch of scribbles on her pad and came back with a shitload of food which was on the house! Finally for dessert she brought out an oval shaped plate piled high with fried potatoes! My favorite! I love a country where dessert is homemade fries! The day we set sail for Crete we had a light lunch of spanakorizo (spinach rice, really trying to get that iron in!) and some bread and cheese. We had an early (by Greek standards) dinner (10pm) on the boat before pretending to get some shuteye during the night. After passing yet another sleepless night in transit there was nothing left for our bodies to do, especially mine, than get some sleep. When I woke, shortly before meeting Amy, I could feel the little nugget kicking away in my belly. Just flopping around like a happy little camper. Wheee!! I was daydreaming about a mini slip and slide in there. Well, I came to realize that what was really going on was little Zeus/Gypsydoodle was saying, and I quote because we already have that mother/child unspoken bond, “hey you asshole give me some food. I’m fucking starving down here!” I think she’s gonna take after me 😉

Well It is absolutely gorgeous here. Gorgeous.  The White Mountains can only be described as lush merengue peaks bursting out of rock and green hills. They are thickly blanketed in snow and so impressively huge. Down here at sea level it is what can only be described as an Irish shade of green! Ahem, mom! Halikouti (the dog) really looks healthier than I’ve seen him in the past. I suppose he’s decided to clean up his act and start eating like a normal dog, only 3 square meals of Eukaneuba for him these days. I guess someone made some New Years resolutions around here.

Our room is super cozy thanks to the space heater the neighbor lent us.  Her and her husband insisted we stay in one of their rooms-free of charge?-until we get settled in.  I don’t know about that, but I will take advantage of the hot water over there until I can get the situation over here figured out.

I have noticed quite a few flys buzzing about. Perhaps due to the warmer weather? Well there happens to be one lone wolf of a fly in our bedroom flying from one side of the room to the next. I feel like I’m watching a tennis game. Back and forth. Back and forth. This sucker ain’t going down without a fight. I think I’ll name it Venus. Maybe Serena. I mean it is a big and black!

Time for bed! Xoxoxo

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And the Beat Goes On…

25 Jan

Today we set out to accomplish two minor tasks.  We were bright eyed and bushy tailed quite early, 8:30 or so, had our morning coffee (not for me).  Took a shit (not for me). And decided we would set off for Hania to check out the private “fancy” hospital where I may bring mine and Dimitris spawn into this cruel lonely world. 😉
Not far down the road, we stopped at the picturesque village of Kavro.  Oh Kavro, bursting with pungent fragrance all summer long.  Oh Kavro, village whose song sings in the hearts of those tourists riding the little train. We needed gas and decided to get our car washed.  The car was looked somewhat abandoned, maybe no one washes their car in the winter?, but after a go around to every storefront we got our guy!  Just a simple inside out job on the old Opel corsa.  We were informed that it would take an hour to clean.  Ok, I guess. While your at it could you give it a wax too then, rotate the tires maybe.  We went and grabbed a beer (not for me) and had a few smokes (not for me).  Our waitress was flashing some heavy duty cleavage (not for me). I debated on asking her to be my wet nurse but decided against it.  She might be Albanian and, oh god what would people say!  Anyhoo about an hour later we went back to the car wash to retrieve our Ferrari from the groomer.  Still not ready.  We milled around in front of a little church that has the honor of being adjacent to the village garbage dump.  Hey I thought this was a nation of devout Christians?!  Well lucky for us it must’ve been pick up day cuz there was nothing in there.  I peeked around the corner to see where we were at at our little pit stop and I saw the guy pressure washing, page by page, a book I had left to mold in the car.  A fellow lover of literature I guess!  I appreciated the gesture but was secretly high fiving myself for not leaving the 800+ page Ken Follet tome  behind.  We would have been there till may!  Finally, after almost two hours, we set out for our intended destination, Hania. Mission: hospital.
Hospital was very nice and clean.  Therefore not terribly fun to write about.  I’ve decided I want to see the maternity ward at the hospital in Rethymno just to compare.  I wouldn’t be surprised if its tucked away somewhere in the basement in between cleaning supplies and bio hazardous waste.  Just kidding!
To be continued……

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Operating Instructions

25 Jan
I went house hunting with Amy last week.  We started out in Vrysses and meandered back into the hills behind the village into what was a charming, in the crumbly old stone stone sort of way, small village/hamlet.  The house there had excellent views of the mountains and surrrounding land, a swimming pool and nice vibe.  This would be Amy’s winning pick!
The next house was somewhere behind the hills of Giorgoupoli.  The owner met us outside, a tall thin man in his early 40’s who spoke pretty decent English.  He had converted his grandfathers country house into a more modernized version of what it had once been-not much.  There were some beds placed helter skelter, a giant loom dominating one corner of the second “bedroom”.  In case Amy wanted to weave a rug?  It was very haphazard looking.  Outside there was a small plot of land.   He proceeded to explain to Amy that  the 7 or so chickens that were pecking away at the grass were included in the price of rent and if she wanted to have fresh milk he would be willing to throw in a goat at no extra cost.  Hmmmm, I’m not sure that’s exactly what she had in mind but ok.  We putted around and up the mountains through light drizzles of rain and bursts of sun coming through the clouds to the cute village of Vamos.  The house was no great shakes but the garden was something out of The Hobbit.  It was brimming with lush green plants and bright pink and red geraniums.  A bed of clover covered the ground.  Buttercup flirted playfully with all the greenery adding splashes of yellow to the rich emerald carpet below.  It was very magical.  Our last stop brought us to a village called Maxeri (which I kept pronouncing like the word knife-haha this towns name is knife-but was informed otherwise)  perched high up on a sort of jagged edge of mountain at once both charming and frightening.  This little nook of a house also reminded me of The Hobbit and the ceilings were high enough only for a Hobbit to reside in comfortably.  I offered to take the wheel on the way back down so Amy might sight see.  Besides I was reminded of driving with my mother, which can be a terrifying experience especially in Greece, when you realize that you, the passenger, are the only one looking at the road.  Love you mom!  So Amy found her new house and she moves in on Friday!
Saturday night Dimitri and I went to the ubiquitous nameday celebration in honor of a few guys named Adonis.  Who ironically  do not resemble Adonis in the mythical sense.  We came into a cozy room with some people gathered around the tables picking at the meze in front of them.  I thought we might be late arriving at 10:30 instead of 9:30 when the party was set to begin.  Then I remembered that if you are 15 minutes late in Greece you are considered early!  Mom this is really your kind of place in that sense! (love youxx)  More people began to arrive and the party really took on a festive vibe.  Tucked in the corner was a man on the synthesizer who was playing what I can only describe as a Vegas style lounge act.  Was that a deliberate move to be ironic or was he seriously jamming out to that?  I guess we’ll never know.  Not long into the Vegas act a man with a lyre joined him and the party definitely took an upswing with the Greek tunes.  My favorite.  😉 Since it was pretty hard to have a conversation due to the music being so loud I took the time to make some observations of my surroundings.  There were about 30 or so people at this party, plus about another 10 in the front part of the restaurant which was about as big as the tiled section of Rockas, so not very big.  If I didnt know we were at a nameday celebration I would have thought we were at the National Smokers Association annual smoke out.  As long as Philip Morris has Greece their children will not go hungry.  Come to think of it I believe I saw ashtrays on the maternity ward at the hospital in Hania.  Right next to mommy’s bed!  I think i heard the nurse say to Dimitri that every baby you deliver here you get TWO FREE packs of cigarettes.  One for the mother and one for the baby.  Too bad I’m not having twins.
The party was well underway when some of the restaurants’ other patrons departed for home or other watering holes leaving the waitress to do her job.  She was a young girl in her early 20’s. Probably a student from Athens, since I have rarely seen a young Cretan working outside the home or family business.  I noticed her earlier chatting with a table of young lassies who were enjoying Greece’s national drink: ouzo. Blech!  At one point she pulled up a chair and engaged in conversation which i could not hear due to the music being as loud as it was, so it was kind of like watching a silent movie but with blaring Greek music on the background.  She had a water glass full of ouzo and proceeded to gulp it down like no big thing.  Just kidding-she did grimace pretty hard afterwards but definitely held it together for something as disgusting as ouzo.  She did it again not too long afterwards.  Bravo sister, a woman who can drink!  She stood and cleared away the tables surrounding her like a pro.  A wobbly pro but a pro none the less.  And it dawned on me.  Greeks have a special code in their DNA whereby they can carry a tray brimming with glasses, plates and all manner of detritus from a table (which for some reason tends to be a lot here) with such ease and skill just like a black guy has it in his DNA to be a very impressive athlete.  Too bad for the Greeks waiter-ing is not an olympic sport.  Or smoking for that matter!  Gold medals all around.
Amy's New House!

Amy’s New House!

Living Room at Amy's

Living Room at Amy’s

The land of the Gods

25 Jan

We made it!  I am up with jet lag…aaaarg.  I got into bed at 7:30, that was probably a mistake!  Oh well, I might have slept for a total of 45 mins on the first flight.  Flying coach without Xanax is such a bummer! And I might have slept about a total of 40 mins on the 2nd flight. All 200 lbs of our luggage, that we avoided having to pay extra for by the skin of our teeth, arrived in tact thank hey Zeus!  Golden rule of traveling?  Bring half the stuff and twice the money!
Our descent into Athens provided spectacular views!  The snow dusted mountain tops looming above lush green hills tumbling into the dark blue waters of the Aegean is really a sight to behold!  The sky was so clear and the sun singing its happy song, dancing off the water like thousands of tiny mirrors!  Little boats carved tracks through the oily water and I almost forgot its the middle of winter!
Finally back on solid ground after traveling for approximately 20 hours we exit the Athens airport and step into the thick stench of cigarette smoke.  That’s when you can be certain you’re in Greece!  There is not a soul milling about, except the taxi drivers tucked snugly in their bright yellow benzes, and still the air is permanently blanketed with the haze of the billions (could very well be trillions) of butts smoked in the last hour or two, could even be the last 20 minutes!  America is so clean and pure.  Our cabbie, being true to his trade,didn’t stop talking the whole time.  We learned how many fares he had that day, we were his 3rd so far, how he’s struggling to pay the rent and bills.  How he’d been at the airport since 11am, it was now 5, and had taken 3 naps in his car already.  i suppose one in between every fare. The crisis, the crisis, the crisis….some story about his uncle and an old lady.  There might have been a dog or small child involved in that stream of consciousness too.  I tuned him out as Athens unfolded in a swirl of tail lights and neon signs beside me.  So disorderly and jumbled together are all the buildings here.  There really seems to be no rhyme or reason to the zoning laws.  I have to say I’m quite impressed with the extent and skill of the graffiti in Athens.  Despite what law official have been saying for decades, I think it really adds a nice touch to the decaying and abandoned concrete behemoths that seem to be on every corner.  Besides I always get a kick out of seeing the word skata in extra large letters whirl past me when I’m in the car.  It’s like that guy wanted to contribute too but was having some kind of creative block, or lost the rest of his graffiti palette and was left only with black and the idea that that word might solve his or anyone else’s problems.  Skata. It turns up a lot as a matter of fact.  Think it’s the same guy?
We were deposited at a busy corner near dimitris childhood home.  People on their way home from work doing their best to ignore traffic lights and pedestrians. Bundled up in their winter coats and hats, at one point on the ride to the house a guy walked out of a store with a brand new set of skis, the kind one uses on snow.  Wait, what!  I guess he’s an anomaly because the only sports I’ve ever seen Greeks participate in is smoking and tavli!  Eating whole animals and gulping wine could be in there too I suppose. Wait maybe that’s just the Cretans.  We lugged all our stuff up the stairs and sat down to a simple but delicious meal of fasolakia with potatoes casually floating in a pool of oil.  Hey I forgot those guys could swim!  So now it’s almost 3am here, gonna try and get some more z’s.Image