Saturday, October 8, 2011

Slices of Life in Greece


We went out for lunch the other day and to my delight, the menu included cheeseburgers. Mine came and it looked just like a standard American burger – but it was heavily dosed with oregano.

I like oregano; it’s just that I’m sick of it. I want something, anything, that is minus oregano.

Once when we were newlyweds and Demetrios was cooking something, he rummaged around the kitchen cabinet and grumbled, “Well, you have every spice imaginable but you have let yourself run out of the most important one.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Oregano, of course!”

Of course. Now I know. (I did have some, but it was in a big jar and he was looking for a little one.)

Nikoletta, at the grocery store, let me sniff her oregano, which she said I must buy before leaving and take back to America. She gathered it from the mountains, where it was growing wild, and she crushed it with her own hands into tiny flakes. I have to admit, it was the most fragrant oregano that ever delighted my nose.

City Services

Maybe it was a sanitation workers’ strike, or maybe there just isn’t enough money these days to collect the garbage as often as it needs doing. I don’t know, but the garbage piled up around here for several days. Thank heaven it isn’t August! At last, the noisiest truck in the whole world came to our corner and it took the workers 15 minutes to load up all our neighborhood’s garbage. They emptied the three huge dumpsters and then refilled them several times with the plastic sacks of garbage that had been put nearby. Other corners are much less tidy; the City as a whole looks terrible, although thanks to plastic bags, doesn't particularly smell bad.

This morning (Saturday, the 8th), we woke up to no running water. Zisis, our building’s Usually Wise and Mostly Fearless Leader, told us the entire city was without water!

Do you realize how many things you can’t do without running water? You can’t brush your teeth or flush the toilet or wash your hands. Unless you have bottled water (which we have), you cannot have a cup of coffee or tea, cannot boil an egg. My whole morning’s plans were shot. I had intended to shower, then do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, wet mop all the floors.

Down on the ground floor, in the water-meter room, there was water available from the tap, although we don’t understand why. So we went down there and got two buckets full, just for some basics.

Fortunately, the water came back on by noon.

For the Birds!

What I was thinking, at first, was, “Who needs caged birds? We can have wild ones, doves and sparrows, any time we like. All we have to do is appear on the balcony and they all come.”

I still think that, but there’s a downside, too. Every single time you step out on the balcony, or even poke your head through a window, they come and land right in front of you and silently (or not so silently) beg for food.

If you haven’t set out their breakfast by about 8:00 or so in the morning, they come and the sparrows utter their loudest call and start pecking at the balcony floor, so many, and in such quick succession, that it sounds like rain. The doves just walk along the balcony rail, which is metal, so their claws click-click along.

The male dove has begun to behave badly. He chases his mate away from the food, won’t let her have any at all. He never chases the sparrows, perhaps thinking they are too small to bother with, although collectively they eat more than the female dove. But he chases her relentlessly.

Well, she and I have outwitted him. We put her food in a separate place at the other end of the balcony and around the corner (for ours is a corner flat) from where we feed him. That way he can’t see her. She, meanwhile, has learned not to approach when he does, but to wait until she sees me put out her food in her special place. Then she sneaks in and eats it all before her abusive but distracted hubby notices.

When he does come anywhere near “her” area, I chase him away, so he is learning not to. (I have learned to tell them apart by a slight variation in their tail feathers.)

In fairness I should say we do not actually know the gender of either dove; we are making assumptions.

It’s a wonderful, but also weird, feeling to realize you are under constant surveillance by half the birds in the neighborhood. (The other half being mostly the ravens, hooded crows, magpies.)

Greek Affairs

* Now it has been revealed that the cabinet ministers have, on average, a hundred paid advisors each. The Vice Prime Minister, who bears the venerable name of Venizelos, a fat man with a reputation for demanding sexual favors from employees, has 130. To do what? He doesn’t even have a specific job description. He doesn’t actually do anything, except be there in case anything happens to the Prime Minister. And fatten the wallets of friends and family who serve as his advisors. Here is one part of the budget that has not been cut.

Rich people’s money never gets cut; it’s all the rest of the people from whom the money is extorted. It’s most instructive to observe how one can live in a total tyranny, the people helpless to do anything about it, and all under the guise of a (nominal) democracy. I suppose that shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering that even in the Soviet Union, one could vote. Yes, the people could vote for Comrade A or Comrade B and it made not a particle of difference. Thing One or Thing Two. Tweedle-dee or Tweedle-dum. And of course China’s full name is what? The Peoples’ Republic of China.

*The government tax on meals eaten outside the home is now 23%, and will go up in each of the coming three to five years.

And every taxpayer now has to save every single receipt he ever receives for anything, and turn them all in with his tax forms. Who reads all those receipts? And are they paid to read them? And what for? Is the government really all that interested in your every single purchase? But you pay less tax, the more receipts you turn in, so people do it.

We are going to save all receipts for Christos.

*Oh, and by the way, when you are told the Greek debt is a higher proportion of the gross domestic product than other countries’ debts are, that’s a misrepresentation, because the Greek debt is calculated differently, in fact, uniquely. It includes a lot of things that aren’t included in reckoning the debts of, say, Italy, Spain, Ireland, or Portugal. No, Greece is being singled out for some other reason.

*We have a friend who, although he is Greek (and Orthodox) grew up in Egypt, so he speaks fluent Arabic. He has a Palestinian friend. Once in a while, they telephone each other. They speak in Arabic and, as a prank, they make sure to include in their conversation all sorts of “triggers”, words like “bin Laden” and “Kaddafi” and phrases such as, “Do not say anything to Omar about our plan until it is ready for implementation,” and so forth.

Of course such a call must be monitored by the government. They get a kick out of that.

Well, so do I. Except it could prove dangerous one day.


Written with spray paint on a building near us:

There is no meaning in life
Unless you are a PAOK supporter.

Had I written the slogan, I’d have changed it to, “Unless you eat chocolate,” but never mind. PAOK is Thessaloniki’s soccer team.

When you can hear every TV for a block away (That’s hundreds of ‘em.) and they’re all on the same channel, you know a soccer game is on. When you hear cheers erupting from all round, you know our team has scored. When the cheer becomes a roar, coming from everywhere, from the park below, from the taverna across the street, from the Drunken Duck next door (especially), and when boys run shrieking through the streets, you know the game’s over and we won.


Anam Cara said...

I have been wondering what you are experiencing in Greece as opposed to what we hear in the news. I am finding these posts MOST interesting.

How much longer will you stay?

The weather here has been wonderful with a touch of Indian summer in Northern Virginia this weekend. We have the first tree beginning to turn red on our street. Everything else is still green. And thanks to all the recent rain, the lawns are amazing!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

We'll start home Nov. 14. We are having autumn weather now, but with nice warm, sunny still abundant.

Thanks for your interest.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Correction: the Vice Premier is not Mr. Venizelous; it's a man named Panggelos.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Correction: the Vice Premier is not Mr. Venizelous; it's a man named Panggelos.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Mr. Venizelous is the Finance Minister.

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