Thursday, September 26, 2013

Another Outstanding Post from a Lutheran Blogger

Anne has done her research, as always, about that word usually translated "propitiation", and has set forth the correct understanding.  It's important because misunderstanding it has been known to wreak all sorts of theological havoc.  Check it out!

Taking a break in Stavros, Part 03

Here are some more photos from our trip, last week, to Stavros.  We are home now, and having all our floors re-done (except the kitchen floor, which comes next year, we hope).

Around town.

Old and new (satellite dishes)

A walk at sunset

 Can you see how, unfortunately, the swimming beaches are too close to the small port with the cargo ships?

Cargo ships

Small fishing boats.  The fishermen go out a way, shine a gas light into the water, and net the fish the light attracts.  The fishermen weren't going out for several days while we were there, on account of the full  moon.

The mountains feel close enough to touch.

On the right, Demetrios, flanked by out host and hostess, Leonidas and Ianna.  On the left, an old high school chum, Takis, with his wife Maria.

View from our table.


Leonidas, with his favorite picture.  It lights up and the water seems to flow.  It also has sound effects, flowing water and chirping birds.  Ianna won't have it in the house, so it stays on the front porch.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Taking a Break in Stavros, Part 2

After we had a look around his farm, Ioannis brought us cold water and cookies, plus a bunch of grapes.  The grapes are ripe now, and so is the pomegranate and the quince.  We sat under a huge tent behind his house, at a table where he told us 30 people had sat this past Pascha.  

Painted gourds in Ioannis' tent.

We made ready to go and Ioannis slipped into the henhouse and sent us away with a dozen eggs.

Next to be visited was Leonidas' sister, Soula.  We found her raking in her garden, a large, yellow apron over her widow's black.  She greeted us warmly, removed her apron, and led us into her little apartment, on the ground floor.

I had in mind, as I took these photos, giving you a sneak peek at her home, as well.  That's her bedroom, behind Leonidas.

As always,  I greatly admired her handiwork.  That tablecloth on the coffee table is hand-embroidered and  trimmed with crochet.  Here is a crocheted doily I have admired for years. I once spent quite a while trying, unsuccessfully, to "translate" the pattern into knitting.  I suppose I'll just have to crochet it some day.  It's hexagonal pinwheels, as you can see by looking at the edges.

This one she swears was knitted on pins, and by 'pins' she does not mean knitting needles, as the English do.  She means those things you use to pin up a hem!  Straight pins, we call them in America.  She showed them to me.  Yikes!

We told stories and jokes and she made us take home little bottles of her homemade liqueur in two flavors:  wild cherry, made with brandy, cloves, and cinnamon; and tangerine, made with ouzo, if I understood her correctly.  Haven't yet tasted that, but the cherry is wonderful.  Years ago, Soula's wild cherry liqueur was the first I had ever tasted, and I've never since had any better.

We then went home with all our treasures, for a midday meal and a nap.  In the evening, we went for a snack supper in the village and were joined by Leonidas' sister, Freedom.  More on that in the next post.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Taking a Break in Stavros

Stavros is a seaside tourist town.  Holiday-makers come here by bus from places like Serbia or Lithuania or Czechoslovakia and rent rooms by the week.  The scenery is gorgeous and besides the main attractions, the sun and the clear, warm sea, there are cheap eateries, kiddie rides, and beachwear or souvenir shops.

Our friends, ianna and Leonidas, have a holiday home here in his hometown.  So the invited us to come Thursday and Friday.  

Today, Friday, we went to visit two of Leonidas' dozen siblings, starting with Ioannis, on his little ramshackle farm.

Here, chickens find shade.

Juvenile geese

Ioannis, with tomatoes behind him.

Bull calf, 100 days old today.  I asked how much longer before he becomes dangerous, and Ioannis scoffed.  He will always stay tame, Ioannis says, so long as you interact with him every day.

The calf's mother.  When I asked why the beaded necklace, Ioannis looked abashed and admitted it was to ward off the evil eye.  I'm sure he knows that's superstitious and wrong, but his attitude is, why take chances?  She's giving lots of milk now, and he wouldn't want anything to happen to change that.

Grape arbor.

More about today later!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Monday, 16 September

To the supermarket today with a longish list.  Until now, we've only had bread, water, and fruit in the house.  The supermarket is about half a mile away, so there and back makes my main walk for today.

Most of the stores between here and there are closed now; among the casualties,  our dry-cleaners and the green grocer across the street from us.  There are whole blocks of empty shops.  Our neighborhood, once bright, thriving and decidedly middle class, is gradually becoming gray and listless and, well, a bit slummy.

Back to near the supermarket in the afternoon, to an open green grocer for veggies and fruit.  That makes close to 2 miles of walking for today, just to procure food for a few days.  If the stores near us keep closing, we shall soon be unable to live here without a car.

New license plates on cars have the EU logo on them, with the letters GR below it.  

The television channels are mostly back, after the tumultuous closing of the sate-run  media earlier this year, although channels 1-4 are all the same.  We once again have the BBC and Deutsche Welle.  Most of the other programs also seem to be in various foreign languages, from Spanish to Turkish, with Greek subtitles.  

In short, Greece, as we had known it, is rapidly disappearing.  

Makes me think twice about renovating this place, and we still need to refinish the wood floors and paint the inside.  I think  maybe after that we'll stop, deferring the replacement of numerous pieces of junk furniture until we see brighter days ahead, if we ever do.  

The doves and the sparrows have realized we are at home; at breakfast this morning we found them waiting for us to feed them.  THAT, at least, hasn't changed.

I miss having pets and/or  nursing wild orphans.  I told Demetrios the next cat I get, when we are too old to travel, is going to be a Turkish Angora, which I explained meant long-haired,  pure white, two blue eyes, and hearing.  (Many of the blue-eyed are deaf, and many Angoras have non-matching eyes, much prized in that breed.)  "Oh,  no, so boring!" was his response.  "Now THIS cat" - pointing to a calico on the street - "is gorgeous and interesting to look at."  And so she was (and spayed, too, as we saw from her clipped ear), but I miss my Snow White, from when I was a child, and especially Frosty, her kitten, and I want them both back.  (With Angoras, you definitely want two, as they are very active and always wanting to play.)

Now it's time to catch up on some of the housework that, because of my broken foot, was not done thoroughly when we left here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sunday, 15 September

Today was the last day of the annual International Fair.  We decided it was time, after all these years of missing it, to go today.  It is, of course,  mostly a display of the latest in technology, from computers to caravans (RVs) to cars, a Volkswagen that runs on natural gas and a BMW that runs on hydrogen ( in both cases, supplemented by gasoline).  This year there was a big emphasis on heating systems.  Here is my favorite, a fireplace that can be installed in virtually any house.  What I especially like about it is, it shows that fireplaces can come in almost any shape!

There were balloons and fast foods; there was a miniature train you could ride on, and here (if I can get it to load) is a video of some aerial acrobatics.

The pavilions are no longer set up by country, as there is to be only one country now, the EU.  They are set up by the category of exhibits instead.   Demetrios says he remembers the Fair having beautiful, stylish buildings.  Now they are rather cheap and dingy.

Demetrios says I walk like an old lady (which is sometimes true) and I simply, absolutely, must start walking a long distance every day to get back into shape or else.  Or else what?  Or else I am going to have severe problems a short while down the road.  Okay.  This was the start, a whole afternoon, even though I sat about half the time; that still makes two and a half hours of walking.  I still say it's arthritis, not weakness, that's my problem, but perhaps he's right.  I hope so.

We arrived home from the Fair around 5:30 or 6:00, and I spent the rest of the evening lying down.  Not a good idea, as I slept poorly during the night.

We really do have to keep going, even when our feet (and legs and back) hurt with every step.  Even when we think we would far rather just sit out the rest of our lives, we must force ourselves to keep going, keep moving, stay active.  I'm truthfully not sure WHY we must, but that's what everybody says, and I have to assume their collective judgment is better than mine.

Here are some books being sold at the fair.  How many can you identify?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Saturday, 14 September

We went to church this morning for the Feast of the Elevation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross.  (Did you know Catholics observe it, too?  And on the same day, yet.)  

I couldn't stay long.  There were no seats by the time we arrived; even the staircases leading to the wrap-around balcony were full of people sitting on the steps.  My back began to hurt after 30 minutes, and my feet, too, in the same new shoes I last wore the day I broke my foot.  But the last straw was that after the church was already packed, hundreds more people arrived; I know because I was standing in the narthex.  And they were still streaming in when my claustrophobia got the better of me.  Hard to feel claustrophobic, you would think, in a church designed to hold 1500 people comfortably; but pack more and more of them in so tightly you are re-breathing the same air as 10 others around you and see what happens.   I fought my way to Demetrios to tell him, and then fought may way back out.  A few people were still coming.  I am overjoyed to see the churches here so crammed without it even being a Sunday, but I either have to find a church that isn't, or else have to arrive early enough to sit in the front row, where, by keeping my eyes resolutely forward, I can be blissfully unaware of the crowds and feel I can breathe.

Last year when we came from England to Greece, it felt like emerging into the long-lost sunshine; it was glorious.  This year,   I could count on the fingers of one hand how many days it rained while we were in England (not counting when it rained only at night).  We have been extremely fortunate to have been in good weather since early Spring.  Today is one of the very best, perfect in every way except in not lasting forever and ever.

We had fresh basil today.  There is a legend among the Greeks that basil grew at the foot of the Cross, that some of the Sacred Blood dripped upon it, and that this is why the plant is called basil, which means King.  So on the feast of the Cross, (which paradoxically is a day of strict fasting), people here bring sprigs of basil to church as an offering  and the priest distributes it after the services.  In the afternoon, we had sliced tomatoes with vinegar and salt, and sprinkled with some of the fresh basil, aromatic and sweet as perfume.  To that we added fresh bread from the bakery and, for dessert, grapes, my favorite fruit, and fresh figs, Demetrios' favorite if you don't count tomatoes.  We felt we were feasting instead of fasting!  ('Strict fasting', in case you aren't familiar with the Orthodox usage,  means you can eat a little, but you abstain from animal products of any kind, from oil, from alcohol, and from sex.)

Christos, my bother-in-law, has held his own, health-wise, since we left; Demetrios says he may even be somewhat better.  His daughter Vickie, who lives in Venice, was here visiting until yesterday and Christos says she took very good care of him.

Christos has provided us with a brand new mobile phone.  I think "we" have lost more in these past 5 years than most people own in 10.  Well, we do still have two in England, for sure; we just didn't leave enough time to find them before we had to go.  Although we intended to, we never did have them fitted with English SIM cards, so we never used them there.  Demetrios, when he does have one, complains that it is the end of his freedom.  "The twenty-first century version of the leash," his godson, James, quipped.

In the evening, we went with Mena to a little refreshments place on the water's edge and sipped cold juice, watching the moon rise over the bay and the sailboats in the marina, perfectly motionless in the still sea.

Friday the 13th of September

We have arrived in Greece after a somewhat adventurous trip, as befits the day.  We landed in Athens to take the train to Thessaloniki.  We were tired, having arisen more than twelve hours before (3:30 a.m.).  Finding our seats involved trekking through 3 cars, with hand luggage, trying to guide it down the narrow aisles without running over anybody's toes.  All this required a lot of maneuvering and squeezing past other passengers, and, well, you just cannot pay attention to absolutely everything, and  in the process, a pickpocket relieved Demetrios of his wallet. 

Demetrios, alarm spreading over his face,  noticed it as soon as he had sat down.  The train was to depart in 5 minutes, but he had to go back inside the station to inquire.  The two minute warning was announced and he wasn't back.  I began to panic, debating wether to grab out lugage and get off the train, or to go on without him and wait for him to catch up.  (In a calmer state of mind, I can see the latter choice would have been disastrous; a person sans wallet is well and truly stranded.)  But he did make it back at the very last moment.  

We spent half an hour evaluating the situation.  One good thing was that his cash, though only a small amount, had been in another pocket.  I was holding most of it.  His passport had been in yet another pocket.  

The driver's license is easily replaced; ditto the Social Security card (but now somebody had that number) and the Medicare card.  It was just the credit card and two debit cards to worry about.  "But to use the debit cards, a person will have to know the PIN," I said.  Oh, but he, disregarding the warnings that come with the PIN numbers, had written them down on a slip of paper he kept in his wallet.  They were unlabeled, but not all that hard to figure out.  !  

The thing to do, obviously, was to call the bank in America and the other bank in England and report the cards stolen, but (another long story) we didn't have with us any of our three mobile phones.  Demetrios had the idea to ask some fellow passenger to use his phone, and offer to pay the person.  

So that's what we did.  The young Greek couple across the aisle from us were very kind and told us a thief, a Polish man, had been caught in Car 5.  They had been there and seen it.  Car 5 was where we had entered the train.  So the young couple went back there to make inquiries on our behalf.  (I think they assumed, from Demetrios' American accent, that he might not speak very good Greek.)  No luck; the thief had been detained by the security officers, but then released.

They let us use their iPhone and half an hour later, both banks had cancelled Demetrios' cards and had told us nobody had attempted to use any of them.

So the consolation is, we aren't out a singe cent.  And the bigger matter is, we met a terrific young couple, with whom we exchanged contact information.  (Somebody in England recently observed that older people need to make friends with people of all ages NOW, so the young friends will be close and old friends by the time our contemporaries die off.)

Demetrios, in the aisle seat, fell to talking with them, and very soon the topic became politics (what else?).  After about an hour of this, I had to stand up to stretch my legs, and after I had stood fifteen minutes at the end of the car observing everybody, I came back and whispered to the other three, "In case it matters to you, you have a very large audience."  

Over next three hours, one or two people would join the conversation, get off at their stop, to be replaced by another one or two moving into their seats and joining.  Others only ever listened, but by the time we arrived in Thessaloniki, no fewer than ten or twelve people, besides the original 3,  had thanked Demetrios as they departed.  "I feel inspired now," and "I cannot thank you enough for your words," were the sorts of things they all said.

"What on earth did you say?" I asked as we arrived.

"I told them to be proud of being Greek.  They said we need a leader, and I said keep discussing it, keep praying about it, and a leader will arise from among you.  They felt we were already defeated and I said the fight is not over until the last one of us stops fighting.  That sort of thing."

He is still upset about losing his wallet.  He says he feels somehow responsible, as if he had failed.  I reminded him of the magicians who bring people on stage from the audience and remove their wallets, watches, rings, and whatever else without their victims - or the audience - being aware of any of it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Probable Explanation (of Previous Post)

Today I passed by "the scene of the crime" and discovered what the "white stuff" was:  stones painted white on either side of the sidewalk/footpath just there.  So, not debris but decoration.

This evening we visited James, 32, and Kim, 26,  told them the story, and asked their opinion of what might have happened.  We thought they might have a better idea than we about their peers' behavior, and they did.  The soundness of a theory is measured by how many of the data it explains and as this theory neatly explains it all, I pass it on to you.

The young man and the young woman would have been out drinking on the Saturday night.  He would have been showing off for the girl by driving too fast on the way home and would have missed the s-curve right there and have hit the curb. Hence, no shattering glass or sound of smashed metal, just the too-rapid deceleration without any squealing of tires and the very loud, dull thud.  

The young woman would have been furious and have started screaming at the drunk driver.  Women are never impressed by speeding, regarding such showing off as childish, and James and Kim tell us that the local women, when drunk, are extraordinarily obnoxious anyway.  

The young man would have panicked and have run to his father, the older man I first met, who must live very near us.  A bit later, he ran to his dad again to be sure the police were not coming.  This is why his dad had not called them, and why my involvement was unwelcome.  

The car probably belonged to the father, which would explain why he then went to have a look at the damage and was so upset, and why he had the key.  

Meanwhile, the young man and woman were walking home to his parents' house.

In the end, one of them simply summoned a tow truck so that by dawn there was no sign of any accident and the car's two drunken occupants were safely away from the scene and sleeping it off.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Strange Doings in the Wee Hours

It was about 1:15 a.m. and I was still reading a book a kind friend had lent me, when I heard a passing car decelerate from what sounded like 70 mph to zero in about ten seconds, the slowdown ending in a loud thud.  There was no sound of shattering glass or of anything metallic, just a dull sound like someone falling out of bed, but amplified many times.  

Still dressed, I debated whether I ought to go out into the chilly night and see if I might be of any help.  A couple of moments later, a woman began screaming.  Screaming words,  I mean, sentences.    That decided me.  Maybe she needed comforting or medical help or just a warm room and a hot cuppa.  I pulled on a cardigan and slipped out quietly, not to wake up Demetrios unless his services might be needed.  

Outside,  a man was standing on the corner sidewalk.  "Did you hear  a woman screaming?" I asked, supposing wrongly that this must have been what had brought him out at such an hour.

"Well, ah, I did, yes," he replied.

"I thought I also heard a car crash," I told him, thinking I might enlist his help.  (Experience has taught me I'm rather a coward at looking in the windows of crashed cars.)

"No doubt the night air exaggerates sounds," said he, stiffly.  "Don't worry about it."

"Right."  I kept walking toward the next corner, from around which the sound had come.

"I said don't worry about it!" he called after me.

"Okay," I said, still walking fast. "No worry."

Now came a younger man, running as fast as I've ever seen anyone run, and asked the first man, "Are the police here?  Have the police come?"  The first man said no, twice.  

The younger man then began sprinting back toward where the car must be.  I ran after him. "What has happened?" I cried out.

He ignored me.

"Do you need any help?"

He just kept running.

He was standing near the car when I rounded the corner.  He had the passenger door open and was looking inside, frantically.

Large pieces of white debris were strewn on the sidewalk behind the car.  Or at least I took them for debris, but I was keeping my distance.

The man slammed the car door shut and began walking back to where he and I had both come from.

Now the first man approached the car and jerked the front passenger door open.  "Oh, great!" he groaned.  He just looked for a few more moments, then took something out of the car and hurled it onto the sidewalk.  This he repeated twice.  I didn't hear any of the three items  break.  

Still hanging back from the scene because of his fury, I nevertheless asked, "Do you need a doctor?" 

"NO!"  And the lights of the car flashed as he locked it with his key fob.

I decided to get out of there as fast as I could walk.  (I refused to run.)

As I rounded the corner, I caught sight of the young sprinter a hundred feet ahead, walking rapidly away, his arm around the shoulder of the young woman. She was dressed up for a night on the town and by now was only whimpering.    He was trying to calm her.  (Where had she been hiding, silently,  all this while?)

I ducked around the hedge that encircles our apartment block and locked myself inside the building as quickly as I could.

No longer sleepy, I stayed  up another little while, long enough to hear the characteristic beep-beep a tow truck makes when backing up.  I said one more prayer for them and went to bed.

It sounds like something your creative writing teacher would tell the class to use as the starting point for a short story, doesn't  it? 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Finished object

Finished bit of knitting.  It's a Liver (rhymes with "diver") Bird, symbol of Liverpool and in particular of the Liverpool Football Club.  That's soccer for Americans.  It's just a hotpad or table decoration.  Gave it to James, Demetrios' godson, an enthusiastic Liverpool supporter.

I decided to make it double-sided.

Did You Know You Can Probably View Your School Yearbooks Online?

Ah, memories!  These are from Meredith,  a women's college in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I was far more interested in the Civil Rights Movement, protesting the Vietnam war, and a certain charismatic man than in studying.  The result was, I married him and did not complete college until quite a few years later.

Poor Dr. Cooper, seated, my organ teacher, had the shock of hearing me say I did not like Bach!  Scandalized, he undertook to correct that, and succeeded, for which I am most grateful.

Nurses Edna Hurst and Lucy Saunders, with whom some of us freshmen had to live, in the infirmary, until places became available in the dorm.

  The formidable English faculty.   I was in Dr. Knight's class.  Her motto was, "Do not learn that you may earn, but earn that you may (afford to) learn (all your life)."  She shared a home with the equally formidable Dr. Rose.  Dr. Johnson, the elderly one, was legendary.

Dr. McLain taught me to think.

Probably the best-known of my classmates.  I remember her as a gracious and kind girl.