its all greek to me – and what happened to my blog?

My blog control panel is all in greek!
Ok, I can read greek, but really? I’m not THAT good at reading it. Its bad enough all instructions are in greek, but mobile phones, computers… UGH!
So, I’m in Athens. Back in our family home. Its funny. So much has changed and so little has changed. Athens is still the big busy full-on city I remember but the smog problem seems to have improved since I was here the last couple of times. My brother Peter (or Petro as he prefers to be called) says its cause there are more new cars on the road than old ones, less emissions. And they have made an effort to improve things. Plus there are less cars on the roads that there were when he left here over a year ago.
He says sure, some people are on holiday, but since the economic crisis a lot of people have left Athens to live elsewhere or have sold their cars cause they can no longer afford to run them. To me the parking and chaos on the roads is still bad… when there are millions of cars in a city and 10,000 are missing its hard to tell the difference unless you live here!
Everyone agrees that I’ve gained weight. Its official. I’m fat but my mother still loves me. She cooked fish soup for my first meal in Greece – I love my mom’s fish soup!
Petro, Mom and Theia Xeni eating dinner on our verandah in Athens.
 
She’s also has been making ‘horta’ (greens to you english speaking people), which I love as well. Ok, those she made for her darling son. Its his favourite dish. I knew I was 2nd in line of importance when she made a greek salad and put onions in it and I had to pick out the bits of tomato which hadn’t come into contact with them. I hate onions!
Hey, what do they call a greek salad in Greece?
Salad.
haha.
On a more serious note, things are pretty bad here but the greek people are pretty resilient. It seems like 3 in every 5 shops are boarded up. The optimists have ‘for rent’ signs in their windows. Those that have given up hope aren’t even trying to rent them. No one’s interested in renting a shop when there’s very little business. 
Graffiti on a church in our neighbourhood says “Thank money we have God”.
One other thing I’ve noticed is the amount of graffiti seems to have multiplied by a million or so. So too the iron bars on windows and doors. Theft is rampant in this new economic environment. Old ladies are robbed when they go to get their pension, are afraid to take elevators cause they get mugged in them, etc. Lovely. One of my aunts had her necklace ripped off her neck when she was walking in the street a year ago. Athens is no longer the safe place I used to live in.
Apparenlty (according to my sources here in Athens – don’t I sound official?) Greece is the dumping ground for illegal immigrants from all over Europe. Australia complains about boat people but compared to here we have no problem there. Here the borders are so much easier to get through. There are hundreds of small islands and no enough coast guard to guard them. Boats come from Turkey, cross into greek waters then SOS and the greek taxi service (aka Greek Coast Guard) goes to pick them up and bring them over safely. There are (or were) no controls here and there are millions of illegals in Athens. And I’m told, there are new laws in the EU that when an illegal is caught they are returned to the country through with they entered… not the country from which they came.
Welcome to Greece. We were expecting you.
Julia eat your heart out.
Oh, and that reminds me. Last time I left Australia for a holiday in Greece Julia ousted Kevin. Yesterday I heard Kevin ousted Julia.
I can’t even leave the country for a couple of days and it all goes haywire? Sheesh.
I even got a personal email from Kevin this morning. Yep. Addressed to me and everything. Apparently Kev and I are buddies!
This morning Petro, Mom and I all had errands to do. Mom had to go to the IKA (I suppose its like Centrelink in Australia since they regulate pensions). She received her pension the other day and it was HALF of what she normally gets. She went in today to find out whats going on. She was told that IF she’s eligible to get the full amount (IF SHE’S ELIGIBLE??)  she’ll have to wait till September or October to get the rest. 

O. C. T. O. B. E. R.

That’s four months away. She gets 400 euro to live on till then. Hopefully she has no bills to pay between now and then and she isn’t partial to eating.
Now, you tell me. The whole world gets the story of how the greeks are all crooks and they all stole all this money and they deserve the austerity measures and they’re hooligans cause they demonstrate and riot and generally make pests of themselves since its so obviously their own fault they’re in such dire circumstances…
That’s the stuff I hear in Australia.
I hear a totally different story here in Greece. That the banks were going bankrupt and that they made the banks debts into the people’s debts in order to save the banks. That everyone in Greece has a debt on his head, every newborn baby acquires a debt of 40,000 euros with its first breath. 
I don’t know whats true and what isn’t and I’m the last person to claim to know anything about politics – so please abuse me if I have ‘the facts’ wrong. I know that a ton of money was stolen from greek pension funds. Cause there’s no money to pay people now. A friend of ours “went on the pension” over 14 months ago and has yet to receive a cent of his pension money.’ Cause there’s no money so they delay paying new pensions as long as possible. 
They may get lucky. Some of them might die before they get a cent.
Who stole the money and where did it go? Well, I think its called graft (?)… I’m in government and I want to build a road. Instead of going for the best quote I’ll give the contract to a co-conspirator who’ll inflate the costs and then we’ll split the money and, naturally, bank it outside Greece where its safe.
The rich can afford to bank outside Greece and not pay taxes.
Its always the little guys who suffer, like my mother who only has a single pension to live on or my friend who is still waiting for his pension to come through.
If Australia decided to cut the pension I’d bet we’d see riots and demonstrations there as well.
Just imagine if they cut the dole!
I don’t even want to contemplate that! It’d be real ugly.
As I said, I hear all kinds of things, I don’t know whats fact and what’s rumour. All I’m telling you is what I see happening to the people I care about.
But I digress. I was going to tell you about my own errand. I’m a non-greek resident and thus have to have to be registered as such or I’ll inherit a debt to pay off even if I don’t live or work here. Turns out I’m lucky, Petro had registered me as a non-greek resident a few years ago. I still have to get some registration number or whatever, so Petro and I went to the taxation office to sort it out this morning.
There were on strike.
Naturally. 
Till next Monday.
A guy there who was caught out like us said “So will you be open on Monday or will you continue the strike, then have Tuesday off ’cause its the day before Wednesday, then close on Wednesday cause its mid-week….” 
Obviously the beaurocracy here hasn’t improved with the times.
Petro says Greece, of course, gave the light of civilization to the world. 
The problem is they forgot to take it back.
Anyway, I’m sitting here on the verandah, the breeze is getting cooler and I’m very grateful cause in a little while I’ll be braving the public transport system and taking a bus (done that before) and the metro (never been on it!) to go see some old school friends and cousins who live somewhere far away from here.
It’ll be a new experience.
z

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