do you mind if I eat while you smoke?

Everyone smokes just about everywhere here. You go out and come home smelling like you’ve been smoked, and not in the good way. (That was a trick statement. There is no good way.)

On the positive side, you do get used to it. When I first got here I couldn’t sleep in the same room with my clothes. I had to hang them outside to air. Now I barely notice it any more. Then again, walking on windswept streets to get home might blast off the worst of it… Who knows.

So, what’s new?

Well, I have two very interesting leads on jobs. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

My stuff is probably on Greek soil but in the hands of customs right now. I haven’t yet got an estimated delivery date. Or the bill. Cause you can bet there’ll be a bill even though there is nothing new in there.

sigh…

I woke up with a sore throat yesterday and its progressed nicely into swollen glands, headache and the occasional chill. I’m actually impressed it took this long for my old friends cold and flu to catch up with me!

I’ve met some great people (mostly women) who I hang out with. My social life has quadrupled since I moved here. Too much really, as I’m not working. Creative work. I’m doing bits and pieces, but nothing serious. My excuse has been that my stuff isn’t here… but we all know that’s just an excuse. I can make anything from anything. I’ve just been lazy.

I had some embroidery thread, some cotton rope and I needed a basket. The solution was obvious.

I bought some paint supplies in Athens, I picked up fabric offcuts, rocks are free on the beach…

My first rock painting (this time around). An eastern quoll. Cause it was cute.

I’ve also successfully managed to avoid joining the gym for 3 weeks. Firstly it was cause I would be going back to Athens to sort out my stuff. Then I kept having chores to do. Like visiting government agencies, real estate agents, looking at houses, moving from one place to another, stopping for coffee, you get the drift.

I have a lead on a couple of possible houses. More like apartments in complexes. Its so hard to find a place which is suitable for me and my hobbies… in my price range which is pitifully low. So I’m looking at all kinds of places thinking ‘would this work for me?’

I really want my own place, to do up as I like, to work in and live in… and to get another poodle!!!! I miss my dogs…

I have somewhere to stay till I find my own place, but prices ain’t gonna go down. I can’t say the same about my funds, which dwindle weekly.

Life is so expensive here. Some stuff is two or three times more expensive than Australia.

Then other stuff is very cheap. Fresh greek bread is cheap and delicious for instance.

But internet and phones are not cheap. And the plans suck. Big time. I got a new phone with a plan and its 18 euro a month for 24 months. That sounds like a great deal, right? But… I only get 1.2GB on my plan.

Are you for real? I used that up in week!!!

So I go to see if I can up it. No. I can only buy ‘packages’. Get this. These are the options I have:

1GB plus a gift of sms (cause they don’t go with your plan!) or 31 days for 7e

4GB for a week for 4.90e

4GB for the weekend for 2.9e

2GB for one day for 1.90e

SERIOUSLY????

I have been paying 18e for my contract, then adding a weekly plan, so basically I’m paying 37.60e a month. And, guess what? I can’t even do that, cause it turns out I used up my 4GB per week options for this month already.

F@#@*^$K!

So now I’m looking at getting a wifi connection of some sort. The house I’m at in town doesn’t have wifi (and the walls are too thick to steal from the neighbours even if I had their passwords!). It also doesn’t have a phone line. I’d need a wireless modem connection. The downside is that the best deal I found so far is 35e setup fee and ‘free modem’ then 25.60e month for 24 months. I might get unlimited wifi but it would cost me 45e approx a month. Might be ok one I get a job.

And jobs here pay pretty poorly.

Anyway, I love it and am happy to be here. I know things will sort themselves out. I’ll find a home. I’ll get a job. I’ll start selling my own stuff soon as I start making it… LOL

All I gotta do is hang in there and be open to possibilities.

z

life on paros… so far

This week I moved down to my grandmother’s house in Parikia. Earlier than planned due to my aunt wanting to put a kitchenette in the bedsit I was staying in at Souvlia (out of town). Great on the kitchenette. Great on living in town during the cold wet and windy months cause it means I can still get out and about easily without having to walk in all weather 3 klm each way into town.

Not so great when an old house in town has been only used in summer since the creation of time. All the doors and windows let in gales of wind for one thing. I spent yesterday pinning sheets over the ones I could and its helped.

I put a snake under one door but I need another two. I can’t put one under the door to the balcony as that door lets in water every time it rains… I’m moping up water in there every morning. Thank goodness the floor doesn’t slope inwards there is all I can say. I’d have to wear gumboots in the house.

And I gave my gorgeous (slightly poodle gnawed) Bogz boots away before leaving Tas cause I thought “hey, I’ll be living on a Greek island, I won’t need gumboots”… how wrong could I be? The little streets here are like rivers when it rains. The actual river beds have been concreted over to make roads and you can’t walk on them in the heavy rain. A lot of detours are called for…

Umbrellas are virtually useless if its windy.

You know, people go on and on about how cold it is. Its not THAT cold. But the wind is what does you in. We’ve had some glorious days, but when its windy… wow.

But I digress. I was talking about the house. I love it. I mean I love the fact that I have a HOUSE, with a bedroom and a living room/dining/kitchen. I have a cupboard for dishes and pantry, a fridge, a stove, a sink to wash dishes in. A bathroom. Sort of. But I have space here. Its a 2 bedroom house for a family of 3 or 8 or so. Its unbelievable that people raised families in these tiny places.

So, I was talking about drafts and gale force winds in the house. Well, for one thing there was a glass panel missing in the window in the kitchen. Interesting. Did you notice anything odd about the photo above?

Why not have a better look…

Yep. Someone thought, sink under window, tick. Tap? We’ll just stick it there. Oops. Can’t open the window without breaking the glass… Okay, no problem, we’ll remove the glass! Brilliant idea.

In summer maybe. In winter, not so brilliant.

I went out and got a piece of plastic, the type they use for table cloths here, and put it in the window. MUCH better.

My first two days the water heater (boiler, thermosifono, the kind of thing common in Greece where you have to plan ahead to have a shower, no impetuous showering in Greece!) wasn’t working. It got sorted yesterday so I was able to have half a hot shower.

Yep. Half. And mind you, I turned the water off while I was soaping my hair. Yet I still ran out of water. Either something is still not quite right, or the hot water cylinder is the size of a walnut.

At least I was clean and finishing in cold water isn’t as bad as starting in cold water…

But that’s not the whole story with the bathroom either. Its tiny. I know I said the one in the bedsit was tiny, but this takes tiny to a whole new level. It was an add on as the bathroom here was always downstairs, under the staircase. Which meant you had to go down stairs and out into the street to use your toilet or shower. Not uncommon on Paros surprisingly. As is accessing the top floor of your house via an outside staircase…

It has a huge vanity (made of concrete, it obviously has something underneath it, under the stairs), a squished toilet and the shower in the corner. Its basically a wet room. You need to cover the toilet paper with a plastic bag when you shower. Ok, maybe not quite, there IS a shower curtain so the toilet and toilet paper are safe, but the floor is always wet. I’m going to try to find a squeegee to use on it cause moping doesn’t get it dry enough which means you’re creating muddy footprints every time you use the bathroom.

Ah the joys of Paros bathrooms.

In the bedsit I had to fight off amourous octopus curtains and alternate freezing or scalding bursts every time I moved and hit the tap. Here I can step back from the tap but I’ll have to learn to shower in record time looks like. Probably a good thing… I do tend to indulge in hot water…

But it does raise the question… how on earth do greek people shower in these places, for years and years? When they plan a bathroom, do they really think “You don’t need more than a square foot to shower in. Surely you can manage in that space”… Not all greeks are tiny people you know…

Whatever. I love it here.

I’m still looking for work. Tricky as its not busy enough for people to actually hire yet but they will be soon enough and I need to get it out there. I’m trying all kinds of places, open to all kinds of work. But ideally I want to MAKE stuff, art, recycled stuff, anything creative.

I’m hanging out for my stuff to arrive so I can paint and sew again… to at least get some samples out to start showing people in shops.

I’ve visited a junk shop and I drool over things I want to buy to fix up, but there’s no way I can do that here. Even if I could work on stuff in the living room (ha) I can’t bring anything big up the stairs.

I’ll figure it out.

What I really need is my own place where I can do what I want how I want.

One day…

z

banks, post office and what the hell?

I just got a call from my mother. My package has arrived from Australia.

That would be the one full of things I forgot to include in my over-priced shipment and couldn’t fit into my limited baggage allowance on my flight. The package which cost me $250. The one I sent Express Post on December 18.

That one.

It only took a month to get here. Good thing I sent it Express…

The PO called mom this morning, they’d be delivering it between 9-12 today. She called me at 4.30, still waiting for it to be delivered, to let me know they wanted 101 euros in order to hand it over.

101 euros. That’s $160.57.

WTF????

I PAID postage. Threw the nose actually, but I paid nonetheless.

What can I do? They’re holding my stuff hostage. I have to pay it. And no, it can’t be customs costs cause its all used clothing and shoes and stuff.

I’m gobsmacked.

Welcome to Greece.

Have a great life.

I’m not looking forward to banks and tax and other such fun things.

Example:

A friend, I’ll call her Sheila (haha, aussies will get the joke), an Australian who lives on Paros part time, went to the bank last Friday. The automatic teller sucked in her card and refused to return it. She went in and asked to retrieve it. The teller got the card out of the machine and said she couldn’t hand it over. Cause there was no way to prove that Sheila was Sheila, the rightful owner of the card. Sheila had other cards, both her australian driver’s licenses and her passport with her, “See? Its me! I’m her! Its my card!”.

“Sorry” said the teller. “Its for your own protection. This card must be destroyed and we will order you another one. Come back in 10 days.”

“But its me! You can see my passport! Look at the ATM camera! It was only 2 minutes ago, you’ll see me put the card in the machine!”

“Sorry, this is how it has to be. Its for your own protection.”

I walked past the bank later that day and overheard this conversation:

Young lady walks out of the bank. Her waiting boyfriend asks “So… did they tell you you needed to go to Santorini?”

Another Aussie friend has been running back and forth trying to open a bank account. Finally got it sorted today. It only took a week of “come back tomorrows”.

Oh boy, I’m so excited about opening my own bank account.

And the mobile phone data thing…? Well, that’s a whole other can of worms. I’ll go into that in another time cause it really does deserve its own post. You’ll see.

On a positive note, I got a new greek ID card today. New photos, quick. New ID, instant! 15 minutes and I’m the proud owner of a new ID card with both Greek and English on it and a much less flattering photo.

Ah the joys of living in Greece.

z

walking my drycleaning

I’ve been on Paros for just over a week now and I’ve been flat out.

Flat out meeting people, drinking coffee, looking for work, looking for a house or deciding whether its better to build on our land, making new friends, connecting with old ones, drinking more coffee, being forced to eat huge lunches by mom’s friends, walking when the weather is nice, begging lifts when its raining, doing errands and not doing them.

I’ve learned to make rakomelo (that’s a dynamite hot raki and honey spiced drink). Yum. I’m addicted.

I’ve got the gym program and prices but I haven’t joined yet. My excuse is that I’ll be going to Athens at some stage and don’t want to be paying for a week I won’t use… I have to be really careful with my money till I find work.

I’m running around in circles about my stuff from Australia. It’ll arrive in Athens sooner than I expected and I paid a fortune to have it shipped over (the consensus among the graussies is that I was ripped off) and to be delivered to mom’s place in Athens since I don’t have anywhere to put it on Paros. Seriously… I’m living in one room. And not a huge one at that. I have a double bed, bedside table, wardrobe, chest of drawers, desk, heater, dehumidifier, bedside table, coat rack behind the door, a cabinet till my aunt puts in a kitchenette, 2 chairs and just about enough room to move. Plus a tiny bathroom where I hit the tap with my hip and scald myself if I move suddenly each time the shower curtain wraps itself around me like an amourous octopus.

That’s without my easel, sewing machine, 1003 pastels, tubes of paint, brushes, pencils, suitcases full of felting wool, fabrics, wire and wiring tools… and that’s just the INSIDE stuff.

I’ve now found a long lost second cousin who said I can put my stuff in his store room (btw, a store room is like an extremely rare commodity here!) so I’ve got a place to take it… For storage only. Not as a working space…

Now I just have to organise how it gets to his house from Athens… will the movers organise it without additional cost? Will I get a small refund seeing as they won’t have to deliver to a house in Athens, unpack the pallet(s) and carry boxes up a flight of stairs? Will they deliver to the depot of the Paros freight company mom told me to use – cause of course he’s a second cousin of mine? (half the island probably is…)

My mind is boggling.

Houses… they’re so expensive. I don’t have enough to buy something which will suit me… cause I have needs. Special needs. I’m an artist. A crafter. A person of many creative addictions interests. I’ve tried getting help but I just can’t stop. I need a workshop. A studio. A grooming area.

Space.

I need work space. For everything I like to do now and everything I might want to do in the future. Cause you can bet your sweet bippie that I’ll want to do more in the future. Its who I am.

This is a house I’ve been in love with for years. It doesn’t have the best view it has a bit of land and its just SO pretty.

So when I look at places for sale I look at space. And space is something houses on Paros just don’t have. As a rule. Most of the newer builds are apartments or what they call maisonettes – think townhouses… one floor or 2, 1 bedroom, maybe 2 in a pinch, balcony or verandahs, tiny yard if you’re really lucky, if you want a view you pay extra. Surrounded by neighbours. Most are either out of my price range or out of the question.

I can’t take an upstairs place and lug the old cupboard I’m bound to find up a flight of stairs so I can work on it on my porch. I can’t have a share ‘yard’ area if I plan to work outside with power tools. In fact, do I really want to share walls with people who may not appreciate my obsession with power tools? More to the point… would they?

So I listen to people who say “You have such a huge block of land (4 acres), why not build there? You can build a small place for xx euros (a number comfortably under my budget)”. And I think maybe I should just bite the bullet and find out about that. Then I think, ok, so the consensus is that building costs you approx 1000-1500 euro a square meter. Plus you need to pay for permits. And mechanics. And electricity, phone, water lines. And who knows what the hell else. Cause you know there is always something else.

I’m so scared that I’d end up with a half finished 1 bedroom house and no money.

Sure. I can do quite a bit of work on my own, and in fact I even look forward to working on my own space. I could, theoretically build a large room as a living/kitchen/studio space, a garage to use as a workshop/storage/grooming area, and a bedroom and bathroom. It’d be enough for me for a while. Later on maybe I could add another room for mom or a guest. Always assuming I had the money.

My aunt says that’s how they all did it. They lived on plain concrete till they could afford tiles. They started with one bedroom and added on. Back then. 30 years ago when everyone built without permits and council approval. It’s all so much harder now.

I’d be lost in the crap of building here never to be seen again… curled up in a fetal position in a sheltered area on a beach somewhere, rocking back and forth and repeating “All I wanted was a space to live and work”.

WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH

Now you understand why I need my regular coffee and company fix. Cause my brain is having a meltdown.

And my drycleaning is still in a bag which I take into town on a more or less daily basis. I take it for a walk, bring it back home and take it down again next time. Why? Cause the dry cleaner is way on the other side of Parikia and I am always held up halfway by coffee. And by the time I’m finished with coffee they’re closed.

I have the most social dry cleaning on the island.

Meet my dry cleaning, everyone else has. I bought a coat and a fun boho jacket from PAWS, the Paros animal welfare society. Support them and me in one go.

Anyway, I have tons more to say about living on Paros, but I’ll keep some anticipation going for my next post.

Till then, have fun! I know I am.

z

new friends

I’ve made a new friend…

Ok, two new friends. The top one is a cute little cat who’s been dropping in demanding some serious ‘pat me’ sessions. She has the cutest little crescent moon shape on her forehead.

The bottom pic is my newest friend, another Australian who’s moved to Paros to live.

We’re multiplying…

We met for a coffee today and the wierdest thing happened… the barman walked out the door, saying he’d be right back, got on his motorbike and drove off leaving us alone in the bar… Damn! I’ve never had that happen to me before!

Today was gorgeous in the morning, a really mild night turned into a warm morning then clouded over and began raining at the very point I began walking along the part of the road where there was no cover. Obviously. Then it proceeded to stop soon as I got into the cafe bar. Naturally. And then it turned cold. Real cold.

Whatever. Its still beautiful here.

My tiny little space is taking shape. I spent most of yesterday cleaning and organising. Today I was out half the day but I managed to finish putting things away in their ‘place’. I put that in quotes cause I’m sure things will change many times before I’m done.

I still have free storage space which is great. I’ll share pics later when things are more sorted. Trust me… fitting into a single room and tiny bathroom is a huge change from having a 4 bedroom house with a huge living room, an entire house/shed with a huge workshop area, grooming room and storage, plus a very big garage, 2 sheds and a large garden…

Then again, I no longer own any furniture. Or big dogs for that matter… Its a very different life from the one I had in Tasmania. Both fuller and emptier at the same time.

I really miss my dogs…

So here are some more photos from my walk today. This is an old house that’s been renovated in the current style. Very pretty.

And below some places that are falling apart. Cause you know I love that stuff…

One day these places will be bought by someone who has the money to rebuild and restore them and they’ll look gorgeous again. Till then I enjoy the colours and peeling paint.

z

anafiotika and graussies

Like I said… you can’t keep me away from the old centre of Athens.

Well… I almost had to stay away cause I went there yesterday and came home with a sore throat and a headache. I drank the most hideous concoction of boiled oregano, sage and honey. Eeeewww-yuckety-yuck-yuck. But I think it worked as I woke up this morning feeling better.

So I did what had to be done and went in again today…

Today I met up with the ladies from the Graussies group on Facebook (that’s greek australians living in Athens to you). The above is the view from the cafe we met at.

Ok, no photos of the group, I didn’t take out my camera at the time, but you get the picture. I was the freshest among them, having only just moved here. Others have been here as long as 30+ years.

But as I said, I was there yesterday too. Below are photos of Syntagma Square cause I got off the bus too late to switch to the metro and had to walk down. But hey, walking is good for me and its not that far.

So, what is Anafiotika?

Anafiotika is a tiny neighborhood of Athens, part of the Plaka – the historical neighborhood next to Monastiraki, right beneath the northeastern side of the Acropolis. The Anafiotika are special in that they are a neighbourhood built by workers from the island of Anafi and other Cyclades islands, who came to Athens in the era of Otto of Greece to build his palace. The homes these workers built for themselves look like the houses of their islands, small square homes with narrow cobble stoned streets and steps… its like being on a greek island in the heart of Athens.

Basically, its gorgeous.

And again, more photos of decaying and crumbling old buildings. Cause I just love them. Its so sad to see these beautiful old places falling apart…

Such beauty in the destruction…

z

settling in

I just love the old parts of Athens… Monastiraki, Psiri, Plaka… Its easy to get to for everyone and is the ideal place to meet up with friends so I end up going there often. Despite the old girls dire warnings of thefts and all kinds of evils, its just too nice to miss out on. I can honestly say its the best thing about being in Athens.

Its a mix of old, falling down buildings, graffiti and dingey-ness, and pretty cafes, restaurants and tons of shops and stalls. What’s not to like? Its always alive too.

On Sunday I went down and met up with a wonderful woman I met on Facebook. She owns a tattoo parlour on Corfu where she’s been living for 30 years and spends winters in Athens. She’s an amazing person, a rockabilly fan, an artist… we have so much in common. I am so glad to have met her. It feels like I’ve made a new friend for life.

Sunday was pretty quiet considering, I’ve never seen the streets of Monastiraki so empty. Maybe the cold put some people off. Who knows.

While the sun was out it was beautiful, but once the sun began to set I decided it was time to go home. Plus I’d already had to buy gloves and a beanie – it was pretty cold.

Other than that, what have I been doing all this time? Its only been 2.5 weeks but it already feels like months.

I’ve caught up with plenty of relatives on mom’s side and spent time with cousins on my dad’s side. I don’t think I’ll catch up with all of them… after all I have 23 first cousins alone, 19 of which live in Greece and have children who would apparently all like to see me.

hm. It’d be a full time job seeing them all.

Its funny how greek people talk. I’m always hearing “They’re good people. They love us very much.” Like loving us is a prerequisite to being a good person…

I’ve bought acrylic paints, some coloured chalk pencils, some brushes. I’m a magpie… I know I have things coming but when I see something I know I’ll use I’ll buy or collect it.

I now have the start of a plastic toy collection. I have fabric scraps and stuffing for my critters.

I still want to go buy pastels cause really… they are my preferred medium. Plus I plan to do more mixed media work.

I’ve bought a heater for Paros cause I’ll need it there. FOR SURE. And bought mom an electric blanket for her bed on Paros so that I can borrow it till mine arrives.

I’ve visited 2nd hand shops and bought myself some warm jumpers, cause… what on earth was I thinking? I packed all my warmest stuff in the boxes I sent over which won’t arrive till the end of February… See above comments about gloves and beanies. D’uh.

Not to mention waterproof sneakers.

My aunt Xeni gave me a gorgeous umbrella she’s had in her cupboard for 35 years. Very retro and never been used. I’ll get a photo of it one day I promise.

I’ve done creative stuff which I’ll share in another post or two. Just small things to keep me entertained.

I’ve designed a simple business card and have to go down the street to get them printed. Let me tell you, designing in Word is a challenge I never though I’d have to face. But I did it…

I’m planning to meet a cousin in Monastiraki today again. Hopefully the roads won’t be too slippery… Or she’s not snowed in… I might opt to walk up the hill to the bus stop instead of walking downhill to the closest one. The road looks deadly.

I’ve organised to meet some graussies tomorrow… That’s aussies who live in Athens. That will be fun!!!

I have to pack my bags for Paros. My aunt said 10th or later depending on the weather (the seas that is) so I figure we’ll go Thursday or else I’ll head off on my own.

The bureau predicts rough seas on Thursday but smooth sailing on Friday… hm…

I’ve been going to the gym. I’m really sore but don’t feel like they work me nearly as hard there as the gyms I went to in Australia. Mind you I did take a 2 week break… that’s why I’m sore.

So I’ve been pretty busy. And I like it that way. Being still means getting bored and I never sit still if I can help it.

z

colourful athens pt 2

A tour of the city centre wasn’t complete without a visit to the market – the meat and fish market that is. I’ve spared you the horrors of the meat market. I couldn’t stand that place. But outside on the street these little shops full of herbs and spices, nuts and other stuff, looked so pretty and inviting.

The fish market was stinky but not nearly as nightmarish as the meat market, so here are some fish… that’s one thing we missed in Tasmania. A proper fish market… at least there were none that I ever found!

It says the lobsters are alive but I didn’t see any indication of life. Poor things.

I know I’ve mentioned the ancient ruins in the metro before, but here is a view of the ruins under Monastiraki. Roman aqueducts which still work today apparently…

“But what have the Romans ever done for us?” you may ask. Besides the aquaducts…

So there you go.

A quick tour of the markets (thank goodness smellorama doesn’t yet exist) and the metro ruins.

z

another pretty cafe

You may think this is a bit of deja vu and you’d be right. This is a cafe I visited last time I was in Greece. Little Kook is an amazing place.

This time, just like last time, we didn’t go in for a coffee. The queues were incredible as you can imagine. Its Christmas holidays and everyone wants to take the family to this special place. But the entire street is magical. Just imagine how much fun they have decorating this place!

There’s one thing you gotta give greeks. They really know how to celebrate and make beautiful places. Its like fairyland in so many places around Athens.

And winter Christmas just seems so much more RIGHT than the heat in Australia at this time of the year. It feels more Christmassy. It just works.

Plus another bonus: No thongs to be seen!!

z

colourful athens pt 1

Its no secret that I love old things, old buildings and falling down broken stuff. I also love the contrast of the old crumbling homes in the center of Athens with the colourful graffiti that now covers everything.

Not to mention the juxtaposition of the old and the new – defaced by graffiti again… always…

Apparently Athens wasn’t always an ugly city. It was once full of neo-classical buildings like these old ones, and it had rivers flowing through it. But greed in the 60s saw them fill in all the rivers in order to build ‘new modern’ concrete block apartment buildings. Ugh. How stupid people are.

Of course, there are many, many closed shops in Athens, in the centre as well as the suburbs thanks to the current economy. But the center of Athens is coming alive with beautiful bars and cafes and hopefully things will pick up as more places open and more places get renovated. If we don’t all get mugged and killed first apparently. Crime is rife with so many out of work, refugees and homeless people.

Stick with me. You’ll see the pretty in the ugly parts of Greece. 🙂

z