Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How I Almost Died Last Night

Those of you who know me, know this. I am honestly, entirely, and completely afraid of worms. All worms. Anything that looks like a worm (except, oddly, a snake). I cannot tolerate these creatures are allowed to live on the same planet as me. I will NOT come into physical contact with them for all the darn tea in China. They scare me, and quite often will get up on their hind legs, hiss, show their fangs and threaten to kill me.

In other words, I HATE WORMS.

So, last night, I'm innocently preparing another fine dinner for Fantastic Man and I, including a lovely fresh salad prepared from exquisite and inexpensive Romaine lettuce. The potatoes were nicely browning in the skillet, the red cabbage getting warm, the salmon broiling beautifully in the broiler. I had shredded the lettuce, peeled and chopped the onion, cut up the red pepper, crumbled the feta and went to do a little clean up in the sink (of course we don't have a garbage disposal, this ain't America folks!).

And, there, right in my sink, was a light gray, dual antennaed SLUG! Oh God, I'm glad I took my blood pressure pill this morning. I think FM is napping on the couch, waiting for his call to dinner, and I make appropriate "I'm going to die" sounds, but quietly, so as not to wake him. I think, "It's okay, you can do this, you don't need a man,". I had just killed a big ole spider stalking my stovetop earlier that day. No biggie.

But, I'm freaking out. FINALLY, FM comes into the kitchen to see what all the low level whimpering is about, and I scream, "THERE'S A WORM IN THE SINK!!!!!". And do the uggah buggah dance and run for the safety of the living room.

Knowing fully this irrational fear of mine, he bravely goes directly to the sink to remove the offensive object. But, he's in there going, "What should I do with him?", and I'm wondering how he knows it's a male (okay, I'm NOT, I'm wondering what the H3LL he's asking me for, just get RID of it!). So, I suggest throwing it out the window above the sink (No, there are no screens on our windows, this ain't America!). And he does. And I live.

And, I toss the entire salad into the trash.

It's nice to be married to a hero.

Although I am afraid he didn't launch the little guy out the window far enough, and he may be slowly edging his way back up the wall, leaving a trail of slime and gore, to our unscreened window, waiting to take his revenge on me while I sleep. . . .
The whole experience lends credence to a thought I've had recently (READ: most of my life), that I should just STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN (unless it's to get another beer. . .).

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Around the World in 8000 Tampons

Traveling around the world as a menstruating woman with a preference for tampons can have its challenges.

First, some background information (and I can't believe I'm actually doing this).

Wikipedia's definition of tampon:

A tampon is a plug of cotton or other absorbent material inserted into a body cavity or wound to absorb fluid. The most common type in daily use is a usually disposable plug that is designed to be inserted into a woman's vagina during her menstrual period to absorb the flow of blood. The use of these devices has occasionally caused serious health related issues, such as infection and even death in rare cases (see Toxic shock syndrome). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates tampons as medical devices.

I felt the need to do that as I have actually encountered adult males who do not know the difference between a tampon and a pad. How that is possible I do not know. Also, I would like to make mention of the fact that they come in different sizes, regular, super, super plus, which is indicative of their girth and absorbency power. A regular tampon is about as big around as my little finger, a super plus is slightly smaller than a tube of lipstick and a super is somewhere in between (can't think of anything that size that all can relate to). This will prove important later.

On a side note, once in my twenties, a man of comparable age asked me (and I quote verbatim), "What happens when you have your period? Is it like a faucet or something?". HUH? And, my girlfriend's ex-husband (who was in his thirties at the time) actually asked her once (again, verbatim), "Can't you just shut it off for a while, like at night?". GEEZ.

Seriously. How can men not know this stuff? Especially grown-up, married men?

So, now that we all know WHAT a tampon is, how it's used, etc., I will amuse you with "Tampons Around the World".

Actually, that's pretty much a misnomer, as there are still many parts of the world where tampons are not readily available. Or, in existence. Which leads us to our first tale.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Our first trip after getting maried was to the Dominican Republic. We were scheduled to be there from September to December. I, having not traveled extensively for long periods of time, never thought about the tampon issue, thinking obviously that you just go to the store and buy them when you need them, right? Wrong.

Appears that the Catholic influence is so strong still in the Dominican Republic that you can't buy these innovative wads of cotton. Seems there is still some belief that by using a tampon, you will be wrecking your virginity, thus making you less valuable as a future wife.

In a panic, I searched relentlessly though grocery stores, convenience stores, and drugstores with no success. Finally, in desperation, I asked a helpful lady at the hotel, who told me to go to one specific drugstore in town. Where they promptly sold me a box of 5 (!!!) for $10. Now, I think tampons are overpriced regardless. At home I buy OB tampons, and they usually cost about $6 for 20. And I find that outrageous. I hate spending $6-9 a month on these stupid things, but what choice do we have. But, now, faced with the prospect of needing around 120 for the next three months, at about $2/pop. . . whew. Mind blown.

I quickly learned my lesson, and I learned it well. I bought a collapsible bathroom bag on my next trip home and jammed it full of six months worth of tampons in readiness for our next departure. Which was Bulgaria (3 months), Moldova (6 weeks), Egypt (7 weeks), and then Korea (4 months). Obviously, doing the math, I had miscalculated and not brought enough, which leads us to. . .

Seoul, Korea

Here I could not find a tampon. . . anywhere. And, due to the language barrier, etc., I never did find out why they weren't there, only that they were most definitely not. However, after about 6 weeks, Mike and I were dining at a TGI Friday's and I went to the bathroom, and lo and behold, they were passing them out! I grabbed as many as I could. Only to be sorely disappointed when I opened the first one and realized they were about as big around as a mechanical pencil. What was I supposed to do with that? Tie three of them together? Worthless waste of cotton. Fortunately, we went to Guam for a short visit while in Korea, and the K-Mart there was able to hook me up.

Amman, Jordan

Uneventful eight months or so in the tampon department until we were leaving Jordon. Fantastic Man and I were the only two people at the airport at the time we were going through security, and for whatever reason the customs official there decided I needed to open my bags. Okay, I typically don't argue with these people. . .

So, he unzips my travel bag of tampons, pulls one out and holds it up. He is examining it from all angles (NOTE: OB tampons do not come with applicators, they are just shrink-wrapped in plastic, so they resemble a cotton bullet or something), obviously not knowing what this strange item was. The following conversation takes place:

Him: What ez dis?
Me: A tampon, sir.
Him: (Puzzled look on his face) E what?
Me: Still a tampon, sir.
FM: Dying of laughter about 20 feet away behind the customs official's back.
Him: What for?
Me: (Uh OH, I really do not want to have this conversation about unclean menstrual blood with a Middle Eastern stranger) Ummmm
Him: (Slightly angry) What use for?
Me: (thinking quickly on my feet, pointing to my face) It's for make-up, sir.
Him: Ohhh, okay. (zips bag back up, puts back in my suitcase.


Of course, FM almost wet his pants, telling me I should have pantomimed it for him. Yea. And spend years in a Jordanian jail for propositioning a customs official. Whatever, get on the plane.

All is well again with the world, breeze through easily until . . .

Rome, Italy

Now, understand, we were spending six months in Rome, with no idea if we would be going home afterwards or continuing on with our journeys, so I was thrilled to see that they widely sold OB tampons everywhere. As our time was running down and we still didn't know where we were going next, and my supply was dwindling, I ducked into the neighborhood pharmacy and bought a couple of boxes of Super Plus.

When I got back to the apartment, I opened the boxes to put them in my "tampon bag", and oh. my. God, these were the biggest tampons I've ever seen. Bigger than a wine cork! They were huge. I was laughing uncontrollably, had to show FM immediately. I was worried about how I would ever get them back out.

Guess Italian women are a little "loose", heeheehee. Seriously, these were some whomping big tampons.

Other places where even though I didn't need to buy any I couldn't find any:

Chad (although to be fair, I only went in one actual store there)

Okay, enough for now. Just thought I'd share. And, if you are a woman with a preference for tampons and you are still of a menstruating age and are leaving the country for an extended period of time to someplace a little off the beaten track - bring them. Even Lonely Planet Travel Guidebooks address this issue now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Earliness, Elevators, and Eczema


Before I forget to admit to this (I promised Fantastic Man, Chris, Jen and Herb I would put this on the website), last week Thursday we went to the Badminton Theater to see "Jesus Christ, Superstar", which, incidentally, I also forgot to review for you. Okay, first the review (from my perspective): It was pretty good. I had forgotten the play was entirely portrayed through song, however. And I enjoyed the second half much more than the first. The production company that brought it here did it a little differently than it's original. If you've seen the original, you know everyone was protrayed as hippies and flower children. This was more industrial/grunge/gothic in costume, setting, and scenery.

Herb had never seen the play, but we were joking around, and I said to him, "You know how this ends, right?", and he says, "Yea, I read the book,". Was funny. (FYI - If you've never seen the play, it ends with Jesus dying on the cross. No resurection scene, just, "It is finished").

ANYWAY, the thing I promised to tell you was I made us all an hour early to the play. You see, I have some kind of mental block when it comes to military time. Now, obviously, I know how it works, but for some reason if you say 21:00 to me, I have to stop and think. . . HARD. . . about what time that actually is. When we originally talked about going to the play, we were going to go on the weekend, and because they do two productions on Saturdays and Sundays, the times are different than during the week. So, on Sat and Sun, the play starts at 8. In HUGE numbers on our tickets, it says 21:00, but me, being military time challenged and basically an idiot, just assumed (and we all know what that means) it was at 8. We raced through dinner (at the Chinese/Greek place in the basement of our building), and because we were walking and didn't know exactly how long it would take to get there, we "lit a shuck"* (explanation on that one in a minute) out of there , and got to the theater at 7:45. There were a few people around, but not many.

When I had went to buy tickets, there were lots and lots of seats available, so at this point I am attributing the lack of people there to two things. 1. The Greeks are inordinately late for everything, and 2. They didn't sell many tickets for the show. Well, Jen and I needed to use the bathroom, which was downstairs where they admit you to the theater, so an usher begrudgingly let us down there, and as we exited the bathroom, we were immediately told by another usher, "You are not allowed down here right now!", so we scampered back upstairs.

But, I'm thinking, "Curtain is in less than 10 minutes, why aren't they seating us?", so Chris goes and asks, and they tell him, "Curtain is at 9 PM,". And, of course, it IS, because that is what 21:00 MEANS! FOOL!

I did this to us in Bali, too. Made us four hours early to the airport instead of two. I am no longer in charge of interpreting military time.

To make up for it, I did buy us all a round of beer to idle away the time. And, in perfect Greek style, the curtain went up at 9:20. . .

*"lit a shuck"- Our dear friend Herb, being from Alabama, is full of southern colloquialisms like this. Apparently, if you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, or sometimes just leaving someplace, you "light a shuck out of here", or "He lit a shuck home". It comes from "olden days" (READ: pre-flashlights, or cars, or whatever) when they would light a corn husk to see their way home. Anway, he says it occasionally and it never fails to crack me up. Other personal favorites are, "Well, golly-bum," and "diddybop", as in "I diddybopped on over there," (seems Herb does a lot of this diddybopping). Also, Herb never takes or brings anyone or anything anywhere, he is forever "carrying" them or it. As in, "I carried my family out for dinner last night,". Now, I promise, I'm not making fun of Herb, or even of how he talks. I just get a kick out of some of the things that come out of his mouth!

Okay, that was a long and drawn out explanation of being early to the play. . .


We live in a fairly old building, with a fairly old elevator. It is posted on the outside of the elevator and on the inside, not to have more than three people or 250 kg (around 550 pounds for the metrically impaired) in the elevator at a time. Now, in the 7 weeks we've lived here the elevator has been fully operational, as far as we know. HOWEVER, after walking Chris and Jen up to the President's Hotel for their cab ride to the airport at 2 AM on Tuesday morning, upon my return the elevator was broke. Now, we just rode it down not 20 minutes prior. Apparently, us three and their luggage weigh more than 550 pounds (a rather scary thought indeed, I'm blaming it on the olive oil). So, I got to walk up six flights of curving stairs in utter darkness. To the buildings credit, it was up and running when FM left at 7:30 AM for work. Make note of this, future guests!


Sometimes I have a slight case of eczema on my index fingers and elbows. Definitely an adult onset thing, and definitely not chronic, but somewhat reoccuring. Obviously, something here in Athens, be it the water, the air, the weather, I don't know, is making it flair up quite painfully on my right elbow.

I went to the pharmacist about three weeks ago, looking for some hydrocortisone cream, as this usually takes care of the problem. The pharmacist (and no, not the HUNKY HUNKY one), told me in Greece they do not sell hydrocortisone, but sold me something different they use for eczema. For about 4 Euro. When I got home, I googled it, and the NUMBER ONE INGREDIENT in it is hydrocortisone. Okay, whatever. But, it hasn't really been working well. So, yesterday, I stopped into a different pharmacy (they are everywhere!) and talked to the pharmacist there (and old, fat man), who recommended Elidel. I go to pay for it, and it was 42 EURO! Golly bum, it better work!