Monday, July 30, 2007

A Holy Experience from Hell

We spent Saturday on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Well, maybe it doesn't qualify as a pilgrimage, we didn't actually walk there but opted for an air conditioned bus, but nevertheless, we went.

In the religious world, you would be hard pressed to find a piece a land more sacred to different religious groups than Jerusalem. It's hard not to feel the weight and sanctity of the place.

Until someone is waving a "Shalom, Y'All" plaque under your nose and yelling, "Hey guys! Come see my shop! 50% off!" as you walk the 14 stations of Christ.

What the HELL? Makes it a bit harder to soak up the history and monumental importance. If Jesus Christ himself returned and saw this mayhem outside the church built over Golgotha hill, I'm sure it would be a repeat of his tantrum in Herod's Temple when he upset the money changers tables. We were all sickened by this absolute display of commercialism, in addition to angered by the attitudes of many of the shopkeepers.

But, we stood on hallowed ground, reveled in the history, and took an unexpected but cool sidetrip to Bethlehem and to the American Elvis Diner (!).

Friday, July 27, 2007

But I saved 5 Bucks!


I'm sure laundry does not have a fan club. I hate it. It can prove to be quite difficult out here on the road.

As I mentioned before, we can't quite afford the prices most hotels get for the simple act of ensuring we don't stink. Sometimes our apartment will have a washer. Sometimes I need to find a local laundry. And, sometimes I need to load it all up in a bag and drag it to the laundromat.

Which is what I did this morning.

The boys have all been, so I pretty much knew the routine, I thought. 12 Shekels to wash, 1 Shekel for three minutes of dry time. Bought my detergent and was ready with a pocket full of change.

Except the machines only take the one Shekel coins. Oops. I had enough to get the wash started, but now I was in search of one Shekel coins.

ME (to guy sitting out front doing his laundry): Hey, do you know the best place to get some change?

HIM: Dude, you are sooooo screwed. I had to walk six blocks to get Shekels. From a guy with his face all pierced watching a hip-hop video.

ME: What? Really? Shit!

HIM: I may be able to set you up with some. . .

ME: Great. I think I only need 5 or so.

HIM: Maybe we can just dry our clothes together.

ME (Thinking this sounds a little strange): Maybe I'll just go find some Shekels.

Found Shekels, drying crisis averted, laundry done in 1.25 hours.

Total price for laundry: 20 Shekels.

What I paid last week to drop it off and pick it up the next day: 40 Shekels.

What I will be doing the next time laundry needs to be done: I wonder. . . NOT!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Love to Eavesdrop

But, this morning, I wish I hadn't.

Due to that annoying habit FM has of going to work everyday, I must do most things by myself. Including going to breakfast.

So, this morning I go downstairs for my toast and garlic cheese spread (YES! For breakfast! It rocks!), some fruits and the all important coffee. This young, attractive couple comes in and sits down at the table next to me just as I'm tucking in to my yummies and before I start on the paper. He apparently is some bigwig with the hotel or the tourism industry as he is chatting with the assistant manager about his staff, cleanliness, etc. He's also rather irritating in his manner, and he is starting to bug me.

The staff leave them alone and he starts berating his girlfriend for acting childish in front of his friends, brown-nosing his family, exagerrating her "American" accent (for whatever purpose that would be), telling her he doesn't want to have to spend time with her family here and basically making her feel bad. She's on the verge of tears and can not get a word in edgewise. Also there seems to be some issue about a bunch of money she spent on an airline ticket (her money) and she is asking him if it was money wasted or what. And, he's really not doing this quietly, so it ain't so hard to hear their personal bidness.

The manager dude comes back over and apparently they are going to present a check to one of the employees right there in the breakfast room. She wants to leave, he says stay. She stays. A group of employees gather around their table, and one of them asks him when the two of them are getting married. He says, "We're not." Girlfriend looks at him in horror and takes off from the table and up the stairs, crying. Did this asshole just break his engagement in front of OTHER PEOPLE? I think so.

I'm feeling terrible for this girl (partly because I think this dude is a jerk, but also because HOW HUMILIATING), and spend the next 45 minutes wishing I would have followed her, seen if she needed someone to talk to, or a cup of coffee, or some ice cream, or something. Thinking she might be alone (like me) and want to talk to someone kind of anonymously.

I'm still feeling bad for her as I leave the hotel for the mall. And, here the two of them come around the corner, holding hands and laughing together. WTF?

Humans. They are So. Very. Strange.

In other news, we are going to Jerusalem on Saturday! Yea us! Yes, I took the bribe from the hotel (see previous post). But, it wasn't really a bribe as all the crew members are also invited. I think just TJ and us are going, though.

Last night we went to a pub that we have been walking past all week. Turns out, it's owned by a bunch of Russians and usually has a mostly Russian clientele. We were the only ones in there from 8 PM until 11PM. and took full advantage of the FREE POOL (table).

(Around 9:30ish)

ME: Hey, where are all your comrades?

DREW (to FM): Dude! Your wife is going to get our asses beat! And, your's twice!

BARTENDER: It's too early for Russians to drink.

ME: Ah. We're so we're like FREE MONEY!

General laughter (somewhat nervous from Drew)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Excessive Bleeding

Five Star Hotels

Typically, we don't stay in five star hotels. Currently, we are. And the reason is, the entire city of Tel Aviv is fully booked up through the end of August, and there are not any other viable alternatives. Five star hotels tend to make FM and I a little uncomfortable. We really don't fit in. We're more like 3 star peeps who sometimes upgrade themselves to 4. . .

We can't afford $25/person breakfast buffets, or $7/shirt for laundry. We don't know how much to tip the staff, and we don't wear designer clothes. I also don't know how to respond when a reservation manager looks me in the eye and tells me there is a $60/night (!!!WTF!!! In my mind, this is an adequate rate for a HOTEL ROOM) surcharge for double occupancy (HEY, I'll wash my own towel if that'll help!).

We get somewhat snide looks when we carry beer into the hotel. And our laundry (nicely packaged in garbage bags).

All this being said, when we are paying for a five star hotel, I expect things to be perfect. I don't expect to have to ask three times for coffee at breakfast. I don't expect to have a puddle of water in my room (unexplained). I don't expect to have to call for maintenance twice on the same problem before someone responds.

And, after calling maintenance twice about my air conditioning problems (which were PROBABLY MOST DEFINITELY IN CAHOOTS WITH THE PUDDLE OF WATER) I really, REALLY don't expect the air conditioning to fail at 11 PM.

But, what do I know. . . I don't typically stay at 5 star hotels. . . .

Cost of Living

$13 for Listerine (looking into using Bombay, I think it's cheaper, if not ADA approved, and probably more fun)
$25 for non-PABA free sunblock
$5 for a pack of Marlboro Lights
$25 for lunch (average lunch for two, no BEER!)
$5 a beer
$5/piece for a beach chair
$2/quart for cow milk
$25 for I don't know how much ground coffee, it's in a tin, doesn't look or feel like much, though.

Makes that per diem money disappear fairly quickly, kids.


In the last half hour (since the air conditioning guys were here fixing my air), the hotel has offered us a free trip to Jerusalem, the maid brought me 10 long stem roses, and I got my coffee on the first try at breakfast. Coincidence?

I think not.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Open Mouth, Remove Foot

Okay, Okay.

I DO kinda feel like I'm on vacation.

I'm sure it's temporary, and will burn off, but eating dinner on the beach WITHOUT taking a two hour ferry ride and/or a 45 minute bus/subway ride, AND watching a slivered moon set over the Med, AND drinking ice cold Maccabee beers does put one in a vacation mood.

Yes, that's the view from our balcony, and yes, it would be better if we were on the OTHER SIDE OF THE TOWER, but hey. I'll take it. And, we have AIR CONDITIONING! YEA US!

Plus, we're spending money like we were on vacation. . .

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Conceptions, Misconceptions, Preconceptions, and Contra-ceptions

Hello Dahlings. This morning after having my cuppa with Prime Minister Karamanlis, I stopped off and had a manicure/pedicure and emergency liposuction whilst en route to my lunch date with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, where afterwards I will be picked up by my stretch limo and transported back to my posh hotel (the deluxe suite at The Grand Bretagne in Syntagma Square) for a much needed massage and a siesta before hitting Gucci and Armani for designer duds with my diplomatic wife friends in preparation for my dinner date and nightclub hopping with Kristi Stassinopoulou and her crew. This is how I ROLL. . .


Dearies, let me tell you. The idea we are living some jet-setter exotic life out here is FALSE. There are days (many) I would bet my life my entire stock portfolio (as meager as it is) that my life is much, much more mundane than yours. MUCHO! (or MUY?)

Even people who are out here with us seem to have the same false perceptions.

Last night at dinner we were talking about flying. Now, I'm really not a big fan of flying, which doesn't bode well for our lifestyle. In fact, the actual flying doesn't bother me so much (not a huge fan of turbulence, but whatever). It's all the pain in the ass stuff that leads up to flying. Packing, getting to the airport 2-3 hours ahead of actual flight time, immigration, customs, security, body cavity searches. . .

But the funny part was when FM's colleague asked me about business class.

Business Class?

The last business class I saw was in college. And that was a mighty long time ago.

Almost as long ago as the last time I saw Vuarnet sunglasses (are these still "must haves"?), Coach purses, or any designer's name on my clothing (which was right after college when I thought I had a lot of money).

Seems she thought it natural I would be flying Business. Fantastic Man flies business (on the company's dime), so why not me?

And, the answer? So obvious. It's MY dime. And there is no way in HELL I'm paying the airlines that kind of money to sit up front in the big chairs. As uncomfortable and annoying as coach is, coach is my way of life.

Unless FM decides to start sending me cargo. . .

Out here, there is no hobnobbing (what a great word, it sounds X rated, but is socially acceptable) with heads of states, the rich and famous, Ambassadors, or even government diplomats for the most part. Sometimes our best friend is the hotel DOORMAN!

And as for me, NO, I am not on "permanent vacation" as so many people like to say. Although my life is not actually too demanding, it ain't vacation, folks. Trust me, I know the difference. I'm basically a housewife, just my "house" keeps changing, as well as my neighborhood, longitude, latitude and attitude.

Just to clear up a few conceptions.

Monday, July 16, 2007

We Interupt this Blog for a Public Service Announcement

Dear Athenians:

I hate to interrupt your completely self-centered lives, but I feel the need to inform you of a couple of facts:

1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE ON THIS PLANET. Other people exist. And if would be nice if you treated said other people with a little bit of courtesy.

2. RULES ARE MADE FOR YOU, TOO. You can't expect other people to follow the rules, then not follow them yourselves.

3. LINES ARE MADE TO STAND IN. Not cut in, ignore, or push through. It's a line, FOOL!




HONORABLE MENTION: Driving you scooters on the sidewalk, and then acting like you have the RIGHT OF WAY.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

ARGHHH. I can always tell when I've had it with someplace and my second wind hasn't kicked in yet. I was going to tell you about our lovely weekend away in Andros Island, but the people of Greece just got to me today.

NOTE: The INDIVIDUAL people of Athens we've met have been almost nothing but kind. It's the masses as a whole that are driving me BONKERS!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Airline's Cancellation Policies are Worse than Tax Code

I do our taxes, so I know how not straight-forward the IRS is, and how easy it is to get lost in tables, graphs and tiny-printed tax code.

But, I think the airlines have it going over the IRS.

I love it when you call them to change your tickets, and even the representative you are talking to can't quite figure out what needs to happen and what it will cost. How am I, the consumer, suppose to understand?

Less forgivable is when they don't even know their own baggage restrictions. When their website, their representative and their ticket are all telling you different things. And no one knows what's right.


And, really, if I worked at the help desk at Delta, how much $ would I actually make? I'm sure these are not rocket scientists here (no offense, Delta reservations peeps, I ain't a rocket scientist and you ALL make more money than me!).

So, maybe I wouldn't take the time to learn, either.

It's all handled now, although I'm seeing a CHARGE from Delta, but no REFUND for the ticket I cancelled. Funny how they can process the money I spend so much faster then the money due to me.

In other news, I am SOOOOOOOO completely hungover this morning. Ughhh.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Funky Kind of Urine

I don't know what the deal-io with FM and I's pee is lately, but it STINKS! In a really, really horrific way. Think asparagus pee (if you are one of the people who get funky pee from eating asparagus), then multiply by 438 to the 26th degree. If it was just me, I would be anally searching the archives of WebMD for an explanation. But I doubt we are BOTH dying of the same, unexplained "our-pee-pee-smells-really-bad" disease. Right? RIGHT????

Man, it stinks though. I've have seriously had BM's which smelled better. Is it the food? The beer? The air? The combination of our urine mixing with water that seems to have a high mineral content? Whew.

Will be interesting to see if this changes once we leave. I hope so . . . I certainly, certainly do.

I would be embarrassed as hell to have to give a urine sample. I can see me putting the little container in the cupboard and then, five minutes later whilst I'm back in the examination room, hearing someone someplace in the doc's office going, "DAAAAAAMN!".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Things Overheard by Others

Since I left home last November for the Hong Kong/Athens odyssey there's a little more of me to love. . .

Yes, 9 months away from home drinking beer that's 5% instead of 3.5% and eating out almost everyday equals a few more inches and a few more pounds. I know it, my clothes know it, and even FM knows it, although he's loathe to admit it.

Part of the problem here in Greece (like in America) is the huge portions of food they feed you every where you go. And although FM and I split a lot of entrees and salads and such, I have a habit of ordering too much food. Not because I'm in insatiable pig (well, maybe a little), but I want to try everything while still revisiting my favorite things. . . which leads to over-ordering. And, over-eating.

The last time this happened, about a month ago, we were so embarrassed by the amount of food we had left over. I told FM the next time I wanted to order "one extra thing", he was to say to me, "Shut up, you fat bitch".

Now, normally I would never let him talk like this to me. But being I insisted, he's used this line a few times when I whined for something else at dinner. And, because he is generally a fairly soft-spoken person, says it with a smile on his face, and I forget a lot of people speak English here, I haven't really noticed anybody else's response.

Until last night. When I wanted to order a salad PLUS our entree (basically, I just wanted the salad). And FM lovingly looked me in the eye and said, "Shut up, you fat bitch,". And the guy at the next table almost fell out of his chair. . .

Always glad to entertain the locals.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From Souvlaki to Shawarma

I need to learn to keep my big mouth shut.

FM and I WERE scheduled for a brief Greek Island cruise, then a trip home (11 months since home for him, 9 for me).

And, last night, I had the audacity to say to him, "I think you like going home a lot more than me."

And, also last night, I said to him, "Maybe we'll get a last minute call and be sent to somewhere wonderful."

And last week when Tel Aviv showed up on his workplace website as an upcoming jobsite, I said, "Tel Aviv would be cool."

So, I think you can see where this is going. . . and also where we are off to next.


No home, no lawn check-up, no doctor's check-up, no dentist, no golf, no passing go, no collecting $200.

We leave next Wednesday. For four months.

Mazel tov!

Monday, July 9, 2007

This Disturbs Me

I have no problem with topless sunbathing. I choose not to for a couple reasons. 1. I'm not accustomed to taking my top of in front of strangers, 2. I think I look better with my top on and the girls up where they are suppose to be, and 3. They would BURN like fat globules in a frying pan.

In most parts of the world, this is an accepted practice. And we see breasts everywhere we go. For the most part, it's not that common here in Greece. But we've seen some bare boobies.

What disturbs me is this. Last weekend, there was a family of three (Mom, Dad, son who was about 12) at the pool. Mom thought nothing of whipping off the top (albeit, she was the only one at the pool topless). Okay, fine. Then she pulled her bathing suit bottoms right up into the crotch of her butt, like a thong. Again, whatever. She looked pretty good.

Where my issues lie is in the behaviour of her son. As mom is lying there on her stomach, topless, with her buns in the sun, the boy comes up and starts paddling his mom's bare ass. Plus, he seemed fascinated at looking at her chest. And, she thought nothing of lying on the lounge chair, mostly naked, with her 12 year old son curled up next to her (think spooning here) with a towel over them. Very Creepy Greeky Oedipus-y, if you ask me.

Am I a prude, or is this weird?

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Wasted Away Again in Sunny Mati and Protesting (some) of the New 7 Wonders


It's so hot here in Athens. . . How hot is it? It's so hot even the Stoics are complaining! (Groan)

So, we ditched again for the weekend. Back to Mati for sun, surf, and suds (no sand, sigh).

Ah, Aegean Sea, you are my friend. But, as a spoiled, Paris Hilton like brat, I think beach should be synonymous with sand. And I have yet to see any sand at Attica beaches. Oh, there's sand out there, you just need to get over about 20 yards of rocky outcroppings to get to it. In my mind, the word beach is synonymous with great swathes of sand leading up to crystal clear blue water. Not rock or gravel.

But, the water was beautifully clear, warm, and as snuggly as a mother's womb.

Next weekend, Andros Island. Known for it's SANDY BEACHES. We'll see.

FYI - Never set your watch to the Athenian bus schedule. We waited an hour for a bus that never came. Then walked a mile uphill in direct sun to another bus stop, where we waited another hour for our 40 minute trip back to Athens. ARGHHH!

But, when Greece gets you down, remember, at least the food is good!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Unwinding in Nea Makri

Sometimes, Fantastic Man just gets tired out. He likes to reeeeeeeeeesssssssssst. Which, for FM, means five naps in one day and general slothfulness, usually on the couch.

So, instead of letting his basic animal behavior set in on his day off during the week (4th of July), I decided we were going up the coast to relax. . . on the beach. . . with a pool. Merely sitting around the apartment in Athens is something I have become very good at, and DAMN IT, I need a change of scenery!

On the way to the bustop at the bottom of our street:

Me: Aren't you glad we're going away overnight? Won't this be fun? Huh? HUH? HUH?
FM: I could be laying on the couch right now.


On the bus, where the driver refused to open the luggage compartment, thus making Mike drag our oversized backpack onto the bus with him.

Me: Do you want me to put the bag back here, honey?
FM: Oh no, I'm FINE.


The website of the hotel provided a map, and it looked like we were going to be right near where our friends live. However, during the bus ride, our friends called us and said, "Your hotel is actually in Mati, not where the map shows, but we don't know exactly where you need to get off, so come here and we'll drive you to the hotel". Cool. Thanks!

In the car on the way to hotel

Me: Thanks you guys for doing this, I don't know what we would have done without you!
FM: Aren't we going the wrong way?

Yes, FM, we actually rode by the hotel on the way, but we didn't KNOW, so now we have to go BACK! A whole ten minutes!

Get checked in, have a very nice room with a gorgeous view, but none of the lights or the AIR CONDITIONER (ohmynewGodairconditioningIloveyouandcannotbeartothinktolivewithoutyou) do not work. Have to change rooms:

Me: Hopefully, we will get as nice of a room!
FM: What kind of 4 star hotel is this!?!?

Move to new room. Same view, just on the second floor. Have 45 minutes before our friends are coming back to pick us up for dinner. FM and I go to bar, order large Mythos beer, sit on patio overlooking Aegean:

Me: Ah, this is the life. . .

FM: This beats the PANTS off Athens!

Finally. Happy Fantastic Man.

Still hasn't thanked me for making him go to the Acropolis on Sunday, though.

Sitting by the pool was a beautifully put together gal, probably around 35, awesome bod, string bikini, hair to her butt (albeit bleached an unbelievable shade of blond):

Me: Did you see that hottie by the pool with the blond hair?
Floozy? What a word.
Getting packed up in the hotel room to catch the bus:
Me: All set?
FM: Let's make like a baby and head out.
Me: (Double-take at FM)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

American Diversity in Athens

Last night we ventured down to an area just below the Acropolis for a pre-dinner drink and some food. After stopping at Bretos for a beer, we walked up to a restaurant with a nice outdoor garden directly underneath the most eastern corner of the Acropolis.

It was not a great epicurean experience, but the night air was wonderful, we had a family or two of cats and kittens to entertain us, and besides one other table, basically private dining for most of the evening.

The other table was a table of five. We discovered they were American by the simple act of eavesdropping on their conversation. Now, five Americans in a taverna in Athens does not a blog-entry make, but after observing them and thinking about it, I thought, "Well, maybe it does!".

You see, they were a veritibal sundry of Americans. Three guys and two girls. One guy definitely of Middle Eastern descent, probably Iranian, another guy Chinese descent. One girl of unknown origin, but guessing would say Latino and Asian or Inuit mix, looked somewhat Polynesian, but different. One gay guy (whitebread) and one girl that if you close your eyes and think of Iowa, this is what you would see. All middle-aged. All Americans.

Which led me to think, if they were five people from Japan (or China, or Korea, etc), Russia, Germany, India or almost anywhere, you would know. They would be pretty much uniform.

Which makes me celebrate our country, America, where so many different races, religions, sexual preferences, and cultures can co-exist if not in perfect harmony, at least without blowing each other up or civil war. And, in the whole scheme of things, based on how youthful our country is, we're doing it quickly compared to a lot of the world.

Plus, they kept calling the Acropolis (which we were RIGHT underneath) the Apocalypse, which is damn funny. Not only diverse, but humorous.

So Happy Birthday America, a day early, but heartfelt.