Friday, December 29, 2006

Get Together

Yesterday, after work, Linda and I popped over to one of Tony's aunt and uncle's house to drop off some presents for the baby (their son Vasilis and his wife had a baby in Aug and since they live on Milos and were visiting here, we got to see her for the first time this Christmas). We went to their place a few days ago too when Tony was here - mentioned in my last post. Anyway... We were just going to stay for an hour or so but ended up stay for a couple extra hours on top of that!

It's interesting listening to the Greek conversations going on and trying to figure out what they are talking about. I can pick out some words and can sometimes make out the subject of the convo but it's difficult. I wish there was a class to take over here!

When 9:00 came there were about 14 people (friends and family) in the house and even more food was flying out of the kitchen to the table (I was stuffed aready from snacks, not knowing we'd be staying for dinner too) so we ate more and left at around 10:00 even more stuffed! Tony's aunt Maria said that this wasn't much and that we'd have a full out dinner on New Years. I can't imagine how much food will be there that day then! I have to start eating healthier soon so when I start up Karate again in a little over a week, I won't be totally useless.

Vasili's took a pic of me and the baby on his phone. I know her name starts with "M" but I forget it. Technically, she doesn't have a name yet; not until she gets baptised, which will happen around Easter on Paros.

Some of my cousins back home have brand new babies or will have babies while I'm over here and I can't hold them. So instead, I got to hold a baby here!


Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Big Fat Greek Christmas

I’m back at work now and Tony left last night. Linda, Tones, and I had a really nice Christmas with lots of relaxing and pigging out on good food!

When Tony came on the 23rd in the morning, he had been on 2 ferries for over 20 hours, so he was very tired. We watched movies and relaxed all day. He helped me feed the animals and it took no time at all with Tony’s help! Here are some of the goats and the path to the food shed.

On Christmas Eve, we met up with Manolis and Annie for coffee. The four of us hadn’t hung out since the summer! Later in the day, Tony BBQ’d some lamb chops (below) for dinner. And in the evening we made cookies with Smarties in them and I tried to make egg nog from scratch and it actually turned out!

On Christmas day, the three of us opened some presents by the fire in the morning and ate lots of chocolate; It was really nice! Linda found and bought some marshmellows for our cocao too, which is a treat because you can't buy marshmellows here usually. Later in the day, Linda’s friend and her two boys came over and we had home made chicken soup for lunch. It was perfect on a cold day. And it was (and is) cold! It seems like the weather has gotten cold very quickly. Yesterday, it even snowed in Athens and I'd probably get frostbite of the head if I didn't have my helmet for my motorbike! So it was perfect being inside, with the fire going and good food, watching movies, and just chillaxing. My cat loves hanging out by the heater too. In the evening, we went out dancing with Manolis and Annie.

The day after (not called Boxing Day here) Linda made some yummy rice pudding and you guest it! - more relaxing and movie watching. In the evening we went over to Tony’s aunt and uncle’s house. Tony’s cousins were there: Antonios (who we stayed with in Athens) and Vasilis and his wife Flora (who we stayed with on Milos in the summer) We saw their new baby too. So cute!

Tony had to leave in the morning the next day (27th) but we found out the ferries had been cancelled all night because of the wind so he didn’t have to leave till the evening at 10:30! He pretty much got an extra day here! So that was a nice surprise. Yesterday was my first day back at work, but they said I could leave after only a few hours so I could hang out with Tony (My bosses are cool!). Tony was also able to add a bunch of music, pictures, and games to his phone (his phone does everything) and he was all organised with the packing and there was no rushing around to get ready like there sometimes is.

It was a really nice Christmas!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Well, it's my last day of work until the 27th, Tony's arriving tomorrow (!!!), and Christmas is in a few days... It really doesn't seem like Christmas at all though! I'm not with my fam and there's no usual hustle & bustle - I don't really miss the hustle & bustle part though. It'll be a quiet and relaxing Christmas. I just want to make cookies, drink hot chocolate, and watch movies by the fire with Tony and Linda.

I won't be near the internet until Wed so have a Great Christmas everyone and take care! And what better way to celebrate, than posting a cheesy Christmas card... I had fun making it anyways!

PS: The Greek in the card above is pronounced: "Kala Hristooyenna" and literally means: "Good Christmas"


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cats and Raisins

Ok, this is weird post so bare with me. The other day my cat ate a raisin that dropped on the floor at home (I put raisins in my porridge for breakfast). I thought he ate it out of curiosity like some cats do and wouldn't like it.

Then yesterday, I brought a brand new bag of raisins home from the store and he jumped on the counter, grabbed the whole bag in his mouth and tried to take off with it (it was too big and heavy for him to run with though). So I gave him a few and he went nuts over them! It was like he was eating catnip. He kept meowing for more and more raisins! And when I put the bag away, he tried to get at it again so I ended up putting them in the fridge so he couldn't smell them.

Is this normal? I think he's just weird but it beats giving him the pricier cat treats! Anyways, that's all for today folks! lol


Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas time in Paros

Last week was pretty routine but on Wednesday evening Linda put on a Christmas play with all her students. I was the “official photographer” but my camera doesn’t seem to work too well indoors, so some pics turned out blurry. The performance was cute! And Santa came for a visit and handed out chocolate and presents for the kids. Near the end, Linda handed out certificates and then we cleaned up the little theatre.

The last few days, I’ve been helmet shopping. Usually, they don’t enforce the use of helmets much but around Christmas they bring in 8 extra police officers to set up road blocks. They travel around to different islands every 4 days. If I get a helmet now, I won’t have to worry about a ticket and it’ll keep me warm too! (I also don’t have a motorcycle license so that’s another reason not to get pulled over! Ssshhhh! lol)

On Sunday it was nice and sunny so I decided to go to Dryos, a little town at the opposite side of the island (south side). It took about 25mins to get there. There is a market that sells things you can’t get anywhere else on the island like: different teas, Asian and Indian cooking ingredients, and chutney. I bought some tea, instant noodles (like Mr. Noodles), and sweet chili sauce. I walked around Dryos a little too but it’s pretty small so it didn’t take long. Below, part of Dryos from the coast.

In the evening I took a few pics of the Christmas lights in town. It’s neat how they wind the lights around the palm trees. Pretty!

When I got home, Linda and I made some fried rice and spring rolls and watched a movie. I don’t know the last time I had Chinese food, probably in Canada! It was really good and filling!

On Sunday, I went for a nice walk along the waterfront and through Paroikia. The weather has been great this month! I think it’s rained only once in Dec so far. Unlike October which was quite rainy. I feel bad for everyone back home in Victoria. I heard it’s really horrible weather. Come over here for a visit then! Here are some pics around Paroikia and a funny café sign.

Tony comes home in less than a week! At first he was told he’d get out on the 20th then the 22nd. So who knows when he’ll know for sure. It’ll take over 20 hours on 2 ferries to get here too since some ferries seem to stop running in winter so he has to take the long way home. Hopefully by the 23rd, he’ll be in Paros. Below, Tones with some friends on Samos.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Sunny and Warm

The weather was ridiculously beautiful on the weekend. I don’t want to make any of you jealous but I can’t help it; I had to take pictures of me in my tank top and sandals in Dec! It’s such a novelty and I think it feels abnormal to have warmth outside when you’re counting down to Christmas. It was even warmer outside than inside. The evenings do get cold though.

Linda and I brought Markos to the ferry on Sat evening. He has a very long trip to Victoria ahead of him. So for now it’s just us girls. Tony found out when he gets to come home too. I think it’ll be Dec 20 till 26 but nothing’s for sure yet. It’s not too far away though!

Yesterday, I went for a nice walk along the coast around the main harbor. It was so warm I wish I had brought my bathing suit to suntan and see what the water was like. I saw someone swimming. On my walk I watched 2 of the big ferries come and go. There’s something about those ferries that make me feel excited and sad to see them. It’s because when I’m waiting for Tony to come of one of them, I can hardly wait to see it come around the corner into the harbor and when he leaves, I hate the ferries because they take him away.

When I got home, it was too nice to be inside so I grabbed a mandarin orange and ate it outside. My silly kitty was playing around and I got a few cute pics. This kitty thinks I’m it’s mom and he always wants attention. Sometimes he’ll be the biggest brat and knock things down and play with anything he can find. Other times he can be so cuddly and crawl up onto me and fall asleep. I also took some pics of my front yard area. It's so green now! A few months ago, there was no green, just dirt and yellow dead grass (and Louie the dog - our neighbour's).

Later in the day, I went upstairs and helped Linda wrap about 40 little presents for the kids at her school. They are putting on a Christmas Play this Wed. Then we watched a movie by the fire and drank hot chocolate! So Christmassy!


Thursday, December 07, 2006

December Already?

I'm back into my routine and keeping quite busy. I have a ton of jobs to do at work like making business cards, wine lables, ads, and I've been printing out a ton of report cards for some local schools. I created some Christmas play invitations for Linda's school too and I might make a program for it as well.

The other day I was feeling Christmassy and wanted to decorate. I bought a string of mini lights and a tiny fake tree for 4 euro! When I got home to put the lights up in my place I realised that I couldn't really put them where I wanted to because the walls are plaster and you can't just stick in a little tack; it has to be a nail or nothing. So I hung them where I could and it looks so pathetic lol! It's just draped over my armoire and then over the window which has two little hooks for my non existant curtains. And when I plug them in, the wire has to go right infront of the door. That’s one thing I miss – wooden walls and tacks.

Tony’s dad, Markos, is leaving this weekend for a month in Victoria, Canada. He’s going to visit Sophia (for those of you who don’t know - Tony’s sister). So it’s my duty to feed the animals while he’s gone. There are chickens/geese, goats, 3 hunting dogs, and a puppy. I’m used to this though, I lived on a farm in Metchosin for 5 years and had to feed a ton of animals morning and night.

Karate is going good and we learned something new yesterday which was fun. The only way I can describe it is “Karate Chop!”. I forget the Japanese word for it but that roughly explains it. I’m still a white belt but I think in Feb, we’ll be able to test for the next level: yellow!

Tony did his 5-day mission last week and here are a few pics. Tony in some of his gear and the other is of a the type of shelter that they had to make and sleep in for those 5 days (very stealthy!). They were in the middle of nowhere and food got dropped from a helicopter and they had to find it. They also had to do some major hiking and raid two bases. After the mission was over, Tony and one other guy were declared to be the best soldiers on the mission and he was given 3 extra days off! So he gets an extra trip home!

It’s starting to feel more like winter here. It’s definitely not as cold as back home (it’s in the teens) and it has been really sunny lately but it gets really cold in the evenings. I find that on the motorbike in the evenings, my ears freeze off and I have to were a scarf or it’s way too cold to ride. I’m thinking of getting a helmet just to keep my head warm. Ya, that’s right, I don’t wear a helmet on my motorbike. If I was in Canada, I’d insist on wearing one, but here it’s just not as big of a deal. There are no highways or street lights because the roads aren’t busy enough (usually). And in the summer, you’d die with a helmet on from the heat!

I guess that’s it for now!


Monday, December 04, 2006

Internet Finally!

I’ve been home since Thursday night but had no internet until now. Finally I can post my trip. I started work again on Friday but when I got there they were painting the place and all the desks were moved and I had a new computer but with no internet.

The last 6 posts are from my recent trip, so go down to the first one and work your way up. Warning: Some of them are ridiculously long!


Thurs, Nov 30 - Athens

I had most of the day to hang out in Athens since my ferry was at 5:30. I checked out, stored my luggage, and had my free breakfast. A bunch of us chatted for a while in the breakfast area so I didn’t get out of there for an hour or two.

From hostel rooftop.

Once I did, I decided to check out part of Athens that I hadn’t seen before. I walked to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and walked through the adjoining National Gardens. I past a pack of stray dogs and tried to feed them some crackers, but they were picky. Then I past a group of stray cats but they were happy because someone left some food for them on the path.

I walked toward Lycabettus Hill, the highest point in Athens. It took about half an hour to walk up the windy path. There was an awesome view and I took a panorama to give an idea where things are.

Next, I walked toward Monastiraki and Plaka area and browsed in the shops. Then I ended up walking towards the Acropolis through a really cool residential area full of cute lanes and cats on the side of the hill. There was a great view from there too.

Eventually I made my way around the Acropolis and headed back to the hostel to collect my bag. I walked to Syntagma Square (below) and bought a yummy sandwich for dinner and saw the changing of the gaurds. Then I took the metro to Pireaus to catch the ferry home.

The ferry ride was interesting. It was fine apart from an hour of major wind and rocking back and forth, back and forth. Warning! The next part may make your stomach flip: I was sitting in a chair, reading, while the boat rocked and I started getting nauseous. I heard the sound of puke piling onto the floor a few rows back, so I had to leave! As soon as I got a whiff, I almost puked myself and I was outta there! Gross! Then I went into the washroom and an older man was puking in the sink (I guess he didn’t have time to find the men’s). So I got outta there quickly too. I was getting really sick at this point, so I decided to go out on the deck to get some fresh air. It was sooo windy and was blowing sea water onto the deck so I got a little wet but I had to stand near the edge of the boat just in case. Finally, I went back inside and just sat on the floor in the hall by the door, just incase I had to run out or incase the ship sank (it was sooo windy!). It took a while for the sickness to pass but once the wind calmed down, it wasn’t as tipsy and I felt a little better.

I finally got home at around 10:30 and Linda picked me up from the ferry. Home sweet home.


Wed, Nov 29 - Milan/Athens

In the morning, I had no time to explore more of Milan (so I really didn’t see much of it). I had my free breakfast and loaded up on packets of Nutella and crackers for later.

On the way to the metro from the hostel, I had a disturbing encounter with a very perverted, disgusting man. I won’t get into it but don’t worry, he didn’t hurt me or come too close to me, he just completely grossed me out and by that point I was thinking “good riddens Milan”. It’s too bad I didn’t have more time to check out the museums and cathedrals which I’m sure are great; but since I didn’t have time and had some bad experiences happen there, I just wanted to leave.

I had a nice 2 hour plane ride and was glad to be in Athens again. I took the metro to the hostel and was pleasantly surprised at how nice the place was. There was a loft area for watching movies and there was funky music playing in the hall and in a good location too. I highly recommend “Athens Backpackers”. I stayed in a 6 person room but there was only me and another girl from Quebec. There was even an ensuite! That’s rare in a hostel; usually it’s down the hall or on a different floor.

I had a nice long shower and read for a few hours and had a great sleep.


Tues, Nov 28 - Bern/Milan

In the morning I went down for the free breakfast and pigged out because I didn’t want to waste extra money on expensive Suisse food. I said bye to the girls and we exchanged emails.

Me, Zoe, Jenifer

I had to catch the train at 5:30 so I had the whole day to explore. I really wanted to go to Albert Einstein’s house. It took me a while to find it. It was neat to read about his life and see where he lived for a while. I didn’t know he dropped out of school for a bit. And this is the house is where he figured out the Special Theory of Relativity when he was only 26! He also started to work on the General Theory here as well. There was a short biographical movie on the next floor too. I hoped maybe some of his genius would rub off on me if I went there. I’m not sure it did. In his living room below:

What next? Just a bunch of walking, walking, walking, and window shopping, window shopping, window shopping. I stopped at the grocery store to get a bite to eat for my trip and only had a few Francs left so I had to be really cheap. I was craving salad, so instead of buying those ready made salads in the containers, I bought a bag of salad and a mini portion of dressing. I must’ve looked weird on the train eating salad straight from the bag but it was good and it cost not much at all!

The train ride back wasn’t too exciting because it was dark, so no view. I just read a magazine from cover to cover and left it there for whoever else wanted to read it.

It was about 10ish once I got to Milan and I just wanted to get to the hostel, have a shower and go to bed. I walked by the row of prostitutes once more, checked in, and slept like a log.


Mon, Nov 27 - Milan/Bern

Finally 5am came and I got up and grabbed a bus to the Central Station because the metro doesn’t run that early. The bus was packed so I had to stand and I was one of the only girls on a bus full of sketchy looking guys who burned holes into me with their eyes. I was getting nervous when it was almost 15 mins before the train left and I was still on the bus. I had no clue where to get off; I just knew this bus went by Central Station at some point. Finally, I saw what looked like a station and jumped out. At first I thought it was the wrong station and that I’d have to grab a taxi to Central Station. But to my relief, it was the right one.

I went to the platform area with 10 mins to spare and couldn’t find the train. I thought it would say Milan – Bern on the sign, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I couldn’t find anyone who worked on the platform to ask so I was wandering around trying to figure out which train it was. I finally asked one of the conductor guys I found and he didn’t know but he showed me this chart that had the times and destinations (I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it). I found out what train I had to get and it was on the opposite side of the station, so I ran and ran and guess what? Yep, I just missed it. Fun eh? Got up that early just to miss it anyways! I was not a happy traveler at all. Lol! I must have looked like the most miserable person.

So I had to find a place to exchange my tickets and was told to go to 3 different places before I finally got to the right place and a friendly girl helped me and changed my times (I had to pay a little) and she showed me the tickets and made sure they were the right times and days. That was the first time I felt like I could actually smile since landing in Milan.

I had some time to kill since the next train left at 10:30 (the one I was supposed to take in the first place). So I took the metro to the Duomo. I walked around the streets full of designer clothing stores but nothing was open since it was so early. I went through the Gallaria Vittorio Emanuele ll, a glass covered arcade full of fancy shops and there was a McDonalds in there. I needed comfort food, so I headed for it and found out it was a McCafe instead. I’ve never heard of a McCafe before. It was like Starbucks, just sold coffee drinks and pastrys. I had a latte and pain au chocolat. Mmmmm! I was feeling a lot better at this point.

Once I ate, I explored a bit more and headed to the train station and used an internet café for a bit. Then I hopped on the train and had a great 4 hour ride through the lake Como area and the Alps. It went over bridges, through tunnels, and on the edge of cliffs before we finally stopped in Bern. I was expecting to get a Suisse stamp though and I didn’t get one there either! I was in a bad mood for a while but decided not to let it ruin my whole trip so I just tried to forget about it.

When I got off the train into the station it was busy and full of stores and places to eat. I noticed the floor was covered in confetti and thought there must’ve been a celebration recently. I got some money changed to Suisse Francs and booked a hostel from tourist information.

When I went outside, the confetti was still everywhere. I kept walking to my hostel and noticed kids running around with plastic hammers bopping each other on the head, people wearing weird candy necklaces, and kids throwing confetti on everyone, even me. Something was going on! When I got to my hostel, I asked what was happening and found out it was “Onion Day” and it happens once a year on the last Monday of November.

I stored my luggage and started talking to a girl named Zoe from Australia. We decided to meet up later to see what was going on in the evening with this celebration. I still had the afternoon, so I walked around and checked the city out. The weather was very sunny and clear. Bern is beautiful; I stayed in the old part which has covered walkways, cobble stone roads, fountains, and a few huge clocks. There were markets everywhere because of the celebration too. I had a Bratwurst for a snack and got hit with plastic hammers and confetti the odd time by passing kids. It was a fun atmosphere! There was also a stage set up with lights and blaring music. I think someone was supposed to be performing there later but I didn’t stay for long.

I headed back to the hostel and to get there, you have to walk down a really really steep hill. I got to my room and Zoe was there with 2 other girls from Canada. We all talked for a while and then I left to have a shower. Once we were ready 3 of us headed out for the evening; Jenifer – from Ontario, Zoe, and me. We were going to meet up with a cousin of Zoe’s but got a bit lost. So we ended up walking around for a while and decided to stop at this square full of people. We had a drink and hung out for a bit. It was so crowded in this spot and by this time it was very cold out and me and Jenifer felt like going back to warm up while Zoe stayed out.

It was so nice to lay in bed and read and not have to worry about when to wake up!