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Tuesday, May 10, 2005 

Don't Write Off Greece Yet

In my blogs, I've often described a lot of things in Greece with a decidedly negative angle...from religious & political scandals to society in general. I think the time has to come to write something positive about life in Greece because there's no point complaining about things if there wasn't something worthwhile TO save. I certainly wouldn't live here if I really thought there weren't any wonderful aspects about Greece. I'd be wasting my time and your time. I'll relate to you some of the reasons while I'm still here and will do my best to refrain from any pessimistic comments in the spirit of writing a positive blog.

The Beauty of Greece
If you've ever visited Greece, you will most definitely be informed within hours of your arrival, that Greece is THE most beautiful country on the planet. Although, that statement is hyperbolic, they're certainly not lying about the fact that this country is indeed beautiful. You're never far from water and it really IS that blue. The islands ARE everything you've been told by your travel agent. I've been to several islands and the two which stand out the most in my mind are Santorini and Milos. Santorini is famous for its houses built into the rock face and the beautiful views of the caldera which grace just about every travel poster you've ever seen of Greece. Milos is famous for Venus de Milo (the armless statue) and some of the best beaches I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. The water is so clean that you can see the tiny little fish swimming (and sometimes biting) around you as you enjoy the cloudless sky above you.

The History of Greece
Coming from Canada, where we class anything over a hundred years old as "history" it's quite overwhelming to actually stand on the steps of the Acropolis...to experience the acoustics of Epidavros theatre...to visit people in their homes which are over 500 years old. I absolutely love reading about and visiting historic sites. I could spend every day doing it. I have newfound respect for even present day Greeks who have lived through two world wars, foreign occupation, starvation, a military junta and countless political blunders which have made their lives almost unbearable. It's one thing to read about it and quite another to talk to someone who's lived through it and still manage to say "Zoi einai oraia" (life is beautiful) when they tell me about their experiences. I'm in awe of them and am humbled by them when I dare to complain about the price of vitamins.

The People of Greece
I know I've talked a lot about the racism that is prevalent here but there's another side to Greeks that's not often mentioned. They are survivors. Their language is the oldest in Europe and their currency was the oldest up until the Euro took its place. Even the name "Europe" is Greek in origin. They are also wonderful with children. It's been said the Greece is the land of 10 million babysitters and that's not an overstatement. When I first arrived here, I was constantly pulling my son away from Greeks who wanted to hold his hand or hug him all the while telling me how beautiful he was. I come from a society where its basically forbidden for a stranger to hug a child or sometimes even talk to them without the parent's permission. I never realized just how much children are the centre of attention here. They don't just tolerate them, they sincerely love them. Anyone's child. It's not uncommon to see children out at tavernas late at night running around while strangers tell you "den mpeirazei" (it's no bother) when your child has decided he'd rather eat with them than you. Having lived in three countries, I can definitely say my son thrived on the attention he received from Greeks and is the better for it.

As much as I've been a victim of profiteering Greeks here, I've also been the recipient of their hospitality and trust. Once, when I had to get a prescription filled at a pharmacy, I underestimated the cost of the items and didn't bring enough money with me. As I was about to leave the pharmacy to go to the bank machine a few blocks away to get the money, the pharmacist told me not to bother since she knew I would pay her back the next time. I tried to argue with her to keep my medication until I returned with the rest of the money, she wouldn't hear of it and practically forced the products on me. This has never happened to me anywhere else but Greece. I didn't even know her. My regular pharmacist sent me to her since he didn't have the medication in stock to fill my prescription. This has also happened to my son more times than I can count. He's been going to corner stores in the neighbourhood and they've probably given him as much for free as what he's had to pay over the years. If they like you, they just like you. Where else in the world can a 4 year old have a 'tab' at a corner store but in Greece?

I've also met some of the most honest people in Greece. As absent-minded as I am a lot of the time, I've left my cell phone, wallet and/or shopping behind in stores or cafes more times than I can remember and each and every time, a waiter or another patron has tracked me down on the street to give them back to me. I hope I never get used to that kind of honesty so that I never take it for granted.

The Way of Life
As frustrating as it's often been for me to wait while a store clerk finishes her phone conversation or the rest of her coffee, it's also reassuring that people aren't always in such a stressful rush to get things done. Many of them do take the time to ask how you're doing, how your family's doing and many will remember the names of your family (even the ones they've never met) still amazes me. It's great to go out for a meal and not be rushed out by an overly attentive waiter or to sit and have a coffee with a friend for two hours and the most the waiter will do is ask if you'd like a backgammon board as well. I like the fact that Greeks do take the time out to enjoy life...to socialize....to play card games...to take more than just a week off a year for vacation and not feel guilty about it. Greeks know the meaning of working to live instead of living to work.

Greek Cuisine
I'm a vegetarian and I'm very lucky to live in Greece because of the wide range of excellent vegetable dishes you can get here. Greek food is delectable. Who knew eggplants and zucchini could BE so tasty? Even if you're not a vegetarian, you won't be able to complain about being served pastitsio, soutzoukakia or youvetsi. Most of the recipes are simple and easy to make and more importantly...delicious to eat. I've been here over seven years now and I can safely say that I do not miss North American food even though it's easily available.

There's a lot wrong with Greece but there's a lot right with it too and that's why I stay and why I believe that by trying to enforce some changes within this country, I won't have any reason to ever leave here.

OK, I've sent an email to blogger to inform them that SeaWitch's blog has obviously been hacked, I mean a blog that says NICE things about Greece! How long did the hacker think it'd take for us to figure out something was wrong! :-)

You first of all mention the beauty of Greece. This is one of the main things I appreciate about the place. Even living in Athens, you don't have to go far to see a totally different Greece. We regularly go to a place called Rafina, it's a small port towm outside of Athens. The last time we were there (very recently), we just sat on the rocks in the sunshine reading the newspaper, watching the ferry boats come and go and as you so perfectly desribe, watching the little fish in the water. It's great even in a place like Rafina, the water is THAT clear! Sadly for a chicken like me, it's not warm enough to swim in yet but that'll be soon.

As for the point you make about kids in tavernas, I remember a few years ago we had some guests here and we'd taken them out to eat and of course, in the taverna there were kids running around playing and our guests couldn't believe this. They were like "Greek children are so naughty and loud" and we were trying to explain that here, going out to a taverna is a FAMILY thing and by family we mean the kids too. I suppose if this'd been in UK/USA or somewhere like that the kids would have 2 options, one stay home with the sitter or two, come but sit still all night and be bored out of your mind.

As for the comments you make about food. They totally surprise me, I always figured that vegitarianism was totally not understood in Greece. Mainly because as you've pointed out, the population have lived through two world wars and suffered starvation. Whenever I've spoken to the older generation about this, they've always said to me that in those days "if you could get your hands on it, you ate it". They couldn't afford to be picky. I remember being told a story by my grandfather about being starved by the Germans and how they swapped their shop for a lamb so they could eat. That sounds totally alien to me. But getting back to my theme. This is what I tell people when they question why vegitarians are treated like they belong in the asylum here.

Anyway to sum up now cos I'm really rambing! Good blog whoever you are and don't worry, blogger will unhack your account so you can get back to regular themes of corruption, bribery, blackmail and intimidation :-)


Scruffy Here... I would really like to post your whole blog (on this topic) for my first blog of the new year 2006. Of course, I will add a quick comment that I'm using your post and sort of like say that i also want to turn over a new leaf and post something nice but I haven't found anything yet, but yours was so great, I couldn't let it pass.

Would you mind if I post it on my blog on 1 Jan 06 and of course link it to your blog and you get all the credit?

If you agree, please leave a small note on my blog letting me know. I'm not sure I'll be able to find my way back here to see your answer (just kidding)

Hey Scruff!

I finally found the post you were talking about. LOL If you could put the date of the blog or the topic of the blog when you post, it would make it a hell of a lot easier for me to find.

Anyway, by all means, post this on your blog with a link to mine. You can post any of my blogs on your site as long as you credit and link them back. Thanks for going through all the trouble to even read them Scruff. :-)

Seawitch, this is from may10th again. If you want to see which post I'm commenting on, all you have to do is click on the link at the bottom of your email when you read my comment from your email, and it takes you to the exact part of your blog where the person (me) posted it. That's what I did when a person posted on my archive.

Let me know if it makes sense.

P.S. this is sort of like a secret post huh cuz no one else will find it but us (and of course Google)

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